27 January 2017

Romulan Bird of Prey ATROPOS (1/650 scale model), Part 1

Below is the Round 2 reissue of the AMT Romulan Bird of Prey kit from the 1960s...and while it's nice that they re-used (most of) the original box art, they also re-used the original mold...and it's not very accurate to the studio model. The only new additions to the model itself are optional clear domes for the ends of the nacelles (for ease of lighting) and a "plasma weapon" piece that goes on the very front of the ship.

Original 1960s box art.

Right before Christmas 2016 I received this kit in a Secret Santa situation and I thought maybe this would become a donor kit for other builds or maybe get somehow kit bashed with my defiantly-unbuilt Defiant? But, after some thought, I decided I now wanted to build a Romulan ship. Building it box stock was out of the question from the get-go, and after looking at a few videos of folks building this kit, and doing a good job of it (even some folks accurizing it to better match the studio model), I decided to apply my new sense of modelling individuality to this and customize it.

I'd built a few Star Trek models back in the 1990s, but this will be my first enemy ship; her name will be the Atropos, named after the Greek goddess of fate and destiny, and this will be a Ravenna Class Bird of Prey.

Long sides with more cool artwork.

I did some more searching and found a design by someone going by the name Atolm who came up with an interesting and visually appealing speculative refit of the Bird of Prey that took it into the Star Trek Movie era.

Short sides are basically the same as the top.

I want to keep as much of the actual kit as possible, so I won't be redesigning the warp nacelles or changing the shape of the main hull to match Atolm's design too closely, rather, I'll add elements to update this ship as a sort of stepping stone between the TOS version and his speculative TMP design aesthetic (we don't see a Romulan ship onscreen until TNG).

Facing forward.

I wanted to keep the smooth aesthetic typical of Star Trek, so no chunky, asymmetrical greeblies characteristic of the Star Wars look (which I like very much, but it wouldn't be appropriate for Trek). Starting with some donor kit parts, I added the cockpit of a Messerschmitt as beefy engines and the long, pointed bit at the front comes from a dragster (its longer counterpart, seen peeking out a bit, with Bondo filling the void, is on the bottom hull). Between the points at the very front I'll be adding a piece from my massive Russian tank donor kit to act as an "updated" plasma weapon. That circular "bridge" module comes from that same tank kit.

The pencil lines indicate where I'll be scratch building the relief "wing" aspect of Atolm's design, onto which I'll be adding a stylized "feather" pattern.

New thrusters.

I chopped up a couple of canopies from my two Messerschmitt donor kits as bottom ends for my thrusters. I like the angular look; it seems appropriately Romulan, somehow. The inset pieces are bits of ribbed sheet styrene. I've ground down the inside of the kit at those specific points so that my LED lighting will glow through.

Dragging on the bottom.

That long piece and that engine part are from of my dragster donor kit. The pencil lines (as on the top of the ship) is the temporary layout of the scratch-built additions to make the body thicker and give the impression of wings in a physical relief fashion (like the Klingon Bird of Prey introduced in 1984's The Search for Spock). I think this is better than the design of the "painted" bird (the decal is accurate, but I've never liked that design at all). My "feathers" will be many stylized pieces of very thin sheet styrene, hewing pretty close to Atolm's design.

Prêt à allumer.

I got these pre-wired LEDs from Model Train Software because I don't want to mess around with the math of electronics. Some people find it easy, but I just wanna build. I know soldering the ends together would make a more secure connection, but I don't want to mess around with that, either; I'll be twisting the wires together and fixing them with electrical tape.

Eight LEDs might seem like overkill, but I'll be putting one each at the front end of the two nacelles, one each behind the rear thrusters, and the remaining four will ambiently light up the windows I'll be drilling into main hull. I chose "warm white" LEDs for this as I didn't want to overpower the ship with out-of-scale intense brightness.

Kit base.

Unfortunately, the little white switch is closer to the bare ends of the wire than it is to the 9-volt battery connector, so I won't be able to use the base that came with the kit. I was planning to install the switch and battery under the dome and thread the wires up through a hollow brass rod (the kit came with a solid metal rod), into the ship, and connect them to the lights. I'll have to come up with an alternate base, but the wiring plan will remain the same.

Weak light blocking.

Four LEDs will be going in the main body of the ship to illuminate the windows I'll drill into it later on, so massive light blocking will be needed. I painted on some black acrylic that I use to edge my paintings, but it's quite thin, so I'll need some spray paint to help out. After that, I'll either paint the ship's interior white or silver to spread the light around.

That unpainted rectangular area on the left is where I added a dragster engine part in the existing gap of the dragster body (seen above). There were four circular features on the part which I drilled holes into and the remainder is intended to create a "glow" around that part (as seen from the outside, of course).


I went back and forth a lot regarding windows on the side of the ship and adding thin strips of styrene that would taper off from the front weapon. I finally decided to go ahead and drill some window holes with my pin vise. Good idea (I guess), bad execution. I just wasn't in the zone.

I wanted to keep the windows circular like on the studio model, but my sloppy hole-drilling, based on pretty good measurements made me join a few windows to others (making them rounded rectangles) to try to mitigate the sloppiness. That didn't turn out so well, either, so I scrapped the idea entirely and I'll be adding the styrene strips as originally planned. I used Taniya white putty to cover up my shame. Now the only windows will be at various points on the top of the ship.

Cobbled together.

I recently watched this video and noticed the cobbler used crumpled up paper to wrap around his foot form so he could get an accurate measurement from which to cut the boot material. After pondering various ways to get a good fit for my sheet styrene additions to the main hull, from complex Photoshop simulations (photographing the model, overlaying the new design elements, then printing that out as a template) to wholesale improvisation (which would be a bad idea, considering I thoroughly messed up the windows), I decided this might be the way to go.

This was only a very quick test to have the experience, and it looks like the right way to go –I just need to be a bit more precise in my tracing.

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