Archive for September, 2010

First Pilot Enterprise–Finished!

Posted in First Pilot on September 24, 2010 by gregk1

And here are some shots of my completed model. Despite having built two of these kits before (one in Production configuration–labeled as U.S.S. Lexington, NCC-1709, and the other in First Pilot configuration–labeled as U.S.S. Constitution, NCC-1700), this build served as a major learning curve.

Some areas are a bit rough, but this build was very valuable, and helped me to refine my techniques. My second pilot model was much more successful because of the experience I had with this one. And I daresay that this is one of the most accurate first pilot models ever done–but there’s always room for debate and improvement. I hope my work inspires others to make even more discoveries about this legendary ship and the models that represented her!

Feel free to use these photos as reference and/or inspiration for your own first pilot Enterprise builds! Good luck!

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome, and I’ll be happy to update the information and tips in this blog as new information and discoveries about the original model(s) are made! Thanks!


Decals and Details

Posted in First Pilot on September 24, 2010 by gregk1

After your model has been glosscoated, you can apply the kit’s waterslide decals. It’s helpful to have a spare decal sheet or two handy, and they can be purchased directly from Round 2.

The stock decals and the instructions for applying them to make a first pilot model are essentially correct out-of-box.

However, here are a few tips which will allow for a more accurate first pilot model.

* The first pilot Enterprise had no electronics or internal illumination of any kind. As a result, all of the windows were painted dark gray (depicted as black in the kit decals, which is fine for the scale). Thus, the kit decals for the first pilot model are very accurate. Only the following minor modifications are needed to accurize the window patterns for this version:

On decal # 30, trim off and discard the windows marked in the photo with red “x”es before applying to your model:

On decals # 37 and 38, trim off and discard the windows marked in the photo with red “x”es before applying to your model:

* Decal # 36A is incorrect for the first pilot version, since it depicts three white/”illuminated” portholes on the saucer bow edge. These should be black. There are aftermarket decals from PNT Models and other vendors online which provide the correct black windows. Or, if you have a spare decal sheet, trim an extra window from decal # 36, and add it to the center of another decal # 36 so you have three black portholes.

Of course, since the portside of the real model was unfinished and never shown on-camera, one must decide how to handle the weathering and window patterns for that side. I chose to make the window patterns symmetrical for both sides of my model.

* The impulse engine decal (# 18) features the two black vents and the black “dot”/window between them, as on the production version. Reference material for this area on the 11-footer at the time of the first pilot is, to date, not available. The three-footer did not have the dot, but it did have the vents. And, the “Pilot 1.5” version–which we’ll soon discuss–appears to have had it.

I left the dot on my first pilot build, but I may have to paint over it if better reference material ever comes out and reveals that it wasn’t there during the first pilot. Use your best judgment when it comes to this question area!

* The triangular markings on the underside of the saucer in the first pilot were dark gray pinstriped outlines, with no fill color and no raised rib at the base of each triangle. I used PNT’s aftermarket triangle decals for my models, carefully trimming out the medium gray fill color. One could also create custom decals for this detail, as well.

* In the first pilot, the bridge dome on the upper saucer had a decorative red pinstripe running horizontally around the base of the dome. I used part of a spare # 13 decal–trimmed to size–for this detail.

*Finally, there’s one detail of the first pilot model that has been pretty much unknown until recently–the saucer did indeed have tiny faux navigation lights–red and green, at 3:00 and 9:00, on both upper and lower saucer. The three-foot model definitely had these lights in its original, first pilot-configuration, and reference materials indicate that the 11-footer did, too.

The upper saucer’s “lights” survived to the production version, and the larger, blinking lights were added right next to them for the second pilot.

There were similar red and green faux lights on top of each engine nacelle, right in front of the louvered rings.

To add this detail, I applied four small drops of Micro Krystal Kleer with a toothpick to the appropriate spots. When they dried, I then painted them with red (port side) and green (starboard side).

When all is said and done, you’ll probably want to seal your decals on the model with dullcote, which will also give the model the correct flat finish. Again, be sure to mask off the front nacelle domes and leave them glossy (something I forgot to do for my first pilot model). Also, be sure to use a good decal setting agent and kill those air bubbles under the decals–my models’ decals have suffered from some “silvering”, although I’m getting better at applying the decals each time, and thus minimizing this problem.

