Not long ago, I put together a version of the USS Discovery from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and during that build I included a set of resin-case EVA Pods from GreenStrawberry. The base kit was the Moebius 1:144 scale (comes out about a yard long).
First off, let me tell you, wow – I was very impressed with the Moebius kit. Great detail, easy fit, and a really solid build. I added the Paragrafix cockpit and pod bay as well, as I wanted to get some interior to the model. GreenStrawberry also makes similar fittings, which are offered together in a 3-piece “Fruit Pack”, but I had bought the others six months before I knew about the EVA pods).
But let’s talk about the EVA pods – that’s what this post is about. They were really cleanly cast – no flash, included PE parts, and very good match-up with the kit. They’re a perfect add to the Discovery, since they play such a dominant role in the film (just ask Frank Poole).
The one thing I felt was missing.
Neither the Moebius kit, nor the pods, were lit. That said, there’s loads of room in the rear engine pod and the command bulb up front. A 9v battery, micro switch, and some LED tape and bulbs in all the right places, and the model was ready.
But I really, really wanted to re-create the scene where Bowman is leaving the Discovery for the last time, and his pod is just departing the ship. One pod is missing (Poole’s), and Bowman was leaving from the center bay.
And in the scene, the pod has spotlights lit up.
All by themselves, the pods are great, and to use Gordon Ramsay’s terminology, I felt it was time to “take them to the next level.”
One small…and I do mean small…problem – the pods are solid resin. No space for lights.
But, as I said, this is a *small* problem. Nothing a little drill work and some creative wiring can’t fix.
So let’s get started!
Parts you’ll need for this:
- Greenstrawberry’s EVA pods, of course.
- A 5mm cool white LED – preferably something with a high lumen value. I used some 4.2-candle LEDs I had on hand. Higher the better, I would suggest not going higher than maybe 9 candles to avoid heat issues.
- A resistor for the circuit. I used 9v to power my Discovery, and ideally your resistor needs to be between 450-1,000 ohms. Lower value means brighter light, and minimally for 9v you should get 400 Ohms or so. You can get standardized resistors at around 470 ohms, so just go with one of those.
- Some really low-diameter wire (magnet wire is ideal – I think what I’ve got is about 36-gauge)
- Some 1mm fiber optic cable
- Drill bits in 1mm and 5mm diameters and a drill or pin vice that can handle them
- Some good steel files or a Dremel with a cutting / sanding extension
- Reflective chrome or silver paint, some satin varnish/spray, and some gloss clear acryl or enamel
- CA glue
- A 9v battery
- A soldering iron or soldering station
- Solder and flux (some solder is “resin core”, in which case it has flux in it already)
- A set of “helping hands” – basically this is a magnifying glass and a couple of adjustable alligator-clip arms, usually available for ten or twenty bucks.
*It’s worth noting that #14, though technically not necessary, is so damned useful you’re going to wonder how you got along without one for a lot of jobs.
Alright – first up, you want the lights to be in scale with the model. If I put SMDs up front on the face of the pod, they’re too bright (not to mention slightly too large to fit). They’d also require wiring, which makes things a little too cluttered. Better to light from the interior.
Slap a coat of white on the pod(s) first. My own preference is something like Vallejo primer, but that’s not a must-have. This will provide good contrast to see your work as you go. Leave the little tab on the bottom of the pod, because it’s an easy grip. Just remove it when you’re done. Easy apply is to just stick some blue-tac or other putty to the end of a sprue, and embed the tab in the putty. Spray and wait a little while for it to dry.
Next we need to make some room for the LED. Start by putting a very shallow guide-hole in the center of the bottom of the pod.
Now the pod is only about 18mm tall, so you have to be careful about the depth of the next step. To avoid getting carried away, mark your 5mm drill bit at about 15mm length. A CD pen or similar is fine.
Once marked, drill CAREFULLY up the bunghole of the pod.
Once drilled, clean the gunk out of the hole. Your next challenge is to open some channels from the spotlight locations into the center hole. In each of the four spotlight locations, you want to open a 1mm hole aimed inward toward the main gap.
The two upper spotlights should be aimed inward on the X-Y, but even on the Z axis. Each of the four spotlights will be needing its own space for a 1mm fibre, so they shouldn’t overlap.
The lower spots will be inward X-Y, and slightly upward on the Z – but you don’t want the channels to bump into each other.
A tool that will make this a lot easier is the Tamiya power drill, but that’s not a must-have. Open the light channels, and clean out the leftovers.
Get out your 5mm LED now, and test-fit it in the hole. Should be a perfect fit, might even be a little bit tight, but that’s okay.
Okay, if you’re satisfied that the fit is good, pull the light back out – we’ve got some more work to do.
Let’s next connect the wiring. Those of you reading this who already have experience with making your own circuits, jump ahead. I’m going to assume I’m dealing with newcomers for a while. With each LED, the length of the legs denotes the polarity (positive and negative ends) of the LED. The longer of them is the anode, or positive.
