By Rick Kelly - images & text © 2008
The following is provided for anyone wishing to upgrade the assembly and presentation of the Bandai: NX-01. The topics found within this review cover highlighted assembly tips as well as lighting system modifications that help to improve the presentation of any Star Trek Bandai kit. Don't get me wrong, the Star Trek kits are well made and intrigue the perspective builder - right from the start. But for someone like me, that has more mechanical ability than artistic talent, the Bandai kits are the ticket!
^ Use of clamps for gluing and assembly
Assembly Tips - Model
In most cases, a snap kit is improved by filing the various pieces as they are cut off the sprue tree, then and gluing them in place. My BANDAI NX-01 took over 15 hours because of this but - I like the results! Filing can lead to very slight paint touch up efforts if too much plastic is removed inadvertently. However, for the NX-01, there is a low cost acrylic paint found in many craft shops or Wal-mart stores. The paint I used to perform touch up is made by FolkArt #662 “Metallic Silver Sterling,” and is just about a dead on match to the kit's pre-painted parts.
As far as assembly overall, I found that just about every step was improved by gluing. Otherwise, significant shifting of the pieces occurred when progressing to the next step. If you decide to take the gluing route be 100% certain of your placement prior to applying glue and “snapping” your piece in place. One huge benefit of gluing is that it significantly strengthens the model's hull integrity. Gluing the main lighting substrate (item:”G”), is one prime example of this. Gluing does add time to the project because pieces need to sit for 12-24hrs, and one might consider using model clamps, or plain old binder clips to set things up between steps. Model Master CA (#8872C) by Testor's was indispensible for gluing because the application tip is basically a pin that the glue runs down and the overall consistency of the CA is top notch. I also found that plain old Elmer's White glue was great for holding wires and selected lighting elements in place.
Here are some of the more tricky pieces of the kit to pay extra close attention to:
As far as “kit” bases go, the type found in BANDAI kits are unsurpassed. Still, a little steel wool, primer, and black spray paint go a long way to add to the presentation of your NX-01. Also, I will point out a not so obvious problem with the stand - power losses due to potentially problematic contact areas. There are two inherent problem areas: the top of the base to the model, which cannot be easily improved except by gluing part #C-2 in place, and the upright section of the base to the lower base housing. I overcame these problems by bypassing the switch and battery option and using an external power source, plus gluing C2 in place with white glue. The lighting improvement by way of an external power source is described in the “Assembly Tips - Electrical” section.
The real change in assembly of the base is that the only pieces used are the two upper most conductors (items: #C and #E, page 11, step-9). Wrap wires around the ends, solder these, and rout through the base where the 1/8” (3.5mm) jack is installed for powering the unit externally. Make sure the wiring is more than long enough to be routed to the power jack through the battery compartment. The right side contact (the shortest one) is the positive (“+”). I glued the switch in place and used white glue to fill the remainder of the gap. Also, it is best to assemble the upright after using steel wool and gluing the pieces together. Make sure you still use item:#E-1 to keep the conductors from touching when gluing to two upright halves together.
After the upright halves dry, attach the upright piece to the base, with CA and let it set. I also went a step further by applying white glue to seal the seam between the upper and lower base sections. Steel wool removes the excess white glue rather easily after this dries. Now that the upright is assembled, tape the very top portion with masking tape. Then, spray the base with primer and let it set. When the primer is dry, inspect the base for smoothness. If any imperfections are found, such as uneven gap or glue run-off, sand or steel wool, and primer again. Once the base is blemish free - paint it.
After the paint dries for 24 hours, install the jack that will be used to connect the external power. To prepare for the jack placement, drill a hole in the lower rear of the base that is appropriate for the size of the jack you plan on using. I used a 7/32” drill bit and Radio Jack mono-jacks (#274-0251). Solder your wires to the jack but make sure you route the wires to the jack area through the battery compartment, prior to closing up the base (see picture.)
