Sunday, 29 March 2015

Looks Alright on Paper: Haynes Press Out and Build Manual - USS Enterprise

Heading back a couple of years, Haynes stepped into the Star Trek universe with the USS Enterprise Owners Workshop Manual

Written by Ben Robinson (now better know for his work on The Official Starships Collection) and Marcus Riley it was a itty-bitty reprinting of a lot of material from the Official Fact Files that weighed down newsagent shelves back in the late 1990's condensing all the info on the ships named Enterprise from the NX-01 through to NCC-1701-E and all in-between.

So the news that this was getting a card build-it-yourself model attached to it was a bit of a surprise but upon receipt of said item it's not all you might expect. Paper-backed rather than hard-backed, only the section regarding the USS Enterprise from the Kirk-era is included here being immediately followed by instructions for the complex model build - and it's more than a handful.

So I called on the expertise of my lovely wife on this one to see just how hard it might be for two grown adults to construct and I was surprised to find it earns its "5" rating for difficulty because none of the parts are numbered and on occasion it can be a guess just which part goes where and how it folds. Keen-eyed model makers will note the colour-coding that is on every piece and can be a life-saver at times.

Ok so let's talk about the build. One thing that I have to give it big thumbs up for is getting my wife to help me build it. One; this meant a solid joint effort and two - well, we'll come to that later. 

So, the ship gets constructed in three sections - the two hulls and the engines with the saucer your starting point. It does lull you into a false sense of security as the disc is built up in four quarters which then slot together very smoothly and allow you a moment to sigh with satisfaction. The edging strip on each section slipped into position poetically and I could fee the sense of achievement swelling. In fact it's a pleasure to build and I was damn happy with the result, especially when you slot it into place with the neck section of the Enterprise which begs for you to get the rest built. However that's where the dream ends and the real work begins.

The nacelles are a totally different kettle of fish. The struts are fairly straight forward with a few folds to make them fully 3D but getting the curve right on the nacelles is an absolute art and sadly one I'm not that good at. Yes, you're not only going to have to fold card but perform tricks that Yuri Geller would be proud of, bending the card smoothly into a tube-like shape times two. It's a real challenge and I would recommend you check your levels of patience before starting.

Having constructed the nacelle tubes it doesn't get any easier with starship builders then needing to fold up the bussard collectors. This is fairly fiddly given the spindly nature of the two pieces that you have to slide together to give the bladed effect plus the dome-like shape both at the same time. So add nimble finger to that requirement for patience. Those fingers are soon called into action again when you have to slot the pylons into the nacelles and then through the slots in the secondary hull before connecting them in a support structure which will eventually be hidden away. 

The fit on these is tight and I had concerns that either the support or the nacelles would be ripped putting these in place but there is a bit of "give" in the card which comes as a welcome relief. The rear exhaust caps are also a careful piece of maneuvering which does help if you get them curved nicely with the nacelles.

Now, this is where the help of Mrs B was most welcomed because putting the secondary hull together requires not just phenomenal dexterity but also a second set of hands. First of all you need to attach the saucer/neck to the four slots on the top of the secondary hull and then attempt to roll it into that familiar cigar-shape. This is a feat of superhuman skill and when you've done it you'll feel ten feet tall. Note too that it's worth getting some of that bending done BEFORE you start slotting all sorts of bits onto the engineering section.

What I should mention too is that Burrell Snr, my dad also had one of these to complete and chose to do it while watching the burial of Richard III last week. While my frustrations started hitting after the saucer was complete, dad was (and I quote) "ready to bin it" when he put those edging strips on. The reason I drop him in now is because he also admitted to not following the instructions which meant his neck and saucer keep coming off - make sure you secure them before rolling and securing the engineering hull.

Right, yes...The challenges just keep coming. I have to admit that to keep the hull from unrolling I had to apply a little bit of sticky tape along the join. I am a bad person for this but after several tries at hoping it would stay rolled I gave in. It's a bit wobbly if I'm honest given the weight of the saucer and I wouldn't trust hanging it from the hook on the back of the primary hull.

There's a strengthening tube to slip into the secondary hull and then the shuttlebay requires some coaxing and bending in much the same way as the bridge module and bussard collectors. Getting the underside curve to the piece is, once more, one that requires a steady and patient hand but the end result is pretty good and folds neatly int the rear of the engineering section.

Next up for construction is the front section of the secondary hull and the deflector dish. That front piece is one more section for you to roll and both myself and dad found it fiddly as hell to slot this section in as you can just see in the picture above. There's a good deal of folding and holding to get the dish itself constructed and some more bending to get the concave shape. Once this is in place though, which does need a slightly less stubby pair of fingers than I have, it's a case of slotting the engine grilles in and also dock the impulse engine unit behind the saucer - both of which are utter child's play in comparison to the rest of the build.

When I first opened this I thought it would be a breeze and how wrong I got it. There is a decent level of skill required for a lot of the parts here and while i got frustrated, pushed to the limit but ultimately did finish the job, it's a nice budget opportunity to build the iconic starship. Dad did have a couple of minor rips on the warp exhaust pieces and encountered wonky nacelles just as I did so between us we've probably got a complete ship. 

It's certainly different and Haynes have done a very accurate and detailed model in not necessarily the easiest material to build from. Weight distribution isn't good and hanging it from that hook on the saucer might see an unexpected separation. The design will work perfectly in zero-G however down here on Planet Earth it's not as simple and very soon I found everything began to sag. Nor were the instructions too clear in places but the colour-coding of parts did mean that the odd moment of confusion was solved by a piece by piece comparison. Mind, there were a couple of pics that weren't too precise on what was going where but it does add to the fun just working out if you've got it right.

It's a good package for any fan to enjoy and does include some detail from the Haynes USS Enterprise Owner's Manual as a side dish - just be prepared for what it could entail although the end result, as you can see from the pics, is more than satisfying. \Maddening as it was at points, I was pleased with the end product which was a first attempt at anything like this since I was six.

Might we push to suggest an Enterprise-D or a Bird-of-Prey in the near future? I think we'd all like to have a go after this one!

The USS Enterprise Press-Out and Build Manual is available now with recommendations to check out WH Smiths in the UK.

Anyone else out there managed to complete this one? Thoughts please!

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