Sunday, June 22, 2014

BSG78: Monogram Cylon Raider 07: FINISHED!

Yes, so after all of the ups and downs and frustrations and "Hey, that looks kind of cool" moments, we are at the finish line!  What started out as a 99-cent eBay item that most people would've thrown away has been restored, slightly re-imagined, and saved from oblivion.  After I first received the kit from the seller, I posted positive feedback and said, "This ship will fly again."  Indeed I have made myself a prophet today!

All I've done since the last post has been to take care of a few blue light leaks along the hindquarters of the kit, and I also placed a tiny thin piece of plastic atop the "pimp cadillac rim" in the center tail section, to conceal the horrible fit issue.  With that, the kit was finally, truly done.

What did I learn?

The main thing that I picked up from this build regarded LEDs.  Basically, if you're going to string LEDs in parallel, DO NOT mix sizes and colors.  The best thing to do is to create a separate circuit for the different lights, and then have them all meet at the power source.  Current takes the path of least resistance, and when you mix up different sized LEDs, you can rob the bigger ones of their light because of the smaller ones.

I also learned to be VERY careful when working with 9v batteries.  When I wasn't paying attention, a 9v made contact with a pair of metal scissors on the table, right under my head.  I actually felt the heat... that battery could've blown up and really hurt me.  Just keep the batteries away from your work area until you're ready to attach them!

Not all soldering irons are equal.  I bought a crappy cheap one at Radio Shack, and it lasted for two models.  I bought a Weller, and I couldn't believe how quickly it melted the solder.  I felt like an idiot for having struggled on those kits with that cheapie iron.

But most of all, I learned that sometimes the best thing you can do when building a model is to have that freedom.  I'm used to building things like Star Trek vessels or monster kits... kits that have data everywhere about how they're supposed to look.  But since this model was from a show whose ships honestly had very little consistency visually (the thruster color, for example), and since this model was basically someone else's garbage and was missing parts and was on its way out, I felt free to use my imagination more.  There was something particularly rewarding about taking something that had pretty much been forsaken, and making it better than it ever should have been when it first rolled off the assembly line in 1978.  Kind of like if I were to start working out really hard.  Yeah, kinda just like me, except for the 1978 part.

I thought about contacting the eBay seller, to show him what happened to his old cast-off kit.  But he might not want to sell another old model for so cheap next time...


So enough of the talk.  What would a model completion be without a pile of excessive, gratuitous pics!? If you have the soundtrack cd to BSG, now would be a good time to insert the disc and go to track #6: "The Cylon Base Ship/The Imperious Leader."  Turn to full blast.

Though it's not "canon," I'm still pleased with how these thrusters turned out.
For 99 cents, folks.

99 cents...

Take a look at the logo decal.  By sheer luck, or a "happy accident," as Bob Ross would say, there was some sooty weathering along the edge where the decal was.  The decal got a little damp by accident and became damaged.  The weathering helps to make it look like this Raider had a close call.

This pic shows a lot of additional plastic pieces that were added to pump up the appearance of the underside.  Of course, now it will not be visible most of the time!

The winglights.

Check out the tiny slither of plaster that I cut and glued to solve the fit problem right above the "hubcap" in the center of the tail.

The underside isn't this light in value.  I guess the white tabletop makes it appear a lighter grey than it truly is.

Here you can see the narrower pinstripes, which I prefer over the thick 70s-looking ones.

This side has nice weathering on the wing.

An unexpected light effect: the winglights underneath shine down on both sides, like searchlights.  And making an appearance: my new Weller soldering iron.

BSG78: Monogram Cyon Raider 06

The Steve Neill trick for internal light blocking.
Well, there's no use in "him-halling" around now.  After the LEDs had been epoxied into place, I wanted to eliminate light "backwash" inside the ship.  Since tending to light leaks is taxing enough, if you can black out all light that might be shining around INSIDE the ship, before you seal it up, you'll be about 80% there.  Basically, it involves covering up the back end of each LED, so that it can shine backwards, into the guts of the ship (and therefore across to a seam somewhere, where the light can then creep through).

In order to achieve this, we're going with a trick that I learned while watching one of Steve Neill's videos.  All you have to do is buy some Tulip Slick puffy fabric paint, black.  Then you just apply it to everywhere that you see light shine on the inside of your hull.  Once you can hold the hull and look at its inside and see no light, then you've basically made the job of light leak-proofing a snap.
Testing the lights, before sealing it up. This pic was taken BEFORE I applied the black Tulip paint, thus you can see the warm whites from inside the ship.
I took this piece of clear bubble plastic from a package, sprayed it with some Testor's transparent blue, and then sprayed the backside with dull cote to help diffuse the light.  After cutting out the circular shapes, this tinted plastic will help give a bluish hue to the white thrusters.

