Last time, I got all my wiring runs in place to illuminate this model. Now it’s time to add some lights, starting with the engine bells.
There’s room for a couple of large LEDs inside the flare of the engine bells, which means I can get a light behind both engine nozzles on each of the three engine bells. Here’s one LED in one half of an engine bell, showing how I plan to position my lights:
With that decided, I wired up and tested my three pairs of lights:
Then there was a decision to make about what to do with the engine nozzles. The kit parts are solid, with a moulded grill. Yay! Monsters make a replacement part moulded of translucent plastic, so there’s the option to paint everything on these parts except where I want light to leak through, between the grill bars. But the Paragrafix photoetch parts I’ll be using for the cockpit interior include a set of nice engine grills, too—so I could drill out the kit parts and insert the metal replacement grills. Here are all the relevant parts, next to the Paragrafix photoetch—Yay! Monsters nozzles at left, kit part at right, engine bell below.
My concern with the Yay! Monsters part was that the back isn’t finished. Here’s a comparison with the kit part (on left):
You can see that the Yay! Monsters part would need a lot of work to get it to locate properly within the hexagonal engine bell. I also wasn’t sure how neat a final effect I could produce, applying paint on to the translucent grill. So I drilled out the nozzles and used the Paragrafix grills:
There’s quite a lot of light inside the engine bells, and I didn’t want it to leak out anywhere except through the grills. So I lined the bells with metal foil on top of a layer of flat black paint, and then painted the exterior black, too, before finally placing the external layer of kit parts that add detail all around the bell.
When I checked for light leaks in a darkened room, I picked up a couple of seams that needed just a little filler and more paint, and one bright spot in the middle of an exterior part, where its locating tab had pushed through the interior foil and was acting as a light duct—a little more foil cured that.
But the hexagons containing the paired engine nozzles presented a problem, with the potential for unsightly light leaks around their edges. The position of the nozzles, very close to the edge of the part, meant that it was going to be difficult to fill any leaks around those edges. After a bit of contemplation, I came up with a solution that involved the diffuser I was going to place inside the grills. I wanted the nozzles to look uniformly dark when not illuminated—no glimpses of the interior foil and LEDs. And I wanted a diffuse illuminant when my engine lights were switched on. Eventually I settled on using a piece of the plastic packaging my LEDs had been delivered in. Here’s a demo—dark side of the plastic at left; plastic stretched and glued over the back of the engine hexagon at centre; final product at right:
I dealt with the filler problem by “pre-filling” the edges of the hexagon—leaving a little edge of my plastic diffuser all around the part, and anointing it with fine filler before gluing it into the engine bell:
This auto-filled the gap around the edges as I pushed it into place, and the small amount of excess that squeezed out was easily removed with the edge of a damp tissue. Then it was just a matter of checking the final effect:
And the dark-room test:
Now it was time to add some detail paint to the engine compartment and nozzles. My idea is to produce a quite strongly variegated effect, which I’ll eventually moderate with a uniform blending coat across the whole model.
For the engine compartment itself, I used a set of paint masks from Aztec Dummy.
The idea here is to layer on several shades of grey, with the paint mask orientation shifted and rotated between layers, to produce an overall mottle suggesting fine detail.
For the smoothly panelled front end of the compartment, I started with a dark shade, masked a few panels, added a paler shade, and so on. Here’s the final result:
I painted the engines bells mid-grey and then brought up detail with a dark wash:
At present the engine bells are just tacked in place with some clear glue. There’s a slight problem with the bells, which is that in the “real” thing, the three hexagons containing the engine nozzles align edge to edge. But the kit parts want to sit very slightly apart. The solution is either to slip in a little sliver of plastic to fill the gap, or to tilt the outer engines very slightly to bring the hexagons together, and I wanted to take a look at my options at this stage.
Here are the hexagons aligned edge to edge:
And, actually, the slight tilt turns out to be no big deal, discernible only if you press the hexagons against something flat. So that’s what I’ll go with when I assemble this section permanently.
I was also able to check my wiring runs and light up the engines:
So that’s all good. Next time, I’ll move to the other end of the kit and start wiring up and illuminating the Paragrafix photoetch cockpit.