Friday, June 30, 2006

Tapering the turret sidewalls: Part I

If you’ve done some research on the studio miniature, you’ll know that the sidewalls of the upper and lower gun turrets on the Fine Molds Falcon are too vertical. The studio model has more of an angled taper from the top edge down to the hull. Rob has completed this modification and after crossing some other ones off my list I got around to attempting it myself. Using filler putty, I recreated the taper going a little thicker than I needed so I could sand it down just right once it cured. Here’s what it looked like…

Then I broke out the 220 sandpaper and slowly started refining the contour. I would do a little work, blow off the dust with compressed air, check my progress, and continue. After a while it was looking very nice. Next I cleaned up where it filled panel lines, and made sure that surrounding details were not accidentally filled with putty. A pass with 400 grit yielded a smooth taper all around.I need to replace the thin rectangular details on the sidewall now with sheet styrene, and also the piping connectors that I removed before filling. There were several greeblies missing and/or inaccurate that I will fix before priming. Also, looking closely at the 32” studio ship, it appears that they puttied this taper as well. It looks rough, and has small pits around the circumference. I may add some pitting to mine too. Rinse and repeat for the lower hull.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Trivial pursuits.

I'm halfway through replacing these little ribbed details on the pod walkways with t-track. The process goes something like this: cut molded ridge off with a sharp blade, sand down flush with plating, cut new t-track to length, glue to hull, cut top at proper angle.
From this angle, you can see how the top edge is angled to be level or parallel with the top surface of the walkways. You can also see on the left the stock molded in detail and on the right the completed t-track modification. This is a subtle improvement, but it is noticeable because of the more pronounced "T" shape.I took some time to finish the last of the damage on the upper hull. I wanted to include the little dents and dings that are barely visible where the hull paint is chipped away. I think these marks will help sell the damage that is primarily a paint effect on the finished model.
Here you can see I've added some more tiny impressions for the damage where the front edge of the hull meets the mandible next to the jaw box. You may also notice that I've replaced the undersized tapered cylinders at this point with larger scratch built ones (thanks for the help Rob) as I mentioned in the previous post.
Next up on the list is to correct the taper on the sidewalls of the gun turrets, drill out my engine exhaust housings for the PE grills, then I'm going to do a few quick fixes on the lower hull.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Today I got together with Rob and did some garage building. He has been working on improving the raised t-track ribbing on the angled sides of the escape pod walkways. His escape pods are getting a taper upgrade, and his rear engine exhaust deck is getting populated with parts. I started with drilling holes for the headlight LED leads. A good size hole was needed to allow the leads to bend to the side and get around the internal post used by the screw. And while my sidewalls are not glued on, it was a chance to power up the LED for a sneak peak at the effect.
Moving along, it was time to get serious with cosmetics. When I look at the front of the jaw box on the Fine Molds kit, it's missing something. Some very important detailing that adds a ton of character to the nose of the ship. I'm surprised because it could have been molded into their master. I recreated the shapes with the smallest gauge steel wire from the hobby bent and glued in place.
After that, I pulled a tiny mold off of one of the A15 parts on top of the jaw box because I noticed the studio model had one left of the narrow "V" shaped piping at the front of the jaw box. We cast up an extra for each of us.Tonight, I'm finishing up some replacement parts. If you look at the photo above, you can see the emaciated cylindrical thing where the lower edge of the jaw box meets the hull. Look harder, it's tiny. Rob came to the rescue with some styrene half tubing that looked the part. Some dremel work, a little sand paper finesse, and bondo filler means new parts for everyone! Ok, just us.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Doing some damage.

The falcon has so much character. One of things I like is that the ship shows a ton of wear and tear. The hull has blemishes, scrapes, chips, and of course blast marks. I started with the damaged panel near the dish on the upper hull. Here, I've laid out the pattern roughly with a marker.
Then, I heated up a metal ball end tool that I use when I sculpt in clay. I heated the ball end over an open flame, then pushed it into the plastic. It would slowly deform a little as the metal ball rapidly lost heat. I repeated this process until I had a little crater. Puncturing the hull inside the craters was easy with my soldering iron. Using an x-acto knife and the ball end tool, I cleaned up the molten flash left over from the soldering iron and created some detail in the blast marks. I sanded away the excess roughness with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper.Here is the finished damage with a light coat of primer applied to check my work.Making the covers to the screw access points on the hull was pretty simple once I had all the right components. First, I went out and grabbed some 3/16" round styrene tube (seen below). With the hull already screwed together, I used my digital calipers to measure the depth from the hull surface, down to the top of the screw heads. I subtracted the thickness of the magnet (in this case 1/16") and cut a piece of styrene tube to length.
The magnet is glued to the end of the tube. A little super glue joins the tube to the cap detail. Voila! A nice magnetic cover for easy access to the screw points has been created.
Last night I decided to end the night finishing some less than exciting work. Escape pod number two still needed the upgraded panel lines and detailing. I haven't found any clear reference of the greebly on the top so I made something temporary that resembled what I could make out from my reference. I'm going to do some more searching and make a new piece.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Some cutting edge stuff.