With the ship dry fitted, Here's a sample of what the blue sheet will do.

Where were these clamps back when I was building all of those Enterprises.....  Anyways, you can see the black pinstripes that I painted in place, since there were no decals...
Here's a painted-on pinstripe, and a newly created Cylon logo.
 Since this kit was OLD, and the decals had basically surrendered to the ravages of time itself, I would have to resort to either an aftermarket solution (like JTgraphics), or get creative and do it myself.  Since this model only cost 99 cents, I decided to continue with the wonder of cheapness, and painted the pinstripes on the top and underside.  I never liked how thick the stripes were on the show, and I never like how big the Cylon logo was on each wing.  They made the ship look small.  So... I made my pinstripes thinner, and the wing logo smaller.  I also brought down the green on the logo; bright happy green doesn't look menacing!  I dropped the saturation on the green and then printed the logos on some Hammermill clear window decal paper that I had lying around (and had forgotten that I had).  Lo and behold, the stuff actually worked really well!  But if you use it, keep in mind that the inkjet ink if very susceptible to reacting badly with moisture.

One last look at the underside, before I attach it to the stand and it goes into obscurity forever!
After running the wires through the tube and stand and getting it all settled in (and I'll refrain from tempting fate by repeatedly removing it from the stand and putting it back on), it was time to tackle a problem that has haunted me even more than the decals.  The thruster pieces that came with the original kit were from a time before there were LEDs, before they thought anyone would be placing lights inside of a plastic kit.  Basically, these thruster openings were just that:  holes that, with nothing to block your view, allowed anyone to look completely inside the kit, like a pair of binoculars.  The thruster pieces were designed not to look at all like the thrusters from the show, but to act as barriers.  Now that I wanted light to escape from them, these pieces were no longer relevant.

Yes, there are plenty of images out there of "canonical" Cylon thrusters.  It would've been a pain in the butt to create them, and since I'd already busted out with additional greebly work that was not "canon," I figured what the heck, let's make it feel right and not worry about it.

So when you looked into the backside of the kit, you clearly saw a tunnel on each side, about .5 inches deep, and inside were a circle of now-bluish LEDs.  It was just empty, and felt unfinished.  So, I went back to my parts box and retrieved two transparent bussard collectors from the same Polar Lights TOS 1:1000 scale Enterprise that were extra alternate parts.  When I placed them inside the thruster housings, it broke the light up and had a neat bulb effect.  I took two identical pieces from the vertical blinds bonanza that I mentioned in an earlier post, and used these pieces to act as supports to hold the clear bussard collectors in position.  It was the final touch, and gave it that extra something that was needed for the thrusters.  Again, even though it's not exactly like the ones featured in the show, it was a lot more fun  and satisfying to come up with, in the end.

BSG78: Monogram Cylon Raider 05

...And we're back!  The challenges continue to jump out from behind the trees with this one.  I'll get through it, but as always, things that start out looking smooth as silk turn out being about as rough as back acne. Yeah.
There was once a ball socket here...

The original kit had a plastic ball socket underneath, center.  Extending out from the inside was a tube with a VERY narrow tunnel in it.  I can't even imagine how they thought they could create a stand that would be stable enough, and have it be that thin.  Anyways, they did it, and they did it back in the late '70s, so what do I know.

Anyways, I decided that I'd run the wiring up through a hollow tube and then continue that wiring through to the inside, through a hole in the ball socket. Unfortunately, there wasn't a hole.  So, here comes Mr. Dremel.  With a very thin bit, I drilled from the outside in.  If I'd been smart, I would've drilled from the inside, you know... where the BALL SOCKET ITSELF IS!  Oh well, I was tired, and the Dremel of course destroyed that ball socket.  I mean, it wiped it out.  I don't even know where the plastic went.

All that remains is the hole pictured above.  So, I guess I can pitch the idea of having it being able to tilt.  It's okay, because in the end it probably would've broken afterwards, and would've sagged to one side or the other.  But now I have to figure out how I'm going to do this.

Going with the theme that we're going to not spend money on this kit, I retrieved a metal tube from a dilapidated wind chime we had on the patio.  It was just the right length, but too wide to fit into the hole.  I was scratching my head about this for a few days until my good friend Mark Garn, fellow sci-fi and monster aficionado, heard me out while we were at work.  After enduring my non-stop yammering about my dilemma, he excused himself and returned in about five minutes with the answer.  I could explain it to you, but a video would be much easier.  What's amazing is that he didn't have the model in front of him, and yet he went out to his car and returned with a perfect solution!

