Sunday, June 29, 2014

“They be aliens son.”

A week or so ago, John and I were chuckling over a number of UFO sites where it seems the most outlandish interpretations of photos and videos are quickly assigned to any images that purport to demonstrate that “we are not alone”. They always seem to discount the vastness, grandeur and complexity of the natural world, and in equal measure under estimate the creativity of human beings. And who knows how secret government programs factor into the mix. The default position of professional believers seems to be that if they themselves can’t explain those photos, then nobody can, so clearly other-worldly aliens must be the cause.

Eventually I mentioned that at my old retroDynamics blog, one of the most popular posts was one on how to build a UFO in 7 days. Well, a plastic model of one of course, and in this case the alien life-form that built it was me :-) So, without further adieu, I’ll control the vertical and I’ll control the horizontal while I reach into the time-machine and respectfully submit for your consideration, How to build a UFO in 7 steps and 5 evenings and UFO! from way-back in 2010.

How to build a UFO in 7 steps and 5 evenings
9 September 2010
Ok. Well you’ve realized that since this is retroDynamics, it’s a model UFO, and not a ‘real’ UFO. Still, the model is an interesting - as well as quick and easy - project. But, as it turns out, not easy enough for me :-( , since I still managed to make a big mistake – read on for the gory details.

1. Buy this kit
I don’t know if it’s still relatively easy to get, since I bought this one a few years ago. It’s claimed to be a 1/48 scale replica of an alien craft being housed at the infamous Area-51.

2. Pick out the 4 parts you’ll need and wash them
The main hull of this vehicle is moulded in clear plastic so that you can get a clear view of the interior components. I wasn’t interested in the interior, so I pulled out the four parts that comprise the hull: the upper and lower saucer halves, the upper ‘bridge’ unit and the pointy little antenna that glues to the top of the bridge.

They need a little sanding along their edges to remove flash and roughness. Then you need to wash them thoroughly in warm water with a mild soap – I used a liquid organic dish soap for this job. It turns out that all model kits have mold release residue coating their parts to some degree or another. This needs to be washed off to prepare the parts for painting. Many times I’m lazy and skip this step. I’ll paint a little bit on the parts and keep going if it sticks ok. Bodies and fuselages are an exception: I always wash them. Since the saucer halves are clear in this kit, I really noticed the difference after they were washed; illustrating rather dramatically that I shouldn’t be so lazy and make a practice of washing all the parts in all kits.

3. Mask the saucer halves
I decided to spray the inside of the saucer halves, so I covered their outsides with masking tape to prevent overspray from marring the clear outer surface. The parts were then attached to discarded protein jars for easy handling during the spray painting process.

4. Spray the colour
I sprayed everything with alternate passes of Krylon bright silver and Krylon nickel to give a little variety to the surfaces. It turned out to be a little more subtle than I would like, but at least it’s relatively smooth.

5. Let the paint dry
I left the parts out on the back deck over night to dry and outgas a bit before bringing them in the next day. Krylon dries to the touch in about 15 minutes, so maybe this is a bit of over kill, but giving the paint a little time to outgas seems worth it. One saucer half got blown over during the night, but no damage was done.

6. Apply decals
There are 6 black decals that go on the upper bridge. I sprayed the bridge with Testors glosscote before applying them in order to get a good surface for adhesion. The next day, after the decals had dried overnight, I sprayed the bridge again with glosscote to protect the decals. Well, I thought it was glosscote. The spray can I picked up went on clear and glossy, but when I returned home from work in the evening, it had dried cloudy. I screwed up. I have a number of partially used cans of glosscote (some with only partial labels I’m ashamed to say) and it turns out that the can I used wasn’t glosscote after all, but was a matte spray. I wanted to get finished, so I went on to the final step of gluing the three pieces together. For a better model, I should have corrected this error by sanding, re-spraying the colour, and re-colouring the windows with paint instead of decals since I had ruined the ones in the kit.

7. Glue it together
Some carefully applied thick superglue was used to glue all the parts together.

Voila, a ufo!
Well, a rather unconvincing ufo, but not too bad looking if photographed in low light situations and viewed from a distance, at odd angles, in low light (I’ll say it twice); maybe it might look ‘authentic’ to someone who wasn’t looking too closely. Hence, the distant crash poses. Now all I need to do is figure out how to fake an in-flight photo without pesky wires to get in the way ;-)

15 August 2010
I shot this photo of a ufo landing with a Pegasus Area 51 U.F.O. kit and an LED flashlight. The flashlight has both green LEDs so as to preserve your night vision and regular clear ones when you need lots of light. I turned on both lights, buried it in the sand and placed the model over top to get that eerie glow. I waited to take the photos until twilight. The basic photos turned out a little dark since my camera isn’t too good in low light, but the images had enough definition that allowed me later to push the contrast and brightness in order to get an interesting image.
The Pegasus kit is very simple. It’s not a challenging build, but it is fun. The only complaint I had was that it was supposed to have 4 landing gear doors in the open position, and another 4 in the closed position so you could build it either landed, like I did, or in flight. My kit had 5 in the open position and 2 in the closed. No big deal. If you wanted to build the inflight version, the open door variants could be easily modified.
But, overall, the mouldings are good and it’s easy to put together.
I don’t know what colour a ufo is supposed to be, so I went with a paint scheme that interested me. The upper disc is a fogged mixture of Krylon aluminum and Krylon flat black sprays. The bottom disk is simply Krylon flat black - to represent some sort of protective covering for atmospheric entry in case aliens have such concerns :-)
All the windows come tinted green in the kit, and to prevent a viewer from looking inside I sprayed the inner surfaces with Krylon aluminum.
The landing legs are brush painted with a variety of bottle paints and given a wash of thinned flat black paint to blend the colours a bit. I painted one of the leg cylinders red to punch-up the colours and add some visual interest. I had an art teacher once who said a painting needed to have some red somewhere or it would look dead. I never slavishly apply that idea, but I find that it’s a pretty good thing to keep in mind.

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