After looking at some more reference, I found that the hull plating around the recessed ports are also notched (with the exception of the round ports on the mandibles). So I decided to replicate this on my kit. This time I couldn't use the micro file so I used my x-acto knife to quickly cut out the box shapes. This really creates a nice effect.
After figuring out how I'm going to mount the PE grills to the exterior exhaust port housings, I cut them out and thought it would be nice to see them in place for the first time. A lot of dremel work will be needed to get the grills to mount from the underside properly. It will be worth it.
Last but not least, my tiny magnets came in last night. I should be able to start installing them this weekend. Look for a pretty big update on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Guns revisited.

This is just a brief update today. I prepared the top and bottom gun ports and did a quick test fitting. I'm thinking of installing the interiors with glue and using magnets to secure the top disc where the gun mounts to the hull.
Anyway, the magnets should be here soon and I'll start experimenting. Finally, Rob and I have been contemplating the tapered side walls around the raised gun port disc. On the studio model, the taper looks like it's about 45 degrees yet the Fine Molds kit has it nearly vertical. Due to the number of parts already touching these sidewalls, I am not going to attempt correcting the inaccuracy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

West coast custom.

Ok, I live in California...but this quick post doesn't have anything to do with your favorite "ride-pimpin" reality show. It does however have to do with customizing the Fine Molds Falcon kit. So, I mentioned earlier that I was thinking of tackling the escape pods and their inaccurate plating lines? Well I finished one of them today (the photo is the same pod just turned 180 degrees).
I gathered a bunch of reference from the 32 inch model and copied the line work onto the parts with a pen. Next, I used a micro file to scribe the lines into the plastic. Then, I used bondo spot putty to fill where old lines were incorrect. I glued really thin bits of styrene cut into square shapes onto the new surface, matching the reference as best as I could. To do this modification, I had to pull the exterior ring of the pod off and glue it back on again. I think it makes a big improvement.

Burning the midnight oil.

I stayed up late last night because I was making great progress. I notched the upper hull armor plates at the perimeter as I did with the lower hull. Next, I built the radar dish assembly. I completed the piping on the hull surface. The pieces that house the headlights at the front of the mandibles got drilled out to 3mm. The remaining sidewall pieces got prepped and primed for paint. This morning I temporarily tacked the parts in place to snap some progress photos.
I liked this one:Here's a close up of the dish. I decided to use superglue on the structural supports on the back of the dish and the struts connected to the swivel base. I just don't trust the plastic weld on parts that have to take any sort of weight load no matter how little styrene weighs.The tiny pipe pieces that extend the molded pipes on the hull into the recessed ports were difficult to work with. I thought it would be good to describe the method I used to eliminate gaps. By using the plastic weld to melt the end of the pipe I could butt it up to the molded pipe and gently massage the gap away. Once the glue dried, I came back in with an x-acto blade and sand paper to smooth over the transition area.What's next? I think I'm going to start putting the blast marks on the falcon. I'm going to have a look at fixing the plating pattern on the escape pod rings as well as adding the missing greeblies there. I have some tiny 3/16" diameter x 1/16" thick magnets ordered so that I can secure key parts of the ship without glue and allow me to field strip the model if necessary. The gun ports still need work. I'm trying to mount the model to a base like the studio scale through the bottom gun port. Some planning is needed before those parts are finished.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Guns guns guns!

The top and bottom guns are finished. I plan on displaying my falcon like the ILM studio scale model that has a rod supporting the ship through the lower gun port. So, I probably will never use one of these guns, but I built it and will paint it just in case. Construction note: I used superglue to bond the 'Y' shaped piece the gun pivots on to the large base piece for strength.Here's how the ship looks today. The hull side wall details are not glued on. I put them on temporarily for this progress photo. Some of the parts are primered, most are not.
Next up on my list of things to do is the radar dish. Then, I'll add the pipe/hose pieces to the hull and fill in their gaps. I forgot to notch the armor plates in the upper hull! The gun ports need to be completed...and there's still the matter of lighting keeping me from final assembly. I need to get my lighting circuit worked out.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Let me see your grill.

