The Enterprise1701-A page

Here's a nice beauty pass of the completed model, photographed under it's own illumination. The difficulties of photographing under these conditions exceed my capacity as a photographer, I'm afraid: you'll have to take my word for it that the dish looks bluer in real life!

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.

Here's the first step - establishing what wire colours to use, working out how many l.e.d.'s are required, and matching the l.e.d. output spectra with the effects required. There are several variations in shade available from different manufacturers, so it's possible to get just the right shade if you're careful.

It's important to get the pinouts for the power plug right, otherwise chaos results. If the model ever needs repair in the futiue, cutting an access hole and breaking into the correct cable will need this plan. It also sets the size of plug/socket required, and therefore the centre of gravity required, the amount of balast needed, and the order that the thing is built under, so it's no wonder that this is one of the first stages!

A problem with this model is that the engine pylons are too thin and too narrow. This obviously needs fixed for aesthetic reasons, but it weakens an already fragile structure - the warp pylons are anchored by a piece of plastic about half the footprint of a baked bean.

These bulkheads are used for lightproofing the warp engine effect, but they also help with strengthening the 'shoulder' of the model. Increasing the dimensions of the engine pylons with a bit of plasticard is easy, but the back of the model tends to pop apart unless these forward and aft pylon bulkheads are inserted and the well formed is filled with resin.

The red scale is in centimetres, in case you want to print it out (all templates are to the same scale).

Here are the walls for the arboretum....

....and here is where they sit in relation to the power plug and the hull in general - it's tight in there!

Here's the bulkhead that forms a chamber to take lead shot to balance the model - based on having a closed shuttle bay. It goes just at the point where the hull inflexes upwards. If the shuttle bay is to be open, this will have to be a but more forward.

This is the jig used to align the 1mm square strip segments to give the correct 'ring of lights' effect for the front dish.

Tip: to get the pattern right, it's not the width of the spacers that varies: it's the position!

Here's where to position your wide-angle blue led's for best effect

This is the Aztec pattern used for the secondary (saucer) hull. The red patches are for the navigation lights and the phaser ports - these have to be cut out or the template won't fit well. I use ohp acetate sheet, but you can buy laser etched brass sheet for £40! You'll have to modify the two at the back to accomodate the reactor, but just leave it to the last and you can then throw it away.

This is the first dish modification.

Yellow: original plastic remaining
Green: original plastic removed
Orange: 1mm square spacer strips (positioned with the template above)
Red: 0.2mm thick plastic hoop lining the inside of the spacers - careful with this one: cut it EXACTLY as shown on the template and join it along a spacer strip - you'll have ± half a millimeter to spare!
Blue: mould material. I use high modulus condensing polymer (your densits can sell you some, but it ain't cheap at £30 a tub).
Front elevation with 4 spacers shown.

Second stage.

Purple: space left due to removed original plastic when assembly pushed back into the mould
Blue fade: resin pour.

Mold, original dish and punched-out dish. Note the markings on the punched out dish for spacer positions.

L.e.d. cluster, inner strip and spacers, and rear light-proofing ring - you'll need this to give the l.e.d. light space to diffuse and to avoid blue light spilling out into the hull when the deflector is switched on.

Another view of the parts, this time with some of the attempts to make a nicely opaqued dish. I finaly settled on ONE DRIP of gloss white acrylic disolved in 20ml of clear potting resin (far right). When I was happy with this (what you don't see here are the 20 light tests that this took!), I popped the modified dish (centre) back into the mould (left) then poured in some of a fresh tinted resin mix.

Time check: day 5.

The next job is to remove the incorrect panel lines that ERTL put in. This is easiest with hi-build primer - about 4 coats - then sand it all off again, filling and sanding until a mirror-smooth surface emerges.

It stinks like cat-pee, and it takes about 3 days, but you have to do it.

The reactor is cast in condensing polymer, cut out and repositioned 6mm forward to line up with the power transfer conduit running up the sail. The reactor is poured in coloured resin, and the reactor dome is drilled out and re-made with clear potting resin tinted white like the dish.

