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Space 1999 Space bus scratchbuild

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Hi All

Time for another scratch build. You'll be relieved to hear that I've decided to move on from UFO and instead have decided to use Space 1999 as my source of inspiration, hence the Space Bus which, hopefully, is in the style of Martin Bower's most excellent designs for the series.

OK there never was a 'space bus' in the show, but if there had been, it might have looked a bit like this, only a lot better quality.

This project had a shaky start. initially, I wanted to build a heavy lifter in the Thunderbirds style, so I made this sketch which is basically a mash-up of some 60s classics, including the Valiant, Victor and the Hercules C-130E, with a touch of B29 around the nose.




And then I made a fuselage from plastic pipe, clad in MDF 'wood'.
This is when the problems started, because I made the fuselage too short, so the proportions were all wrong.
No one wants a short, fat lifter.
After some sulking I decided that perhaps I could salvage at least some of the work by making something that actually needed to be a shorter, fatter design, so I retired to the man cave with Mr Bower's book and some liquid refreshment and came up with this:



It's supposed to be a space bus for moving people and cargo between spaceships and space stations. Unlike all my previous builds I want to add lighting, but this won't be anything ambitious as this will be my first attempt so I'll keep it simple.
The model will be hollow so I'll probably put some battery powered lights inside, drill a few holes and let nature take its course.

The photos below show the fuselage taking shape. The three tubes are the engines, these were made from some plumbing pipe I had lying around. If there's one thing I've learnt from @Pete in Lincs it is that anything that is "just lying around" is fair game for the spares box.










I have now realised that making stuff from wood does involve a LOT of sanding and filling, and then more of the same, for quite a long time,
so I suspect that this build might take a while. However, seeing as it's too hot to do anything else and too expensive to go anywhere, I don't think this will be a problem.

Thanks for watching, comments always welcome


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Monty, Thanks for the reference. I would add the caveat 'as long as no one is watching'. 

I like the lifter idea. The glass nose adds a touch of Dan Dare to it. Vintage Sci Fi. Shame it never went any further.

The space bus will look good too. Have you thought through Airlocks, landing gear, steering thrusters etc? For me, it has to be functional.

Have a look at imgur for posting your pictures, they take a moment to appear.

Imgur is free, Drag and drop and it will automatically resize the pictures too! Even I can use it.

Looking forward to more.


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14 hours ago, Pete in Lincs said:

Monty, Thanks for the reference. I would add the caveat 'as long as no one is watching'.


I would agree with that. I would also add '... and you have a good hiding place for it..'


I did think about 2001 and whether I might make something that fitted the style of the movie. I think, though, that 1999 and 2001 had similar styles, with the movie setting the standard and influencing much of what followed.


Pete, I have considered airlocks etc, there will be a lock on the rear which will be removable so I can get to the lights. No landing gear (thank god) as this is not supposed to land anywhere. The attitude jets are on the sides toward the front, they will need to be scratch built. I bought a mini-lathe a little while ago from Mr Amazon, it's just big enough to turn up plastic rod and soft wood, so I shall be using that to make some exhaust nozzles as I don't have such things in my spares box and there's nothing in the house, shed or garden that I can filch to convert :(


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9 hours ago, Uncle Monty said:

and there's nothing in the house, shed or garden that I can filch to convert

Think of a pop rivet. Knock or push the steel shank through the head. You are left with a metal tube with a flared head.

Drill a hole in the fuselage, insert tube part. Instant thruster. A pack of small pop rivets should give you plenty of them.

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On 30/08/2022 at 18:44, Pete in Lincs said:

Think of a pop rivet. Knock or push the steel shank through the head. You are left with a metal tube with a flared head.

Drill a hole in the fuselage, insert tube part. Instant thruster. A pack of small pop rivets should give you plenty of them.

Nice tip, I shall investigate the shed, I do believe I have some pop rivets left over from a metal bashing project a few years back.

I'll be firing up the mini lathe as well to see how that performs. I suspect the motor will be a little underpowered but if I stick to plastic and wood (small diameters) it should be ok.

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I’m very interested to see how you are building this. Lots of new ideas in play.


It’s also nice to see someone else using MDF. I sometimes feel like I’m the only fan of this stuff on BM but, as you have demonstrated, it’s a versatile and highly useful material. It’s also very inexpensive. 




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1 hour ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

when sanding MDF try to avoid breathing the dust. Apparently it’s pretty nasty stuff.


