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Building SFSM's Vacuform Constellation-Class Starship

By Scott Scariot - images & text © 2000

Scale: 1/537 - 18”/ 46 cm long
Parts: 61 Vacuformed styrene pieces
Instructions: 8 page assembly guide; no paint guide
Decals: None. JTGraphics set was used.
Molding Quality: 9 - Well Made, Crisp details
Detail: 8 - Good overall, but there are no windows
Accuracy: 8 - Good, matches the pictures of the studio model fairly well
MSRP: $41.95 US + shipping, available from Sci-Fi Spaceship Miniatures or Federation Models
Overall Rating: 8 - A good kit for those of you who want a cool-looking ship for your fleet. However, because the kit is vaccuformed it is not for novice modelers.

From the moment I came across the Sci-Fi Spaceship Miniatures website, I wanted their Constellation Class kit. I have liked the design of the ship since it first appeared in the Next Generation episode “The Battle”.

[Click to enlarge]


[Starboard side]


^ Front, side and rear views

[Rear quarter]


^ Underside

[Upper saucer]


[JTGraphics decals]

^ Decals are from JTGraphics

[Name plate]

However, because I had never built a vaccuformed model I was a bit concerned that the kit would not turn out as well as an injection molded kit. So before tackling the Constellation Class, I ordered two of Sci-Fi Mini’s other less involved kits, the Botany Bay and the Obreth Class. Once my new techniques were passable, I ordered the Constellation from Federation models.

The kit arrived in a large box lined with newspapers. Inside were 3 sheets of vaccuformed parts, and a 6-page instruction manual. My first impression of the kit was, “WOW this thing is huge!” The largest parts were the upper and lower saucer. Added to that were detail parts of every shape and size.

To start the model, I first washed the sheets of parts in hot soapy water and then let the sheets dry. The upper and lower saucer were cut out from the sheets and spray painted with Testors Model Master Flat Gull Gray.

While the saucer parts were drying, the shuttle bay doors were painted gray, and when dry, were cut from the parts sheet. Also, the forward shuttle bay was cut out, the inside was painted Flat Gull Grey, and the bay door was glued into place. When the saucer parts were dry, I cut out the shuttle bay openings and the bay doors and the forward shuttle bay were glued into place.

I then moved on to the warp engine pylons. Since these assemblies when completed will support the weight of the warp engines, the insides need to be braced with sheet styrene, or filled with putty. I used a combination of both. I will give a warning at this point in the review. DO NOT use Squadron model putty. The Touluene in the putty causes the thin plastic of vaccuformed models to be come soft and warp. Use Testors contour putty, or Epoxy putty. After the Pylons were reinforced, the pieces were glued together. Once set, a notch is cut out of the bottom right corner. The void was then filled with putty. The seams were sanded filled and then sanded smooth.

Next the warp engine nacelle crossbars were cut out and sanded. Then a 2 1/4” notch was removed from each side of the four pieces. The instructions call for 4 pieces of 1 3/8” X 2 1/4” .040 sheet styrene to be glued into the crossbars. This will give a tab to attach the warp nacelles. I found the gap in the crossbars was too large, so I made 12 tabs and laminated them to each other in groups of three. This filled the gap nicely; the tabs were then glued to the top piece of the crossbar. The top and bottom were glued together, the seams filled and sanded then the entire assembly was painted flat gull gray.

The next step was to assemble what I believe are the photon torpedo launchers. There are two launchers, one for each pylon. Each assembly is made up of 3 pieces; each needs to be filled with putty before assembly. The three pieces were then cut out and sanded and assembled. I test fitted the assembly on the pylons and the crossbars. The fit was pretty good but there were some gaps under the photon launchers. The pylons were then glued into the crossbars. Once the glue set, the photon assembly was slid into place glued, filled and sanded. Each assembly was then painted and detailed.

Before the two parts of the saucer could be glued together two things needed to be completed. First, two rectangular indentations need to be cut out, and two rectangular pieces need to be glued below the rectangular cuts. This is where in warp pylons were eventually fitted into the engineering section. Secondly, the upper saucer needs to be reinforced. To do this (per the instructions) the upper saucer needs to be traced onto the spare styrene provided with the kit. The brace is cut out and glued into the upper saucer. The two halves are then glued together and sanded, the gaps filled and then sanded again. The edges were then painted flat gull gray to match the saucer. With the saucer assembled I moved on to the warp drive.

