Sean Wills’ Refit Enterprise

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The Enterprise A holds a special place in my heart. It was actually the very first model I built as a child before I knew what I was doing. Since that time I’ve built several others which were all subsequently broken by moves or my little brother. I finally decided that I needed to build a good Enterprise A – one that I would be proud of.

This is my model of the Enterprise A from Star Trek IV through VI. I used the AMT Ertl kit for this which was extensively modified for better accuracy. I sanded off all of that horrible paneling that Ertl added to the kit and added resin parts from DLM including his new B&C deck insert.

All the docking ports have been corrected to the right size and the window inserts for the saucer edge have been fixed. All missing deflector grid lines were scribed into the secondary hull and the impulse deflection dome was corrected to its right size.

I also added the Officer’s Mess resin kit available from DLM to fill the space inside the VIP lounge area. It involved drilling out the windows of the resin B&C deck insert but was well worth it when finished. Don Matthys’ article on building the Enterprise A was very helpful while building this model. Along with his parts and decals his tutorial is essential along with the others around the internet.

For the lighting of this model I chose small fluorescent tubes made by JKL Corporation. These tubes create the pure white light like the studio models and last longer than incandescent lamps. There is one fluorescent tube in the secondary hull and another in the primary hull. The LED running lights were run off of two 555 timer circuits located in the secondary hull. For the spotlights in the warp nacelles I used white LEDS with fiber optics attached. There are two red LEDs on a separate circuit which can be turned on to light up the torpedo tubes.

The portholes are all fiber optics and the longer windows are filled with clear resin. The light in the primary hull is transferred to the circumference by a 1/8″ circle of Plexiglas with a hole cut in it. While this works fairly well if I could do it over I would use white LEDs instead of the fluorescent tube for the saucer. There are separate lamps located under the impulse deflection crystal and by the shuttle bay to light up the impulse engines and the shuttle bay windows. Everything is run off a 6 volt 1800 mA power supply through a DIN connection and into the ship. I chose not to light up the warp engines with LightSheet because I can’t stand the high pitched whine of the LightDrive. However, if I could do it again I would choose to include this on a separate circuit because the light scheme seems incomplete to me now.

All the electronics were assembled and tested before anything was glued together. Then I had to cut many of the wires so that I could construct the model. I built the ship in subassemblies: the secondary hull and neck, the warp engines, and the primary hull. This allowed for ease of painting and decaling with what I hoped would be only minor touchups upon final assembly.

As everyone knows the most time consuming part of any Star Trek model is the painting. The Enterprise A is probably the most complicated of all the Star Trek models because of the detail and complexity of the actual studio model. I spent many hours looking at pictures of the studio model and figuring out exactly how I was going to paint this beast. After many failed paint tests on a piece of scrap sheet styrene I finally realized that my base color was wrong. While the studio model was painted Pearlescent White for Star Trek: The Motion Picture it was repainted several times afterward. The Enterprise A is in fact not a white ship. It is actually many various shades of gray. With that realization I was able to develop a proper base coat by mixing a little of Testor’s Model Master Aircraft Gray and Light Gray together. All the rest of the paneling was done with slight modifications from this base color.

For the myriad of panels and colors I chose not to do any masking because the contrast is too harsh. I instead made templates on index cards based on the small shapes found on the actual studio model. This template was then used to cover the secondary hull, neck, and warp engines with different colored panels. The same process was used to create templates for the Aztec Pattern on the primary hull. The very complicated painting around the connecting dorsal and the navigational deflector array took the longest of all the painting because of the complexity and number of colors used. All painting was done before final assembly.

Decals were applied next using a mixture between the kit decals and aftermarket decals from  DLM, and Federation Models. When these were dry they were sealed with a dull coat and allowed to dry.

The final assembly process was the most nerve wracking of the whole affair and I found that getting the warp engines glued on properly and not sagging was extremely difficult. Next time I’ll remember to add some kind of reinforcement for strength.

After everything was assembled I filled seams and completed touchups and then let it all dry. Then with great anticipation I flipped the switch and my Enterprise blazed to life in all her glory. Despite a few things I would do differently if I had it to do over I’m very happy with my Enterprise A and I hope you like it too.

Sean Wills

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