Merchant Vessel spaceship


Sr Member
True to form, with many unfinished projects on hand begging for completion, I started a new project.
In fact I have outdone myself this time, starting another new project on top of that new project and it is the second new project that is the subject of this thread.

I came up with an idea to use the second abandoned front end of the "unfinished old spaceship" that has since become the Science Vessel. Below are a couple of pictures of that abandoned front end.



It was made from a cheap disposable salad bowl found in the supermarket. The bowl was cut in half and cut down in height and glued back together with an extended scratch built section made from 6mm PVC foamex sheet bulkheads skinned with 1mm styrene.

As usual, while at work I had an idea of how to employ that abandoned shape and doodled a rough thumbnail of the concept on some scrap paper.



The vertical panels at the end of the "wings" were inspired by the fact that I had a couple of Object279 1/35 scale tank hulls on hand which I thought would be ideal.
I picked up one of these Amusing Hobby kits quite cheaply a few years ago at a model show and was always on the lookout for another one at a price I could afford. It was a couple of years later, that finally this year 2021, at the same model show (which was cancelled last year due to Covid) I stumbled across another one at an affordable price.

The next part of the process was to take the thumbnail concept and rough out the proportions on the computer in 3D.
I generally only do this if most of the shape is going to be scratch built.
If the model is predominantly going to be made of found objects this step is not necessary as you can physically lay out the parts in front of you taping them temporarily together and see roughly how it will look.




In the computer I build roughly to scale with each of the major divisions on the grid 100mm long and each subdivision 10mm.
You can see that the model will be roughly 650mm long. Divide that 650 by 25.4 to get inches, so roughly 2 feet 1.5 inches.
I then scale all the views in the computer so the grid lines are all the same size, screen capture each top, side and end views and print them out.
Measuring the grid on the print out and comparing it to the 100mm divisions then gives me the scale to multiply the measurements from the drawing to then mark out the bulkheads on the 6mm PVC foamex sheet I am making them from.


For this model I decided to use a flat 19mm (3/4") piece of pine wood for a spine that the bulkheads would be attached to as well as the 15mm (1/2") water pipe flange I use as a strong model support.

Each of the bulkheads had a 19mm slot cut out centrally so they could be slid to the correct position a secured with super glue. There is a flange mounted on a 9mm plywood spacer top and bottom of the wooden spine with bolts. To locate that existing front end I glued in a PVC fitting that mates with the 32mm PVC pipe that goes through the front end bulkheads. You can also see I have started laying out the the wiring for the 12v DC power connectors and cockpit and engine lighting.




Below you can see one of the DC power connectors mounted to the 2mm styrene skin panel.
The pictures below that show the installation of a switch on the under side that allow the engine lights to be switched off separate from the cockpit lighting.
This switch will be buried amongst a load of detailing in a trench so will be reasonably hidden.




To be continued...


Sr Member
The next area to be tackled was coming up with something for the engines. The thumbnail and the rough CG model deliberately leave this area pretty vague as I was pretty confident that a rummage through my shapes stash would provide something suitable. The picture below show the result of combining several shapes I had on hand.


From right to left the parts comprise a childrens torch with its handle sawed off, in this case a Barbie version. This is then attached to a disc of 2mm styrene glued to a yellow wheel half from a Wall-E truck toy, followed by some PVC tube, a half wheel form a babies toy and then a PVC pipe vent as an engine nozzle.


The second engine is identical except in this case the torch was a Bananas in Pajamas version of the same design.
Both the torches came from a charity store.
I always try to obtain duplicates of interesting shapes made from the right sort of plastic as it is always handy to have at least two of everything.



Here are the engines just loosely placed on the rear end bulkhead.


The engine lighting is provided by these 12volt cob LED lights I found on ebay.
I originally got these for RC vehicle headlights but they were a convenient size for this project.
They have a threaded stem with a nut so a hole was drilled through the PVC vent nozzle and also the babies toy wheel to secure them in place along with some super glue.
The lights also sit on a similarly drilled model truck kit wheel inside the nozzle to space them out a bit and for a bit of extra detail.



The torches have a cut away section where the handle was and the gap between them was filled with a 2mm styrene box that will get heavily detailed.



