Container spaceship


Sr Member
This project was started way back in 2016 and was inspired by a spaceship design I found in a Hobby Japan magazine .
A reader of my blog reminded me that it appeared back in the August 1991 issue which is when I made a blow up photocopy of the picture and filed it away in a display book for a future project. It believe it was designed for an anime featuring the Tomy Z-Knights range of toys.

I really liked the design of the container ship which is like a giant version of an Eagle transporter and wanted to make something like it.

I happened to have a couple of turrets from two Italeri M108 kits which I always thought would make a good spaceship front when put together on their side.
So cutting these up and spacing the bits apart I could make something do the job intending on keeping the 1/35 scale.





Of course the size of the windows makes the scale much smaller than the sketch would suggest but as in my usual way I am making my own ship with that sketch as inspiration, which means I can do what I like and more importantly with what I have on hand.
The project was all very experimental at this stage as I had no idea what I was going to use for the truss that connects the front to the engines and hold the containers in place.
I was also unsure exactly what I will use for the containers, though at this point I was considering plastic index card boxes.

At the same time I started on an engine section which on a recent re-evaluation of the project I decided to rplaxce with a new structure. I found the original engine section just didn't sit well in proportion with the cockpit section so it has been abandoned but may re-appear on some future project. Below you can see that abandoned engine module which was close to completion.





Some 10 months later in 2017 I did a bit more work on the project getting the engine section you can see above to that nearly complete state and also modifying the cockpit/bridge module by cutting it horizontally and making it taller, leaving space for a detail trench. This improved the proportions somewhat making it more like the inspiration design. I also completed the surface detailing phase.






The red pipes are some copper single core electrical wire and there is a number of bits from disposable cameras in the channel.



Around this time I was also was looking around for some container like shapes for the middle section and as it happened I found these Index card holders which were on clearance at my local Officeworks for $3.00 each.
I got 5 and they were pretty much just the right shape for hanging under the eventual truss work.
I guess nobody uses index cards any more with their function taken up by computer software, hence they were getting rid of the remaining stock cheap.


I was still looking around for some way to make the truss.
At the time I figured it will probably be brass silver soldered together and that I woukld have to make a jig to align all the pieces.
I also needed to find a cheap supply of brass tube the appropriate diameter.

Maybe a year later my local ALDI supermarket had one of their most bizarre special buys, 1 metre long 8mm diameter steel tube, four lengths to a packet.
I purchased all they had and all the other closest store had. Finally I had the material I thought would be suitable to make the truss.
Despite this fortuitous find the project lay dormant until now, 2021.

To be continued...


Sr Member
Before tackling the truss I started building a new engine section.
Looking again at the original concept art that sparked the project I decided to mimic the three cylindrical engine arrangement that attaches to a truncated triangle shaped box. I had almost enough PVC plumbing parts already to hand to make the engines.
Arranging the tri-layout of the engines in LibreCAD a free open source 2D CAD program, then gave me the dimensions for the truncated triangle box section.


Below you can see the Pvc engines roughly taped together and the rest of the raw components laid out to get an idea of the relative size of everything together. In the middle are the index car boxes I am going to use as containers. Two lengths of the 1 metre long tube are placed on top where the truss will go.



There will be space for six containers but I only have five so I am thinking of making a tank pod for some variation, an idea inspired by the Hunter Gratzner spaceship from the movie Pitch Black shown below.


The engines will have the usual MR16 12 volt Led downlights mounted in them which fit into a PVC pipe concrete slab repair fitting which in turn fit into a 90mm to 65mm down pipe adaptor with some strips of 2mm styrene glued to the inside.
First a piece of masking tape was adhered to the inside surface and marked where it overlapped.
This was then removed, measured and then divided into the number of strips required, marked out and returned to the inside surface.
The marks from the tape where then transferred to the PVC adapter to guide the placement of the strips which are held in place with a drop or two of thin superglue.





The inner PVC fitting is a nice tight fit once pressed in from the back with the strips holding it firmly. The Led downlights will then get superglued into the interior. I beveled the inner edge of the fitting so the lamps will fit down flush.

Guide marks where also applied to the other end of the engines for future placement of panels. As an alternative to the masking tape method I have a small piece of chipboard marked out with circles and radiating divisions I can use to mark out cylindrical forms. To use it I draw a circle with a compass just slightly wider than the diameter of the object I want to mark out, then centre the object using the guide circle just drawn and then mark of the required divisions.



The truncated triangle shaped box was built from 2mm styrene and a series of three short lengths of PVC pipe glued to the back wall to locate the engines in the correct position.




Visible in the picture above and below is a toggle switch so the engines can be turned off separately from the cockpit lighting.


Then the engines were detailed with kit parts, evergreen textured sheet and single solid core copper wiring for piping.
I searched through my kit part stash for any parts that I had in multiples of three so each engine could be similarly detailed.
There is still some paneling work to do.
In the picture below you can see the ends of all the copper wire piping poking through drilled holes in the PVC parts.
The end down pipe adapter which is the engine nozzle will remain removable to get access to the lighting connectors.


