First of all, here are the images we have to work with:
The black and white drawing is from page 7 of the Knight Hawks Campaign book and the inset is the counter.
Both of these images show a long, spindly fuselage, a bit of a structure at the bow, behind the domes, and at the tail, and of course, the big agricultural domes themselves.
Now, you can debate as to whether or not these ships actually make sense or not. Especially as depicted here. And that’s part of what the discussion on the starfrontiers.us site was all about, but they are included in the game so I figured I’d take a crack at making a model. While I’ll stick with this basic idea, I’m going to make a few changes.
Here’s an image of the final Ag ship model. As you can see, it differs a bit from those silhouettes. Let’s talk about what I did.
First, I decided to make this model a hull size 10 ship, which for these types of ships, is a little on the small size. The rules say that Ag starships are typically hull size 8-16 while system ships have hull sizes in the range of 10 to 20.
As pictured in the silhouette images, the ships seem to have a single large chemical engine mounted at the tail. That sort of makes sense for a system system ship but just barely. If they are just floating out there collecting sunlight, then everything is growing in zero-gravity. On the other hand, if you want some sort of gravity in the ship, you need to be constantly accelerating (no artificial gravity in Star Frontiers). In the latter case, chemical drives don’t really make sense. So I decided to give the ship ion engines instead. For the model, I used the same engine design I created for the minelayer miniature. It the same size (a Class B engine), but I used two struts to attach them to the hull in this case.
The other difference with the engines is that I used three of them instead of just one. The ship construction rules call for three engines on a hull size 10 ship so that is what I went with. I guess a single Class C engine would do the trick but let’s stick to more standard designs for now.
Like the images, this model has a long, skinny fuselage. But it’s kind of hard to see as I added a bunch more to the ship. The bit at the end is modeled on the tail of the ship in the black and white image. You can’t see it in the model image above but the section right under the domes is also thicker like in the silhouettes. And I also used the same style bow.
I modeled the domes on the image from the black and white image rather than the counter and just put four of them on the ship. On a larger ship, I would probably keep them the same size and just add more of them as is represented on the counter.
The main difference between my ship and the images is that I added some large storage tanks below the domes, and piping to connect them. I figure this is where the extra nutrient solutions, air, and water are stored as they are cycled through the domes. I also figure this area contains the processing machinery.
Another thing I added was lights on the underside of the bow. If you click on the model image above, you can just see them. There is one pointing at each dome. These are powerful, full-spectrum lamps that can be turned on to provide illumination to the domes when the ship is not pointed directly at the sun. Or maybe they are used all the time. If you’re flying around the system, constantly keeping the ship at 1 g, there are going to be many times that you don’t have the domes pointed at the star. In any case, they are a small feature on the model.
This model was created at 1/3000th scale, or 3 meters on the ship equaling 1 mm on the model. This is the same scale I used for the sathar Destroyer and CDCSS Nightwind and roughly the scale of the UPF Frigate, Destroyer, & Minelayer. When I start making a new set of ships after finishing the privateers, the models will all be made at that scale. The fuselage of the ship is 240 meters (80 mm) as is standard for a HS 10 ship. It’s a lot skinnier than a typical HS 10 ship, 15-20m diameter compared to 40, but I figure the extra hull goes into the domes and the storage tanks. With the engines added, the model is 92.67mm long, giving the ship a total length of 278 meters. Across the widest point of the domes it is 56.66 mm or 170 meters.
With the model complete, it was time to print it. The image at the right shows the hull size 10 Agriculture ship (black) next to the Nightwind freighter (green) and sathar destroyer (red, painted). Unfortunately, the black resin prints don’t photograph very well.
For the most part, the print came out very well. But it needed a lot of supports under the domes. For this print, I printed it upright, just as pictured (and how I’ve printed all the other ships) and used the default supports that the printing software supplied. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough support under the domes. Mainly, the supports could have been placed better and on the edges of the domes, not just the underside. The result was that the physical shape of the underside of the domes is a little warped, rounded were it should be flat and angled. I think in the future, I will print the model at an angle, tilted 30-45 degrees. It will require much less support material and the surfaces will come out better as the printer has issues with large horizontal surfaces that are not touching the build plate.
Next up is working on the Privateer models. I haven’t done any modeling recently due to all the life changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic but will be getting back to it in the next week or so as life has finally settled down to somewhat of a routine.
I also plan to revisit this ship in the future and create a HS 20 version with more domes. That will probably have to be printed in parts as I don’t think a full scale HS 20 ship will fit on my printer, It’s a bit larger than my print volume, at least printed vertically.
Like all the other models, I’ll be adding this to my Miniatures Price Table if you want me to print you one, and putting the model up on DriveThruRPG on my 3D Models page if you just want to grab the model file and print it yourself.
What do you think of the Ag Ship. Have you ever used one of these in your game? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
The model and miniature this month is a recreation of the small freighter model that was part of the Federation Ships boxed set. This is the last model I needed to recreate to complete that original set. With this one done, they are now all available.
The image to the right is the original miniature from the boxed set. I hadn’t tackled this particular miniature in the past mainly because I was initially focused on the military vessels. But I was also a little worried about recreating the shape of those struts and all the detail at the tail of the ship. But with lots of experience behind me, it was time to reproduce this miniature.
Let’s start with the final model and then I’ll talk a bit about what it took to create.
I started with the main body/oval shape at the bow of the ship. My version is a little more rounded than the original as I just used a stretched sphere for this part. To get the exact shape would have taken creating a custom curve and then doing a rotate_extrude() to make the 3D shape (and then squashing it to make it flattened). I’m happy with how this turned out although I originally expressed some desire to revisit that bit of the model.
The tail of the ship is just a long column that the cargo pods and bits at the end are attached to. That was added next.
Then came the cargo pods. These are a recreation of the original miniature (although the rings around the top and bottom are probably a bit thinner than the original). Interestingly this was the part of the ship that generated the most commentary on the Facebook group when I posted this picture. Everyone wanted me to get rid of the double container and make one big one. Which is something I’ll probably do in the future but for now I’m keeping to the original model.
Next up was the engines. Since these are different than the engines on most of the other ships, but similar to those on the minelayer, I’m assuming that these are ion engines as well. The engines themselves were easy enough, just some cylinders will a sphere at the top. The hard part was getting the curve of the struts right.
That shape is not one that OpenSCAD can do natively. At first I looked at doing some linear_extrude()’s of a few stretched circles. But that wouldn’t give me the curvature that the strut has. So I went looking for an OpenSCAD module that would allow me to extrude along a curve and vary the scale along the extrusion.
The first one I found was the “Extrude Along Path” module by gringer. However, it didn’t allow me to do the scaling the way I wanted or at least easily. So I went looking for another option. What I found was the “path_extrude with scaling” library by tpchuckles. This module built on gringer’s Extrude Along Path module and added in the scaling in a way that was easy to use.
Now that I hd the tool, I just need the path to extrude along and how much to scale at each point. To figure this out, I took another picture of the mini, this time with a ruler for scale (seen at right). This is actually a different mini that had a primer coat on it. Next, I imported the picture into Inkscape. I then scaled it so that there were 10 pixels to a millimeter. This would allow me 1/10th of a millimeter resolution when I was making measurements. Next I drew a curve onto the image down the middle of each strut and then averaged the two curves. This would be the path that the extrusion was to follow.
The next step was to get the scaling at a number of points along that curve. The question was, how many points would I need. As you can see, the entire strut is only a little more than half an inch (about 17mm) in length. I could go really finely detailed but that would be overkill. But if I didn’t have enough, it wouldn’t look smooth enough. I ended up just looking at it and finding points where either the path made a significant change or the width of the strut had a change in curvature (the derivatives changed for those who remember their calculus). In the end, I picked 12 points along the path.
