Wednesday, October 3, 2012

U.S.S. Excelsior

Despite all the various Star wars helmets and props seen on my blog, I am also a Star Trek fan.  My favorite thing about Star Trek is their iconic Federation ships with the saucer section and long warp engines.
One of my favorites was the Excelsior, and I spent many years of my youth trying to make one of my own.  In my twenties they finally made a model kit, but was not much to my liking since it was not to scale with any of the Enterprise models I had.

My brother once told about a material I should use called Insulation foam.  It is very much like styrofoam, only much more dense and stronger.  It is also supposedly quite sand-able.   I decided to test out insulation foam with this simple project.  

Insulation foam can be found at any major hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowes.  They come in varying thicknesses and are usually sold in sheets around 4' x 8'.  If you plan to purchase a sheet and you're like me and have a small car, you might want to bring a utility knife with you and cut the sheet so that it fits in your car.

To start I found images of the Excelsior online.

I used images like the one above and made outlines of the sides, front, back, top and bottom of the ship.

Next I printed my outlines and double stick taped them to cardboard and cut them out.
Unfortunately when I was doing this at work I had it in my mind that I was just fooling around, so I didn't bother taking pictures of the building process.  But the more I worked on it, the more I liked it.  So below are images of the ship partially built.

For the engines I used the same process as the rest of the ship, cutting the shapes of the sides and top/bottom and gluing them together.

Then I cut strips of foam to fill up the 4 quadrants of the engines.

I hot glued the foam to the cardboard, and using an x-acto knife and sand paper I shaped it.

Then I glued the engines onto the rest of the ship.

Not too terrible at all.
The more I work with insulation foam, the more I like using it.
I still have yet to find good ways of covering the foam in preparation for priming and spray painting.
In the past I've used acrylic paints and wood filler to cover the foam.  Acrylic paint works well.  Wood filler can be porous depending on how thick you lay it on.  And after sanding it can still leave exposed foam.  I've heard of using white glue to coat the foam, but I have not yet tried that method.
Since this was just a 'fooling around' project I may attempt different methods I can find for covering the foam, and I will of course post any progress I make.  But for the meantime I hope this short blog posting can show the versatility and usefulness of insulation foam.

I have now been using insulation foam for quite a while and it is a great material to use.  I never finished my Excelsior model, but with some of my other projects I have found good ways of working with it.

First of all; gluing.  I find the best glue to use is hot glue.  I've seen people using white glue - and I've tried it myself, but for me white glue never dried too well to the foam.  You can use clear/white Gorilla glue - but that glue expands and take a while to dry.  So I advise hot glue.

Secondly; coating.  Coating your foam is important if you plan on spray painting it.  One method is using acrylic paints.  This works well, however you need to put on many coats of paint in order to seal it well enough for spray painting.  You can apply wood filler too, but that involves sanding - which isn't too bad.  But my preferred method is this:  Brush on a thin coating of spackling paste.  I usually use a large wet brush and slightly dilute the spackling paste and apply that to the foam.  It coats very well and dries relatively fast.

There are other methods and materials that people out there use for working with insulation foam.  The methods and materials shown above are what work for me.  As always I am learning new ways of working with stuff, so if I have any other updates I will post them

Thanks for reading!

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