Author Topic: Colonial Vipers  (Read 16284 times)

June 20, 2014, 04:42:42 AM
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Will Vale

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Hi folks,

Our club is running its annual Build-the-Same-Kit competition and one of the nominated models was the BSG Viper. Luckily we got enough votes and there are now four of us building them.

I was going to do the new Mk. 1, but I found a cheap Mk. 2 so I thought I might try and build both.

I washed the sprues (long soak in warm soapy water, then clean with a toothbrush and rinse) since they felt greasy. They still feel not quite right, so I think I might give the sub-assemblies another wash before priming.

I've done a tape-assisted dry-fit of both kits, and the difference is not quite night and day, but certainly pronounced. From my limited experience with Moebius their CAD is quite good, but the tool making and moulding quality control is so-so. So once you get the parts cleaned up they fit, but cleaning up can be a pain. The Mk. 2 engineering is a bit wacky too - too many interlocking bits.

The Mk. 1 however is really good - great fit, much less clean-up required, and the way it slots together in paintable sub-assemblies is fantastic. It's also got a bit more presence than the Mk. 2 and better surface detail.

I also have the Paragrafix sets (not really essential but I wanted to try them) and a very nice resin Starbuck/Apollo figure from the original series.


Click for bigger

You can see how much bigger the Mk. 1 is compared to the new version.

I assembled the wings, weapons and undercarriage for the Mk 1. and dug out the cockpit for the lighting gels. Lots of chain drilling, scalpel carving and filing later:





Then I fitted the etched parts with 5 minute epoxy, the front panel first. They ended up a little bit high, but that was where they seemed to want to sit, so...



I filled and sanded the seams on the fin and started on the wings, but then got distracted and decided to get the engines together. This meant dealing with the clear insert - I know this is supposed to be a good idea but it seems weird to me - the insert has all this detail which should be opaque, and is basically impossible to paint, so the etch replacement is handy.

You still need the insert to get the etch in the right place and provide most of the engine tubes, so I opted for the brave-and-stupid approach and drilled out the backs of the nozzles with a power drill and a big spade bit :D

I shattered the supports but the tubes were OK, and after a good hour of sanding starting with 80 grit paper I ended up with this:



I sanded the flat backs of the tubes to about 2/3 thickness to allow for the thick brass, otherwise the whole assembly won't quite fit tidily over the engines.

Here are the bits that are going inside to light it up.



The microcontroller board is on the left - it's an $8 Adafruit product which is basically an Atmel ATTiny85 with a USB interface and voltage regulator. On the right there's a break-away strip of RGB LEDs, also from Adafruit although they call them "NeoPixels". These need a 3 wire daisy-chained bus and they're really easy to set up, with biggish solder pads on the backs of the PCB.

Here's the mostly-assembled lighting rig - I added a few more bits since I took this picture:




Caveat: This is a poor diagram of what may be a poor design, I'm not an expert! D1 is to allow USB power when plugged in since I was running the batteries down too much, and C1 is recommended by Adafruit to absorb in-rush current from long strings of pixels. Probably not needed here but I thought I might as well do it properly since it's being stuffed into a model where I would like it to remain.

I also forgot to add a resistor (I think I used 330 Ohm) from pin 2 to the first "pixel"'s data input. This was also recommended by the vendor.

The other LEDs are just driven by spare pins. It's probably better not to use pins 3 and 4 since on this board they're part of the USB interface and they seem to make it slightly less reliable. Not that it was very reliable on my PC anyway - it only connects every other time, although once connected I haven't had any problems.

<NERD WARNING>

I finished writing my software today - I like coding for these little machines, this has half the RAM (512 bytes!) of a ZX-81, which was my first computer. Although it does have about 5K of flash available for program code and constant data.

I did some experiments with writing custom code for the LED animations, but decided it would be better to write a keyframe animation system instead. That lets me define the animation colours and timings in data, and then have some glue code to decide when to trigger which animations, and tie all the results to the outputs. I also added a couple of basic signal generators for the pulsing and flickering stuff and used those to modulate the animation outputs in some cases. It's quite compact - a keyframe is 4 bytes (stored in flash) and the state required to run an animation is something like 6 bytes. All the maths is 8 and 16 bit integer for speed, accuracy but mainly reduced code size.