The truncated triangle box has also been detailed with kit parts and evergreen textured sheet. The picture below shows the bottom surface which is detailed differently to the two upper sides which are mirrored.



The inner face of the engine box has a panel with cutouts made from 2mm styrene and a central circular hatch to access the wiring.
I first drew the shape for the panel in Librecad, printed it out full size and stuck it on the styrene for cutting out.
All the radiuses were drilled out first with a step drill.
I put a dot on my CAD drawing at the centre point of all the radiuses to guide the drilling step.
The hatch is held in place with a kitchen cabinet magnet.



To be continued...


Sr Member
The old cockpit section now seemed too small for the new engine design so I made another truncated triangle box to join to the rear of the cockpit section. It was made in much the same way as the rear box. I also sprayed the old cockpit with primer as it is essentially finished bar the interior. In the photos below I have temporarily clamped a couple of the steel tubes in place to see how it is all coming together.
I have also decided to reduce the scale from 1/35 to 1/48 which makes the bridge section more roomier and makes it the same scale as a couple of my other completed spaceship projects such as the Corelian Cruiser Resilient.









Unfortunately I only left a small hatch to get access to the cockpit which is going to make fitting out the interior extremely fiddly and frustrating. What a maroon.


The next part of the story concerns the making of the truss.

To be continued...
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Legendary Member
You're the Greeblie King. I love the way you've put that model together. The mix of the busy with the empty is quite pleasing.
The paint job will be also key! Keep up the great work;)


Sr Member
Thanks for the encouraging comments, I really appreciate them. What I really like is answering questions so if you have any don't hesitate to ask.

Now to push on with the most difficult part of the build, the truss.
It's only difficult in that it is metalwork and I am not used to doing so much of it for my projects, normally working in plastics specifically Styrene, ABS and Acrylic.

Once I had the stash of ALDI 8mm tube and all the major components for the spaceship laid out I designed up a truss in LibreCAD.


I needed some way to hold all the truss tubes in position while they get silver soldered (silver brazed).
I considered small welding magnets but found they had a plastic part that would more than likely melt under the sustained heat of the propane torch I was going to use.
In the end I decided a steel jig was required and I needed a milling machine to make it.
Lucky for me I currently work in a machine shop and was allowed some time on the mill to knock something up.

Below you can see the result which is a slab of mild steel with 6mm wide slots 2mm deep machined into it. Then later at home I used a hole saw to cut away the area of the jig where the torch flame would need to heat the mating surfaces of the tube. In the CAD drawing above you can see a small cross section where the 8mm tube locates in the 6mm slot and only touches on the edges, hopefully minimising heat transfer from the tube to the jig.




A clamping plate was made in the same way out of thinner material and without the slots.
The slotted plate had four holes drilled and tapped for some clamping cap screws.

The tubes were cut to length in the mini lathe using a live centre as a length gauge.
My high speed steel parting tool is 1mm thick and is mounted upside down so the lathe runs in reverse to part off.
I used a little water soluble oil coolant squirted on from a spray bottle to ease the cutting.



The next problem to tackle was a mini tube notcher to "fish-mouth" all the mating tubes some at 90 degrees and the others at 59 degrees.
I figured I could use an 8mm end mill in the chuck of my mini lathe and make a tool post mounted jig to hold the tubes in position while the notch is cut.
The jig had an adjustable end stop, with an 8mm diameter spigot which would align the previously fish-mouthed end of a tube with the cutting of the other end.
I made up two of these end stops, one for the straight cuts and one for the angled cuts.
The main body of the jig is a piece od 25mm square brass with a chunk of bronze bolted on that gets clamped in the tool post.
The 8mm through hole was done by mounting the blank brass holder in the tool post and drilling through with the drill mounted in the chuck so the centre height would be correct for eventually cutting the fish-mouths.



Once the tube was locked into the jig by nipping up the cap screw the carbide cutter was run up to around 2800 rpm and the carriage was then wound left towards the cutter .The mini lathe is not the most rigid of machines so I could only cut 1mm at a time so it took about 4 passes to cut to full depth. Once one side was fish-mouthed all the ends were de-burred by lightly running the sharp edge around on a sanding disk.

The depth of the cut was adjusted with the cross slide and by setting the dial to zero at full cut. Each full rotation of the cross slide handwheel and the dial is 1mm depth. To make sure I didn't lose where I was with the depth and to make all the tubes the same I marked a line in white fine paint pen on the cross slide base.


The angled cuts where done in the same way using the same straight end stop for the first end swapping over to the angled end stop for the other end. The desired angle of 31 degrees was achieved by rotating the compound slide and locking it in position.





It took a couple of days to cut to length and fish-mouth all the tubes for the sides of the truss.

The silver soldering process could then begin by fitting the tubes into the jig and clamping it down.
In the picture below you can see the jig in position holding all the parts ready for the propane torch. General Purpose Silver Brazing flux has been applied to all the joints though I found it was better to be extremely liberal with it than the stingy amount shown below.
The second picture below shows the result after soldering (brazing).
The propane torch was applied to the joints heating the tubes to just on cherry red and the silver solder applied making sure the capillary action drew it along and around the joint.
The cap screws could now be unbolted and the jig moved along so the last soldered upright locates the next position, to be repeated for the full length of the truss.
Note that the jig parts are pretty hot at this point so I used pliers to grip everything while repositioning.