My understanding it is not only the very fine wood particles that are problematic but the glue or resin that is used in it's manufacturer contains formaldehyde. All in all the fine particulate from any form of cutting or sanding hard or soft wood can be an irritant whenever breathed into the lungs. 


cheers, Graham 

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All very true! 

My understanding (and I’m a mine geologist by profession so have some knowledge about these things) is that breathing any kind of dust is always a bad idea, although naturally some dusts are much worse than others.

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When filling and sanding wood, spray a couple of coats of car primer-filler paint, then a mist of matt black. Sand with wet sandpaper. The black shows the low points in the finish, which can be filled with more filler. i add this to this thread because this technique was taught to me by Martin Bower, back in 1983!

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Thanks all of you for the comments, much appreciated. I am avoiding the dust as much as possible, although it is a bit tricky as much of this build so far has been basically all about sanding and filling, so the flaming stuff is everywhere.


@Niall brilliant tip, thank you.


@Bandsaw Steve, I've found MDF to be useful for this sort of work. It helps that it's cheap and I already have a lot of it left over from previous DIY adventures. I have noticed that it seems to come in different grades or 'quality', in that some sheets seem to have more resin, and hence are denser, than others. I made my daughter a desk using 18mm MDF and while the outer surface was fine, the inner was a bit flaky. Perhaps there is an expert on MDF out there who could explain (or perhaps he might not want to own up).

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Hi All

I thought I'd share some progress on the build that isn't to do with the main fuselage and the engines, which are soaking up most of the time.

This is the radar array which is going on the port side, towards the nose. The rings are 22m and 15mm plumbing olives, each has
a tank wheel glued into it. The rest of it is mostly styrene sheet and rod with a couple of greeblies.
Eventually it will have some cables and a few more greeblies but I'll probably add those after it's been glued into place on the hull
as I can see that otherwise anything fragile will simply get knocked off (yes, it has happened..).

Thanks for watching, happy modelling










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Hi All

A quick update from the shipyard where the construction of the Space Bus is grinding slowly onwards,
fuelled as always by tea, chocolate and a selection of Australian reds (shiraz, preferably).


This update concerns the attitude jets which will sit either side of the fuselage.
The nozzles were made from styrene rod turned on my new toy, the mini lathe.
@Pete in Lincs made an excellent suggestion about using pop rivets, but after furtling in the shed I could only find a couple of small rivets that just wouldn't do the job, so I had to resort to the lathe.

Last time I did any lathe work was back in the eighties as an apprentice, and I hated it.
I took to that mechanical workshop like a duck to roller skates.
Consequently, when it came to firing up the new lathe, I found myself staring at it and thinking, "Err...."

But after a few abortive attempts with the styrene rod I worked out what needed doing, which basically comes down to making sure those mounting holes are properly centred on the rod, and not getting the plastic too hot or it falls off.


Unfortunately the chuck isn't quite big enough to get the rod into it. I might look around to see if I can source a bigger chuck from somewhere. It should be easy enough to change it.


Anyway, here is the first proper attempt. This rod contained two engine nozzles, I needed six in total.





The jet housings were made of three layers of thick styrene sheet, glued, filled and sanded:



Once I had the first rod done, the rest followed fairly easily. The cutting tool was a small wood chisel that came with the lathe. Finishing was done with sandpaper and a needle file.

The next job was to cut the nozzles (or 'bells' if you prefer) off the rod and then drill out the end.
For this I used the mini drill which is a very handy gadget and cost peanuts. Here you can see the initial hole, very small diameter:




This got enlarged with bigger and bigger bits until I could start sanding and smoothing with a fine grindstone, shown here.



This is the end result:

The finished nozzles were then glued to the housings and primed:







I'm pleased with the result so far. Now I can put these bad boys away and go back to sanding and filling the fuselage,
plus adding various greeblies to it. More pics of all this in the next update, hopefully.

Anyway, thanks for looking, comments always welcome and happy modelling everyone.


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Hi All

This is an update on the fuselage which has taken up a lot of time. Because it has been carved from MDF it has needed a lot of fine adjustments and a LOT of filling but it finally coming together, in a sort of 'Eagle' style only not quite.

First off, we have the pilot and cockpit. The pilot started life as a WW2 Africa Corps truck driver or similar, can't remember what the model was. I had to remove his hat, use filler to add the flight helmet and bulk out the space suit, then saw his legs off. Ouch. I've named him Alan Carter, of course. In truth, most of this will be hidden once the glass goes on, so I'm not too fussed about picking out details. The suit was loosely based on some pics I found of the Space 1999 Eagle pilots. The rear panels are from a tank kit, or possibly several tank kits, I have quite a few now thanks to some kind donations.





