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norbauer

Active Member
For the months of January, February, and March I rented a work space at the Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, MA (right in sight of the Boston skyline). I thought it would be a good excuse to keep me occupied and distracted during the worst of the long, depressing Massachusetts winter. When the spring comes, I'll need to focus on some software projects, so I am planning this as a sort of intensive three-month autodidactic course in prop replication, with an almost exclusive focus on my childhood obsession: Star Trek props.

So I thought I would create this thread as a kind of journal of that work, especially for random observations on technical details or bits of research that don't merit a thread of their own but that might still be of interest of help to others. When I have something more substantive to discuss (as usual), I'll post a proper thread unto itself. For those who aren't familiar, I also highly recommend the TrekPropZone. My more involved scratch builds (such as the Voyager Doctor's Holo-imager) are discussed in greater detail there, and is a really great closely-knit community with a strong and exclusive Trek focus (not that the RPF isn't great too!).

For me, prop replication is about rekindling naive futurist fantasies of boyhood. I don't do it professionally, nor do I have any interest in selling anything or taking commissions. I will occasionally do small runs of items that I scratch build, but only for trades.

Before I make my inaugural post, I thought I'd begin my showing the huge bucket of kit builds I kicked off the other day by giving them a good scrub to remove any mold release.

20150105_050007842_iOS.jpg

I clearly have my work cut out for me.
 
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norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

I thought I'd also make a list of my current projects and their statuses, which I'll try to keep up to date.

Active scratch builds
  • VOY doctor's holo-imager (RPF thread, TPZ thread)
  • Kurlan Naiskos (TPZ thread)
  • Not-a-thrombic modulator medical tool (from VOY "Message in a Bottle")
  • TNG medkit (including aluminum drop-down ratchet door and electronics)
  • Vulcan meditation lamp (Tuvok/T'Pol)
  • Dr Nichols "I Quit Smoking" button (STIV)
  • Capt Varley's Iconian artifact
  • TOS McCoy laser scalpels
  • VOY medkit
  • Brace coil from TNG Phantasms


Completed scratch builds


Kit/component builds currently working on

  • Geordi mid-season PADD, kit by Eric Ardros
  • Geordi Season 7 PADD, kit by Eric Ardros
  • ODN Scanner (VOY paint scheme) kit by TrekProps.de
  • Psionic Resonator (from TNG "Gambit")
  • ENT scanner/tricorder
  • Mark X tricorder (Stapleton, gmprop)
  • Mark VII medical tricorder (vacu-form via Nicksdad, gmprop)
  • Mark VII science tricorder (TNG style), Stapleton
  • Mark VII science (VOY sickbay red tricorder style), Stapleton
  • STIII tric (casting via Nicksdad)
  • STIII comm (Stapleton, comm510)
  • STV comm (Stapleton, comm510)
  • TNG dustbuster phaser (Stapleton, gmprop)
  • TMP wrist comm (Eric Ardros)
  • TNG and VOY hyposprays (Nicksdad)
  • Phlox medical scanner (renaissance_man)
  • Phlox osmotic eel (renaissance_man)
  • TOS concept phaser (propfixs)
  • VOY desktop viewer
  • Portal Gun (ThrowingChicken, Volpin)
  • ENT bridge console keyboard

Scratch builds I might like to do someday and which I am currently collecting research


