Tutorial by John Selvia:

Tutorial PART II

A Backbone

Using the manufactured cylindrical shapes (Aspirin and Vitamin bottles) to create a form requires a backbone. The bottles are centered on and attached to a piece of plastic pipe. You carefully need to drill centered holes in the caps and bottle bottoms, at the size of the center pipe. Slide the bottles and caps on and glue in place with epoxy or super glue.

This has created our basic form, but to make it look like a real object (shown above) , rather than a bunch of bottle parts, we need to add details. Most of the detail will consist of applying styrene strip, rods and tubes, that you can purchase at your local hobby store or online hobby sources.

Before Beginning Construction

Removing Labels

A combination of applying dish soap overnight, then putting hot water inside the bottle, with the bottle sitting in a pan of hot water. You may still need to use a scrubby to get off the residue. Glue-Off, available at hardware type stores, can be used also – test a spot first. Rough up the paper surface of the label gently, so the un-stick solution can soak into it. This will help speed the process. Wash with dish soap, rinse and dry thoroughly afterwards.

Incompatible Surfaces

In most cases a bottle’s plastic surface is NOT compatible with normal plastic modeling parts and styrene that you will want to adhere. The simplest way, is to attach a thin sheet of styrene (.010 or .020) to the Aspirin bottle first. You must use Epoxy or Super Glue). TIP: Use Epoxy, that you can spread on thin and cover the area evenly, rather than applying in thick lines, which may show through your thin styrene wrap-around. Then you can use standard modeling glue to attach the numbs to the styrene.

Basic Steps

Measure and test fit a sheet of styrene by wrapping it around the bottle so it ends where you began. Mark and use a framing square or other right angle (90 degree) tool, to accurately cut the sheet.

I use Super Glue on the edge of the first wrap sheet to anchor it to the bottle. NOTE: It must be absolutely perfectly straight before glue applied, or the sheet will be crooked when applied.

To pull the sheet tight around the bottle and hold it while the epoxy glue sets, use a Masking Tape Clamp. Attach a piece of masking tape to the trailing edge, pull it tight without breaking the tape, and tape it to the leading edge of the sheet. Wait for glue to cure before handling the bottle(s).

Assembly: Shown below are photos of bottles (basic form parts) with styrene wrap ready to be assembled and detailed. You can change your mind about the design positioning of shapes, when satisfied, assemble and glue them in place to the center tube, and each other as shown in the photo at the beginning of this Part II Tutorial. 


Tutorial PART III


Adding lots of detail and texture to your Starship will give Interest and ‘Guts On The Outside’. We can’t add gas cans, tarps, sleeping bags, tools and equipment crates to the outside of a Starship, like you can to a tank model. We can add texture to our ship using Nurnies. Nurnies are the small details on a model that add to its texture and interest – some serve a purpose, others are just design texture.

To create cool details, I use a combination of small rectangles of styrene sheet, chunks of styrene strip, recycled household parts, and parts from old model kits.

For a large Starship with hundreds of small cut-out parts – buy a chopper. The Chopper is hands down, my #1 tool for creating surface detail. It is like a paper cutter with measuring ruler for styrene. Your blade must be sharp for accuracy!

Photos below show surface detail created with lots of little Chopper-cut rectangles.


Please see the next blog which contains “Scratchbuilding and Kitbashing” Tutorial Parts IV by John Selvia.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Now thats a coinsidence. I’m the guy who posted at RPF, the mentioned “dicnar” 🙂 And just yesterday I was browsing for some scratchbuilding tips and found your blog with those tutorials. It’s a great thing you’ve done I hope those tuts will live on and inspire more and more people for years to come. John Selvia must have been a great guy and it’s cool that some memory of him could live, even is something as trival as an internet tutorial. Cheers.

  2. I am excited to find this treasure trove of scratchbuilding goodness! I am just starting out, and need all the help I can get.
    I do know another secret for removing sticker goo. Most sticker adhesives are oil-based, which means that oil can often be used as a solvent. Try brushing something like olive oil onto the residue. Give it a few minutes to work its magic; it will make the goo semi-liquid and easy to remove with a rag (use a clean, dry part of the rag each couple of swipes…it gums up quickly and loses effectiveness). clean off the olive oil with dish soap or glass cleaner.
    Happy building!

    • Scale Modeling & Painting are fun and can be done with a few tools and supplies. Hope my information is helpful. Wish I had time to share more posts.