Tuesday, 23 August 2016



Well, it was about time I got off my skinny arse and wrote up some more of these articles. It has been quite a while since completing anything worthy enough to be included in these ramblings. Continuing health problems aside, very little inspiration has taken hold of me lately and other considerations have been a little more important to me over the past few months. Previously I had been hard at work on three Venom Interceptors in varying scales – 1:144, 1:72 and 1:48, however they have been put on hold for the time being. As well as that, I did actually begin the construction of a large scale flying saucer, keeping in mind a possible scenario for the next epic movie produced in my modelling shed. Those projects are still viable, although it may be some time before work recommences on them. I had a couple of great ideas for the next movie as well. Maybe... We’ll see...

 Anyway, attempting to be inspired into actually finishing something (yes, you know what I mean), I had been collecting various shots of the many buildings and constructions to be found in “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet” and “Joe 90”. The number of buildings that were used and re-used from episode to episode and from show to show is amazing. Quite logical really – build up a number of constructions and then pick and choose which ones to flesh out a scene in the background behind an SPV or Thunderbird 2 for example. A lot of work and detailing went into the construction of these models: working lights, rotating antennae etc., so re-using them was a vital necessity. While Derek Meddings and his talented crew regularly re-used guest models of aircraft and vehicles, many of the airport and military base structures were also re-worked and featured in other shows as part of a busy background behind the action. One of my particular favourites is a building that featured way back in the first episode of “Thunderbirds” with the beautifully designed Fireflash airliner. The structure sports a New York Central sign in this episode and appeared later during the run of the popular series. The second episode of “Captain Scarlet”, Winged Assassin, also included this building as the terminal where the doomed DT-19 airliner was to offload passengers. I believe the very same building has appeared in “Joe 90” as well, probably as a stock shot, however I am unable to confirm this. It definitely appears in the background of “Thunderbird 6” as well. Needless to say, that structure appears in no less than four episodes of “Captain Scarlet”, usually as part of a group of background airport buildings. For some reason the shape just appeals to me. It was probably constructed from plywood, with added detail and sheet sections of cutout plastic windows, a basic shape that was added to by each successive model crew as the years progressed.

What I had in mind was to build a selection of structures that could be used and re-used in various photographic scenes, in exactly the same way as the Derek Meddings crews had in the 60s. I began by scribbling some shapes in a pad, quite a few shapes in fact, up to the point where I had to begin construction sooner or later. I had all these elaborate and complicated shapes to construct, however what I ended up doing was to use pre-existing shapes that I had been collecting over the past few decades. Now, some of you know that model builders can be obsessive collectors of things, and not just plastic kits either. I had been storing plastic shapes for years and the collection had grown considerably, especially since many members of my local model group had begun collecting for me as well. It doesn’t take too long to acquire way too much stuff, ie. junk, so my decision was to use materials I had in my shed and not, for the moment anyway, build something from scratch. Boxlike shapes were found to provide the basic shape for the building. I managed to locate a clear plastic tray that valuables were put in prior to Qantas flights, while another building was based on an old tray from a refrigerator. Old plastic cassette tape display units gave me ideas for another structure and large display bases from a famous model kit morphed into a fourth construction. The sextet of structures featured here were worked on, one after the other and quite often overlapping, for a period of about six or seven weeks. All six feature some sort of LED illumination in the windows, as well as some flashing red LED beacons. A few packets of various LEDs were purchased from here:

Lance Turner

LED Sales

43 Lenna Rd

East Ridgley TAS 7321

ABN: 19 337 300 915
(Lance was very professional and the service was swift and cost effective. I highly recommend his business.)
Because soldering is not quite my forte, all wiring joins were accomplished by firmly joining the appropriate wires together and then covering the join area with short lengths of Heatshrink, available at any electronics shop. Wiring up the many LEDs was done in the same way, after first bending the positive and negative  filaments and crimping the ends to the wires, after which they were treated with more of the Heatshrink. The power supply for each building was provided by a pair of 1.5V AA batteries connected to an on-off switch in the battery box itself. These invaluable little boxes were purchased at Jaycar Electronics. Any flashing LED beacons were wired into a different circuit from the window illumination LEDs, so some buildings have not one but two battery/switch boxes secreted within their construction.I used individual flashing LEDs for the beacons, ones that blink on their own rather than being connected to an IC chip to have them flash in unison. For window illumination I used 3mm super bright LEDs purchased from LED Sales. They provided a clear, bright light that was exactly what I needed.