  • Picard family/Atlantis Project desktop viewer (from "Family")
  • Rene Picard PADD ("Family", not screen-used but fabricated and sold by IAW)
  • Subspace Beacon (from TNG "Schisms")
  • VOY Doctor's medical tray
  • TNG modified emergency transport armband (from "Timescape")
  • Kelemane's Species temporal compensator from VOY
  • Candles from VOY Muse
  • VOY Capt Proton and Buster Kincaid rayguns
  • Interphasic scanner from TNG Phantasms
  • Hypospray station (TNG and VOY)
  • "Save our downtown" poster from VOY "11:59"
  • Voth scanner from VOY
  • Tractor Test Bench from TNG "Masterpiece Society"
  • Captain Esteban's STIII PADD
  • VOY Hyperspanner
  • TNG Ocular Scanner
  • TNG/STV engineering tool
  • VOY EMH backup module
  • TNG desktop viewer
  • Pathfinder Project desktop viewer
  • Optronic data core (TNG/VOY)
  • STV binoculars
  • STIII lexarine injector
  • STIII Federation Security ID
  • Klingon Photon collector (STIV)
  • TMP Kohlinar neckace
  • Kaltoh board
  • "Sylabbic nucleus of the Vulcan language" dice (from TNG Unification)
  • Kirshara
  • Surak's Katric Ark
  • Adm. Janeway's desktop viewer ("Endgame")
  • TNG domed-pipe sickbay medical console (seen prominently in "Data's Day")
  • Static desk monitor (TNG "Sub rosa", "Unification," "Descent", and about a million other episodes)
  • ST3 excelsior captain "riding crop"
  • ST3 Bones genesis planet white medical scanner
  • TAS Vulcan Healer's medkit from "Yesteryear"

Now that I look at that comprehensive list, I realize I clearly have some kind of brain problem. I'm OK with this.
 
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norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

OK. First day's entry. Here we go.

Doctor's Holo-imager
Thanks to help from HMS Mike, I finally figured out that I was going down the wrong path in looking for the pattern that goes behind the small lens on the Doctor's Holo-imager. I was looking at acrylight light diffuser panels, which were close but not quite right.

Turns out that the original was from a Weston Cine light meter. I managed to track one down on eBay for about $15, again thanks to Mike's help.

weston-cine-meter-20141228-1.jpg

weston-cine-meter-20141228-2.jpg

weston-cine-meter-taken-apart-20141228-1.jpg

I also have a button that Mike sent me, which (with his permission), I'll be casting as well. If anybody is working on this project and needs one, just drop me a note. :)

Last night I got ready to pour silicone over both. These will be my first attempts at two-part compression molding (i.e., no sprue).

20150106_073301225_iOS.jpg

I got a swanky pressure chamber for Christmas, so I should be able to cast the clear part with minimal bubbles
20141227_093030450_iOS.jpg


Phlox scanner
Puttied a bit and used a dental tool to dig out deeper canals than the kit came with. I'm worried about their being visible after priming so I wanted to make them deeper.
20150106_075121504_iOS.jpg


I also got in a rod of 10mm acrylic. I'll need to turn this down on the lathe to make the light rods for the second kit I'm making. (I got two kits from renaissance_man, one with only partial parts. I like to make multiples of things when possible in case I screw something up.)

Etc
Puttied and sanded a bunch of kit components, getting them ready for priming.
 

Eric Ardros

Sr Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

I read through this just a little while ago, and I'm impressed :)

You've got quite the comprehensive project list over there. I like how you split it up between active scratch-builds, kit/component builds and future-planned builds. I think my list(s) would read similar to yours, lol.

I wouldn't say you've got a brain problem or anything of the sort. After all, this is a hobby, and we're very into what we do for a hobby. That's true of any real hobbyist, whether it's TV/Film props, scale trains or RC cars/planes.

To get kind of obsessive over it is just part of being in the hobby, imho.

I liked seeing some of my kits in your group pic in the first post, btw :D Looking forward to seeing what you do with them, buddy.
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Geordi Season 7 PADD
Mixed up the lighter of the two pinkish paints. You can't tell from the photo, but the paint is pearlescent.
Primed the PADD after some finish sanding.

20150107_063258970_iOS.jpg

Phlox Osmotic eel

Put on a few layers of paint on top of how it came to me from renaissance_man (nearly finished in several layers of wash expertly applied).

20150107_034203430_iOS.jpg

What I added isn't quite screen accurate, but I'm not good at freehand art and I may just leave it at this and call it done. I'm going to investigate trying some washes and brushing first though.

20150107_090607863_iOS.jpg

TMP Scanners
Made another body pressure casting. Prepped the aluminum bar stock for machining.

20150107_034139585_iOS.jpg

ENT keyboards
I got these castings from JoeRalat.

20150107_034833482_iOS.jpg

I investigated and ordered the buttons used in ENT. Apparently they are just 3M bumpons with letters applied.