The shorter is the negative, or cathode. It’s possible that the legs were trimmed even, if so check and see if you can find a “flat side” of the LED itself, the pin nearest that should be the negative.
For any LED circuit, you’ll need to connect your resistor to the negative leg. However, it is fortunate that there’s no rule that says it has to be connected directly – there’s no room for a resistor on the bay. I connected wires to each leg, and then my resistor to the end of the negative wire. By the way, it’s also a good idea to always be consistent with your colors. A handy standard is to make negative always black (this is often an industry standard, though I have seen exceptions), and any non-black color can be positive. In the absence of black, just choose a darker color to be negative.
We’ll begin the circuit by taking a couple sections of equal length wire, stripping the insulation from the last cm or so of length on each end, and “tinning” the wire. Put the wire into the grip of one of the clips of the “helping hands,” and then apply some solder to the ends with the soldering iron. You want the wires to acquire a “silvered” look. You want to do the same to the legs of the LED. The flux and solder will clean the wires/legs, and make them much more easily connected.
Next solder the resistor on the end of the black wire. The legs of the resistor should be tinned as well. These won’t be the final wires for the model, they are only here for use while we fit the lighting. Once complete, we’ll remove these wires and connect up inside the model with magnet wire.
Once that’s on, tug it to test as well. As long as it doesn’t come apart in your hands, you’re good to go. Time for a final test – run some current through that beatch. Get your 9v battery and put the resistor on the negative terminal, and the white (or whatever color) wire on the positive. You should be rewarded with a healthy bright light.
Good deal, well done. Let’s move on, shall we?
Let’s confirm that the pod is clear of any debris left over from the drilling, and establish how deep you should sink the light when the time comes. Hold your 9v battery in the last two fingers of one hand, and put the contacts back in place to turn the light back on. Hold the light by its legs firmly in the same hand and slide it back up the backside of the pod. Just go to the lip of the LED, we’re trying here to establish whether or not there’s any garbage left in the spotlight channels, and also to see that they are generally pointed in the right direction to capture light.
Check each of the four individually, by looking down the hole and confirming unobstructed light.
Should look something like those images above. Note that my lower left wasn’t perfectly aimed, so it wasn’t as bright as the others.
Next step. Pull the light and set the pod aside.
Take a close look at your LED. Inside, you’ll see the actual diode, which is the little bit of circuitry between where the legs end within the bulb of the light. You may also notice a large clear area above the diode, which is basically dead plastic used to broadcast the light. We’re going to trim a lot of that off now.
First, saw or file off the head of the diode until you’re down to about 1mm of plastic above the diode. Next, file away the brim or “lip” around the bottom of the plastic.
Test it on the battery again, to make sure you didn’t damage the diode or the legs. If you did, pull out a new LED and get to work. Come back when you’re done.
Break out your paint now. Take some chrome or silver (or just any reflective color you have access to – could even be gloss white or something, I’m not picky), and slather a good bit of it on the interior of the big hole in the bottom of the pod. Use your drill bit to ensure you didn’t accidentally seal up any of the four spotlight channels after you’re satisfied with the coverage of the interior.
Set the pod aside, and get a bit of gloss clear ready. After trimming, the cut areas of the LED are probably very cloudy. Paint the whole thing with a thin coat of clear gloss. This coat will settle into all the irregular scratches causing the cloudiness and will re-estabish a glass-like cover.
Okay, time for you to take a break. Put this guide aside and go have some food, a beer, and relax a bit. Your pod and the LED both need time to dry anyway. Park the pod in such a way that any excess inside will flow to the “ceiling”, and set the LED aside to dry as well. Conveniently, the “helping hands” has two alligator clips suitable for just such a purpose.
Go ahead, go eat. I’ll wait.
You’re back, great! Let’s slap the decals on the pod now. When putting them on, take note that the decal card Greenstrawberry uses isn’t the super-fancy stuff that big companies have, it’s one solid sheet rather than individual decals parked on a backing page. So when you cut them loose, cut them as close as you can without damaging the decal itself.
Additionally, the “earmuff” thruster packages on the EVA pods should have their centers removed to make your life easier. With a very sharp razor knife, cut the center in a circle. Once the decal has soaked for a while, before you remove the outer circle for application you can flick out the center using the tip of your razor.
In a case like this, although it isn’t an absolute must-have, I really do strongly recommend a decal softener. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a solution (practically every model dealer carries some form of it from various vendors) that will semi-dissolve your decal against the surface of the model. This has the effect of eliminating “silvering” of the decal material, and provides a “painted on” look to the decal once it’s dry. My personal experience lends itself to Micro-scale’s “Micro Sol” and “Micro Set”, but your mileage may vary.
My cockpit window came out a little rough, so I’m going to dress it with a little bit of black paint.
