How To Tips


Lighting a Mini “U.S.S. Defiant”
by E. James Small
Round 2 have begun doing a few things differently lately, and the difference is clear to see.
Let’s look at the newest re-release of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine kit. The entire model is now molded in clear plastic, allowing for the adventurous modeler to light up the whole thing more easily rather than having to bother with the tedious job of drilling hundreds of holes and installing fiddly fiber optics. The same thing was also recently done with the Star Trek Enterprise D kit.
For an example of how casting the kit in clear is advantageous, let’s show you how to shed some light into something that most people might consider impossible, the newly tooled and diminutive 3 inch “Defiant” model that comes with the DS9 kit. Remember you can light up the entire station using the methods shown here too.
Using five 3mm LED’s, the tiny ship can be fully lit with relative ease, and it’s easy to make a stand to both support the model “in flight” and serve as a power supply.
The photos here pretty much show it all. Note that, using files, you can even sculpt and sand down LED’s to fit your needs, such as in cramped areas. Just as long as you don’t sand through to the metal bits inside the solid epoxy case, you can modify LEDs to the shape and size you need and install them in areas where they would not normally fit. Plus, because LED’s stay cool, you don’t need to worry about them damaging the model.
First, the kit is test assembled and examined to see where you can install the LED’s. The Defiant’s engine and bussard scoops are glued in place, being careful to test to make sure the top of the body can be installed correctly afterwards.
Next choose the LED’s to use for the model. I decided to use “warm white” 3mm LED’s for the bussard scoops and front sensor area, and regular (cool) white for the engines in the rear. Use whatever you think is best. Upon reflection I suppose I should have used a cool white or blue LED for the front sensor area since it is supposed to be blue, but it still worked out.
Hint: Stick with white, blue and green LED’s for most of your projects because they work rather happily on 3 volts, generated by two regular 1.5 volt dry cells connected in series. They can be tinted with transparent paints if you want different colours. The new pink and purple LED’s also work using 3 volts. But red, orange and yellow LED’s work at around 2 volts (one cell won’t light them up but two will burn them out!), necessitating the use of resistors which is more complex for the average modeler who may not be familiar with electronics. Please see my other article on lighting the K-7 space station here on the Round 2 Workbench for more details in using and soldering LED’s.
The most time consuming part is next… Practice installing each LED in place within the model, file down both the LED and the inside of the model as necessary until the LEDs fit in place and the hull fits together properly.
When you are satisfied with fit, choose some very thin insulated wire (such as telephone wire) and solder the LED’s together paying particular attention to polarity. You will need to plan it carefully and trim the LED’s leads accordingly.
Hint: Don’t solder the parts inside the model. Test fit, get the correct positions then solder the parts together, holding them with alligator clips and clamps outside the model to avoid damaging the plastic. Just keep test fitting often, and also keep testing the circuit as you go to make sure your polarity is correct and your LED’s aren’t damaged.
Next, you can use narrow brass or copper tube (available from K&S metals at your hobby shop) as a receptacle for the stand mount which you will make from Plastruct’s plastic coated steel wire (made in two sizes), also available at your hobby shop. Choose sizes that will allow the stripped wire to slide easily but firmly into the hollow tube. This wire will act as support for the model as well as carry electrical current to the LED’s. The plastic insulation on the wire will allow you to glue it together and prevent short circuits. The tiny tubes will allow you to remove the model from the stand any time you wish. Solder the LED’s to these tubes with one for the positive leads, the other for the negative. You will need to drill holes and cut channels into the interior of the model to accept the tubes. See Fig. 1.
When you are satisfied with your internal assembly, make sure you fully test it by plugging in some wires from your battery pack before gluing the hull together, sealing it up forever.  
See Fig. 2.
Now is a good time to make your stand. First, make your support by stripping and preparing the plastic coated wire, bend it into the shape shown and make sure the stripped ends fit into the model snugly but easily without strain on any parts as in Fig. 3
The stand shown in these pictures was scratch built from sheet plastic, but you can make one out of just about any kind of box you want. A switch is installed as well as a battery pack to hold two dry cells and two tubes, the same as the ones installed in the model, are used to plug the support wires into. See Fig.4.
Imagine what you’d have to go through to light this little fella up if it were molded in opaque material!
When you are satisfied everything can be mounted in place and the hull can be glued together, test everything (Fig. 5) then go ahead and finish the model as usual but with the following exceptions:
1: Mask off the areas you want to light up, OR be prepared to scrape paint off those areas when the model is finished. Liquid masking film is handy for this operation. Note the stand you made can be used to hold the model when spraying it as well as keep paint from getting into the inside of the tube!
2: Spray the entire model’s outer surface with white primer and when dry, follow up with dark gray primer. The white will help the light bounce around more inside the model to light up other things like windows, the gray primer will help keep the light from leaking through the hull colour, as most other paints are not entirely light-tight. Continually test the lighting while priming to make sure the model’s hull is sealed. Silver also makes for a great light blocking alternative as well, just make sure you can paint over the silver with your hull colour. Some silver paints don’t take well to being re coated with another colour.
When that is done, finish and decorate the model as desired. Install the batteries, plug in the stand, throw the switch and… (Fig 6)… ENGAGE!