3mtm-bumpontm-sjxx08-black.jpg

I realized that these could also be used to make a master for resin casting a subspace beacon from "Schisms"

Screencap1.png

- - - Updated - - -

I read through this just a little while ago, and I'm impressed :)

You've got quite the comprehensive project list over there. I like how you split it up between active scratch-builds, kit/component builds and future-planned builds. I think my list(s) would read similar to yours, lol.

I wouldn't say you've got a brain problem or anything of the sort. After all, this is a hobby, and we're very into what we do for a hobby. That's true of any real hobbyist, whether it's TV/Film props, scale trains or RC cars/planes.

To get kind of obsessive over it is just part of being in the hobby, imho.

I liked seeing some of my kits in your group pic in the first post, btw :D Looking forward to seeing what you do with them, buddy.

Heh. Thanks, Elvis! Yes, I think we both share a bit of a scattered approach to prop work. It's fun to have other stuff in the hopper for when you hit snags so time isn't lost. I find this is especially true now that I'm working at a shop that is away from my home and where I have limited time.

Your Season 7 Geordi PADD is absolutely perfect. I'm so excited to get closer to finishing it soon!
 
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E Williams

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Seeing shades of my own to-do list here, especially in that pile of washed parts :)

Thanks for the squish mold link too - I hadn't read about that before!
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Thanks for the squish mold link too - I hadn't read about that before!

My pleasure. I had never heard or thought of that technique before (as obvious as it should be) either. A guy at Reynolds Advanced Materials (the national distributor of Smooth-On products) told me about it when I asked him about casting bodies for the holo-imager based on the original radio controller shell. It is a technique that is best for small thin-walled parts. He showed me a model train body that had been cast in this way at their showroom, and it was a perfect reproduction. It leaves a lot of flashing, obvs, but it's not much work than cleaning up parting lines. I'm looking forward to trying the technique soon.
 

Eric Ardros

Sr Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

That squish mold technique sounds like just what I need in order to mold/cast the VOY Neural Stimulator kit I'm working on.

Actually, I think I'll do that for my accurized Hallmark Galileo Ornament hull, as well. Like Ethan said, thanks for the link! Very informative :cool
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

I radiused the aluminum bars that go on the side of my TMP scanners last night on the CNC mill, along with the top buttons. Next step is the thick bar button. (I'm saving the multi-step nozzles for last.)

This is how they looked before polishing on the bench grinder. It always amazes me how well aluminum polishes up. A final step is always puting Simichrome polish on it, which utterly transforms it into an unbelievably shiny and uniform finish.

20150108_103653612_iOS.jpg

Also had some mega fail in my Gerodi PADD paint job. I'm going to sand down to the primer and mix a new batch of paint tonight. I had some flaws in the primer surface that I didn't catch before applying the paint. I need to be less impetuous when painting. Painting is not for the impatient, which is why I'm so bad at it. I need to keep reminding myself that if the primer surface doesn't look perfect, the top coat isn't going to either. This is especially true with pearlescent and metallic paints, which only greatly exaggerate any surface imperfections.

20150108_084412514_iOS.jpg

When painting I also have a tendency to dig myself even deeper and try to fix the problem on the spot. This never goes well. I need to cultivate the habit of just putting a paint job down at the first sign of trouble and coming back to it the next day with sandpaper and patience.

I also think I got the color a bit wrong. I was using a red with a bit too much purple. I'm going to try to mix something up next time from primary colors.
 

E Williams

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Oh no! Which paint are you using on the Geordi PADD? Is it the water-based Faskolor r/c car airbrush paint? If so hot water and a toothbrush will be easier than sanding for most of the paint removal :)
 

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norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Oh no! Which paint are you using on the Geordi PADD? Is it the water-based Faskolor r/c car airbrush paint? If so hot water and a toothbrush will be easier than sanding for most of the paint removal :)

Oh, interesting! I'll try that.

I'm just using plain old Golden high flow acrylics. I clear coat with two-part automotive clears, so durability isn't a concern. I just try to get the colors to look right and then cover it all in a nice layer of urethane. :) The trouble is getting there first! Just need to remember not to rush things.