First Pilot Painting and Weathering

Posted in First Pilot on September 24, 2010 by gregk1

Once you’ve constructed your model to your satisfaction, you’ll probably want to paint it, since the stock kit wouldn’t look too great without those detail colors!

The base color of the Enterprise has been a topic of great debate for many years. Due to varying film stocks, optical composites, and TV reception/video transfers, the ship has looked gray, white, silver, blue, and green over the years.

After much research, the color of the original 11-foot miniature was pretty much pinned down several years ago–it was a gray-green-ish color.

Of course, feel free to paint your model any color you wish! But, for those seeking accuracy to the original, there are a number of choices. Since my 1/1000 scale kit would require a lighter color than the original used for the 11-footer (due to the smaller scale, the “real” color would look too dark), I chose Testors Flat Gull Gray (# 1730).

This is my preferred color for the 1/1000 scale model, since it has a nice light green-gray look, but also appears to be different shades of gray under different lighting conditions.

I used rattlecans for my models–although an airbrush would be preferable–with the details masked and hand-painted.

So, this would be the base color–apply to to the entire model (after primering), except for the clear upper and lower saucers domes and the rear secondary hull beacon–the one above the hangar deck(unless you want them to be opaque). For my model, I left the domes clear, and inserted an aftermarket bridge decal underneath the bridge dome as an homage to the opening shot of “The Cage”.

Here are the additional detail paint colors:

* The kit instructions call for two colors (Testors Dark Ghost Gray # 1741 and Gunship Gray # 1723) to be used for the highlights on the nacelles. My research indicates that only one shade of medium gray was used on the original model for the first pilot.

To that end, I used Dark Ghost Gray for all of the following areas:

* The two corrugated, rectangular vents on either side of the rear of each nacelle. These were actually hull-colored on the original model (with darker gray paint in the recesses), but painting them helps with the scale effect.

* The inboard nacelle “channels”. Recently, it was discovered that only the center section of the channel (and not the sloped top and bottom sections) were painted a darker color than the main hull.

* The two intercoolers on the rear of each nacelle and on the inner trench should be two-toned–hull color for the main body (to the edges of the raised ribs), and a very light, almost-white gray from the curved front/rear ends.

* The T-shaped panels on the underside of each nacelle.

* The louvered rings just aft of the front nacelle domes. These were actually hull-colored on the original model (with weathering), but painting them helps with the scale effect By simulating shadows in the recesses.

As for the nacelle domes themselves, they were opaque in the first pilot, and painted with a reddish color. The antenna spikes are painted gold.

I’ve found that a good color for the domes is a 70-30 or so mix of Testors Dark Red # 1204 and Rust # 1185.

Be sure to leave the domes glossy, as well, if you’re planning on sealing the decals with dullcote at the end of the build.

Also, the rear nacelle endcaps were the base/hull color in the first pilot.

* In the first pilot, the main sensor/deflector dish–and the rings behind it, at the forward end of the secondary hull–were painted a deep copper-rust color. My preferred choice for this area is a 60-40 mix of Testors Copper # 1151 and Rust # 1185. The antenna spike should be painted silver or chrome.

* The entire connecting dorsal and the “linear accelerator” on the upper saucer (part # 42 on the kit) were painted a metallic blue-ish color for the first pilot, and the dorsal seems to have had a glossy look to it. The impulse engine housing (kit part 3) was a very light gray–almost white.

For my build, I mixed some Light Blue (# 1208) with the base color (Flat Gull Gray).

While some may prefer a clean Enterprise, the first pilot model featured some heavy weathering. References materials are somewhat scarce. The best source of visual info for the weathering on the upper saucer is the famous opening zoom-in shot of the first pilot. The deflector dish and nacelle domes were also weathered with blotches of gray/black/rust, and there are some distinctive streaks in various spots (such as a rust-colored streak underneath the pennant on the starboard secondary hull, which appears on all three versions of the model).

The original model was subtly discolored with patches and streaks of green, rusty brown, and gray/black. The weathering on my model was done with ground-up pastel chalks–green, rusty brown, gray, and black. It was built up layer by layer, with subtle blending and streaking of the pastel powders, and a slight misting of the base color over the model to make the weathering more subtle.