White glue was great for the wiring and selected lighting pieces. This is because white glue dries almost clear and doesn't melt plastic. Also, one should test lighting elements (“J” & “G”) with an ohmmeter before installing. The reading should not be more than 3-Ohms. I used a high caliber FLUKE Volt-Ohm-Meter (VOM), but for standard meters this will look like a short. True, if these are open or there is a high resistance reading, there is little one can do but buy another model. HOWEVER, it sure beats working on this for hours, and finding out when one is done with the assembly that one of the propulsion tubes is not giving light. Also, when everything is done, and the model is placed on the stand, check the resistance. This is easily accomplished by simply using a 1/8” plug and inserting it into the jack for measuring the resistance between the two wire attachment tabs. The reading should be 1 to 2-Ohms. If the reading is higher, try shifting the model aft. I found that firmly moving the model on the stand backwards, decreased the resistance by 50%, and gets one down to the 1-2 Ohm range. The instructions indicate that actually lighting the kit with an assembled battery- operated base is one way to verify proper light circuit continuity, but I prefer the later.
Assembly Tips - Power Supply
Next, we get into an area that is not as daunting as it sounds, and you can either upgrade the NX-01 you have already built (see diagram 01) or build an NX-01 with the following method of bypassing the switch and battery compartment. Whether you adapt an exiting BANDAI model, or are getting ready to embark on building one - an external power source will be needed.
^ Basic 5VDC power source schematic
When building the power supply, you will need a small general purpose chassis box, like the kind sold at Radio Shack or other electronic suppliers, as well as the general purpose parts shown. If you are new to kit building, many stores sell 5V power supplies, or variable power supplies that can be set to precisely 5VDC under load. Remember, you need two jacks for each lit BANDAI model. One will be installed in the power supply and the other in the base. The power supply jacks mount on the chassis, and are wired in parallel for the power supply end. The other jack goes in the base of the model. You will need to make the cable that goes between the power supply and the model. Purchase a set (2) 1/8” (3.5mm) plugs for each model. I find that that under rated speaker wire that comes with various automotive audio system kits, works the best for the actual wiring. As well, two conductor general purpose 18 - 16 gauge “zip wire” work well too.
Believe me, if you construct the power supply (see diagram 02 above), or use a suitable already built supply, you will be very pleased with how the model looks when lighted. This is because fresh 1.5V AA batteries put supply a little over 1.6V. Thus new batteries deliver 4.8V, prior to placing a load on them, so 5.0 V is just enough to make up for contact losses. I suggest if you have more than one BANDAI Star Trek kit, that you make the supply that is capable of 600ma, times the number of models that will be powered. A precise voltage of no more than 5.00 VDC must be maintained with at least 600ma of current. But DO NOT use a 4.5VDC power adapter from an old portable CD player. These units put out 6.0-7.0 VDC, and will fry your lighting elements in a short period of time.
The added benefit of using an external power source it that such an arrangement allows one to simply flip a switch (at the back or base of your display case) and light your displayed models. I place ALL of my die cast and plastic models in a case. In my situation I have converted a large bookcase into a display case, and it is much cheaper to place Plexiglas over the shelves than to have custom cases made.
Assembly Tips - Already Built NX-01
Here, one simply attaches leads to the battery tangs at the points indicated in the following diagram. Note that the lower portion of the base must be removed (while obvious, it bears mentioning). Diagram-01 is a bottom view, looking at the base from the battery insertion side. These leads will then route to the power jack. If you are getting ready to build your NX-01, then route the wires as outlined in the base construction description above.
^ Adapting a battery operated Bandai kit to be externally powered.
The Bandai NX-01 is a nice kit and well worth the money. Even though gluing, painting the base, and modifying power distribution added more time to the project, I found the entire experience rather fun and most assuredly interesting. Yet, even for gear-head musical Sci-Fi buff like me, patience - and taking one step at a time, made up (somewhat) for a lack of long time model building experience. Now onto the NCC-1701, NCC-1701A, and NCC-1701-E! From what I have read, these kits require “one step at a time” attitude adjustments along the way as well.
This page copyright © 2008 Starship Modeler. First posted on 10 September 2008.