This article was based
on material I presented at Wonderfest 2003 in the "Advanced
Scratchbuilding isn't a
specific art or activity, but more of an approach. It is an approach
that encompasses skills that can be learned from many other areas. This
is my personal approach. I would strongly encourage you to evaluate the
approach and skills here with others you encounter along the way.
Most modelers build
from kits, which have several advantages. The parts are pre-made,
engineered to fit, and you have an explicit assembly order carefully
illustrated by printed instructions. The shortcomings can include
accuracy, and short-cuts taken by manufacturers. The instant you begin
complaining about the accuracy or quality of a kit, you're ready for
bashing is often a first step for scratch-builders. Taking parts from
existing kits to make new ones is rewarding, but you're still relegated
to using someone else's parts – also your scale is pre-determined by
A common myth is that
you have to be a master modeler to scratch-build. That is not true at
all – everyone has the base skills needed to scratch-build. All that
is required is a desire and a plan.
What is Scratchbuilding?
• Scratchbuilding vs. kit
• You have no instructions!
• There are no parts to work
• Accuracy and quality are up
• Scratchbuilding vs.
• You aren't tied to parts
that are out of scale
• Kit bashing forces you to
use parts designed by someone else
How do I get started?
• Choose a subject
• Ask, and answer questions
• What scale is it?
• How big will it be?
• Will it be hollow?
• What will it are made from?
• How many parts? Etc.
• Collect Source Images, if
• Draft plans – draw your
• Orthogonal views
• Make Templates from your
So how does one get started? First you
need to select a subject - seriously. Making basic decisions is the core
to any scratchbuilding project and this is the first. More importantly
you need to ask, and answer, as many questions as you can about your
model. Will it be hollow, what scale is it, how big will it be, are
there any moving parts, how many parts etc.
If you're re-creating an existing
design then you need to secure as many source images as you can. Look
for clear shots that define the form and, if possible, find them in orthogonal
views (top, front, left, right, etc.), because you will be
drafting them later. The best views are straight-on shots - use dynamic
views more for color and surface references.
Now you need to break out your pens and
draft model scale views of your model. By model scale, I mean drawings
that are sized to your final model. Many questions will be answered by
these drawings. They are your instructions and will become reference
markers later on.
Example – Farscape's Moya
Today's example will be my
scratchbuilding project – Moya, the living spacecraft from the TV show
Farscape. She is referred to as a Leviathan in the show, and as you can
see there isn't a straight line on her. Worse, she's covered in contour
lines that would be a bear to emulate.
I knew there was never going to be a
model kit of this ship, and nobody in the garage market appeared to want
to sculpt one. It was after my first trip to Wonderfest that I decided I
would take a stab at making my own Moya.
For the better part of a year I
answered my own series of questions. I knew that this was going to be a
difficult project, full of new techniques, so I wanted a larger size in
the end – 16 inches. It needed to be hollow so that I could light it
from the inside. This meant I would have to cast the parts.
We will see, in the following slides,
how the master was created. The master or pattern, in modeling terms, is
the primary form used for casting later on.