Project YT-1300: Converting an Icon

Some time ago I happened across a series of photos of the deconstruction and reconstruction of a YT-1300 light freighter model from Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing miniatures game. It was a set of great photos showing step by step how a crafty modeler cut apart a great model, and then rebuilt it into an even better model. I saved all the pictures with the intention to build my own version. You call it copying, I call it an homage to a great conversion.

Here is the finished model that inspired me. Unfortunately, it was so long ago I have lost the link to this crafty fella’s blog. I believe his name is Robert Sakaluk. I blame FFG and the closure of their forum and all the great repaints and modeling that were stashed in the X-Wing and Armada areas of that defunct forum.

Inspiration YT model pics

I had purchased the original Millennium Falcon probably just as it was released. I didn’t realize (or remember, at least) that I happened upon X-Wing just as Wave 2 was being released. It included two of my favorite ships in the entire Star Wars Universe, the Millennium Falcon and Slave-1, Bob Fett’s modified Firespray-31. Fully painted, and very detailed, I had to have them. That they belonged to a great miniatures game was a nice bonus.

FFG Falcon

As I fell into the deep hole that is X-Wing, I found the FFG forums and was inspired by the conversions and repaints everyone was doing. One particular fellow had down a conversion that moved the off-center cockpit of the Falcon to the centerline. And it was repainted a light gray and blue. That guy went by the screen name ZombieHedgehog. I was able to commission him to make a copy of the model he had posted. It turned out fantastic:

Blue center cockpit Falcon

He explained everything that went into the project, but I wasn’t comfortable trying it on my own. I’m not sure why, I have been building plastic model kits since I was probably eight-years-old. Something about hacking into a painted model gave me pause.

Time went on and I picked up two more Falcon models. FFG released a version modified and painted to represent the version seen in the sequel movies. Then another model was released of the version from the movie when the Falcon still belonged to Lando.

Somewhere in there came the inspiration to build my own armoured version of the classic YT-1300. Duly inspired, I picked up yet another YT model from FFG. And started the project. Honestly, I don’t know exactly how long this project took. Months. Over a year in total. I would do a little work, get frustrated, and set it aside for weeks. Having never done something like this before, the learning curve was steep.

I had purchased a scribing tool before I started. And a pack of engine nozzles intended for super detailing Gundam models (I believe.) I wanted the old-school feel of round engine nozzles for this build and made an eBay purchase. And then another when I realized I needed more of a particular nozzle size than the pack had. Then I picked up some Evergreen plastic in sheets and rods and strips. With all the supplies in hand, I had to take the first step.

Cutting into a perfectly good model.

Using a razor saw and cutting slow and careful, I tore that model apart. Stripping the entire cockpit out, and then removing the engines and much of the rear superstructure, I had a carcass that was ready for anything. I printed out all the pictures I had found and spent a lot of time staring at them. Progress was slow. I would make a few small parts, or cut and shape a piece of plastic, then wait days or weeks. Slowly it came back together. There were some complex curves that gave me fits. I made and discarded a number of templates and parts trying to rebuild that model. And used greenstuff to hide my mistakes or gaps I gave up trying to fit properly.

As pieces came together, I began to detail the model. Scribing panel lines went a long way towards making it look more like a space ship and less like a chunk of plastic. Tiny pieces of plastic were cut and glued into place to give visual interest. The engine bay was detailed. I constructed some engines and even used putty to hold a couple engine layouts in place to poll some friends on Facebook about which looked best. More cutting. Lots of filing. Sanding. Filling. Gluing. Some days it seemed like it was never going to be complete.

side by side engine layouts

And then, it was. I held a finished model in my hands and checked it over and over for anything else I could do. I think this is one project I could pick at nearly forever. Finally, I called it done and set it aside.

No idea what else I was doing at the time, but it sat unpainted for a long time. Eventually I primed it, and began to paint it. I liked the red and gray of the inspiration model, and gave it a similar paint job. Being a space freighter meant I got to dirty it up, using several washes and inks to put rust, oil, and fuel drips and streaks all over it. Unlike the original guy who was good enough to be able to construct it so he could paint it in subassemblies, I had a complete model to paint. Which meant the engine bay isn’t nearly as well painted as I would like.

primed/washed model

Overall, I am extremely happy with how the model came out. I have a distinct YT model, in a flashy paint scheme, that I built myself.

finished model

Here are couple other repaints I have down. Just for fun, or before a particular model was released.

