Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reviews: Two General Modeling Books

This post presents reviews of the Modeler's Notebook Model Design & Blueprinting and the CultTVMan Ultimate Modeling Guide to Classic Sci-Fi Movies.



Modeler's Notebook - Model Design & Blueprinting

When this book was discussed on The Rocketry Forum, I knew I wanted a copy. The book is written by Charles Adams and is published by Modeler's Notebook. Adams has 20 years of drawing experience and is the founder of starshipbuilder.com. Here is the summary from his web site:
In the MODEL DESIGN & BLUEPRINTING HANDBOOK, Volume 1, see how to get project ideas out of your head and onto paper -- or into the computer! Packed with over 260 pages and more than 230 detailed illustrations, this one-of-a-kind book covers all the basics of 2D design and illustration for model-related projects from start to finish. Whether you want to draw with a pencil and paper or your handy-dandy computer, this book is the place to start.

BTW, the author's web site has links to other reviews by others who are probably more qualified to comment than I am.


The book is organized into two sections and seven chapters as follows:

  • Section 1 - Creating Blueprints
    • The Blue Print Process
    • Blueprinting Basics and Standard Practices
    • Laying Out Plan Views
  • Section 2 - Making Construction Patterns
    • Pattern-Making Basics
    • Cross Sections
    • Developments
    • Transitions and Intersections.

There are appendices on printing, scanning, and importing/exporting files, a link to the online-only glossary (this is odd, but not that big a deal) and a short list of related books. The concepts in the book are well illustrated (which is good) and easy to follow. Key points are highlighted in wide margins, which also available for making your own notes.

The first two chapters were largely introductory and refreshed my high school drafting and real world technical drawing experience (as an EE, not as a draftsman). In many cases, the drafting standards presented are overkill for what a scale modeler will need, especially if you are going for sport- or semi-scale plans (like me). However, it never hurts to learn good techniques. The book doesn't train you to use a CAD package, but it does describe the techniques assuming you have one. If not CAD, at least a good vector drawing package like Corel.

The third chapter describes how to start creating your blueprints/plans. It basically describes how to use orthographic projections. I found had forgotten everything I had ever known about them. It also describes how to base your drawings on photos and how to deal with the perspective and photographic distortions in images. This is one of the things that drew me to the book. Unfortunately, it had no silver bullet or magic techniques. Still, this material will prove useful for me at some point.

Chapter 4 continued to instruct the reader on how to lay our drawing using examples from simple geometric shapes to a submarine model. (There is even a rocket shown.) You learn how to generate auxiliary views to find the actual dimensions of faces/sections that aren't visible. An example that I think is useful is generating the oval shape resulting from a tube that is cut at an angle.

The basic techniques shown in the first chapters are extended in the following chapters. Chapter 5 shows how to generate cross-sections; Chapter 6 shows how to visualize and draw various geometric shapes as ‘unfolded' 2-D views; and, the final chapter shows how to generate intersections of various objects. For the most part, these more advanced techniques require more thought and I didn't walk through every example in detail. The detail of the examples in these sections seems to vary from superficial to detailed. There are several things (at least) that seem to be useful for rocketry, such as generating an odd transition from, say, a square section surrounding a cluster to a single tube or the transition between multiple angled tubes.


I found this book reasonably well written. I've seen better, but I've also seen worse. It both served as a reminder of things forgotten and a guide to techniques that I have merely muddled through in an ad-hoc manner. If you are a professional draftsperson, this volume probably won't be too exciting. However, if you want to create drawings of rockets, ala Rockets of the World, this should prove useful. I recommend you have a CAD program or at least a good vector drawing package loaded and ready to go. You will get a lot more out of the book if you work as you go. Like programming, you can't just read the book and expect to be proficient. For those who want to learn more, the author promises a Volume 2 on 3D modeling tools and a Volume 3 on CNC processes. I did note that the author seemed to evade some issues by referring to 3-D modeling (and book #2).

I was happy with my purchase. I found it interesting even if I only apply a small amount of the material.

CultTVMan - Ultimate Modeling Guide to Classic Sci-Fi Movies

I recently discovered the CultTVman Fantastic Modeling sci-fi modeling site. Being dedicated to sci-fi, it has plenty of information on starships, spaceships, and saucers. The site even offers limited edition kits that may be suitable for PMC. The Ultimate Modeling Guide to Classic Sci-Fi Movies is a compendium of 17 of the site's most popular build articles. I bought mine from Jack Hagerty/ARA Press at NARAM-50.

This soft cover book is large-format (nominally 8 ½" x 11") and features lots of B&W photos and illustrations, with a few in color. The articles are "expert quality" and are compiled and edited by the site manager, Steve Iverson. I lifted the table of contents from Jack's site:
  • Foreword by Star Trek's Rick Sternbach
  • A Trip to the Moon - the first sci-fi movie spaceship - a diorama by Steve Iverson using the Herb Deeks kit
  • Flash Gordon's Rocketship by John Lester covers building Herb Deeks resin kit and finishing it with metallic paints
  • Destination Moon's Luna by Jim Piszar builds the Lunar Models kit and features the use of Light Line for lighting
  • Rocketship X-M by Dave Bengel uses the Lunar kit and discusses scratch building parts as well as casting replacement parts
  • Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still by Bill Bryan shows resin figure construction
  • The War of the Worlds Martian War Machine by Ron Gross builds the Skyhook Models kit
  • The Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jim James features the kit from Comet Miniatures in a creative model display
  • The C-57D from Forbidden Planet Marc King builds the Polar Lights model and Bob Perovich offers painting suggestions
  • Robby the Robot by S.M. Clark features the Polar Lights kit and discusses lighting, finishing as well as comprehensive construction tips
  • The Time Machine by Joel Tavera is a build up of the Lunar Models kit and offers suggestions for a creative diorama
  • The Proteus from Fantastic Voyage is another model by Joel Tavera using the Lunar Models kit and presents some lighting and detailing suggestions
  • The Planet of the Apes spaceship by Shane Johnson modifies the Monsters In Motion kit and place it in a diorama
  • The Discovery Greg Harmon details the restoration of the studio model from 2010. Mike Evans discusses the creation and construction and building of the kit from Lunar Models. Model by Michael Alvarez.
  • The Orion from 2001 by Jay Chladek uses the Airfix kit to present the basics of styrene kit construction
  • The Enterprise from Star Trek: the Motion Picture by Don Matthys with models and photos by Joel Tavera and Kyu Woong-Lee. Covers the use of aftermarket parts and painting the ship.
  • The Enterprise A Studio Model is a history of the filming miniature by Jay Chladek with photos by Jeff Brown
  • Tool Selection by Jay Chladek
  • The Essential Workbench by S.M. Clark
  • Resources for the classic science fiction modeler
As you probably have determined, the subjects in this book are all highly detailed static models. You won't find anything between its covers that will help to convert a model for flight. However, if you are interested in learning detailing techniques to improve your scale contest scores or ownership pride, then this book might prove quite useful. Its many illustrations can even provide scale data if you want to scratch build some of these models, although the Spaceship Handbook would be a better source. I have to admit the finishing techniques are generally over my meager abilities, but the many illustrations will provide another source of inspiration and ideas. Still, if you are a finishing or sci-fi scale fanatic, then give this book some serious consideration.