AMT/Ertl’s Star Wars Episode 1 STAP with improved Battle Droid
Kit # 30124:
Retail Price: $19.50
Number of Parts: 88
Number of Decals: None
Towards the end of last year, while visiting a local model store I picked up a Star Wars Episode 1 STAP with Battle Droid kit. I had heard rumors about this (and the Trade Federation Tank) being released and was glad to finally get my hands on it. With nothing but good things being said about this kit, I was anxious to see if what I had heard was true.
The STAP with Battle Droid is in 1:6 scale. This is precisely what I was looking for, since it matches up nicely with all of my other large-scaled figure kits. It retails for $19.50, (although I obtained mine at a significantly reduced price).
THIS KIT HAS ABOUT A BAZILLION PARTS TO IT!.......Ok, I lied!! It still contains a most impressive 88 parts! 43 parts compose the Droid Fighter itself with 43 making up the STAP - (Single Trooper Aerial Transport, in case you were wondering). Closing out the parts inventory list is a two-piece display stand - a circular base and a metal mounting rod.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, THIS IS NOT A SNAP-TITE KIT, BUT A SKILL LEVEL 2 MODEL! (YEEEEAAAAAAA!!...And the crowd goes wild!!!!) After the initial release of their Snapfast Naboo Fighter and the Trade Federation Droid Fighters, this kit and the Trade Federation Tank would be welcomed challenges!
The detail in the STAP and Battle Droid is “in there!” Now, I'm not the type of accuracy-obsessed modeler who goes over a kit with a magnifying glass, comparing it to scale drawings of the real thing. However, this kit does look very good detail wise. Most of the panel lines are even recessed. (OH MY)!
This model ended up being the last one in the store. Several days later when I returned, I purchased three more, along with several of the Trade Federation Tanks. I planned on building all four STAPs and Battle Droids, displaying them together in a sort of ultimate Star Wars Naboo fighting diorama scene….(eventually).
The overall fit of the kit is pretty good. Not excellent, mind you, but not piss-ant-poor either. An ultra-kool feature of this kit is that MANY parts ACTUALLY MOVE! The Droid’s head swivels back and forth. Its legs and arms bend at the knees and elbows, along with moving at their attachment points at the body. This is accomplished with ball joints and sockets. In addition, the top portion of the STAP swivels up and down.
A second very good engineering trait of this kit is that its parts are designed to fit only one way - the correct way! Otherwise, it would be possible to glue some pieces together incorrectly. This is something that AMT/Ertl has been doing lately over the past couple of years with ALL of their sci-fi kits that have been released.
(Plan of attack)
I made the decision to build two of the Droids and STAPs simultaneously. (This way, I would be that much closer to my most ultimate Star Wars Diorama. J ) Since the Droids appeared to be more straightforward to build, I decided to start working on them first. My plan was to completely assemble them first and paint them afterwards.
With the STAPs, their construction would be a tad bit more difficult. Due to their multi-colored paint scheme, either the parts would have to be painted ahead of time prior to being assembled or a great deal of masking would be required, if they were assembled first. I ended up going the first route.
(New gluing trick? – Using liquid cements?)
Before work commenced on the Battle Droids, I decided to try to eliminate most, if not all of the seams ahead of time. Unlike previous modeling projects of mine, I decided to use liquid cements exclusively on these kits.
Testors’ Liquid Cement was liberally applied to the inner halves of the attaching parts, followed by applying uniform pressure to the newly glued pieces for 2 to 3 minutes. Any remaining seams were attacked by applying Tenax-7R directly to them with a very small paintbrush. For those unfamiliar with this type of liquid cement, it is very powerful and evaporates very, very quickly. With these characteristics, its careful application to gap areas effectively melts away most seams, forming a temporary, soft “gooey” plastic area in its place.
After waiting an additional minute or two for the Tenax to do its work, I started sanding the newly glued area. I started out with a piece of 320 medium grit sandpaper, sanding until the seam was smooth. Then, I transitioned down to a finer 600 grit piece of sandpaper, to smooth the area further.
I was very surprised that this procedure effectively removed about 80% of the model’s seams. (I’m gonna have to remember this for future modeling projects of mine!)
(Initial assembly of the Battle Droids)
OK, “Bring on the Droids!” I started with Step 1, which called for the 7 parts composing the Droid’s head and neck to be assembled. There was an upper neck part that, when sandwiched between two outer pieces, allows the head to swivel back and forth. This step went pretty smoothly.
Step 2 was equally simple. It called for assembling the two-piece radio backpack and associated radio antenna. Step 3 dealt with the construction of the four-piece lower torso. The bottom of this sub-assembly contains the ball joints that the legs would attach to. Next, I skipped to Steps 6 and 7, assembling the tube like parts that attach the Droids’ upper and lower torsos together.