<END NERD STUFF>

And here's the result:
 
https://flic.kr/p/nKCpTo
 
Sorry the video is so dark, otherwise the light was washing out the LED animation.

The viper cycles through four stages - "off" (flashing red LED), "start up", "run" and "shut down". The engines are lower right as I'm sure you guessed, the four white LEDs are the cockpit panel backlights, the lower single LED is for the main display backlights, and the two overly-bright red + green LEDs top right will be feeding single lights in the cockpit via fiber optics.

I thought having something flashing would be a good idea so that people would look at it long enough to see the sequence start if they arrived in the "off" part.

Now I need to paint and finish the cockpit so I can get the forward fuselage together.

Will

« Last Edit: June 20, 2014, 04:44:25 AM by Will Vale »

June 20, 2014, 04:54:00 AM
Reply #1

Hunter Rose

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Wow, very nice lighting, pisses all over my crappy 3 led "circuit" on my fireball dio with my 'soldering of a 3 year old!  :bag: :lol: :lol:

Looking great dude, will follow with interest, already loving what your doing with the cockpit, thats a nice detail set
'Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!' ~ Black Dynamite

June 20, 2014, 10:07:10 PM
Reply #2

Will Vale

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The last two things I put lights in just had an LED or two and a battery, and I was still dead pleased with them.

I will say that it annoys me no end how expensive and how simplistic commercial lighting kits are. Particularly the ones which use programmable hardware - they could be so much more interesting if the vendor spent a bit of time writing better code.

This one cost me just under 20 USD, and that was buying all the components singly!

Will

June 21, 2014, 01:46:42 AM
Reply #3

Hemish

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Yeah thats nice, I have one of the mk2 kits in my stash so this will be checked regularly

June 23, 2014, 03:17:48 AM
Reply #4

Will Vale

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Thanks Hemish! I haven't done much on the Mk. 2 apart from tape it together and fit the UC bay doors.

I've done some more modelling on the Mk. 1 and built some luminaires for the engines which I forgot to take a picture of. They're a bit ragged but they work - a cone of styrene added to a ring of same, painted silver inside with PVC sheet frosted with sandpaper to finish. I was going to install them but I think I need a ring between the etch and the PVC diffuser to give more depth.

I also boxed in the cockpit footwell, butchered the unnecessary fuselage locators around the cockpit to create room, and added ledges for the side panel LEDs. Then I thought about painting the interior but decided that a seat cushion was a good idea. Lots of messing around with Tamiya epoxy putty later:


Click for bigger

I haven't tried rolling putty into sheets before - it works really well but it's hard to cut without dragging and tearing it. It was also rather difficult to handle the belts once in place, but for a first try I'm quite pleased. The fabric texture is from a bit of etched tread plate which was lying around, I really hope that when painted it doesn't scream its origins too loudly...

Then I sat up till 2am last night sticking tiny bits of etch onto Captain Apollo:



This is an MMI resin figure which appears to be a case of "nice master, terrible casts". Although the heads are pretty clean. The surface is ragged and had seam holes rather than seam lines, plus the shoulder joins were messy and needed a lot of filler. I've made new shoulder pads to try and replicate the original uniform jackets.

The etched stuff is really good though - the belt, jacket + boot fasteners etc. are lovely and crisp.

I think the sculptor maybe isn't a fan of the male posterior as Apollo had a huge gouge out of his buttocks - it looked like it was supposed to be a fabric fold, but any '80s sci-fi hero worth his salt should have a tight pair of trousers, so I filled it in.



The advantage of the (fairly terrible) surface texture is that my messy additions don't detract too much. I need to smooth it all off before painting and re-priming, I suspect either a Milliput wash or thin CA would help.

Cheers,

Will
« Last Edit: June 23, 2014, 03:18:24 AM by Will Vale »

June 23, 2014, 04:41:43 PM
Reply #5

Will Vale

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The IMech resin has spoiled me - this is horrible - soft and crumbly and I keep finding new pinholes. And those bear paw hands!

