28 January 2016

U.S.S. Enterprise Refit Restoration, Part 2

"THERE she IS!"

Above is the model of the Enterprise I built in 1992 –in the most basic way possible: I separated the parts from the sprues (but I didn't use clippers and I didn't sand down the burrs), I glued the pieces together (rather messily, with Testors little tube of glue), I painted a few key parts (using artist acrylics and a paint brush), and I applied the very few decals provided (using just warm water and who knows what to apply them; some slightly crooked and/or not accurately/precisely positioned).

While recently blogging about my past models (almost all built between 1992 and 1995) I felt a slight sense of remorse about not building them to their fullest potential (or at least cleaning up seam lines and gaps!). I do understand that this feeling is entirely hindsight based on my new knowledge and growing skills as a modeler, and I did have plenty of fun building them at the time (what other reason is there?), and I felt fairly satisfied with my results back then.

But, all the same, part of me kind of wants a bit of a do-over, somehow. I know I can build and detail all of these ships better now (maybe even install some lighting!) but I don't want to get new kits and build them all over again, and I can't really pull these ones all apart and rebuild them from scratch (despite the SPS motto). I just have to accept it and move on with new and different kinds of models (several of which have already been completed and several more are currently under way).

But this Enterprise is different. Her design is super iconic and the refit first seen in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture is, in my opinion, even better than the original one from the '60s. With Star Trek's 50th anniversary coming up in September this year, I feel that restoring my model would be a nice way for me to celebrate one of my favourite series.

Meanwhile, the original 1960s studio model is undergoing its own restoration.

There's a whole host of aftermarket parts available for making this specific kit more accurate and easier to light, but those are mostly good if you're building this from scratch. I'm not at all opposed to aftermarket parts, but I just don't feel like chopping up this kit, despite its deficiencies. Being a restoration and not a refit of the refit, apart from a new set of (aftermarket) decals (this time making it the 1701 instead of the 1701-A), a new paint job, some sanding, brass and plastic reinforcements, and a new stand, this model will be almost entirely box stock.

Dismembered in drydock.

In my previous post there's a picture of the saucer section half attached to the neck, the glue having given way a bit over the decades. There, I doubted whether I should complete the separation to make my restoration easier, but, after looking closer at the model I realized it would benefit me if I broke it apart. There was only a tiny amount of bonded plastic transferred from the saucer to the very back of the neck. I'll be strongly reinforcing this whole joint later on.

Sanding test.

I initially planned to fill the weird brick-like texture (intended to simulate the "aztec" panel pattern which was painted onto, not scribed into, the refit) with Bondo and then sand it smooth, leaving only the deeper grid lines on the saucer and key panel lines on the engineering hull. That inspiration came from this series of videos, but I found a blog where the modeler was just sanding down the "bricks" because their scribing isn't as deep as the desired grid/panel lines. The result won't be as smooth, but it'll save me a step and a lot of work.

Sanding test.

My model's warp nacelles broke off not long (months? years?) after I built it, so it hasn't been on display since the mid-'90s, and that's bugged me for a long time, so, among much else, this restoration will finally allow me to display the ship –intact– once more. My plan is to install brass rods in the pylons and then into the engineering hull for support –I won't let them break off or droop this time!

Sanding comparison.

The far left tip of the nacelle is sanded, making that area look overexposed, but it's actually revealing the white plastic which had yellowed over the decades. I used a bunch of emery boards for the first pass over the nacelles, then moved to proper (150 grit) sandpaper for the rest of the ship.

Engineering hull.

It still looks pretty "bricky," but that's just because of the yellowing; after priming, painting, and decals, I think they'll barely be noticeable.

That square hole in the bottom was where the kit-provided stand fitted, but I'm going to use a brass rod for mounting on a nice base later on.

Saucer sanding comparison.

Here's another comparison of the sanded and unsanded hull. I had to be careful not to sand away the tiny phaser bumps (painted blue; three each, top and bottom) or the clear plastic navigation lights at the edges (also three each, top and bottom). The four triangular details on the edges of the photo are the Reaction Control Thrusters which the new decals will help define.

