About this Blog

This is about the combination of two interests, Radio Control vehicles and Science Fiction models. Its also about vehicle design. The models have to satisfy two main precepts.

1. The vehicles have to work, ie be driveable, but not nescessarily win any races or rock crawling competitions.

2. The main thing is that they have to look cool.

Monday, 10 June 2013

New Spaceship model Part 1

Here is the beginnings of my new Spaceship project, designed to make use of that old engine section that has been kicking around for years see unfinished-old-spaceship-model-part-1.




The main hull or thorax section is built from a frame work of ply wood. The top deck is thin 3mm ply and the sides are 6mm ply with lightening holes cut with a holesaw. The rear engine section is made removable for ease of detailing. You can see a M6 TEE nut embedded in the reinforced section at the rear (left). An M6 bolt screws down through a concealed hatch in the engine section to secure. The top surface has black 1mm styrene sheet glued with contact adhesive on it. the white styrene sides are 2mm thick.


There is a block of wood on the top of the thorax that the engine section support strut fits over to locate it. There is also wire with some 4mm connectors to hook up the eventual engine lights( not shown). you can see the wires inside the engines ready for the bright LED down lights I intend to use.
In the old days you had to use 12 volt halogen lamps which pumped out masses of plastic melting heat and needed aluminium heat sinks and cooling air piped in to prevent a gloopy catastrophe. The new 12 volt LED lamps barely even get warm for the same light power output, plus they use so little current you don't need lots of 12 volt transformers to run them.






Plastic ice cream scoops and Parmesan cheese shakers will power this ship to the galaxy and beyond.




This is the underside. The pink filler shows how complicated this bit got where the curved underside meets the straight but angled sides. My cardboard pattern did not account properly for the amount of curvature. I often use cardboard from cereal packets to make up patterns and adjust and cut and change before cutting out relatively expensive plastic.


Below is the under side of the command section. The bridge itself is the top of a coffee grinder. I have put a couple of LED lights from cheap plastic push lights that I get in two sizes from the hardware store for the hemispherical dome shapes. These make very good radar dishes or hemispherical vessel end caps, much cheaper than EMA parts and you get a set of  useful LED lights into the bargain. Beware though that there are some nasty even cheaper ( made, not cost) copies made from polyethylene, that have crappy old incandescent bulbs which are useless on both counts, you cant glue or sand them, and the bulbs are rubbish.
In fact when looking for suitable shapes, unless you are going to mold them, steer clear of anything made from polyethylene or polypropylene. These are the waxy flexible plastics which are highly resistant to solvent glues and paint. They are not able to be sanded, they just get furry. If you can stick your thumbnail into it and leave a deep impression it's probably no good.
What you want is anything made from Styrene, ABS and Acrylic. All these can be sanded, glued with a solvent based adhesive and can take paint and filler without any issues.


The Coffee Grinder lid is held in place with another M6 cap screw so as to be able to access the interior lighting. 
The LED lighting parts out of the smaller push lamps were running off  two AA batteries which is 3 volts. I wired two of them in series giving me 6 volts. I intend to provide one power lead to the model of 12 volts so I need to either add an appropriate resistor or add another 6 volts worth of lighting in series to make it up to 12 volts.


I decided on an under slung concept to the bridge. I guess that format has been made popular in the layout of the Prometheus ship, though I was not consciously following any influence here. I have come to believe that a space ship design works best if certain shapes are echoed across the whole structure. Here I reasoned that the front should remind you of the shape of the rear engine section. It doesn't have to the same, just suggest  a commonality that unifies the design. I must admit that it did turn out to look a bit like a vacuum cleaner floor brush head. Mmmm? I'm keeping it... for now.


The front section itself is held in place with a screw and has a plug for the electrical system. It is made from the 2mm styrene.


 I used some 3/8  inch furniture leg mounts from the hardware store as a model support. There is one top and bottom so the model can be mounted from two points. An electrical power connector lead can be passed through from either side. There is two access hatches cut into the hull top and bottom which are held on with kitchen cupboard magnetic catches.

