Introduction: How to Build Your Own Model Spaceship

Picture of How to Build Your Own Model Spaceship
For as long as I can remember I've been tinkering int he garage with all of my fathers tools. Building anything and everything my heart desired, but this was my most extensive project yet.

Step 1:

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I began with a 1/8' styrene sheets that I cut into all of the major body panels using nothing more than a box cutter and a ruler.

The body panels were than cleaned up with a little sand paper. Most of my sanding needs were met with a simple block of wood and sand paper, but other times required a belt sander.

Step 2:

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After the panels had been refined they were glued together with super glue.

Any unsightly gaps were than filled with body filler and sanded smooth.

As you can see there were a lot of gaps on this particular ship

Step 3:

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Once the bulk of the ship was complete I began adding small detail panels which I cut from the 1/16' styrene.

I also used a lot of little wood craft pieces that you can find at an craft store like Micheal's or Joann's.

A lot of model builders do what is referred to as kit bashing which is when you take pieces from other model kits, toys, or what have you and use them on their models

I did this throughout my ship

You'll notice that a lot of the detail is repetitive, but I just wanted to add more texture. A lot of model builders like it when every bit of detail serves a purpose, but for my purposes I just wanted to add more depth to the ship so it wouldn't look as flat

Step 4:

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The next stage in detailing was etching which was achieved by scoring the styrene with an x-acto hobby knife.

Etching is great for the really fine details

Step 5:

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Some of the details on the shop were just  styrene. Some of it was pulled out of old toys or even random bits of plastic I pulled out of the trash. Believe it or not there are a few paper clips in there too. Some details were custom made on a mill and some cases a lathe which I was lucky enough to have access to at a friends machine shop.

the two main thins I kit bashed on this ship were an Optimus Primal toy  and a Pod racer model

The only actual model pieces I used were the pod racer engines. I mainly used the injection flashing.

Step 6:

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Next comes the lights. The small pin hole lights that you see on the hull of the ship were achieved by drilling hundreds of small holes than running fiber optics. (That I pulled from an old Christmas tree) through the holes in bundles to LEDs.

Step 7:

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The thruster lights were just LEDs.

Step 8:

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What cant be seen in the photos is that all of the lights were controlled individually by six separate switches. IE; if you flick the first switch the main thrusters come on. Flick the second witch and the secondary thrusters come on etc....

The case was custom made from 1/4" styrene and it houses three battery packs six switches and six LEDs

The switches were purchased at radio shack for a $1.50 a piece

Step 9:

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After everything was done it was time for paint . 

Looking back on the paint I wish I had do more with the paint. Maybe add some decals and painted paneling to give it another layer.

Step 10: Afterthoughts

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The experience of building was very fulfilling and I have already began on my second Spaceship. As well as a script for a short Sci- fi fantasy film so there will be more ships and eventually space suits and armor so Im sure my tool box will be growing along with my fleet of ships.

This is the lathe I used


jonkmiller (author)2010-11-27

As promised I edited the instructable and added extra photos. I hope they help clarify any questions.

If you have any more questions I'd be glad to answer them.

I'm glad to see that people have been brain storming and throwing material ideas around. When I posted this instructable I didn't want people to go out and build the same ship I built but inspire them to do their own thing and it seems like that's exactly what’s happened.

If you do decide to do a project like this I have to warn you it’s not a small task I will take over your life

But its worth it

ethanlanting (author)2016-09-18


Flynns_Place (author)2016-07-27

That is ABSOLUTELY BAD @$$! Phenomenal work with the detail and the creative sources of the parts. This makes me want to create my own. I just hope it looks half this good. Very well done!

SinAmos (author)2016-07-20

Let's be pals! I just opened the door to building models from all these pieces I've been collecting for years. I'm intrigued by smaller builds.

darrenah (author)2016-03-08

Very cool!

tonibones2 (author)2015-06-08


jack.f.downing (author)2015-02-03

looks awesome! would it be possible to get a template of the base structor so i can make something similar?

