Drawing modified from Shane
Johnson's U.S.S. Discovery Blueprints
|Scale Modeling Tutorial by Alan Nadel
This tutorial originally
appeared on the 2OO1: A Space Odyssey Collectibles Exhibit website
been a big fan of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey since I
first saw it in 1969 at the age of 13. Considered a groundbreaking film,
it set a new standard for how a space movie should look by pioneering special
effects techniques and getting visual inspiration from the hardware used
during the Space Race of the 1960s.
release of the film, Aurora and Airfix released model kits of the Moon
Bus and the Orion III space plane, also known as the Space
Clipper. There were a few other spacecraft in the film that
would have been great subjects for model kits but nothing else from 2001
was ever produced.
The 1980s and
90s saw the rise of the
kit" industry. These kits are produced by home hobbyists who cast polyurethane
resin parts by hand (often in their garage). Most garage kits sold
are of subjects that are not available from the major companies. In the
mid 1980s, Lunar Models produced a garage kit of the Discovery.
| In the early 1970s, Aurora
was rumored to have a few more kits from 2001 in the works but none
were ever produced.
| The kit came in a
heavy corrugated cardboard box with a label and photograph of a finished,
painted kit. Larger parts were in their own separate bags, smaller parts
separated into two smaller bags. The fuel pods which came in three sizes
were bagged separately. The 3 long spine parts were wedged into the box
diagonally, un-bagged.The kit's instructions can be viewed as a PDF file
by clicking here.
The kit is patterned
after the Discovery as it appeared in the 1984 movie 2010:
The Year We Make Contact and is slightly different from the Discovery
in 2001. Some modifications to the kit would be needed to
make this model look more like the Discvovery from the 1968 film.
not easy to come by in the early 1990s. There was no Internet like we have
today. The best resource I had was a VHS print of the film which I could
view with a 19-inch TV set. Even with freeze-frame, the image quality of
what we now call "standard definition" TV was just not up to the task of
providing an image sharp enough for close-up detail.
| Lunar Models'
an intimidating kit. It includes 84 polyurethane resin parts, many of which
are cast poorly. Some of the parts would need some work and others were
just unusable and would have to be replaced. This was the early days of
hand-cast garage kits when casting quality could range from the good to
the bad and in some cases, the ugly. This kit would include samples of
"Command Section" had its problems. The middle of the three pod-bay doors
showed signs of some serious mold deterioration. There were some resin
lumps and berries that were so bad that it became necessary to grind out
the entire door with a Dremel rotary tool.
the kit came with an extra bay door to build the kit with the pod-bay open.
I used it to replace the removed door. A hold-down jig was made for the
sphere to make it easier to mill a flat seat for the new door. The 3/8
inch thick resin of the part was milled to just under 1/8 inch and the
new door was glued into place.
looked klunky and a little exaggerated with many air bubbles in the resin.
Some panel lines were at slight angles and others almost looked as if they
were scribed freehand. Most of the detail was filled with putty and sanded
smooth until the part was nearly featureless. Instead of scratch-building
the lost detail back onto the sphere, I decided it would be added back
to the model as painted-on features.
| The hollow
pressure sphere was sanded on the inside until Discovery's sealed
front window was open. The Command Room was scratch-built with sheet styrene
and model railroad bulbs. A video tape of 2001 was used as
a reference as was Shane Johnson's "Discovery Blueprints" which have excellent
diagrams of the spaceship's interior. Assorted decals of instrumentation
from other kits covered the back wall. The Command Room would be visible
through the narrow slot of the front window so details were kept to a minimum.
Three 3-volt model railroad lamps light the interior space - two in the
lower corners, one above the center corridor. The photo on the right shows
the finished Command Room with a nickel for scale.
| As cast,
the Command Section has eight evenly-spaced depressions which are labeled
in the blueprints as "reaction control thrusters." The Discovery
in the film had only one of these depressions on the forward right side,
just below the pod-pay door. I filled in the other seven with Squadron
brand filler putty. The air-lock door on the left side of the pressure
sphere was way too deep and looked more like a trench than a door. It was
also filled with putty. When the putty was cured it was wet sanded until
flush with the curve of the sphere. Cured Squadron putty expands when it
gets wet and shrinks when it dries. The putty on the air-lock door shrunk
just enough to give it a better, more subtle recess.
the most obvious problem with the Command Section was that the part was
short by 1/8 inch which caused a mismatch between the sphere and the flange
behind it. A spacer made from 1/8 inch thick sheet styrene was glued to
the back of the sphere which corrected this problem.
| The conical
section behind the Command Section was replaced with a section of a styrene
Estes Rocket nose cone detailed with a one-half ounce half-and-half container
like the kind served in restaurants. This improved on the accuracy of the
part. The part was then drilled out and a piece of 1/8-inch K&S brass
tubing was glued inside to reinforce the joint between the flange and the
| The three
section, 20-inch long spine is made of resin cleverly cast over brass for
strength. The two ends are cast over brass rod and the center section over
brass tube, making for a secure fit as well as providing locator pins for
the Command Section in the front and "Reactor Section" in the rear. The
spine of my kit was fairly straight and cast pretty well but I have heard
that owners of later kits weren't so lucky.
| The spine
was nicely molded with lots of fine detail. One of these details, the spine
"Segment Clamps" (arrow, right), run along the spine in 36 places. Many
were broken and were replaced with pieces scratch-built from sheet styrene.
