Famous Spaceships of Fact and Fantasy
…and how to model them
Fibre optics light the raider
KIT: Space Fighter Raider
MANUFACTURER: Monogram, U.S.A., Kit No.6026
SCALE: Unstated; approximately 1/35
DIMENSIONS: Length - 8 13/16"; Wingspan 10 11/16"; Height - 2 13/16".
Monogram's kit of the evil-looking Cylon Raider fighter from Battlestar: Galactica captures the basic forms and intricate detail of the original, but a major problem is the poor fit of the fuselage sections. These are very large injection-moulded pieces - almost 11 x 8½ - and they don't mate well. In fact, both sections must be flexed considerably to get them to mate at all. The instructions, which are structured around the working missile launchers, depict the fuselage halves going together last. This sequence of assembly is almost unthinkable for scale model construction, because we want to fit, putty, and finish the major fuselage joints early-on in the assembly job.
Because of the filling, filing and sanding time required, I did not assemble the model with major modifications or detailing, but I did add a moderate amount of fibre-optic lighting.
In cutting an access opening for the fibre-optic lighting system, I substantially increased the flexibility of the bottom fuselage section. This, in turn, made mating the sections easier and also allowed join-line filling before the addition of the lighting system.
Making the access hatch - The slide-out opening that I devised is similar to many portable-radio and tape-player battery compartments. Building this feature required two Monogram kits: one to furnish the bottom section into which the opening was cut, and one to provide the hatch. Start work on one of the unassembled kit sections by drilling several dozen holes around the periphery of the "hatch" piece in the bottom. Use a fine jeweller's saw to cut through the plastic between the holes, and remove the hatch. Carefully finish the edges with a medium-cut file.
Next, drill holes in the bottom section that will be used on the finished model. Stay inside the hatch area with your drilling, and, again, connect the holes by sawing. Carefully file the edges of the opening smooth, checking the fit frequently with the hatch. Cement styrene strips in place to make retaining slides for the main section of the hatch, then fabricate and install the hold-down cam-tongue arrangement for the narrow rear portion of the hatch.
Discard the working rocket launchers entirely - they complicate assembly, the action feature is of little value, and the TV craft do not launch similar ordnance. Cover the front launcher holes with round plugs made from the tips of the missiles, and add short sections of styrene strip to cover the actuator holes on the bottom of the craft.
Fuselage assembly - Next, assemble the fuselage halves. I bonded one area at a time. First, bond one side "wing" area, and allow overnight setting. Then, bond the central sections: again, allow overnight drying. Finally, bond the remaining "wing." This approach permits stressing of the parts into proper alignment while using a limited number of clothespins and spring-action clips.
You'll find many places where the fuselage halves don't come together in a smooth edge. Use a file to make the majority of these areas presentable, but resort to filler putty in some spots, notably around the engine exhaust ports. The rear central fan housing also requires a built-up ring of putty to properly fair it into the rear of the fuselage.
After completing the putty work and wet sanding all refinished areas with 400- and 600-grit paper, I coated all puttied areas with Floquil Barrier. This prevents the solvent in the paint or primer coat from softening the surface of the filler putty. Often, a paint such as Floquil, even when applied almost "dry" by airbrush, will soften filler putty. When the putty dries, it will shrink just a little, opening cracks around its edges. The Barrier coat defeats this tendency.
At this point I added the rest of the kit parts. I also cut plugs from heavy sheet styrene and added them to the exhaust ports, them cemented the exhaust-port inserts - Part 11 - to this plug. This simple modification blocks the interior from view, making the model appear more substantial and realistic.
The lighting system - Before any painting, I worked out the details of the lighting installation. Adding lighting to a plastic model, especially a small-or medium-size one, involves a trade-off. On one hand, the finished effect is usually excellent, but on the other, there are many problems: added weight, access to the components, heat build-up inside the model, and light leaks. All these problems take time to solve, and you should realise that including even simple illumination effects will take a good deal longer than building a "straight" model.
I decided on fibre-optic lighting for the Raider model for several reasons. First, and most important, fibre-optic light guides allow you to use a single light source -one bulb- to take light to more than one location. This cuts down on heat build-up inside the model, and it also means that there is only one bulb to burn out - and to replace. Finally, using only one bulb means that there is only one source of light leaks to seal off. The fibre-optic light guides and light source that I used are sold by The Hobby Factory, P.O. Box 67, Abington, PA 19001. I used their No.40 hobbyist kit, which provided several sizes of light guides, a 12-volt focused light source and coloured dyes.
Accomplishing as much pre-installation work for the lighting system as possible before doing any painting prevents the model from becoming worn and dog-eared from the handling during lighting installation. After deciding where I would place the individual lighting elements, I drilled the holes for each and checked the fibres for fit. I then made a lens on the end of each fibre by holding a lighted match near it as described in the instructions. After once again checking for fit, I removed the fibres, labelled them as to location, and dyed the ends. I also assembled and checked the light source and batteries for fit inside the model.
With all holes drilled and the groundwork for the lighting installation complete, I airbrushed the inside of the model with flat black enamel to minimise reflections. I then airbrushed the exterior with a dark metallic grey made by mixing a small amount of Floquil platinum mist into the stock reefer grey.
I applied Floquil Crystal-Cote on the areas where the decals were to go and then applied the decals. I spent one evening picking raised panels and details with a slightly contrasting metallic grey flat enamel. I also used other colours - black, red, deep blue, and silver - to pick out raised details and to add a three-dimensional quality to the model. The recessed panels on the underside of the craft were painted off-white.
When I was satisfied with the paint scheme, I airbrushed the entire model with Testors Dullcote. This coating is available only in spray cans, so in order to airbrush it you have to discharge the can into a bottle! This may seem like a very uneconomical way to do the job, but the Dullcote is a very good matte finish and well worth the extra step and extra expense.
Final lighting installation - Adding the lighting completes the job. I wired the light source to two 9-volt transistor radio batteries in series, giving a theoretical 18-volts. The actual voltage is more on the order of 14-volts, which will not blow out the automobile bulb in the light source. I modified the light source by cutting back the conical end housing and epoxying a short piece of 3/8" o.d. brass tubing in place. This makes it possible to gather together and illuminate a larger bundle of light guides. I found that the fibber bundle I made would fit into a piece of ¼" O.D. tubing, so I used three short sections of the intermediate tubing sizes to bush the bundle up to a slip-fit into the tubing section on the light source. These telescoping tubing sizes - available at almost every hobby shop - are handy for many projects. In this case, they allow removal of the light source from the model for bulb replacement but maintain good alignment of the light source and light guides while in the model.
Touch up the sides of the light guides where they are external to the hull of the ship. That done, drop in the light source and batteries, push the switch to "on", and turn out the room lights to get the full effect of the lighted miniature.