I cleaned up the surface with CA and I think he's ready for a tiny bit more sanding then paint. The primer has filled in the face a bit, or maybe it's the more diffuse light? I'm really looking forward to seeing the uniform colours on him now.



Click for bigger

Bit boring from behind now, but I'm telling myself that what I've filled in are essentially tooling marks rather than sculpted detail. And his bum is an improvement, I think :)

I also primed the cockpit which needs a bit of remedial sanding tomorrow when it's thoroughly dry. It might've been better to do this with the airbrush, but then again all the bouncing paint would probably have made it end up rather rough.



Cheers,

Will
« Last Edit: June 23, 2014, 04:42:21 PM by Will Vale »

June 24, 2014, 11:36:59 AM
Reply #6

Hunter Rose

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Nice work on the figure Will, its always satisfying to persevere and make improvement to an average cast. And the cockpit is looking great, nice tidy work on the cushion and seat belt
'Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!' ~ Black Dynamite

July 02, 2014, 07:39:34 PM
Reply #7

JohnLogan

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Man-o-man, you are a really good sculpter.  I have got to try those microprocessors. 8)

July 03, 2014, 12:46:12 AM
Reply #8

Will Vale

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The microprocessors definitely add a fun dimension to sci-fi modelling. It's quite a deep rabbit hole though - be prepared to be distracted.

I didn't sculpt the figure BTW, just filled in some cracks and stuff. All credit to the sculptor at MMI for such a good likeness.

Will

July 07, 2014, 03:28:00 PM
Reply #9

Sharkdog

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I like the belts on the cockpit, off to a good start!

July 09, 2014, 01:53:03 AM
Reply #10

Will Vale

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Thanks Sharkdog, I'm sorry this has languished for a bit but I got really into the Treeman. Off work next week so I'm planning to have a big push on the Viper then - only about 3 weeks to the deadline now.

Cheers,

Will

July 15, 2014, 04:41:33 AM
Reply #11

Will Vale

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Two weeks until the deadline today - ulp! Treeman is finished and I am back on the case now! I picked this up again yesterday afternoon and evening, painting some of the prepared bits.


bigger pics

The cockpit is in Kure Arsenal Grey if I recall correctly. If not it's the other one (Sasebo) and the panels are painted Sky Grey or Nato Black. I also primed the outside of the cockpit and the inside of the fuselage black and then added Nato Black to hopefully help with light bleed and also make sure the little bit of interior visible isn't plasticky.

I also gave the panels a couple of coats of Klear in preparation for washing. I'm considering cutting up some decals and applying them since Paragrafix didn't bother to provide anything (they did for the Mk. II) and the Viper cockpit is actualyl pretty busy with labelling.

If I do, it'll just be a suggestion.

Still need to brush-paint the seat and harness as well. And possibly do something about the rather poor joystick shape which doesn't capture the cobra-headed Viper joystick at all. Apparently the full-size "pushing buttons" cockpit used a joystick from a Mohawk - see Joel Owen's informative site for more.

The other things I painted were the intake fans, which are invisible as far as I can see (from the pilot at least) on the filming miniature and the full size prop Viper. They always appear as blackness - maybe the Blu Ray is too contrasty?



I went for Alclad Aluminium on the boss, and dusted Steel on the blades. Both over Alclad Black Primer (not gloss base) which went on pretty smoothly.

I made stand-off rings for the LED fittings from 1mm strip formed around a wooden spoon handle - these lift the diffuser off the back of the etched ring to create a bit more relief. I attached them with gel CA and then ran a fillet of thin CA around the outside.

The engine assembly had a couple of coats of black primer and looked fine, but when I went to spray Jet Exhaust in the nozzles it revealed a load of sanding scratches. I've wet-sanded all the paint off the inside of the nozzles with 400 grit paper and I think it'll be OK now - the absence of black on the clear parts suggests I got rid of all of them.

Having seen it on, I'm not entirely sure Jet Exhaust is the right colour either - maybe just matt grey and black with some streaks would be better?? The miniature Viper just has a glow in there so maybe the interior was a reflector or a white tube, but I can't do that because I want to show the engines off as well as on.

Not sure I can do anything tomorrow (it's my wife's birthday, lots to arrange for the party) but hopefully Thursday is going to be a modelling day since I'm off work this week. (Up to now Mrs. V. has been away so my spare time has been limited by looking after young Miss V.)

