The DS9 page

The AMT DS9 station kit makes a reasonably attractive display piece when well painted with muted greys, but adding lighting transforms it dramatically. With the right lighting and paint job, a real sense of scale can be achieved, but the work involved in lighting it is quite intensive. The kit itself is very basic, and the fit is reasonably poor, with lots of filing and sanding required - and all the locating pins have to go as they cause the parts to mis-align even more. The base is fine for a paint-only out-of-the-box job, but a more substantial thing is required if lights are added. The supplied base is a useful inclusion however, as it also doubles up as an alignment jig for the pylons during construction.

Overall impression: this kit really needs the work required to light it, but the results are spectacular.

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.

As usual, the first step is to plan out the l.e.d. positions for effect and ease of assembly. Now, this kit was one of the AMT 'lights-included' jobs - and the first thing I did was to throw away the lighting kit - powered by bulbs, it would never last. The wiring was also a bit on the thick side, and the light positions meant huge 0.1mm fibre optic cable runs. About 90% of the instructions are devoted to the wiring and lighting: it's a good set of instructions if you want to use bulbs, but for long-life, maintenance-free operation and good colour accuracy, I went for the l.e.d.'s.

Here's where I put them on a 'floor plan', with the pylons in the bottom left. Now, this particular model had a strobe light fitted in the base, and the flash was transmitted by fibre optic cable, as shown in the following article, but if I had been using led.s for the strobes (adequate, but the strobes were intense!), this is where they would have gone.

Here's the lower reactor module, and it illustrates the general lighting technique. Painting the fibre optic hole locations helped keep track of them from the inside. The fibre tails were gathered into bundles of about 100, which just about packed out a 5mm styrene tube, which would house the l.e.d.. Just before closing the sub-assembly, the fibres would be trimmed, polished and stuck into one end of the tube, and the l.e.d. would be stuffed in the other end.

Here's the same, on a bigger scale, with the inner ring: top side.

Making this soon turned out to be more closely related to embroidery than model making. There are roughly 1,000 individual, 0.15mm diameter optical fibres, totalling about 25m in length, running through the model. Painting the target areas helped to make sure nothing was missed with the drill. The biggest problem was space - this was the most awkward thing I've made so far. Next, making sure that the fibres were gathered into bundles fit for 1 l.e.d. was essential. The fibres were bonded to the inside of the hull with PVA glue. Note the red pen marking which helped to keep track of where the l.e.d.'s would be placed - in some cases cable channels had to be routered into the internal surfaces of the model as there was no clearance. The stage shown here took about 2 days.

Inner ring: bottom. Note the mini-pipe cutter for clean and easy pipe trimming. The outer ring parts were glued together for this (make sure you have a flat surface big enough to let it set-up flat!!) and the lower ring bonded into place also, as some of the arm windows are supplied by the inner ring l.e.d.'s - not enough room for wires for any more l.e.d.'s!

An early lighting test - one of many. Note the numerous marker and paint tips to keep the lighting and wiring on track.

Just checking there are no snags or kinks, and that the PVA glue hasn't reacted with the polycarbonate of the optical fibres - super glue must never be used! The fibres are left long, and will be trimmed flush after painting.

Another lighting test. This shows the two halves of one 1/3 segment opened up - by this stage, they are linked together with wire, and the l.e.d./styrotube/fibre bundles have been stuck to the hull by blag amalgum tape to prevent light leaks.This stage needs a 1-square meter table at least!

There's just no other way to do this. If I had put all the lights on the same side (the bottom, in this case, bottom of picture), which is the ideal situation to be in, I would have had 150 x 0.1mm fibre optic strands snaking from the bottom half to the top. While this is feasible upto this point, it would be very fragile, and it would be impossible to achieve the next step - bonding the halves together without breaking half the fibres and leaving the other half trapped between halves. Keeping the fibres shorter wouldn't have left any room to run the fibres in the first place!

So, lighted sub-assemblies is the least difficult route.