After this, I skipped over to Step 10, which called for the entire upper torso to be assembled. The back-pack/radio unit was glued to the Droid’s back. Next, the inner "arm-pit" pieces were glued to this sub-assembly as well. The upper rear neck support piece of the Droid was then glued in place.
Following this, the lower torso sub-assembly was attached to the Droid’s upper-front part. I ended up adding some internal support by gluing a piece of sheet styrene over the inner portion of this region, which helped the lower torso align better. Finally the Droid’s neck was sandwiched between the back and front sub-assemblies and the two halves glued together.
(Enhancing the Battle Droids’ arms and legs)
I next transitioned back to Steps 4, 5, 8 and 9, which dealt with the Droids’ arms and legs. As I mentioned earlier, it appeared that these Droids were designed to have their arms, legs and heads move. However, after an initial dry-fitting session, I was disappointed to discover that the arm and leg joints were WAAAY too loose! In addition, the elbow and knee joints looked loose as well. It appeared that all joints would have to be glued together. (MAJOR BUMMER!)
Before giving up, though, I decided to analyze the problem a bit further. When assembling the 4 piece arms (Steps 4 and 5), I stumbled upon a solution. By adding a drop or two of Zap-A-Gap (which is a thick, gap filling super glue) to the internal elbow joints, followed by completing the assembly of the arms, followed by repeatedly swiveling the forearm back and forth until the crazy glue had cured, I was able to successfully add tension to the elbow area. This method effectively tightened the elbow joints! The thumbs were then attached to the ends of the forearms.
To add some articulation to the fingers, I decided to try to bend them inward. If nothing else, I figured that this would make it easier for them to grasp the STAP's handle bars. I gently applied pressure, first along the fingertip ends and then to the middle finger joints, being very careful not to apply too much pressure and crack the plastic. This actually turned out pretty successful.
The next hurdle I had to get over dealt with the arm-torso joint problems. What I discovered was that they appeared to be designed to be glued in place from the very beginning. After thinking about this problem a bit more, I finally came up with a solution. I drilled a hole into each armpit area on the upper torso, along with a second hole into the inner portion of the arms themselves. A piece of wire was Zap-A-Gap-ed into the arm, with the other end of the wire inserted into the torso’s hole. After using Zap-A-Gap again to build up the thickness of the portion of the wire that came into contact with hole, along with using a super glue accelerator (called Kicker for Plastics) to speed up the process, the arms effectively swiveled around.
Steps 8 and 9 called for the construction of the legs. The knee joints had the same type of looseness associated with the elbows. I decided to try to solve this problem the same way. It also worked like a charm.
After assembling the legs, the two small recessed pieces found on the front of the legs were glued in place.
The final problem related to the looseness of the limbs dealt with the attachment of the legs to the torso. The socket holes were too big for the attaching ball joints. After giving some thought as to how I could tighten these joints, I stumbled upon a quite obvious solution. By carefully applying a number of drops of the Zap-A-Gap to the sockets and slooooowly building up the amount of glue, I was able to effectively shrink the inner area of the socket, creating a very snug fit for the leg balls. (Just like those old commercials state - There really does appear to be thousands of uses for super glue)! OK, problem #4 solved.
(Completing the Droids – Final assembly, painting, clean-up and weathering)
After I finished working on the legs, arms and torso, everything was attached.
I decided to skip applying a coat or primer and went directly to the main color. Testors Model Master Sand (33531) was chosen. The Droids were washed down and their feet temporarily attached to a sheet of plastic. A blue adhesive putty called TacN'Stik was used to accomplish this. What I like about TacN'Stik is that it is very sticky, but removes very easily without leaving a residue.
A small portion of this putty was added to the bottom of the Droid’s feet. This effectively kept the assembled Droids standing up.
A coat of the Sand paint was then air brushed onto the Droids. After the paint had dried, the remaining seam areas were cleaned up (with a touch of the Zap-A-Gap again), followed by waiting 5 minutes, followed by sanding these areas down smooth. (There ARE thousands of uses for super glue!)
The Droids were washed down again and air-dried, followed by a second coat of the Sand air brushed on. Afterwards, M. M. Silver was carefully painted by hand onto the middle portions of the radio antennas, along with some other regions of the Droids.
Finally, weathering. I mixed some Horizon acrylic Brown paint with their Flesh Tone 8 and added some water to it to create a wash. This wash was painted onto all of the recessed areas on the Droids. When it had dried, I used Cotton Swabs dipped in water to remove the excess. After removing the cotton “fuzz,” I lightly air brushed M. M. Dullcote over the Droids, sealing in their color. I finished up with some light dry brushing of silver onto the edges and other miscellaneous spots on the Droids.
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