Saucer sanding comparison.

Here's a good look at the difference between the sanded and unsanded parts on the underside of the saucer, as well as the opening where the neck attaches. I'm glad I separated those because it's making the restoration much easier, allowing me to deal with one sub-assembly at a time without worrying about breaking things. I'll have to sand down or scratch off that orange-brown Testors glue residue at the opening if I want the new glue to adhere properly.

Sanded and filled...mostly.

Well, there she is after hours of gruelling sanding and not-so-gruelling seam/gap filling (and then some more sanding). I still need to do a bit more filling with the Bondo on the window joints around the outer wall of the saucer. So far, so good; I'm excited about this model again after more than two decades.

The next phase will be removal of the paint and then applying first coat of primer to make sure all my gaps are okay.

17 January 2016

U.S.S. Enterprise, Refit Restoration, Part 1

"All I ask is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by"
– John Masefield

The original U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701, designed by Matt Jeffries, first flew across TV screens in 1966 and was redesigned (chiefly by Jeffries, Mike Minor, and Andrew Probert) for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 (explained in the movie as having undergone a refit).

I like the original design for its simplicity and elegance, but the refit really does it for me with its swept-back warp pylons and overall updated-yet-still-futuristic detailing. It's no wonder I picked this ship for my very first ever model. Check out this gorgeous scene of Scotty giving Admiral Kirk a tour 'round the outside of the Big E in TMP (with beautiful music by Jerry Goldsmith).

Which one did I build?

The Star Trek V AMT/ERTL kit was issued in 1989, but I built it in the winter of 1991 (I remember there was snow on the ground in downtown Toronto, so it may have been early 1992, which means it may have been the Star Trek VI version which came out in '92). Being midway through my second year at the Ontario College of Art, I was a typical poor art student, but I felt I needed to spend a little over $20 (at the Silver Snail on Queen Street) to build (what I mistakenly keep remembering as) my first ever model kit...

I qualify that memory because while looking for images of correct box art for the Enterprise, I suddenly remembered that I had built a model prior to all of these about a decade earlier! At my dad's work Christmas party in 1980, I received from "Santa" a 1/187 scale model kit (issued by AMT/ERTL that year) of the Vulcan Shuttle Surak which I would have built probably just a few weeks (or months) afterwards. I have no idea what happened to the model, but it was probably lost during my family's move in 1985.

The long-forgotten model.

As a kid, I thought it was a weird design and chalked that up to it being from Vulcan and, therefore, alien and justifiably weird. I hadn't seen the movie yet so I didn't really know what else to make of it. Years later I learned that this was the new design for Starfleet/Federation shuttles and this "Vulcan" version made an appearance because it shuttled Spock to the Enterprise. Over the years I grew to like it, but at the time I think I was a little disappointed that I didn't get the Enterprise or the Klingon cruiser.

Back to the Enterprise...

According to Memory Alpha, the Trek VI kit came with a mini Enterprise-D toy from Galoob, which I vaguely remember (I remember the saucer separated from the main hull), and although I either don't have that tiny ship or I don't remember where it could be, it seems very familiar, making it even more likely that I built the Trek VI issue of this kit. I like that it's the same scale as the Reliant, I never did arrange them as though they were in combat like they were in The Wrath of Khan, but the scales match up, so go for it!

It's very weird: I can remember vividly walking through the snow down Queen to Spadina to pick up some film for class, then getting on a streetcar to catch the subway and head home; I can remember vividly listening to the Grease soundtrack (though, not exclusively) while I built the ship; but other details have slipped my mind (never mind the Surak!)...

NCC-1701-A...for now.

I wrote in detail about my renewed interest in model building here, and I thought I would post a few pics of the Star Trek starships I built from 1992-95 as Part 2, but I got caught up in shooting them from various angles and writing a bit about the designs of the ships and the kits themselves. In a way, my Sci-Fi Project List is sorta my Part 2 as it contains the six spaceships I built during that short period (as well as more recent sci-fi-based projects).