The trick to the weathering is to take it slow–study your reference material, add in the most obvious streaks and color blotches, then just eyeball the rest (without overdoing it). Feel free to use the photos of my models that I’ll be posting as a guide for your own weathering!

After painting and weathering, apply a gloss coat to seal everything down and prepare for decaling.

First Pilot Model Construction

Posted in First Pilot on September 23, 2010 by gregk1

As previously noted, the basis for my builds is the Polar Lights 1/1000 scale U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 kit, originally released in 2003. Round 2 models has since reissued the model, which is still available in stores.

The current version of the kit from Round 2 is number PLO803, and the box art differs slightly from the Polar Lights version. Aside from that, both versions are essentially the same.

Although the Polar Lights kit builds into a fine model out of the box, the goal of this little project of mine is super-detailing and super-accuracy. However, feel free to construct your model any way you like!

But, for those seeking super-accuracy to the original filming model, here are some basic tips for construction and modification of the stock kit parts. These subtle-but-important changes will allow one to build a much closer approximation of the first pilot version of the Enterprise.

While the stock kit is an excellent representation of the real model, the fact that this is a “three in one” kit means that building the kit stock will cause the model to have some “wrong” features, no matter which version you’re building. For example, the molded-in running lights on the lower saucer are exclusive to the second pilot version, so any other version you build would feature this incorrect detail, unless you removed it.

(click on photos to enlarge)


The upper and lower saucer need a few modifications. The port/starboard running light holes on both parts need to be filled and sanded smooth–the first pilot ship didn’t have these lights, so don’t install them.

Also, due to a quirk in the mold, the B/C deck structure on the upper saucer has a slightly raised “lip” on the upper front edge, which can prevent the bridge dome from sitting flush. This needs to be sanded down to achieve both the proper fit and the proper look.

As for the lower saucer:

* The copyright information needs to be sanded off.

* The molded-in running light on the bow edge needs to be removed.

* The three tabs on the base of the lower sensor dome mounting ring need to be removed.

* The raised ribs at the base of each engraved triangle need to be removed, and the triangles filled in and sanded smooth (these markings were not etched on the original model). (REVISION–As it turns out, the markings WERE etched on the original model, so don’t fill them.)

* The molded-in running lights at 4:00 and 7:00 need to be removed, as this detail represents the SECOND pilot version. Also, two sets of three shallow dimples should be added in these spots. The position of each molded-in running light represents the middle of each set of  three dimples.

If you’re a serious modeler, then the sticker sheets that come with the kit are useless, since you’ll use the supplied waterslide decals. However, a  good way to add the missing dimples–and make use of the sticker sheets–is to take  stickers 36 and 36A (the sets of three round windows which go on the bow saucer edge–the stock decals/stickers 32 and 33 are too small and inaccurate), place them on the saucer, and use them as templates for cutting, filing, or drilling the dimples. Just be sure to align the stickers so that the middle port is positioned where the molded-in running light used to be.

* The impulse engine housing should be completely smooth–removed the crosshatched texture and fill the scribed lines.

* On the clear lower saucer sensor dome, gently scribe shallow lines across the surface, from 12:00 to 6:00, 9:00 to 3:00, 10:30 to 4:30, and 7:30 to 1:30.


* The scribed lines on the sides of the connecting dorsal should be filled in and sanded smooth.

* The two raised ribs and scribed panel on the port/starboard “deflector forks” should be removed.


* On each of the clear front endcaps, the three rectanglular shields are slightly misshapen. Check reference photos, subtly reshape them, and the change the angle of the front edge of each shield.

* It should also be noted that there’s a slight alignment problem with the nacelle endcaps. The outer edges of the rectangular shields should line up perfectly with the edges of the gray-colored “T” panel on the underside of each nacelle.

However, as is indicated by the green line in the photo below, the T-shaped panels are slightly larger than the width of the endcap shields.

In terms of accuracy, the scribed T-panels should be filled and sanded smooth, anyway. However, to address this problem, one can either remove the alignment tabs on the endcap pieces so as to slightly adjust the positioning of the caps on the nacelles, or one can mask and paint the T-panels with a slightly thinner width than the scribed originals, so that they don’t “bleed” beyond the edges of the shields.

