This month has been a little frustrating as far as getting a lot of work done on the modules. I had a hard time finding some specific sized sheet metal screws for mounting some of the side walls. I was finally able to find what I needed and get going on the build again. I also needed to make a few new molds for some of the cast parts, mainly the outer light panel frames. I finally figured out what the problem was and was able to correct it. A word to those who are new to casting parts that have some undercuts to the parts: Make sure you use a vacuum chamber to de-gas everything even if the label says you don't need to. I've found that for de-gassing a silicon mold for about 10 minutes has made the smoothest molds for my casting purposes. It works! Believe me!
I've also had to figure out a way to make a new mold for the backs of the light panels. Although the details on the front parts of the molds came out great, I kept having problems with top edges of the sides where the front panel frame would eventually connect with it. Since this needed to be a two piece mold I was not able to evacuate all of the air bubbles even with the chamber and additional vent holes in the molds. So I decided to add a piece of styrene to the insides of the side wall frames. This would allow any bubbles to get caught in this area and then I can sand all of the excess down to where it needs to be and it will look a lot better than the other way I was trying it. Since I've never attempted any casting project of this magnitude with hollowed out parts it's all been trial and error.
On my 1/350 scale dock I didn't fully think through the top part of the modules. As I've stated before, I had never thought I would be selling that model much less building 2 larger drydocks. But the 1/350 scale version was a reminder of what I needed to do to simplify and correct some problem areas on these new ones. On the 1/350 to panels I had put some hinged access panels on the topside. I could then flip them open to fix any wiring problems. Because I made the entire model from .080 sheet styrene I found that it was not strong enough to remain squared and level when additional weight was added. Parts of the modules started to sag ever so slightly, but enough to not allow the hinged panels to close over the tops completely flat. Hence: Light leaks. This was repaired when I gave the model a facelift and corrected many of those flaws.
With this build I am using Steel and Aluminum framework as well as a much thicker module panels made from as strong resin. These modules are very sturdy and they weigh much more than the sheet styrene version.
In this month's update I worked on making the top panels of the module removable rather than hinged. I put guide screws on the insides of the wall panels, then I took some angle aluminum and cut notches into them so that the angle aluminum will slide onto the screws in the side walls. I will now be fastening the angle aluminum to the top panels from the inside. When the panels are in place they will fit into a groove that runs around the entire topside of the side walls. This will make the top panels fit snug onto the side walls and the lip that the top panels sit on will help block out any light leaks. I'd say I thought this one out a little better for this build and any other I might build in the future.
In other updates, I've added all of the front light panel frames to the lower modules so that I can begin the painting process. Although I do like the paint I used on the 1/350 scale build which was Model Master "Rust" color, I want to try an match the color a little better to the original color seen in ST:TMP. I will let you decide what you think about the new color. The pics will be in the Update by June 4th.
See you next update!