13 September 2017

Millennium Falcon [Factory Stock] Part 2: The Undoing

From this post onward (in this series), I'll be detailing the process of stripping this model of most of its surface detail (and adding bits) to see what the Millennium Falcon might have looked like when it was newly-built, fresh from the factory, and displayed in a sales showroom, available for purchase by whoever had if before Lando Calrissian (if anyone). If you want to know why I'm doing this (and what my design parameters are), I suggest reading PART ONE, where I go into that in great (perhaps tedious) detail.

The big box of parts.

Bandai's models are truly amazing (I have previously built their C-3PO and Y-Wing kits). They're highly and accurately detailed and extremely easy to put together –in fact, you barely even need glue since the parts are engineered to snap together or fit snugly simply by pressing them together. A little cleanup of snipped parts from the sprues is necessary, but I've yet to come across any flash, and the extremely rare gaps are always minimal. You might want to fill in some seams with putty, but you can easily build these straight from the box in very little time. They're perfect kits for beginner and experienced modellers alike.

Box art.

Here and there you'll find some screenshots from the films, but almost all the images of the ships on Bandai boxes are of the models themselves (albeit painted prefessionally to demonstrate their full potential).

The buns.

Despite the myth of George Lucas seeing a burger with a bite out of it and an olive (!) next to it, thus inspiring him to have a spaceship shaped like that in Star Wars being debunked to my satisfaction, it's remains a handy short-hand to refer to the top and bottom hulls comprising saucer section as the "buns" (with the greeblies along the sidewalls being the "meat").

Parts-parts-parts, Part 2.

This particular kit is based on the CGI model ILM made for The Force Awakens, which mostly can be identified by the new, rectangular radar antenna (the round one having been shorn off during Return of the Jedi), but there are other subtle differences between this and previous versions, specifically relevant here are the mirrored sidewalls. Rather than having asymmetrical details and greeblies along the "meat," this model has identical details on the port and starboard sides. But that doesn't matter to me because I'm getting rid of all of that for this project.

Parts-parts-parts, Part 3.

All the sprue trees above contain parts I won't be needing for this project. I don't feel bad about ignoring and eliminating plenty of finely-molded details because of how I feel about the ship (I bought this kit specifically for this experiment, after all), but I do I feel kinda bad because Bandai put so much work into this kit. Oh, well...into my kitbashing parts collection they go!

Parts-parts-parts, Part 4.

The tan sprue won't be used, neither will most (if any) of those decals. The brass parts in the plastic packet are photo-etched parts I ordered from Green Strawberry to use on the landing gear and a few other key areas (I won't be detailing the gun ports, for example) for greater scale accuracy since the metal here is much thinner than the plastic kit parts they'll be replacing.


This is a thick booklet with lots of easy-to-follow illustrated instructions (but the text is mostly in Japanese) and the back cover (at left) shows decal and colour placement as well as the figures (both standing and seated) included.

Little sister, big sister, Part 1.

While this build customizes Bandai's 1/144 model kit to see what the factory-fresh Millennium Falcon might have looked like in a sales showroom, I was curious to see what it also might have looked like actually hauling freight, so I built a smaller kit from Bandai for that project, and I'm scratch-building a cargo carriage to go with it.

Little sister, big sister Part 2.

I eliminated most of the surface details of the smaller ship as well, since my other project would show the freighter in service before any modifications were made. Working on the smaller, simpler kit prepared me for the big task of de-modifying the larger, more expensive kit.

Little sister, big sister, Part 3.

I learned about the advantages of using a hand for clearer sizing perspective from my time working at The Shopping Channel.

Parked in Don Mills.

Since this kit is in 1/144 scale, I was curious to see what the Falcon would look like next to my cardboard study model of the former Bata Headquarters which I built in the same scale.

Han and Chewie go shoe shopping.

Along with Han Solo and Chewbacca, there are also Rey, Finn, and BB-8 figures, but, unless I customize and alter them somehow, none of them would be appropriate to include in my Falcon showroom diorama –I don't need figures in it, anyway. I'm completely ignoring any "Expanded Universe" information (official or not) regarding how old the ship is and who, if anyone, had the Falcon before Lando (who, somehow, lost her to Han "fair and square")...and I'm happy to leave it at that.

