Enterprise NX-01 Refit 1:500 scale - 3D printed <UPDATE: Completed - pics on 2nd page>

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Bloop

Well-Known Member
I've been wanting to build a model of the NX-01 refit for awhile, but the Polar Lights 1:1000 scale kit seemed too small, and the 1:350 scale a bit too large, not to mention that it's unavailable (unless you pay through the nose) and didn't include any parts to convert it to the refit version. So I decided to buy a 3D printer so I could try my hand at making custom models and other doodads. This thread will chronicle my foray into 3D printing, and the learning process it's been for me.

EDIT: here's a couple pics of the NX-01 Refit, with the secondary hull, in case you're not familiar. It was a concept that was planned to be added if "ST: Enterprise" got an additional season.

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I bought the Creality Ender 3 3D printer. It made a lot of site's "best" lists, specifically for the price - under $200 - and has good print volume, and quality. The NX-01 wasn't the first thing I printed, but it it was the largest thing I attempted.

I went through a lot of searching for the "best" NX-01 refit model I could find that was available to 3D print. A lot of models available sacrificed a lot of details in order to make the models "water-tight" and 3D printable. I found this one on thingiverse.com: Star Trek - Enterprise Columbia Class Refit Enterprise. It had a lot of detail that other models lacked, especially the panel lines. I spent a lot of time trying to cut up the model into pieces, so I could not only fit them on my print bed, but also make it easier to light the model. I also wanted to minimize the amount of printed supports that are required when 3D printing complex objects, because that just adds to the total print time.

I originally planned to print the entire model in clear PLA, much like the clear Enterprise D model I had seen. I wanted to light the model and thought it would be the easiest way. I did a test print of part of the upper part of the saucer section. This was before I settled on 1:500 scale. I originally didn't decide on a specific scale, I just scaled the saucer as big as it would fit on the Ender 3's 235 x 235 mm print bed area (220 x 220 mm "usable" area). After printing, I decided that it was still a bit small, and lost some of the finer details. I decided that 18" long would be a good size. Based on the "real" NX-01 length of 225 meters, I figured out that 18" long would be close to 1:500 scale. So I scaled the 3D model accordingly to be 450mm (about 17.7"), which is 1:500 scale. I switched to using black PLA for most parts, since I realized it might be more of a hassle to print entirely in clear. So now only the lighted parts of the model would be transparent, like the bussards, the blue part of the nacelles, and the saucer domes, among others.

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I had to redo how I originally cut up the saucer, since 1:500 was now too big to fit on the print bed. I also found out that printing vertically, as you can see in the pictures, actually allows for much better detail than when printing "flat," like the clear PLA printed test saucer. I was able to print the two sections of the saucer without supports, and at 0% fill, which cut down drastically on the print time. Even so, I think it was a good 24 hours to print the whole saucer. You can see the detail in these pics. I was pretty pleased with how things were going at this stage.

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I ran into an issue with the print, it ended up with a noticeable gap that I didn't think I could fill with putty. I ended up printing a small section of the saucer to replace the gap (more on that later).

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That's all for now. I'm actually quite a bit further along with this, but it'll take some time to get it all into this thread. I waited to post anything because it's been slow going for me and I didn't want to post until I felt like this was a "finish-able" project. Lots more to come!
 
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Bloop

Well-Known Member
Moving on from the saucer section, here's some of the other parts of the model, digitally cut up and printed. I tried to cut the parts where it would make sense, like the main deflector being separate for ease of printing, assembly, and painting. Some problems I've found with cutting up someone else's 3D model are that you can't always separate the parts as you like. You also run into "non-mainfold" parts, which can be fixed sometimes, but not always. I had parts that I tried to print that had holes and sections missing after running them through the slicer program. I use Ultimaker's Cura, though I tried other slicers to try to get those parts to print properly. I also use Meshmixer for cutting and scaling the parts, and Microsoft's 3D Builder to fix non-manifold parts.

