By Bill Lehner
It is a 1975 AMT Romulan Bird Of Prey that I rebuilt and lit. It has fiber optic in the sensors (1.0 mm) and the plasma weapon (1.0 & 2.0 mm). I’ve check everywhere but nobody seems to have done lighting on this model before. I don’t know why, this model is perfect for the fiber optic.
This 1975 AMT model represents the Romulan Bird of Prey space ship on the well-written Star Trek episode, The Balance Of Terror. It was a regal, deadly fighting ship of comparable power to the Enterprise. Its advantages included the ability to cloak itself repeatedly in a shield of invisibility and with an extremely powerful weapon capable of awesome destruction. It was an equal to Captain Kirk’s ship.
I wanted to translate the accuracy of this model to closely represent the TV show prop. To duplicate the 97-lit sensor array in the saucer area would be electrically impossible and too cramped for a series of lamps. Only with the use of fiber optic strands with and a single, white, high intensity LED would the lighting scheme work.
I used a single 5600 mcd, high intensity, white LED in the center of the upper saucer. The 1.0mm fiber optic strands radiated from the central location and fed to each sensor array in the upper saucer. The LED strands were funneled to the LED and held there with a washer and super glue.
The side rim of the saucer sensor lighting was also done with 1.0mm by one-half inch fiber optic stems that were simply pushed though holes that were drilled through the wall of the model. The interior of the ship was so bright that the wall sensor fiber optic easily lit up.
All fiber optic strands were “mushroomed” with the heat of a candle to spread the light from the tips.
The deadly Plasma weapon uses a standard brightness LED in combination with 1.0mm fiber optic on both sides of a single strand of 2.0mm fiber optic. The warp engines each use a 5600 mcd white high intensity LED and the impulse engines use a single high intensity red LED that is reflecting through an unpainted section of white styrene plastic.
The base is lit with two standard LEDs that are mounted on an acrylic picture frame that I bought at an arts and craft store. .50mm fiber optic strands were attached to the base of the LEDs from underneath the frame and attached through small holes that were drilled using a #79 bit and a pin vice.
These fiber optic strands made the shining stars in a glowing field of glitter that was sprinkled on the frame. The frame was painted on the bottom side of the acrylic frame to protect the paint so all painting was done in a reverse order. First was a coat of white glue, airbrushed on to holding the glitter. Next came sprinkled glitter. When the glue dried I airbrushed a couple of squirts of metallic buffable paint to break the monotony of black and then finally the flat black paint. Then the optic stars were applied. A simple Radio Shack on/off switch and a super glued power connector was put in the base. The display base came out exceptionally well!
The shaft holding the model is a pen barrel painted black. Inside the shaft is where the electrical wiring feeds from the model to the base. The pen barrel tip is pointed up and into a hole in the bottom of the model so the Bird of Prey can easily be re-angled.
The 9-volt system power was planned so if I wanted to I could, at a later date, use the display on battery power.
Using LEDs are great because they are solid state, durable, long-lasting and very power efficient. I have run the lights off a single 9-volt battery and the model lighting system is easily just as bright as using the transformer.
The one problem you might have would be light leaking through the model. This will happen to any lit model. You must make sure the model is well shielded internally from stray light leaking out of the model. The light will shine through the plastic if it is not sealed well, especially at the seams. For the lit areas of the Bird of Prey I used glued foil to seal the interior with a layer of white paint to reflect the light. On the outside the painted plastic also acts as a light seal. These extra steps might be overkill in light sealing but I didn’t want to have to tear the model apart later because of a small light leak.
The finished model, with the addition of a little painted battle damage and weathering, angled sides, a thinned and modified tail has improved the model. The model also has homemade windows, upper and tail wing decals. With the addition of the fiber optic lighting the model accuracy has improved to 90% of the TV prop. The lighting makes the model command attention to it. It also makes a great night light! The model and display are using a 9-volt, DC transformer. Resistors are used to drop the current down to a safe for the LEDs power requirement, 20 milliamps (ma). The LEDs in the saucer, the lights in the domes, the impulse engine and the plasma weapon use an 800-ohm resistor in a parallel power connection while the two yellow LEDs in the frame/base, because they are connected in series, use a 400-ohm resistor. High intensity LEDs and fiber optics are a great combination. Give it a try!
Thank you Bill for a perfect example of retro-fitting a model with fiber optics!