Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Hi, Folks,  I know there isn't much new on here lately, but I AM still working on several new model projects, and revisiting a few old ones.

In the midst of all this, I'm going to be reworking my online storage for my model files, so some of the models offered on the site here, may come up with bad links or be unavailable as I move things around and add new links to their new locations.  If there's a model you want, and it comes up unavailable, just drop me a message and I'll make sure you get it.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Paper Modeling and the Art of Procrastination

Well, Folks, I've done it to you, again.  Last night I had reason to check to check in here on the blog and, while knowing that it had been a while since my last updates, realized that my last post was from A YEAR AGO!!!

Now, I haven't been dormant over the last year, in fact, far from it, but I have indeed been neglecting this page.  This is partly due to some big-time craziness and upheaval in my day-to-day life as a small-business owner, partly due to the family issues that affect everyone occasionally, and partly because I've been really busy in between on working on models instead of writing about models.

Mainly, I've been hammering away in what I last referred to as the "Jefferies-class Frigate" project, which has grown from one model into an entire series, with running changes over the two years and counting incubation of this design.

For added effect, I took these photos with a flashlight during a black out.
The most recent iteration, was initially called the U.S.S. Sternbach, named for artist Rick Sternbach, designer of Star Trek's U.S.S. Voyager.  In a Facebook post, Rick had posited that while all on-screen Federation ships had used warp engines with integral Bussard collectors, there was no reason, within the bounds of the fictional technology of Star Trek, why the collectors could not be mounted remotely from the engines.  Given this as a possibility, he wondered what such a ship might look like.

The U.S.S. Sternbach, though some have called it "Rudolph"
I took this as an opportunity to see if I could come up with something worthy of his idea, and was very pleased when he gave my design his nod of approval.  That made me want to go forward and finish the model to a decent level of detail, but not just that version, but all three models, so, over the last year, they have had their surface details completely re-drawn.

Other projects of note nearing completion include the Eichler House, which is currently in the test build phase, a reworking of my TOS Build Your Own Starfleet set, and an updated higher-resolution version of the Chaffee.

Stay Tuned...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Recharging Batteries

It's been awfully quiet around the the blog, lately, as I've been taking a pause from my own design projects to work on something very cool, and a bit outside my comfort zone just for the fun of building something cool.  

For the past six years, most of my time spent on my hobby has been put toward either creating brand new subjects or repainting and refining older models, and all of the building I'd done over that period had been related to that.  In fact, during my design work on the DS9 runabout, I built the same wing section over two dozen times, the vintage car project required a test build of each of the 50+ versions I designed, and my ongoing Federation Frigate project has required enough test builds to fill two bankers boxes.  Not that I'm complaining, as I believe that the process of test-building a model is an integral part of the design process, but all that repetition had left me a bit... unmotivated, and often frustrated to the point where I was repeating mistakes.  I was so caught up in trigonometry and the math of creating models that I had forgotten that it was supposed to be fun.  

I needed a break from what had become routine, so I've taken a bit of a sabbatical, in the form of a new model from Julius Perdana, owner of the site Paper-Replika.com.  Now anyone who has been in the paper model hobby for more than 20 minutes is familiar with Julius' rather prolific body of work.  He is known around the world for designing some of the best, and often biggest, paper models on the internet, and I have to admit that I have often been completely intimidated by the scope of some of his designs.  But not this time.
I've jumped into this one with both feet and am completely enjoying the break from the norm. 

So far, I've gotten the head and torso sections completed, and have moved on to the legs, which are still a work-in-progress.  Here are a few photos of what's been done, so far...

The head of the model, which is the first assembly section, with a quarter for scale...

Inner structure of the torso.

Rear view of the torso with the repulsor pack taking shape

The completed torso with the poseable head in place

Inner structure of the hips, where the legs will attach. (shown upside-down) This part, build from heavy cardboard, was colored black before final assembly.
Standing on its own two feet.  This is as far as I've gotten until now.  The feet are well-along and the inner structures of the poseable legs are all ready.  Work will continue with adding more detail parts to the feet, and adding the outer sections of both legs, before printing and assembling the arms and finishing the model.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hudson-class Runabout

If you've visited The Garage here on the blog since the recent reboot, you likely noticed the work-in-progress photos of this project, so I thought it was about time to put it out there.  

Here's the backstory:

The Hudson-class is a descendant of the earlier Danube-class, and is similar in size, and capacity, while offering improved range and speed, with a maximum of Warp 9.1.  The more angular appearance of the Hudson-class vessels is due to the use of a stronger, more rigid space frame which, in conjunction with more powerful warp engines derived from those found on the larger Defiant-class vessels accounts for the increase in speed.  The larger size of the now-shielded warp coils made in necessary to relocate the impulse drive to separate pods above the main warp engines.  While the Hudson-class vessels share the modular construction of the earlier Danube-class, most of the vessels built early in the production run were preassigned to dedicated functions and constructed at the shipyard in such a way that it precludes them from being reconfigured. 