The main deflector was problematic. Even when I managed to "repair" it for printing, it was still very thin, and pretty see-through (you can see in the pic with the flashlight behind it). I tried fattening it up, printing at 100% infill, but the model itself never was able to print solidly. But it was good enough that some Tamaya putty was able to save it.

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Here's another example of the difference in quality between printing horizontal (left) and vertical (right). I ended up not using these nacelles though. I wanted to print part of the nacelle in black PLA and the lighted part in clear, but ran into cutting problems again. So I re-printed the nacelles in clear, hoping I could black out the rest of the sufficiently with paint and primer. I had already printed the bussards in clear, and the aft parts in black. As I write this, I realize I could've tried to print the nacelles in both black and clear, by stopping the print and changing PLA spools, but I've already printed and assembled the nacelles, so that's something to try another time.

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Here's a few more parts - the wall behind the saucer's deflector, one of the domes, the area behind the main deflector, and the secondary hull. I originally thought there was supposed to be blue light behind the main deflector, like the saucer deflector, but it doesn't seem like that was the case from the pics I found online. I still though about adding it, since it IS just a concept ship, it didn't appear onscreen at any time, so I have some freedom to do what I want. But as of now, I just painted the clear part instead.

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brett m

New Member
Very cool project! I’ll be following along as you go to see how this progresses.

If you have questions about the ship, reach out to Doug Drexler on FB. It’s his design and that space dock shot is his render.
 

Bloop

Well-Known Member
Thanks guys, glad your interested in the project!

Moving back to the saucer, I knew 3D printing a model like this would involve lots of sanding and filling, so these pics show that process. I also had to redefine the panel lines, especially on the upper part of the saucer. Even though I printed at a larger scale than my test print, you can see in previous pics that the panel lines were still pretty shallow, and any paint would further reduce their appearance. At least they were present enough to give me a guide to work from. Sadly, my panel scribing skills are pretty weak. I didn't use a proper panel scribing tool, just small files, which worked pretty well, but I still have some wobbly lines here and there. I did some puttying and redid some of the worst looking ones, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. I haven't decided if I'll try to fix them up later or just leave them as is. I had also drilled out the windows in prep for the lighting.

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I mainly used Tamaya White putty, but I tried Bondo spot filler later on areas that needed more support. Part of the problem of my prints were due to a lack of thickness. I ran into problems like I mentioned above, with the deflector dish, where parts would be practically see-through in spots. The saucer also had issues with cracking, especially when I was doing a lot of sanding or heavy handling, like when trying to glue parts together. I also had this to deal with when I originally cracked open the saucer halves:

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"Stringing" is a fairly common problem that you can have with 3D printing, and I was learning about it as I went along. I haven't had the stringing problem anywhere near as bad as this in my more recent prints, fortunately. Anyway, cleaning out all those threads made me feel like I was cleaning out a pumpkin for Halloween.

For paint, I decided to use Krylon Fusion Paint & Primer. I already had a can of Matte Black, so I figured it was worth trying.I went with black to help with light blocking for when the lights are added. I had already used it on the interior side (after testing on a failed print piece to see if it would work okay. I decided on Matte Glacier Gray for my main color. From the research I did, the NX-01 Refit was lighter in color that the original, non-refit ship. I also wanted to have a color closer to the TOS Enterprise, since the NX-01 Refit was supposed to be a direct precursor to the Constellation class Starship.

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For some reason, the Matte Black came out very glossy. Maybe it was due to the hot weather, or the fact that I laid it on fairly thick, to try to fill in some of the print lines and imperfections. It doesn't really matter though, since it's just a primer coat that would be sanded down anyway. More filler and sanding lead to the last pic, with the Matte Glacier Gray being applied - it's not finished, obviously, but I wanted to hit it with the gray, since it's also primer. I'm pretty happy with it, color-wise as well as the matte finish, and the fast drying time of Krylon is always a plus for me (I'm pretty impatient).
 

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sapper36

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Hmm - So any chance you could print corrected nacelle struts for the 1:350 kit that'll let the nacelles get mounted straight?
 

Bloop

Well-Known Member
Very cool project! I’ll be following along as you go to see how this progresses.