This post isn't simply a Small Pond Shipyard Retro post; it's a prelude to the refit's refit: I intend to refurbish my Enterprise-A model in time for Star Trek's 50th anniversary in September this year. Being only my first second model, my skills weren't developed enough (and they didn't get much better over the next few builds) to do this kit much justice. Like the kits that would follow, I assembled the parts, glued what needed to be glued, applied the decals provided, and did some minor painting. No sophisticated painting, and certainly no lighting. Also, I was lacking any decent photo reference, so accuracy couldn't be achieved. I did whatever the instructions ordered.


I was simply happy that I could put together one of my favourite spaceships and have it look pretty much like it did onscreen, more or less, kinda sorta. I had issues with the warp pylons staying upright from the get-go, and over the years, moving from place to place, they didn't survive intact and broke at the roots. A problem a lot of builders of this ship seem to have.

And what's with that weird texture, anyway?


I felt bad for a long time that my first model, one of my favourite ships, the gorgeous Enterprise, was broken, unable to be displayed anymore. And I had no idea how to repair it back then. But now I've got some ideas. She'll fly again.

Man, that weird texture is everywhere, isn't it?


AND, the white plastic had turned yellow on almost the entire surface (the decals actually protected the colour as you can see in the negative spaces). AND, the glue had turned orange and gross. AND, the lack of a proper paint job and decals (note the bare, circular docking ports) made this ship look practically naked.

Except for that weird texture. They were obviously going for panel details, but they didn't follow the panel patterns/designs on the studio model, so these just ended up looking like a brick wall conforming to the hull. Maybe if these lines weren't so deep they'd look okay, mixed in with the lines that are supposed to be there. I've recently been watching a series of videos where a builder has been filling in all the "brickwork" on the same kit. I think I'll do the same for my restoration.

Saucer separation.

Testing the joint where the glue has come unstuck, wondering if there would be any benefit to carefully separate the saucer during the restoration. Probably not.

I painted all the areas described in the directions, but there are so many areas where there should be colour. Same with the decals: I used all that were provided, but there should have been more pinstriping or at least decals for the docking ports. I'll be getting new decals for my restoration to make it the actual 1701 refit and not the "re-named ship," 1701-A we first saw at the end of Star Trek IV.

I won't be opening her up for lighting, but I've got loads of great photo reference of the studio model so I can give it a more accurate paint job. I also won't be getting any aftermarket parts, despite their accuracy; apart from the new decals and a new stand, this will remain a box stock build.

Scratch test.

Curious, I scratched a bit of this decal with my fingernail to see how easy it would be to clean up the surface before the "brickwork" gets filled in with Bondo. They're old and brittle (I didn't use anything other than warm water for application, and used no clearcoat afterward), so they should be easy to get rid of.

The paint is fairly thin, and I'll do some light sanding, but a coat of primer should cover things well enough. I hope.

Scale issues.

As a bonus, this kit came with an out-of-scale (way too big!) shuttle Galileo, the redesign of which first appeared in 1989's Star Trek V. I like this redesign as it carries forth a lot of the lines and feel of the original TV version, while hinting at the future of shuttle design seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The model's kinda cute, actually:


And there you have it: over the next few months, my very first model (that I chose myself) will be getting a facelift: sanding, seam & gap filling, puttying, painting, a new stand, and new decals.

I'm refitting the refit.

16 January 2016

U.S.S. Reliant (1/537 scale model)


The Reliant made its debut in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. The story called for another Starfleet ship, but the filmmakers felt –correctly– that if it was the same design as the Enterprise, the battles would be confusing, so the Reliant is different enough to be distinctive, but shares some design elements of the Enterprise to belong in the same Starfleet family.

Box art.

I could have sworn that I built this model between 1992 and 1994, but the model listing at Memory Alpha says that this AMT/ERTL kit was issued in 1995, the same year I bought and built the Voyager (unless I built that ship in 1996...still, it was the last model I built until 2015), which means I had to have built this before late summer 1995 (or '96). Thinking more about this, unlike the other ships, I don't remember anything about building this model. Very weird...

