Thursday 27 December 2018

Still Floating Around...

Hi, All!

Returning slowly, but in style...

Remember me? Good grief! I thought I'd take a short break from all this blogging stuff and I'll be damned if it didn't turn into three years!

First of all, let me thank everyone who sent emails and inquiries over the last couple of years regarding my whereabouts, health, etc., or expressing their wishes that I should continue with my creations and this blog. I hope my latest piece will satisfy you all!

"Oh, get on with it, Colonel," I hear you cry...

Concept sketch.

Just like most VSF/Steampunk enthusiasts, I had often toyed with ideas for an airship of some description, but it was always just another idea on the list until a friend commissioned me to make one for him. "Rivets and stuff?" I mused, "For money? Good Lord!"

So dusted off the old tools, replaced all the paints that had turned to plastic in their pots, and got on with creating.

Two steel light shades provide the main structure.

The first question I had to address was how to make the balloon - how big, how to get the right shape, and also because I'm incapable of keeping my mouth shut if an idea is trying to get out, I'd suggested that, "Wouldn't it be great if I built lighting into it too...?"

Bloomin' idiot!

Plastic board completes the shape, while a nice chunky computer fan adds a rear propeller.
Low voltage wires are installed to hang the model from, as well as providing power to hidden LED strips. A broken LED lamp and a golf tee become the nose cone.

I looked at various options and finally settled on two light shades joined together, exactly how I had created the rocket ship in my last post. However, this combination alone wasn't quite right as it didn't really allow for large cabins/gondolas, etc., so I added a collar of plastic board in between them. A big fat computer fan (no, not Nigel...) was added as a propeller. The base of a broken LED lamp became the nose cone.

Side gantries are constructed.

Now it was time to add the interesting bits.

I started with the side gantries, which I constructed from plastic board. The wood work was textured using heavy sandpaper, then planks were defined by scoring/scraping with a knife held at 90° to a straight-edge. Ping-pong balls were cut and poked through holes in the end panels to create domes, and finally the port-holes were made from disposable contact lens cases.

Let there be light!
I had wired LED strips in place earlier. The gantries were laid on over these and... OOPS! Everything glowed! Planks, metalwork, the lot! I realised that it would take far too many coats of paint to cut out the light that was diffusing beautifully though the white plastic - so I poured myself a wee drink, took a breath, and pulled it all apart again.

The basic structure complete and card bands glued on. As you can see, light is still getting through in some areas at this stage.

Oh, well. It's a learning curve, innit?

The answer was to line everything with black card. Or, in the case of the bits I hadn't built yet, to make them from card first, then finish them with plastic. Windows were made from acetate sheet, frosted by sanding it with very fine sandpaper.

Rivets! Rivets, I tell you! Hahahahahaa!

After that, the rest of the construction was fairly straightforward - and it wasn't long before I was gluing on rivets! Just like old times...

A bridge provides a nerve-wracking means of moving between the fore- and aft- gondolas...

The model starts to look nice and solid with the generous application of rivets...

Somewhat comically small wings provide a means of steering the vessel.

A bottle cap adds an extra touch to the rear propeller.

Needless to say, this took some time... Until, finally, I was ready to start painting the bugger!

I didn't want to use dark, heavy colours for this one, and I knew I wanted lots of copper. So I started with a brown undercoat everywhere, then applied base colours for wood, copper, steel and canvas.

Base colours go on. I'm not bothered about tidiness at this stage. Everything can be fixed later and windows will be scraped clean. 
Wood tones were finished first.

Copper is tidied up, the windows are scraped clean, and the model starts to look finished!

I admit, I started to get a bit excited at this point, as it really started coming together. I was particularly pleased with the wood tone.

Once the painting is done, handrails are added to the bridge...

...and the rear balcony.

Grey and silver highlighting gives a nice feeling of weight to the engine block.

Once all the colours were on and mistakes corrected, I finished off the woodwork by washing with dark brown ink, then highlighting with an almost fleshy sand tone. The copper paint was generously daubed with chestnut ink. This was messy, thank to the rounded shape of the balloon - every stray drop ran for miles! Consequently, the canvas had to be painted and repainted until it was nice and white.

Nose cone detail.

Very interestingly, the constant painting, repainting and highlighting of the canvas actually resulted in a rough canvas-like finish! An accident? Or sheer genius? Hmmm... Probably the former!

And all of a sudden,  there it was! Done!

Rivet count on this fine fellow..
1,866 !

Atmospheric, innit!

Light through the small windows in the cabin doors nicely illuminates the bridge.

The rear balcony.

Night flying!

Wish I owned one of these...

Sailing away to new adventures...

I hope you've enjoyed this post! I'll try to bring you more in the not-too-distant future!

All the Best!


  1. Great job! I envy the owner of the airship!

  2. What an utterly splendid creation.

  3. Great work, an inspiring build.
    The colours work very well.
    Thanks for posting WIP pictures...

  4. Welcome back Colonel! I hope that we can see your work a little more regularly in the future. You were missed.

    1. My apologies! I shall certainly make an effort!
      And thank you.

  5. What a surprise to see your post on TMP after such long silence. I am hoping that this marks a return to VSF scratchbuilding for you.

    1. Thank you very much! I hope so too - watch this space!

  6. It was worth the wait. That is an amazing build!

  7. You've still got the "touch", Colonel!

    1. I've been a bit touched for decades, Jay! As you very well know!

  8. Fantastic looking Aeronef.


  9. By the Lord Harry, the Colonel's back with a bang! I love the airship, old chap. Absolutely spiffy! I'm glad you put handrails on that walkway. Being a cove with no head for heights, I can empathise with anyone crossing it between gondolas.

    1. A J old boy! How the devil are you?
      If one doesn't supply handrails, how on earth are the baddies supposed to inexplicably fall over them>

  10. Glad that your back Colonel. Your absence away from blogging had been far too long. I look forward to seeing your future projects. They're always very insightful and inspirational.

    1. Thank you very much, Sir! I have a few new ideas forming in the old noggin...

  11. What a wonderful Christmas treat to have you back blogging! I hope this magnificent flying machine has inspired you to carry on in the New Year.

    Welcome back!

    1. Thank you, Edwin my friend! Yes it has - and it's truly heartwarming to hear from so many old familiar faces!
      More is coming...

  12. Long time no-see...
    A lovely bit of work sir...

    All the best. Aly

    1. A long time indeed! And thank you very much. I hope you're well!

  13. Still going strong/ish and still making toy soldiers...

  14. Splendid as always Colonel, I see your skills haven't atrophied during your 3 year stretch errr absence.. !

    1. Don't believe the rumours, Doug! And as far as atrophy is concerned, I had a few issues with a teeny tiny staircase today. Taking it slowly...

  15. Great to see you back into it again. Will you be continuing work on the large walking caravan thingy-me-jig too?

    1. Hi Roly! Nice to hear from you!

      Indeed I shall - the next stage is a gigantic chassis, which in itself is an entire project and then some! I'll be approaching it with great trepidation!

  16. Glad to see you back, old boy! We were, in fact, rather worried about you over the past 40 months. Glad to see you back in style!

    Did you ever finish that Sextupedal behemoth you were building lo those many moons ago?

    1. Thank you very much, my friend! My apologies if I caused you some consternation! (I recommend prune juice)

      I have barely touched Lord Smudgington Smythely Smythe's Hydraulically Motorvated Sextupedal Land Traversing Vacational Domicile in the months of my absence, but rest assured I'll be getting back to it shortly!

      All the Best!

  17. WOW! This is amazing! A great inspiration. Thanks for sharing.