Return to the BUILD
“Continue building your U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D as you start to assemble the port warp nacelle, complete with bussard collector and formation light.”
I did some extra paint work in this stage, so it is going to be a longer read than normal.
UPDATE June 17, 2021: It has been confirmed that new versions of parts 2C and 2I will included with Stage 45. The new Nacelle Front will no longer be transparent and the new Formation Light will be changed to red.
UPDATE August 2023: After Fanhome took over this model, they started sending out an updated Stage 2 with the new parts already included.
Materials: The Nacelle Upper and Nacelle Front are made of metal, but the rest of the parts are plastic.
Fitting Parts to the Nacelle Upper
As I said before, I will try to show which part of the starship we are working on using a customized version of my copy of the 1996 Enterprise D blueprints by Rick Sternbach. The red color indicates new panels we are working on and the grey color will show the sections we already have:
Fit the Bussard EM Field Projector into the Nacelle Upper with the striations flaring forward.
Like in the previous stage, we are getting right into the mod work. This Bussard EM Field Projector arrived with a transparent orange color. In the model’s promotional pictures, it even shows it being lit up from inside:
However, on the ‘real’ starship, this part was a golden yellow and not lit. According to Andy Probert’s now-defunct website, they used Pantone PMS 130 to paint this section on the models. Here is a picture of the six-foot shooting model for reference:
Ben Robinson, who led this project, said on his Twitter that this part will be replaced with a corrected piece later in the build. But, you never know with these things, so I am just going to fix it now. First, I airbrushed the entire Bussard EM Field Projector with a base coat of Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black acrylic paint to ensure I will block any light coming through:
Then, I airbrushed it with a few coats of Vallejo Flat Yellow 70.953 acrylic paint. This paint is almost an exact match to PMS 130.
NOTE: I have since updated this yellow paint to a darker color. See the end of this page for details:
Once dry, we can install this part into the Nacelle Upper. Be sure the rear groove of the Bussard EM Field Projector slides down over the matching lip of the Nacelle Upper and these angled ribs are facing the right way:
Fit the Bussard EM Field Projector Reflector over the Bussard EM Field Projector.
This Bussard EM Field Projector Reflector will only sit flush if it is orientated the right way. Take note of these two circular cutouts:
These cutouts should be at the front of the nacelle, matching the two circular cutouts of the Bussard EM Field Projector below it:
Drop the D-shaped body of the Formation Light into the matching hole at the rear of the Nacelle Upper:
On our model, this Formation Light was blue. However, on every shot of the show I could find, this light was white. Since transparent colored model parts like this one are almost always dipped in paint, I dropped this part into some 91% isopropyl alcohol and let it sit for a few hours to strip the paint off:
Once the blue paint was removed, I gently sanded the rounded tip with a 3200 grit sandpaper stick to ‘cloud’ it over and help diffuse any light:
Then, per the instructions, I fit the Formation Light into the matching D-shaped hole at the rear of the Nacelle Upper:
Working on the Nacelle Upper Frame and the Bussard Collector Cap
Fit the Nacelle Upper Frame into the Nacelle Upper, aligning the pins and screw holes as shown.
This should fit over the Bussard EM Field Projector Reflector and the Formation Light to hold them both in place. Ignore the small strip of blue paint you can see here on the center of the frame; I was testing something for the Mod Zone below:
Secure the Nacelle Upper Frame to the Nacelle Upper with nine (9) AM screws.
This is your friendly reminder to try using 3-in-One Oil on all screws going into metal:
Once this frame is installed, we can see how our modified Formation Light pokes out the top at the rear:
Fit the Nacelle Front onto the forward end of the Bussard EM Field Projector Reflector.
Be sure the raised lip of the Nacelle Front fits into this front groove of the Bussard EM Field Projector Reflector:
… and secure the Nacelle Front to the Nacelle Upper Frame with three (3) BM screws, as shown:
Installing the Warp Engine Field Grill
When the Galaxy class warp engines are powered down, these warp grills are not blue like the parts we have. Instead, these grills were clear with strips of copper running down the length of them. Unpowered nacelles were actually shown a few times during the show, such as this image from an episode inside Starbase 74. When the warp engines were active, lighting from inside the studio model, plus an added CGI glow is what made them blue on the show and movies:
Using a picture of the six-foot studio model, we can confirm that they simply used unlit warp nacelles in these shots:
I wanted to see if I could replicate this ‘unlit’ exterior appearance on our build. The process I came up with is not for the faint-hearted and took a LOT of time and patience. If you are going to try it, go slow and accept that mistakes happen that may result in starting over. I tried this seven different ways before I got a satisfactory result!
