Adam Savage takes a look at kit-bashing and scratch-building with Styrene on his YouTube channel and Podcast, Tested. In a recent “One Day Builds” segment, Savage revisits his roots in spaceship model making, creating a scale model inspired by Jean “Moebius” Giraud, a famous French artist, cartoonist, and writer.
Savage explains that his primary job in the past as a model maker had been to take drawings from his art director and fashion them out of materials in their shop. He points to styrene plastic as a particularly useful model making material to keep on hand and begins the task of creating his Giraud-inspired model craft.
“With styrene, you don’t need to use band saws and other cutting tools. A single X-Acto blade is plenty,” Savage says as he starts scoring a sheet of 0.040” thick styrene. Drawing the pieces he needs by lightly scoring the sheet, he has some advice for the off-cuts: “save them all, they can all be useful.”
Using a sanding file to dull the edges, Savage explains this simple process is behind almost all sci-fi spaceships in television and movies, calling styrene “a perfect base material” for model making. He continues to make plates with basic measuring tools. More than just for circles, Savage shows that a soda can, sawn in half, makes for the perfect Weld-On (a multi-purpose acrylic plastic cement) holding tray. Dipping a small brush into the Weld-On, Savage brushes the seams of pieces where they at varying angles to chemically bond the styrene together.
As his model starts to take on three dimensions, Savage remarks “there’s lots of forgiveness within the process of working with styrene, so if you do something rough up front, you can hide, mask it, sand it, or melt it away later. It’s like we’re doing carpentry with plastic! It’s exactly like we’re doing carpentry with plastic.”
Once the frame of Savage’s ship is completed, he again takes to sanding the edges down and remarks that it only took an hour to almost fully finish his model, faster than had he designed it in CAD and laser cut it. With the base frame completed, styrene off-cuts and panels of 0.020” styrene are carefully bonded with Weld-On to create precision details and to add additional depth to the model ship.
With the frame of the model ship done, Savage drills a hole on the bottom of using a standard electric drill to place it on a stand. He then proceeds to kit-bash, the art of making a new scale model by taking parts out of commercial kits, with a Star Wars set. Finishing with a coat of gray primer, Savage ends the podcast by calling styrene “the soul of space ship modeling.”