If you have questions about the ship, reach out to Doug Drexler on FB. It’s his design and that space dock shot is his render.
Thanks for the info! I didn't realize that pic was his render. I had been pulling whatever pics I could find that looked accurate and detailed. I probably won't ask him anything, since I'm not going for 100% accuracy - and given my sloppy skills, I'm not entirely sure my finished product will be something I'd want him to see! But it's great to know it's possible to contact him.
 

Bloop

Well-Known Member
Hmm - So any chance you could print corrected nacelle struts for the 1:350 kit that'll let the nacelles get mounted straight?
In theory, yes, but I'm probably not the person that could do it. Since I didn't create the model, and my own 3D editing and modeling abilities aren't very advanced, I'm not the best at making precision parts. I'm pretty sure my own nacelles will be a little off (due to the process of cutting the model up for printing and gluing it together causing imperfect fitting), but hopefully not noticeably so.
I did think about buying the 1:350 kit and then 3D printing the secondary hull, and any upgrades that might be needed. But, for me, it made more sense to print the whole thing, and at a smaller scale.
 

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Bloop

Well-Known Member
OK, new update: Lighting!
I have to admit, I wasn't sure if my lighting plan would work. Instead of going the traditional model making route of buying a lighting kit, or getting led strips and fiber optics, I decided to go a different route (also cheaper) and buy some battery powered LED lights, the kind used for floral displays or whatever hobby thing needs lights with portability. I bought 3 strings of 30 micro LEDs each on Amazon - white, blue and red - for under $6 each:

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I took a while to figure out how I should try to run the lights. I had to figure out how to wire everything before assembly, otherwise I would be stuck with no way to run wires. I thought about running all three light strings through the model, but that wouldn't be ideal. I did some testing, and found I could alter the length of the string, and even solder additional LEDs onto them, without any electrical problems.

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(An LED, ready to be soldered)

I started with the nacelles, since it seemed like the most difficult to do. Instead of cutting the LEDs and rewiring to get them the width apart I wanted, I just folded the extra wires to make the lights closer together. Not an elegant solution, but I felt that the less cutting and rewiring I did, the less problems I'd have with possible bad wiring.

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Eventually, after deciding on 7 blue LEDs for each nacelle, I hot glued the string together. I didn't install them in the nacelle yet, because I needed to run additional wires through the support arms, into the secondary hull. I sorted out where I needed to run my wires, and also where I would need wires for the bussards and other colored lights in the aft section. I eventually decided to use two light strings, one for the aft section (mainly colored lights - bussards, nacelles,part of the secondary hull), and one for the front (mainly white lights - saucer and secondary hull).

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After drilling the holes and running the wires, I could finally glue parts together. It's finally starting to look like a real starship!

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I used Gorilla Super Glue for more parts, but some sections, like where the saucer meets the impulse engines, needed additional help. I used Locktite epoxy putty to join those sections and others. I ran into a lot of cracking, mainly on the saucer, so the epoxy putty was needed to fortify some of those areas too.

And finally some lighting getting installed:

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I had a string of multi-colored Christmas lights that I decided to cannibalize for those red and green indicator lights that I think are there to show which side of the ship is port and which is starboard (I really don't know, I'm just guessing). On the original starships, they're flashing lights, but they'll just be constantly "on" for my model. Even though I have more than enough red lights from the red string I bought, those lights aren't a true red, but more pinkish (which is actually what I wanted for the bussards). I tested the lights from the Christmas string to make sure they were compatible with the strings I bought.

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A fun little side note: as I was working on this project, I needed a cap for my Exacto knife. I realized, "hey, I've got a 3D printer, why not print one?" Sure enough, I found one on Thingiverse and, minutes later, my Exacto blade was properly sheathed! It's so great that I can print out things like this now instead of kludging something together.

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More to come!
 