I used to have a couple of large boxes of plastic shapes salvaged over the years to draw on but in the last house move back to Western Australia I gave most of it away thinking I'll never build a spaceship again. Why do I never learn, I always cycle back to my original interests again at some stage. I'm not suggesting to become one of those crazy TV hoarders but defend your good plastic shape stash, you never know when the bug will bite again, and it will.
My Plastic Kit part collection has also been greatly denuded since the old days and is in serious need of replenishment. I can't believe how bloody expensive they are here in Australia these days. They are half the price on ebay in the US but the USPS postage costs to Australia have virtually doubled overnight making the postage cost as much as the kit is worth, damn the USPS.
On a movie I worked on back in 1988, (an awful film called Salute of the Jugger aka Blood of Heroes) the art department bought a pile of returned model kits from the distributor that had parts missing or badly molded bits. I was able to purchase a massive pile of assorted kits at a bargain basement price. Sadly that resource is all long gone.

Well uncharacteristically for me that's been a huge spurt of posts in a short space of time, 7 posts in 3 days. It will be back to my more usual frequency for a bit, hopefully it wont be too long before the next one.

Unfinished Old Spaceship model Part 2

This model was started around the same time as the "Sony" model. It is so close to being finished I don't know why I didn't just complete it. I think it was because I couldn't think how to resolve the front command section that I just sort of abandoned it. I find I often had difficulty coming up with a suitable front section for my spaceship models, changing them a number of times on various models, I'm not sure why. This round shaped front section was a stand from an Airbus plastic kit with a plastic tablespoon measure glued on top. The section behind that was part of the front from one of the earliest models I made, which again I didn't end up liking. It is actually solid carved Jelutong wood, a once very popular pattern making rainforest timber. It was actually the front of this model before I decided to hack the very front extremity off and add the rounded shape now attached.



The engine Bells are two more of the same ribbed acrylic cups with two plastic tap handles glued on as nozzles.


The ribbed central section sides were a cheap Styrene plastic lampshade. Behind those are two halves of a plastic blender cut on the bandsaw.

Underside.

Topside.

The shape below the command section is a 1/25 scale Le Mans racing car kit.



Below you can quite easily make out the Blender jug shape on its side.

"the Blender"

Inside the plastic tap handle nozzles are a couple of Short Sunderland kit engine cowlings.


I have some new ideas about finishing this... one day.
The model length is 930mm


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Unfinished Old Spaceship model Part 1

The last three spaceships actually got finished. This one however never has been finished as I was never happy with the way it looked. Over the years chunks have been pulled off and cannibalised for other models. the front was pulled off and used on the "Sony" spaceship in the previous post. SONY Spaceship post
 As it is easy to guess it is heavily inspired by the  Radiant VII or republic cruiser from Star Wars ep1. As I have mentioned before, when I went and saw the movie I was under the impression that all the spaceships were CG. I was astounded when viewing the film that the "CG" spaceships looked as good as models. Around this time, about the best example of CG spaceships was from the TV series Babylon 5, which in my opinion fell well short of the mark when compared to say the miniatures of Battlestar Galactica ( the original series). I must admit I never watched an episode as it didn't have any models in it. It was a short time later when I looked at the 'making of Ep 1' material that I realised that they were indeed models, no wonder I was excited by them. I'm afraid CG just does not get me going the way models do. I found I was very disappointed in the Hobbit as there were no models in it at all, it was all CG and I found it so uninvolving. Anyway back to the model.

In 1999 I got quite carried away on this initially, and rented a welder to make up a steel spine with 6 mounting locations. The steel was 1" or 25mm square section with 1/2" whitworth nuts welded on at mounting locations top, bottom, left, right, front and back. A section of figure eight electrical cable was then let out at each mounting point and carried back to the centre from which it then extended out to the cockpit area and the engines which I intended to light. it is mostly constructed of 2mm high impact styrene sheet ( HIPS) with a few found shapes thrown in for good measure.



The front end is made from two plastic measuring cups joined to a longer plastic tumbler with a now mostly obscured basketball design on it. that in turn is glued to a green plastic cup which then blends back into the main hull structure. here you can see where the front rounded "bedside lamp" shape has been removed for reuse on the "Sony" model.