Time check: day 8

Now on to the lighting. Here's the back of the warp engines: top and bottom nav lights, the side-looking tail spot (middle) and the rear warp l.e.d..

Here's the front of the warp engine, with the for'ard warp l.e.d. and the down-looking spot that lights up the engineering hull.. To position this l.e.d. you have to be careful with the angle that the hole forms with the chin of the nacelle - I used an old kit and a welding rod for this.

Here's the old kit with the welding rod....... this helped me to visualise the angle to drill into the chin of the warp nacelle at to make sure that the white 3mm l.e.d. hits the secondary hull to best effect.

The complete assembly, showing the solid warp window removed. The Bussard energiser light isn't shown, as it.s embedded in the Bussard cover itself.

One of many, many light tests. Note the silvered backing - this is tinfoil, crinkled up then opened back out again, and stuck onto the back with double-sided tape.

The engines are just taped closed for this, but the have already been painted. This leaves a substantial touch-up job when the halves are glued of course: but this extra effort is more that offset by the time saved as a result of inserting the warp window and lights into pre-painted plastic.

Tip: blend the masking for these parts into the Aztec herring-bone nacelle scheme - you'll never see it!

Time check: day 14

The sail is lightproofed internally, glued shut and painted. The upward-looking l.e.d.'s either side (just behind the power transfer conduit) are inserted and wired up. The power transfer conduit must line up with the reactor dome on the secondary (saucer) hull, which was repositioned.

The primary hull shoulder tabs are glued, and the warp pylon sockets are evened up (the port one is 2mm too far forward).

The sail l.e.d.'s are bonded to the shoulder tabs, and angled up the sail.

The torpedo l.e.d.'s. These are surface mounting, so clean off the surface detail on the plastic part to restore the look. Run the wires through, paint and glue. Note the web of epoxy, insulating the wires and fixing the l.e.d.'s at the same time.

Silvered cesondary hull halves, with central light chamber encircling a cluster of 6 l.e.d.'s pointing out of the bridge and sensor ports. Note the clover-leaf holes cut to maximise light transfer.

The hull is now bonded together, with wire tails hanging out of the sail socket. It is also painted now and forms a complete sub-assembly. It's much easier to conquer the Aztec pattern when the secondary hull isn't attached to anything.

Impulse l.e.d.'s - high intensity reds, with the ends cut off due to space limitations.

Time check: day 19.

The team take time off for a mug of tea in a quiet cafe.

The arboretum windows are cut out, and individual window panes are replaced from strip. Clear setting potting epoxy is poured in to form the windows.

Here's an example of how clear the resin is.

The arboretum is built from the templates in two halves (one half outlined in black here), and the hull is mirrored internally. The big bulkhead at the back is for the 270g of lead shot required to balance the model.

Here's the old ship again, butchered to allow experimentation on the internally lit ENTERPRISE sign on the back of the hull, under the shuttle bay. In the movie it was externally lit, but obviously I don't have that option on a model. So, I shaved a 3mm white led down to 0.95mm, just 0.08mm away from the diode substrate, so that it would fit into the bay landing apron. I've still got to work on the colour as the plastic imparts a yellow tinge, but the technique is sound.

Here are the all-new arboretum windows. This is what to do:
cut them out, stick aluminium tape on the OUTSIDE, 'draw' on the tape from the inside with the back of a brush to make a convex bulge, turn the hull out-side-down, fill with Bondaglass clearset resin, when set peel off the aluminium foil, polish the outside smooth and flush with the hull, and leave the inside alone!!

The hull halves are bonded together after the arboretum walls are assembled. Note the tight clearance for the power plug hole. The fibre optic cables will form the landing aid emitters at the back hangar door. The tails are trimmed after painting.

Time check: day 23

Time to bond the sail and pylons to the primary and secondary hulls. To ensure proper rigging, I use a jig made from lego.

