How to Build Your Own Model Spaceship





Introduction: 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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

The thruster lights were just LEDs.

Step 8:

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:

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

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



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    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

    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!

    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.

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

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

    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

    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.

    9 replies

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    agreed but after some research, yes avoid petroleum based products