Modeling Update

Just finished the primer coat on the GCU Griffin model this weekend. I still have some bits and pieces that need to be added, so will have to coat again next weekend. But you can start to see the general shape and fit of the ship now. I’ll admit that the design is a bit unconventional, but I still think it looks awesome. I originally designed this one back when I was a kid. Even built it in cardboard in almost the same scale. If you read Starstrikers, you’ll learn all about this important starship.


This new acrylic primer I’m using is much darker and bluer than the auto car body primer I was using. But it doesn’t stink near as bad.


The other side of the model for reference.


I used the whole bottle on the model, so will have to order a case of it or something. I also need to find some gloss coat and dull coat for decals. Probably use whatever I can find at Home Depot.



This is where I hid the slider switch for the internal lights. Sometimes you have to be sneaky. I didn’t plan this nice over hang, but it turned out to be the perfect spot to hide the switch. It’s starting to get warmer out in the garage studio, so eventually I’ll have to move operations inside or suspend the modeling until fall. I’ll be building smaller stuff until it cools off again. 


Building The Renoke, Part 9

The final stage of building a model is always the weathering. Star Wars pioneered the “Used Car” look of starships back in the seventies and since then it’s become standard for movie models. Since this model could be used for film but is primarily used for cover art, it will be properly weathered. Running around in space is probably not going to do that much to a starship, but the Renoke has visited many different planets with varied environments and has been through all kinds of crazy situations in which it’s been chased and shot at and ran into things. So the surface of the model will need to reflect that history.

When you weather a model you are telling a story about the history of the vehicle. Remember that time when I hit that thing or flew through that messy stuff? Yeah, I can point to my ship as proof of that. See that smear right there? That’s when my oil inducer blew and leaked all down the side. I had to fix it and move on, no time to clean it up.

So with that in mind, I used a number of techniques to build the history of this freighter. I started with an oil based wash consisting of Burnt Sepia and Black mixed with thinner. I applied in a gloppy manner with a stiff brush and then wiped it away, leaving it in the cracks and crannies of the model. This gives the surface detail a more three dimensional appearance and it did something interesting to the surface paint. It gave it a brown tint that I probably could not have replicated with paint alone.

The original Renoke model was made from card board and had lots of colored panels all over it. In order to weather it, I lit a candle and used the black smoke from just past the flame to carbon score the model. I then sanded the model with fine grit sand paper. The resulting finish was unique to say the least. Looking at the image below of that original model you can see that the overall color is an off white with a slight tan tint. That’s what I was trying to replicate with the new model, at least as far as I could.

Renoke 09

After completing the oil wash I was left with a similar tone on the new model. So I began to color some of the panels to add interest and history to them. I used earth tones as much as possible, so dark reds, dark greens and grays. Below is the forward bottom of the Renoke.


Below is the stern bottom. I added lots of oil leaks and stains here to simulate the engine compartment of an old car. After the paint for the panels dried, I brushed them with sand paper to knock off the paint on the edges and to give the surface added texture.



For some flat areas of the models I sanded a bit more to give it a worn smooth look and to try and bring out some of the off white base color.




The final stage of weathering is hitting the model with a hobby grinder. This can be very effective at replicating impacts but you have to be careful with it. If you over do it, you can easily ruin the model. I used a rounded grinder head and let it bounce off the model while spinning to get multiple dings and scratches. You have to come at it from many directions to add the randomness required. Again, a little bit of this goes a long way. The grinder will take off the surface color, the gray primer and get right down to the original white of the plastic. Which is okay for this model. It also reminds me of some of the damage to the Falcon from Star Wars.








The overall effect of all this weathering makes the model more interesting to the eye and more realistic at the same time.






The final area that needed weathering was the bridge. Again, about the only thing I needed here was leaking machinery and general wear and tear. I maybe overdid it a bit but this is an old ship.




And that is all she wrote. The model is complete. The bridge windows were added late in the game using tinted clear plastic sheeting. This model will be featured on the cover of XiniX, Book 5 of the Star Saga and probably used for short story covers and elsewhere as needed. The captain of this ship is a character named Joules Rouse and I’ve written many short stories about him over the years. You can read one over at


Renoke Model Update

Over the Labor Day weekend the Renoke model got some weathering. I started with an oil paint wash using burnt sienna and black. It gives the model a warm tone and makes the machinery look more realistic. It also makes it smell like an oil painting. I won’t be bringing it to work until that dries.

