By J. Grey - images & text © 2002
When Renegade started on Ex-Astris Scientia the most prominently featured ship in the story was the Violator. I wanted to add illustrations as without them I feel you're losing most of the advantages that the internet offers so I got busy on a model of the ship. I had opted for an Intrepid class variant so the audience could identify with the vessel and because I have a soft spot for the design which I love.
Converting the Monogram Voyager
I never liked the folding nacelles, they look gimmicky and silly. Moreover, when it's at warp the bussard collectors are hidden behind the hull, which violates Roddenberry's principles and annoys me, although almost every Trek ship does it. My other favourite design is the Constitution class refit and I always thought that the elegant nacelle pylons would fit nicely onto the sleek lines of the Voyager hull.
In the story the ship has additional armour and this fitted in very nicely with the first problem you encounter with the Monogram issue 1 kit: the windows on the upper hull are not moulded anywhere near correctly. Where there are two or three windows they've just made large rectangles which are totally inaccurate. The correct way to deal with this is to fill in the rectangles and cut out the windows which is a long and painstaking job and I had only limited time to build this thing so a compromise was necessary. I cut out all of the single windows and added a couple of new ones to vary the hull slightly. That was done by cutting three or four holes with a tiny drill that kept snapping off all the time and then using a jewellers file to open out the slots.
Everything else I covered with armour. In Star Trek the term "Ablative armour" gets bandied around a lot and ships are supposed to be retrofitted with it and come out looking identical so they can use stock footage. I wanted to make the hull appear to actually have additional plating on it so I decided on cutting the panels at harsh random angles. This both saves time and emulates the design principal of stealth technology on modern vehicles, again so that it gives the audience something they can readily identify with as well as adding some interesting detail. As a result, Every window has an armoured panel covering it and every individual section has at least one irregular plate.
The next big problem was lighting. On the Monogram issue one Voyager kit the deflector is around the wrong way with the dish made in clear and the housing made opaque plastic. The only way I could see of doing it was to buy a DLM replacement part or cast my own. I've never tried casting and didn't have time to learn a whole new technique so I had to come up with something a bit different. In the end I used an idea that worked quite well on a model I built many years ago.
Firstly the dish has to be cleaned so that all the appendages on the back are gone. Next the front face has to be painted white. The front face has to be blown over in black to seal in the light so that from the back you can still see the white coat. Next I found a thick piece of clear styrene rod from my spares bin and hollowed it out. The front has to be glued to the dish and the rear has to be glued to the housing. The housing has to be drilled where the styrene meets it and painted silver or white. A 3mm blue LED fits inside the rod and when it lights up the glow is fairly evenly distributed around the silver concave housing. You could paint it white instead but I preferred silver so it looks alright when the LED is powered down.
To make the ship a little different I wanted to add a shuttlebay 2, which is added in the story as a joke about the many mentions on the show of a non-existent hanger. I figured that the best place was the rear of the spine above the photon torpedo launchers. I cut out a square with my trusty Dremel and glued in styrene sheet pieces to make the opening. I glued the sides in first and they can be pretty wide of the mark as you can trim them in later. The flats have to be a bit more accurately cut and then you just trim away the waste and fill the gaps with putty. I made the door opening from some junk I found in my spares box and added some details from more sheet styrene.
To really change the lines of the ship I considered adding a new bridge but thought better of it when I considered the amount of effort required. I began cutting the ready room windows and the drill bit wandered and made my decision for me. I was forced to remove the entire bridge section which was a fairly large job and one I didn't relish. I cut carefully around the bridge citadel with my Dremel using the mini-cutting wheel and then regretted it as soon as my lovely Voyager model was missing the top part. I plated underneath with sheet styrene and then cut another piece of the right thickness to roughly fit the hole. When all that lot had glued nicely together I filled the hole with more putty so that it was smooth.
The rear of the main hull has a raised section that has the upper sensor pallet and I wanted to follow that line all the way along to make the whole thing flow more easily. I wanted the bridge to be lower and more meaningful than Voyager's, since it's an intelligence service ship and there isn't meant to be meetings, briefings and discussions on deck one. I cut a piece of sheet styrene the same depth as the piece whose line I wanted and glued it in place. I cut the front to a semi-circle that followed the front of the level 2 so the shapes would all match and not look bodged even if it ended up being so. The bridge itself was made from parts of the same AT-AT that had donated its rear end. I used one of the front legs with the bridge dome being made from one of the little turrets. I detailed the rear of the section with more spares and added a quickly scratched escape pod.
