On The Bench 114: Don Matthys’ Stargazer part 1
USS STARGAZER NCC-2893 Constellation Class PART 1
The studio model special effects miniature of the Constellation Class was first seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation episode of “The Battle”. In that episode Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise is contacted by Feringi Damon Bok on the pretext of returning the USS Stargazer to the Federation. In particular and specifically to Cpt Picard in person who at one time commanded the Stargazer, for revenge. Revenge for Damon Bok’s son’s death. Bok had installed a universally outlawed mind and pain control device to exact his vengeance upon Picard.
Prior to the encounter with the Feringi Bok, the Stargazer model was first seen as a set piece in the Captain’s Ready Room in the episode “Code of Honor”. As a nostalgic reminder of his past command this model decorated his ready room for the next seven years in Picards office and presumed trashed when the Primary Hull of the Enterprise crash landed in the movie Generations. The model itself was cobbled together from two TMP era Enterprise kits and parts of Transformer toys and other models. The set prop itself was noted to be missing in several episodes prior to “The Battle” This was so that Greg Jien could construct a lager more detailed FX miniature for filming and special effects composites. The studio miniature was also used to portray other Constellation Class vessels like the USS Victory, Hathaway, Valkirie….
This build up subject of this article was a large undertaking as far as Trek modeling goes. The basic component s of the model is the vacuum formed kit from Sci-fi Miniatures. The model also used parts from the TMP era AMT Enterprise kits and Reliant. Two Enterprise primary hull tops and two Reliant warp engine sets plus resin copies of detail parts and fittings crafted to fit to the Sci-fi Miniature kit. This build up also features lighting with electronics components of Light Sheet, Light Line an some basic LED flashers.
Finishing and markings was conducted in a manner of painting Federation vessels of the TMP era af Star Trek. Walker Enterprises provided the Aztec ™ pattern painting on the Primary Hull and an ALPS Micro Dry Color printer was used to make custom designed water slide decal markings.
Lonnie Misner, Mike Trice and Jon Glentoran with some original pictures of the studio model and his insight on specific details . And also to especially Andy Henshaw who provided some of the patterns for the resin cast parts.
THE SCI-FI MINIATURE KIT
The Stargazer vacuum formed is one of the largest vacuum formed kits that Sci-fi miniatures has to offer. For the most part it is formed on three sheets of .040 inch plastic sheet. This kit is not for beginners when it comes to vacuum formed kits. But vacuum formed kits are the next best thing to injection molded. One advantage of vacuum formed kits over resin is that it is hollow and will accomidate lighting and options of scratch built details.
The Sci-Fi Miniature kit also lacks the small details as seen all over the special FX motion control model. The vac-formed model made its first appearance in the late eighties and was patterned on the best information available and from fan produced drawings shorty after it’s on screen TV debut. Though dimensionally OK the look of the details are soft from the thermal forming process. A lot more information has since come to light on the FX model this effort and article is how to go about and fix it. So I consider the vacuum formed kit to be a diamond in the rough. So here we go for the final cut…
I decided to incorporate existing kits of the TMP Enterprise kits acquired over my years of Trek modeling. I took two upper primary hulls to replace the vac kit’s feature. The first thing to fix with the AMT molded parts was to remove the cursed and dreaded tile pattern. A coating of Krylon sandable gray primer was sprayed over the surface and wet sanded smooth. I repeated the process until the gray primer filled the panel lines in and the roughness was smoothed out.
The vac-formed kit part that feature the TMP era Enterprise primary hulls was removed and a .060 inch sheet of plastic was cut out to reinforce the bottom of the primary hull parts. The AMT kit parts was then glued in its place.
On the bottom of the hull, plastic sheet is cut, drilled and crafted into struts with 3/16 diameter holes to support a double row of LightSheet Systems LightLine. I was able to string 60 inched of this lighting material along the windows and ports.
Holes were marked and positioned along the hull edges. References from studio model pictures came in handy for this and I was also able to make an art patterns for the locations for at least the forward portions of windows and ports of the model.
The hole are first drilled with a .050 drill bit and reamed out with reamers to a diameter of .060 inch to fit .060 diameter Fiber Optic. The reamer shown has a piece of tape wrapped around the tool to stop it at .060. That way all the round holes are consistent.
The interior of the model is painted black to make the plastic opaque to light. Then the interiors are painted white to increase the reflectivity of the interior lights.
The horizontal windows were filled with a clear resin made by Envirotex or Ultra-Glow. This stuff sets up clear within 24 hours. First clear tape was stuck onto the exterior of the model then the two part resin was mixed and dropped into the window with a toothpick. The .060 dia Fiber Optics were clipped to 1/4 inch lengths and sanded flat on one end. The they were super glued to the interior side of the model
To allow light to shine through the Hanger Bay Doors that surround the hull pieces of clear plastic was cut to fit around the openings. The most suitable clear plastics I like to use with good optical qualities are scraps from broken up audio cassette and CD cases. Once the rough cut transparency is super glued into the opening the transparent plastic is filed to final size to fit the opening. Instead of the vacuum kit doors I used a sheet of Evergreen Plastics corrugated patterned sheet for the doors. Later during the painting process the transparent edge of clear plastic is masked in a series of dashes with masking tape. When unmasked the light should shine through as if they are lighted panels surrounding the opening of the Hanger Bays.
originally posted in 2000