1st January 2014
So this is the final build log post, and with heavy heart I have no more work to do on the Enterprise. It’s been an intense build due to the self imposed deadline I put on it and I’ve enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. When we first picked the kit out in Hobbycraft a couple of months ago I thought “One rabbit stew coming right up!” (to quote Monty Python and the holy grail). How wrong was I? Fitting DIY lighting was a much bigger task than I first envisioned, not so much in terms of complexity, but in the sheer amount of preparation and tweaking that goes into getting a convincing lighting effect. Lighting is a very dynamic (almost organic) thing and doesn’t always turn out how you expect – hence it takes quite a bit of tweaking and titivating to get it looking just right.
I’ll post the final stages of the build here, and then will upload the reveal post with final photos and video later on today…
With the paintwork completed it was time to move onto decaling…
From past experience (AKA the Academy Stuka Decal Fiasco) I’ve found it best to test the decals with setting solutions before using them for real in case the decals react differently with different solutions. For this build I tested Micro-Sol, Tamiya X-20a and Solvaset using some scrap decals from the Enterprise on my trusty old MI-24 test pig.
3 sections of decal were applied (with Micro-set in the water), and then from left to right I applied a good coat of Micro-sol, X-20a and Solvaset…
Micro-sol had the mildest action, X-20a had a bigger effect and the Solvaset was blatantly belligerent towards the decals. As you can see in the above photos the Solvaset heavily wrinkled the decal almost immediately – in the photo the various solutions have been on there for about 20 seconds.
After about an hour the decals looked as below:
Micro-sol had the least effect, X-20a was in the middle and the Solvaset really sucked the decal down. In fact you can see that the Solvaset did such as ferocious job on the decal that the texture of the paint is showing through the decal.
Also of note is that the Micro-sol kept working for a lot longer than the X-20a, the X-20a stopped working after about 20-30 minutes but the Micro-sol kept on improving after that.
Though the Solvaset gave the strongest results, I was wary of it being so strong so opted to use Micro-sol to apply the decals to the Enterprise (I later changed my mind and went over the decals with SolvaSet)…
Here you can see the decals applied to the underside…
As it turned out, the Micro-sol wasn’t quite aggressive enough on the decals. They didn’t sink down into the panel lines as deep as I’d hoped and the NCC-1701 decals to the right of shot ended up very silver.
So a quick change of plan was needed and I gave the decals a good coat of Solvaset and muttered a silent prayer to the chemical gods.
One thing of note with Solvaset is that you need to apply a good coat of it – but only one coat at a time. Do it in one pass and don’t go back when the decal is wet and dabble with it. This stuff is so aggressive that the decal will soften almost immediately and if you go back and brush it again you stand a good chance of damaging the decal.
With all the decals on, a few coats of Klear were applied (Pledge wax) and left to dry for 24 hours…
Then on with the final light tweakage and wire-age…
Before I leave the realms of traditional modelling (filler and paint) I’ll just mention a few things about the hull colour…
When I first started researching this build I found a few people that swore by Tamiya XF-12 (J.N Grey) with 10% flat white added for the hull colour. it looked good to me, though I always thought the Enterprise was white – so I went along with XF-12 with 10% white.
This turned out to be a love-hate relationship, when first sprayed XF-12 looks like a light grey with a slight hint of green. When you sand the paint it looks more like a 1980’s bathroom if you remember the Avocado style colours that were popular back then? So the Greeny-grey turns into a Greyee-green.
A few other builds I’ve seen people do, they’ve gone as far as re-spraying with another colour completely, opting for a grey with no tint to it. I must say after I assembled the Enterprise I suddenly decided I no longer liked XF-12 and was close to masking the whole thing and re-spraying it with a tint free grey. However I stuck with it, and found that as I completed the decaling and final clear coats the whole effect started coming together and now the green tinge is hardly noticeable.
As you will see in the following photos (and in the final reveal) the hull colour varies greatly with ambient lighting and I think it looks great now! If I ever built another I would probably not use XF-12 again, but I reckon if you use a tint free grey i.e. just black lightened with white it would look too plain, a bit of a tint helps to give the model more dimension.
Here’s a good picture to illustrate the difficulty of painting with shades of grey:
Squares A and B are exactly the same colour – I found this phenomena really kicked in with building the Enterprise, as a colour that looked one way when painted on its own looked totally different when alongside another colour.
Anyway, on with the wiring…
At this stage of the build, the microcontroller (Arduino Nano) is still outside the model on a temporary breadboard.
The breadboard allows you to simply plug components and wires in and out without soldering allowing you to rapidly prototype your circuits.
Here you can see I’ve got the Enterprise fully lit – the 12 volt hull LEDs are all on, and the engine LEDs and Nav LEDs are also on. For this build I have mounted all the LED current limiting resistors outside the kit so that I can change their values individually. Changing the value of a current limiting resistor has the effect of making the LED(s) that are attached to it brighter or dimmer. For a build like this it’s important to tweak the brightness of the LEDs as a whole – you have to see how they look all lit together and can’t just set them to a brightness and hope it works.
Lighting is such as dynamic thing to work with, and it’s also additive – in other words an LED on its own might look fine, but put another LED next to it and the light from the second LED will add to the light of the first changing the overall effect.
This was evident on the engine nacelle LEDs. Each engine has 16 LEDs in it, so if they were all run at full current (20mA) the effect would have been like having a couple of torches mounted on the model. In the end most of the LEDs were tweaked down to under 1mA to get them to dim down to a suitable intensity. To give you an example, the yellow blinking LEDs in the nacelles are run at 5V via an 8k2 resistor (which we in the trade refer to as “bugger all current”).
The hull lighting has already been tweaked (most of this was done with light baffles and positioning of the LED strips)…
And here’s a different shade of grey for you 😉
And here’s a view of the engine lighting….
The camera happened to snap this on a green phase so in reality it doesn’t look like that – you can see how it actually looks when I post the reveal video later on…
And an atmospheric of the XF-12 looking decidedly blue lol 😉
The above shot gives a much better impression of how the engine LEDs look – a pretty accurate rendition there!
With all the LED resistors tweaked it was time to hard wire the microcontroller in place, for this I used Veroboard to allow a means of connecting to the microcontroller and also to mount the resistors themselves….
I don’t have much vertical space in the base of the Enterprise so I nipped all the unused pins off the Arduino and bent the remaining pins through 90 degrees so they could be soldered to the veroboard.
Where the resistors will go it was necessary to cut the tracks on the veroboard, the easiest way to do this is with a 3mm drill – countersink the hole until the copper track has been cut.
Here’s the bottom view with the Arduino and resistors soldered in place:
And the view from above showing the variety of resistors that have been used:
The two pins on the left are for the 12 Volt DC power supply. The beauty of the Arduino is that you can feed it 12V (which is needed to separately run the LED strips), and it will regulate the voltage down for it’s own needs and will give 5V on the output pins. Always good for reducing component count.
The finished assembly was hot-glued into the base and wired in permanently.
I used a 3.5 mm jack socket to get power into the base, the limitation here was height and traditional type DC jacks were all too high to fit.
Top right in the base you can see the SPST slide switch that switched the 12V DC on and off.
Also the wiring loom has been hot glued in place to keep it neatly tucked away. Hot glue is brilliant for this application as it sticks like Gorilla snot, is very strong, is very malleable so won’t crack when flexed and you can also remove it later if needs be. To be honest I wouldn’t mess around using jack posts and screws to mount components in a kit such as this, hot glue is your friend here!