A few stages into building my Eaglemoss 1:900 scale U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D model, I noticed a bad trend regarding the windows.
Most, if not all, of the windows stick out of the hull. Not only is this inaccurate, but it causes weird shadows at each window when light strikes the hull from the side. Here are a couple of the Eaglemoss promotional photos that help show what I mean:
To confirm my suspicions, I broke out my calipers and started measuring things:
- The saucer Deck Panels I have received so far are between ~1.3mm and ~1.6mm thick at the window holes
- Each window part is ~2.5mm tall
- The windows base ‘flange’ is ~0.6mm
The ‘flange’ is what keeps the windows from falling through the holes, so if we subtract it from the entire window part height (2.5 minus 0.6), that means the actual tab of the window itself is roughly 1.9mm tall. Poking that through a hull that is anywhere from 1.3mm to 1.6mm thick and you can see why they can stick out by over half a millimeter (0.5mm) in some places.
I needed to find a way to reduce the window part heights to match the thickness of the panels so the windows appeared flush or even somewhat recessed. This is what I came up with…
First, I started hand-sanding the windows down on the sprues with a 1500 grit sandpaper stick:
Then, I used 2400, 3200, and finally 3600 grit sticks to get them smooth and opaque. I did try a 4000 grit as well, but this makes them a bit too shiny for my taste. Ending with 3600 seemed to be a nice dull finish I was looking for:
Since hand-handing is not very accurate, I measured my progress along the way. It seems that just over 2mm total thickness was the sweet spot. This should recess the windows into the hull just a tiny bit:
This same procedure worked for the clear windows as well. The cotton swab was used to wipe them off as I went:
This solution worked pretty well. It is also affordable and can be done by nearly anyone. Here, you can see that my modified windows are not sticking out of the Deck Panel:
While the previous solution was acceptable, I started to notice that I was not very good at making the window surfaces consistent and flat. They had a tendency to come out be angled or even rounded. Also, I found it time-consuming to sand each window individually.
Along the way, I came up with an idea for a custom tool that would allow me to evenly sand down many windows at once. I also knew it had to be made of metal so it would keep its dimensions during sanding. I quickly put my thoughts to paper and scribbled out this this sketch:
Next, I reached out to a friend who has experience with 3D design and, using free Autodesk Fusion 360 software, he quickly mocked up a STL file of my idea:
I used an online site to convert the STL to DXF format, then sent it over to a local CNC shop. Many, MANY dollars later, I ended up with this:
This little Window Sanding Fixture consists of:
- 50mm W x 100mm L x 10mm H solid aluminum base block with 3mm holes at the corners
- 50mm W x 100mm L x 1.4mm H solid aluminum top panel with ten (10) 2mm wide x 80mm long rounded slots
- 50mm W x 100mm L x 1.2mm H solid aluminum top panel with ten (10) 2mm wide x 80mm long rounded slots
- Four (4) M3-7 x 3.3 x 0.5mm washers
- Four (4) M3-0.5 x 14mm Pan Head Phillips screws
- Four (4) M3-0.5mm Cap Nuts
I super glued the washers to the bottom of the slotted panels (as spacers) to keep it from bending when tightened down:
After that, I started loading windows into the fixture, window ‘tab’ down, like this. Each slot can hold 10 windows, so here I am doing all of the black windows used in Stage 4 at once:
Then, I place the thick base plate on top so can turn it all right side up and the windows stay in place:
Using the screws and nuts, I fastened it all together and got to sanding just like before:
Once the plastic of the windows is sanded down to about the level of the metal, I can set the windows free. If they need more, I can load them up in the 1.2mm thick version of the top panel and do it again:
Finally, I do the clear windows separately so I do not scrape black plastic bits into them while sanding:
When finished, I cleaned up the fixture and the sanded windows, and I am ready to do the next set. It is not perfect, but it is a massive improvement over sanding each window separately while on the sprues. This block is easier to hold and can be placed on the table for more leverage. The windows are coming out at just over 2mm total thickness and all have the same flat ‘tops’ I was going for. Unfortunately, it seems it will only work for the saucer windows, but still, that will save me a ton of time.
Overall, I am happy with my little creation. It was not cheap, so I hope it continues to perform for the rest of the build!
UPDATE Jul 22, 2021: I talked to my CNC shop about a group buy for these and they said they would be around $100 USD and then I never heard from them again. I think a better way would be to just post up my 3D files of the fixture in DXF and STL formats. You should be able to take these designs and have the fixture made locally wherever you are. Enjoy!
DXF (AutoCAD Drawing Interchange Format)
- Base (50mm x 100mm x 10mm)
- 1.4mm Top Panel (50mm x 100mm x 1.4mm)
- 1.2mm Top Panel (50mm x 100mm x 1.2mm)