For the more daring lighting fiends out there, yes, you could conceivably drill out that window space to expose the LED space. Yes, you could, after anchoring the LED, fill it with clear resin to harden up into the window space and then paint some transparent red patches and black and so on, and light the cockpit.
But if you’re going to do that, you’re way beyond the scope of a guide on the basics like this, aren’t you? Let’s keep it simple J.
Give your pod’s decals time to cure, best would be overnight, but at least a few hours. (I know, it’s hard to let it sit, but go find some other part of Discovery to work on for a while.) Once that time has elapsed, slap a satin coat on them to protect your work.
We’re in the home stretch now.
Push the light back in about the same depth as previously done when you were checking the spotlight channels. Check them again, and try a few different depths to see if you can find a “best light transmission” point for all four. This step is just like what you did earlier.
Once you have it where you want it, use a small dose of CA glue to park that light in place and keep it there. After this glue dries, this is a good time to saw or cut off the retained tab that you’ve been using as a grip this whole time.
Make sure not to saw through the LED legs when you’re doing this.
Paint with the reflective paint you used for the interior over the bottom of the LED. Try to keep it off the legs of the LED as much as possible. After the reflective stuff is dry, paint black over it. Test the light to see if you have any light leaks. When you’re satisfied that there aren’t any, paint white over it. Again, try to avoid the LED legs. Not fatal if you get paint on them, but easier if you don’t have to burn that paint off later.
Regardless of the scene you want to replicate, those LED legs are going to need to be trimmed and concealed. Using the sharp point of a triangular file, cut two small channels into the back of the bottom of the pod so you can fold them back into those spaces. Paint the channels white again, unless you’re going to putty them over later (in which case the paint can wait until after the putty and sanding).
Back at the front of the pod, it’s time to use that fiber optic stuff that’s been watching you from the side of the table.
With each of the four spotlight channels, first insert the fiber optic and jam it in there as far as it will go, marking or measuring how much that is. Withdraw the fiber, and take note how deep it should be.
Next put a tiny amount of gloss clear as far down into the channel as you can go. I find best results injecting it with an insulin syringe (you can also acquire blunt-end syringes easily), but it can also be dribbled down with a pin if you have steadier fingers than I do.
Your objective here is to provide a clear seal that has as little light-blocking properties as possible between the LED itself and your fiber. It’s also possible that you’ll end up with gloss clear coming out the other holes – that’s okay, it just saved you some work.
After the gloss goes in, immediately follow by pressing in the FO fiber. Go as far in as you can with it, and wipe up any gloss that bleeds out the hole. Once you’re convinced it’s in the right depth, use your side-snips to cut it flush with the spotlight opening.
Repeat for each opening.
Give these an hour or so to dry, before again satin-coating the exterior once more.
Next, apply gloss clear as tiny droplets to each of the four spotlight openings, and the cockpit window.
Go get that little brass card that came with the pods. Separate the arms of the pod from the brass PE sheet. Anchor them in the tac on a stick and paint them white. Satin coat them when that’s dry. Make sure that the “hands” don’t accumulate too much paint and fill up – you want to be able to see the “fingers” clearly.
Definitely be careful not to overdo it with the paint, you can end up filling those hands.
When they are dry, trim the ends down to where they should be, dip them in CA glue and apply to the mounting point between the spotlights. Once they are seated, you can apply a little more CA to each of them to reinforce your mount. Now paint a bit of satin white over the CA.
Test your wiring again, just to light her up and enjoy the feeling ).
In my case, the pod was resting on one of the landing pads (a separate 3rd-party package of PE), and the pad in question was extended out of the “mouth” of the command deck on some square brass tubing from Albion Alloys. I connected magnet wire as thin as I could find to the LED legs of my pod, as closely as I possibly could get to the pod itself, and soldered it in place there. I then trimmed off the excess leg and folded he remainder up and back into the channels I’d cut in the bottom of the pod. A bit of white paint and all was hidden away. As the back of the pod faced the model, a little rough edge there would not show.
The magnet wire was then routed behind and under the platform, then forward underneath and glued to the corner of the tube where it met the pod platform, so that the length was now pointing “forward”. I took that length and reversed it again, this time threading down through the tubing and out the back of the pod bay, inside the command bulb. I ran a little tiny bit of white putty along the corner, and plugged up the end of the tube, then covered that with white paint. The wiring was rendered invisible. I glued the pod in place on its platform, and all was right in the world.
While the Discovery herself is a fantastic model to build, adding something like these Greenstrawberry pods to her completely elevates a beautiful model to something absolutely out of this world. I hope what I’ve written here helps you all to add some really spectacular lighting effects to these great little pods. When I consider the idea of building the bare kit, these pods and the extra lighting effect have turned Discovery into an absolute hero of my display area. She’s the new star of the show here.
As always – and if you have any questions, comments, or death-threats, by all means send them on to me via the Facebook groups, or direct to my email via the site here.