X-Wing is still a great game. I have enough ships to play monster games, or throw a whole tourney on my own. And several are custom paints. Which makes it a little bit cooler. With the confidence gained, I built an armoured Nebulon-B for Star Wars Armada, and began painting all the tiny fighters for the squadrons in Armada.

A chance image of a converted model led to months of construction and painting. Funny how internet wanderings can do that.

Thanks for stopping by,


Challenge accepted!

Back in June Dave over at Wargames Terrain Workshop threw down the challenge gauntlet for terrain building in July and August. I had already started a larger (for me) terrain piece and thought this would be the perfect kick to get it done. I find challenges extremely useful to shame me into actually concentrating on a single project. I have a dozen or more in progress at any one time, because i need to feel a project to have motivation to work on it.

I have WFB, 28mm and 15mm WW2, 40K, SAGA, 15mm Ancients and Wild West minis and terrain pieces stashed around my work bench. All in various stages of progress from de-flashing to mid-paint. Then the Boxes of Shame conceal even more minis still on sprues or in blisters. A couple plastic totes hide terrain pieces i lost interest in, for now. A challenge is public shaming (in a good way) for unfinished projects. It adds a little motivation to finishing a particular thing.

Dave’s challenge came at a perfect time. I had started a windmill built or card, basswood, foam blocks and various other materials. I had a clear idea of what i wanted it to look like. I had a decent start to the base. But I was kinda stuck in a rut. Challenge accepted Dave, challenge accepted.

Just to consolidate a bit, I will re-post a couple pics of the whole project. The core of the base came from a set of nesting round cardboard boxes. Covered in foam blocks I cut on my then-new Proxxon, it looked like this:

I built the next portion from some wood craft sticks. I am not even sure what wood they are. Its not balsa, for sure. It doesn’t seem to be basswood either. Bit, it takes textures nicely and cuts easily. I found this at our local grocery/department store in the craft aisle and really like the wood. Unlike the round end craft sticks, these are squared off. No wasted material! Its the Simply Art line from Loew-Cornell. Give them a try, they might be something uyou can use in your terrain builds. I did get panicky. The store i bought them in didn’t have them for a while (thanks C19) and then moved them. I finally located the new spot and restocked for my current build.

Then on to paint before building the upper portion.

The upper portion, holding the axle for the sails, ended up being the most difficult portion. Version #1 was started on a pair of cardboard disks to which i glued more craft sticks.  It was a complete disaster. As hard as I tried, it wasn’t even or level. It was so ugly i didn’t both to take a picture. I was only half finished when I tore it apart to recycle the precious craft sticks.

Version #2 came out much better. I used the smallest of the nesting boxes as a core. It had straight and level sides. It was sturdy. All i had to do was construct a fiddly conical roof for it. And then attach it securely to the rest of the mill to support the weight of the sails.

following Mel the Terrain Tutor’s video on making shingles, the roof went together. Its suitably rough and weathered even without paint. But… Something was off. Dave commented on it, and there was something in his tone that told me my gut feeling was right. Version #2 wasn’t it.

So Version #3 came to be. I used the top of the smallest box as a core, to again give it strength and solid lines. I built a brace to hold the axle and for a brief moment of madness thought about adding a mechanism to turn the sails. I’ve detailed my mishap with the sails here, so i won’t go into it again. Suffice it to say, those also had multiple versions. I crafted more shingles, and got to roofing the top.



And it was done.


I took it outside for some bright sun pics. And, well, I like it. The sails need weathering. The roof doesn’t match really, but maybe it just got new shingles and they haven’t weathered yet. All in all, I am pleased. Its the biggest terrain piece i have even attempted and it was built from materials I hadn’t used much before. It is magnetized, so all three major parts separate. I had a magnet from a hard drive that is strong enough to support the sails.

Oh, and much to my surprise. The sails turned in the wind. To say I was giddy is an understatement. I haven’t ponied up for WordPress yet, so I had to upload the video to YouTube. Here it is if you care to check it out. Windmill 

I was also able to build and paint a Wild West building to use with Dead Man’s Hand, It was going to be an lawyer’s office and apartment named for a good friend of mine. But, i a moment of haste I painted it in the colors of his rival college… It would not do to have a solid Michigan man working out of an office painted in the colors of that other school. so in homage to my daughter’s love of literature I grabbed a name from her favorite series and made it the offices for some freighters in town.

The roof is standing seam metal from Evergreen Plastics. It looks fantastic. The lettering on the sign was down with dry rub transfers. It came out ok. Not great, but kinda has a old feel to it. Like it was more hand painted. I had smaller letters to add more to it, but the were so old they disintegrated when i tried to use them. New in the package, decades old on the shelf.