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Bloop

Well-Known Member
Here's a couple more parts I printed. The bussards were done in clear PLA, obviously so I could light them. I also decided to change the saucer's deflector dish. I wasn't a fan of the original design, and the dish on the NX-02 Columbia seemed to be better thought out. I found another 3D model available online of the Columbia, though I still had to alter it a bit, elongating the feed horns of the dish, and scaling it to 1:500.

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Moving on to the bussard lighting, I ended up using only 3 lights for each bussard. I would've liked to put in more, but it was easier to use only 3, and since the bussard parts diffuse the light, the effect is still pretty good. I simply coiled up a string of 3 LEDs, wired it to my chain of lights, and installed it in the ends of the nacelles.

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Here she is with the top of the saucer sitting in place. There's still a lot more to do, but it's exciting to see it lit up with most of the parts in place!

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So, the aft section lit, I moved on to the front area, which would primarily be the windows of the saucer and secondary hull. As I previously posted, I used a separate battery operated LED set for lighting this area. The string is white lights, for the windows and external spot lights, but I also would be adding the blue lights that go behind the saucer's deflector dish, and the green and red indicator lights for the port and starboard sides. With only 30 white light on the string, I can't light each window individually or get every external light, so I tried to arrange them as best I could to provide enough illumination. I'm still tweaking the arrangement, but this is the configuration for now. Nothing is glued down, so I can adjust more. I'm also trying to figure out how to paint it and close up the window holes with clear materials, so leaving the lights loose allows for more options.

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Bloop

Well-Known Member
Back at it, here's some more progress. I changed my mind and re-printed the impulse engines in black PLA instead of clear. I didn't really like the look of the clear PLA for the lighted sections, and using black is easier for light blocking.

I printed them in two sections each, so that I could add a piece of clear plastic to them. The clear material is just plastic from a fast food container, which I sanded to diffuse the light. The last pic shows the clear plastic installed on the left side of the impulse engine, compared to the open space on the right.

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I finally was able to print the saucer section's deflector supports. I had issues with these from the beginning. They weren't very accurate, and their tiny size made them impossible to print correctly. I was able to change them to my liking and adjust them to print properly. You can see all the supports that were needed in the first pic.

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I also re-printed the bussards. I kept breaking the spires off of them, so I felt like I might as well redo them so that they were mostly black PLA (again, for better light blocking). I took some pics with the new clear PLA section temporarily taped in place.

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I used foil tape to help light block the saucer section, and also to help reflect the lights. The foil adds a lot of extra weight to the saucer, so I may need to add some weight to the secondary hull to compensate. I added the blue lights for the deflector area, and red and green lights on either side. I also decided to hot glue the lights in place at this time.

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Bloop

Well-Known Member
Sorry for the lack of updates, busier work schedule is to blame (plus some last minute Halloween stuff).
I added foil tape around the saucer deflector lights, to block the blue lights from the rest of the interior lights. I tried putting angled pieces in between the lights to get some additional reflection. It didn't do a lot, but I felt it helped make the light more diffuse.

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I was holding off on gluing the saucer section together, but I couldn't really move forward until I did it, so here she is, glued and taped up while it set.

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I ran into some issues with the thrusters. When I separated them in the 3D model, I didn't realize the 3D parts bisected other parts of the saucer hull, so they were too big to fit after printing. So I had to cut the 3D model and reprint the parts. I also redid them, like I did with the impulse engines, printing them in two parts in black PLA, and adding a clear piece for the lights. This pic shows the new parts on the left, and the old, clear printed and partially black painted part on the right.

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I used white LEDs for the thrusters instead of blue, since they were part of the white string I used for the window lights. I could've rewired some blue LEDs, but I was getting tired of my sloppy wiring, and worried that it would fail eventually. So I opted to color the white lights with a blue Sharpie. It actually looks much better than I thought, a very bright blue color, only a slightly different tint from the actual blue LEDs. I guess I could've saved myself a lot of time and headaches and just used white lights throughout, and just tinted all the different colors with Sharpie...oh well. Something to try on the next model.

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The thruster assembly, glued, puttied, and taped for painting.

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More pre-paint pics.

