A New Hope: Building DeAgostini’s 43rd scale Millennium Falcon month one: issues 1 to 5

model_ipadI was nestled on the sofa with my daughter watching TV programs about dinosaurs over the Christmas holidays when there was a commercial break. Just once in a while an advert comes on for something you just have to have. It is rare but it can happen. My daughter and I almost jumped out of our seats when the DeAgostini advert appeared for their BIG Millennium Falcon. They claimed it was a 1:1 scale replica of the movie prop. You collected all the bits over 100 weeks and built it. I Googled it on my smartphone and read all about. It was a day or two before I placed the subscription as I am too old and wise to impulse-buy. Yet this was something too good to miss.

androidEver since I built the Fine Molds 1/72nd scale Falcon a couple of years ago I was a little begrudged of the fact that it was in 1/72nd scale whereas my preferred scale was 1/48th scale. However I was realistic – a 1/48th scale Falcon would be enormous. Yes there were some very old and very collectible (and very expensive) resin kits available in the USA. There were also ready-made models in that scale for a pretty penny as well as an enormous toy (we guess for the kid that has everything?). So I put the thought out of my mind. Who needs the hassle – there are plenty of other kits to make. So DeAgostini’s part-build intrigued me. Not quite 1/48th scale but close enough it also had LED lighting – an aspect I engineered into the Fine Molds kit. The finished model was claimed to be a replica of the 32 inch studio model which was largely the ‘model’ for my Fine Molds build. Plus it boasted some internal details. What was there not to like?

IMG_20150110_170207_editI didn’t have to wait long for the first Issue to turn up. Each comes with a slim magazine which acts as the instruction sheet for the kit as well as containing a scattering of articles (covering the Star Wars universe) and details about the models and sets used in filming. Although not an avid Star Wars fan (nor collector) I do have a few books concerning the hardware & film models – this is my true love – model making and I have enjoyed the sci fi hardware of the Star Wars Universe. You also get a “blueprint” which is actually a frame guide for the kit build. Oh and you get your choice of super-nerd Falcon TShirt!

The kit parts themselves are well packed. DeAgostini have been in this piece-part-build industry for years and they really know their stuff. The plastic parts come pre-painted although some modellers will want to repaint some parts. DeAgostini have promised tips and techniques for painting the model itself in later issues so we await with baited breath as to what guidance they have to offer. The parts look to be the right colour and are pre-weathered with some kind of dark wash. It really is quite clever. There are no mould lines or injection pin markings on the pre-painted plastic parts. They really withstand scrutiny although some of the battle damage and scorching appears to have been applied by indelible marker – no doubt by a minion in a factory in China somewhere. No doubt that is a job that could get really boring after a while. So even if you touch up the blast marks later with an airbrush that would be all it really needs. I have not compared the accuracy of the kit in comparison to photos of the 32 inch studio model. A few pundits online didn’t seem impressed but the mould detail itself is very good for the scale so it is hard to understand why DeAgostini couldn’t get it right. I do not plan on doing any scratch-building or further accurising on this build so I hope it looks right in the end.

So – where to start – as I mentioned I am too old and wise (hopefully!!) to rush into anything any more so I read the magazines and studied the instructions. It looked like the cockpit parts were spread over four or more issues so the DeAgostini advice was to wait a while if the modeller so desired. So I waited for issue four to arrive before starting work. As luck would have it issue four turns up with issue five and a free binder. So after a pregnant pause of four weeks I put some time aside to start building. But where should I build such a monster? My workbench is full and I don’t want the tedium of clearing it to do this. So I decided the kitchen table is best as it offers the space and is well lit. Since I will not be using paint or glue at this stage then this would cause no problem. The light isn’t perfect but there are no super-small parts to deal with or super-detailing so lighting would be adequate. So I planned to put a build slot in on my Saturday mornings – one per month.