I wanted to add some Eagle style detail on the nose, so after some experimenting I worked out a way of supergluing styrene strips within a marked out area. This allowed me to get the compound curve, as a rough surface I could fill and sand smooth. I've drilled holes in the sides which will be portholes and which will let the light out in a suitably dramatic fashion.





The edging around the cockpit rim was put there, so I thought, to allow the light to come out in a sort of spot light effect. I am now having second thoughts about that and it will probably have to go, along with the 'nose', that big block of styrene in front of the cockpit. The more I look at it, the more it looks just plain daft, and certainly not at all realistic, so it's out with the razor saw and here we go with some more ad-hoc plastic surgery.



The engines are taking shape, thanks to plumbing pipes of various sizes. I was tempted to try and replicate the details of
a pod racer, but I didn't in the end because it wouldn't have looked right on a 'bus' and also I really don't have the
ability to do that kind of thing properly, so I went for a simpler approach with less detailing. I can add detail when it
comes to painting.





This is the back plate/docking hatch which fits onto the rear, between the engines. This will be removable so I can get to
the lights. The round thing will be the docking hatch so I'm thinking that will end up being painted yellow.




Finally, underneath I've inserted some 15mm copper pipe as a mounting hole for a base, which I need to build at some point. The idea at the moment is that this base will be a refuelling station and the mounting rod will be the fuel pipe. It will have to be quite sturdy as the model is already quite heavy and is only going to get heavier as extra bits are added.




Well, enough rabbiting for now, time to get back to the man cave before Mrs Monty puts one of her decorating programs on and starts getting ideas.

Cheers all and happy modelling


Edited by Uncle Monty
checking photos
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29 Sept 2022

Hi All, time for another update.

I wanted to make a base for the model to sit on, but also I wanted it to be more of a diorama than just a plinth so I designed a sort of refuelling platform for it. The idea here is that the platform could be part of a space station or a bigger ship, and the bus would dock with the fuel pipe to take on whatever fuel it might use.

The baseplate came from an old dishwasher (no, really). It was one of those flappy things that sits on the upper shelf and I think you're supposed to put wine glasses in it. Anyway, I like the grid pattern, it looks a bit industrial, plus it's also quite sturdy which is a good thing because this model is going to be pretty heavy by the time it's finished and has a set of AA batteries inside.

The two big pipes are 22mm copper, the smaller pipes are 15mm copper. The smaller ones also have some olives added to create a bit of quick and dirty detail. The end caps are tank wheels (which I have a lot of and are just perfect for stuff like this). I made supports for the big pipes from thick styrene while the smaller pipes are on a couple of bits from a tank, sawed up and sanded (a lot) and glued together.

The bigger pipes have styrene wrapped around and superglued into place. This is always a challenge as I wanted to keep all those lines parallel which means fine adjustments are required, but the superglue just wants to set rock hard ASAP.

The vertical 'pipe' was in my stash of stuff, can't remember where it came from although it does look suspiciously like a kid's magic wand, so maybe it fell out of their toy box. Don't feel sorry for them, they left the nest years ago so old toys are fair game. It is, however, exactly the right diameter to fit the 15mm pipe I glued into the model's belly, so happy days, it saves me having to go out and buy something to fit.

To give the base that grungy industrial look, I added some pipes made of sprue. I had to bend them into the right shape using the heat from a candle lighter, which has proved to be so useful it now lives permanently in my toolbox.

Finally, I undercoated and top coated with rattle cans. Undercoat is some generic grey stuff, the top coat is 'Vauxhall Silver Lake Metallic' paint from Halfords. I was in there the other day and they had a sale of rattle cans so I spent a few quid on some. This colour I really like, it's gunmetal with a touch of green.

Well, the next step for the baseplate is to paint a few details, dirty it down a bit and then spray with varnish, then add some decals, then spray again. Meanwhile, the other bits are also slowly coming together.

Thanks for looking, all comments always welcome, and happy modelling.













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Combining so many types of materials in one model is a nightmare, so I admire your craftsmanship (and patience too).  Superglue (which is obvious solution) honestly hates me and I hate him too, so we tend to avoid each other.


On 29/09/2022 at 13:21, Uncle Monty said:

it does look suspiciously like a kid's magic wand,

Standing nearby, say 'expecto patronum' to verify it 😉

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