Michael Payton is a dedicated starship modeller, and one of his recent builds was Axanar’s very own USS Ares. Michael’s kindly offered to share how he modelled Starfleet’s first dedicated warship.
When starting my build of the USS Ares from Axanar, I knew that I would need to do some serious research to find out how she was put together. I had the general idea, but needed to get detailed plans so I could really do her justice. I knew I wanted to do a larger scale, so I immediately went looking for parts from my existing model stash that would help me get started.
After comparing graphics, I found out that the Ares had less in common with established Starfleet ships than I previously assumed. While many other “classes” of ship from that era were simply rearrangements of known components, the Ares was pretty much completely new from the ground up. Hats off to the design team! She is a fine lady indeed. But… that made my life a lot harder.
Thankfully I finally found out that the refit Enterprise saucer, though a different scale, had the same profile on the top half and the rim.
That helped. I used the saucer from an old AMT 1:537 scale Refit model kit. Part of the top of an Enterprise C saucer was used as the middle of the lower Ares saucer along with some thick styrene.
I was also able to use four little fins from the nacelles of an old AMT Original Series Enterprise and… that’s it. There was nothing else in production kits that matched up with the Ares. That means that kitbashing the Ares was out of the question. That meant scratch building. A lot of scratch building.
I then used a program called posterazor to print out a large graphic of the ship from all angles, so I would have a template to work with – I inverted the colors to save on ink and help bring out the details.
The next step was to plan out my basic structure, or skeleton, on which to build the rest of the ship. I made a spine of square styrene rod to run the length of the ship. I screwed it into the lower saucer as well as glued it. To this spine I glued/screwed another thick sheet of styrene that was the outline of the secondary hull.
Aided by my printout, I bent a brass bar to the appropriate angle to be the nacelle pylons.
This was secured to the spine by much styrene rod, screws, and epoxy resin. The base structure of each nacelle was a stout card tube found in the middle of a spent roll of tin foil from Dollar Tree.
The basic shape of the secondary hull was achieved mostly through framing and then skinning – much like a house is framed and then exterior and drywall are fastened to this frame. While building the frame I was careful to make sure there was room for the wiring to travel through the model.
Some parts of the ship I was unable to fabricate with just styrene, and had to sculpt or cast them. The deflector housing/torpedo launcher area was sculpted using an epoxy putty called Milliput, while the torpedo tubes themselves were styrene.
The aft end of the Nacelles was the most challenging. There were the grooves on the exhaust hood, the curve of its profile, the center dome… And on top of all that, they both needed to be identical! So After constructing one from scratch using styrene and part of a pacifier cover, I made a mold of it using molding silicone. I then used two part casting resin to make copies.
I also used the spherical pommel of a toy sword as a template for casting the clear nacelle bussard collectors (at the front of the nacelles) and also used that same part as the bridge dome.
All in all the materials for the construction included 7 existing model parts, two card tubes, four casted parts, two found items, 10 screws, one brass bar, and over 900 individual pieces of styrene.
“styrene” refers to polystyrene, a plastic that is often used for model making as it is easy to cut, form and glue. It is sold in sheets, tubes, rods, strips, and in many thicknesses. Most mass produced model kits are molded in styrene.
“kitbashing” is the term for taking parts from existing kits and mixing, matching, and rearranging them to make a new model. Star Trek has used kitbashed models many times. Examples include the Stargazer(TNG, “The Battle”), the Jenolan (TNG “Relics”), most of the ships at Wolf 359 (TNG, “Best of Both Worlds”), and many from the Dominion war (DS9).