One area of continuing concern with my buildings was how much could be viewed through the windows with the interior lighting I was installing. I didn’t want to have to detail each construction with a full interior and, as yet, have no real answer to this vexing problem. I “frosted” each of the window areas from the inside with sandpaper so as to provide an even glow when the lights are switched on, however I’m still rather unhappy with the way they look at times. When viewed from a low angle, as most buildings are, no real details can be discerned. However, one can see inside quite easily when viewed close up and I need to arrive at an easy way to detail the interiors of these structures. A friend suggested photographic cut-outs which I will attempt to do with the next building. (Any helpful comments will be greatly appreciated.)

I won’t go into details of how each and every building was constructed. Needless to say, the necessary LEDs were installed very early on and the windows masked off, either with tape or Blu-Tac to avoid getting paint on them during the spraying process. Once basic construction was completed, each building was detailed with kit parts or found objects. One thing I did notice on these buildings was something I call “repeatability”. For an aircraft or vehicle, each piece or section is usually different from all the others that go into making up the shape. With buildings however, the opposite occurs, These constructions are usually modular in nature, meaning that certain section shapes are re-used again and again. One floor of a highrise is fairly certain to be virtually identical to the next floor up and so on. To provide this “repeatability”, I scoured all my boxes of bits and pieces, hunting for multiple copies of ideal shapes to detail my buildings. One source of cheap multiple parts are those $2 shops that are a boon to people like me. One Japanese franchise sold small, clear dipping dishes in packs of ten for a couple of dollars, while another shop had plastic tracks for toy trains that would be great (and repeatable) detail on the sides of buildings. Another great find was a collection of clear plastic containers that had housed teaspoons that collectors like to display on their refrigerators. Where I managed to get thirty or forty of these from, one can only guess. I’ve forgotten myself! Yet another source of detail consisted of various plastic shapes used for the rolling up and display of materials and cottons in fabric shops. It’s amazing what one can put on the side of a model building and get away with it. I also located a box of old plastic photographic slides which I utilised for Building #3. And no, I didn’t disguise them at all although, in retrospect, I probably could have been a little more discerning with them. Cheap shops can provide a wealth of detail parts for very little money. Just try to avoid the bendy type of plastic (polyethylene) that can be a nightmare to glue. Button containers, plastic display racks, serving dishes, bowls – most items can be used in some way or other.If the plastic was a little flexible, as in the CD container atop the tower in Building #2, I found that by sanding the areas needing adhesive, the glue worked far better.

All eight buildings were constructed, windows and beacons were masked off, primed in good quality auto spray and then given a final off-white colour called “Surfmist” which I purchased from my local Bunnings store. Additional masking, followed by more spraying with extra colours and each of the buildings was ready for the pencil lines, pinstriping tape and final weathering with graphite rubbed on the straight edge of a piece of paper. When all was dry, the masking was removed and additional kit parts were added over the model to provide a little more interest to the surfaces, In this case, I opted not even to paint the extra pieces, but to Superglue them on just as they were to various nooks and crannies of the structures, after which a final clear, matt coat of varnish was applied to seal everything together and to fatten any glossy areas. Generally I found that, as I progressed through each building, I would re-use various detailing parts that suited a particular structure. Some parts found their way onto nearly all the structures. All parts, with the exception of the Evergreen, were purchased or found in my extensive collection and were as cheap as possible. In the end, I guess I had spent about fifty dollars on the eight structures. Not too bad considering the multiple uses I’ll manage to get from each of them.