One day, about half way through the job. Of course, I don't know that until I've finished!

Note the syringe upper right - see 3 frames down.

Finished placing all the fibre optic cable, and time for another light test. Note the row of clamps holding one ring segment together at top right. At the top left are the saucer sections of a Reliant in progress.

At this stage, all the bits are held together with wire.

The strobe light. It's used in small boats and safety equipment, and it's extremely bright. By making a small container, I can feed 1.5mm fibre optic tails in which will run up the pylons to provide the anti-collision strobes on the model. This would stay in the base of course - no room whatsoever for this in the model.

Yet another light test.

Again, there's only one way to do this, and it took me a few nights of planning to arrive at this conclusion.

This is upside down: The upper pylons have been glued in place, and the lower pylons are loose, with the jumbo fibre cable holding them onto the station. In each pylon; two fibres are short, and supply the lower (loose) pylons: two are long, and run all the way through the lower pylons, the station outer ring, and half way up the upper pylons. Wires also go out of the bottom pylons: a red for the reactor, a yellow for the yel,low things, whatever they are, a white for the windows, and a common earth.

The fibre stays in it's sleeve apart from the last 3mm which is bared to go through a hole drilled in the pylon.... BE CAREFULL.... it breaks really easily!! Bond it in place with a dab of acryllic wood glue: that's what's in the syringe 3 frames up.

At this stage, the lower pylons can now be carefully glued into place, using the cheap AMT base as a jig - but don't glue it to the base yet!.

The Station is now glued up, which actually took 2 days. The problems encountered were one of space and alignment. There is no free space inside the model - cutting it open would reveal a solid matrix of optical cable and wire.

The jumbo optic fibre tails emerge, 4 from each pylon, and hang loose. The wires are also visible. If you look close, you can see the gap between the base and the nearest pylon, with the jumbo fibre running between them.

The partly completed base during a test-fit. The trick here was going to be persuading the jumbo fibre to fit into the sides of the cylinder housing the flash, while not letting them touch the flash tubes inside. Snapping the cable at this stage would have been a relatively serious setback requiring cannibalisation of another model.

I'm aiming the fibres through the 4 x 1.5mm holes drilled in the side of the cylinder (3 sets of these, of course.

Success - but it took ages and a steady nerve to trim, strip and then push the fibres through the holes drilled into the light housing, with a pair of long-nosed pliers!

In this shot, the 4 fibres in the right hand side look just like one huge one.

Note the sides glued to the triangular base top, and the holes cut for the switches. Also visible is the electronics bundle controling the flash.

Just to tidy up the base, seal the gaps and that's it done.

As usual, the first step in painting is to hit the websites and look at the 'real' thing. This shows the studio miniature - note the uniform, muted grey with a hint of beige, and the lack of highlight colour.

These two shots are from an American website advertising a very expensive model building service, and show how not to paint a miniature - the colours are wrong and the contrast gives a completely artificial look to the scale.

Here's my attempt. The station was painted with a base coat of Halfords auto grey primer. Ever noticed why a lot of s.f. models are grey? It's usually Halfords grey primer! Tinfoil is an excellent way of masking off larger, irregular areas.

That's not how this one was finished though. A coat of brownish grey (70% XF20 mid grey, 20% XF49 khaki, 10% XF25 light sea grey) was airbrushed over the primer. Paneling was picked out with XF22 RLM grey and XF49 khaki, and an ochre-grey (75% XF4 chrome, 25% XF20 mid grey). Weathering consisted of washes and dry-brushes of a range of mixtures of olive drab, black and dark grey.

All colours were Tamiya acrylics.

Note the two bases blended together and the control switches.

And the same shot in it's own light.

I took 17 shots at this angle before I got one that captured the strobes!


Tungsten bulb lighting.

And another shot capturing the strobes ( I got lucky: no. 6!).

Note the radically different colour effects when compared to above - this one used a flash behind a sheet of A4 paper.

Back to the Gallery

meet the team

what we do


work bench




contact us

top of this page