U.S.S. Reliant on a Budget

(Page One)

by Tim Roy

 After having spent the last four months working on the ship U.S.S. Reliant from the motion picture "Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan," the first person I want to thank is Peter Savin at http://pedro@shiporama.org along with Don Matthys' for their ships. Both of their works were an invaluable source of reference material for my version of U.S.S. Reliant. I looked long and hard at Don's fantastic work before I started this project and Don Matthys is a master when it comes to lighting and painting Reliant. His ship can be seen at www.culttvman.com. You definitely want to take a look at this beautiful ship before you start. I knew ahead of time that there was no way I was going to be able to duplicate it, but I also realized that there are scale modelers out there like myself that wanted to try as best we could to approach that level of craftsmanship.

 So my goal when I started the project was to build a ship that included a nice lighting and painting scheme and also one that was both realistic and affordable. While I do not have anything against going out and buying expensive light sheet material and airbrush equipment, I do think that one of the greatest joys of scale modeling is to take a kit and try to do something with it that challenges you to think of new methods and ways to create a ship that is personal and fits your own style of scale modeling. It's easy to take a kit out of the box and paint it and glue it together according to the instructions. The fun part though, is doing the research, looking at the videos and the material that's on the web pages to find ideas and accurate material.

 I believe that when I first viewed the movie "Star Trek II...The Wrath of Khan" and saw Reliant for the first time, I felt what a lot of scale modelers felt and that was the desire to build the thing. It would be a while before we modelers could get our hands on the kit though and by the time I finally got around to building her, several years had passed since the movie came out. But it was well worth the wait to me as I practiced and honed my skills. So, put on your thinking caps and follow along as I explain how I built "Reliant on a Budget."

-----Research Your Project----

The very first thing I would recommend after you buy your kit is to watch the video (or the DVD now that it's out) and freeze frame it to look at the ship and look for the little details you might want to incorporate. Also check out the pictures of the studio model at Pedro's Shiporama at pedro@shiporama.org and the excellent lighting of Don Matthys, whose work I saw at Stephen J. Iverson's CultTVMan.com web site. Both are among the best references on the Internet for Reliant detailing.  

-----Examine Your Reliant Kit----

Now that you have a general idea of what you want to have your ship look like, take the kit out and see what's in the box. When I first opened mine one of the first things I noticed was that there was a wealth of extra clear styrene. This would prove a good source of material described later. You will want to use a good X-acto knife with a #11 blade to cut the parts free and then sand off any extra plastic still remaining. Be sure to save all the spare styrene that you removed your parts from for later use. 

-----Choosing Your Light Scheme----

One of the early decisions you are going to have to make is how you want to light your ship. In keeping with building my version of Reliant as inexpensively as possible I chose to use ordinary flash light bulbs. I used a total of eight (yes, eight) "D" cell batteries to provide enough power to illuminate the whole ship. It will greatly help things if you make a small diagram of the ship and decide where you want to place your bulbs now so that you will have it handy when you start wiring later. 

-----Start Painting Your Ship----

Having chosen your light scheme, you will want to start doing some of the base coat painting. I don't have an airbrush and probably will not invest in one because of the trouble it takes to set up an area to use one safely. So I chose to use various spray paints. For the outside of the ship I chose to use flat white. It doesn't matter what brand you use as long as it doesn't say on the can that it is not recommended for use with plastics. 

So buy what's on sale at Home Depot or wherever you like to buy your paints and start with painting the outsides of all the parts (except for the clear pieces). Use a couple of light coats and allow it time to dry between coats. Don't try to paint it all in one coat or you'll end up hiding some of the fine detail on the individual parts.  After it's dry, you need to mask off the outsides and paint the insides of all of the parts with a dark color (I recommend olive drab or flat black) so that when the ship is lit there won't be a lot of light "bleeding" through the hull and nacelles (Figure 1). 



 -----The Aztec Pattern Nightmare----

Okay, by now if you've looked at enough pictures of the studio model and some of the other ships you will have noticed that there is a subtle pattern on the ship. It's known as the "Aztec Pattern" and if you try to go at it one tiny bit at a time your going to spend the next six months painting tiny little squares and "figures." The easiest way I found to overcome the Aztec challenge was to use ordinary frisket paper that you can buy at most art supply stores to create a template that would be both reusable and durable. I recommend using "heavy" tack rather than "medium" tack. There is a fine resource for creating your own templates at Jon Glentoran's "Beyond Antares" web site http://www.heathcomm.no/antares/ . 

For my own ship, rather than going out and purchasing a lot of different paints and trying to mix them in order to get the right shade, I chose again to visit my favorite paint store (with the top of the already painted primary hull) and buy a single color of paint that was just BARELY a shade darker than the paint that I used for the outside of the ship. (See figures 2 & 3). 


In the photos it looks a lot darker than it really looks in person because I used a bit too much flash in taking the photos of the ship, but I never said that I was a good photographer. 

When you prepare your templates, what you want to do is to put your copy of the Aztec pattern on top of several sheets of the frisket paper and use a NEW blade on your X-acto knife, cutting out the pattern on a butcher block. The wood of the butcher block will allow the blade to cut through three or four sheets of the frisket paper at a time without damaging the blade (or your coffee table, if you happen to be watching TV at the same time). 

