OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

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MadManMUC
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OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby MadManMUC » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:22 am

So here we are, my first 'On the Bench' post, and it's going to be yet another USS Reliant, fully lit. Fair warning, my posts will likely be fairly lengthy reads. Grab a coffee.

The first thing I'm going to get out of the way is a mini-rant about how much of a sh*t sandwich this kit actually is. I have an unbuilt original still in the box from the 1990s (which I'm going to use for spare parts), so I knew how bad that one was, and I was expecting Round 2 to have fixed the issues with the original kit. Not so, beyond correcting the hull thickness. Given the demand for a better-quality kit, I fail to understand why AMT/R2 don't just start from scratch with a new accurate master, with the same attention to detail they gave the 1:350 Enterprise refit. Whilst they're at it, a new accurate 1:537 Enterprise refit would be fantastic, too, as I'm sure there's a lot of demand for that!

But, I digress.

THE PLAN

Generally speaking, I've found that most people will try to build as much of a screen-accurate Reliant as they can, in terms of paint, accurising, hull markings, and so on.

I'm going to be taking a slightly different approach with mine: in terms of correcting the different flaws to make the model screen-accurate (flaws I'll detail a bit later), I'm absolutely going to do that. On the other hand, I'm also taking a literal approach to something Joe Jennings (Production Designer on STII:TWOK) said in an interview about Reliant's design:

[...] you had to make them look like they came from the same culture and had the same technology.

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Miranda_class_model



So what will this mean for my kit?

  • The same four-colour iridescent paint job that the Enterprise has in TMP (and not her dulled-down look in the following film);
  • The same look for her engines at warp as the Enterprise has in TMP. Which is to say: the raised parts of inboard chiller grilles remaining satin black, with only the inset grooves lighting up ... as opposed to the full-blue look the Miranda-class has in TNG and DS9;
  • Some corrections and typographic revisions of the decal sheet to bring it more in line with the Enterprise, as well as some new decals for things like the thin pin-striping around formation lights (this will be the subject of its own post in this thread much later, when I get to that stage. What I can tell you, though, is that I have dry-transfer/rub-downs in mind, as opposed to water slides);
  • Slightly tweaked Raytheon lighting to make the hull flood lighting more in line with the Enterprise has TMP;
  • Built-up and lit sauce-edge RCS thrusters (I'll need to actually figure out how to do this properly).

I’m a creative director by trade, so what that means is that it’s my job to make sure the different executions of ads we work on in the agency — among other things — are visually consistent within a campaign. It’s kind of the perfect job for someone with OCD, so you can imagine how much all of Reliant’s many problems and inconsistencies relative to the Enterprise bother me! :D

So, in the end, I'm taking this approach to help make this ship feel somehow more realised and thought-out, a ship you look at and just know it's a proper TMP-era Federation starship. My logic being, Starfleet ship designers would have imagined a certain degree of standardisation between ship classes that shared common design features. However, this is the first kit I've built in about 25 years (and I was never that great a modeller to begin with), it remains to be seen if I've got the skill and talent to make all of this happen. :D

One thing is for sure: this is going to be a very, very, very long build. I don't expect I'll be finished until some time next year in the first quarter or so.

ACCURISING

I won't bother going over the common problems this kit has that everyone knows about (hull thickness if you have the old AMT kit, the B/C deck, bridge module, shuttle bays, et cetera). They've been more or less discussed to death.

There are, however, four more problems this kit has that often get overlooked, which I will most certainly correct.

The first is what is apparently called the DSML sensors. These are the weird little protuberances on the sort of 'cliff' that separates the primary hull from the secondary one (if a mono-hulled ship can be said to have primary and seconary sections). They're really poorly detailed, and I picked up replacements from Federation Models (link in the shopping list to follow).