Do you use a hair dryer when painting with acrylics? I find that it makes it easier to move around the workpiece and get more done in one painting session, but you have to be careful not to get the surface too warm or it'll crackle. I think there was a little bit of that going on the photo above also.

Unfortunately, clears are not immune to their problems either. I got a Portal paint job absolutely perfect a few days ago using the above techniques and then the clear coat fisheyed all over the place. I am 98% sure it was because I wasn't using a good enough line filter. I have purchased a low-micron one and will re-attempt as soon as we have a slightly warmer day here (the paint room where I do my stuff is heated, but it is vented to the outside and the head is not enough to over come the -23 degree wind chill we had last night).

20141224_080242045_iOS.jpg

20141224_080245153_iOS.jpg

I've sanded it back down and will repaint and re-clear again soon. Ugh. I hate painting, but I'm determined to learn how to do it well!
 
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E Williams

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Oh ok, I've never used that kind of paint! How do you like it? I don't do a lot of airbrushing but what I've done has been with Tamiya and Model Master acrylics. I have a double action airbrush and use just air with no paint flow to help the paint dry, rather than a hair dryer. I'm hesitant to try and "help" it too much; I've run into issues with that as well.

I am not hugely informed when it comes to airbrush equipment :( Instead of line filters I have two moisture trap regulators in between the compressor and the air brush. Overkill/not enough? No idea! It seems to work, though. And having two regulators provides a kind of cushion for when the compressor kicks on and off.
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Oh ok, I've never used that kind of paint! How do you like it? I don't do a lot of airbrushing but what I've done has been with Tamiya and Model Master acrylics. I have a double action airbrush and use just air with no paint flow to help the paint dry, rather than a hair dryer. I'm hesitant to try and "help" it too much; I've run into issues with that as well.

I am not hugely informed when it comes to airbrush equipment :( Instead of line filters I have two moisture trap regulators in between the compressor and the air brush. Overkill/not enough? No idea! It seems to work, though. And having two regulators provides a kind of cushion for when the compressor kicks on and off.

The thing I like about the High Flow is that it comes pre-thinned in little squeeze dropper bottles. It's just much easier to deal with, if you're willing to mix the colors yourself (they don't have as wide a palette as Tamiya.)

The trick when working with props is the amazing Iwata HP-G3. (It's ridiculously expensive, but I got an amazing deal buying a used one from Asia on eBay.) It's sort of a hybrid between an LVLP gun and an airbrush, and it runs on just an airbrush compressor. It has a fan pattern that allows you to spray a large area similarly to a rattle can, but with much better atomization (finer paint particles and more air), which tends to preserve fine surface details. The first time I sprayed paint out of this thing, I abandoned rattle cans (which suffer especially from my poor spraying technique).

Fisheyes from line moisture aren't as much of an issue with airbrushes, at least when spraying acrylics. My Iwata airbrush compressor has a simple glass moisture trap and that seems to suffice. For the clear (which uses a bigger proper LVLP and a grown-up California Air compressor), however, I had TWO of those filters in the line and I still was getting tons of moisture in the end product. Because the urethane clear is not waterborne like the acrylic, it suffers especially from the slightest moisture, so I may be getting water in my acrylics and not noticing it. In fact, a bit of water if anything probably helps with acrylics. ;) For next time with the clear, I got a filter like this to put right at the intake to the gun. Hopefully that should solve my problem next time around. In either case, I'll report back here when I find out.
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Last night I cut up the bar stock for the larger of the buttons on the TMP scanner.

20150109_210000677_iOS.jpg

And milled in the angle. All that is left is surface polishing.

20150110_084059825_iOS.jpg

Having an angle bar (4 degrees) made life so much easier than last time. The little bit of support makes a huge difference in terms of material vibration at the end of the bar, which means less time spent polishing the surface finish.

20150110_083647511_iOS.jpg

20150110_083259268_iOS.jpg

I also started working out how to do the nozzles in steps.