For the aft sections of the upper and lower sections of the primary hull I had to freelance a bit. There are no patterns available for this section (unless you want to shell out a lot of money for brass templates) and I found that it was easy to cut a few pieces of frisket paper free hand with the patterns. No, this isn't exactly like the studio model, but in what few photos I could find of the thing there wasn't enough resolution to make out the exact pattern. Besides, this is going to be YOUR ship and you get to decide how much or little of the Aztec pattern you want to use for these areas. "Beyond Antares" web site has the information for painting the pattern on the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the nacelles and most of the primary hull are the same onReliant. So, you can use it as a good reference. 

Take your time with the Aztec Pattern. It took me about two weeks to cut out the templates and paint to my satisfaction. Since I was using ordinary spray paint I chose to paint two sections of the hull at a time (using a single light coat and masking off the unpainted sections). Allow the paint to dry for only about five minutes before pulling the frisket paper template off of the part of the ship that's being painted. Wait too long and the frisket paper dries with the paint on the hull. Pull it off too early and you'll smear the paint. I recommend practicing on a sheet of aluminum foil a couple of times to get the feel for how long you need to wait and how much paint to apply. 

-----Painting the Details-----

There are of course a lot of areas that using a can of spray paint just won't cut it and you're going to have to start making some decisions about how you want to approach doing the fine detail painting. For this I have learned to appreciate the joy of felt tip markers, toothpicks, and fine-tipped paintbrushes. I'll break down the fine painting into the individual sections that I worked on. (See figures 4, 5, 6 & 1). 





For the Main Bridge dome I used a Testors paint pen. These are fairly inexpensive and more than pay for themselves when it comes time to get into some of the really tight places and sharp corners. I used silver on the dome and then used a fine paintbrush to paint a single light coat of white. The result is a grayish looking silver that looks like it does in the movie. Use the same method for the sensor dome on the lower section of the primary hull. There is an area just below the bridge where you need to use Duck Egg Blue (Model Master FS35622) to paint all the way around. (See figure 7).


Simply mask with masking tape and use a fine tip paintbrush. Mine required two coats to make it dark enough to show up since duck egg is a fairly light color. When you do you research you'll notice there are some versions Reliant that show a thin red line on either side of this duck egg blue area. After viewing the tape and looking closely I could find no evidence of this on the actual studio model and opted not to include this on my version of Reliant. However, it does look pretty nice on the ships that I saw that included it and you may wish to add this red stripping to your own ship. For the clear impulse engine domes (both dorsal and ventral) I chose to use finger nail polish remover (50 cents for those keeping track of the budget so far). Nail polish remover has diluted acetone and I used a paper towel to wipe the insides only with the solution in order to give the domes a translucent effect. I didn't want the parts to be totally clear or the lighting coming through would be too bright. I went back to the Testors silver paint pen to carefully paint the raised portions of the domes. If you accidentally paint off of the raised grill of the domes don't worry about it. Just let it fry and GENTLY scrap it off with the edge of a sharp blade. 

The warp engine nacelles were next on my agenda. In the photographs and in the video of the ship you can see an area just forward of the warp nacelle grills that have a slight red color. This is one area where I chose to depart from the true color scheme. You may wish to include this area of red painting detail on your ship. For the engine grills I started by painting the whole grill with Model Master intermediate blue (FS35164).

After allowing this to dry thoroughly I used a black magic maker to carefully color the raised portions of the grill. Use this same method to paint the warp drive intercoolers (parts #22). Paint the areas on the rear "fins" and forward parts of the engine according to the directions, (duck egg blue). 

Again, I used two coats on these areas to bring out the color a little better. On the "fins" there are two dots of white paint on the dorsal and outer edge to simulate lights. I used a toothpick to get a single SMALL drop of paint and just touched it to these areas and allowed it to dry. Finally paint the two small domes on the upper sections of the nacelles using flat red and a fine tip paintbrush. 

The long-range sensor array (sometimes humorously referred to as the "roll bar") is painted according to the directions in the kit. I looked at the video and the studio model and couldn't find anything that was not depicted in the painting instructions. I have seen some photos of completed kits in which the forward and aft photon torpedo launchers were painted red on the interior portions of the parts (#5 and #6). Again, going to the video I did not see this and chose to use Light Ghost Gray (Model Master FS36375). One area not mentioned in the painting instructions is the two pair of short red stripes of paint located between the fore and aft phaser arrays. You can use either a red fine tip marker for these or a fine tip paintbrush with red paint. I tried both and ended up using the paint because it was more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. 

There are a few miscellaneous areas that you may want to take care not to overlook. Aft of the bridge area are five small indented squares that the painting instructions indicate should be painted duck egg blue. This is not correct. You need to use intermediate blue for this area. On the edges of the aft hull bulkhead (Part #10) there are ridges that need to be colored black. I used a fine tip black magic marker to "paint" these areas and allowed the ink a couple of days to dry before handling the part again. (See figure 6 again). 

After allowing the ink to dry, paint the inside and outside of the shuttle bays with Tamiya Blue (Color #X-23) and the impulse engines Tamiya Red (Color #X-23). 

On the upper and lower sections of the main hull are three sets of phaser arrays. Paint the square area around the raised phasers yellow and the phasers themselves red. After painting these you may want to mask them off with tape until you have completed assembly of the main hull. Or you may choose to wait until after assembly to paint them. Either way works, but had I to do it over again I would have chosen to paint them after assembly to save myself the trouble of masking them. 

Along the upper and lower edges of the forward section of the main hull are two more areas of yellow with two short horizontal strips of red. Definitely paint these areas after assembling the hull. I painted them prior to final assembly and had to go back and retouch them! (See figure 8). 




(Onto Page Two)

(Back to Full, in Depth Reviews)




Copyright 2010 by Anthony I. Wootson and Tim Roy. No material may be reproduced without permission. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.