Micro panels.

Highlighted on the left are the rectangular "micro panels" (discussed in Part 1) that cover the surface of the Falcon. On the right is the bottom bun after I scraped them off with a chisel blade. All that piping and most of those mechanical greeblies have to go, too.

Maintenance well covers.

Figuring that Han (and, likely, Lando before him, but Solo did make "a lot of special modifications" himself) would have removed many coverings to gain quick and easy access to the machinery underneath the way a modded hot rod would have its engine hood removed. The circular maintenance wells on the mandibles (four on top, four underneath) probably had covers before the modifications (all that piping, etc.), and I was lucky enough that the covers of some 1/48 scale oil barrels fit perfectly in the holes (as seen in the cover image at the very beginning of this post).

I only had those four barrel parts left (after building a bunch of them for another project) so I just covered the bottom wells with sheet styrene from the inside (see below). The ship will be displayed with landing gear down in a showroom, so much of the underside won't be clearly visible. I'll be mostly making it up as though it will be seen...for my own sake.

Top view.

I back-filled the two rear maintenance ports with styrene, then cut pieces to fit into the shapes but with enough room around them to make it look like they can be removed. Similarly, the new maintenance well covers on the mandibles are very slightly smaller than the holes. I glued some sheet styrene to the inside of the front starboard cut-out and filled it with putty. I'll be scribing some new lines to match and continue the existing panel lines.

Bottom view.

From the inside of the hull, I glued sheet styrene to cover the maintenance holes on the mandibles and on either side of the front landing gear. I'm not going to worry about filling the depths to be level with the hull, just as I won't be detailing the bottom gun well (or "viewing port," as I imagine its original purpose might have been) in the centre, but I will be installing the window.

I drilled ten holes around the circumference (guided by the kit's molded details) to eventually install the landing lights as first seen in The Empire Strikes Back. I'll also include lights to illuminate the landing gear from inside the hull in accordance to how it looked onscreen.

Front of saucer.

At left you can see where I filled in the hole cut into the hull to access machinery and at far right, where the mandible meets the saucer, you can see where I patched a bit of the hull that got accidentally chiseled off when I was clearing the surface of details. That tank part currently sitting on top of the antenna port may not be a permanent fixture. I want something to cover the hole (the antenna being an "option" when buying the vehicle from the dealer), but this part isn't quite flat enough.

Cockpit tunnel.

If you go back up to "Parts-parts-parts, Part 3" you can see the sprue (bottom right) that has the tunnel on it...and just how much I ended up clearing off that part. Now it's nice and smooth, with that elbow spine along the top to provide "structural support."

Top o' the engines, to ya.

This area was gloriously detailed already, with additional, amazingly-molded parts to go on top, but I got rid of anything that looked like a "modification," to wit (from Han Solo at Stars' End): "a lot of radiation shielding got removed when the thruster ducting was chopped and rechanneled." I thought about covering the six exhaust ports, but it's possible the radiation shielding mentioned in the book was on the inside of the ship. If I remove any ports, it'll be the top three that are close together...but I doubt I will.

Port docking port and sidewalls.

These circular features on either side of the ship are often mistaken for escape pods, but they're not. Stars' End also mentions (among the Falcon's other illegal modifications) "irregular docking tackle," so I removed a lot of greeblies, including new, delicate parts added for The Force Awakens, so I'm just gonna assume all of that additional stuff was part of the "irregular" mods. I might add some photo-etch to the centre hexagonal areas for minimal detail.

The sidewalls here are filed down, leaving some interesting recesses and divisions left over from the original molded greeblies, but these will get covered up by strips of styrene and have some thin photo-etched parts glued on top for minimal surface detailing.

Port mandible sidewall.

I've kept the inside walls of the mandibles as originally molded, in keeping with mechanicals necessary for freight hauling (see my other, smaller Falcon model diorama), but the outer walls got filed down, again, leaving interesting indentations and protrusions. These won't get additional styrene coverings.

Starboard Mandible sidewall.

Starboard docking port and rear sidewall.

Next up is to detail some areas with photo etch, clean up some gaps (like the six engine covers), assemble the cockpit and landing gear...and so on. All that and more in PART THREE!

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