Once I had the points I then drew a line perpendicular to the path that touched the two edges of the strut. With all that done, I read off the coordinates of each point and length of each perpendicular line segment. That gave me the points for the curve and the scaling in one dimension. The scaling in the other dimension came from just making a few measurements with the calipers at a few points along it’s length since the strut is mostly the same thickness with a big of flaring as it approached the main body of the ship.
With all that done, I plugged all the numbers into a few arrays, called the path_extrude() function from the module and out came the strut. I had to do a few small tweaks but it worked quite well and generated the shape you see in the image above.
The final bit was all that stuff at the back of the fuselage. As you can see from the two images of the original miniatures, it was kind of hard to see. But working carefully between the two miniatures, and looking at both sides of each, I was able to tease out a structure. I have the advantage that I don’t have to get molten metal to flow through a mold in making these models so I can go with slightly finer and more defined features in my models than appear on the original miniatures. I had already noticed this on the bigger UPF ships, especially the cannons on the battleship and light cruiser. I took advantage of it here as well.
With the model complete, it was time to print. Nothing really exciting here, it was a fairly straightforward print. I printed it nose up like I did all the other ships and, standing 41 mm (1.6″) tall, it took about 4.5 hours to print. Given that there isn’t a lot of detail on this one, it might be possible to get a good print with it lying flat which would reduce the print time to about 1.5 hours but require a bit more support on the “down” side of the ship.
Here’s the final printed miniature next to the original (unprimed) mini.
A few things stood out to me comparing the two, some of which I’ve already mentioned. One is the shape of the bow. The other is the rings around the cargo pods. They probably need to be a bit bigger on the model as they didn’t stand out as much as I was expecting.
The other major difference is the details at the back of the fuselage. I think in the end I made them a little bit smaller than on the original. That said, there is more detail in the printed one than in the original.
I also noticed that the engines have a bit of a wobble to them but that can be cured in future prints with a little more support structure to hold things steady.
At some point I’ll revisit this model and tweak the cargo pods. Both to make the ring around the top and bottom more defined, and also to make one or two more different shaped pods and produce miniatures with the different cargo containers. The great thing about working in OpenSCAD is that the cargo containers are just a function. Write a new function for the new shape, call that one instead, and viola, you’re done with a new miniature. But for now, I’m happy with the way this one turned out.
Next month’s model will be an agriculture ship. This will be a new creation as there is no existing mini for this type of ship. There was some discussion about it recently on the various Star Frontiers social media hubs and that inspired me to make that model before tackling the privateer minis.
It’s the second post of the month and, as is becoming somewhat of a regular feature, it’s time for a new miniature. This time around we are looking at the Pirate Frigate.
This model is another recreation of an original TSR miniature. The original Pirate Frigate was include in the Sathar Ships box of miniatures along with the Corvette and Pirate Assault Scout and the three sathar ships (frigate and light and heavy cruisers).
The Pirate Frigate completes the set of models from that box. It’s only taken me three and a half years. When I first started this 3D modeling hobby, I began by creating a sathar destroyer miniature to start to fill in the gaps in the miniature line and to make a model for the ship that I had created a full set of deck plans for. I then went on in short order to do every other ship in the Sathar Ships box except for the Pirate Frigate.
The main reason was the guns mounted on the side of the ship. At the time, I knew that the 3D printer I had access to was not able to print that fine of detail. The other reason was the finer detail itself. I was just starting out and didn’t have the skill needed (or maybe it was the patience) to actually build that model. I did try scanning the miniature with a 3D scanner we had just acquired at work, and which I was testing, in an attempt to create a model that way, but that never really worked out. It turns out that the shininess of the metal miniatures make the laser scanning beam give weird results. And so this model languished on my todo list for many years.
But now that I have a high resolution printer that can print the detail on the miniature, the wait is finally over. And after tackling the UPF ships, modeling the details on this one was actually fairly easy. I’ve gotten more confident in my skills and more willing to take a little artistic license instead of trying to make an exact copy, although this one is really close.
Here’s the finished model. There isn’t a lot to say about this model. Other than the guns, the shape of the model is fairly straightforward with only a few simple details added to the surface.
One bit that you can’t see from the image but is quickly apparent if you are holding the miniature is that the body of the ship is not perfectly round. Rather it is squished somewhat so that it is largest along the axis where the guns are mounted (about 8mm across) and smaller perpendicular to that (about 7mm). I modeled the ship round and then applied a scaling factor to the fuselage to squish it slightly.
The hardest part of the fuselage was actually the nose of the ship. That tapered, pointed shape at the ship’s bow is not a shape my modeling program can create natively. I can stretch out spheres, and I can make pointed cones, but that rounded cone shape is not part of the core system. There might be a library out there that someone has written that will do it, but I haven’t found one (or looked very hard).
For those trying out OpenSCAD, it needed to be a series of short straight lines instead of a simpler smooth curve because OpenSCAD doesn’t work with the spline() object that a smooth curve creates in the exported .DXF file. So you have to go and make a series of small straight segments to approximate the curve. The model is so small that you can’t even see the small segments and it looks smooth.
Instead, what I did here is similar to what I did for the body of the sathar destroyer. I took an image of the original miniature and, in Inkscape, modeled the curvature of the nose by a series of short, straight lines. Once I had the shape correct, I exported the curve as a .DXF file which I could import into my modeling program (OpenSCAD) and then create the nose of the ship from that imported shape. (Using the rotate_extrude() command). I then had to scale it a bit to get it to be the right size.
The final bit of difficulty was the guns. This is what held me off from creating this model years ago. But now, armed with my calipers, rulers, magnifying glasses, and a lot more experience, I was able to make short work of the gun. It didn’t hurt that I have several of the original miniatures so I could look at all of them and use the ones in the best condition to make the measurements and understand the details. Like the fuselage, the guns are compressed slightly along the same axis but to a different extent. So they are scaled and added separately to the main fuselage.
Overall, this model took about four and a quarter hours. At least an hour of that was getting the nose cone right and remembering that I needed to use small line segments instead of a curve to define the shape.
The image to the right shows the printed miniature next to the original metal one. I forgot to include a ruler for scale but he miniature is 53mm (2.1″) tall, tip to tail. The white residue on the printed model is from evaporated isopropyl alcohol that I use to clean the excess resin off the print. I’ve since started flushing the models with soft water before curing them and don’t have that residue any more.
The guns I created are not quite as skinny s the ones on the original metal minis but are pretty close. I could make them skinnier but don’t think it necessary.
That completes the Sathar Ships boxed set. You can order any and all of these models on the Order Miniatures page here on the site and I will print and ship them to you. If you want just the 3D model files, they are available on my 3D Models page on DriveThruRPG. Since this model recreates an old mini, the file is just a pay-what-you-want product and can be downloaded for free if you desire.
Now that the Sathar Ships box is done, it’s time to finish the models from the Federation Ships box. The only remaining model from that box is the small freighter model. That will be the subject of my next Model and Miniature post, either late this month or, more likely, the second week in March. After that, I’ll be starting in on the ship models from the Privateer boxed set.
As always, leave your thoughts, comments, or suggestions in the comment section below.
This is not the post I had planned for this week, but since I’ve been up to my ears getting the next issue of the Frontier Explorer ready to go, I didn’t have time to do the post I had planned. You’ll probably get that one next week.