Here is a basic list of materials used in the construction of each building:

BUILDING #1: Basic shape is some sort of food display unit, various levels of which swung out to provide access to the contents. Cost: about $1. Details – lots of Evergreen (I went overboard a little!); sheet styrene for door entrance; plastic bowl, kit girders and aluminium cigar tube for flashing LED beacon tower on top; kit parts.
Some kind of plastic food display/serving unit...

...becomes a tower.

Constructing the entrance foyer.

Creating the tower and beacon.

The completed entrance with lighting.

A lighting test on the tower.

Adding some details to the top area.

The beacon area completed.

The fully completed tower in a more natural setting.
BUILDING #2: Old Qantas plastic valuables tray used at airport security; model kit truck body; CD container; butter dish lid; sheet styrene; kit parts; DVD display rack shelves cut up; many plastic teaspoon display containers.

An old plastic tray from Qantas security becomes...

...the basis for a building, along with the top from...

...a butter dish being detailed, along with...

...a truck body and CD container for a tower.

Detailing the front entrance...

...and the rest with bits and pieces.

The building look better when primed in grey.

The basic colour scheme added.

This shot shows that I need to add more LEDs to the interior to provide a higher illumination for the windows.

BUILDING #3 – Four cassette display cases; sheet styrene; plastic Agfacolor slide mounts; kit parts.
Positioning the four cassette display cases.

Adding some styrene sheet to provide a front facade.

Evergreen strip gives some detail to the window areas.

Detailing the roof area with various offcuts.

BUILDING #4 – Two display bases from Moebius 1:350 scale Enterprise kit; coloured paper; pair of cassette display cases as underneath car parks; kit parts; plastic teaspoon display containers; sheet styrene; old resin castings of Airfix bridge kits.

Detailing the car park areas, originally a pair of cassette tape containers.

The structure atop the car parks began life as a pair of Moebius Enterprise display bases.

Detailing the underside of the building with teaspoon display cases.

I added coloured paper to the recessed areas to provide some surface interest.

BUILDING #5 – A freezer drawer from a refrigerator; parts from a CD display rack for the window frames and rear details; a Continental Beef Stock Cube container for the entrance lobby; styrene sheet; collectible teaspoon containers and 5.25 inch computer diskette (remember these from 20 or 30 years ago?) dividers for roof detail; kit parts. 
An old drawer from a refrigerator freezer becomes the basis for a building.

The plastic rack from a CD display unit can become window frames.

The window frames glued over masking tape covering the clear "windows".

A stock cube container became the foyer of the entrance.
The entranceway has a masked off door made from clear styrene.

The roof area detailed with dividers from old computer discs, and plastic boxes.

The LEDs positioned atop a plastic box attached to the underside of the roof.

The finished building prior to painting.

Building #6 - Plastic food container; rectangular acrylic aquarium; 60mm PVC pipe; clear plastic domes(2 different sizes) from Christmas ornaments; sheet styrene; front window areas are one side of a cheap($2) plastic container; collectible spoon containers; Evergreen strip #128; kit parts; tracks from toy cars for detailing the rear of the building.
The basic shapes for the building are played around with.

Adding Evergreen strip to detail the window areas, one side from a plastic box.

The areas either side of the central windows are built up using styrene sheet.

Detailing the entranceway/lobby beneath the central window area.

All detailed and tiny, none of which can be seen because I "frosted" the doorway!

The half cylinder on top is a section of PVC pipe cut lengthways.

Adding the window areas to the inside and outside of the plastic food container.

The window areas on the rear are sections of toy car tracks. Other detail also added.

Primed and ready. The masked off domes were finished, painted and weathered first.

Adding the pinstriping tape, different colours, pencil lines and graphite weathering really finishes the building off.

Whoops! Unable to correct this angle.