* On the inboard nacelle pieces, remove the raised “dots” on the intercooler heads, and fill in the scribed “T” panels on the forward ends (fill them on the outboard sides, as well).

* Remove the raised ribs from all of the intercoolers. REVISION–This is incorrect. The “rollout” version of the 11-footer lacked ribs, but all three versions of the model as filmed had them.

* To depict the three-foot model, use the stock first pilot nacelle endcaps, with the rectangular plate detailing. To depict the 11-footer, remove this detail, and sand the endcaps smooth.


* You may wish to discard the stock display stand. I prefered to drill a hole in the bottom of the secondary hull and inserted a small brass tube which would serve as a sleeve for a smaller brass tube that would fit into a simple wooden plaque/base.

* Since this is intended as a snap-fit kit, you may want to lightly sand some of the pegs and connectors for a looser, more controllable fit if you’re gluing/filling the parts.

* The best way to attach the nacelles onto the pylons is to do some minor sanding of the pylon tabs (for a looser fit), then snap-fit/glue only the INBOARD nacelle halves onto the pylons. The nacelles can be held in place by wrapping a rubber band around the nacelle halves to keep them aligned while the glue dries. Once this assembly is solidly glued, then attach the outer nacelle halves.

First Pilot Overview

Posted in First Pilot on September 23, 2010 by gregk1
The Starship Enterprise as seen in the first pilot episode.

The Starship Enterprise as seen in the first pilot episode.


While “The Cage”, the original STAR TREK pilot episode, was filmed in 1964, work began on the ambitious visual effects needed to tell the story. Matt Jefferies’ blueprints were used to create the 33″ study model of the U.S.S. Enterprise. After approval, the go-ahead was given to construct the 11-foot “hero” version. Richard C. Datin supervised construction of the Enterprise, which took place over several rushed weeks, with the final model being delivered on December 29, 1964.

However, due to the time-crunch in getting the visual effects completed, the smaller, 3-foot model was used for the bulk of visual effects shots in the pilot. The 11-footer ended up being used in only one shot–the classic opening  in which the camera zooms over the ship and dives into the bridge, beginning the story. It should also be noted that this version of the ship was suspended by a wire for filming, and was shot against black instead of bluescreen. This would be especially useful in terms of the optical compositing, since the connecting dorsal was painted a glossy blue color at this time, and would probably have created a “hole” in the matte if the model had been shot against a blue background.

This first incarnation of the Enterprise has been, perhaps, the most elusive to study in detail, since reference materials for that era are scarce, and the model itself appears in only one shot in the episode. However, the three-footer also provides useful information, since there are a great many details shared by both models.

It should be noted that the big model, while built static and without any internal lighting effects, was still incomplete on the port side, as it would remain later on. Also, the aft nacelle endcaps were smooth and featureless, since it was apparently deemed unnecessary to add detail for a shot in which detail would not be seen. However, the construction blueprints, the 33-inch model, and the Polar Lights kit feature rectangular plates on the endcaps.

A long-debated aspect of this version is the weathering. For many years, it was believed that the Enterprise was clean (and maybe even painted with a glossy finish) in both pilots. After all of my research, I can hopefully put this misconception to rest. The first pilot Enterprise was indeed weathered–rather extensively, as it happens. But this particular weathering pattern was mostly eliminated or altered for the later versions.

This first version of the ship is rather austere in appearance. Indeed, it seems  that when the model was first delivered, it was very, very plain–the only markings were the pennants and registries, and there was no weathering. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry insisted on more detail, and so a variety of technical markings were added to various areas. The “space weathering” was added to give the ship a sense of history, since Roddenberry envisioned it as being perhaps even several decades old at the time of the pilot.  The model also featured the enlarged bridge/sensor dish and spiked, opaque nacelle domes that are the most obvious hallmarks of the two pilot versions.

After the pilot was rejected by NBC, a second pilot was commissioned, and so came the opportunity to add more detail–and lighting effects–to the model. But we’ll get to that later!


Posted in First Pilot on September 22, 2010 by gregk1

“Space, the final frontier…”



In the nearly 50(!) years since its debut, the original STAR TREK television series has had a substantial impact upon popular culture. The iconography of this once-failed series has made an indelible impression–the characters. The uniforms. The props. The sets. The music. The sounds. The stories.