Last night I received my MMI photo etched (PE from now on) grill set for the Fine Molds Falcon from starship modeler. Inlcuded are six large engine exhaust port grills and three small grills for the walkways over the escape pod areas. These are very high quality PE brass parts that are sharper than I imagined they could be. The resin fan-like inserts are very crisp and appear to have been pressure or vacuum cast in a quality white resin. No bubbles are present and they should look great installed.I am really impressed with these parts. If I had to criticize one thing, I might say that the thicker bars are too thick in proportion to the thin ones. However, this may have been necessary to give these parts some strength. I am very interested in doing some photo etching of my own now.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Here's an LED tester I made after reading an article on starship modeler. It's basically a 9V battery connector with a 470 ohm resistor soldered into the positive wire. I also soldered on some testing clips so that I could quickly and easily attach the device to various LEDs. A little heat shrink tubing and you have a nice little tool that won't overdrive your LEDs.The illuminated LED in the photo above is a "Yellowglo" 3mm LED by Miniatronics. Basically, it's a white LED that has a warm incandescent glow to it. It feels very much like a bright light bulb. I got some of these for another project but thought they could work well for the headlights on the falcon since they most likely used incandescent bulbs on the studio model. Now I have to place an order for a bunch of blue LEDs.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Is there room for improvement?

I started the weekend working on the cockpit. I really want to light the cockpit to give the ship a better sense of scale. Plus, it would look sweet. From the look of it, the cockpit is a little more cramped than it would be at 1:1 scale. Despite this, it looks really nice once the canopy is on. It is going to be a huge challenge to add illumination which may require recasting the parts in clear resin. More on that later.
While I formulate a plan of attack for the cockpit, I decided to move on to customizing some other aspects of the Fine Molds kit. The panels/plates of the upper and lower hulls are molded in on the kit. At the outer edge, notch depressions are present but are not fully cut as they are on the studio scale model. Using a square file I quickly zipped through the thin styrene completing the lower hull. Let me say that this definately makes a huge improvement! In the photos below you can compare the upper and lower hull edges.
The upper and lower hulls are nearly 100% complete. I'm debating on what to do with the 6 exhaust ports at the rear of the upper hull. Ideally, I'd like to cut the holes out and add the small fan details below the surface. However, I'm concerned that I won't be able to find mesh grills to cover them that look right. The photo etched grills I've seen look nice but they don't seem fine enough for this scale.
Finally, here's the two halves of the hull together. You can really see the difference that those notches make on the edge.
I have begun testing LEDs for the lighting of the ship. And I'm starting to take stock of just how many LEDs this kit will require as well as what type of power source it will require. With any luck, I'll be able to power all the lights with a single 9V battery by wiring the LEDs up in parallel.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sub assembly required.

Last night I focused on sub assemblies that finish off the holes on the upper hull. Then I started with the assemblies that make up the sidewalls of the ship. Some of these attach to the kit via screws while others use conventional glue. I will definately primer and base coat these parts prior to attaching them to guarantee sufficient coating/coverage. However, I'm not sure if I want to detail and weather them separately. In any case, here they are. To date I have completed over 300 parts.
It seems odd that I haven't posted some sort of step-by -step how-to. I think I was so anxious to make progress on the kit that I forgot to share how I'm going about things. Here we go:

First, I locate the parts needed and remove them from the tree using the Xuron sprue snips. Be careful no to trim off any bits the part is supposed to have.

Next, I use my X-acto knife to trim any excess sprue that might remain on the part. It's important to be careful here and not gouge the part. I sand the resulting area to make sure the surface is smooth.

I carefully brush on plastic weld anywhere it will contact the joining part. Try not to get it close to edges where it may seep out and be visible when cured. Use micro brushes to apply the glue to smaller parts. You have to work quickly before it evaporates. Join the parts and apply some pressure for 10-15 seconds allowing the styrene to bond.

There you have it. A I personally like to prep a good 10 parts at a time prior to gluing. The prep work takes more time, and once I've got the glue out I like to do as many parts as possible before closing the cap (to avoid unwanted spill accidents).