Polar Lights 1/1000 USS Columbia
KIT #:  ?
PRICE: $28.00 for all parts
DECALS: Various sources
REVIEWER: Kevin Powers
NOTES: Conversion to Iwo Jima Assault Carrier

Excerpt from USS Columbia ship's log:
Captain's log, stardate: 2268.10. Ship's time 1300hrs
"Captain Robert 'six gun' Gunnerson commanding. I have received a distress call from the capital city of the colony on Dantu 7, that they are under attack by Romulan ground forces just outside their perimeter defenses. Size of force, unknown. Their space sensors indicate that there are no Romulan heavies in the Dantunian star system. While awaiting orders from Starfleet, I have already set course for the system, and preparing to leave designated patrol route near the neutral zone."
Captain's log, additional:
" I have officially received orders from Starfleet command for Columbia to make best speed to rendeazvous with heavy destroyer USS Detroyat, and Lt. cruiser USS St Louis at the edge of the Dantu system. ETA to rendeazvous, 1 hr at warp 6. Colonel Richardson of the Marine detachment, has been notified and assembling his force in hangar bay 2. I have called all key officers into the ready room to explain our situation and discuss tactical requirements of the up coming mission."
Captain's log, supplemental, ship's time 1410 hrs.
"Have met up with the 2 support vessels and discussed the mission with Captains' Macfee of the St Louis, and Donaldson of the Detroyat. We are currently at the edge of Dantu space, and are proceeding along at full impulse to allow main sensors to assess the current situation. At this speed, we will make standard orbit around Dantu 7 in 20 minutes. Crew is chomping at the bit for some action, due to the tedious patrol we just left several hours ago. Col Richardson has his assault teams loaded in the assault shuttles and reports that 2 of the attack fighters are manned and ready to launch in bay 1.

 Once ground attack force is underway, pathfinder units will be beamed down to selective landing sites to secure and hold in need arises. We will go to red alert and take up fire support positions above the planet, and await instructions from ground forces. Detroyat and St Louis will position themselves throughout the system just in case the Romulans decide to follow up with ships....."
As a devoted Star Trek fan as long as I can remember, this action leaves me in anticipation of the coming action, the same as if I were a member of Columbia's crew. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a starship captain, hmmphh...I guess even at the age of 46, I am still waiting for those orders......
The concept behind this vessel, I got from reading about the use and functionality of a assault carrier in our current modern US Navy. A small contingency of fighters aboard, as well as assault craft to land the marine force, along with a ship that can linger in the battlefield and deliver supplies and fire support to ground troops. The secondary hull is used to house, feed and has facilities for medical needs of two companies of Starfleet marines.

 In the contemporary Heavy Cruiser secondary hulls; i.e. the Enterprise, with which this ship is based in design, was used more for deep space explorations, along with many many science labs. Due to more enhanced multi-faceted sensor capabilities, the ships' ability to deliver pinpoint fire support accuracy is greatly enhanced. Used also as a perimeter defense vessel, and a neutral zone patrol craft, the crews are rotated out so often for morale reasons. The ship carries no torpedo tubes, since decks 3 and 4 is used for fighter storage and machine repair shops for them.

 This particular ship does not exist in the Star Trek universe. Created in my own universe,(my head), which ironically, my wife says is the same as the trek universe: vast and empty, with very few things of substance in between. The kit itself, is a Frankenstein's monster of sorts.

I had purchased the very available 6 yr old Polar Lights kit of the Enterprise 1/1000 scale kit off ebay in the hopes of using the very rare Detroyat heavy destroyer conversion set I got from Starshipmodeler
 a couple yrs ago. The Polar Lights kit, comes with 'extra' parts to do the early pilot episode and the later version of the ship. The conversion set for the Detroyat, needed a set of the warp engines, the saucer section, and some of the decals off that kit's sheet. 

 That left the secondary hull, and another set of warp engines still in the box. Along with a resin saucer conversion I had in my spares box I bought from a vendor at a model invitational last year, needless to say, the gears in my head started to turn. So, with a little imagination, and some scratch building, it's almost like I got two kits in one box, more or less.
The resin saucer conversion piece, was supposed to be part of a Masao Class Heavy Scout with a shuttle bay. I started out, as with all resin pieces, washing with soap and water, along with Mr. clean in a spray bottle. I then sanded all the imperfections on the part, fortunately, there were not all that many. The only problem I foresaw, was the many air pockets in the leading edge of the saucer section. Unknown to me, that place will cause some major headaches later on. The resin in that area was not quite cured all the way, I will find out to my horror later on when I try to paint the area.

