The Enterprise 1701 page

I'm just back from the 2001 ST.Con at the Glasgow Thistle, and I'll be updating this page in the next week or so. These Enterprises were in display, and both attracted quite a few orders. The rotating bussard lights on the NCC-1701 were pretty good, but the self-illuminated NCC1701-A pretty much stole the show, and it's my favourite, so check back soon for a lavish how-to article including all aspects of correcting and lighting this classic ship.

Disclaimer: the ERTL model is licensed to Paramount. I don't sell the models, I just light them and build them for customers who have bought them.

The job starts with marking out the templates required for bulkheads and other fixtures, like lighting supports. It can take days to do this, through trial and error fittings with card first, and having to tape parts together so I can see where things will have to sit in 3D. Eventually these are drawn on computer, printed out and pasted onto styrene sheet with SparyMount. This makes cutting them easy and the paper just peels off. Can't do this with an exposed surface panel of course: the SparyMount won't take paint very well: it can be cleaned off with white spirit if you get stuck though.
Note the forward pylon bilkhead is slightly flattened.

Next is a wiring diagram, so I can count the led's required and figure out how many wires I'm going to need. There is always a common earth which helps, but this ship is different in having 9 wires coming down each engine pylon (the Jeffries Tubes?); 1 for each of the 8 led's in the bussard collector and one for the common earth. Also, I had to work out where to put the IC555 timer which sequenced the bussards, what the pinouts on the power plug were going to be, and remember to number the wires going to the bussard led's - and get them flashing in the right direction!

I started the assembly here. I taped the model up roughly and hung it upside down to find the CofG so I could locate the power socket. Styrene I beam is glued either side of the power plug to help the resin grip, and the front bulkhead is in now too.

The Saucer was next. Note the silver-on-black lightproofing paint scheme. The window led's are exposed and point into 1cm high 'corridors' made with silvered styrene strip which will contain the light next to the windows. The windows are just light-guide perspex plugs cut to about 5mm depth, and window shaped, and pushed into the empty windows at completion of the model. The sealed led's are for strobes - but I use top-secret Borg technology for that, which can't be publicised on the website!

The various markings will help me to chase the cables out of the way of the led's. Note the central led cluster of 4 led's mounted on a strip of scrap styrene, and the 2.4cm high, 10cm diameter lightproofing collar. Note also the absence of the impulse led's - these are integral to the impulse enging housing and just clip on, to have their wires pulled through the sail later.

The saucer can easily be made as a self-contained unit and closed ready for attaching to the engineering hull at this stage.

The Bussard collectors is easier than you might think. Just 8 led's - but make sure you get the sequence right!

The Bussard covers were 3.6cm diameter hollow acrylic spheres containing kids toys - you see them in bubble gum machines outside shops. I just cut small domes to fit the inside of the engine end caps and replaced the original domed part - dead simple. A good tight engineering fit meant I didn't even need glue. Note I tried casting clear resin domes, but the lensing effect was completely unsatisfactory and results in only 1 quarter of the led's boing in view unless stared at from dead ahead.

It's getting a bit tricky now. Here you can see the 8 pairs of wires that connect the led's to the IC555 timer chip. Wire 1 goes to the uppermost led, so that the flashing is symmetrical when viewed from the front. The wires have to be numbered at both ends so that the sequence is correctThe pylons have the front and rear bulkheads installed now - these will reinforce the spine by acting as a container for poured resin later, and also act as a mount for the rear led. Note the two led's pointing forwards and up the sail for the window lights.

Everything is fixable at this stage, and it won't get glued up until I give everything a good shake-down. This involves picking it up by the wires and giving it a shake and thumping it with a wooden spoon - if it can't stand up to that, there's no point in continuing!

Although the saucer and warp engined are in view here, nothing is glued up yet........

....that's done here. This is the most difficult bit - gluing up the saucer, engines and engineering hull so that it's STRAIGHT. I use lego for this - it's great. There's always some combination of parts that will do what I want, and you can guarantee that it's going to be symmetrical if it's built properly. Note the saucer being clamped down and the engines buried deep in a sturdy chamber, with the Bussard plates still hanging out, and the forrest of wires for the Bussard led's still untrimmed.

The secret here is to get the lego arranged just the way you want it, with any top pieces lying to hand, then glue up the ship, pop it in, clip in the top pieces to lock it down, then put it away overnight. Poking around in a few hours will just disturb the joins which at this stage are a thick gum of styrene and half evaporated glue.

Note the symmetry.

Top view of the lego jig

This is about the half way point. The ship has been removed from the lego jig, and it's looking good (well, symmetrical at least). Nothing looks worse than a 1701 with drooping or squinty engines - it just sticks out like a pear in a box of apples. Note the IC555 timer being prepared top right. Top left are some warp engine pylons from a Reliant.

Here's the final foil lightproofing installed. I've also connected up all of the led's and the Bussards and wired up the power plug. This of course now means that the model consists of 3 large assemblies tied together with wire - a nightnare to move around!

Same shot with the led positions highlighted.

Here's the whole thing (well, 3/4 of it) all taped up for a lighting test. Note the Bussards hanging out of the front of the warp engined, still with the wire labels attached.

Note the light-guide going to the front windows either side of the bow strobe, and ending in the central light chamber.

Everything is pretty well finished, and I can get the surface cleaned up and primed. Note the many stages of filing, sanding and repeating. The Bussard led plates have been pushed into their engine housings and masked.

Here's a great shot - note once again the symmetry (engines at the same height and angle and lining up with the saucer top, saucer bottom framed equally by each pylon root) and the fact that the thing sits upright on it's belly without any support.

Built like this, the end result is guaranteed to look right with a decent paint job.

Here we are, it's all worth it. The paint finish is acrylic with a satin laquer - no weathering was requested on this one, so it looks spanking new, just out of space dock. The base colour was 90% matt white, 4% J.N. grey and 6% chrome silver, with panel highlights picked out at various mixes upto 80:4:16. The result is s sort of pearlescent greenish white which produces an infinite variety of shades in different lighting conditions, which have puzzled modelers throughout the years - now I've blown the secret!

Just right! Pity you can't see the rotating Bussard lights!

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