Head on.

As with all of my starship models of the period, I assembled it, applied the supplied decals, and did some minimal paint work. Lighting the model never even crossed my mind as an option for me.

Still head on.

In the movie she looks great from this angle with the lights from the bridge section illuminating the registry and such.

Right side up?

The proposed design for the Reliant actually had the warp nacelles at the top of the saucer, basically, an inverted version of the above pic. When director Nick Meyer and producer Harve Bennett saw the blueprints, they were looking at them upside-down –with the nacelles underneath– and signed off on that orientation. While that configuration would have worked, I think this works even better, with the roll bar up top balancing things out.

Rear view.

At least I did some minimal painting here, so it doesn't look completely naked. It's not entirely accurate or very well done, of course, but it's better than nothing.

Shuttle bays.

The shuttle bay doors came on the same clear sprues that the "lights" (the four round bits, two on either side of each bay), but I don't know why –or why I didn't paint them grey or something.

Back end of warp nacelle.

The decals are holding up okay, with some mild yellowing here and there. Note the very heavy-handed paint job and not-so-great masking resulting in rough edges.

Front end of warp nacelle.

More of the rough paint job. Also, those rectangular bits at the top on the saucer section are windows and they could be cut out and lit, but I just left them as is.

Bottom view.

This kit came with two basic, clear "stands" that you could rest the nacelles on. I glued them to the model, seeing as I had no idea about alternative display methods (like mounting the ship on a rod tall enough that the bottom was nicely visible).

First look.

This is pretty much the angle from which we first see the Reliant in Star Trek II, showing us right away that she's a different design from the Enterprise, but still a Starfleet ship (a newer one, too, since the registry is a higher number than the 1701).


The black balls on the yellow rectangles are the phaser turrets. Down below, on the sensor dome, you can see more rectangular clear parts that would have benefitted well with internal lighting.

Top view.

The Miranda Class starship is quite a nice variant of the Enterprise's Constitution Class, especially since it has all the updated design elements of the Constitution refit first seen in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I really enjoy the concentric oblong details on the top of the nacelles.

Looking good, here.

At this angle, my modelling skills seem pretty good and it doesn't look like a lot of detail is missing, mostly because the lighting defines the shapes well.


I don't know what those square and triangular nubs all over the saucer are supposed to be, and if the instruction book identified them, I've since forgotten (despite my usual steel trap memory for useless Star Trek trivia). I suppose there's Google, now...

Incomplete yellow.

If you follow the grid line from the 4 down to the edge of the saucer, there's a yellow triangle. This is supposed to be part of the Reaction Control System (RCS) that steers the ship. You can also see the triangles on the bottom view. I mention them here because the top and bottom triangles are supposed to "spill over" on the sides of the saucer, but not quite be connected to each other –but my reference imagery was lacking and I didn't know much about starship design back then.

The Voyager and Excelsior models have very detailed RCS thrusters molded into its hull, while the Enterprise-D has decals for its own. Ah, well...


I'm not sure what's happening with that second C, and I don't remember of that was how the decal simply came or if I broke it while applying it (but it's all one piece!). Weird.

Roll bar!

Here's that weird and wonderful roll bar. The front rectangular protrusions are the photon torpedo launchers (there are two more in the back)...and I guess the crew gets there the long way, up the pylons and across the horizontal bit? It's probably large enough so no one has to crouch just to get there. Or do they beam people there directly?

The roll bar does a nice job of balancing the design (not having a cylindrical engineering section like the Constitution Class). I've seen variations of this without the roll bar and it looks imbalanced rather than sleek. Still, with no engineering hull, there's no deflector dish, so how does–

Ah, but it's best not to look too closely at how things work in science fiction. Warp drive, phasers, transporters are simply devices to aid in the storytelling and not ends in themselves. Just enjoy!

Roll bar imperfection.