The nacelles are left loose at this stage - their wire tails are left long and run through the pylons - just be careful you don't pull them out, as getting them back in is a bugger. The key here is to ensure that the tops of the nacelles line up with the bottom of the secondary hull (when it's the right way up). But, to do this you'll have to line them up with the TOP - trust me - all will be revealed below!

The bottom 3/4 of the primary hull is unbonded at this stage - just taped in place to ensure proper fit.

When using a jig like this, it's essential that the thing is left completely undisturbed for 24 hours after laying up.

You can count the bricks if you want to make one....

note the herringbone painting on the engines....

We're looking for total symmetry here - if it doesn't look right, there's just no point in continuing.

Just in case you're still trying to place the bricks....

After setting, the bottom part of the primary hull is removed, and the pylon support bulkheads are added, the warp engines are located on their tabs (but NOT glued!) and the wires pulled tight down the pylons. Then, epoxy is poured into the well formed by the pylon bulkheads, forming a very strong backbone. The alternative is to use an aluminium armature, but unless you're going to be dragging the thing round conventions or the like, this method works just fine.


Time check: day 28

With the innards battened down, the nacelles are rigged by a slight modification to the lego jig. Note the massive gap, after the alignment has taken place. Alignment should be 3.5 degrees tail up from the horizontal - that's easily done by jamming cardboard under the noses of the nacelles in the lego jig, so that the tails end up about 2.7mm high. Again, all is revealed below.

Here, the glue has already hardened nicely and the gap can be filled.

If the nacelles were simply glued in top of the pylons, it would look as if it was melting in an oven!

Held upside down, they sag closed....

Note the pool of epoxy from which the wires emerge, so it's not the hull that's bending.

And the right way up, they sag open. This is fine - the trick is to ensure that the engines are built a little off as noted above, so that they sag into place. Hence, lining the tops of the pylons with the TOP of the saucer and lifting the tails - this fortuitous co-incidence will ensure thay your ship will sag in just the right way!

Here's the very last stage. The plug is wired, it's been light tested and test-tugged-and-thumped all day to make sure that everything is perfect. All I have to do now is glue the hull bits together, and glue in the sealed dish unit.

But not quite all.... note the writing on the dish unit - it reads "DONT FORGET THE LEAD!!!", and I wrote it to remind me to pour the lead shot into the aft bulkhead before I glued the dish into place!


Interesting accidental shot here. Note the radiator panels on the underside of the pylons. The starboard side is grey, but the port side is olive. They are obviously the same colour - but which is right?

The instructions would have you paint them blue-grey. The film has them in slate grey. The studio miniatures were mostly Engine Green - a cross between slate green and olive. Mine are as close to the studio miniature as possible: a mixture of sea grey and olive drab. The starboard side is false - probably caused by the light from the room next door contaminating the shot.

After this lot has dried, it's a couple of days touching up the paint job.


Time check: day 33

The end result.

In it's own light, it has a slightly greener hint to the colour scheme than the later movie models and a slightly narrower and domed appearance to the lower bridge superstructure. Both of these were easy - the plastic on the upper saucer is so thick that I got away with just grinding down what was there!

Can't really see the Aztec pattern much here, but it's there - on the saucer, nacelles and the pylons. Silver and chrome added to white with a touch of JN Grey, and matt-over-gloss to get the light-catching properties right. It's no wonder this catches so many people out, as it looks radically different under different lighting conditions

in some dim daylight, showing off the subtle Aztec shine off the bridge....

and in some blue torchlight, accentuating the Aztec pattern a bit more....

Note the high intensity of the light coming from the upper and lower bridge sensors - in fact, it's so bright that you can see sharp shadows cast from the phaser ports! The external hull lighting has ligned up nicely and all the windows have uniform brightness.

Stern shot with self illumination....

Slightly different angle showing the recreation deck ports.

It's a pity my borrowed digital camera isn't up to the job - but the ENTERPRISE sign worked a treat - evenly illuminated and readable from several feet away. Note the extreme degree of self illumination of the saucer here - this is coming purely from it's own internal lighting. I was sorry to see this one go!!

A bit of loose change on a set and a wee motion control camera, and we'd be cookin' with natural gas.......

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