GCU Sherman Build, Part 2

I needed to address the uneven PVC tubes and decided to just use fillers to even things out. I then proceeded to build the main super structure with sheet styrene. This model didn’t require a sturdy frame underneath as the boxing in of the super structure would not be too large to support the model.

I had to cover the front edges of the bottom of the PVC pipes with styrene as you can see in the below image.

Before getting too far along with the boxing in I ran some wires down the engine tubes for lights. You can also see some framing for the top of the super structure. There will be a landing bay on one side of the ship and it will have a LED light.

Next came construction of the engine details that will house the LED lights. I kept things simple here. Using a plastic greeblie found at work and the housing for an electric toothbrush. The rest were scrap styrene and a tank wheel to hold the LED.

The top of the model was going to be built entirely out of sheet styrene just like the main super structure. But I found a really interesting printer ribbon cover at work and decided to go with that instead. You can also see the top deck over the super structure.

Next came the top deck creation, again using 0.60″ thick styrene sheets. I followed the original pencil sketch as closely as possible and built it up over the orange printer ink cartridge cover.

I next turned my attention to the head or bow of the starship. Again, I used sheet styrene to box in the basic shape. I built a shelf along the inside so that the top of the head could be removed to add fiber optics. I’m always trying new techniques with each model and this time I used a thinner piece of styrene over the top of a thicker piece to create the hidden attachment of the top piece.

I found some other plastic bits from work that would make perfect gun boxes for the sides of the bow. So I added some model kit parts and thin sheets of plastic and then attached them to the head.

The top of the head is where the bridge is located. All of the ships during this time period had similar bridges, each one being its own variation. Note the whole for fiber optics to run.

The front area of the bridge was often a target for enemy starfighters to attack so it gets extra armor. These are thicker pieces of styrene and some model kit parts.

Fiber optics were then added to the bridge and a top was built. The size of the FO is 1.0 mm.

I started detailing the outside of the head next, in order to decide where the FO would go for portholes. I use a combination of plastic model parts and scrap styrene. It’s important to note that I’ve already established a look and feel for these ships with two other models, so I had to stay true to that style. Even the blue and orange juice bottle caps were used for neck mounts on other starships.

Moving to the bottom of the head I always start by arranging pieces on the model to see if I can achieve the effect I want with what I have on hand. I always try and purchase kits that have details I think I’ll need for each model I build. In this case a 1/72 German tank body fit the bill. With some modifications. You don’t want to just slap parts on in random order. You want to place them as if they actually have some purpose. In the case of the engine halves below, I didn’t use them here but did use them in another location.

See how much the original placement changed over time? I’ve also started adding pieces to the nose. Scoring the panel lines was done BEFORE adding the model pieces. The top deck was scored too with some panels being smaller for interest.

The back and bottom nears complete on the details. Some of the parts are model pieces and some are plastic bits cut and trimmed to simulate machinery. It’s a lost art these days with everything being computer designed. But it’s my favorite part of scratch building.

Next came the sides and that’s where most of the FO portholes were drilled and threaded.

You can also see some battle damage created by my hobby grinder. Once the portholes are places and the FO threaded, I can started detailing the sides. I leave the FO fibers hanging out to be trimmed after it is painted.

The tiny tan pieces are tread links from a 1/35 scale Russian BMP. In another model of this scale I used these as escape pods. So I had to recreate them on this model.

The top of the bridge area also houses some antennas and scanners as well as a big anti-starfighter gun. The gun was a modified destroyer model gun from a 1/350 ship model. I made my own large barrel out of metal tube.

She’s starting to look like a proper starship head now. I particularly love how the nose details turned out.

The completed head is now set aside as I begin to tackle the main body.

K’nat Trap News

Just got the manuscript for K’nat Trap back from my editor. Not much to clean up this time, the story pretty much cruises to the finish. I guess I better start thinking harder about the cover. I’ll probably start up the ebook this week and should be ready for Beta Readers. If you’d like to be a Beta Reader for this novella, join my mailing list and ask to be a Beta Reader. Ya gotta be on the Dispatches team to get on the Beta Team.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak look at the GCU Sherman model coming together on my workbench.


SS Weippe

This is the principle vehicle of the novel I’m currently writing – Corvette. It is a 1/350 scale model with multiple mount points. (For scale reference, it’s a few inches over a foot long.) It’s the first model I’ve built with RenShape material for the core. RenShape is a special polymer block that cuts like wood and allows me to drill a hole for a mount rod and then drill a hole and tap it for a set screw to secure the rod into the model. The rest of the model is simple sheet plastic and kit bashing. I’ll have a page for this model showing how I built it soon. The model does not have any lights but it does have drilled out portholes where lights would go. I later used Gimp to light some of the portholes.

The model was mounted to a tripod in front of standard blue screen and lit with the Master Key, or the sun. The blue screen material covering the mount rod caused some blue reflection on the bottom of the model. So I chose a blue nebula star field image to matte behind it for the finished image. I used Gimp to assemble the composite.