With the Assault Carriers (UPF & Sathar) completed, it was time to tackle the last of the UPF ships needed for the Second Sathar War game: the UPF Minelayer.
Now, this is a bit of an interesting ship to do the mini for. If we look at the counter from the game (shown at right), those familiar with the miniatures produced by TSR will realize that a miniature already exists with that silhouette.
This is the miniature labeled on the blister pack as the Sathar Cutter. This particular one is missing one of it’s cannons but it’s a really close match for the shape on the counter.
This isn’t the first time that TSR messed up the labeling of ship images as the counters and the “Ship Identification Guide” in the Tactical Operations Manual don’t match up. We can probably assume that they had this miniatures and its silhouette and since the cutter doesn’t have game stats (until fans created them – see Frontier Explorer issue 2 – Friend or Foe), they used the image for the UPF Minelayer but didn’t change the name on the blister pack. In the blister pack, it is sold with the Sathar Frigate so my guess is that it was supposed to be a sathar ship but the silhouette was used for the UPF Minelayer by accident.
In any case, it poses a bit of dilemma. We need to make a ship that at least sort of looks like the counter to continue with the theme of the miniatures I’ve been creating but it also can’t look exactly like the sathar ship. This is also why I saved this miniature for last as you could always use the Sathar Cutter mini as the UPF minelayer in your game as it matches the game counter. So with that background out of the way, let’s look at the ship.
UPF Minelayer Miniature
Since I’m not planning on matching the shape of the silhouette on the counter exactly, I want to look at the broad features of the silhouette for inspiration. In my mind there are four main features to be considered:
The body should be somewhat roundish and elongated
There should be two side lobes off the main body
There should be two guns mounted forward on the main body
The engines should be long and skinny.
Now that last one doesn’t match with any of the engines on any of the other UPF ships. However, I’ve always felt that the minelayer, unlike the mainline ships, used ion engines instead of atomic engines. It’s really more of a system ship that does its work before the battle starts so it doesn’t need the performance of the main warships.
And the game stats bear this idea out. Ion engines are limited to an ADF of 1 and that is what the minelayer has, unlike all the other ships which have an ADF of at least 2. So these long skinny engines can be the UPF ion engines instead of atomic ones.
The two guns really aren’t an issue either as the minelayer sports a pair of laser batteries in addition to the mine and seeker missile dispensers. And the other features are just things to keep in mind while designing the ship. The minelayer is listed as hull size 7, so in the end, the ship should be a bit bigger than the UPF Destroyer when it is all done. With those design constraints, let’s get to work.
The image to the right shows the finished model. Instead of the smooth rounded body of the Sathar Cutter, I chose to go with a more angular squashed cylinder and then add cylindrical lobes to the side somewhat like the UPF Assault Carrier.
The two laser batteries are mounted on the front of the ship and the engines are long, tapered to the back, and, although you can’t easily see it in this image, angled slightly inward at the back as are the engines on the silhouette.
Beyond that I added some surface features reminiscent of the other UPF vessels and then a bunch of small cylindrical indentations on the back of the fuselage to represent the mine dispersal system. In the model, they are all at different angles so that mines are spread out as they are ejected.
Printing the Miniature
With the model made, it was time to print. Since this is a relatively small miniature, the print only took about 5 hours. Here is the UPF Minelayer next to the sathar cutter and UPF frigate, as well as a ruler for scale.
The engines didn’t come out as straight as I’d like. I’ll need to add some more supports to them on future prints to get them to hold the right positions.
As you can see, the ship is a bit bigger than the cutter and the body is bigger than the main part of the frigate as well. It’s also bigger than the destroyer although I don’t have a picture of that one. While it’s not as long, it is about as thick and much wider so I feel that it came in at right about the correct size to be just a bit bigger than the frigate and the destroyer.
This model just about used up all of my grey resin so I’ll probably be printing in the black or white resins until I get some more grey ordered. The grey (and white) take longer to print as they are opaque resins and need more curing time but I definitely like the look of the grey miniatures. At least they photograph better than any of the others.
I finished this model a couple of weeks ago so my Patreon supporters already have the model file. I’ll be posting it on DriveThruRPG shortly with all the other models on my 3D Models page. I’ve also added it to the Miniatures Price List here on the site.
That completes all the UPF and Sathar ships. I’m probably going to revisit the fighters soon as I need to make those models more friendly to FDM printers. The models I created work on an SLA printer but the wings are too thin (by about a factor of 5-10) to print on a regular FDM printer. I want to make the models easier to print on FDM printers (or at least versions that are) before I post those models on DriveThruRPG.
But before I do that, I’m going to tackle the last military vessel that I haven’t reproduced from the original miniature sets, the pirate frigate. That’s a ship that came in the Sathar ships box of miniatures along with the pirate assault scout which I have already reproduced. I’ve already started on the model, so once I get issue 27 of the Frontier Explorer out the door, I’ll get back to it.
Once the pirate frigate model is complete, I’ll be in a position to start offering “module packs” of printed miniatures that contain all the ships needed for the Knight Hawks scenarios from the various modules as well as the UPF Task Forces. I may need to make a few more models for some of those (the Gullwind and Elanor Moraes come immediately to mind) but that will give me some direction for future builds.
After the pirate frigate, there are just 7 ships from the original sets left to recreate: the freighter from the Federation Ships box and the six ships from the Privateers box. Those will be my next projects, interspersed with the models needed for the module packs, after reworking the fighters.
What are your thoughts on the minelayer model? Let me know in the comment section below.
With the UPF Assault Carrier completed, it was time to tackle the Sathar Assault Carrier. This would complete all of the capital ships for both sides.
Now, way back when I started this blog, I posted the outline for a sathar assault carrier project. This is not the model that project was intended to create. When I made that project outline, I never imagined I’d be this heavy into creating miniatures. Although if I ever get around to actually doing that project, the end result might be fairly similar. One major difference, however, would be that all the surface features would be actual scale rather than selected for aesthetics as they are on this model. But that’s for some undetermined future date. Let’s look at the model I have created.
Building the Model
Like the others, for this model I’m working off the silhouette from the game counter, pictured to the right. As you can see, this ship is a bit more bulky and angular than the other sathar vessels which tend to be more bulbous and curvy.
That said, there are definitely some features that fit the typical sathar ship style. We have the long skinny engines with the spherical tip, long, extended nacelles for the engines struts, and a round head separated from the body by a skinny neck. The other features that stand out are the guns on the head of the ship and the rectangular shape of the lobes on the side of the ship. I’m going to assume that the latter are the location of the bays for the fighters.
Now, there is another reference for the sathar assault carrier in the rules. The image to the left comes from the module SFKH3: Face of the Enemy. This ship (bottom) is described as an older, obsolete, and smaller assault carrier no longer in main-line service by the sathar fleet. In the module, it has been converted by the sathar to serve as a mobile base for larger scout craft instead of fighter craft. So while I will probably model this ship at some time in the future, I won’t be using this image as a reference for the assault carrier model.
Like the UPF assault carrier, the sathar assault carrier should be significantly larger than the light cruiser but not quite as big as the heavy cruiser. That gave me a bit of a scale to shoot for when building the model. Once that scale was decided on, I used the counter to get the rough shape of the head and body of the ship.
Here’s the final model (pictured to the right). The size of the body, neck, and head are taken directly from the dimensions on the counter.
Given the positioning of the guns on the counter, I assumed there were three evenly spaced around the head. Since the stats for the Assault Carrier include a laser battery, a rocket battery, and a proton battery, I figured that wasn’t too much of a stretch.