BeastandEpicProductions (author)2014-10-05

Reminds me of the "Forward Unto Dawn" from
the Halo games. Awesome

shaneltl (author)2014-04-25

looks awesome great job !
I build a lot with foam that is easily distressed with a blowtorch , great work !

tinker234 (author)2011-07-13

wow hey could i make one for a 12 inch gijoe i love to play with them even though i am old however it be fun hey any work on suits yet im having issue making mine

ichbinoadie (author)2010-11-22

Very nice project. A bit more detail on the construction of individual components would have been nice, especially for those who have never attempted to scratch-build a model before. Also, for those who are strapped for cash or worried about the weight of the final product, foamcore/foamboard (a layer of foam sandwiched between 2 sheets of card stock) is a great alternative material for bulking out the main model. It's very light and surprisingly strong, with only basic reinforcement. Best of all, a 5mm thick, poster-sized sheet only costs around $2. If you'll be dressing the edges with sanded filler or plasticard (sheet styrene) plating, it's often worth saving weight and money by using foamcore for the basic form.

Anyone interested in finding out more techniques would do well to poke around on miniature wargaming websites. Scratch-building models, vehicles, and scenery are all staples of the wargaming community that have been well covered in both broad and narrowly focused articles and tutorials. You're sure to find some good information that can be applied to any modeling project, as well as game-specific conversion work.

fishdirt (author)ichbinoadie2010-11-26

Sadly foam core isn't durable. Even cheaper is buying styrene via for sale signs.

ichbinoadie (author)fishdirt2010-11-26

Really? What are you doing to your poor models? :P

My own experience, as well as that of countless wargame scratch-builders says differently. Have you tried adding reinforcing ribs in large voids and/or pinning joints with toothpicks when gluing? Sure, you can break the stuff if you try and bend it over your knee, but it's far more durable than you give it credit for being.

That said, your point about "for sale" signs is totally valid. When you don't need a clean finish and the exact thickness is unimportant, those signs are a great way to get larger sheets on the cheap.

fishdirt (author)ichbinoadie2010-11-26

Maybe for wargames but for longevity anything paper has a high acidic level and isn't built for life. Plastic has a period of 500 years before breakdown. I'm sure if you laminated with resin such as aqua resin then it'd be cool but for model building I avoid anything paper. That's where my durability statement is based. As far as structurally sound I agree. Ribbing bigger project and planning properly can make for a strong model. If I'm making a piece for longevity though it'd be styrene or casted resin and metals.

thepelton (author)fishdirt2011-01-04

My Mother, who had a Master's Degree in Fine Art, told me that I should make every project to outlast me as good artists do. 100 percent rag paper is not acidic. Anything else will eventually turn yellow, and crumble like old leaves.

ichbinoadie (author)fishdirt2010-11-27

Ah, I had assumed you were talking purely about structural integrity. Foamcore models will last for years (if not decades), but probably not generations. I would love to get into casting, but it's beyond the range of many hobbyists, if only for the cost of supplies and equipment.

Thepelton's warnings should also be heeded. CA glues (Superglue, Krazy glue, etc.) will melt the foam in foamcore, but is fine on the paper facing or sheet styrene (same with the propellants in most spray paints/adhesives). PVA/white/wood glue is pretty much the only thing that I always assume won't cause an issue. Everything else, I check it, first.

thepelton (author)ichbinoadie2010-11-26

Watch out about using any petroleum based chemicals near foam plastic. I would read instructions on paint, bondo and glue containers to prevent this. It could dissolve, lose it's bubbles, and turn back to a blob of yellow plastic. My Father once put a gas can next to a beer cooler in the trunk of the car, and opened it at the lake for a grungy surprise.

fishdirt (author)thepelton2010-11-26

I used petroleum jelly as mold release for 2 piece mold building. No problems with it. I think it's more on the type of plastic. I would definitely play it safe though and also avoid alcohol , paint thinners of any kind and acetone. For model cleaning or paint stripping easy off oven cleaner does the trick without damage to plastic.

thepelton (author)fishdirt2010-12-01

Maybe just test in on a small expendable piece before creating your deathstar. A meltdown in a tablespoon is a lot better than one on the kitchen table.

fishdirt (author)thepelton2010-12-01

agreed but after some research, yes avoid petroleum based products

zomfibame (author)2010-12-21

That is wayyy too cool. I am diggin' the fiber-optics use too.

jefersonrod (author)2010-12-21

Very cool man, I liked the lights effects.

Loshanagan (author)2010-12-11

Impressive. Most impressive.

Ngendrer (author)2010-11-30

this is cool man!!!