GCU Griffin Build, Part 2


The Griffin was not going to be a large and heavy model, like the Renoke. It was a smaller starship than the GCU Sokol and would be built to the same scale as that model, 1/350. I’ve had some success with these 1/4 20 female plugs that can be hammered into a pre-drilled piece of wood. So I went to the hardware store and purchased a 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch square piece of hobby wood and cut it to the width of the scanner section.

This would also be where I mounted the 1 1/2″ PVC pipe used for the Class-C engine. I drilled and hammered into the wood four of these plugs. This would let me secure it to the PVC with the top one and give me left and right and bottom mounts for the model.


Below we see the PVC and wood mounted with the scanner and head sections taped on for reference. 


This is a side view of the model. Proportions are slightly long in this shot and would need to be shortened a bit to match my drawings.


I’ve had great success gluing wood to plastic with this Gorilla White glue. The metal plug sticks out a bit so the plastic sheet on the bottom had to be removed so it set flush to the wood. I also glued some strip plastic to prevent the PVC from twisting.


I used 0.30 gray plastic sheet for the bottom of the head. I found a couple of parts from my bins that seemed to match the scanner gear under the head. So I went ahead and glued them onto the bottom. Normally I don’t do greebles until the boxing out is complete.


Here’s the model mounted on a stand. 


I’m always on the lookout for interesting details. These white plastic parts are only a couple centimeters wide and come from inside the keys of a laptop computer. I thought the ones on the ends looked like they could be escape pods for the side of a starship.


Here is a divider bin where I keep small parts. I’ve separated out the keyboard parts to make finding them easier.


Below I’ve placed a row or two of these greebles along the side of the head to judge size and placement. I’ll definitely use them.


Here is the head section of the ship after boxing it in. There will be more supports and I’ll have to figure out what to do with the fiber optics from the head. It’s a good bet the fibers will run through the PVC to the center scanner section where I’ll mount the LED light for them.


Votainion Warship Build Part 6

In this post I finish detailing the bottom of the model and begin prepping for painting. Below we see the major detail pieces in place for the main body of the model. The clear area to the right is where the flight deck will go. In this model, I have opted to show the normally open deck in the closed position.

Below we see the larger pieces in place under the engines. Some of the details are from a tank and one of them is space bar from a computer keyboard. There are lots of pieces from computers on this model, especially on the bottom.

The bottom of the neck is mostly straight pieces of plastic

Here is an overall look at the whole bottom of the model. All the details are in place save the launch bay and the bottoms of the wings and canards.

The bay area is now tackled using strips of plastic and lots of tiny details culled from tank models.


After completing the details on the bottom of the wings and canards, the model is given a light gray coat of paint so I can see if the details are working.

These images were taken against my wooden floors for greater contrast. The next primer coat will be flat black.

A look at the side of the model after all detailing is over.

More shots of the model with light gray primer.

Another area I took care to detail was the stern where the engines will go. You can see some of the new pieces as they are white.

One final pass in attack mode. I’m liking this angle for the ship.

The engine area is airbrushed with flat black Tamiya paint.

Then the painted engines are put in place to get an idea what they will look like.

The base coat of flat black on the engines really makes them look sinister. I used Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black on the engines.

All the tools I need to paint finally arrived this week and this image shows them.

The engines are detailed further with plastic strips. The goal was to make it look like each engine had panels removed for maintenance during a long space voyage. So each engine is slightly different and one has the exhaust funnel removed.

Here is an engine getting some strip plastic detailing. The work is a bit tedious as it has to be done to all four engines.

The engines are installed for a quick look to make sure we are on track.

The engines are lined up to see if they still fit after the extra details are added.

The final base color will be Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown. I may add some flat red to this to ensure more of a barn red color. We’ll have to wait until the final post to see how that went.

Votainion Warship Build, Part 5

In Part 5 I start going to town on the greeblies and do some panel lines. I round out the post with a light gray dusting from an airbrush to see what the basic shape will look like as a whole. This is necessary because there are too many colored parts to get a feel for what the ship will look like painted.

I’ve purchased three plastic model kits to use for detailing on this model the rest of the greeblies come from my parts bins. Many parts are from old computers and servers and a whole bunch of purchased, plastic strips of various sizes.

Above and below we see the progression of parts on one side of the neck. In later pictures you’ll notice that I add more pipes and smaller details to finish it off.

Above I’ve added some heat bent plastic tubes around that red piece. Which, by the way, is a dollar store greeblie that was a kid’s party flute.

Above, we see the other side. The dark gray piece is from a hard drive mounting bracket in a server.

Above, I’ve started detailing the top of the neck area. I wanted long, narrow lines here and used greeblies sparingly.

This is a CU of one of the main sensor arrays. Most of the details are finished in this area.

The head got some attention with a layer of tiny details and more strips of plastic. You can also see the front canard details in this shot which includes a forward facing canon. Each canon has a sensor array which is a key from an old kid’s computer. The canon itself is a combination of tank wheels.