The size and shape of the rectangular lobes around the center of the ship are based on the counter as well. The height of the lobes from the center of the ship match the profile height from the counter and the size of the rectangle that forms the outer face, along with the width where it intersects the hull match as well. What is different is the detail on the face. The counter shows one large rectangular shaped detail that I decided to break into three smaller ones on each lobe. each of these represent a fighter bay giving the assault carrier the capacity (per the rules) to hold up to a dozen fighters.
The other major difference is the engines. Instead of the single, long engine depicted on the counter, I went with pairs of smaller engines, similar to the ones used on the heavy cruiser. Unlike the heavy cruiser, which mounted the two engines in each cluster in-line with the engine strut, for the assault carrier, I chose to mount them perpendicular to the engine strut. Additionally, these engines are slightly shorter, a bit thicker, and have a bit more spacing between them than the ones on the heavy cruiser. Otherwise, they are similar to the heavy cruiser engines and modeled on those engines.
It’s not obvious from the image of the model, which is the intention, but I started using a slightly different technique when modeling this ship. For all the ships in the past, I’ve set a global level of detail for round objects that was fine enough for the larger bits of the ships to look smooth. This resulted in way more detail on small objects (like the spheres around the upper body) than was needed and caused the rendering time of the model to be really long. Starting with this model, I’ve been specifying the detail at the individual part level, allowing me finer control and reducing the rendering time significantly since I don’t have to put as much detail into the smaller pieces.
With the model done, it was time to print the miniature. As it turns out, this model is fairly massive. In fact, physically, it has more volume than any of the models I’ve created to date, even the UPF assault carrier. Here’s a picture of the sathar assault carrier along with the sathar heavy cruiser and light cruiser (and a quarter for scale).
It sits right in there between the light and heavy cruiser but it is much fatter. It ended up weighing a couple of ounces, compared the ~1 ounce for the heavy cruiser and ~1/2 ounce for the light cruiser. It actually has some heft to it. I may consider printing these slightly hollow to save weight and bring the cost down. Here’s another picture with it next to the UPF assault carrier.
As you can see, it ended up being a bit bigger even though they are supposed to be roughly the same sized ships. I probably made the sathar one a bit too big, but I like the way it turned out so I’m going to leave it be. It’s not too out of proportion to the other sathar vessels. Any downsizing I need to do will come with the next round of ships, which I’ll be designing to all be to scale with one another. However, with it being this massive, it makes sense that one of the sathar conditions for retreat in the Second Sathar War game is the loss of too many of these ships.
Okay, with the UPF Battleship completed, I’ve now recreated all the original military miniatures. I still need to make the Pirate Frigate model and also the freighter and privateers but those are going to wait a bit. Before I tackle them, I want to finish all the ships in the UPF and sathar order of battle. These remaining ships are ones for which no miniature was made by TSR. There weren’t models for the fighters or destroyers either, but I’ve already made those. That leaves us with these missing ships: the UPF Minelayer (if you don’t use the sathar Cutter model), Assault Carriers for both sides, and the UPF Heavy Cruiser. The latter is the topic of today’s post. The image to the right shows the completed model. This post will talk about how we got there.
There aren’t a lot of sources for the Heavy Cruiser. For “definitive” images, we only have the silhouettes on page 6 of the Knight Hawks Campaign Book (KHCB) and the game counter. You might be able to argue that some of the other ships depicted in the books are heavy cruisers, but nothing else is labeled as such. Since I’m saving the profiles from page 6 & 7 of the KHCB for a second set of miniatures I’ll produce later, we’re going to go with the image on the counter for our basic profile.
This is the image we have to work with. It has a relatively small head, wide fuselage segments and a fairly narrow “waist” region. We also notice that like the destroyer, this has a prominent cannon hanging under the bow of the ship.
Based on the data in the KHCB, the heavy cruiser should be between HS 16-18 and have 6 engines. Since the Battleship was HS 20, and the Light Cruiser is HS 12-14, this ship should fall somewhere right between those two ships in size. That’s what we have to work with, so let’s get started.
The Basic Hull
Building the basic hull was straightforward as I just had to measure the relative sizes of the various parts of the ship and scale them appropriately. There were two main deviations. The first was the engine region. The images on the counters show small engine structures. Since the light cruiser and the battleship both use the same engine design, I intend to reuse that engine here on the heavy cruiser as well. That necessitated making the engine region just a tad bigger than what is shown on the counter, and the engines will stick out further from the body of the ship.
The second variation was in the bow or “head” of the ship. The rules say that heavy cruisers are all old ships. That, combined with the fact that the bow of the ship looks kind of small compared to the body of the ship, led me to make the decision to use the same bow portion on this model as I used for the light cruiser, similar to how I used the same head on the destroyer that I did on the frigate. This gives us the following basic profile.
Next I decided to reuse some of the major elements from both the light cruiser and the battleship. On the aft portion of the fuselage, I used the domed structure from the back of the battleship but only placed three of them compared to the battleship’s four.
Then on the forward fuselage, I used the cannons from the light cruiser placing four of those compared to the light cruiser’s three emplacements. I also add the external cannon onto the bow of the ship. Along the way I also added in the crenelated trim at the edges of the cylinder sections. That gave me this profile.
That was the relatively easy part as I was reusing major structures that I had created for the other models. After that it was time to work my way up the fuselage adding in random bits of machinery, piping, and other structures to give it a bit of surface character to match the other ships in the series.
For some of these bits, I reused some of the structures from the light cruiser and battleship models while for others, I just added things in that fit my fancy. In the end, the final model looked like this:
In the end, the model was 112.5 mm (4.4″) tall which put it right in the middle of the 94 mm and 120.75 mm heights of the light cruiser and battleship, respectively.
The next step was actually printing it. It’s all well and good to have a cool looking model, but if it doesn’t print, that doesn’t do us any good.
For this printing, I switched back to the grey resin that I had used for the light cruiser. It’s an opaque resin and takes about 50% longer to print but it photographs much better. The total print time with this resin was about 14 hours so I started the print before I went to bed and let it run overnight. When I got up in the morning the print was almost done. After it finished and I gave it some time to cure, I snapped a picture of the heavy cruiser model along with the light cruiser and battleship.
This shows the relative sizes along with a ruler for absolute scale. I think it turned out just fine and looks like a ship made from the same design templates.
Getting the Model and Miniature
I’ve added the Heavy Cruiser to the Miniature Price Table if you want to order a physical miniature. The cost for this miniature will be $5.50, the same as the sathar heavy cruiser. Anyone who joins my Patreon this month (Nov 2019) at the Crafter level will get a printed battleship and heavy cruiser miniature in December.
I thought I’d be done with this model and ready to post this last week, but the model ended up taking me about 50% longer than I had originally planned. And since I had guessed 10-12 hours, that was a significant time overrun. In the end, the model took about 17 hours to complete.
Let’s not bury the lede, here is the finished model, pictured to the right. With the engines, it stands 120.75mm (4.8″) tall (or long depending on how you look at it) and is a little less than an inch (23.7mm to be exact) in diameter at the widest point on the engines.
The extra time was spent in trying to get all the details just right. There are a lot of them on the battleship and it just took longer than I was expecting. However, I’m really happy with how it turned out. Let’s look a bit at the process.
This is a miniature that was part of the Federation Ships boxed produced by TSR. On the box, it said that there was “some assembly required” for the battleship miniature. This model comes in 10 different pieces. The eight engines are each separate and the main fuselage comes in two parts. Now, I picked up my miniature box(es, I have four now, only 2 of which didn’t have lead rot when I bought them) used on E-bay in the last few years. As such the previous owners had already glued the fuselage together in three of the boxes but hadn’t attached the engines. So this is what I had to start with.