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For the windows, I originally thought I would fill them using hot glue, but the tests I did showed it was hard to get a smooth finish that also wouldn't mess up the surrounding hull. I did some searches and found that white glue can be used to fill small windows. I tested it here, on a window that didn't have foil behind it. I'm going to punch the foil out after painting, so that the lights inside wouldn't get any paint on them, but this window happened to not get covered, so it was a good test candidate. The glue worked great, it dried translucent, not clear, which is what I wanted, and it was easy to fill just the hole and wipe away any excess.

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Since I'd be painting again, I know this window will get painted over, but it should be no problem to drill it out and re-fill it later. That will likely be the last step before final decals and detailing.
 
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Bloop

Well-Known Member
Paint pics! The weather wasn't good for paint recently, but it has warmed up and cleared up, so it's a good time to get some coats of paint on the NX-01. Not super exciting, but it's nice to finally see the whole thing in one color. Still lots to do, more filling and sanding, and it needs more coats in spots for light blocking (specifically the nacelles).

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You can see some of the issues with light leaking that needs to be fixed.

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Saucer deflector"shroud" and supports, and nacelle "pipes" painted up separately, since they'll have to be attached later, due to their proximity to clear parts.

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whb64

Well-Known Member
VERY nice work!
I have an Ender 3, CR-10s and resin printer. Right now I am trying to print out the secondary hull in resin, but the stl is pretty bad- lots of artifacts and imperfections and nowhere near the details you have with your file. I will have to check it out. Oh, I am doing the 1/350 scale and had to heavily modify my printed parts. Howling Wolf used to do a beautiful conversion kit, but I heard the owner passed away and new casts are not sure if they will be happening. So like you I decided to 3D print mine.

I see you are going with a 'transition' white. How are you doing your Aztecs? I totally love Lou at Aztek Dummies, but I feel his pattern for the NX-01 is really wrong. The 'pre-refit' really had more of that 'brick yard' pattern the 537 scale 1701 kit had that everyone hates. In this case I wise they would have done that pattern on the kit! Anyway... great job and always nice to see a fellow 3D printer making things :)
 

Bloop

Well-Known Member
VERY nice work!
I have an Ender 3, CR-10s and resin printer. Right now I am trying to print out the secondary hull in resin, but the stl is pretty bad- lots of artifacts and imperfections and nowhere near the details you have with your file. I will have to check it out. Oh, I am doing the 1/350 scale and had to heavily modify my printed parts. Howling Wolf used to do a beautiful conversion kit, but I heard the owner passed away and new casts are not sure if they will be happening. So like you I decided to 3D print mine.

I see you are going with a 'transition' white. How are you doing your Aztecs? I totally love Lou at Aztek Dummies, but I feel his pattern for the NX-01 is really wrong. The 'pre-refit' really had more of that 'brick yard' pattern the 537 scale 1701 kit had that everyone hates. In this case I wise they would have done that pattern on the kit! Anyway... great job and always nice to see a fellow 3D printer making things :)
Thank you for the compliment! I'm not sure I deserve it; this recent coat of paint/primer shows a ton of flaws that may not be able to be fully fixed. I'm doing my best though, and using this as a learning experience for future projects.

That's cool that you're trying something similar, I hear good things about resin printing too. I thought about doing that too, 3D printing refit parts to match the 1:350 NX-01 kit, but hearing how it's going for you, I'm glad I didn't try it as my first project. It would be nice if someone was able to offer a 3D printable refit kit for the 1:350. I wish I had 3D modeling skills to make things from "scratch" instead of just modifying other people's work. Hopefully, I can learn at some point.

And yes, I wanted a lighter, transition color for my NX. I may do some washes to darken some areas, but I want something closer to the TOS era light gray. I bought water slide decal paper for ink jet printers, so I plan to do all the markings on the hull that way, as well as the Azteks. Actually, I had been thinking of not using Azteks at all, and going for a really TOS vibe. But since the refit also shares a lot of details and similarities to the Enterprise from ST: TMP, it would probably look better with Azteks (and maybe hide some more of my model-making flaws too).