There are 12 pieces that make up the warp engines: two pieces for each warp nacelle and one amplifier crystal per nacelle. The nacelle halves were cut out and sanded flat. Then, to make assembly easier, small tabs of .040 styrene were glued into one half of each nacelle. The amplifier crystals were filled with putty and left to dry. To strengthen the joint where the nacelles attach to the crossbars, this area was filled with putty and left to dry. Once the putty was dry it was sanded down and a 2 1/4 notch was cut out to match the tabs on the crossbars. The nacelle halves were then glued together and left to dry. Once the glue was set, the seams were filled, sanded and painted. The Bussard collectors needed to be hand painted on each engine. Once this was done the amplifier crystal was glued on to each warp nacelle.

I then moved on to the detail pieces on top of the saucer. These included tanks of some kind, impulse engines and sensor pallets. From this point on in the article when I write about the Engineering section I am writing about the square end at the rear of the saucer. A large claw-shaped piece was glued in front of the engineering section in the empty area. Two tank-like pieces were glued on either side of the slot, where the upper warp pylon would eventually fit into. The impulse engines were cut out of the parts sheet and laminated to a sheet of .040 styrene. The entire assembly was painted flat gull gray; the drive crystals were painted sky blue. The impulse engines were then glued to the engineering section. Two detail parts were then cut out and glued to the back of the saucer. Each piece had a raised trapezoid on it. Then a rectangular detail piece was glued to the back of the engineering section. With the top and side detail pieces in place, I moved on to the bottom of the ship.

A sensor pallet was glued into the trapezoid shaped indentation near the bow. Then what I believe are phaser cannons are cut out and filled with putty. When dry, I sanded the bottoms smooth and glued each piece into the two indentations on the port and starboard sides of the ship. Another sensor array was the glued to the lower sensor dome. On the rear of the saucer there are two forms that the instructions call “bubbles”, I have since learned that these are cargo bays. One piece has an indentation in it for what looks like a phaser cannon. The other has a flat top to it. These pieces were laminated to .040 styrene; this makes it easier to glue the piece in place. I cut out a notch so that the bubbles would fit over the hull plating. The next step is to construct the phaser cannon. This cannon is on the studio model, but does not appear on any of the schematics I found on the ship. It is a nice detail but I feel it gives the model an unbalanced look. The three pieces of the cannon were filled with putty while still in the parts sheet and left to dry. Once dry the parts were cut out and sanded smooth, the two halves of the turret were cut out and glued together. The cannon was assembled and attached to the turret. The entire assembly was the glued into the middle of the “bubble” with the indentation.

Once the assembly of the “bubbles” was completed a sensor pallet was glued in between them, and two raised squares were glued onto the Engineering section.

I added detail to the model by painting various raised sections different shades of gray. The phaser banks were painted yellow and tipped with red. Once the detail painting was completed the entire model was sprayed with gloss coat. The model does not come with decals, so I purchased a set from JT Graphics for $10.00 from Federation models. The decals were very easy to apply, however they are thin and tear easily so be careful. Since there are no windows molded into the model the decal sheet comes with both white and black windows for rooms with lights on and off. When all of the decals have set the model is sprayed with flat coat. When the flat coat was dry, I cemented the warp nacelles onto the crossbars with five-minute epoxy. After that, the warp pylons were cemented into the Engineering section with five-minute epoxy.

The model does not come with a stand, so I made one using a wooden plaque and some dowel rods from Michael’s. A plaque with the class, ship name, registry number, and motto were created on my computer and glued onto the stand.

Overall I really enjoyed this model. It was challenging and detailed. The entire project took a little over a month to complete. The fit of the parts is generally good but depends on how the parts are cut out. The ship is in the same scale as the Enterprise-A, which make this a very large model. The lack of decals or molded windows are a minus, but with the add-on decals, which include windows, the ship turns out well and is a nice addition to my model collection. This kit is most definitely for modelers with experience. I enjoyed building it so much that I am planning on tackling another model from Sci-Fi Miniatures.

Paints Used (all Testors):

  • Flat Gull Gray
  • Light Gray
  • Light Sea Gray
  • Dark Gull Gray
  • Gray
  • Sea Blue
  • Sky Blue
  • Yellow
  • Red


  • Pedro’s Shiporama,
  • Mike Trice and John Glentoran’s studio model pics

  • Read other reader's reviews of this kit      Submit your own review of this kit

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    This page copyright © 2001 Starship Modeler™. Last updated on 5 January 2001.