To be continued...


Sr Member
The concept for this ship features some heavily detailed recessed sections that are only hinted at in the pencil thumbnail.
The rest of the ship has a skin that slightly overlaps these recessed sections so I decided to detail up these areas before overlaying the outer skin parts.
I also reasoned it will be easier to get paint in there before the overlapping skins go on.

First up I skinned the recessed sections and then went to town on the application of the nurnies, the bit I enjoy the most, starting with the underside.







I then flipped the model over on its mount and started detailing the top surface as well as adding some preliminary bits to the engines.
The olive green round part is a plug that uses a bit of PVC conduit inside that fits into the pipe thread of the mounting flange to hide the mounting hole.
It can be swapped to the opposite hole when changing mounting points.





I plugged in the front end and screwed on the vertical wing panels to get a rough idea of how it is coming together.






To be continued...


Sr Member
At this point I still felt the front end was a bit lacking and needed something extra.
While contemplating the front end of the other new project (which will be covered in a future thread) I dug out a 1/35 scale Japanese amoured vehicle kit I have had for a long time.
It didn't really gel with the other project but it did seem to have potential for spicing up the front end on this one.
With a renewed enthusiasm I started on building a cockpit interior that incorporated the hacked off vehicle kit exterior grafted onto the salad bowl arrangement.

I decided to make up a light cavity behind the rear wall and detail the rear wall with kit parts that had interesting shaped holes to let the light through.
The kit parts were glued to a piece of opal perspex which will diffuse the light.
Along with my usual practice I used a red a white and a blue LED on each side of the cavity.
To mix it up a bit one side has the red at the top and the blue at the bottom and the other side the order is reversed.
I found that adding a central white divider of styrene to separate the light box into two separate sides increased the light intensity a bit and kept the colours from each side mixing together.
White LEDs are quite blue so when they mix with the light from the red LED you get a very pleasing magenta and the blue mixes with the white and makes a nice pale blue. You can see what I mean in the photos.
All this is not particularly realistic but makes an interesting effect that works well for all you can see through the tiny cockpit windows.










I decided that the scale for this project was 1/48 and had some suitable figures I could use in the cockpit.
They came from the Hasegawa 1/48 pilots and flight crew kit.
I used a couple of the standing figures and modified them into a seated position as I already have the seated figures earmarked for the Science Vessel project.
I made some simple seats from some heat bent 2mm styrene and evergreen strip.




In the front under the console I originally added three red LEDs to throw some light up on the faces of the figures but found this was too intense a mono-colour so left the centre LED red and swapped out the sides with a white which I found more pleasing.
All the groups of three LEDs had the correct resistor added to the positive lead to run on 12 volts.





To be continued...


Sr Member
I then moved on to making up detail inserts to go inside the vertical wings, which is the hole the turret would normally occupy.
These were made from the battery compartment of something, I forget what it was, they happened to be the right diameter.
After I finished detailing them I realised they were too thick to get the tank hull sides to fit together so I cut 2mm from the lip and had to dremel half a millimetre from the back inside surface of the hull part that mounts to the wing.
Eventually I got them to fit and glued the two halves together with the help of some wooden pegs and small spring clamps.



Below is the model to this point. You can see that I have grey primered the recessed detailed sections.






I am determined that this one will go through to completion.
As enthusiasm on this project remains pretty high I have every reason to be confident, though I said exactly the same thing before on the Science Vessel.
The difference being that on the Science Vessel project I was waiting for the figures to arrive to work on the cockpit so there was a natural break in the build process. Hopefully I will get back to that project once this one is complete.

Thanks for looking.


Legendary Member
Love it to bits (or to greeblies:p)Once again, your usage of every day things are remarkable (y)(y) As for the white board you're using, are those plastic panels used to make floating ceilings?