But one element of the series, more than nearly any other, has captured countless imaginations, and has become a symbol for TREK, space exploration, and science fiction in general.

That element, of course, is the U.S.S. Enterprise.

The brainchild of series creator Gene Roddenberry, the Enterprise is very much a character in the TREK canon–she serves as home to our heroes, and takes them from one adventure to another. The Enterprise is a Constitution-class Starship–one of 12 such vessels in the United Federation of Planets’ Starfleet, and bears the registry number NCC-1701. A vessel of peace which is also ready for war, the Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, blazes a trail through the farthest reaches of the galaxy as she explores strange, new worlds and voyages beyond the limits of imagination.

It is not at all an exaggeration to say that the Starship Enterprise is easily the most beloved and famous vessel in the history of space exploration–real OR fictional.

Designed by Walter M.–“Matt”–Jefferies, the ship was realized in the form of two physical models. The first was a 33-inch study version, which ended up being used in several episodes. The second was an 11-foot-long “hero” model used for the bulk of visual effects shots. Donated to the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum several years after the cancellation of STAR TREK, the 11-footer has become something of a sacred relic for fans.

There have been countless representations of the ship–toys, model kits, plushies, balloons, you name it. The design has influenced a generation of artists and designers–so much so that variations–conscious or not–of Jefferies’ Primary Hull/Secondary Hull/Engine Nacelles concept have appeared across a wide range of media.

And, of course, the original design–and the original physical models–have been endlessly studied and copied by artists and hobbyists over the span of nearly five decades.

…which brings us to the point of all this.

Like a great many TREK fans, I was long ago bitten by the Enterprise “bug”. For many years, it has been a goal of mine to possess a super-accurate model of the ship. While there have been several plastic model kits over the years, they’ve mostly been fraught with inaccuracies–as least when compared to the 11-foot “hero” model that now rests at the NASM.

There’s also the Master Replicas “studio-scale” model, which reproduced the 11-foot model’s details (including the lighting effects) at the size of the three-footer. However, this limited-edition piece is expensive, has a few inaccuracies of its own, and suffers from a few of the inevitable ills that come from being a mass-produced item.

For my purposes, I settled upon the excellent 1/1000 scale snap-fit model kit of the Enterprise, originally released by Polar Lights in 2003, recently reissued by Round 2 Models.

Although it’s small (about 11″ long), and a mere snap-fit kit (which can still be glued and finished like a more advanced model), this is the single best commercial kit of the Enterprise ever produced–although it should be noted that rumors of a 1/350 scale (33″) kit have been swirling around for several years, now.

Now, I’m not exactly a pro model-builder. But, in 2007, I went into this determined to fulfill a longtime dream–to build all THREE versions of the original 11-foot model:

* First (rejected) pilot episode, “The Cage”

* Second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

* Series Production

Each version of the ship features its own unique details and charm, since the design was tinkered with several times before series production began. The PL/R2 model kit provides optional parts and decals for all three versions. I planned on using each pilot build-up as practice for my eventual, production-era Enterprise–my ultimate attempt at capturing that elusive dream!

But building them out-of-box wasn’t good enough.

I launched myself into obsessive research–trying to pin down every last detail of the 11-foot model as it appeared in both pilots and the series–from 1964-1969. Really, though, this is the culmination of YEARS of research and planning.

I’ve had many discussions about the most arcane details of the model on various message boards, spoken with experts, and am proud to say I’ve made a few brand-new (so far as I know) discoveries of my own.

I have completed my first and second pilot models. All that remains is the production version, the one I’ve been waiting for all these years.

The purpose of this blog is partly to show off the results of my work.

But the REAL purpose is to provide a resource–a wellspring of information all collected in one spot, which will give model-makers plenty of tips and information which might serve to help them with their own “Enterprise Projects”.

Although the photographs and building tips in the blog will be focused on the 1/1000 snap-fit kit, the information regarding detailing, paint colors, etc. can pretty much be applied to any model of the ship which one is attempting to build, big or small.

Stay tuned.

“Knowledge, sir, should be free to all!”

– Harry Mudd