GCU Griffin Build, Part 3

First up is boxing in the scanner body ends. This area will have lots of greeblies and strips of styrene when finished. It will be recessed inside the main body. It was important that I get the shape straight and level so the rest of the model didn’t look warped. I like to listen to podcasts about writing while I work. Sometimes I listen to everything I have and move on to music. Long hours in the garage sniffing glue and cutting plastic go quicker with great tunes.

Once the sides were done, I had to secure them to the top and bottom pieces. Now you can start to see the shape I’m going for with this scanner pod body.

Got a bit carried away with the bottom of the head detailing and decided to attach it to the head. Big mistake. While wrestling with the model later on, I smacked it down and knocked off the detailing. Lesson learned. Do all your manhandling before you put on the details.

Top of the head gets some shape. I made the top of the head removable so I could access the fiber optics.

Started detailing early again. What is wrong with me?

Regarding using gray styrene. Don’t. Just don’t use it. Testers modeling cement does not do well with it. I won’t be using it anymore. You have to sand it to get anything to stick to it.

Dinking around with bridge details. I knew I needed an anti-starfighter gun on the top to get the greatest field of fire, but my boat kit had not come in yet so I played around with scanner details. The bridge was built with styrene sheet and strips.

Bridge details continued. I started using thick strips like reactive armor on tanks. Looks cool anyway.

A sense of scale. Sometimes it’s good to keep your scale in mind. Here is a 1/350 scale Japanese sailor.

Bridge details augmented by 1/350 scale Dragon German Destroyer kit parts. I’m constantly pleased by the amount of detail that comes from Dragon model kits. From tanks to ships the details are always crisp and clean. Below are more details added and cemented into place. Including the gun on top of the bridge.

Deck plates scored. I forgot to scribe the panel lines so had to use a dental pick after the bridge details had been added.

Another view shows asymmetrical detailing.

Bow of the ship. The details for the bow were mostly keys from a kid’s computer toy. I just sanded off the letters and glued them on. Lots of strip styrene used for effect.

Top sides of the main scanner pod. The red color comes from the fact that I’m using a plastic For Sale sign for my body. Cheaper than buying it from a hobby store and just as good. Below you see the shape of the ship as it now stands. Next comes threading the fiber optics and running the wires for the lights.

Coming next: lighting.

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.


Upcoming Model Builds for 2016


I don’t normally just build random spaceship models these days. I have a plan, as the Cylons would say. That plan is closely related to the cover art of my novels. All the cover art for the first six books of the Star Saga has been completed. I won’t be building any more models of Starforgers Era ships. My focus is on Starstrikers Era ships now. So if you look at my model builds page you can see what has been built and what will be built for each trilogy. If the ship name doesn’t have a link it means I have yet to build it.

Capital Ships

The scale of these models is usually 1/350 meaning an average model is less than three feet long. At this time I’d like to build three models in this scale: the GCU Griffin, GCU Sherman and a Votainion cruiser to be named later. These models are usually very large and very costly not just in parts but in time to build. They usually have fiber optic lights and more than one mount point. They also can cost a couple of hundred dollars in model kits alone to build. Not to mention all the PVC and sheet plastic needed to box out their basic shape.

As my skill increases with each capital ship I build, I will get faster and the models will be stronger and will last longer. The last ship I built of this size was the Renoke and it has a metal pipe and wood frame inside. This makes the model sturdy but also very heavy to move around. I will probably build the next capital ship with similar metal pipe and wood framing.  So my woodworking skills will need to improve and I’ll have to explore new ways to build the models as light and as strong as possible.


There are two more starfighters to build in this era, the K’nat and the Tache. I suspect they will proceed just as the last few models of this scale have. They will be built with 1/4 20 screw mounts and possibly lights. These models seem to go together faster and take less resources to detail. Most of the greeblies (model kit parts) used on them are small. They are be built up from scratch using sheet styrene.

Miscellaneous Models

There is one more important ship in this era that is the size of the Renoke, and that’s the Nova Starstriker strike ship. Well, I could do the GCU Thrusher, but there are no plans to have it on the covers at this time. Not sure if I will even build the Nova yet but it’s a possibility. Another ship that might be built is the Eclipse. The Eclipse would have to be built to a smaller scale than 1/350 as it’s twice as big as an Alliance carrier. So the jury is still out on that one too. But I do need to build a standard Votainion cruiser warship of this time period.

My next build will be the K’nat fighter and I shall finish the Spieron fighter already started. After that, who knows…



Old School Modeling

Creatives often have more than one interesting hobby. For me, I have always had more hobbies than the time to pursue them. When I was a kid, I build models, took pictures of them and made movies with my friends. I was also into observational astronomy, my dad owned some home-made telescopes, and I loved to read novels and go to the movies. All of those hobbies still have a special place in my heart and in the past few years I’ve been able to combine two of them into a new hobby, writing and publishing my own novels.

Self Publishing has let me learn so much about the craft of writing and book creation, from designing covers to honing my prose well enough to craft enjoyable stories. I have learned how books get made and how to sell them, or in my case, not sell them. ;-)  Lately I’ve been able to create some interesting cover art using my modeling skills. As a kid I built every 1/48 scale model airplane made by Monogram and Revell, sometimes more than one to scratch build variants. I also designed and built starship models from cardboard. These weren’t models of the Enterprise or an X-Wing, they were original designs that my buddies and I drew up ourselves. We were inspired by Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica but our models were all original.

As an adult, I took those old stories and started writing novels base on them. Many of the starship designs we came up with in our youth still look pretty cool today. Especially when I recreate them using Studio Scale plastic modeling techniques just like they did in Hollywood. Now I can afford the plastic and even the equipment to photograph them using the same blue screen techniques used by Industrial Light and Magic. All of my old SPFX heroes from the late seventies and early eighties SF movies are inspiring me to create awesome SF book covers with my models.

These days, most SPFX for Sci-Fi movies are done inside computers as digital effects. I never learned those techniques. However, all those hundreds of models built as a kid have prepared me for building movie props the old fashioned way. It’s a bit like keeping alive a dying art form. I absolutely love it. My garage looks like ILM in the seventies and I’m reliving my childhood dreams of working for ILM. This time around, I’m still in charge and I can bring the starships of my imagination to life using the same techniques of old Hollywood. Living out my childhood dreams in my garage.

In the coming weeks my garage will be transformed into a studio. I’ll be taking pictures of my models against blue screens with real movie lights and equipment. Stay tuned to this blog for some cool behind the scenes pictures and stories about how I do my best to keep alive the dying art of Special Visual Effects – Old School.