Thanks Dave, for the push! Two projects completed. Go to his blog and look at all the really cool pieces created by the the other participants. The Summer of Scenery was a big success!


Thanks for stopping by, and I would love to hear what you think, so drop me a comment below.

BG out

Slow progress

Its been a couple weeks since i regaled you with tales of modeling progress. Since then, I have been quite active, and haven’t stopped to even take many pictures. Which was really dumb, since two of the projects would have made a nice blog article…

What I have been up you ask? Loads. The day after posting my last article, a package from Badger Games in Wisconsin, USA arrived. In it were my first two pre-painted buildings from 4Ground. Both were from the American Legends/Dead Man’s Hand collection. The first was a starter model, the Dry Goods and a second, much larger model, First National Bank. Plus some civilians. Every town needs a store keep to blast a bad guy trying to hide, or an innocent to serve as a hostage.


With new shiny in front of me, every other project (and there are many) fell by the wayside. I jumped in and built most of the Dry Goods that evening. And then looked at that many pieces and four pages  of the instructions for the bank in despair. Fiddly is best how I can describe many portions of the bank assembly. A couple issues (exterior doors, window trim) were my over-eagerness and not paying close attention to the instructions. A couple were tiny parts and tight tolerances (interior and exterior doors). I ended up having to fabricate a couple replacement parts from the carrier sheets since i, er, broke some parts.

I would prefer if there were word instructions to go along with the pictorial instructions. In a couple places its a bit unclear which piece is used or where a piece is supposed to go. A few details on tricky spots would be welcome. Despite the bazillion pieces, including dozens and dozens of tiny cardboard cutouts to serve as wainscoting, it was a fun project. A couple times I said “I’ll work on this for an hour” only to have three hours or more pass by in a feverish spree of trimming, gluing and fitting.

Here are a couple pics. The bank is so detailed. It was the interior detail that sold me on it. The teller windows, vault, doors and woodwork are so cool. There was no way I could replicate all that detail in any reasonable amount of time. The dry goods is just a cool little store.

Bank and Dry Goods pics

I had to pull myself away though. The painting challenge continues over at, and I still had the Desperadoes to paint. Once the two 4Ground buildings were done, I sat down and knocked out nine more western gunfighters. Seven are from the Great Escape Games Desperadoes.


On the left are the Ortega Brothers. Commonly referred to as the Mexicans, Ernesto and Franciso fled Los Federales, but haven’t reformed at all. The right pair are a couple Southerners convinced The War is still on.


No caption necessary for The Preacher.

Two are from an unknown manufacturer. I have little recollection of ordering them, though the first is a non-brainer. Once I saw it, I had to have it. The Man-With-No-Name movies are among my favorite westerns, so getting the pancho-clad Clint was probably an intsta-buy. If any of you recognize the models, let me know so i can properly credit them.

And yes, I saw the missed spots and base paint errors. Fixed after I took pics and wrote this.

The windmill has not been forgotten. I built the upper portion twice, because the first one sucked so bad I had to do another. And then I made tiny balsa wood shingles by copying Mel the Terrain Tutor’s* video here. Another three or four trips to hobby stores for supplies followed. The blades had to turn, see, so I needed brass tubing. And lots of basswood. The X of the blades was easy. The vanes proper, not so much.


My first attempt was basically a “this might work” with dowels and hot glue. Before I even had the second set of supports in place I noticed a resemblance to a certain symbol used by a deranged corporal. I finished that part to make sure, but yep, it did look like a twisted cross. The proof was when my son and his girlfriend walked by and casually said “did you want that to look like Hitler designed it?” And then proceeded to point how adding red and white to the windmill painting would complete the look…

At that point I looked up pictures of Dutch and Spanish windmills. It was easy to see where I had gone of the rails and how to fix it. Which led to another trip to the hobby shop for more basswood strips. The sail frames are in progress. I don’t have enough spring clamps so i can only add one piece at a time. After those are done I need to build the bracing arms to support the main axle, cut out the fabric sails, then finish painting the whole thing.

Quick question for my readers. What do you think about this GW Fen Beast? Its not as dark as typically painted, but I am not sure about how light it is either. Anything I can do to make it pop? Let me know in the comments.


That’s it for July. Squeaked in, too.


*Mel is one of my all time favorite terrain makers. His videos are entertaining, full of tips and how-tos, and keep me pumped to build terrain.