There's one of many horrible gaps I would fill if I were to build this model nowadays. Here's an amazing example by Boyd over at TrekWorks of the potential for this kit in the hands of an expert builder. And here's how he did it.

Despite having meager modelling skills at the time, and not knowing the true potentials of the kits I was building, I really did enjoy building this kit (even though I don't remember it very well). So, although I may feel at times like I missed a lot of opportunities for improving the models, I have no real regrets, having had my fun –which is still my main reason for modelling.

06 January 2016

U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D (1/1400 scale model)

Seven decades after Kirk.

I'd been hooked on Star Trek since I was a wee lad in the 1970s, watching reruns of the original series from the '60s, and I enjoyed the movies that came out afterward. When a new series was announced to debut in 1987, I was excited and interested, even though I felt the subtitle "The Next Generation" was cheesy. Nearly 30 years later, I've definitely gotten used to it (but "TNG" is easier to say and type), but I still find it kinda bland.

Anyway, the show had fresh new technology and a spanking new design for its main ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, now the flagship of the Federation. Andrew Probert's design took some getting used to for me; it had the same basic elements of the original Enterprise (saucer, neck, cylinder, and two cylindrical engines on pylons), but the shapes and volumes were distributed differently, weirdly. Everything looked squished and soft. The organic look of this new ship had me staring at early photos, trying to figure it out, and when the show aired, I tuned in every week, still trying to wrap my head around it.

Box art with tangents

First issued by AMT/ERTL in 1988, I built this kit in either 1992 or '93. I finally got a good sense of the shape of the ship.

The tangents I mention above are the O and the N from "Generation" touching (not overlapping, but precisely intersecting with) the front of the saucer. A nudge here, a slight reduction is size there, and they could have been avoided.

Minimal build.

As with all of my starship models in the '90s, I didn't go very far with detailing them. I simply assembled the parts, glued them together, painted a few key bits, and applied the decals. No filling of seam lines, no aztecking...I didn't even paint the phaser strips! Luckily, the ship was molded in coloured plastic, saving me the trouble of painting the whole thing.

Holding up.

The decals on the D have held up much better than the ones on my Voyager, on which the carrier film  (but not the decals themselves) has yellowed over the decades.

Nearly nude.

The Enterprise looks naked with only the decals adorning it; no painted aztec pattern (but you can see it in relief, molded into the kit), no painted phaser strips or escape pods (the larger square details), no windows cut out or drawn in. Bare. Plain...

Top heavy.

Sometimes I see this design as extremely beautiful and elegant, and sometimes I think it's misproportioned and ugly. And from some angles, like this one, it looks silly, where I feel the original Enterprise and the refit both look nice from all angles.

The model itself is top heavy –especially since I attached the stand the wrong way! For over 20 years, the ship has been flying towards the ground because of this oversight (I've corrected the angles in these photos).


I still don't think I've grown to like the look of the main deflector and this angle of the engineering hull (it looks okay from the side and back). It doesn't help that my modelling skills were pretty crap at this point, this being only one of the first few I ever built. I mean, look at the crappy way I used a marker to draw in some of the windows. Jeez.


Of all the flattening of this ship, I think the nacelles receive it the best. I painted the insides of the clear plastic parts (red and blue) with acrylics which seemed to work out okay. Would I light this kit if I were to build it today? I don't know, man...all those windows...

Looks good from the back.

I like this angle a lot, too.

This angle minimizes the enormous saucer section and makes the ship look very active. I'm sure we see it like this a few times on the show.

Nice profile.

This also minimizes the wideness of the saucer section and the overall design looks very well-proportioned. I also like the addition of the notch cutaway in the lower hull towards the back before the warp pylons, a Starfleet design hallmark that also shows up on the Excelsior and the Voyager.

Okay, fine.

Yeah, I sometimes think the saucer section is too big and ungainly, but I really like this angle, mostly because you can't see much of the rest of the ship, so the proportions don't look weird; just the saucer and the engines, really.

Look at all that great molded detail I failed to take advantage of!