 I filled in the holes with acryl blue putty, so, while that was drying, I moved onto the next thing. I had to scratch build a secondary sensor array mount which goes on the underside of the saucer section. The sensor dish came from my spares box, from the aforementioned Enterprise kit I built several years back.

 The main support swivel mount was made from styrene tubing and a .177 caliber BB glued together. I drilled a hole for the rod to be mounted into, and let that dry. The idea for the mount, was to allow the secondary sensor dish to swivel left and right, as well as straight down, for whatever direction pinpoint targeting was needed for. The center point on the sensor dish was made from the tip of a discarded micro brush cut to fit.

  The  resin phaser banks on the upper and lower saucer section was purchased from Starship Modeler.com also. They were cleaned up, and crazy glued in place by ever so careful measuring and marking. It was a great test of my measuring ability. By the time I finished those projects, the putty was ready to be sanded, and I moved onto the next segment.
The bussard hydrogen scoops,(the red and orange rotating thingies on the front of the warp engines), were purchased also from starship modeler. Already pre-molded in red, which, to my cruel misfortune, I could not utilize their prepaintedness, as I will describe in the finishes section. The rest of the nacelle parts were all Polar Lights, with some small modifications.
 The over all fit was good for a so-called snap kit, which I ended up gluing anyway. Given the fact that I planned on moving the engines a lot more forward than how they were configured for the enterprise kit, I had to fill in the precut slots for the 45 degree angled warp pylons which came with the kit. While these were glued and clamped together, I moved on to the secondary hull.
The secondary hull, except for some major modifications, was all Polar Lights. Given the fact I wanted to give this ship horizontal warp pylons, to give a different look from their heavy cruiser cousin, I also wanted to have a 'clear flight path' for the fighters coming out of the top bay. I after gluing and clamping the secondary hull halves together and letting them dry, I measured and marked where I needed to cut to install my 'new' warp pylons. Using a razor saw and a generous whittling with a xacto knife, I sanded the open spot like crazy to make sure the hole was nice and even.

 I used two 5mmX6mm styrene strips glued together, clamped and dried, I cut them 5" and carefully measured the center of the secondary hull and the support pylons, so there will be a more harmonious outcome in my endeavor to create a non-lopsided starship. Glued those in place, and allowed it to dry overnight. Every other part of that section was the original pieces and they went on very well.

When I thought my modifications was dry, I filled in the gaps with putty and sanded like crazy to get them to 'blend in' with the rest of the area.
Used 2 part epoxy to attach the resin saucer to the 'strongback' neck of the secondary hull. I thought it would give it more strength since the resin saucer was far heavier than the rest of the kit. I had to sand some off the top of the neck so the saucer would snuggle down a lot more than the way it was dry fitted. After the warp pylons were sanded, I drilled two holes in each one carefully marking pin locations I will eventually mount onto 1/8" steel pins I inserted into the ends of the warp pylons for a far better hold than just slathering crazy glue on the area and hoping the warp engines adhere well and not ever get twisted off.
 It was a somewhat daunting task to get the holes I drilled and the mounting pins to line up. With doing the 3 C's, cutting, cursing and coaxing, I managed to get them to line up enough to use crazy gluing them in place. Before the crazy glue set, I had to apply some 'windage and elevation' on the engines to keep them even. After the glue dried, I applied a generous portion of putty, to fill some of the gaps and went through a hole sanding stick to get it to look right.

I prewashed the entire assembly, minus the sensor dishes, which will be painted separately and mounted after the fact. I painted the dishes a acrylic color called 'hammered copper', and set them aside. Having consulted several different sources on exactly what color starships are supposed to be, I found numberous suggestions. White, off white, light grey, dark grey, light blue, medium blue, blue grey and bare metal. I fell back on watching some old TOS episodes on Star Trek.com and came to the conclusion that the ship should be a Lt. grey.

