First of all, thanks to everybody who has sent me e-mail about my ship models and designs. I really appreciate the support and interest, and it really serves as a great motivator for me to continue building models and putting them on the web (as if my own entertainment wasn't enough).
Based on the feedback I've gotten, I've added this section of questions and answers. Actually, these aren't really "frequently asked" questions, since only a handful of them have been asked more than once, but I figure they all have some value.
How do you design ships? Do you draw blueprints or schematics of your ship designs, and then build the models from them, or do you simply have rough ideas of their designs in mind as you begin to build them?
Usually, when I'm planning a new ship, I sketch out a rough layout of how I would like it to appear, usually a side, a top, and a perspective view are enough. Then, as I'm building the model, I make changes since there are often shapes that look good on paper, but don't work in 3D, or things that are too complex and have to be omitted, or things that I add on during construction because it looks good, but wasn't part of the original design, and etc. When I'm done, I sometimes make another set of drawings accurate to how the model looks completed, and those are the few line drawings I have on the web pages.
If you want to see an example of a project in the planning stages, check out: USS Leonardo Da Vinci.
I would really like to have my own model kit of the Colorado class. Do you sell these cool models as resin kits and how much do they cost?
The Colorado class, and all the other original models I have on the web page are custom made one-of-a-kind. However, many of them use parts from existing model kits from AMT/Ertl and Monogram.
Right now, I don't have any plans to cast the Colorado or any of the other existing model and sell copies. I've thought about it, and I've heard requests from other people as well, but there are two big problems. First, the model would be pretty large for a resin casting. It's about the size of the new Enterprise-C model, and I don't have the resources nor the skills to make an RTV mold that big, or pour that much resin. The second problem is the Colorado model itself is getting old and looks a lot worse in person than the photos show. It would have to be stripped down and rebuilt before I could make a mold of it. So, unfortunately, I will not be casting and selling copies of the Colorado anytime soon, and it's not likely I will be able to do this at all. However, if you want to make your own, I'd be glad to answer any questions you have about building it.
Do you have any 3-D meshes of these starship designs I can download and render?
These starships only exists as physical models right now. I haven't tried making any 3D virtual models of them yet, so, unfortunately, I have no meshes or 3D files to give out. If you want to make your own, I'd be glad to answer questions. I guess the easiest thing would be to modify existing meshes that have similar shapes to the models I've built. I also have some photos which might be useful for making texture and image maps.
Why do some of your photos look all washed out.
Many of the photos on the web pages were scanned a long time ago, and have bad gamma settings, so they look either too dark, or very washed out depending on your graphics and monitor. Sorry about that. I do plan to go back and re-adjust them. I also have a few more models I want to photograph and put on the web. Look for them soon.
Do you let people use your ship designs for sim groups, stories, etc.?
Sure, I do this from time to time. It makes people happy, and maybe I get some free publicity in return. Generally I allow my stuff to be used by people who really care about Star Trek and starship technology (rather than just munchkin gamers). Whenever I give permission to sim groups to use a ship design, I ask that they "register" their ship with me, and I add them to the "official roster". This helps me keep track of them, avoid inconsistent or unrealistic NCC numbers, and lets them find "sister ships" in other sims. Kinda fun for everyone, or so I hope.
I can see three faces staring at me in this picture of your Matson-class starship. What's up with that?
I never noticed it before, but now that you mention it, the impulse engine nozzles look like two little monsters. As for the third face, the closest I can find is in the undercut area. The cargo bay opening kinda forms a mouth, and the nacelle vents on the Vulcan warpshuttle would form the eyes. Hmm... This was totally unintentional, and is only a trick of light, unlike the face that's on Mars, or the face at the end of this sentence. :-)
I noticed the mass you list for some of your ships are quite different from what I would expect. They seem too heavy or too light compared to other ships of the same size I've seen published elsewhere.