I've found some Azteks online for the NX-01 model kits, but I didn't find much for the refit parts. I was going to use Azteks for the 1701/1701-A as the basis for mine. I'm not going for 100% accuracy, and since this ship never saw screen time, I feel I have a lot of leeway to do things my own way. I was thinking I want my Azteks to be lighter, subtler than other Azteks, again, to kind of transition more to the TOS look. Anyway, I'll probably be experimenting with that for awhile before deciding on a final look.
 

Bloop

Well-Known Member
Update: mistakes were made...but ultimately fixed. This previously repaired spot at the front of the saucer section was not repaired very well and broke loose when I was trying to fix it. It's good that it did, though, because I was able to fix it better than before. Hopefully it won't need more fixing later on.

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More sanding, putty, sanding putty, etc...

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I've been searching for Aztecs to alter for my model. There's not much available for purchase, and what is available isn't usable for me, since my model isn't the same scale. I've been trying to find freely available decals or masks to alter for my needs. I found one set at starshipmodeler.com by Rick Rayl that I was able to scale to my needs. I test printed part of the top saucer Aztecs on plain paper (in draft quality) to see if it would work, and it's pretty close (the white parts would be clea, of course, when I make the water slide decals). I'd still need to modify it further, changing some sizing in spots and altering the brightness, since some of the gray of the Aztecs is too close to the gray of my base paint. I can't say how accurate they are, but I think they would enhance to look of the ship.

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The biggest issue if that these Aztecs are incomplete (there's more to them than what I printed though). They're only for the non-refit NX-01, so there's nothing for the secondary hull, but they also are missing Aztecs for the nacelles and the raised areas of the saucer that extend back to the impulse engines. So if I use them, I'll either have to supplement them with other Aztecs, or make my own based off of their design. I'm also working on modifying the "regular" decals (the lettering and red lines and such) that were scanned from the Polar Lights 1:1000 kit.
 

Bloop

Well-Known Member
Sorry again for the lapse between updates, I've been busy with work and have been under the weather. But I've managed to make some progress on the refit. I've been slogging through the fill+sand+paint+repeat cycle. I started running out of Tamaya white putty, but I was getting a little frustrated with the thickness of it, not being able to get into tight spots that need just a little filling. Then I had either a great idea or a terrible one - why not use white out/liquid paper? In my mind, it looks kind of like putty, only thinner, and dries fast. So I got a bottle of Wite Out brand, which has a sponge applicator tip, and tested it out.

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It worked! I can't say if there will be any problems with this down the line, but it works pretty well so far. It can be sanded down, it fills tight spots and smaller cracks, and can even be used to smooth the surface of those 3D print lines. Painting it also seems fine. I have no idea if anyone else has tried this, maybe it's an old modeler's trick and I just didn't know about it. So if it's been done before, I obviously take no credit. But if it hasn't, hopefully someone else can try it.

I finally ran out of paint today, so I decided I'm done painting the base coat! I managed to eliminate the light leaks (with the help of my friend Wite Out too). So here's a bunch of pics after I removed the masking tape from the lighted areas.

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It's far from a perfect paint job, but I'm hoping the Azteks and other decals will hide a few of the flaws.

The next shots are after some clean up - I sprayed what little paint that was left in the can into a cup and used a brush to paint some spots that were missed, like around the nacelle lights, and some other crevices. I also punched out the foil tape that was covering the interior of the windows. As I wrote in a previous post, I had covered them up from the inside as I was light blocking the interior so that when I painted, the lights inside wouldn't get paint on them through the window holes. Now they're completely open. I'm tempted to leave them open. I'll still probably use the white glue trick to fill them so they're translucent, but I haven't decided for sure yet.

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I'm still trying to figure out the Azteks, as well as clean up and fix the decals scans. We'll see how all that goes. My next step will be painting the additional colors on the ship, the darker grays and whatnot, and gluing the final pieces on, before starting the decal work. Oh, and I still need to figure out a display stand - I'll probably be trying my meager 3D model skills to design something for printing.
 

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