A 1/72 Matchbox Panzer kit hull is featured on the side, much in evidence around the rear circular vents on the 2 foot diameter Millenium falcon built for Empire, the original ones being the Tamiya 1/35 scale panzer hulls on the 4 foot Star wars Millenium falcon.


Looking back over these old models has got me interested in continuing on with them. So After a scrounge of the hardware store and the local cheap crap shop I came up with these parts to built a new design for the engines. Two PVC plumbing parts,  an Acrylic cup and a bendy spring strawed beverage container make a useful engine pod.



The following photographs are of the original engine arrangement for this model except that originally there were six engines not the four that you see here. I was never happy with how these looked and sat on this model, at one point hacking off the two outer engines to see if it would improve it... it didn't. Anyway these things never go to waste and are now part of a brand new model I've just started ( Oh no another project, don't you ever finish anything?), more on that one later.

You can see that the engines have been made from a plastic Parmesan cheese shaker and a plastic ice cream scoop.





Old Spaceship model Part3 (Sony Spaceship)

This model was made in the late 90's. It was again made from a disparate collection of shapes.
There is a central spine made of some PVC conduit, with everything strung along it.
The  rounded front command module was part of a bedside lamp housing, with some added volume at the bottom. The next module (with the X shape) was built out of two protective plastic covers from some small Sony bookshelf speakers.


The next module along was built from two Sony di-sub video printer cartridges. Sony really contributed a lot to this model.


The engine housing was scratch built from styrene sheet. the engine nozzles were more wheels from a micronaut toy.










Model railway bits and pieces are a good source of detail parts. Note the nicely molded AEG transformer part from some HO scale wagon.


The cone shapes object that connects the engine housing was a baby's plastic clown shaped toy. It's had evergreen strips added but you can still make out the hand shapes in the thumbs up position. I probably should have cut those off, but as is usual with these things if you don't know what the object was in the first place you probably don't notice it. A prominent piece of the Hasegawa 1/72 Morser Karl sitting on top of the engine housing.


This model was finished in white automotive primer, with various panels in grey and red oxide primer. The usual weathering method of "Poo Juice" and dry brushed white student acrylic as previously described ( see old-spaceship-model-part-1).
Model length 850mm.

Here's a shot of the three of them together.


Excepting the Foss model, most of my spaceships end up around the same length, around 900mm. I'm not sure why that is, it's probably for me a comfortable size to work on and not too big that it needs heavy engineering to support. Not too small either, as I don't like working on small models, too fiddly.

As it happens the original star destroyer from Star wars was 3ft or around 900mm and that is what got me started on this whole obsession in the first place.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Old Spaceship model Part 2

This is  the oldest model I still have. It was made in 1985 or 1986. I was working as an industrial model maker as briefly described in my previous post, and was much more confident in trying out some new techniques. It is heavily inspired by some concept work that Chris Foss did for an unfilmed version of Dune seen in the book 21st century Foss. It was mainly the striated colours that I appropriated for my own shaped spacecraft but most people recognise the Fossian influence. In fact it was this model along with another spaceship I no longer have, that I took in a suitcase with me across the country to Sydney, at the end of 1986, in  an attempt to get work in special effects. The attempt I might add was successful.


The model was shaped out of a block of green polyurethane foam and then skinned with glass cloth and polyester resin. After lots and lots of sanding and primer and spray putty and more sanding, more primer more spray putty, more sanding... you get the idea..I ended up with a reasonably smooth shape. Model kit parts were sparingly applied. Recessed sections were superglued into holes cut into the skin. The engine nozzles were some smaller scale pvc pile guides as described in the previous post, with added strips.

You can see some damage from having been dropped.  To be expected after all these years and having had small children when the model was displayed on a shelf.

The interior nozzles were parts from a Micronaut toy from the late seventies.

The attitude thrusters were the wheels from a micronaut toy.




The patterning was done by spraying the model red and then freehand painting liquid mask on the bits I wanted to stay red, then spraying blue.
Very faintly seen in the photographs are panel colouring variations. It took forever to apply hundreds of tiny masking tape rectangles which were then over sprayed by a light dusting of white to produce the lighter shaded panels. It should have been a heavier application as it is barely visible. A few random small decals were applied along with lots of the kerning marks from rub on letraset sheets to represent windows.
The model is 650 millimetres long.