 Turning the buildings to face different aspects in photographs should result in quite a variety of shots without drawing too much attention to the buildings themselves. The car park areas of Building #4 are detachable to provide a variety of photo situations. The long building itself can be positioned on one end to give a different aspect of the same structure. The dome atop Building #1 is similarly detachable to allow for different photo possibilities. The rear details of Building #5 are different from the details on the other three sides so as to give a variety of looks to the structure in photographs. The windows on the rear of Building #6 are of a different scale to those on the front which, hopefully, can be utilised as two separate structures.

For the completed photos a single tabletop was used in front of my sky background. A horizon cut-out was placed at the rear and the structures were photographed in front of this, along with some older buildings and structures in the far background. Various vehicles and differently-scaled cars gave the impression of a much deeper perspective. Chalk lines were drawn on the primer grey surface to simulate those found in real life at airports and military bases. A length of railway “grass” was positioned in front of the camera which was mounted on a tripod near the sloping foreground. This foreground consisted of a long styrene sheet stapled and screwed to the table edge. In all, about an hour was needed to prepare the area for photography. The fun part came when the lighting was lowered and the building illumination was switched on. Seeing the structures fully lit made all the extra work just that more worthwhile.
(A very special thanks to Dion and Ray for their help, advice and muscles on the photographic set-ups.)

My good friend Dion Collins enjoying himself while playing with my toys!

BUILDING #7 - The Terminal
This structure was a little different as it was totally scratchbuilt as opposed to using a basic shape for the foundation. Wanting to emulate the shape of the terminal used in Captain Scarlet and other shows, pictured at the beginning of this article. I began with a polystyrene box that I managed to "borrow" from my local Coles supermarket. In fact, Coles was giving away a dozen or more of these fruit/vegetable boxes and since I had previously used one to create my "Multibuilding", I thought I could reuse the same basic shape and add to it to make the terminal. Sheets of Foamcore were purchased from my local Bunnings and these became the walls for the terminal. Scraps of MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) were located and cut to the appropriate size using my bandsaw. They were glued to the polystyrene box and Foamcore sheets using Liquid Nails, a strong adhesive for the building industry. Various scraps of MDF became the bracing for the three levels. I found more of the DVD dividers that I had used for windows on Building #5. This saved a LOT of time on the window areas, one side of the building being covered in them. I spray painted the actual window recesses a dark grey so this colour would show when the masking was removed. There were no lights or beacons added to this structure. here is a list of materials used in its creation: Foamcore sheeting; MDF sheeting; kit parts; window frames from a DVD display unit; two photographic slide units; sides from a truck body; PVC pipe section; plastic rightangle from Bunnings. I made the back of the building completely different to the rest so as to be able to use this in different photographic setups.
Adding the masking tape to the window areas.

The window frames are from a DVD display unit.

Priming the building in grey pulls it all together.

Details consist of a pair of space shuttle fuel tank halves and some PVC pipe.

 Well, I can see the similarities anyway!

 BUILDING #8 - One from the past...

This tower was first commenced about 20 years ago and sat on my shelf in the shed for all this time before being resurrected over the course of a day or so. Originally it had been a spacecraft of some sort and then dismantled way back in 1980! I think it fits in well with the other buildings and I'm quite happy with it. I nicknamed it "The Igloo" for obvious reasons. I added the supports to the sides of the top and the window frames from various pieces of Evergreen strip. The entranceway is an offcut of PVC pipe, hence the "igloo" look.

The pieces are: a plastic terrarium top, sheet styrene; rings used to wind yarn and wool onto; three spools from the 3M company; clear styrene sheet for the windows; a display base from an old Star Wars spacecraft and various kit parts.

The various parts laid out on the table.

The remains of an old spacecraft???

Adding the supports to the sides of the observation area.
Adding window frames with Evergreen #128.

Adding a doorway within an offcut of PVC pipe.

Masking off after a second colour is added.

The red is a section of pinstriping tape.