Sr Member
Joberg the white material used for the bulkheads is foamed PVC sheet in this case 6mm thick. It is often referred to by the brand names Sintra or Foamex. It is easy to cut and sand with normal hand tools ( you can easily cut up to 6mm thick with a Olfa Knife or box cutter and a steel rule) and it glues extremely well with super glue. In thinner sheets, 2 and 3mm it is more flexible than styrene. The down side of the material is unlike high impact styrene (HIPS) it does not resist impacts well and the surface dings and dents easily. The impact resistance varies with the type of foamed sheet being used. I have a piece of 10mm thick which has a hard flat glossy surface which is quite resistant whereas the more usual material I find with a slightly textured surface is not. Laminating a thin styrene sheet to the surface could solve this problem and would also allow the attachment of nurnies using the normal solvent cement where attaching directly to the foamed PVC would require super glue.

I have also been working on the cockpit exterior.
As the very front part has a compound curved surface I am unable to simply stick flat 0.5mm styrene panels on.
I attempted to heat form a piece of 0.5mm over the bottom surface from which to cut panels with no success. It was simply too big an area to heat evenly with my heat gun.
In the end I decided to experiment with a Martin Bower described method of applying thin strips of masking tape as a sort of raised panel joiner line.
He usually uses this method on his carved Jelutong models which have compound curves as a way of adding surface detail.
The tape is sprayed with around four coats of primer, carefully fine sanding between, to remove the texture of the tape.
I used 3mm wide automotive painters masking tape.
Martin Bower simply cuts normal masking tape into thin strips by placing it on a sheet of perspex and Probably I should have done this as 2mm wide may have looked better than the three I used in this case.
The photos below show the result.
I still need a couple more coats of primer and sanding on the strips yet.




Well-Known Member
Mung, fantastically done! I love the cockpit. The use of foamex is well done! The medium looks great, I hope to try it in the near future. Pls definitely finish this one! It is going to look fantastic!


Sr Member
This is a HERO ship. Not something of modest interest in a rag tag fleet or whatever. There are few happy accidents in CGI.

I am reminded of Dunsany’s “Where the Tides Ebb and Flow”. Of all the unhappy flotsam and jetsam.

But the odds and ends here cried out to you, sir: “Make us live!”

And you did.

This construct has a soul


Legendary Member
Very nice indeed. I use SmoothPro from Loews. You can sand, paint, shape, etc those and it's very light also.
Great update, btw.(y) The tape technique was used often by the U.K. model makers to achieve quick paneling effect. I even use regular packing tape
(painter tape has a tendency to have little ridges and bumps).


Sr Member
Nice job mung. Creative and carefully selected greeblies that compliment the design vs. being cobbled together. Just like your Container Spaceship.


Sr Member
Thanks to everybody for the encouraging comments.

The construction phase of the Merchant vessel spaceship project is very nearly complete.



I skinned the remaining hull sections with 2mm styrene and have completed covering the surfaces with flat panel detailing.
The pictures below show the completed upper surface detailing.





Following on with the lower surface.





I also decided to make this spaceship a lander and so made up some landing gear that is both retractable and sprung so it will compress with the weight of the ship. The front leg has two brass rams and two springs while the rear has two legs with one spring each. The PVC landing struts are hinged using a small brass hinge from the hardware store, superglued after roughing up both surfaces with coarse sandpaper.






The bottom tube of the rams have a small length of steel rod that drops into a snug space in the gear well of the model with a magnet at the bottom so they can be manually popped in place when extending the landing gear.
The salvaged springs just fit inside the inner diameter of the tube and are quite stiff for their size




The landing gear still needs a couple of details to be added before moving on to the next task which is to complete spraying the remaining surfaces with grey primer.

Thanks for looking.

More soon...


Sr Member
Actually I forgot to mention that the feet of the landing gear are made from those little plastic containers that saffron comes in from the supermarket. They have some Evergreen textured sheet tiles glued to the bottom.


Sr Member
One thing I forgot to add was a hatch so I rectified that problem by modifying the command section with an underside door/ramp on each side. The picture below shows it on the model which is mounted bottom side up so the door is shown below upside down.


After taking care of that omission and adding a few small details to the landing pads it was time to complete the application of grey primer. The result of which is shown in the following series of pictures below.









The picture above shows the starboard door which would theoretically hinge down forming a ramp.












Next task is to design a paint scheme.

At this stage I am intending that the inset detail areas and engines will remain dark grey with the command section, skinned hull areas and wings predominantly green with red markings.

Thanks for looking.
More soon...

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