20150109_224516825_iOS.jpg

I'm working on a crappy lathe, so chatter has been a huge issue. I can't stick the bar very far out of the chuck without ruining the finish. I could stabilize the workpiece in the tailstock, but that is kind of annoying too. I think I've decided I need to cut the bar into smaller pieces and do each one separately, even if I do batch the steps to limit tool changes.

I was also having trouble getting my pressure pot up to 60psi last night for the body castings. I think I am losing air through the fittings, so I got some Teflon tape from home and will be trying that out tonight.

Thanks to photos generously provided by propologist, I milled the slots larger in my holo imager bar rod. It is now much more accurate to the original. After a bit of cleanup work, I think this one is ready for squish molding along with the other holo-imager parts.

20150110_091042880_iOS.jpg

I got the aluminum bar stock to make a new curved top for my Tuvok/T'Pol meditation lamp. Making a super accurate lamp has been a whole saga for me, but long story short: the original top was brass and wasn't perfectly circular, making machining in the necessary round details to make it accurate impossible, so I'm making my own drop-in top piece. I now just need to trace in Illustrator the details from screenshots and start machining to that profile. I don't have a CNC lathe, so in order to make the curves, I'll be using the step turning technique.

20150109_185322949_iOS.jpg
 
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norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Tonight I mostly wrestled with my pressure chamber and compressor. I put in all new fittings with Teflon tape and everything is now working properly. I got these new Husky High Flow fittings at Home Depot earlier this evening that don't leak air at all and just generally feel to be of much higher quality than the brass ones that came with my compressor.

I also (finally) worked out a general workflow for the TMP scanner nozzles. The following pic is before polishing, and I had a little error on the tip that made the last band too short (there was wobble in my part, which made for an uneven line that I had to polish down—it is actually debatable which is more screen accurate). Otherwise I'm happy and about ready to move on to machining a run of 10 of the nozzles, with any luck tomorrow evening.

20150111_074658003_iOS.jpg
 

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E Williams

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

You're making quick work of all those aluminum parts! Very nice. You mentioned that you don't like using the lathe's tailstock... Is it because given that the end of the original is flat, you'd have to account for and trim off the tailstock's dimple in the end of the piece? If possible it's generally best to always use a tailstock as you note but I can see how that would be a little annoying.
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

You're making quick work of all those aluminum parts! Very nice. You mentioned that you don't like using the lathe's tailstock... Is it because given that the end of the original is flat, you'd have to account for and trim off the tailstock's dimple in the end of the piece? If possible it's generally best to always use a tailstock as you note but I can see how that would be a little annoying.

The reason I don't use the tailstock is twofold: firstly, the one that you mentioned (it is just one more calculation, measurement, and thing to go wrong) and on short pieces with a good lathe it is generally possible to get a decent surface finish without using the tailstock, but secondly, and more significantly, it is simply physically impossible to use it for the most critical operation on this part the way I have my angle turning tool set up, as the tool post and holder would bang against the live center as I got close to the tip. Now that I think about it, I could try rotating the compound slide to the opposite angle and come at it from the other direction, but I still suspect that the live center would get in the way. I'll investigate tonight! :)
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

Another, only tangentially related, hobby of mine is photography. I took a little break from machining nozzles last night to edit and publish the latest installment in my series on workplaces and factories: http://ryan.norbauer.com/photography/steele-basket-company

The project is a fun intersection between my photographic hobby and my interest in making and makers.
 

norbauer

Active Member
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

So. Much. Machining. x_x

20150112_123639952_iOS.jpg

Coming along nicely though.

Oh, and I went over to Reynolds Advanced Materials this morning and picked up resins for casting the holo-imager diffuser and the gear rod part. I also decided to pick up the fast-cure version of the smooth cast onyx. It'll be a challenge getting it into the pot and pressurized within the 2.5 min pot life, but I'm keen for the procedural challenge. ;)
 
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nick daring

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Re: Norbauer's Notebook - adventures in recreational Star Trek (mostly) prop replicat

I've been using fast onyx and it kicks super fast. 2.5 minutes is being very generous.

It's great for hand rotocasting though. Great way to get clean looking castings. Pour in a little, rotate and you get a perfectly clean skin with no bubbles. Then fill the rest up at your leisure without having to worry too much about bubbles.
 

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