The next stage of weathering will be black pastel chalk, sandpaper and some miscellaneous things like oil leaks and rust. Do starships rust in space? No. But starships that land on planets and stay for a while, do.




Building the GCU Sokol, Part 17

Hangar Bay

This week I made a big push to finish as much of this model as possible. I ran out of flat gull gray paint, so final weathering will have to wait until the weekend. But most of the model is now complete. I’m writing this on New Year’s Day and at this time, the last bits of detailing to complete are the stardrive tubes.

First up is the hangar deck. These pics illustrate the build up from scratch using stock plastic and some parts from the greeblie stash. Which, by the way, is very low at this point. If you live in the Boise area and want to donate your old plastic models or unbuilt kits, I will come and get them!

The first row of support beams go up, held in place by my metal miter box, which is taped off on the cutting board.

Nothing complicated here. I just used plastic strips in various sizes.

Test fitting of the bay on the back of the model. I built up a little platform to serve as the deck that the starfighters will land on and take off of.

Laying the panels that will be the deck. Also, decided to build a little starfighter the same scale as the Sokol. Not sure I will attempt to build more or even detail this little guy, but I think it lets you see the scale better.

Details added inside the hangar. I used some railroad girders for the ceiling and I think they look great. Also added some pipes and doors and just made it as much like an aircraft hangar as possible.

This is the completed, painted hangar with the little starfighter for scale. The deck was painted a dark gray and then gone over with chalk and pencil dry brushes to try and make landing marks. The inside was painted flat gull gray and then dry brushed with black artist chalks.

I flipped it over and documented it before attaching it to the model. Pretty pleased with how that hangar turned out.

While waiting for the hangar to dry, I tested some dry brushing on one of the cannons. This is pretty much going to be the extent of my weathering on this warship.

Stardrive Tubes

Trying to make these tubes interesting involves making some repairs underway. My stock of plastic is dwindling away so this will be the final bit of detailing before calling this build a wrap.

Next post I’ll show off the competed stardrive tubes and hopefully the completed and weathered model. Just in time too. I need to get back to writing my novel!


New Short Story and Some Drawings

I found a remnant of a short story and decided to finish it up. It’s a starfighter story from the enemy’s point of view. Set in the years just after the start of the Great War, it tells the story of the birth of “The Red Ace” of Voton. The war’s first hated enemy ace, Kron. He flew the KIV-3 fighter from a base on , a remote Alliance planet known as Alifax.

That’s about all I’m at liberty to discuss about the story for now. But I’m authorized to show you these thumbnail sketches of a Votainion resupply freighter in the story. It’s a three canister model with a single, C class tunnel drive. The Votainions had tunnel drive ships before the Alliance.

Here are some draft sketches I did as I was finalizing the design. The KIV-3 is shown for scale because its a single seat fighter. I might just have to build this bad boy for a cover art photo shoot.

The story will be offered to subscribers of my newsletter for free. So if you want to read it when it comes out, best hand over your email address and join the fight. For the Emperor, of course! *slams fist over chest in salute. (Below is a model of a KIV-3)

Building the GCU Sokol, Part 12

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13

Details, Details

This weekend I had enough time to detail the main port guns and the stern gun pod. I also detailed inside the main gun superstructure behind the guns. The only thing left to detail on the stern gun pod is the bottom. I also have to mount a gun turret on the top and bottom of the pod.

I’ve taken stock of my remaining gun turrets and built up all the remaining guns that I have. I could probably use some more guns, but at this moment, I only have what I have to play with.

On with the pictures.

This is what the ship looked like on Saturday morning before I got under way. A fresh cup of Joe and the last scraps of my plastic bits.

I’m not completely happy with how this turned out, so I will hold off on painting it gray with primer for now. I’ve set some precedent here with zip ties and U shaped plastic above and below the main guns. I carried the same look over to the stern gun pod. Actually, I think I started that look on the head.

This is the stern gun pod on the port side. Like my gratuitous use of naval terms? Comes in handy sometimes to describe ship details. This pod is almost finished. It needs some bottom details. That will have to come another day.

Here’s a step back to see the big picture. Looks busy to me. But then without a primer, it all looks a bit like what the TI’s used to call us on the first day of Basic Training – Rainbows.

Here we have a starship mounted on a vise for easy access to the back of the gun pods. A vise is a handy thing to have on your work bench.