Beschaulicheit (author)2010-11-28

Very impressive. My hangup is /always/ the details: I can't ever seem to think of enough to put in.

The fiber optics are a nice touch. Lights make or break models like this.

MacGyver1138 (author)2010-11-28

This is really cool. While I don't see myself making anything like this, I love all of the little detail that was put into it. I'd love to see additional ships that you make.

fishdirt (author)2010-11-26

If you want styrene at a good price buy "Help wanted" signs. Same material tons cheaper.

Increase thickness by layering and laminating (super gluing the cracks).

For odd shapes find a form (preferably wood forms) and use a heat gun to lightly melt/form the styrene. Another alternative for more advance people is to use a vaccuformer (DIY here at instructables).

Very cool follow along but I have to agree with some. On your next one a more detailed step by step would be better.

thepelton (author)fishdirt2010-11-26

What about dumpster diving behind tool stores for those white plastic foam chunks made to protect someone's drill press?

fishdirt (author)thepelton2010-11-26

I'm not a foam user so I wouldn't know. Styrene can be gotten cheap or free from sign making shops who have scraps. Styrene is just plastic sheets and very easy to work with. Score and snap, no cutting really needed.

rc jedi (author)fishdirt2010-11-27

Another great material is foamboard, sometimes called foamcore. it's a thin foam layer with paper on each side. you can glue it with white glue epoxy, but not superglue. it's ok to spraypaint, since the foam is protected by the paper.
it is lite, but it can warp if large unsupported areas are used. just another material to consider. hobby lobby has it in poster size sheets. lots of colors too. i make frames to hold model planes while the glue sets up.

yagaflex (author)2010-11-27

Great job!

gedion4000 (author)2010-11-23

nice ship, something i would be super proud of cause im working on a short sci-fi war film myself. on your next instructable though, how about a lot more pictures?

Pe-ads (author)gedion40002010-11-27

Seconded about pictures.

And, of course, about general epicness...

444fox (author)2010-11-26


thepelton (author)2010-11-26

I heard that one way of making two half circle turned identical pieces was to laminate two identical pieces of wood together with a layer of paper in between them. You could then turn them as one, and pry them apart with a pocket knife at the paper layer.

Alien Terminator (author)2010-11-25

Nice. Very cool, I don't think I have the patience to do something that detailed though.

studleylee (author)2010-11-23

very cool!

thepelton (author)2010-11-23

Another way to make a dome would be to use a wooden screw hole plug that is a hemisphere on one side, and a tenon on the other, and are available in any woodworking store.

thepelton (author)2010-11-23

I have a bunch of those plastic Easter Egg M&M candy boxes, and I could use them in something like this, turning them into domes and turrets!

thepelton (author)2010-11-22

The small ball turrets on the top look like they could have come from either an aircraft carrier model set, or maybe a B17.

jonkmiller (author)thepelton2010-11-22

Actually the base of the turrets are wheels from a Transmetal 3 Optimus Primel toy (the guts of that toy are on a few places in the ship) and the turrets themselves are just plastic spheres that I sanded flat on a belt sander then I drilled two small hole and inserted small dowels

thepelton (author)jonkmiller2010-11-23

I heard that a lot of the guns shown in closeups of the "Death Star" in "Star Wars: Episode Four" were actually cannibalized from plastic model sets such as Panzer Tank, B-17 and the like.

_-MacGyver-_ (author)2010-11-23

dannnnng I like it :D

umursengul (author)2010-11-22

That is something I am definitely gonna try next week immediately! Awesome! But here is the thing; is it possible for you to send that ship's models??

jonkmiller (author)umursengul2010-11-22

What do you mean by send the models?

JamesRPatrick (author)jonkmiller2010-11-22

I think he means blueprints?

jonkmiller (author)JamesRPatrick2010-11-22

The only blue print I had was a pencil sketch done by a friend of mine which was changed a lot during the build to make it possible for me to build with the tools I had at hand.

umursengul (author)JamesRPatrick2010-11-22

Yeah exactly this is what I tried to meant :D

thepelton (author)umursengul2010-11-22

I would try and design my own, just using the general commentary on how to do it from this Instructable.

umursengul (author)thepelton2010-11-22

I am going to try to build my own design ofcourse but I just LOVE this design :D

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