Building the USS Ares Part 3: Devil In The Details

By August 31, 2015 Blog 5 Comments

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.

With the basic structure in place, and most of the electronics installed, it was time to turn my attention to the finer details that bring the USS Ares to life. Shuttlebays, hull plating, deflector dish, nacelles, weapons arrays… By far the most time consuming part of the build that required endless measuring, cutting, gluing, drilling, measuring… recutting, remeasuring… cutting again, gluing, measuring… then finally, taking a break and watching The Wrath of Khan. But I can’t stay away for long. “She tasks me…”

First up: the nacelles.  The details and hull plating on the nacelles were cut from varying thicknesses of styrene, with the measurements I took from the same scale printout I made. There were several layers of styrene applied to achieve the needed details in some of the areas. An additional challenge was that since the nacelles were tubular, any details larger than a few millimeters had to be curved accordingly before hand, or clamped on as the glue dried.  


I opted to use C.A. glue for almost 100% of the detail work because of how quickly it cured, and how well it held. When the pieces required curving before being added, I bent them by hand or used very hot water to soften the plastic for thicker pieces. The nacelle end caps were casted in 2 part epoxy resin (see part 1 of the build log), and secured to the rear of the nacelles with generous amounts of C.A. glue. The cooling fins were cannibalized from an old AMT cutaway enterprise that I built as a kid – which has seen better days…

The windows were made simply by drilling out appropriate sized holes in the styrene in the proper places, taking care not to damage internal wiring.


The round windows were a snap, but those oblong ones were a bit more challenging and required a lot of breath holding and patience while cutting with an exacto knife. These will later be filled with a product called krystal klear that will simulate the windows.

The bridge was fashioned from a chopped up AMT Enterprise refit bridge from the same kit the top saucer came from.  After removing chunks here and adding chunks there, I put a sheet of .04in styrene over the top to give it the right height. I then added copious amounts of putty and sanded her to shape. The next step was the bridge details. The main bridge dome is from the pommel of a toy sword, while the rest is styrene bits cut to match the printout.


After drilling out windows and installing the navigation strobe light, spotlight, and interior lights, (it was a tight fit!) I glued it down and puttied the seam.

Now, we move onto the area aft of the bridge. The “shoulders” as I call them. This is the area that houses the impulse engines, the aft torpedo launchers, and if my suspicions are correct, a small In-N-Out burger kitchen as well. The details were again just a matter of measuring and cutting styrene, strips, rods, and tubes.

Bridge aft

Getting the pieces to stick didn’t always go smoothly since I needed enough glue to hold the piece, while avoiding getting so much that it ran or bled. If that happened the excess would have to be scraped or sanded off. Otherwise, it would show up when painted. Also, the C.A. glue cures quickly which means that if you don’t get the piece in place fast enough, it may end up crooked, and you have to break it off, sand it, and start over.

The shuttle bay was a real pleasure, since at the time of the build (and even now, I think) the schematics for the shuttle bay are still under wraps. This means that I was able to take a little creative license. Limited by the internal supports, I opted for a small bay and one small shuttle.


The detail painting was completed on the bay at this point since after I put the top on it would be nigh impossible. The roof was a curved extension of the styrene sheet skin that was laid over the rib structure of the upper secondary hull.

The aft underside of the secondary hull was built much like the upper, with a ribbed frame and styrene skin over the top.


The signature starfleet “undercut” just below the shuttle bay was achieved with some creative shaping and cutting… after some serious brainstorming, trial and error, and more watching of Star Trek II.

And finally, we come to the deflector. As mentioned in part 1, the deflector/forward torpedo launcher area was sculpted using a two-part epoxy putty called milliput over the internal housing wall that was constructed of styrene. The final shape was covered with green squadron putty and the sanded smooth for priming.


The deflector array itself was completely made of sprue and stock styrene, as were the torpedo tubes.

All in all, the details, while being the most tiresome part of this build, are really what brings this ship to life, and I commend Alec, Sean, and Tobias for such a well thought out design!

For many more additional photos of this build, check out SciFi4Real on Facebook.


“C.A. glue” refers to cyanoacrylate glue, better known as super glue. Ideal for bonding a variety a materials, but is best known for adhering fingers to tables, models, and each other.

“sprue” is the common term in modeling for the plastic frames that model parts come attached to as part of the molding process. Also known as parts trees, and runners.

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is the second motion picture in the Star Trek franchise. Featuring one of the coolest bad guys ever, it also involves a glorious space battle where the super smart bad guy with insanely fake looking but very real pecs gets whupped by an aging smart-alec Admiral because even though he’s super smart, he doesn’t have enough experience in space to realize that he can fly up and down… Heralded by some as the best Star Trek movie ever, watching it is a proven therapeutic activity for Star Trek fans of all ages, and was christened by the American Medical Association as “the most entertaining over-the-counter stress reliever currently available.”

Physicians note: Therapeutic effects of STII are best experienced if you stop the movie before the Vulcan buys the farm. After that you will cry. If you don’t then you are less human than Arne Darvin. You’ve been warned.


  • piko1 says:

    the bad thing about the CA is that eventually fails after some years that’s why the Tamya cement is the best modeling glue

    • Michael Payton says:

      That’s why I use CA only for non load bearing areas such as fine details. But to each his own. Models I have that were put together with standard model cements have suffered a similar fate. The models I have that were held with CA are doing quite well. Perhaps it also has to do with the environment in which they are stored.

  • Jason Moon says:

    Not to be the Spelling Nazi, but it’s actually “KHAN”, not “KAHN”(apparently even my Spellcheck function agrees).

    I think one of the reasons ST2 worked was that it SHOULDN’T have. At least, not according to studio thinking: the villain is a bad guy who shows up in ONE EPISODE of the first season of the show and has backstory that most people would NOT know, the story has a theme of aging, and one of the most popular characters DIES. This SHOULD have been box office poison, instead it was one of the best Trek films ever. Also, on a personal note: Cummerbatch(sp?) was miscast as Khan. If you want to show a genetic superman, you do not make him look like he is dying of tuberculosis. Montalbahn made him both attractive and repulsive at the same time, which is one reason why his character is so beloved.

  • Kyle Sulcebarger says:

    I know what you mean about CA being attracted to fingers. I make CA adhesives and I manage to glue myself to something at least once a day. And I won’t tell you some of the places I’ve found it…

    Anyway, my only worry is that 3D printing will become so common that modeling like this won’t require any skill or craftsmanship (such that Michael possesses) to achieve. For those interested, check out starshipmodeler.com .

  • Larry Martin says:

    The work you are doing on the Ares is amazing. I’m really looking forward to seeing the completed model, lights and all. I know my question doesn’t have anything to do with the process of building a model from scratch but can you tell me what the small dome is for behind the main bridge? As KHAN or KAHN might say, “it tasks me” and I’d really like to know.