On The Bench 222: David Campbell’s Skimmer


As a fan of the sci-fantasy books from Anne MacAffrey (soon I’m hearing to make it to the big screen), I thought I’d scratch-build one of the ships from the Dragon Rider series. I contacted an authors agent and asked if we could make a model out of a description of a ‘Skimmer’ – go ahead, they sid – so I did!

  • Here’s what I had to go on. Not very much, but enough along with the odd description in the books. Figure 1
  • Some rough dimensioned sketches were roughly rendered to keep me right. Obviously there are some perspective issues, but by looking at basic human anatomy and with the descriptions of the thing, I put this together. Figure 2
  • A hoop was made to go round the top deck, made from styrene tube, and filled with epoxy to give me something to make rounded corners with. Figure 3
  • The concave detailing between decks – more tube, this time drawm past my mini bench saw to make quarter-round. Since I made this, my UK stockist has now started selling Evergreen which make quarter-round stock. Figure 4
  • The interior: very simple 0.5mm plasticard sheet glued into shape. Figure 5
  • The canopy, which is made from segments of a 2l soda-pop bottle Figure 6
  • The top deck and canopy frame, made of moulded I-beam section and warmed (just hot water at 45C is enough) while being bent into shape. The soda-pop bottle segments rest nicely inside the troughs of the I-beam. Figure 7
  • Major components. Note the power plug (7-pin Centronics D plug) and internal wiring. There are two overhead cabin lights on the canopy frame and control panel lights. The control panel is just an internally illuminated box, with 1mm holes drilled in it, then 1cm long fiber-optic plugs pushed in – the ends of these were tinted with clear acrylic colours to give the control panel some ‘functional’ look.. Figure 8
  • One day, about half way through…. Figure 9
  • A light test. Note the internal detailing with the control console and the internal illumination from the overhead cabin lights. The blue glow from the engines was a guess – I never did find out what colour they should have been. Lovely deep silver colour, just like the cover art from the book….. Figure 10
  • “Why’s it silver?”, asked my wife – it’s supposed to be orange! If it’s silver on the cover…. oh well, straight back to the paint shop…. Figure 11
  • Better view of the instrument panel Figure 12
  • The spotlights show up quite well here. Like all my light sources, they are made from l.e.d.’s – these are 3mm 12cd sources from Kingbright. Figure 13
  • The set. Some sand glued to styroboard, with illuminated crystals embedded at the back. The illumination of the crystal is still a secret, so forgive me if I don’t show that bit.
  • Note the stand on the right, with a jump lead going from it’s socket to the ship, which is on another small stand. Figure 14
  • The figure in the foreground came from the spares box – I think it’s a nurse from a child’s toy set, but it was the right scale! Figure 15
  • Some more angles. Most of the illumination here comes from the Skimmers own spotlights, really giving the impression of hovering, and showing off the spotlight illumination. Figure 16

David Campbell

On The Bench 223a: Matt Goldman's HAL-9000
On The Bench 221c: Richard Hopkins' Refit Enterprise