Cheers,

Will

July 17, 2014, 04:41:11 AM
Reply #12

Will Vale

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I managed to spend most of the day Viper-ing today, although it hasn't been the most successful modelling session ever I have made some progress and completed the cockpit.


bigger if you dare

It's a bit of a mess for various reasons:

* The contrast between the three greys is way too strong.

* I'd mounted the etched panels on card for painting with double-sided tape, and in removing them some got bent, and lots of paint film clung around the edges like dead skin. Cue a fair bit of work sanding the sides down, mounting everything on toothpicks like I should have done to start off, and repainting them.

* The relief-etched detail on the applique panels was really soft and I couldn't get it to take a wash. I applied my usual MIG enamels and cleaned it off again, leaving nothing around the switch guards etc. So I applied a bit more and really only managed to stain the paint.

* I was a bit hungover and got a gel CA on the main console :(



I sort of managed to kind of fix most things, and went ahead and sprayed a coat of Klear Flat so I could install the lighting films. This was quite fun, trimming them to shape and gluing with Krystal Klear, which I haven't used before but was very well-behaved.

I am however annoyed that Paragrafix didn't arrange the films to mount flush. The apertures in the base etch aren't big enough to allow the films to sit against the applique panels, there's not enough space to safely trim and glue them. But the applique panels really don't provide that much benefit - the relief they do have (the edges) isn't really needed, and their etched relief is soft. It would've been better to etch the whole thing on one layer IMO.

The result as you can see in the pics looks OK, but apart from the main screen the films are about 0.5mm behind the surface of the brass so there are parallax issues when you look at the cockpit, and it all looks a bit less solid.

Oh well. It is quite cool in the dark with a light behind it, I guess :)



I also finished the airbrush work on the engine inners, so I can assemble all the lighting stuff tomorrow hopefully. I sprayed these with Alclad Steel and Pale Burnt Metal, then added streaks of a mixture of Tamiya Flesh and Flat White, then more streaks from a mix of Red Brown and Black. This same mix was used to fill in around the ring after of the internal seam.

When that was done I wiped the Tamiya paint off the rear edge of the engines to reveal the Alclad again, and drybrushed the etched parts with GW Boltgun Metal.

I think it looks OK, it needs some brushwork still (enamel washes) but I don't think I'll need to spray it again so I can go ahead and fit the lights and stuff some foam into the nozzles to paint the rest of the beast.

Cheers,

Will


« Last Edit: July 17, 2014, 04:42:21 AM by Will Vale »

July 17, 2014, 11:48:32 AM
Reply #13

Hunter Rose

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Cool work Will, I know you had your problems but I think the cockpit looks really nice, I like the contrast of the grays, I think its better to be a bit exaggerated so you can see it through the small windows.
Last couple of my model sessions have had some sour notes so you have my sympathy its a real bummer when it happens, but its still looking good mate, remember we're all our own harshest critics!
'Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!' ~ Black Dynamite

July 20, 2014, 01:59:24 PM
Reply #14

Chris0423

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Will,

this looks class, real nice pit and finish to the pipes.

Chris.

July 24, 2014, 04:34:29 AM
Reply #15

Will Vale

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Thanks guys!

I put the fuselage together, and filled the gaps with CA and talc.


Flickr link

The fit is decent, but the quality of the part edges are a bit rough so even with everything properly together you get gaps to fill. It's not really practical to cut away the locating pins and sand the mating faces flat as both top and bottom use an overlapping join.

I thought it was best just to accept the fit provided and get it filled. I probably should have waited overnight, but the CA ought to ensure it doesn't sink. It'll need a little bit more filling after priming, but that should be it.

I also did the wing and tail edges, which have been sitting around assembled for a while.



These were surprisingly fussy - they look simple enough, but the outside edges have a square rebate on either side of the wing (with the join in the bit that stands proud) and the inside edges have more mildly dodgy moulding with sunken surfaces.

I filled it all with CA and worked it back with 180 and 400 grit papers and a file. I opted to round the edges very slightly since I think extreme sharpness would look out of scale.