During the Hudson-class' early stages development, a need arose for several small ships to be assigned to Starfleet Headquarters for use as diplomatic couriers and transport vessels, and several of the Hudson-class vessels were requisitioned for this purpose.  These ships were assigned Starfleet Command registries and wore a different livery that the standard Starfleet vessels.  The U.S.S. Hudson, during its testing phases, was the only ship of the class to wear both liveries, and for a time wore a mix of the two, though it retained its NX registry designation throughout.

The Model:

This model began as a side-effect of my larger Jefferies-class Frigate project, when I began playing with docking ports on the rim of the larger ship's primary hull.  I thought it would be cool to include a Runabout type of ship which could be docked to the ship.  

By this point, I was well into the design of the frigate, and had already roughed in the basic shape of the shuttlecraft for the open shuttlebay, so it wasn't too difficult to double the little shuttle design in size and dress it up a bit as a new class of Runabout.  I liked the finished look of the tiny, little ship so well, that I decided to do a larger, better detailed version, and that's what we've got here.  I've added separate parts for many of the surface details to break up the texture a bit, but I'm sure that a few builders I know will take it far beyond what I've done.

When it came time to name the ships of the class, I made a list of all of the possible names for runabouts that hadn't been used on Deep Space Nine, and the first two river names that came to mind were the Hudson, and the Jordan.  These also just happen to be the names of old cars, so while I started with good intentions, I quickly decided to satisfy my own sense of humor, so all of the Hudson-class ships are named after old cars, instead of rivers....

You can download the models, here:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

He's Not Really Gone, As Long As We Remember Him....

It's a very sad day for anyone who has ever called themselves a Star Trek Fan, as we learned this morning of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, at age 83.  While he was best known for his iconic portrayal of "Mr. Spock" in the original "Star Trek" TV series, eight later films, and a guest appearance on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", he was also an accomplished film director, teacher and photographer.  He will be missed...

New York Times

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Runabout Run Around

I have always been drawn to the real artistry of the Star Trek models from Dutch designer, Ninjatoes.  While some people I know have been critical of his hand-drawn approach, which can be frustrating, as it makes assembling his models more difficult, I've been able to look beyond that and appreciate the thought that goes into engineering his model designs.  That's what led me to create my own version of his Danube-class Runabout, the USS Rubicon, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. 

Early Cockpit with hard angled profile
Once I had built his original, I felt that Ninjatoes' basic design was worth the time and effort it would take to turn it into a really accurate version of the studio model.  I began working on parts based on the build sequence for the original model, so the forward cockpit section came first.  Changes here included correcting the overall shape, adding panel lines and creating a short, vertical, center section where the ship name goes and where the phaser/RCS thruster module mounts.  
Revised cockpit with smoother profile

Later in the project, I realized that I really didn't care for the abrupt angle of the bow above the forward ports, so I revised the cockpit with a much smoother transition above the main windows, which were made a bit smaller.  I also rearranged a few surface details, added a few missing bits, finished the cockpit's panel lines and corrected the placement of the forward registry number.

Underside of cockpit

Underneath the cockpit, the photon torpedo launcher/ front landing pad was shortened and got new detailing, as did the area behind it.  To add depth to the surface details, I utilized multiple shades of each base hue to emphasize details and heighten the illusion of shadowing on the flat surfaces. At the rear of the cockpit, the "wing" of the phaser module was reshaped, I added the details of an RCS thruster and added changed the ribbed look of the thin section between the cockpit and the ship's center section to look more prototypical.

Ninjatoes' original design integrated the wing/engine pods into the center section of the model, requiring a rather complicated build sequence.

Wanting to make final assembly easier, I decided to modify these 
parts, enlarging the impulse engines and adding new surface details while redesigning the wings and engines so that they could be added as separate parts.  The changes resulted in an assembly much closer to Rick Sternbach's original design for the ship.

In shaping the wings, I took one of my AMT plastic runabout kits out of mothballs for use as a reference.  The wing's leading edge doesn't look like it would be difficult to design once it's built, but the math involved made it a challenge, and as difficult as the leading edge was, the trailing edge was ten times worse.  The runabout wing is a complex shape for a paper modeler, especially for a Luddite like me, that works without 3D modeling software.  It has complex curves from just about any angle, and a mistake in any one of them has a negative effect on the whole part.  While my finished part isn't a perfect replica of the studio model's wing, I think it's as close as you'll ever find without building one in CG.  That one small part of the model consumed a lot of time and energy, and caused a LOT of frustration, but by the time I was done with it, I knew that my skills as a model designer had taken a big leap forward. 