The second is a little bit more dramatic, and still involves the DSML sensors. I really don't know if it's a problem with the placement of the sensor modules on the kit itself, or if it's the circular deflector grid lines that aren't spaced out properly, but there's a pretty severe alignment issue. This problem triggers my OCD to the degree where it really makes me see red. Here's a pic I took of the kit side-by-side with a shot of the studio model, to illustrate what I mean:

Image

As you can see, on the kit, it's mis-aligned by a good 3 mm. Which means, I have a decision to make. Do I leave the positioning as-is, and feel my blood boil every time I see the pin-striping mis-aligned with the DSML sensor, or do I make a plan, move each sensor inward to align with the grid lines, and re-build the adjoining section? Re-aligning the modules is fraught with additional work. The first being that it might mean I have to completely re-do the window placements and spacing on the vertical sections joining the B/C deck. The second being I will have to re-do all of the detailing on the flat section behind the sensors, and that's a big job by anyone's standards.

Ultimately, I can't live with mis-alignment. To draw a conclusion in the style of Chef John from Food Wishes on YouTube: you are the Geoffrey Chaucer of how you want your saucer, so I'm going to take the leap and bring those modules 3 mm inward each, and spend the time making the necessary resulting corrections around them. :D

The third additional problem with this kit is the impulse engines. They're too short and, I think, at the wrong angle. The detailing on the bulkhead between the two engines is also wrong. From what I can see in the product photos (I haven't bought this yet), the problems can be corrected using Federation Models' Miranda-Class Saucer Correction Kit. Curiously, FM didn't bother correcting the shuttle bay heights on their part, so that will still need correcting.

Lastly, the forward nacelle grilles seem to me to have a bumpy bit that shouldn't be there. I'll pick up Federation Models' replacement parts to correct this.

THE MASTER SHOPPING LIST

  • Clear blue inboard flux chiller grilles (Don's Light and Magic)
  • Miranda-class Upper Decks and Bridge, clear (Don's Light and Magic)
  • USS Reliant Photo Etch Set 1:537 scale
  • Correct DSML sensors (Federation Models)
  • Miranda-Class Saucer Correction Kit (Federation Models, not bought yet)
  • 1:537 Forward Nacelle Grilles (Federation Models, not bought yet)

ACCURISING NICE-TO-HAVES

Besides the issues above, there are a few other things I'd like to do with this kit. For example, on Enterprise's nacelles, there are small built-up details on either side of the forward sections I'd like to try to add, and I would also like to try to build in and light the RCS thrusters on the aft of the nacelles, on the horizontal fins. Given that the part on the kit is solid styrene (as well as not being the correct thickness), I'm not sure how to tackle that job yet. I'll think about it when I get to that stage. Ultimately, though, these are nice-to-haves, and I think I could live with them not being build and lit. If anyone has experience with this, though, please feel free to share how you did it!

AND SO ...

... this is it, folks. This is my thought process behind the kit, and my plan on how to build it up. All that remains is to put the plan into motion, and — hopefully — build myself a Reliant I can truly be happy with. The next post will cover the inboard flux chiller grilles on the nacelles ... and my resulting mis-adventures.

Let's crack on!
Last edited by MadManMUC on Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
DANGER. SPACE DOORS ARE CLOSED.

MadManMUC
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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby MadManMUC » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:12 am

THE NACELLES: INBOARD FLUX CHILLER GRILLES — PART 1

Right.

As I had mentioned previously, I just came back to the hobby after a long, long, long time away, and — if I'm really honest with myself — I was never that skillful a teenaged modeller to begin. So, when I was figuring out the plan for the look of my inboard flux chiller grilles, I was grossly overestimating my actual ability to pull it off (at least, as planned out). That, and I was new to using both resin parts, as well as the particular paint I went with.

My taking on more than I could chew led, shall we say, to a bit of drama involving the parts.

But, all right, let's crack on and see where we are with things.

THE PLAN

Quite simply, the look I'm going for, is the Enterprise's warp engines when lit. Which is to say: only the inset grooves of the inboard grilles are lit blue (or purple-ish blue, I suppose), and the lighting doesn't quite span the whole length of the grilles themselves, as seen in TMP:

Image

Having bought DLM's clear blue resin parts, and inspected them, I reckoned this wouldn't be too big a job.