The kit actually includes a few resin replacements but most of those were
short cast or also broken.
| Lunar's instruction
sheet has a diagram showing the locations of the 62 "fuel pods" which come
in three sizes and are positioned along the spine. Though confusing at
first glance, the instructions were helpful in arranging the fuel pods
in their accurate configuration. In order to ensure that all the pods wouldn't
look uneven when glued to the spine, a jig was made to hold each one down
on a milling table and they were all milled to the same thickness. When
glued to the spine, the pods lined up fairly straight.
communication antenna and mounting were unusable. The base was inaccurate,
being modeled after the Discovery in 2O1O and the
antenna mast was not only warped but short cast. The three dishes were
anything but dish-shaped and the main antenna's probe was so covered with
flash and resin lumps that it took me a while to figure out what it was.
| A new main
dish was made from a section of a spherical fuel tank from another kit
The two small dishes were made from left-over vacuformed warp drive domes
from my Enterprise
A new probe
for the main dish was made by chucking a piece of 1/16 inch acrylic rod
in a hand drill and shaping it lathe-style with a needle file. Dish cross
members were made from strips of .020 inch sheet styrene.
A new swiveling
mast and base were scratch-built from sheet styrene and acrylic rod.
| The Reactor
Section was detailed using a combination of K&S brass wire with spare
parts from other kits. This hollow cast part was almost problem free with
an easily cleaned up mold parting line. 1/8-inch diameter holes were
drilled in the front and back ends of the part and a length of brass tube
was glued inside the piece flush with the front and extending 3/8 inch
from the back (indicated by the gray stripe in the photo at left). This
would help to secure the joint between the reactor and the back end of
the spine and would also provide a locator pin for the center engine.
| One of the three
engines looked as if it were cast during another run of the kit. While
two of them were cast in light tan resin with very sharp detailing, the
third was a darker (maybe older?) resin with very soft details and flaws
in the resin such as air bubbles and "mold berries." It was cleaned up
with a Dremel grinding tool and the addition of sheet styrene.
| The EVA pod
is beautifully detailed for its size, about 5/8 inch high. Though not entirely
accurate, I thought it looked good enough to leave alone.
The pod's arms
are cast resin and considering the size show some nice detail. After seeing
how other small parts like the antenna pieces were cast, this was a nice
surprise. Flash was easily scraped off and no other clean-up was needed.
EXPLOSIVE BOLTS" marking on the door (which may or may not actually say
that - it's too tiny to read) is from a 1/72 aircraft kit.
| The model
was painted with Tamiya acrylics. Using my trusty Badger 150 airbrush and
lots of masking material, I painted a series of panels in various shades
of light grey on the Command Section. Details that were sanded off in the
process of cleaning up a less than perfect casting job were painted back
The spine and reactor/engine
sections were spray painted with medium gray automotive primer. Details
were then colored with a black Sharpie marker. An airbrushed coat of white
acrylic paint makes the Sharpie markings just barely visible.
long Discovery was mounted on a scratch-built display stand. The
stand's forward support post is topped by a 1/8 inch phone plug which connects
to a phone jack below and behind the Command Section and provides the 9
volts necessary to light the Command room. The EVA pod is mounted on a
1/8 inch piece of acrylic rod.
I didn't keep a record of my work on this model, I'm sure that with all
the part cleanup and additional scratch-building the Discovery took
at least 40 hours to complete. Though this kit presented many challenges,
it was a lot of fun to build.
In 2002, the
model was filmed for a television program on the Discovery Science Channel
The Great Books - 2OO1: A Space Odyssey which
examines the writing of the novel and 1969 film by Arthur C. Clarke and
Stanley Kubrick. In a few scenes, actors portray Clarke and Kubrick working
at a table covered with typewritten ideas and models from the movie. Discovery
is visible stretched across the middle of the table and the command sphere
actually appears in close-up. The show is available on YouTube and can
be seen by clicking on the image below. The model first appears at about
18 minutes into the show.
to the DISCOVERY
AND KIT REVIEWS
History of Space Exploration
Creatures and Dinosaurs
- 2O18, Alanoodle Creations