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Starship Modeler's Resource: Scratchbuilding Babylon 5

Brief review courtesy of John Karpiscak - © 1997.

The star of the Show.

John decided not to wait for Revell-Monogram to (maybe) release a B5 kit. Instead, he grabbed some wood, put it on a lathe, and started turning. As he tells it:

Actually, working on a lathe is fairly easy; getting plans to B-5 is not (until very recently). What I wound up doing was downloading every available picture of B-5 from the net I could and studying them.

A big break came when I was reviewing every single episode that I had copied off the air for more detail and found a 'wire version' shown briefly in the pilot episode. I literally placed pieces of paper on the TV tube and traced the outline (to get the proportions right, or, as right as possible).

Once done, I reduced it in size to a desktop model (a bit over a foot long) and turned the cylinder from a piece of poplar (should have used cherry, it turns better), and cut the spine and solar panel wings from oak using a band saw (shape and dimensions were approximated from the 'wire version'), and made solar panels out of sheet styrene.

Next, I applied several coats of lacquer, to smooth out the cylinder before final painting and making the Cobra Bays. It dries fast and allows you to build up layers to hide defects on the wood. Still, it's requiring several coats, then sanding and several more coats and so on. The solar panels are tending to warp from coating on one side and I have to reshape them by hand or keep them pressed down flat (this despite their being 1/16th inch thick styrene).

I love polyurethane glue; bonds wood to plastic and metal or anything else (and fills in the gaps nicely). I'll be using that to attach the solar panels once I complete the painting on the cylinder.

Side note: B5 changed subtly over the first few episodes (you'll notice that in the early episodes, the Cobra Bays [the little squares the ships come out of]) did not exist. I think we saw them towards the end of the first season though . . .

From the official fanzine and official Internet site, the proportions seem accurate enough, but we really won't know until the model comes out in kit form.

Scale? Did someone say scale? . . . Good question. Actually, I didn't really give it any thought, I just wanted to get the proportions right and get the model to a manageable size. I was also thinking of making a larger version of the cylinder (by itself it looks like a good table leg for a Sci- Fi room you know).

BABYLON 5, the Babylon 5 logo, all photos and images, and related indicia from the series are copyright and trademark 1992-1997, PTEN Consortium.

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Text copyright © John Karpiscak 1997. Last updated on 10 January 1998