BUILDING #9 – This little structure began life as a launch ramp for those little Hotwheels cars. I kind of liked the sloping walls and $5 secured it for me from a local op shop. Some sheet styrene was utilised to construct the squarish unit on one side and part of a truck body became the cylindrical section on the opposite side. The curve was traced onto the plastic and then cut out so it would sit flush. A few of those little clear plastic serving dishes became the units on the front and side of the building, after firstly installing some of the LEDs to the basic shape and adding some Evergreen strip to detail the window areas. Because of the wooden pattern present on the sloping sides, additional sheet styrene was glued on to disguise this unwanted detail. Three millimetre diameter holes were drilled into various areas to allow the lights to shine through in both the squarish and cylindrical sections. Details consisted of various kit and toy parts, some being cut up and rearranged to fit. After gluing the cylindrical section to the side I discovered, much to my disgust, that it wasn’t level at all. In fact it was quite a number of millimetres out. In an effort to hide this, without removing it, I was forced to add an additional piece to the underside, angled so as to appear level. All in all, not too bad an effort. Painting this building a darker colour may have been a mistake as well, however it looks passable in photographs. The usual pencil lines, pinstriping tape and weathering finished it all off. Another one to add to the growing collection!
As I purchased it...

Pulling it all apart...

Section of a truck body ready to be added.

Adding the window areas...

Bracing the styrene with wooden strips...

Window frames are Evergreen #128.
Sheet styrene used construct one side...

All ready to add some paint. The entranceway is a cut down kit part.

Now it's starting to look like something...

I still have to weather the finished building to turn it from a toy into something else!

BUILDING #10For this little construct I began with six, clear plastic desk tidy boxes that I had purchased from one of my local $2 shops. Costing $2 each, they were just the right sort of plastic that I could glue easily to. Originally I was just going to glue them together to form a distant skyscraper, something very rough and simple, however as the lighting and detailing process continued, I found myself adding more and more ideas to this very basic shape. Having removed an end from one of the boxes for a previous structure, I thought this partial box could become the ground floor with an additional entranceway in sheet styrene glued to the front. After two attempts I had a curved facade/roof over the front and then, for reasons unknown, I decided to have a little fun with an interior for the lobby. After rummaging through my many spares boxes, I located a group of small people (about 1:72 scale), an appropriate plastic box and a collection of kit parts that could be incorporated into an idea that was swimming to the surface in my mind. I envisioned a short-staffed and harried “desk jockey” trying to deal with a long line of increasingly frustrated “customers” in a small office on this ground floor. It was a welcome relief from masking up the many windows in the building and I certainly enjoyed adding the tiny details to this mini diorama-within-a-model. The scale of the office customers to the building is probably a little too large, however I did have fun doing it. Twelve LEDs provide the illumination for the structure, while five flashing, red LEDs are positioned as beacons on top of the “roof”. The box atop this roof is simply one of those plastic drawers that one keeps nuts, bolts and screws in, detailed with Evergreen strip window frames and a small railing for the observation area. After all the window areas were masked off, the six boxes were firmly glued together and detailing began on the outside. In a box of unfinished models (don’t smile, we all have at least one of these), I located a small landing platform from a past structure that could fit quite nicely on one side of the tower. This became the VIP heliport platform that received VTOL aircraft delivering people to the upper floors. The tiny helijet was also a previous construct. Requiring a balance for this platform on the opposite side of the tower, I added another plastic box, with internal lighting and Evergreen window frame detailing.
For what was originally planned as a very simple tower complex, this building provided me with plenty of work to do, especially with the window areas and the multitude of plastic and even cardboard strips that were used in its construction, both in the interior and exterior of the sides.

A tiny 1:100 scale helijet landing pad from many years ago was pressed into service on this structure.

The clear plastic trays atop each other for the basic shape.

The entranceway constructed from sheet styrene.
Just for fun - the lobby full of people, a dog and an alien!

The penthouse area of the building - a plastic box used for storing screws, etc.
Testing out the flashing beacons...

To balance out the helijet landing pad, a half cylindrical section made from a truck kit body.

Test fitting the helijet landing pad. Cardboard strips detail the interior of the window areas.

Gluing the sections together...

A little weathering to complete the building...