THE ATTEMPTS

At the very first, I thought the simplest and quickest way of doing this would be to mask out the grooves (making sure to not go the whole length of the part, as per the image above), spray a couple of coats of black on the raised areas, take off the masking tape and — hey, presto! — job done.

What I didn't count on was a) the fact that the grooves themselves are maximum 0.6 mm high between raised portions, and b) try as I might, there was absolutely no way for me to cut masking tape strips that thin. When I did try, I couldn't get the tape straight in the grooves; it wouldn't lie completely flat, instead often bending upward on the walls of the raised parts; and it would — more often than not — simply tear into pieces. I also had no access to 0.5 mm lining tape.

No problem! I thought to myself, completely undeterred. I'll just do the old Spray 'n' Scrape!

Oh, dear.

Back when I was a modelling teenager, I used to use Testors small-bottle enamels. They were awful, thick, gloopy things, but I at least knew what to expect from them. I also knew I could scrape them off relatively easily with an X-Acto knife, even when dry.

Fast-forward almost 30 years, and I've since moved from Canada (where I grew up) to Europe, and Testors paints aren't really available in the shops here. And anyway, I wanted to use Tamiya acrylics on this kit, which is absolutely more than fine.

Stupidly, however, for my Spray 'n' Scrape job on these clear resin parts, I chose to use ...

... a Tamiya TS-6 Matte Black rattle can.

As this was the first time I'd used this medium, I was thrilled at how evenly it sprayed on. Two coats of this, and the part was beautifully, evenly painted and — more crucially — no light got through, when I shined my high-powered LED torch through the part. All that remained was for me to get in there, and scrape out the paint from the grooves like a champ. Right?

Wrong. Dead wrong.

For one thing, Tamiya rattle can paint dries really, really fast. For another, and I don't know if it's just my imagination, but once it's on resin, there's simply no getting it off. Not evenly, anyway. What followed was butchery. A massacre. With the tip of my knife, I tried scraping in slow, long, confident strokes. The problem was I was only scraping off the odd flake of paint here and there. So my scraping became more frantic. Oh, I was taking paint off now, all right ... but that's only because I was scraping so madly that I was actually gouging the resin out in those grooves. Often the tip of the knife would veer off, and I'd gouge some of the raised areas. This wasn't going well.

So then, I had the seemingly bright idea of simply stripping the paint completely, and starting over, this time scraping between coats, and when the paint was still partly wet. Nice idea in principle, but it had only a passing acquaintance with reality. Once Tamiya rattle can paint is on, it stays on. I tried everything: soaking the parts in Tamiya X-20A thinner, soaking the parts in glass cleaner, spraying the parts with oven cleaner for a couple of hours, sanding the parts with 600 grit sandpaper. Basically, all of those efforts combined removed some of the paint from the parts, but certainly not all of it.

The net result is that I'm left with this (pardon the shaky photo):

Image

Like I said: not good. I think I can safely declare these parts a write-off. RIP DLM Parts. Which sucks, because it took 3 whole months from original order to delivery for these to get here, so ordering replacements simply isn't an option. Also, unless I'm very much mistaken, Don is shutting his business this year. Which also sucks.

However, I'm nothing if not determined to make this work. So, I went back and took a look at the actual kit part, and started to think. I knew for a fact I wouldn't be able to use NCC1966's method of simply lighting from behind the plastic, for the very simple reason that this is the R2 kit and, therefore, it's moulded in this weird sandy creamy colour. And now that I mention that, it's going to pose some interesting challenges for my overall Raytheon lighting, but I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.

After looking at the inboard nacelle half, I've settled on a Plan A, and a Plan B.

