Monday, 2 January 2017

Conclave of Har Hobby Archive - DAN'S TECH LAB - DECIMATOR L.E.D PROJECT (even the dark side needs lights)

(Originally posted on the Conclave of Har Website this tutorial was contributed by Dan Gunn.)

I had been playing X-wing since it came out and when I saw the VT-49 Decimator I instantly fell in love with its aggressive sleek profile, I had to have one! What follows is the story of what was possibly the most intense 3 hours of my modelling career!

Thanks to a friendly supplier local to me from Creation Nation I obtained one and knew I had to do something special with it to make it a centrepiece of my fleet. A paint job just would not cut it for me so I began taking a closer look at the model itself and found that it comes in two halves!.

People who know me and my modelling style know I will fit LEDs in anything I can, and its at this point I began to realise that this ship is just begging for some angry red LEDs to match the red cockpits I had painted on my other TIEs. With an idea of what I was trying to achieve I set about gently prising apart the two halves of the ship. It starts just under the top lip front dome windows and runs around the body of the ship on the underside of the wings then up the fatter sections of the wings and round the back. (see pic)

Be extremely careful at this stage, as there are 4 joining pegs inside the ship, two in the body and one in each wing. Luckily on my Decimator only one was properly glued in the wing, the other three seemed to just be tension fitted. If you apply too much pressure trying to open up your ship you could damage it so take your time and gently tease it open as you want the pegs to still be intact to push it all back together again once you're done.

Ok so you have got your Decimator in 2 halves now. Walked off the shakes and mopped your brow? Congratulations! But it’s not over yet! As you know fantasy flight cast their models as solid plastic, including windows! Not much light is getting out of them right now so I have to cut out the windows out while leaving that wonderful classic empire Octagon window framework. Firstly I set about drilling out as much of the un-required plastic as possible this would also allow me to get a knife into the window area to cut out the rest in the corners.

A 3mm sized drill bit fit quite well, but you may find a smaller one easier to work with as I had to be pretty accurate so not to damage the framework. This is where it got even more intense. Not only was I very aware that too much pressure and I could snap the delicate framework, but one slip and not only would I remove some of it I could also remove a digit due to working with a very sharp x-acto knife! Thankfully after a couple of hours of extremely careful cutting and filing I managed to clean out the windows and with only minor damage to the forward dome!

It is at this point my brain kicks in with all the better ideas I wish it would come up with beforehand. Although it might not have looked quite as authentic, what I could have done was take a cast of the windows and make some out of clear resin, chopped them out entirely, glued the new clear windows in place and painted on the framework….but where is the fun in that?

Next step was to fit windows. Sadly I didn’t have any clear resin…or any clear plastic to hand save for some empty mini paint pots, the sort you get from the paint by numbers books. This plastic was perfect as it is translucent and would blur the LEDs slightly giving a smoother light. Cutting these down to fit into the windows was also tricky as I have to cut them to fit the various shapes of the dome and glue them in. For the forward facing visor I glued flat pieces to the inside of the ship so it looked like the windows are ‘inset’ into the ship itself. it took a bit of work but my Decimator now had windows!

The LED circuit is a very simple design of a 3v battery, switch and 5 red LEDs. 1 LED at the front, 1 LED for the dome and 3 LEDs for the visor windows. The switch is fitted to the underside of the ship to minimise aesthetic damage. These are glued into position so they do not flop around or move inside the ship.

Once this is done it's time to close the patient up and enjoy the shiny bright lights. I didn’t glue the 2 halves together as at some point that 3v battery might run out and need changing. The original pegs push fit together and hold quite firmly (that’s why we didn’t want to damage those pegs). All that’s needed now is a coat of paint and an opponent and Oicunn can crash into rebel scum in style now!

I just want to say that this is not a project to take lightly, at many stages of the build I was very concerned I would be ruining my beautiful Decimator, and will not be attempting this again unless paid vast fortunes and accepting no responsibility for any damage done! But should you choose to attempt this mod to your own ships, take your time, be cautious and as always, safe, and you too can have a wonderful centrepiece to your fleet. Now….hurry up Fantasy Flight! I want my Imperial Raider!.

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