This new turret housing is the top of a prescription bottle. I think I can get a few more bottles that size. Put some shields around it and it will be good to go.

Messing around with gun turret positioning. Nothing final yet. Have to think defensively for this to work right.

A final beauty shot with the head attached. She’s starting to look aggressive. All for now, thanks for looking.

Building the GCU Sokol, Part 9

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Part 11 | Part 12

New Greeblies

This weekend I went to some dollar stores and filled up my spare parts boxes with some fresh greeblies. Greeblies being the little bits of detail you see on space ship models. These are not from model kits, but rather from kids toy bags. Various cheap, plastic party favors that happen to be perfect for scratch building starship models.

This is the back of the head after I filled in the empty spaces with the new and some old, greeblies. The trick is to make the parts look like they have a purpose. Also, knowing when to quite when you are ahead. It’s an art.

This shot above shows the head attached to the main body via the neck. I have to fit things together regularly, so I know they fit.

I added some strips of plastic, windows and various small bits to the area behind the forward gun pods. This is more indicative of what will come in other areas of the model. Grooved plastic and i-beams are a modeler’s best friend there.

This is the nearly complete back of the head. I like the symmetry of the two sides, with just a touch of differences to imply various instrument packages and fittings. I’m quite pleased with how this is turning out. Next I will try and cover up the colors with a base of light gray paint.

This is viewing the neck from the bottom. I added some fittings to make the neck thicker, more like the drawings I made of it. Never throw away bottle caps from liquid detergent.

Finally, a look topside of the main deck. I used a piece of PVC for the back of the conning tower. I also used an old Lego piece. The back of the main super structure is also boxed in. I’m liking where this is going, but now its much more difficult to turn the beast upside down to work on the bottom. Doh!

Building the GCU Sokol Part 8

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Part 11 | Part 12

Boxing Weekend

This weekend most of the model was boxed up. Boxing is the process of building up the many sections of the model and giving it shape. For this model, it’s a big task. This weekend I finished boxing the keel and the head. I also started adding details to the area of the main body right behind the head.

I’ve said it before, but I dislike boxing. When you work in plastic, it usually involves lots of cutting with a blade along a metal ruler. Not my favorite activity. I usually c-clamp down the ruler and score away until I can snap the piece off. If I do much more modeling in this fashion, I will be best served in purchasing a proper cutting device.

I did make some progress on ensuring the head does not spin around on the neck cylinder. I did this by making two exterior pipes that extend from the back of the head to the main body. This was not in my original 1980 drawing, but I like it.

I used the plastic lids from some plastic boxes that screws come in for the base plates on the front of the main body. Inside these areas I added various greeblies and some cut model trees for piping. This is my favorite part, adding details. The trick is to make it look as if the parts have a purpose and are not just stuck on random. For an example of good details see – any Star Wars model. For an example of bad, see Star Crash.

That’s enough fun for this weekend. Next up I’ll box out the upper main body and start scratch-building the hangar deck.

Building the GCU Sokol Part 7

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Part 11 | Part 12

Coming Together

Spent pretty much all day in the garage building this beast Sunday. Thanks to super glue and sharp knifes, I made some decent progress. Built up the head of the starship and most of the main superstructure. The biggest parts are done, but there are more large parts that still remain.

This is the head going together. The hole for the neck was drilled out with my new variable speed hobby grinder. Can’t recommend one of those enough for scratch building models like this. That’s the grinder holding up the parts drying.

This is the damage you can do with the grinder, when you need to get those large holes bored out of the thick plastic. Nothing like burning, grinding plastic to get you going in the morning.

The main body needed some modeling putty and then a good sanding. That washer is surrounding a hole cut out for a main gun. Most of the guns are closed or covered, this one and one on the other side are open to reveal the canon barrel inside. Detail. Love it.

This is looking at the mains and the details therein. Three parts make up the nozzles; OJ bottle lid, Scotch tape center and the cap to Vitamin C tablets. There will probably be more details added later, but since I had these already built, I glued them in place.

Here’s the finished head attached to the body. The last thing I glued on was the cover on the front of the superstructure. I’m trying to get the body blocked out before the cold chases me out of the garage. I can detail the model inside.

The next thing I need to work on is figuring out how to mount it and building a jig for it to set in while I’m detailing it. Thinking of using a wooden jig that could end up being the base for the model. Always something.