Now, as I discovered while working on the Light Cruiser, those are the exact same engines on both miniatures, so I had already done the work to create them. I just had to make 8 copies for the battleship.
There were also a number of repeated elements on this ship, namely the three main levels of gun turrets, the structure around the waist of the ship, and the “grill” around the neck.
That’s what I tackled first. For the gun turrets, I created a model of each of the structures and then just placed four of each of them, ninety degrees apart, around the fuselage. For the structure around the waist, it was repeated six times, and the grill around the neck has thirteen bumps. That piece ended up being just a stretched and squished sphere rotated around the neck. Getting those pieces in place was the “easy” part and only took about five hours to do giving me a model that looked like this.
The gun turrets are the same as used in the Light Cruiser, but they are sitting on different base platforms. So while I could reuse the turret, I had to build the bases new for this miniature.
Adding the Trim
At that point I just started at the back of the ship and worked my way forward adding in all the little detail bits. When I got to the area between the gun emplacements, I would work one section at a time filling in the space between the turrets, rotating 90 degrees and repeating.
While there are some repeated elements across the ship and mostly on the bow or head of the vessel, almost all of the the little decorations on the surface are unique. So each one had to be measured with my calipers and reconstructed. In the end, that just wasn’t as fast (and there were a lot of details) as I had expected. When I hit the 12 hour mark, my original upper estimate, I was only up to the area between the upper guns and the model looked something like this. (I didn’t save an exact picture at the time.)
The details on the upper fuselage (right side in image) are only on the little bit you can see. Everything around the back side is still blank and the details between the gun turrets in the middle and bottom on this image are missing as well.
The one nice thing about filling in the details on the bow of the ship was that, unlike the light cruiser, which had irregular hexagons for the shape of the head, the battleship has a regular hexagon shape. That meant that the angles you had to tilt all the pieces were exactly the same on all the faces. That made lining things up much easier. Plus there are a number of repeated elements on the bow.
With that done, I added the cannon on the top and the model was finished. Here it is again in the same orientation as the previous two images.
As I learned from the light cruiser, these ships really need to be printed standing up. So that’s what I did. My biggest worry were the middle gun turrets. With the barrels facing down, each barrel was going to need it’s own support that would then need to be trimmed off. It turns out that those supports had to be added by hand as my printing software didn’t add them automatically.
I had black resin in the printer at the time so that’s what I used to print this model. Unfortunately, the back resin doesn’t photograph as well as the green or grey. The image at the right shows the finished battleship model next to the Sathar Heavy Cruiser. Both still have their printing supports on. This was taken just after the battleship finished printing but I hadn’t cured it yet. The total print time was nearly 12 hours.
I also discovered after the fact that the vertical structures on back of the upper turrets that stick straight out need supports as well, which I didn’t add. They printed at an angle on the actual print. It looks fine, but isn’t what I had planned on.
I’m still amazed at the detail this printer can achieve. All of the details on the model show up in the print. Here the final printed miniature with all the supports removed.
And here it is next to the original metal miniature (minus the engines).
You can probably spot a few differences and there are a few more visible if you’re holding them, but I’m really pleased with the way this turned out.
Getting the Model Files
I’ve already added the UPF Battleship to my Miniatures Price Table page here on the site if you’d like me to print you one or more of them.
Additionally, as I’ve been posting these models, people have asked me about getting the model files. To that end, over the last few week I’ve been publishing all the STL files for printing the models on DriveThruRPG. You can find them in the 3D Models section of my New Frontier Games storefront.
All of the models that are recreations of the original TSR miniatures are free, pay-what-you-want products. Any of the the models that are my original creations are listed with a small cost. I’ve posted all of the models I’ve created to date on the site with the exception of the UPF and sathar fighter models, and two models I’ve made based on deck plans created by Bill Logan. Those will be going up shortly, I just haven’t had a chance to get them posted. All future models will be posted there as well.
If you are one of my Patreon supporters at the Surveyor ($2/month) level or higher, I send you all the model files as I create them. Or you can support the creation of new models by becoming a patron or making a donation through the pay-what-you-want option on the models listed on DriveThru. And if you are a Patreon supporter at the Crafter Level ($30/month), I will send you a printed version of the miniature. Anyone who joins at that level this month will get the battleship mini.
Now that the UPF Battleship is done, I’ve finished recreating all the UPF and sathar ships from the original boxed sets. I still need to do the pirate frigate, the freighter from the Federation Ships box, and the privateers to get all the original minis recreated.
I’ll tackle those, but first I want to fill in the order of battle for the two main sides in the Second Sathar War game so that people could potentially play out that game with a full compliment of miniatures. As such I still need to do the UPF Heavy Cruiser, the UPF Minelayer (if you don’t use the cutter miniature), the assault carriers for both sides. Of those the easiest will be the UPF Heavy Cruiser as it will draw heavily from the design of the light cruiser and battleship. I’ve already started working on that model. It might even be finished before the end of the month. It’s much easier to make my own designs than trying to recreate existing ones. Plus I have a lot of little details structures already designed from the other ships that I can reuse.
After the heavy cruiser, I’ll tackle the assault carriers and then the minelayer before going back to finish the recreations.
And that’s it for now. Let me know if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments in the comment section below. I hope you enjoy the miniatures as much as I enjoy making them.
This post is a couple of days late as I was traveling and completely forgot to get a post queued up for Tuesday. And this is not what I had planned to post at all. I had not planned to do another model post this month. I was planning on putting together a table of all the star systems on the Extended Frontier Map to provide the spectral types of all the stars and notes about they systems. However, on my flight I had some time to kill and wasn’t completely decided on what I wanted to include in the table so I decided to do a bit of modeling. I’ll probably finish up that table for next week.
The UPF Destroyer
Since I didn’t have my battleship mini or calipers with me,
I couldn’t continue working on the battleship model. Instead, I thought I’d
take a look at the UPF destroyer and start working on that. Since there is no existing model for this
ship, this would be a scratch build.
There are two references for this ship.
One in the Knight Hawks Campaign book on page 7 in the image showing the
silhouettes of the various ships and the small game counters.
The silhouette images for both the frigate and destroyer are
shown in the image to the right. As you
can see, the ships are fairly similar.
The destroyer is shown with a shorter engine block area, a longer neck,
and an obvious gun on the bow. The
counters for the two ships are shown below.
These images also show a slightly smaller engine area and
noticeable gun on the bow, but here the neck area is about the same and the
main fuselage is longer. Also, the width
of the fuselage is a bit larger on the destroyer. Since there is some detail on the body of the
ships in the counters, you can notice that the main body of the destroyer is
very similar to the body of the frigate, mainly that it has that same cross
Since it’s always been in the back of my mind to make a set
of models that match the silhouettes in the book in the future, I chose to take
the counter as my guide for this project.
Especially since that meant that I could use a lot of the work done for the frigate on the destroyer.
Building the Model
The frigate is a HS 5 ship while the destroyer is a HS 6
ship so we expect in the end the destroyer will be a little larger. I started by pulling up the model for the
frigate. Since I’m using the original
mini model as the basis, this model, like my recreation models, are not
designed at an exact model scale but at their actual physical size.
