Building a fleet of starships – out of junk?

Junk, plastic bits and old kit parts = starships

I collect junk. Not just any junk mind you. I’m always looking for complex plastic shapes, mouldings and other parts from old printers, computers and so on to use in scratchbuilding.

In building a fleet of starships for myself I’ve taken a bunch of leftover kit parts, tape roll centres, spent deodorant containers, plasticard, brass, and whatever else was to hand and customised them for the builds. If you’re new to scratchbuilding you might wonder where to start. So below I’ve provided some ideas of what to look for when you are collecting parts for your creation.

What to look for when scratchbuilding

1 – Sticky tape centres

One favourite piece is the centres from sticky tape rolls. You’ll see a lot of these in my builds. So, why these shapes specifically:

  • They are perfectly round, and usually the same diameter (from the same manufacturer),
  • Are usually the same height (looking at them from the side),
  • Save plastic from going to landfills, and
  • Are often freely available (if you work in an office environment ask your co-workers to save them for you when they change over their tape dispensers)
  • They can be used singly (as in the starship builds), in multiple if you are scratchbuilding storage tanks for example
  • Being made of plastic they can be super-glued, and plastic glued (melted or welded) to other types of plastic without much hassle

2 – Complex moulded pieces

Tank Greebly, made from 2 domes, some plasticard off-cuts and solder

Every day you buy and use complex pieces either blow-moulded or vacuum-moulded from plastic.

Some such as medicine bottles are perfect candidates to be used for a multitude of kitbashes and scratchbuilds and can be glued easily using liquid glues from Tamiya and other manufacturers.

I’ve seen others use lighters (once they are empty obviously), plastic domes from bubble-gum and other toy machines (the ones you feed money into for your kids to get toys and such from), and I still have a vast number of such from when my kids were little.

Most of them are moulded in clear styrene and make great observation domes, ship fronts and even rocket nozzle bells.

3 – Kit parts – not used in your build

Most model kits come with a range of parts that are options for your finished model. Drop tanks are a specific item I love to have. the four I am building around here are from a 1:32nd scale F111 kit, discussed elsewhere on this site.

They’ve been added to, but not much modified from their kit background. They always make for great starships for me in the classical (think the 1950s-60s movie) sense. You should always harvest parts and keep them for a rainy day. You never know when they might come in handy.

If you have a scale model show near you regularly, often club members will sell kits that they have partly built, or that may be not up to their level, for a part of the purchase price. Others might sell bags of bits for a few dollars. If you can, ask the vendors if they’ve got such kits available. They make a simple way to kick-start your scratchbuilding collection. It, after all, is what the pros at ILM did for the original star wars models. The Millenium Falcon has several Tiger 1 tank parts on the model, they are obvious once you know they are there, yet almost impossible to find within the larger model.

Also, don’t be afraid to scale up, or down, to get your parts. 1:48th scale, 1:72nd scale, and smaller scales can provide you with parts that fit right into your build needs.

Enough of the overview, let’s get into building the starships for my fleet.

Resources

Part 1: Building the Frigates

Part 2: Building the Fleet Auxiliaries

Part 3: Building the Trader Vessels

 

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