Kit preview of McDaniel Models Achernar-Class Heavy Cruiser.

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McDaniel Models Achernar-Class Heavy Cruiser Preview

By John Lester - images & text © 2001

Scale: 1/650 (same as ERTL TOS Enterprise)
Parts: 8 vacuum-formed styrene parts, 26 resin parts
Instructions: General guide (2 page), Detailed assembly manual (5 page), and color decal placement/painting guide
Decals: Waterslide (inkjet printed - see review)
Molding Quality: 7 - Acceptable, both vac and resin
Detail: 6 - Acceptable in this scale
Accuracy: Not rated (see review)
MSRP: $35 USD (model) $8 (decals), available from McDaniel Models
Overall Rating: 8 - neat subject, should be another good introduction to vac kits

[What you get - click to enlarge]

McDaniel Models second kit is another fan-designed component of the Starfleet armada, again from the "Ships of the Fleet" books.

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^ The plastic really draws better into the engraved lines on the master.

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^ Resin parts

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^ Decal sheet

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^ Instructions are well done.

What You Get

Inside the sturdy mailing carton, nestled in newsprint, were several sheets of vacuformed styrene, two small bags of resin bits, a separate bag with the decal sheet, and instructions. Again, lots of instructions.

The eight vacuformed parts make up the saucer (upper and lower halves, plus back plate), secondary hull and warp nacelle bodies. Also included is a slab of plastic to make tabs and gussets with which to support parts and increase the area available for mating them together. They are made of 80 thou styrene, and the improvement over the first generation kits is dramatic. Raised and engraved detail is better than the first model I reviewed - not as soft or as crooked overall. Panel lines and the deflector grid are scribed. These lines are still deep and wide, like on a Matchbox kit, but sharper than their first releases. The deflector grid on the saucer is more regular, but the panel lines on the warp nacelles are still not perfectly straight. It's hard to see without a coat of paint, but there is a definite texture to the plastic as well - I'm not sure how much of that will show up under a coat of paint, but the plastic is soft enough that a few minutes with 400 grit wet-n-dry will take care of that. (Thank the Master for sandy paper!)

The resin bits make up the bussard collectors, nacelle end caps and exterior detailing, support for the nacelle pylons, nav deflector, phaser banks and nav lights. The phaser banks and lights come on one big wafer, and need to be shaved off with a razor blade or similar cutting tool. All the rest are separate parts. Again, casting is pretty good - there are few noticeable pits, bubbles or other flaws, and only a small amount of flash. The bissard collectors and field restoration caps look to be casts of the ERTL 18" Enterprise parts, but after were glued together. They're nicely done - certainly look better than the ones on the 18"-er I did!

Once again, the decal sheet shines. The markings are sharp, perfectly registered, and the colors look right. Decal sheets are sold seaparately, available for any of the ships listed in the book, or you can get a custom-made sheet with a name and registry number you specify.

The rest of the package consists of instructions - again, lots and lots of clear, concise and helpful instructions. There's a detailed two-page general assembly guide that provides tips and tricks for working with resin and vacuform parts. It will be worth keeping after the project is complete, just to use as a reference. The five page assembly guide is extremely detailed. It walks one through every step of building this model, and includes photos of nearly every phase of construction. The marking and painting guide is similarly well done.

OK, it looks good in pieces, but are those pieces accurate? From the drawings I've seen, it looks good. It's a non-canon ship, so I certainly won't be getting bent out of shape if the nacelles are supposed to taper 1% over their lengths, but the kit parts don't.

Assembly & Finish

Building a vacuformed kit is not much different than any other multimedia kit - one just has to be a bit more careful with the cutting and sanding phases.

One needs to have a visible reference line around the parts, so after they are cut from the backing, one knows where to stop sanding. This can be done by drawing a line with pencil or marker around the base of the parts, or (as McDaniels suggest) by spraying the sheet with a primer coat of paint. Use a new No. 11 blade and lightly (and rep[eatedly) score around the base of the parts at about a 45 degree angle, and very shortly you can snap the parts from the backing. Then, it's just a matter of wet sanding on a flat surface down to where the line/paint begins.

The thicker styrene used in this kit will take a bit more effort to score, but it will definitely aid in building the kit - more surface for gluing surfaces together. It'll also make the model more sturdy, even without foam or other interior support.


McDaniels second release is a definite improvement in quality over their first, though the deep/wide panel lines are still a bit of a downer. It should not be too difficult to build - even if you've never built a vacuformed model before. The price is not too bad, especially considering what it would have cost to make this completely of resin. Recommended to those who have the interest, a few models under their belt, and plenty of patience. It should make a good introduction to building vacuformed kits. I

Many thanks McDaniel Models for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 2000+ readers a day? Contact us!

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This page copyright © 2001 Starship Modeler™. Last updated on 11 May 2001.