I’m doing this design work in OpenSCAD which looks and acts very much like a programming language. I give it positions, sizes, and rotations of various primitive shapes and it places them on the model. I then “compile” it to get a render. For example, this is the code that draws the main body of the frigate with its crossed block structure:
Since I wanted that same block structure for the destroyer,
just bigger, I just needed to increase the length and width of the blocks and
shift the positions of some of them to make the body longer. Basically, I just change a few numbers and
re-render. If I wanted to just make it
bigger everywhere, I could wrap all of that in a scale() command and not change
anything. However, I wanted to keep the
core diameter (that first cylinder) the same size so I modified each of the
items. Overall, I increased the length
of this part of the ship by 2.6 mm and its width by 3 mm.
I kept the neck length nearly the same but stretched out the
spherical section of the upper body by 0.3 mm (10%).
I also lengthened slightly the area behind the crossed block
structure. In the counter image, this is
larger on the destroyer than the frigate and has a grilled structure, so I
added in a hull section to match that image.
This also helped to lengthen the entire body of the ship.
For the “head” or bow of the ship, I decided to just reuse
wholesale the head of the frigate model.
I figure that since the ships are nearly the same size, the designers
would just reuse an existing design to save on design and fabrication
costs. However, I did make one
change. On the frigate, the main gun
extends out from the center of the head which means that the long lasing cavity
of the laser cannon runs through the center of the bow taking up space inside
In both destroyer images from the game, this laser cannon is
very obviously mounted outside the ship and visible on the exterior. So I added an externally mounted cannon on
the model. This gives a bit more room inside the ship’s bow and helps to match
the profile on the counter better.
According to the rules, both the frigate and the destroyer
are supposed to have three Class B engines.
The original frigate mini just had a single engine mounted directly aft
of the ship. Since I’m building this
model from scratch, I decided to give it the three engines it is supposed to
I started by shortening up the cylinder on the model that
was the actual engine on the frigate model.
I effectively just chopped off the nozzle portion and added a small
taper to the end. On the destroyer, this
is now part of the interior hull space instead of the engine itself.
Next, I created an engine model. It’s roughly the same size as the engine from
the frigate but I gave it my own set of surface details. I added an engine strut and then put three of
them on the model distributed symmetrically around the tail section of the
Finally, I went back and added a bit of surface detail to
the ship. Some of the bits were also
used on the frigate and some I added in just for the destroyer. That gave me the finished model.
The image on the left shows the destroyer model alongside the frigate model for a size and feature comparison. The image on the right is the other side of the destroyer model so you can see the externally mounted laser cannon a little bit better. You can click on either image for a larger version.
All told, the destroyer is about 58mm long while the frigate
is about 52mm. I realized after the fact
that since the silhouettes on the counters are constrained in size, the actual
physical size of the destroyer might be a bit bigger than I made it but it’s
distinctive enough that I’m not going to worry about it. Also, I feel better about the engine area
being bigger, not smaller, than on the frigate.
When I do my complete custom builds, they’ll all be to the same scale.
I got home from my trip yesterday and fired up my printer to
try printing the model. It worked out
just fine with no issues. The image
below shows the printed destroyer alongside a printed frigate.
I decided to print the destroyer with the white resin which
unfortunately doesn’t photograph well, so it’s kind of hard to see the details
on it. However, they are all there.
In discussions about the models on the Star Frontiers
Facebook group, Jess Carver asked me about stands for the ships. I hadn’t really thought about that yet but
figured I’ve give it a go and see what I came up with. I actually did this build a couple weeks ago
before my trip.
Looking at the stands that came with the original minis,
they were just X shaped and designed to fit in a 1” square. And they came with a small, 2” long, 1/32”
diameter steel rod to mount the mini on.
If you’re playing on a 1” hex grid, that original model
stand is going to be a bit big and extend out of the hex the ship is in. This could be a problem if you have a bunch
of ships close together. If you’re
playing off a grid, that’s not so much of a problem but you then need a
protractor to measure turns and such. I
wanted to make a stand that solved both of those problems if possible.
I started by making the stand circular instead of square and
1” in diameter. I asked around a bit
about what size hexes people were using as I have actually never played with
minis, just the original counters from the game. The answers I got back were 1” and 1.5” so I
went with the 1” option. It’s easy
enough to scale the model up to 1.5 inches if someone wants that sized base and
a 1” base fits in a 1.5” hex but not the other way around.
The outer edge of the stand is slanted back toward the
center and I put tick marks all around it at 15-degree intervals. It took a couple of tries to get the sizing
right on these so that they showed up well on the print. The first tries were a little to small. You could see them, but you had to get close
and that defeated the purpose. I made
the 60-degree tick marks larger to help find them better and added a unique
tick mark at one position to represent the “front” of the ship or the direction
of travel. Here’s an image of the model.
You’ll notice that it is just the base. I made the decision to use a steel rod as the
vertical piece instead of printing a vertical bar. Printing it would require it to be a lot
thicker and I didn’t want that. Another
thing that I discovered in printing the bases is that the hole in the middle
that the rod is going to go into just doesn’t print well. It keeps filling up with resin that would
harden while printing. I made the hole
twice as large as the rod and it still didn’t work. In the end I had to just drill out the hole
for the rod. Since I had to drill the
models anyway, this wasn’t a big deal and probably better as the hole would be
exactly the right size. I did have to go
buy a 1/32” drill bit since the smallest one I had at the time was 1/16”.
I was a little concerned about stability, at least when
holding up the larger minis. One inch is
not that big when you compare it to a four- to six-inch miniature. So I gave it
a stress test. I grabbed one of my
sathar heavy cruiser model, the largest one I’ve created at 5.5 inches, and
mounted it on the stand. I used one of
the steel rods from my miniature boxed sets as I didn’t have any others.
It was surprisingly stable.
I gave it a tap and hit it harder than I intended. The mini tilted by 10-15 degrees and then
settled right back down on the base. I
deliberately tilted it in some different directions and it remained
upright. Obviously, you can tip it far
enough that it falls over, but it seems to survive accidental bumping. The plastic minis are much lighter than the
metal ones so I’m sure that helps. And
if you want, you can always use two stands just like you had to do with the
The only other issue was to find a source of steel
rods. I have the ones that came with my
sathar and Federation ships boxed sets, but I am going to need more. So I started looking around on-line. I found some on Amazon that were 1.1mm in
diameter (the ones from the boxed sets are 0.8mm) and 10cm long. I wasn’t worried about length as I can cut
them down to the 50mm size needed with my Dremel. They were reasonably priced (20 for $8) but
were shipping from Asia and would take a couple of weeks to arrive. I kept looking.
I figured a hobby/craft store might have something I could
use, especially if they sell model train supplies. Sure enough, looking at Hobby Lobby’s on-line
store they sold six 12” brass rods at 1/32” diameter for $4. That was an even better price even including
local sales tax. And I could just drive down and get them (about a 20-minute
drive as the Hobby Lobby is a couple towns away up the freeway). It took me a couple days to get over there
but when I did, I found that not only did they have the brass rods I was
expecting, they sold a four-pack of 12” steel rods for just $2. An even better price. So I bought a pack, went home, chopped up one
with my Dremel, printed up a bunch of stands, and mounted up examples of some
of my models.
I’m starting to get the itch to print out enough of these
and run a big battle on my kitchen table.
The build of the destroyer went really fast, at least partially because I was reusing the basic design of the frigate. I completed it in just about four hours. For comparison, the light cruiser model took something between 8-12 hours (I wasn’t really tracking it at the time) and I’ve spent 6 hours on the battleship and probably have another 6-10 to go. Similarly, the stand build was really quick, maybe a half hour as it was a really simple construction and had minimal details.
The recreation models take a long time as I’m constantly
measuring, placing, remeasuring, and tweaking the features of the model to try
to match the original as closely as possible.