Once it was underway I realised it would be better to have an even number of bays in the final truss so added some to the long tubes with a small insert of mild steel rod ( made from old bolts) inserted to hold the extra bits in position.
The extra length allows for a centre section that will hide the model support structure and locate the 12 volt power connectors.

To be continued...
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Sr Member
Once the two sides were made I then had to join them together with cross members.
The cross members needed an extra notch cut at 90 degrees to the main fish-mouth as they had to join at a junction of an existing upright tube. This notch also had to be slightly angled as the truss is trapezoid in cross section, angled in for the bottom cross member and out at the top, see the CAD drawing for what I mean.
The picture below shows one of the bottom cross members receiving that secondary notch at 90 degrees to the main one.


I was worried that I would need another jig to hold the sides at the correct angle but found that I could clamp the sides together with four cross members temporarily in position using a protractor to set the correct angle. Four small welding spring clamps at the top and a a couple of regular C clamps at the bottom held sufficiently to solder a couple of cross members at each end and then the whole thing was locked into position.
All I had to do was then snap the remaining cross member into position and solder them up.

As I was only using propane as a heating source I had to use the lowest melting point silver solder.
Unfortunately that is the one that has the greatest silver content and is consequently rather expensive.
I used 5 lengths of 1.6mm rod which when I purchased it some years ago was around $100 AUS dollars.
It is now even more expensive than that.
Conversely I also did the whole lot with a 1.25 KG gas bottle using a medium sized burner on the torch though the larger burner would have been better as it allows for a wider area to get up to temperature quicker.

The hearth I used was just 4 lightweight auto-claved aerated concrete blocks known here in Australia as Hebel.
I have found them very good for this job as they are very good insulators and they can be easily reconfigured depending on what you are heating.



A couple of steel plates were soldered to the ends for attaching the modules. M4 button head cap screws screw into an 8mm block of PVC glued to the top of the modules to secure them in place. I also added a couple of strips of steel either side of the centre cross member of the truss to attach a 15mm water pipe flange which will be part of the model support structure.

Before I started I was concerned that the truss may end up twisted once finished as I had no way of keeping the whole length aligned as I soldered.
In the end It came out reasonably well with a slight banana curve in the vertical direction which probably wont be noticed when the model is complete. The rear end where I added the extra length, curves up the most which meant the engine section did not mount at precisely 90 degrees.
That was solved by adding a 1mm strip of styrene as a packer on the back edge of the mounting block.
Now it sits nicely perpendicular.

The next task which was to clean off all the flux and scale using water, steel wool and assorted wire brushes. I then primed it with a zinc auto primer as it started showing signs of rust.






The picture above shows the model support made from water pipe fittings. All the parts were tightened up with the addition of some threadlocker.
There is a bottom mount and a two side mounts in case I ever manage to build a motion control camera ( a long term goal) and want to film the underside of the model unobstructed.
There will be a central styrene box built around the mounting which is still to come.


All in all it took a solid six days to complete this truss and it is incredibly strong. I can easily stand on it without any deflection what so ever.

This is where the model currently stands.
There is still a lot of work to do, particularly cladding the index card holders as there is 5 of them to do and it will be a pretty repetitive process. Ideally I would like to laser cut a series of panels but I can't afford a laser cutter nor can I afford to get it done by a third party so its is going to have to be a lot manual labour.
Just going to have to push through my natural procrastination and get on with it.

Thanks for looking.
To be continued...
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Sr Member
very inventive build you have going on here - I'm hooked! The head section has an Event Horizon feel to it and I love it
I also really enjoyed your explanation and technique for the engines, so one day when I stop making just plain model kits and start scratch building things, that will be of enormous help
Looking forward to seeing more of this fantastic creation of yours as it comes along


Legendary Member
Wow, you're not only the Greeblie King but you can also know your ways around a latheo_O:cool::cool: Those trusses are a work of careful though, fans of Space 1999 will ask you to build a few for the Eagle model:p


Sr Member
Joberg those Space 1999 fans are outa' luck. I dont plan to be going near building another truss for some time to come.


Sr Member
Joberg those Space 1999 fans are outa' luck. I dont plan to be going near building another truss for some time to come.
I am in awe of your ingenious truss jig. Absolutely awesome alignment perfection on a model. Exact airframe tubing cluster used on many light aircraft fuselage frames. Really like the design.

However, needless to say, we did not use this method for our winter home built aircraft hanger projects. Chalk marks on the hanger floor. We did get dimensions correct by trammeling similar to wing ribs, but that was after chrome moly welding the tubing cluster joints.


Sr Member
Have to agree with the other comments on your work on the truss. Exceptional piece of work.
And the whole project is fantastic too.

Now if I can learn to solder like that....................


Sr Member
Fantastic project! Thank you for sharing - I appreciate your step-by-step reveal of your process and the build. Fascinating!
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