 With how the model would actually be mounted solved, I went out to Michael's and bought a wooden box base, the ones that have an open underside so that I could conceal the 9v battery and the accompanying wires that would lead to the push button that I would insert into the face of the box.  During my last build, the longsuffering Bride of Frankenstein kit, I had a difficult time with how to secure the batteries.  This time around, I will use an elastic strip that will have velcro on each end, to that the battery can stay in a sort of hammock, up against the underside of the box.

The other big headache: we want to light this thing, and there's more to doing that than drilling holes.  I have thrusters this time, each one having to fit securely inside the model, AND be straight and balanced with its mate.  So, I first had to create these clusters of LEDs, 6 per thruster.  Then, I'd go forward with placing them.
Here's one of the thrusters.  Each 5mm LED is placed 60 degrees from its neighbor, so that it will look nice and balanced.  See, kids?  It pays to take that Geometry class in school!
The wood "troughs" for the LED thruster clusters.
I made marks around the top edge of a thin plastic tube that I had lying around, marking every 60 degrees (since there would be 6 LEDs per thruster).  Then after I'd done all of the LABORIOUS soldering, I worked my fingertips raw fidgeting with them and attaching them to the tube with electrical tape and Gorilla tape.  Unfortunately, this made the "thruster clusters" thicker in diameter.  Uh oh.

The things had barely cleared enough to fit inside the "taco" when I squeezed it shut.  I had also, as pictured above, used wood dowel pieces to create a sort of trough for the thrusters to sit on.  Well, now because of the added thickness, I'd have to widdle away a slight amount from each dowel in order for the thrusters to fit! Yes, it sounds as horrible as it truly was!
A quick look at the mess of wires, before closing it up.
So I used 5-minute epoxy to set the front headlights and winglights permanently into place.  Yes, the wire pictured above was a bit too thick, but it still worked.  A friend of mine at work suggested I used telephone wire, and I'll probably try that next time.  Anyways, the setup consisted of 16 LEDs, 12 of them 5mm cool white for the thrusters, and the remaining LEDs were 3mm warm whites.  From what I can tell from watching some BSG episodes, the headlights were the warm white.  Now, regarding the thruster color, it changes from shot to shot.  Sometime it appears to be cool white, then even warm white, and then a bluish white.  I think I'll probably have to tint these thrusters.  They can't be blue LEDs because it doesn't appear THAT blue on the show.  But there is a slight blue "afterglow."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

BSG78: Monogram Cylon Raider 04

Remember last time, when I said that it popped open like a "big taco"?  Well, almost.  This little round piece, which strongly resembles a hubcap from a '70s pimpmobile (and it probably WAS just that), didn't want to part ways with the way it had been for three decades.  It decided to take a little chunk from the bottom half.  Oh well, that's what putty is for.
This pic shows some of the scratch building I've been up to.  There's parts from the vertical blinds, as well as parts from a Polar Lights 1:1000 Enterprise kit:  impulse engine, nacelle parts, etc.  Hey, Battlestar Galactica borrowed from everyone else, so...
Already we're at work repairing the crack.  Don't worry, it'll be okay.  Really.

Here's a top view of the hull, before I added the Starscream arm part.  I was able to replace the missing cannon by using a piece from the now-defunct missile firing mechanism that was inside the ship.  There's something nice about using the same old plastic.  Notice the antennae-looking ends to the cannons.  They're temporary, and they're from the same Polar Lights Enterprise kit-- they were nacelle tip modifications for if you wanted to make it the pilot version.

So here's the "grill section," the inaccurate part that was fudged by Monogram.  I think it looks okay by me, but there's gotta be "headlights" here.  So I get out the Dremel and get to work... and discover that I drill a perfect hole on the right side.... and then proceed to blow off the WHOLE LEFT CORNER!!!  Yes indeed.  I ended up having to rebuild the piece's upper corner using Bondo!  Talk about one of those moments....

Friday, June 6, 2014

BSG78: Monogram Cylon Raider 03

The track pieces from inside a discarded window blind (just like the one in the background).  Dismantled, these plastic pieces were a greebly gold mine!
A photo from the eBay auction.  There's a lot of slickness under there...

Post-enhancement, using the tiny plastic pieces scavenged from the blinds tracking.  If you look closely, you'll see tiny pieces from the polar lights TOS Enterprise-- some nacelle pieces and part of the impulse engine.  Almost all of the customized "greebly" work was applied solely to the underside of the kit.

The only piece added to the topside of the kit:  Part of Starscream's arm, from the Transformers.  It seems really fitting that a Decepticon part would end up on a Cylon ship, right?