The back of the canards needed some work and these two pics above and below show that progress.

And now for something completely different. Engraving panel lines. These are the tools I used. A ruler and pencil to draw the lines onto a thin plastic panel. A metal scribe to cut into the lines and a toothbrush to clean out eraser dust after I erase the pencil lines.

The next step is to add some smaller panels for relief. I sanded it lightly with super-fine steel wool.

Below we see the panel attached to the side of a canard. The final step is adding some tiny details from the tank kits.

Below is the other canard with slightly different panels and details to make it more interesting.

The bottom of the head got another pass with smaller details and some panel lines. Anyone recognize the long gray part?

Hint: Think original Battlestar Galactica. Yeah, a smaller version of the same part used on that classic model. Ya gots to have an homage on the model somewhere.

Below is the model after a light dusting from the airbrush. I very quickly went through an entire bottle of Testors lt gray paint.

Here she is coming at you! The top of the model was not painted yet. I need more paint!

Here’s a beauty pass.

Going the other direction. You can see I still need to do the panel lines on the main wing around the “V”.

Here’s the little air compressor I purchased for my airbrush. Next I’ll need to find a real airbrush as I only have a cheap Testors one at the moment.


One last look at why we do a light primer coat before calling it quits on the detailing. Here’s the side without primer.

Here’s the side with a primer coat. Some of the details blend in better when painted and look more natural. The whole model will get a good, solid coating of flat light gray before I start in with the final color – brick red.

Before I go, I thought I’d throw this parts list out there for fun. It’s always interesting for other modelers to know what parts went into your build.

That’s all for now. Next time I’ll be detailing the bottom and hopefully adding the engines.

Dual KIV-3 Model Build Part 1

Sometimes when you build a really cool model in one scale, you start to look around at your collection of junk and realize that you could probably make this model in another scale. You only need this or that greebly to make it happen.

This is what happened to me on the large scale KIV-3. I realized that I could make a dual fuselage version of the KIV-3 pretty easily. So I did. It was only later on that I realized that I might have a use for it on a book cover. Halfway through this build I began to add the mount that I would need to photograph the model with.

The scale of this particular model is about 1/48th inches.

I started with two nose cones from model rockets. Actually four nose cones. Two were later modified into the exhaust funnels. Above we have the fuselages mocked up using PVC pipe.

I needed to make the fuselages thicker so I decided to use strips of plastic and then wrap them in thin sheets of plastic. In retrospect, that was probably not such a good idea.

Here’s a close up of the PVC covered in strips of plastic.

I used the rocket nose cone caps as adapter pieces from the fuselage to the engine funnels. They are the clear pieces you see in this image.

With the funnels cut and installed behind the adapter rings, we are starting to look like a real KIV-3.

I used tank wheels inside the funnel to simulate engine exhaust.

Here are my  two fuselages with strips applied.

This is Kron my KIV-3 pilot, helping with construction. I have wrapped plastic around the first fuselage.

The center section of the KIV-3 dual is made from a piece of scrap plastic. here is the bottom of it already covered in greeblys and plastic.

Then I decided this is where a mount point would go. So I cut some wood to fit and inserted a 1/4 20 inch threaded hole.

Now on to drilling holes for the fuselage mounts. I had to buy some new drill bits for this, not a bad thing as drill bits are always needed in the garage for other projects.

This image shows one of the fuselage’s with pins on it for inserting into the center section. This pin and hole construct is common for model builders everywhere.

Here’s the model up on the new mount system that arrived in the mail. I use a PanaVise 883-T camera mount for this scale of model. I just screw it to a board and now I have a great, adjustable mount.

Here is a view underneath. The camera head is adjustable so I can move the model around as needed. That’s all for part one, stay tuned to this site for part 2 as it happens.

Model and the Man

My friend Nate and I did an impromptu photo shoot with my GCU Sokol model today in the HP parking lot. Yes, those are piles of snow. We were trying to get some HD pics of the model for back cover pictures on the upcoming paperback versions of the three Star Saga novels. The overcast skies helped us get some nice shots, including this one of me and the model.

The Renoke

The Renoke was my first short story sale to an online magazine. It’s a Shaggy Dog story where the payoff is in the punchline at the end. I didn’t realize that was what I had written until someone mentioned it much later. It’s one of my favorite stories and one that really stretched my boundaries as a SF writer.

The ship, Renoke and the main character, Joule Rouse were featured in the very first short film my buddies and I shot in Super-8 back in 1979. That was also my film debut as I had a staring role playing Joules Rouse, a smuggler. What? You never saw the film Renegade? That’s probably a good thing.

(Click to Enlarge)

I saved the models we built for the film and the one above is the Renoke starship. Built from poster board, Elmer’s School Glue and little bits of plastic models. Old school modeling man! It’s still one of my favorite starships. Designed and built by Ed Halbig and painted by myself.

You  can get it free this week on Kindle.