I noticed that a lot of sources on the Net give highly inaccurate mass listings (not that there's really anything "accurate" seeing how these ships don't exist, but hey, you know...). I sometimes see people assigning wildly varying numbers, which end up giving you ships that would have to be made out of paper, or solid lead. :)
The thing to keep in mind is mass is not a directly linear relationship like length is. Let's say you have a starship that is shaped exactly like a Galaxy-class ship, same proportions and everything, except it is only half the length. At first glance, it might seem to be only half as big, but since the proportions are the same, this ship is also only half as wide and half as tall as a Galaxy-class. It's actually one eighth the volume, and hence one eighth the mass of a Galaxy-class starship (assuming the same density).
For my own designs, some of which are shaped quite differently, I use a roughly volume based method and assume that all large ships pretty much have the same density as a Galaxy class, and all smaller ships have the density of an Intrepid class, two official ships of known mass and size. I end up getting figures like 850,000 tons for Excelsiors, 1,590,000 tons for Akiras, and 1,700,000 tons for the Nebulas (assuming the Nebula class uses 3/4 sized Galaxy components, per some sources)
Of course, I'm not totally sold that my technique is the best, either. Computing volume is pretty tough with shapes as weird as the Akira. I suppose to be really accurate, I'd have to just dip a model in a displacement tank, and multiply the spill volume by the inverse of the scale cubed, or something...
Your ships are kinda dinky. My ships can kick your ships' butts!
Um, ok. Sure, if you say so. I guess you're trying to point out that a lot of my original ship designs are frigates, light cruisers, and destroyers, rather than heavy cruisers and dreadnaughts. The way I see it, most of Starfleet is composed of these smaller ships. The Galaxy and Ambassador class ships should be the exception, not the norm, so there shouldn't be too many ship classes of that size. The smaller "tin can" fleet, on the other hand, has plenty of room for speculation and growth. Smaller ships are also easier to park.
What colors do you use to paint your starship models? Do you prefer using the studio model colors, or the on-screen colors?
Neither. Both. I'm not a real stickler for accurate colors, or at least, not anymore. I used to mix my own paints trying to match the blue/grey/duck egg blue studio miniature scheme for the Enterprise-D, and ran into a lot of problems. Now I just use a two tone haze grey scheme, FS36375 and FS36320 for Federation ships. My more recent models all look pretty consistent, and I don't have to spend time mixing colors. I also just letter my ships as ones never seen on screen to keep the hard core nit-pickers off my back.
I've had several fiascos in the past involving "duck egg blue". When I built my Enterprise-D model, I used Testor's Model Master paints, so I started off with pretty much the right color. I used up my original batch when I painted the USS San Jacinto model, so that one also has the "correct" colors. When I built the USS Kidd model, I had switched over to acrylic paints, and had to mix my own to match the color. Kidd came out grey on grey, the paint dried several shades darker than it started out, but not too bad.
When I mixed the paints for the Reuben James and Fiona Vincent models, I made certain to add more green, so I wouldn't get the bland colors I had on the Kidd model. However, I had a brain fade, and did the paint mixing under a fluorescent light, so it looked perfect when I sprayed it on, but after it dried, and I looked at it under sunlight, it ended up being more like teal on tan. Urgh. It was shortly after that I switched over to Light and Dark Ghost Grey straight from the bottle, and forgot about accuracy.
It turns out the newer grey scheme that Enterprise-D was painted in Star Trek: Generations, as well as some of the newer ships, like the First Contact ships, Voyager, Prometheus, etc. look pretty close to the haze grey scheme I'm using now anyway.
How long have you been building models? Do you just do starships?
I've been building starship models since 1992 and other models since 1983. Other genres I model are 1:24 scale stock cars, 1:48 scale aircraft, and HO scale railroad.
How do I get in touch with you?
Just e-mail me at markusn at umich.edu
Markus C. Nee, Aerospace Engineering Alumnus, University of Michigan. mail: markusn at umich.edu
This page was created 1999-05-14 and last modified 1999-05-20.