 I left off the clear hydrogen collectors, and masked off the red hydrogen scoops to get the ship ready for painting. I sprayed on a decent coat, with good covering on the first try, and let it dry for a few hrs. When the ship was dry to the touch, I used a Mediterranean blue from Vallejo colors to paint some areas of the ship to give it a less one dimensional look. I had noticed that there were a couple small spots on the leading edge of the saucer section that came back tacky after the initial drying. I was informed by the editor, that the resin had not cured completely and was 'venting' gas.

 I must have stripped and repainted the area FIVE times and still it refused to dry. The last time, I took it outside, and set it on the hood of my truck, thinking maybe the sun would do, that my repainting efforts couldn't do. I went outside to check on it later, after a gust of wind took it and flung it skipping across my driveway like normal flat rounded objects; i.e., Frisbees will do. The resin was dented and gouged in a few places. Hanging my head in shame and total surrender, unceremoniously threw it in the trash.
  After several hrs and grumbling sessions, my wife told me to pick the thing out of the trash and fix it. Which I did. Filled and sanded the dented areas, I re-stripped it and tried something different. I used a automotive clear coat sealer in a rattle can, and gave the saucer a generous coating. Let that dry, and applied two coats of future floor wax. I then repainted it. For the SIXTH time, repainted it.  I watched the paint cure, and to my joy, shouted YES YES YES!!! It frakking worked.

  Of course, several months from now, when the venting eats through all those clear coat layers and the paint re-softens, at that very instant, my thoughts would drift to my gun cabinet, thinking of that 12 gauge double barrel coach gun......could it end up being me, or the model. I'll have to let you know later, or at least leave instructions for my next of kin to inform you of the verdict....
 I then glued the clear hydrogen collectors on, as well as the two sensor dishes. I gave the finish a generous portion of future floor wax to ready the surface for decals. When the clear coat dried, I had noticed that the clear hydrogen collectors were slowly clouding over, so, my prepainted bussard scoops weren't even visible any longer. Could this be the kit project from hell that will slowly eat away at what little sanity I have left? Not to beaten into dust by this project, I just ended up painting over the clear parts with some red acrylic paint.

Since I had problems with the saucer section for quite a while trying to hammer out the issues, I ended up decaling the secondary hull first. The decals came from 2 sources: some from the Polar Lights kit, and the rest from a JT Graphics aftermarket sheet I got off ebay. The aftermarket set was printed ALPS style, so, each individual decal had to be cut off the main sheet for placing. Some of the decals were very thin and fragile, so, keep some water handy to help with the placement of the decals. The Polar lights decals were 6 yrs old, and a little bit brittle on some of the smaller ones. The JT Graphics ones were a little too soft, and tended to curl up some. None of the decals needed any kind of decal set. I ended up coating the decals with some future, and while doing this, I noticed that there were some trouble spots in the finish, so, I used some pastel chalks to make dark meteor strikes and to generally hide my mistakes. It also gives this kit a less pristeen look, and give the appearance of something that does not visit 'home' all that much.

Given this is my first, scratch build-conversion/kitbashing effort, I'm very pleased with the results, even though I could have done without the repainting and stripping of the saucer section SIX times.....Did I mention SIX times? To make matters worse, I had also forgot to mention that I had contacted the person through email who had made the 'garage' resin saucer. I told him about the venting problems, and he'd be more than gracious to send a replacement. I waited for it to arrive so I could complete the darned thing, now, mind you this happened when I first found out that the problem would not go away; ie, the 'venting' of the bad spot. Roughly after about the second time I tried to re-strip and paint it.
 After this dragged on waiting for the replacement to arrive, I let it set. Several weeks went by, and I haven't heard a peep from the guy. I emailed several more times to ask if he was in fact going to make good on his promise. No reply after several tries. That is when I truly gave up and decided to go for broke with trying to finish this 'quest', or I should say more like a 'obsession' to finish what I'd started. After 4 more times repainting and stripping, I finally finished it.
 A day after the decals were placed, and dried, I had received a email from the maker and in it said "your replacement saucer is in the mail." I could have screamed. Needless to say, I now have one more resin saucer that will be waiting in my spares box, awaiting for my next brainstorm on how to screw up a model and end up in a padded room with a very uncomfortable straight jacket wrapped tightly around me. 

Star Fleet techincal manual
Various Trek websites
TOS episodes on Star Trek.com

Kevin Powers

April 2012

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page