With a custom build, I don’t have that constraint and can just build the
model as I wish so it can go faster.
This was a fun build and fills in a gap in the order of
battle for the UPF. Once I finish the
battleship, the only remaining models will be the UPF heavy cruiser and assault
carriers for both the UPF and sathar. Since
the miniature labeled as the sathar cutter on the blister packs matches the
silhouette of the UPF minelayer on the counter, and I’ve already done that
model, that ship can be used as the UPF minelayer if desired. However, that ship definitely looks more like
a sathar vessel so I’ll design a new minelayer for the UPF as well.
I’ve added the destroyer model and the stands to my price list on the Order Miniatures page. Anyone that joins my Patreon as a supporter at the Crafter level will get all the models I’ve done this month (space station, light cruiser, destroyer, and a set of stands) mailed out to them in November.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
I’ve been bitten by the 3D modeling bug again. It started with me creating this page here on the site. I figured that since I had my high resolution 3D printer and a bunch of 3D models I had already made, I could offer the opportunity to print them for those that wanted them.
So after creating the page, I posted a link to in in the Star Frontiers Facebook group and got quite a number of comments. One from Andy Campbell, which suggested that I make “scenario packs” – basically providing all the minis needed for a given module or scenario from the rules, was very close to something I had noodling around in the back of my head already. The problem was, I only really had the sathar ships and a few of the smaller UPF and pirate vessels like the the Assault Scouts, UPF Frigate, and Corvette.
Plus there are a number of ship designs for which no official miniature was ever released such as the fighters, the UPF Destroyer and Heavy Cruiser, and assault carriers for both sides. There’s no official Sathar Destroyer either but I’ve already made that one. I’d need to make models for those missing ship types if I was going to to pull this off.
Now, I already had plans to create the Sathar Assault Carrier. It was one of my original project when I started this blog. So I think I’ll be getting back to that one shortly. However, to get started I wanted to start on something small, and something there were some art references for. I also wanted to test out how small of a miniature I could reasonably do with my printer.
I had a Sathar Fighter model that I had created several years ago but it was based on a fan created fighter drawing and had just a bit too much resemblance the the rebel logo from Star Wars. I had also played around a while back with the idea of making 3D counters, basically versions of the ship counters that came with the Knight Hawks game but with raised reliefs of the ships on them instead of just being flat. I had made one of the UPF Fighter so I had some experience modelling that one. So that’s where I decided to start.
I made this model based on the image on the counter that came with the game. It has a short stubby rudder and is somewhat atmospheric capable. I didn’t put any detailing on the engine package at the back as shown on the counter but I might go back and do that at some point. However, it’s really small so the detail would be mostly lost anyway in a physical miniature.
I do all my ship modelling at 1/1000 scale so that 1mm on the model equals a meter on the actual ship. Since according to the rules, the fighter is a hull size 1 ship, that means it is only 10m long. The ship ended up being 11m in size as I gave the 10m size to the fuselage and tacked on an extra meter for the engine nozzle at the back.
This model was printed at full size (1/1000th scale). That means that the printed miniature is only 11m long and about the same wide. For the capital ships, I typically print them at 1/3000th scale as that is roughly the scale of the officially release miniatures. However, printing these fighters at that scale would make them absolutely minuscule. It also wouldn’t have printed properly as the wings would have been too thin. As is, they are just a bit larger than the thinnest piece I can print with this printer. This is a little, tiny model and you have to be careful because if you’re not careful, it might just blow away. This is now my UPF Figher MK I miniature.
That one worked. And it only took me about 3 hours to make the model. What’s next?
As I said earlier, I have a model of a sathar fighter that I created based on a fan image (the model and image that inspired it is to the right). This one was designed to be printable on a FDM style printer with 0.1mm layer resolution and it works. But it is a very simple model. And I had always called this my Sathar Fighter MK II model as I knew this shouldn’t be the original. What I wanted was one that matched the silhouette on the counter that came with the game.
For this fighter model, in addition to the game counter (at left), there is this great illustration from page 54 of the Knight Hawks Campaign Book showing this same fighter being pursued by another fighter. So we have some more detail to go on for this one.
This model was going to take some more work. With the bent wings and contoured surface, on the cockpit disk and the wings themselves the modelling was going to be a little more complicated.
Again I went with a 10m length, this time including the engine nozzle in that 10m. Since I’m still modelling in OpenSCAD, I started creating little modules that will allow me to reuse some of the elements I created along the way in other ships if I need them.
This model took me a bit longer. I was getting back into the groove of modeling and so getting faster, but this one was a bit more complicated. In the end, this model took me about four hours to finish but I really like the way it turned out. Here is a couple of view of the model, plus the printed version side-by-side with the UPF fighter.
You can’t see it in the picture, but that detail that I added on the back of the fuselage is just sort-of visible on the printed model. Which means I should go back and add some detail to the UPF fighter as well. As it currently stands, this model is only printable on my SLA printer as the wings are almost exactly one resolution element (0.05mm) thick. In fact, I wasn’t sure it was going to print and was relieved to see that it did. I will probably go back at some point and make the wings a little thicker. If or no other reason, to make them a little stronger.
Compared to other ships
Here’s another comparison image showing the two fighters next to a small assault scout mini (my Swift-class assault scout model printed at 1/2000 scale), and a replica of the officially released UPF frigate mini which is also happens to be at nearly 1/2000th scale. So the two larger ships are roughly to scale with each other but the fighters should be half again as small to be on the same scale.
At the very least, I want to make a second UPF Fighter (Mk II) mini that matches the ship depicted chasing the sathar fighter in the image above. There are also some other fighter-like ships depicted throughout the illustrations in the rules that I might take a crack at.
Also, if you are at all familiar with the rules, you know that these fighters as depicted could not possibly match the stats given for them in the game. These fighters are supposed to be packing three assault rockets, each of which is roughly the same size as the fighter’s entire fuselage. One of these days I’ll make a model that depicts that.
But first, I want to start seriously looking at finishing off the line of ships so I have a model of each ship type. I’m also going to need some space stations. As I’m writing this, I’ve already made my first space station model. I’ll post about that here in the future but if you are following me on Twitter or are a member of the Facebook group, you’ve already seen some pictures of that model.
Getting the models and minis
My Patreon supporters at the Surveyor ($2/month) or higher level will be getting copies of the model files for each of these models (and all future models as well). If you’d like to get them as they are produced, consider signing up to support this work. In the very near future, I’ll also be putting all my model files on-line, probably on DriveThruRPG for everyone to access.
If you’d like to get 3D printed miniatures of any of the models I’ve created, you can check out my Order Miniatures page which gives the details on how to order them and lists the prices.
More progress on the ship model. If you haven’t read part one of this series, that describes how I laid out a model of the interior of the ship as a skeleton to build the hull around. In this post, I’ll actually start building the ship out. Let’s dive right in.
I started by pulling the skeleton model I exported from OpenSCAD into Blender. The first thing I noticed is that Blender likes to work on really small scales. The model isn’t that big, only about 50mm long, half that wide and tall but it was was huge in the default view port. I had to zoom way back.
(If the text on that image looks a little small, that’s because its a screen capture of my entire 4k monitor’s screen. It’s a 43″ screen so I work at full resolution for maximum screen space.)
With that loaded, I can start forming the hull around it. It all starts with a cube. I created a cube the height of the cargo bay and then stretched, extruded, and molded it to fit around all the rooms and sections of the lowest level. Once that was done, I extruded part of the top of that level up to form the basis of the hull around the middle deck and then stretched and molded it to properly fit. Finally I did the same thing for the uppermost layer.