I primed the above bits yesterday, and did some fixing today (mainly sink marks, one or two tiny gaps) prior to re-priming:



It's loose in sections still - I can't see how to mask the grey stripes on the intakes otherwise - but is getting closer to being stuck together. The seam in front of the cockpit came out quite tidy:



Buffing the first coat of primer was a bit scary as so many sink marks appeared, but I think most of them won't be obvious. I did sand out the outsides of the intakes, and fill a pothole-like sink mark on the upper rear of each wing.

The second coat of primer has also put paid to most of the fuselage light leaks. I think I'm going to spray a coat of Alclad over this (metallics should be great for blocking light, at least they are on RC car bodies) and then use Tamiya for the top coat which will allow me to scuff and chip it a bit.

Looking like it'll be a busy weekend! I'm on the point of giving up on the deadline (next weds) but it would be nice to have it painted if not weathered so I can bring it along at least.

Cheers,

Will

July 26, 2014, 02:53:01 PM
Reply #16

Will Vale

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And now some paint! I had a few more hours messing around with primer, sandpaper and a scriber on the forward fuselage panel lines. I ended up rescribing most of those on the top, and some on the bottom. Their location in the mould made them very shallow, and since the others are giant trenches they needed to be more consistent.

Then I touched up the primer with Alcad, and applied Dull Aluminium on the leading edges and randomly on the whole model, steel on the worky bitz, and highlighted the engine rings with pale burnt metal. Everything had a rub down and I masked off the metallics.

I gave the top surfaee one coat of hairspray, and the bottom two, and once dry applied a fairly busy (and wobbly!) preshade:



Followed by about three light coats of Royal Light Grey. I sprayed the first one in clouds over the panels, and misted on the other two from further away to reduce the contrast. That took me to about 1am, but of course with hairspray you have to do the chipping before the acrylic cures, so I set to and ended up with this at 3am last night:




The contrast is obviously much higher where there was steel overspray, and I'm not sure what's going to happen when I varnish over it (the metallics will die) but I think it's OK for a first try. I should have taken a picture of the bottom where the chips are much bigger.

Now this needs to be sealed and then redone for the stripes.

Do you think the grey is a bit too light? I like it but I'm not sure it matches the screen.

Will

July 27, 2014, 05:08:02 AM
Reply #17

Will Vale

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Thankfully with the markings done I think the grey works really well. It'll get a little darker with weathering, but not much hopefully.



I had a very productive afternoon today. I did housekeeping stuff this morning since I knew I wouldn't be any use at modelling owing to the late night, and then started masking this in the afternoon.

The grey is Tamiya Neutral Grey (I think? It's a mid-grey with a bluish tint) and the orange is a mix of Flat Red, Flat Yellow and a bit of that Yellow-Green primer colour to dull it down.

I masked the stripes, laying them out freehand with micron tape (using features and mk.1 eyeball to align them) and then filling in with Tamiya tape. Then I dabbed some masking fluid over the locations with a sponge, sprayed the colour, and removed the tape. The masking fluid was easy to pull up with either my finger or a polishing stick, I'd bought a putty rubber for this but it didn't really do much.



I thought after doing the grey intake stripes that I'd overdone it a bit, so the red is toned down. It's easy to be careful when you know it'll take you three hours to mask it again :)

The marking layout is close but not identical to the screen - I stopped the stripes 1mm clear of the wing and tail edges (and where the red meets the grey) since I think it looks more intentional. I also broke up the nose panel stripe. I haven't done the tail fin leading edge in orange but I might still, not sure.

The cool thing about all this is that I don't have to apply any (hated) decals, and there's no need for varnish so my metallic chips won't lose any of their glinty sheen.

I really need to clean up and paint the U/C, gear doors, and canopy now, as well as assemble the ship itself. Hopefully I can do some enamel weathering in between those over the next two days then take it to club night!

Captain Apollo is going to be late though - no time for painting him I think...

Cheers,

Will

July 27, 2014, 11:15:27 AM
Reply #18

Jiloo

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Nice progress, mate.

July 27, 2014, 01:52:33 PM
Reply #19

Hunter Rose

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Looking really cool Will  8)
'Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!' ~ Black Dynamite