Next came the part I really dreaded, the pylons. In the end they were very easy compared to lighting the diminutive nacelles. I found a good sheet of fairly thick styrene and built them up by sandwiching pieces together. Once I had designed the shape I wanted I cut out four plates, which slanted back and narrowed as they swept. That's the opposite of the Constitution refit but otherwise they were nicely reminiscent. I know a lot of people think that spindly pylons equals a poor battleship but we are talking about centuries in the future where space battles are all about energy fields, not mechanical stress so I made the ship look how I wanted. I briefly considered making them variable like the Intrepid class but I dumped the idea as there's really no explanation for why they would move except to look interesting on screen and that makes no sense in a book.
After I had cut the two upper and lower plates I made up the middle pieces which were two sheets thick and hollow to run the cables through for lighting.
The nacelles were a challenge. They're tiny and have red light at the front and blue at the rear. I didn't have time to learn electronics and had a bunch of coloured LEDS and was hoping that luck would outweigh my experience. I always sand down the inside of the clear parts to diffuse the lights as much as possible, which was a good place to start. Then I glued them in, after painting the insides of everything black.
I made up a carrier to separate the red front from the blue rear and then began experimenting. I wanted to light the rear with a blue LED and that was no picnic. The grill was already glued in to the bottom half of the nacelle and that in turn was fixed to the pylon. As this project was cobbled together with whatever I could scavenge I had used already wired up the bulbs with headphone cables. They're ideal as they're very thin, robust and double-cored straight away so whenever I'm wiring small details it's what I use. The blue LED was very bright but I couldn't find where to mount it so that the grill glowed reasonably equally. In the end the only way was to mount it in the separation piece I had made to mount the red LED in. It glowed well but only lit half the grill.
In my experience LEDs are great for points of light but don't project anywhere near well enough for large areas. I cut a long plate from white styrene and mounted it from one corner to the other diagonally along the length of the nacelle and that worked, so long as I curled the far tip slightly . When I lit it up the whole thing made sense and I hadn't wasted an entire week.
I used 3mm red LEDs for the tip and just bent the legs around the separation piece and firmly mounted the lights with a large amount of clear tape. Once all that lot was in I was able to glue the top down and let it set while I worried about how to wire them all up. At this point I still didn't know how to build the circuit. The blue LED needed three batteries, the red needed two. I don't know about resistors and don't care, I only needed to light it up for a few seconds while I took some pictures so overheating was simply not an issue. To light up the windows I used two maglite bulbs in the main hull, a forward one which caught the front lights and a rear one that fed down into the engineering hull. I wired the red LEDs into the Maglite circuit and had a separate circuit for the blues.
I cut slots in the rear of the hull to firmly mount the pylons as they have relatively large weight, but they stood up pretty firmly with the pegs I'd built in. Lastly, I plated over the underneath of the rear of the secondary hull and made the sheet run back and taper off to accentuate the sleekness of the ship.
I began painting straight away while the ship was still in two manageable halves. I added some extra detailing to the pylons, plating that imitated the constitution refit and at the top a power conduit cover, again emulating my favourite ship.
I used Humbrol enamel as it's what I'm used to and hand painted it Satin Battleship Grey . The phaser banks were painted a much darker grey. The escape pod panels in a light tan which I think plays nicely against the hull colour. I used different shades of grey to accentuate the armoured plates and then weathered the ship slightly with some careful drybrushing to pick up the details. I didn't bother with an Aztec pattern as it isn't apparent on the Voyager studio model and would have taken much more time that I just didn't have.
The decals were ruined by time, the model was years old when I came by it and most were useless, they cracked up and were a very brown colour. I trimmed back the red stripes which held up quite well and placed them around the hull in places where the details were thinnest to add some interest. I added pieces from Letraset transfers and made up the number from odds and ends in my spares box.
Looking back I would definitely have liked more time. I had to cut some corners to make it work in time to get the illustrations online and up close it shows. I was very happy with the nacelle pylons, I think the ship should have had something like this from the start. The navigational deflector worked really well and cost the price of an LED so I was happy with that. The illustrations came out pretty well and I think the ship looked really good. Obviously not just a Voyager model but not so different that it was too stark against design tradition.
This page copyright © 2002 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 25 September 2002.