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> Custom Ships Check-list!, Some baiscs (but not all) you need.
Jesse James
post Jun 9 2004, 03:34 AM
Post #1

Customizing High Council

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Joined: 1-June 04
From: Pittsburgh, PA "Steel City"
Member No.: 7

A basic list of starting supplies you should have for custom ships:

-Plastic, Plastic, Plastic... Sheet Styrene to be exact, but don't forget to start a parts bin that you can keep just random sprues, and plastic shapes you get that you're maybe considering tossing away.

Remember, parts bins can get out of control so make sure you don't go over-board or your significant other may kick you to the nearest spacedock.

Here's a link to GE Polymer Shapes, where I personally have found a local warehouse that I can get 8'x10 or 11' sheets of ABS Styrene in a variety of thicknesses, as well as a variety of other plastic types and shapes.


Beyond this though, hobby shops are your best bet for finding various plastic sheets, specialty pieces, etc... Hobbytown USA is my stop if I need a piece like this, but when building a ship from scratch, GE Polymer shapes is my #1 stop while HTUSA helps me with the finishing details as my #2 stop. DON'T waste $ buying 8"x10" sheets at your local Hobby store though, unless space for those big sheets is an issue. Little paper-sized sheets at Hobbystores run you pretty high prices.

-Box-cutters/hand-razors... Buy some decent, and some not-so-decent box cutters. I own a full X-Acto kit, but only use it for detail working. When cutting sheets of styrene though, I use cheap ($.89 each at the local hardware store) box cutters that you just snap the blade off as it dulls till you have no blade pieces left.

Box cutters are essential tools working with plastic, which doesn't saw particularly well. It will melt unless you have the proper tools to cut plastic with. I do use specialty sawblades as well, but they can run you near $100 or even mre for a blade, and unless you've got the saws to mount them to (woodworking tablesaws and such), you're pretty much SOL.

I also own a CHEAP knock-off X-Acto kit I got at Big Lots (buyout store). They were $1.99 for a whole kit, and while they work good for detailing I don't give a poop if I break them or whatnot.

As always, BE CAREFUL or you'll lose some fingers... Or at least bleed a lot. These are toys folks! You're making those remember!?

-Paints... Gotta paint the thing right? This area varies greatly, as working with vehicles can bring in a variety of materials and thus a variety of paints may be necessary.

I use Tamiya for my figures almost exclusively, but when working with ships, sometimes spray paints you find at the store work as well as anything.

My suggestion is don't do much "brush-on" work though, because it looks bad on ships. Ships should be smooth, fluid paint applications that look like they were mass-produced. The good news is that spraypaints do look this way.

The bad news is that spray paints are tough to control, so painting your model with a good, realistic paintjob can be tough. It's an area of the hobby where some skills from making models as a kid will be invaluable.

Essentially, you're making models anyway... Just bigger ones than perhaps you're used to. Modeling experience pays off in all aspects of scratch ship building, and even ship modification, so this may take some practice.

-Airbrushes... They aren't (not always anyway) necessary, but if you're wanting to do hardcore stuff I recommend them of course. Aztek, Badger, etc... Shop around, figure this out... You're talking more advanced stuff here, and it's a skill you only can hone through practice. Airbrushing comes naturally to some, and is a pain to others. I've worked with them since I was younger, but I can't say I'm an expert. They can be a pain to me...

-Read up... Go to some scale modeling sites. You'll find info here invaluable in your efforts. These are the gurus to this hobby. You'll learn little tricks and stuff that the pros that made the models to our favorite set of films (Star Wars) used.

Everything from kitbashing model kits to the famous baking soda/super glue bonder trick. You'll learn it all, and it's really kinda fun to hear these neat techniques that guys in the modeling INDUSTRY will share.

-Find prints, images, layouts, blueprints, maps, whatever... Find the details of your vehicle, so you get it exactly right. You don't wanna go hap-hazardly into it then later find out you missed a gun somewhere, or forgot to put the landing gear on in the right way.

That'd be a bummer, and ships can be REALLY long-term projects. I've got some vehicle projects that are years in the making and not even near done because of how pathetically slow I work, my general life stuff, and the fact I'm poor. smile.gif In the meantime I've amassed probably hundreds of images of some of these ships.

Burn them to a CD when you think you're done fidning stuff, keep it handy and catalogued... It's goood to be organized.

-Dremel Tool... Low on the list here, but high in priority. If you customize anything, you need this tool. It's the most used tool in my toolbox, without a doubt. If you have the means, invest in a flex-shaft... Look the dremel (Craftsman/SEARS bits fit as well) bits over when in Sears or Wal-Mart, or your hardware store.

My Dremel's a Craftsman (they're the same thing), and was cheaper as such.

You NEED this item though. I have used this thing without fail in almost every custom project ever. I even use it just to clean up some junk plastic I have that I want to use part of but maybe it has thingns on it that are intrustive. Just hack them off with my Dremel and I'm set.

-Have a work area... This poop gets involved, so have a work table/bench. I've got a couple areas I work at depending on the size of my project. Everything ranging from the large steel and heavy wood benches in my father's garage to my spare room's work table and drafting table.

-Plan ahead... This harkens back to your findingn images and layouts and things, but plan this ahead some. Don't just start hacking and cutting or you'll find you've got a ship that doesn't fit quite right.

-Own some random tools too... Screwdrivers (various small and mid-sized Philips and regular head), pliars (I have a good, but foreign-made set of good nippers, needle-nose, etc. that I need/use often), Vice (A grip for holding glued parts), Clamps (again, a variety of cheaper ones I picked up at Sears for holding glued parts, or parts I'm painting before applying), some small-scale modeling tools like magnifying lenses, gator clips, etc...

There's basically a lotta little tools you can pick up that will help you. You maybe won't need all this, but you will need some of it I would wager.

I have everything from advanced panel-scriber tools specifically for model-making, which cost a little bit, to cheap sets of screwdrivers I got for free in the mail, but which are invaluable little tools.

-Bonder or "Glue"... First, don't "Glue" things on ships, but rather FUSE them. There's plastic welders out there, and they're great. They literally will fuse 2 pieces of styrene (or styrene-like) plastics together and make a strong bond, whereas glues do not.

The two I use are Plasti-Struct Plastic Welder (found at better hobby shops), which is specifically used on ABS Styrene in hobbying, but I also use a 2-part epoxy welder called Devcon Plastic Welder, which I find at the local Hardward store or even Wal-Mart. Both are invaluable, and very unique in how they are to work with. You'll thank me for owning both, trust me.

Jedi Defender.com & FFURG Representative

Fleet Trooper Sucks So Bad, I May Make a New One!
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post Sep 26 2004, 03:04 PM
Post #2

Customizing General

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Posts: 454
Joined: 25-September 04
From: North Carolina Coast
Member No.: 280

Good tips, although sometimes you DO want to use a glue rather than a plastic "Welder." Case in point, if you're working on a cockpit or clear window of some short you diffinetly do not want a plastic "Welder" which is essentially a solvent that chemically breaks down a surface layer of molecules on the pieces of plastic being fused together creating a chemical weld joint. Solvents have a bad habit of fogging plastic. I would suggest a glue specifically formulated for clear parts with clear or translucent pieces. Also if the parts being fused are PVC (Vinyl) you should not use a solvent since it will damage the parts. On vinyl parts use only CA (cyanoacylate), better known as "Super Glue" or a glue that is formulated for PVC. This is also why you should not use solvent based adhesives or paints on figures.

Another instance in which you should use glue rather than a plastic "Welder" would be when joining styrene or ABS plastics to cast resin pieces. Since the molecules of each of these are different the same "Welder" products are not interchangeable between them and they should be glued together with something like CA.

By the way, Ambroid makes a really great plastic "welder" called Proweld. They also make vinyl cement they claim is waterproof enough to seal a rubber raft.

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