In modeling the hull, I had it extending out beyond the bay doors on the sides and back so that they were inset from the hull slightly. The circular bridge area on the upper deck was modeled as a separate piece.
With the hull done, I created a model for the ion cannon and the laser battery and placed them in their appropriate positions on the model. When I was done, it looked like this.
It looks pretty good. But for some reason, I just didn’t like it. I think a big part of it was that it felt too smooth. I could have turned that down a bit but I still didn’t like the shape. There were bits of the hull that just looked weird up close and had somewhat strange geometries. One was the the bit of hull on the left and right side of the bridge “window” area. If you look closely at the image, you can see that it dips back down between the outer edge of the hull and the bridge proper. There were some other areas like that on the back of the ship and around the hanger bay doors as well.
So like all good prototypes, I threw it out and started over. The only thing I kept was the bridge, the laser battery, and the ion cannon.
With a little more experience under my belt, I decided to start over and try again. I kept the original version around in case try 2 was worse but I didn’t expect it to be. This time around I decided that instead of trying to do the hull as a single piece of geometry, that I would break it up in to connecting pieces. While I had originally planed to do five pieces (one for each deck and two for the spaces between decks), I ended up only doing two overlapping pieces as you’ll see below.
This time around I decided to make the outer hull on the back and side be flush with the cargo, shuttle, workpod, and runabout bay doors. I’ll probably add a bit of overhang to those but that detail will be added to the exterior instead of built into the basic hull shape.
Again I started with the bottom of the ship. The process was the same but I made some different design decisions. I also was much more careful about coordinates when pushing, squeezing, extruding, and scaling parts of the hull. There were a number of times that I realized I had done something wrong and destroyed my symmetry. Each time that happened, I went back and fixed it. This is something that I didn’t do on the first attempt. I probably should have worked on just half the ship and mirrored it but it seemed to make more sense at the time to do it the way I did. (I also should have taken more screenshots as I was working on the model to show the stages but I didn’t. I’ll try to be better next time.)
Regardless, I created a lower deck model that I was much happier with than the first one. Once that was done, I started a second section of the hull and modeled everything on the second level except raising it to the full four meter height of the room containing the machinery for the ion cannon or the area that would connect the engineering spaces to the engines proper. The former would be done as part of the connection between deck 2 and 3 and the latter when I actually modeled the engines.
Once I was happy with the second deck it was time to connect the two. My original plan had been to created a completely separate piece of geometry to make the connection but sitting here with the two pieces in front of me, I decided to just extend the top of the lower deck and form it into the shape I wanted. So I extruded the bits under the second deck up and got to shaping the hull. In the end I didn’t just stop this modeling at the bottom of deck 2 but because of some of the feature that I wanted to continue extending, parts were modeled all the way up to the top of the second deck. Satisfied with that, it was time to move on to deck 3.
Again, the original plan was a separate piece of geometry but since this level was fairly simple, I decided to just extend the top of level 2 upward. I was several hours into the project at this point and feeling comfortable with the tools so it went fairly quickly.
Since the bridge area, laser battery, and ion cannon were already done, I just had to turn them on. Doing so made me realize that the area where the cannon was attached felt a little two boxy so I tweaked the design a bit there. I also needed to tweak the geometry around the bridge to expose a bit more of it. With that done, I ended up with this model for my second attempt.
You’ll notice that this one is much blockier than that first one. In that first attempt I had already applied some smoothing filters before exporting the image. I had not yet done so on this one and had first planned on leaving this one as is. I thought this looked pretty good so I even exported this as a 3D model and did a small test print.
I was quite happy how the print turned out. The barrels on the laser battery were too small to print at this scale (1/1000) but otherwise it looked pretty good.
However, looking at the actual model some more I decided I didn’t like it so faceted. Plus if you look at the back of the ship, there is that little bit of contouring that is pushing in a bit. That section fills the space between the doors for the shuttle and workpod bays. I decided that I wanted that to be a feature that ran all the way up the ship.
So I went back into the model and started tweaking. First I modified bottom part of the upper deck geometry to continue running that feature all the way up the aft portion of the ship. This was actually fairly easy as at this point in the ship, the outer edge of the hull is well beyond the interior walls. After that was added, I started smoothing out the surface and adding edges and features in where I wanted the model to have sharp edges. I ended up with the following model.
The one thing that adding the smoothing did was somewhat highlight the fact that it is two different pieces of geometry. You can see a slight seam between the two pieces in the area under the ion cannon. It runs around the front of the ship and back to the point just in front of the bulge mid-ship on the lower deck (that bulge is the location of the reflec screen on this side of the ship) where it turns upward to the top of the second deck.
This seam is not visible in the unsmoothed version as it is an artifact of the extra facets added to the geometry to make it smooth. It’s something I’ll need to clean up. I haven’t decided exactly how I’m going to do it but I have two options. One is to go in and tweak the geometry so that the two pieces (with the smoothing) line up better. That is actually what I did on the back half of the ship. You can’t see the seam back there. The other is to put surface details, such as pipes, equipment, etc. that run over that area of the ship to mask the region affected. It will probably end up being a combination of those options in the end but that is for later.
The other thing you can’t see in this image is that there is a bit of hull under the lower deck. It actually extends about a half a meter below the deck but it is beveled inward so it doesn’t really show up in the angle of this view. And the bit that is visible (just below the front of the bow and below the parts jutting out a little on the side) are in shadow from the lighting. This extension allows for some machinery and piping beneath the hull and the addition of landing pads as well.
Now that the outer hull is done, it’s time to add the engines.
I didn’t really have any ideas for a design on the engines, I just knew they needed to be big and were going to be outboard on either side of the ship. So what I decided to do was use the engines depicted on that map at the end of the last post as a model. I imported that image into Blender to use as a reference and got to work. Here it is again.
I’m going to match the silhouette of those engines at the top and bottom. In this case, I am only going to model one engine and then mirror it to the other side of the ship.
The engine design is fairly simple. It’s mainly a cylinder with a spherical cap at the front and an exhaust cone at the back. Plus some decorations along the side. I made a couple of variations on this image for the model. First, the exhaust cone at the back is symmetrical on my model I might go back and add that curve to it later but for now I left it alone. I also added some tori around the exhaust cone section of the ship reminiscent of the ribbing on current day rocket engines.
I also added one around the connection point between the cylinder and the sphere at the front of the engine (to mask the seam that shows up there when I applied the smoothing 🙂 ).
For those bits of geometry sticking out on the sides, I modeled them as extensions that ran a little more than half way around the engine instead of all the way around.
To connect the engines to the ship, I created some simple swept forward “wings”. All of these pieces were then smoothed and added to the model. With that done, I had the final model of the base hull ready to go.
Now that the base hull is done, it’s time to add the details. That will be the subject of the next post. First up will be those bits of the interior rooms that actually extend beyond the hull. On the side face in these images, the grapple launcher extends a bit out of the bow of the ship. On the other side we have the rocket battery launcher on deck 1 and the sensor array and airlock on deck two.
After that, I need to add in all the bay doors on decks one and three. That will complete the full basic structure of the ship. At this point I’m going to do another 3D print. At the small scale that I used for the first test print, that is all the detail that might show up. Any other smaller details would only show up on a larger print.
Once those final necessary features are added on, I’ll go through and add some other details and features to break up the completely smooth surfaces just a little as well as some recessed landing gear on the bottom of the ship. While the ship doesn’t normally dock or land on planets, it is capable of landing on smaller, very low gravity objects so I need to add that feature in.
So what do you think about the design? Any additional features you think should be included? Let me know in the comments below.