Before I go on, I should also mention I also own an original AMT Reliant from the 1990s (for which I paid way too much on eBay), the one with the too-thin hull. It's cast in white, and I could most certainly use NCC1966's method with it, but I'd rather not. My plan is to eventually use that kit (with the hull thickness correction kit from Federation Models) to eventually make a refit Ptolemy-class transport ship, instead of cannibalising it for spare parts to correct my Reliant c*ck-ups.

So, Plan A is as follows.

Since what I really wanted out of this exercise was nice sharp, crisp (and, hopefully, thin) grooves that light up at warp, I decided that — in absence of the horror show that was my original attempt — the best way would be to simply:

  • cut the grooves out of the nacelle part entirely;
  • paint those black (except for the surface on the inside of the part, for gluing);
  • cut some Evergreen clear blue styrene sheet to size, heat it, bend it, and shape it to fit, and glue it to the inner surface of the part, behind the grilles (after, of course, frosting it for diffusion).

This is my attempt.

First, drilling pilot holes at the aft portion of the grill, to the same shape as the Enterprise studio model (more or less). I did this by simply using a two-cent Euro coin, tracing it on masking tape (I measured out to 1.5 cm from the aft end of the grille), placing on the part, and drilling the pilot holes with a 0.6 mm bit:

Image

After this, it's a question of simply (and really carefully) drilling out a series of closely-spaced holes with the 0.6 mm bit, along the length of the groove, going to the forward end of the nacelle. As I've not got a Dremel tool yet, I had to resort to my X-Acto knife, a set of Revell modelling saws (which I wouldn't recommend to anyone), and sandpaper (240- and 600-grit) to cut the groove out.

The end result of my first test cut is, well ... it's okay:

Image

As a probable result of over-sanding, though, the resulting cut is rather thicker than the 0.6 mm it should be.

Image

Also, on the forward section, the Revell saw (which is really bendy) veered off a bit, and now I've got a pretty uneven cut:

Image

I'm going to try filling and correcting all of this with putty, and trying again ... although if there's a better way, I really appreciate some pointers! Next month, I'm going to buy a Dremel, and try to find a cutting disc with a kerf of maximum 0.6 mm, if such a thing exists, and doing the job with that. That should hopefully prevent over-cutting/sanding, and bendy-blade mishaps.

Should all of this also fail, Plan B is as follows: take some moulding clay from a resin casting kit, stamp the DLM parts down in it, and filling in only the raised sections of the grilles with resin. Then I shall paint them, mount them on frosted, clear blue styrene sheet cut to shape and size, and mount the whole assembly in the nacelles as if they were the DLM parts.

One way or another, I'm going to make this happen. :D
DANGER. SPACE DOORS ARE CLOSED.

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Kratok
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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby Kratok » Sat Sep 16, 2017 3:27 am

MadMan,
Interesting read. I like the length of the posts, and the level of detail therein. And nice to see someone still building these kits. I think 537 is great - not as monstrous as a 350 kit, but potentially better detailed and more impressive than 1:1000, while still in a reasonable display footprint.

I'm sorry you are having such a hard time with this aspect of the build. Usually when I reach that level of pushback from a kit, I just shelve it for awhile (or forever). So I admire your tenacity.

Couple of ideas.

Any reason you couldn't just cast the nacelles in a translucent blue resin? Sounds like you are building enough kits in this scale to justify the cost of the mold. Then, just paint the raised ribs black.

OR

Remove the ribs from the nacelle completely. Get the translucent blue sheet styrene you mentioned, and two carefully selected Evergreen strip styrene sizes. One of these would be the thickness of your ribs, the other a spacer between ribs. Lay them down on the blue styrene in alternating manner (i.e., rib, spacer, rib, spacer...). Tack the ends of the ribs with a little liquid model cement, remove the spacers, and tack the rest of the ribs with liquid cement allowing capillary action to flow the glue between the ribs and blue styrene. That will let you keep everything perfectly parallel and identically sized. Then load this into the nacelle from the inside before you seal the unit up.

Grossly oversimplified, but hopefully conveys the idea.