The first thing I needed to do was strip off all the existing blue paint from the Warp Engine Field Grill parts. I filled a shallow pan with 91% isopropyl alcohol, covered it to prevent evaporation, and let them sit in there overnight. You could even use the plastic trays the parts came in, just be sure to seal them up or the alcohol will quickly evaporate away making a mess:
The next morning, I rubbed off any excess blue paint with an old toothbrush and rinsed them down with water. They ended up nice and clear:
The LEDs that will light these grilles up are blue but I wanted a nice deep blue, so I chose to airbrush only the inside surfaces of the three warp grill parts with a few coats of Tamiya X-23 Clear Blue acrylic paint. This is a transparent paint designed to allow light through and is identical in color to the paint we stripped off:
Once this paint was dry, I lightly sanded the outside surfaces with 3200 and/or 4000 grit sandpaper sticks to make them more opaque/cloudy. This will not only give the outside appearance a more grey (not blue) color between the copper grilles, but will also help diffuse the LED lighting that will show through them. The higher grit sandpaper you use here, the less opaque the plastic will be. This is also why I stripped all the blue paint off instead of painting the copper right on top of the exterior blue:
After wiping the sanding dust off the grilles, I started to mask them off using this image of the six-foot studio model rear nacelle as a guide. Note the four copper bands here:
Using 1/64″ graphic art tape, I painstakingly recreated the same four stripes on my Warp Engine Field Grill Rear first. Since this part was the smallest of the three, I tested my process on it over and over. You could also use 1/32″ graphic art tape here if you want more spacing between the ‘ribs’:
Next, I airbrushed a few light coats of Tamiya XF-6 Copper acrylic paint over the masking. It does not need very much paint here and I did my best to not overspray any copper on the inside blue surfaces:
Once the paint dried, I carefully removed the tape lines and this was the result. It looks fantastic!
When I held this part up to a light, the copper color practically disappeared and the blue showed through quite easily:
I repeated this process for both of the side grills as well, lining up the same four stripes to the rear grill I just finished. This took a long time to do as such thin tape does not like to stick in place well at all!
As with the rear grill, I shot these side grills with a few thin layers of the copper paint:
And, after removing the tape, here is a painted side grille held up to the light:
There is one final painting step that I don’t cover nearly as much as I should. Once I let the copper paint fully cure overnight, I airbrushed a few coats of Tamiya XF-86 Flat Clear acrylic paint over the top of our hard work. Because these parts are going to be handled frequently, this extra layer should help protect the delicate striping we just completed. It also served to dull down the ‘sparkly’ metallic finish of the copper paint:
After letting this clear paint layer dry, we can continue the assembly of the model with our newly modified grills:
Fit the Warp Engine Field Grill Right into the Nacelle Upper, aligning the screw holes as shown.
This fits down into a groove around the edge of the Nacelle Upper, so be sure it is fully seated:
Secure this Warp Engine Field Grill to the Nacelle Upper with four (4) AP screws:
Repeat this process with the Warp Engine Field Grill Left using four (4) more AP screws:
Fit the Warp Engine Field Grill Rear to the back end of the Nacelle Upper, as shown.
You may have to flex the side grills a little to get this rear part to fit down all the way:
Secure this Warp Engine Field Grill Rear into place with two (2) AP screws:
After reassembly, I think it looks a lot closer to the real thing and will easily still glow blue when lit from within:
UPDATE May 2021: After I published this stage and looked closer at my completed nacelle, I decided to come back and repaint the Bussard EM Field Projector Reflector to be a darker yellow/orange. Here, I stripped the old paint off and re-airbrushed it with Citadel Yriel Yellow acrylic paint. I have also found that Vallejo Game Air 72.707 Gold Yellow is a very close match to this color.
This result seems to be much closer to what I was originally looking for. It is somewhere between the true Pantone color and the 13-year old color seen in the pictures of the 6-ft shooting model. It also better matches the RCS thruster color already applied to the nacelle:
Whew, the first two stages of this Enterprise D have involved a lot of extra work, but I feel it is worth it! The base model itself is actually quite excellent, but all models can be better if we take the time to make that happen. And, I knew going into this build that I was going to be adding details all over the place. We did not use the red Bussard Collector in this stage, so keep it and the nacelle assembly safe for now.
Stage 3 – Main Deflector Dish Center/Reflector/Inner/Supports/LEDs, Battery Box, PCB