Revised Warp Reactor
After the wings, I needed something simpler to focus on, so I started on the warp reactor on top of the fuselage.  I replaced the original model's stacked rings with a cone shape, and changed the sides to taper inward as well as down to get closer to the look of the studio model.  I also added the boxes at the sides of the reactor, which had been flat and indistinct on the original version. The rear section of the fuselage was a fairly simple shape, so I was able to have some fun greebling the surfaces and experimenting with texturing by creating layered details.

Close-up of layered surface details
Once that was done, I moved on to the warp engines. During the design and test building, I was asked by another modeler if I had rounded off the bussard collectors on the warp engines, as Ninjatoes' original design had a sharp corner at the top and bottom edges of the bussards.  The simple answer was no, I did not.  I played with the idea quite a bit, and looked at Paragon's repaint of the runabout, where he had eased the corner with a multi-pieced bussard, but I had a really hard time building his version.  The problem with rounding the bussard is that the shape of the prototype is a tight, flattened sphere that fades into a rectangle where it meets the hull plating.  Even if I worked in CAD or a 3D modeling program to design it, the actual parts would be horrendous to build.  In the end, my own version of the bussard uses Ninjatoes' squared edges, but with corrections to the shape and a few changes to the assembly of the forward ends of the warp engines, which make the hard edges stand out a bit less.  

Revised Fuselage Clamping Strap.
Getting down to the smaller details, I decided to tackle the clamping straps on the sides of the fuselage.  On Ninjatoes' original version, these were just two layers thick, with a tapered box shape at the top. To achieve a more prototypical appearance, I changed this to a three part assembly, separating the anchor points from the strap, and giving the whole part some depth.  The result is a part that looks good, and has some real heft to it at full size, but is still so thin that I can't imagine building it as is in a smaller scale.  How modelers like Mick Muller and Loenf built these at half scale for their builds of the finished model still baffles me. 

A few of the "unsuccessful" test builds...
As the redesign progressed, I was constantly building and rebuilding the different sections of the model, as each new change had to be tested for the best fit.  So much so that the collected test builds of all these different sections filled a large bankers box by the time I finished the project.  Modeling the clamping strap and the warp engines revealed an issue that required reworking every section of the model I'd already designed.  Up to this point, all of the larger assemblies had attached to the upper parts of the hull, but checking the fuselage against the original, and against the AMT plastic kit, showed that my version was "pot-bellied".  It was a bit over an 1/8th of an inch too deep in the lower sections, so I had to put everything on a diet, and whittle it down.  This was important for the final fit of the warp engines, and for the clamping straps.  It took the better part of a day to redo all of the skins and the inner supports.  It also required me to build another new fuselage for test fitting the final parts.

Sometimes, things just DON'T work out...
Building and test fitting parts during the design phase was important both for correct fit and for developing the best assembly sequences. Some sequences resulted in the parts warping out of shape, others left glue points inaccessible.  So, I did what I wish all paper model designers would do, I built the same section over and over, dry-fitting, then gluing, until I found a sequence that resulted in a finished part that was straight and had no gaps or other tweaks that would show on the finished model.  Through the process, I was able to identify and correct problem areas, move a couple of glue tabs, and reshape a couple of bits.  

Early test of the unfinished Sensor Pod
One aspect of my original goal for this project was to design a sensor pod, as was seen on one of the original ships on-screen.  Unfortunately, I just didn't have the math skills at the time to design a finished pod that I was happy with, so I shelved it so I could move on with the rest of the model, but it's still something I intend to finish.

The finished model, including all of the different registries, is 33 pages, and includes parts for either a simple or a more detailed model.  The size of the model, and the scope of the project was a real challenge, and looking back at that time, when my wife and I were both dealing with job issues, losing our home to foreclosure, and a serious health crisis for my mother-in-law, I sometimes wonder why on earth I was wasting my time with such a large, time-consuming project, but then too, I realize that having this to focus on during all of that drama really helped me deal with the strain I was under back then.

Finished model and photo by Micky Muller
Response to the model after its initial release was impressive, flattering even.  A lot of the attention the runabout has gotten was due to an absolutely mind-blowing pair of builds, both by German modelers, the first from Micky Muller and another by a modeler who goes by the name "Loenf".  Thanks to their work, The project received a lot of notice from some very serious folks in both the modeling community.  It was also very flattering to have my work being talked about by from the people who had created the studio models for the Star Trek TV shows, and gave me an opportunity to get to know some of the artists, like Rob Bonchune, Doug Drexler, Rick Sternbach, and John Eaves whose work I had been a fan of for years.  
Finished model and photo by Loenf

I hope that you'll like it, too.  You can download it here: