For people without massive amounts of display space to donate -or the intestinal fortitude needed – to build the big Polar Lights 1/350 Refit kit, this smaller version of the TMP Enterprise will probably fit the bill nicely.
The kit comes in a great box featuring a stunning piece of art, emphasizing the “self illuminated” design of the Refit Enterprise, by none other than Andrew Probert himself. A cool picture of the Shat with all his late 70’s hair, Nimoy, Stephen Collins and the stunning Persis Khambatta grace one interior side panel. You may want to pick up two of these kits, so you have a good source of decal spares – Polar Lights will sell you a replacement set of markings but it’s only about 10 bucks more to just get another kit, and they generally ship a lot faster than the 3 week average turn around for replacement parts. I ended up using just a few of these markings but it was very nice to know I had a backup for every marking right with me.
The kit plastic is molded in white, and also comes with clear parts representing the warp engine interior inserts, the botanical garden windows, the deflector dish, impulse crystal area, the torpedo launcher, and the VIP lounge. Unless you have a plan on lighting up the kit (and I have seen some great work of folks doing this) my recommendation is to paint them from the outside – the locating tabs used to secure them to the kit, particularly for the dish and warp parts, are most likely going to show up unless you apply a lot of paint to the parts anyways.
Some folks have questioned the depth of the panel lines of the kit, and while they certainly can be considered a bit “out of scale”, once the model is completed they seem to look fine to me.
I never really got the application of the VIP lounge part, it seems to extrude from the kit too much and is just kind of clunky. Paragraphix makes a photo etch set that has a replacement window frame part similar to what they provide for the 1:350 scale kit that would appear to work a lot better. It also has replacements for the botanical garden windows (heck it has the botanical garders too!) which would probably also look quite a bit better than the kit parts.
The parts fit is excellent for what is a snap together kit. For people that have built models of the Enterprise in the past, you can be assured that the engineering of the warp pylons and engines is excellent – the connection points are solid and the alignment is very good. Take care however, snapping the engines to the struts – it takes some pressure to get the locking tabs into the mounting holes, which caused one of my engines to crack its weld on the bottom of the join. Next time I would file down the locking tabs just a bit to avoid this. The pylon halves might be the most problematic fitting parts in the kit, take a few extra minutes to check and sand down any spots that will end up giving a gap at the edges.
The neck will also require a small amount of work to get seamless, but is easy to do other than the lower rear of the neck where the louver like detail (later to be painted black) is.
The Saucer parts, other than the aforementioned VIP lounge part, fit well, and will require just a bit of touchup where the rear of the bridge dome (where Spocks shuttle docks in the movie) fits into the hull. The Secondary hull parts also fit together very well. The neck has a few join spots to clean up too.
Painting is very straightforward – Gloss white overall (although some folks would use a very light grey for scale effect, I think the decals do a lot to mitigate the need for this) a scale black for the outsides of the warp engines with the appropriate “rust” color on the chiller parts added on, and various shades of blue for the engines, the impulse crystal, and, depending on your muse, the deflector (could be yellow as well) – there are a lot of references, and a few color variations out there, so pick your poison. I also painted the torpedo launcher area scale black, as well as the front inserts of the engines, followed by carefully hand painting the white detail back on.
So far I have not mentioned the most challenging – and neat – feature of the kit – the fact that it is literally covered in decals, primarily representing the ships “Aztec” scheme. This has put off a few modelers, but I am here to tell you that it’s really not that difficult to do, as long as you spread out your work over a long period of time, and have a giant bottle of SolvaSet handy. I applied these decals with the kit in four parts: the 2 engines; secondary hull, neck and pylons; and primary hull, leaving off the clear parts with the exception of the VIP lounge windows as the decals interact directly with this part. The main reason to stagger out the application of these markings is that it’s really easy to mess up an applied decal that is not setup yet while putting on another one when the parts are literally covered in decals. Once my SolvaSet routine was complete, I had no problems carefully handling the parts even before sealing them.
The decals themselves are the right thickness to be reasonably sturdy as well as thin enough to work well on a properly prepared gloss surface. My method of attack was to spend about 20-30 minutes a session applying a decal or two to each subassembly, followed by a few rounds of SolvaSet applied rather liberally after the water dries and the morning after the application. In order to get the best results, I ran the back of my hobby knife through the panel lines of the kit to score the decals (now a bit brittle after a couple of rounds of SolvaSet) so another application of decal softener would pull the decals into the lines and minimize the reflection caused by air gaps between the bottom of the panel lines and the decal suspended above. You will have a lot of this to do, especially around the curves of the engines and the neck, but just take your time, don’t panic, and all will be well. High magnification glasses and good lighting are a must for this work, as the parts, the markings, and the tolerances in this scale can get very small.
The main problem area I had with the decals are where the pylons attach to the secondary hull. The markings didn’t seem to fit in a way that seemed to get a good fit with the surrounding markings, and the way some of these markings taper off created issues with the decal tearing or folding in under itself. Again, lots of magnification and patience can minimize these issues. I think my main problem with these areas is that the straightforward application of all the markings prior to putting these on led me into a false sense of security with them. Other areas that you need to take special care of are the neck markings due to the numerous right angles it has, the sensor dome markings on the lower primary hull due to their small size, and making sure that the Aztec decals on the fronts of the engines are correct – I think there may be some numbering issues with the decals so double check fit.
There are many decals that will benefit from really close trimming into the decal itself, primarily the larger saucer markings, the neck markings, and the decals around the deflector, although several, I discovered, worked better with the excess area kept on due to the way they helped provide a bit more surface to wrap around some of the trickier contours. The blue marking on the top of the primary hull that extends back to the impulse crystal mount was too fragile for me at the ends. The decals for the impulse engines were also a bit tricky to figure out. The pylon markings were big and looked cool, but took a LOT of effort to get them to snug down into the triangular detail areas of the parts. The engine aztecing appeared to be a pretty difficult thing to pull off, but the engineering of the markings was solid and everything worked out great there.
After all the Aztec markings were done, I hit the subassemblies with another light gloss coat to seal the work as well as provide another even surface for the actual ship markings that are applied over the Aztecing. This helped eliminate air gaps that might show up on these markings otherwise. The decals that make up the primary hull large area markings looked to be rife with danger for this effect, but I had no big issues there. There are some tiny markings to apply here, the gangway hatch on the primary hull and the “Enterprise” below the shuttle bay door stick out to me as being really, really tiny – and before I knew it, all 110 or so decals were applied! A quick round of DullCote sealed and evened out the look of the ship and it was ready for the final assembly.
After all this work, my wish was that the main assemblies would snap together easily and align well, and for the most part they did. I already mentioned the engine to pylon issue I had, but the neck to primary hull assembly was good, although the halves of the front top of the neck split a couple of millimeters on assembly and needed some repair. Again, next time I would work on filing down the lock tabs just a bit before putting these together. The engine to pylon mounting left a small gap at the top of the join that I filled with minute amounts of Apoxie Sculpt, burnished smooth with a wet qtip or 5, then touched up with a very small brush with Testors flat white on the tip. When all dry, I hit the model with Dullcote from the rattle can, easy!
The last pieces to attach are the clear ones. For the engine parts, I chose to start off with an application of Testors True Blue, and slowly added Duck Egg Blue to the mix, airbrushing more and more in the center of the pieces and less on the outer edges as I went. For the last pass, I used Testors white to create a hot spot in the center of the parts. Once dry, I applied some Future floor wax to the parts with a big sable brush, which created a nice “glass” effect to the parts. I had originally wanted to just paint this in reverse order on the rear of the parts but after looking at the locking tabs of these parts, I wanted to ensure that they would not be seen at all, and I am glad I did this – the mounting of these parts are perfect as designed, providing a gap free, solid mating.
The same basic technique was used for the deflector. One thing I didn’t do, but would do if building this kit again, is to mask off the interior of the dish and paint the outside edge white. The fit of this part into the secondary hull is very, very tight – I ended up breaking one of the two giant mounting tabs, but in the end it didn’t matter at all because the part has an edge that fits into the secondary hull perfectly without the tabs being used at all.
Well that’s about it – a fun little kit that will provide you with a great looking replica that fits almost anywhere, that’s well engineered for the most part and will definitely give your bottle of SolvaSet a workout.