Whatever you do, good luck. I hope you can get her looking the way you want.

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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby MadManMUC » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:35 am

Hey Kratok,

Thanks for the feedback!

Funny you mention scratch-building the grilles out of styrene sheet and strip. I'd also thought of it, but the problem lies in the fact the grille ribs are actually (like the outboard ones) concave; which is to say, the overall surface curves inwards. And not just top to bottom, but also forward and aft, at their respective ends. I'm just simply not confident in my ability to sand that precisely.

Casting just the ribs in resin would solve that problem for me, although now you've given me a fresh idea. I could alway try to cut the ribs out of the kit part itself, cut away the grooves, and mount the kit ribs on clear blue styrene. I'm going to need to give this some thought.

Unless this is what you actually mean! :D

I love 537. Maybe it's because of nostalgia (350 and 1000 starships weren't available when I was a lad), but it's exactly as you say: a good balance of size, detail, and footprint. And when one lives in a 40-square-metre urban flat, space is at a premium; a 350 kit would be a bit awkward!

I'll keep at the nacelles next month when I get my Dremel. In the meantime, I'm hoping to start with the DSML sensors this weekend. Naturally, I'll post my progress!
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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby andyh » Sat Sep 16, 2017 1:03 pm

The grid lines are in the wrong place on the saucer, not the DSML sensors. It would be easier to re-scribe the grid lines as I have done on my build.
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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby MadManMUC » Sat Sep 16, 2017 3:44 pm

Damn it. I was afraid of that. I''m also not so confident I have the skills to pull it off.

Mind if I ask how you did it? Tools, techniques, etc? ;)
DANGER. SPACE DOORS ARE CLOSED.

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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby MadManMUC » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:43 pm

MINI-UPDATE

So the modelling gods were smiling upon me today.

Sort of.

Turns out, a hardware store in town was selling the Dremel 3000 15-piece set for 20€ cheaper than my local hobby shop. I couldn't resist, so I bought it and also a 30-pack of #409 cut-off wheels.

Took the lot home, and decided to practice hacking up sprue before moving on to my nacelle grilles. Boy, am I glad I did:

Image

The styrene massacre you see above was done on the 4 speed setting. 2 and 3 won't cut anything.

Clearly, my Dremel idea won't work, not with 409 wheels, anyway.

Time for a re-think.
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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby andyh » Sun Sep 17, 2017 10:16 am

MadManMUC wrote:Damn it. I was afraid of that. I''m also not so confident I have the skills to pull it off.

Mind if I ask how you did it? Tools, techniques, etc? ;)


It's pretty easy. Fill the old grid lines in. You only need three things. A hobby knife, pencil and a good quality metal compass (with a nice sharp point). Before you glue on the bridge, mark out the circles with the pencil first.

Then, with a good quality hobby knife replacing the pencil scribe in your new grid lines (reverse the blade so you are using the back edge to scribe).

Andy

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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby MadManMUC » Sun Sep 17, 2017 10:28 am

andyh wrote:
MadManMUC wrote:Damn it. I was afraid of that. I''m also not so confident I have the skills to pull it off.

Mind if I ask how you did it? Tools, techniques, etc? ;)


It's pretty easy. Fill the old grid lines in. You only need three things. A hobby knife, pencil and a good quality metal compass (with a nice sharp point). Before you glue on the bridge, mark out the circles with the pencil first.

Then, with a good quality hobby knife replacing the pencil scribe in your new grid lines (reverse the blade so you are using the back edge to scribe).

Andy


Hmmm. Well, you certainly make it sound easy! I'll give it a go! I suppose the worst that can happen is I scribe off-piste, and simply have to putty the gouge, sand, and start over.

Thanks, Andy! :)
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Re: OTB: AMT/R2 1:537 USS Reliant (another one)

Postby andyh » Sun Sep 17, 2017 10:44 am

Just remember to start light and progressively go deeper. The quality of your compass will be the most important factor. One that can be locked to size so it doesn't stray :)

Andy


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