Polar Lights Model Kits- Robby the Robot Returns
posted by MegR 9:05 AM

We announced our intention at Wonderfest last year to do give our Robby the Robot model kit a fresh spin to give a 3D representation of the iconic Forbidden Planet movie poster. So this June Robby the Robot returns as the Robby the Robot Movie Poster Edition. It seemed simple enough to take our existing Robby kit, add on a few new parts and boom; we would be off to the races. As usual, there really is no such thing as an “easy” task.

We knew we would need work with the parts we already have, so we knew we couldn’t work digitally in this case. We started out by hiring Tim Bruckner to tackle the sculpting duties. Tim has sculpted many licensed collectible statues and action figures. The difficulty before him was to use hard parts that we wanted to avoid retooling like Robby’s head and body and sculpt the needed Altaira figure along with new arms, legs and base for Robby. On top of that, he needed to stay as close as possible to the main reference, the movie poster, and translate a 2D painting into 3D that keeps all of the human body parts in proper proportion and get it to seat correctly on Robby. Our licensing agreement does not include likeness rights so we knew we needed to make sure the face stuck closely to the poster, and looked nothing like the actress. The Robby you see on the poster also strays a bit from the look of the real character. Ultimately we found that we needed to find that elusive sweet spot between the poster and what the “real” thing should look like in 3D. So with the parameters of our mission set before us, Tim began sculpting.

The first hurdle that was encountered was the fact that the movie poster shows no trace of Altaira’s right arm. It really isn’t something you notice when you look at it, because the mass of Robby’s body lends enough cover to make us assume that it must be there somewhere. Robby’s shoulder dome restricts the notion that the arm could drop straight down like the left one does. That left two possibilities. A) Her arm was tucked in between Altaira’s and Robby’s bodies, but her right hand could not land in her lap which would have been the natural position for it. B) Her arm had somehow landed up resting back over Robby’s shoulder. (Think it through, if Robby was lifting her unconscious body, how could her shoulder have ended up there?) We decided to proceed with notion A and see where that would lead us.

While we were figuring that out, creating Robby’s new wide stance was a simpler proposition. Old kit parts were utilized to create a mockup of the new part. They were cast up into solid resin soon enough.
With the legs in hand, the base was begun. We wanted the new base to represent the rocky alien ground that he was standing on in the poster. We also wanted to finish off the full poster effect by including a cardboard backdrop that supplies the background. So a channel was implemented to situate the backdrop. We left it to the factory to supply some gravel/soil texture to the piece after tooling was cut.
Getting back to the figure, another problem that arose during the process is that in the illustration, Altaira isn’t really resting on Robby’s arm. The right side of her torso is raised so that we can see it, but she is clearly being held up by Robby’s hand on her left side. This left a gaping hole in the model. We played with the idea that her right arm had been caught up under her and that was what was holding her up.