Starship Modeler - The complete information source for modelers who build sci-fi, fantasy and real space subjects

On-Line Build

The projects in this section are presented as step-by-step journals. Our intent is to delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of constructing and finishing a particular project while giving a sense of how long it takes. The subjects will range from simple kits to complex dioramas and everything in between. Authors will range in skill level, and include hobbyists and professionals.

If you have a project you would like to share here, please drop us a line to discuss it.

Previous On-Line Builds

  • Larry G.Johnson's Heavily Weathered Gustav
  • Simon Mercs Lighted USS Voyager
  • Alfred Wong's Scratchbuilt Betty
  • Polar Lights' C-57D Starcruiser


    Project type: Kit with metallic finish and interior lighting

    by Simon Mercs - images & text © 2004

    This project uses a monster-sized kit - Polar Lights' behemoth C-57D Starscruiser, with a 28" (711mm) diameter. It will haveinterior lighting, engine effects, and that most difficult of finishes: metallic.

    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7


    ^ The box, much, much smaller than actual size

    Image: Parts laid out for inspection

    Image: The upper and lower saucer halves are made of pie-shaped wedges

    Image: Priming of interior parts begins

    Image: Accent colors follow

    Image: Painted control station

    Day 1

    The start up phase of this prop is the same as all others. The tedious "cut" to free up parts from the "sprues" and pre-paint components that require it. The color scheme is a combination of light and metallic grays and some flat red, black and white. 1950's spaceships had very drab and military style paint schemes. There were no special effects to speak of until the mid-seventies when Star Wars started the "worn" look of real life spacecraft. This version is getting a full interior and illuminated cabin and engine effects. Should be an awesome prop when completed.

    Some assembly leads to a completed top floor section and the start of the work on the bottom floor section. A lot of sanding, detail cutting and cut fingers always occur during this phase. Time spent today, about 8 hours.

    Image: Upper deck assembly, in progress ....

    Image: ... and mostly complete

    [Click to enlarge]

    ^ Lower level, completed

    Image: Various displays and consoles

    Image: More detail pieces

    Image: Astrogation table

    Image: Putting it all together

    Image: Construction of the lower hull commences

    Image: Clamps and binder clips used to hold the pieces wil the glue sets

    Image: Finished lower saucer half

    Image: Lots of seams to sand

    Day 2

    Today I spent some time on building the second story/level of the saucer's internal details. I also began assembly of the huge saucer section top and bottom. These guys have a diameter of 28 inches and are unwieldy at best ...."floppy" is the operative word today. Internal sections are now complete, and I am continuing to harden and prep the saucer hull since it has to survive the trip back to the client. The first Adhesive application is Super "T" glue, second is standard Testors plastic glue to fill in spaces. I use a lot of clamping power on the second application. That's followed by a third application of Super "T" glue to fill in gaps. It's finished by sanding, sealer, and a kiss. Pretty strong bond by the end of the process.

    Once the saucer section is ready, and painted in the familiar Chrome Silver finish, lighting work can begin.

    Time spent today, about 9 hours.

    [Click to enlarge]

    ^ Hull halves, painted

    Image: Upper hull, ready for painting

    Image: Closer look, upper hull

    Image: Closer look, lower hull

    Day 3

    Today I am painting the large saucer halves. This took three applications of Silver Chrome, followed by some edge "effects" with a metallic "exhaust" color. A big silver dish is boring to the eye, so I spice it up with some nice Airbrush coloring to bring out the details on an otherwise "featureless" look. I actually use many colors to bring this hull to life. If you ever take a good look at metal you will notice score lines, shimmer spots, many things. As with stainless steel, the metal is not just a "shiny silver polish color", it is made up of many components. I'll be on this stage for a few days.

    The amount of time spent today, and last night, amount to 14 hours to get this far. This is a very difficult assembly because of it's wobbly nature.

    [Click to enlarge]

    ^ LEDs in place

    Image: Engine dome parts

    Image: LEDs being assembled

    Image: In place

    Image: Battery box

    Image: Switch

    Image: Leads for other lights

    Day 4

    The LED light system (3 Volts) is being installed today. This is happening as I assemble the internal structure to the saucer bottom. The bottom floor is glued (securely) to the saucer, and the engine LEDS (red) are glued to the bottom of this internal structure as it is the top of the engine compartment. All floors have to be installed on the Saucer Bottom before you can glue the top section into place.

    Each LED lamp has its positive and negative leads soldered for strength. I solder all connections to insure the lighting will work for many years. At this point I have already secured the Battery Holder in one of the Retractable Landing Gear ports as they will be in the up or "flight" position. The Bottom Dome will be "blurred" to give the illusion of the Metal becoming clear, an effect used in the film. The lighting will include 6 red LEDS in the Engine compartment and three pale blue's (white looks fake), in the Control room, Map Room, and Bunk Area. The power supply will run these 9 LEDS, and provide some nice internal and external light details. The switch will be on the outside bottom of the saucer to allow client to access to turn the unit on while hanging from a ceiling hook in "flight" display.

    Time spent last night and today, about 11 hours.

    [ooooo .... glowing]

    ^ Lights on

    Image: Wiring up the lower deck. The tape holds the structure in place while the glue sets

    Image: Upper deck installed

    Day 5

    Worked late into the night again. Some of my best work happens when it's quiet and I'm left alone to my thoughts.

    Light tests were all successful, internal cabin lights work fine. These were placed in three areas: Map room, Control room, and Bunk area. The engine cluster of red LEDS also function correctly. Not great pictures, my "nightshooting" isn't the best, but you get the idea. Further assembly of the internal decking can be seen. All soldering of the wire connections linking the light circuits also completed.

    Time spent today/tonight: 9 hours.

    [Click to enlarge]

    ^ Two halves, assembled

    Image: Looking in through the "cage"

    Image: Painted dome

    Day 6

    Today, I've attached the upper saucer half to the bottom. Easier said than done. I used about 9 clamps around the outer rim to get a nice clean bond.

    The upper dome was then painted to match the Hull coloring. The client requested two domes: one clear, to view the internal details, the other painted and textured to provide the solid outside look.

    The lower section dome which houses the engine lighting was also attached. I am not using the "elevator" stand unit, so a scratchbuilt bottom cap was needed to make the bottom dome look like it had the elevator retracted within it. I found a suitable match in my vast "spare parts" arsenal.

    Some more rim and hull details were added with the airbrush as well. Unification of all components is the key to a believable paint scheme.

    I am close to completion of this project. Time spent today: about 8 hours.

    [Click to enlarge]

    ^ Robbie on duty

    Image: Battery compartment....

    Image: .... hidden away

    Image: Engine dome

    Image: Opaque top dome

    Image: Finished model, with clear top dome installed

    Image: Looking inside

    Image: Side view, with clear dome

    Image: Top view, with silver dome

    Image: Little robot

    Image: Robbie, astrogating

    Day 7

    Final phase of production today. First, the retractable landing gear port covers were painted to match the hull detailing and attached. The tiny Robby the Robot figure was painted and placed on the floor of the second deck, by the navigation console. Last touch-ups and quality inspections occur now. Lights were tested again to make sure all is well before shipping out. I took a few pictures of the completed craft and inside shots as well. Notice the two looks available to the client with the clear and painted upper section domes.

    Total finish up time today: about 8 hours.

    Thanks for checking out my latest project!

    Regards, Simon Mercs

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    This page copyright © 2004 Starship Modeler™. Last updated on 31 March 2004.