So, next question – where to store all the bits between builds? I have a large supply of sealable poly bags from a time when I was storing kits in a damp attic so I will label those with an indelible marker and store the bits inside. But where to store the bagged items? I went to a local outlet of some cheap’n’cheerful shop (Wilkinsons in the UK) and found a couple of large plastic boxes with lids that could be stacked. Upon getting them home I found that they fit perfectly under the part of my model workbench devoted to photography. So, with all the storage solutions in place I sat down to build. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First up – Issue 1 – and the first Quad guns. I thought these were white metal but there were not. Although exquisitely moulded they are in a very hard iron. They do have a mould seam which I set to work eradicating with a file and polishing sticks. However it took quite a bit of time. I was honestly concerned about how slow this would be if it took this long for every item. However they did prove to be the only metal components thus far. Luckily they are not painted. I am not sure why they aren’t painted because they should be the same colour as the hull. The plastic pieces do not have visible seams or, indeed, any sign of plastic injection moulding that plastic kit modellers are used to, ie, sprue gates and flash!? DeAgostini are using an industrial process for these parts that spares us the bother of having to clean them up!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo after a bit of work the Quad guns are cleaned up and assembled. They screw together. The screws are tiny but in Issue 2 DeAgostini thoughtfully supply a suitable magnetic screw driver which is a godsend if you don’t already have something similar (I admit I did). Quad gun assembly is really fiddly. It does all fit but not is such a positive way that makes you think you have done it right. DeAgostini also have a habit of telling not to tighten the screws which seems worrisome – it remains unclear as to exactly WHEN they should be tightened!

The screws are not self tapping. The guns themselves appear to have been pre-tapped. Again, this is a remarkable piece of precision engineering that you don’t really see in the run-of-the-mill model kit industry. They must churn these things out in vast numbers to make any money. I see copies of this part-build for sale in the local newsagents so I can only imagine that there were quite a lot made representing quite an investment by DeAgostini. Mind you – at £9 an issue it isn’t THAT cheap either but I imagine that they have a warehouse somewhere stacked high with unsold returns from retail. Makes you wonder how their business models works? They must factor in a lot of wastage into that £9. I wonder if their wastage is as high as the rest of the model kit industry? I guess Airfix do not accept returns from retail and if they do they can sell the kits on to another supply chain as each kit is complete. What on earth to DeAgostini do with all these incomplete bits? No doubt quite a few get damaged as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK onto the cockpit. DeAgostini use self adhesive stickers for instrument panels and rear bulkhead. This looks OK but I do wonder just how long the adhesive will last? Will it just peal off after a few years? That would look rubbish. NO clean up is required of these parts. Bits that are easy to snap off or break are made of metal and left unpainted like the Quad guns. This is OK in the cockpit as the control yokes and throttles [?] were silver coloured anyway. Everything is push fit, nothing really clicks together and DeAgostini warn you not to glue anything at this stage. It remains unclear as to what glue you should use and when. I will apply common sense later in the build and probably a lot of Superglue too!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext we assemble an area of fuselage and framing that forms the docking port behind the cockpit. This is all another piece of remarkable precision engineering that just looks like it shouldn’t work. The hull is made of lots of small pieces in order that it fits with the part-build philosophy. DeAgostini solve this problem through using a metal substructure. These are small metal frames that are quite rigid. You screw them together using small brackets. The screw holes are all pre-tapped for you. The final result is bizarrely rigid! It becomes even stronger after you screw in the hull exterior parts. These involve slightly larger self-tapping screws.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK – so far – so impressed. It only remains for me to add the LED lighting panel to the rear of the cockpit rear bulkhead. This will shine through translucence section of the rear bulkhead sticker. You can see these white sections through the holes in the bulkhead in the picture to the right. There are a few more items in Issues 1 thru 5 including one Quad gun deck and the fuselage tube behind the cockpit. You don’t need to do anything with these at this stage of the build. There is nothing to attach them to. It only remains for me to pack up all the bits into self-seal plastic bags and label the contents so I know what I have got.

 

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Everything goes into the storage box and under the bench until next time.

IMG_20150131_124358 So – first impressions of the DeAgostini part-build Millennium Falcon? Very impressive. Obviously you end up paying over £900 for this over two years. It will cost the same as a small used car! However it is unique and it is good quality. I have a few minor quibbles about the instructions telling you not to glue things of tighten screws but these are minor points. Assembly is straightforward and fun. If average Joe-punter out there is easily confused by complicated instructions then I guess a few might get frustrated with the assembly of the underlying hull frame. DeAgostini have done their best but they are trying to represent a complex three dimensional shape on a 2D page. I would advise the novice to take their time on those bits!

I like the engineering of this kit. The fit is excellent. Everything just works. The hull pre-painting is superb (although we can do better) and the cockpit looks right. The cockpit will need further painting and DeAgostini full admit this and offer advice (in some future issue) about how they recommend you go about this. most modellers may want to sprinkle their own magic in this area. It needs a dark black pin wash for the seats before some dry-brushing is required to pluck out the raise details. It looks a bit to clean at the moment for an old freighter. It needs to look worn. Purists might have the presence of mind to airbrush on a dark grey over that black plastic. I am not sure how well paint will stick to this plastic? There don’t appear to be any scale figures to crew the cockpit. I am not really bothered as most of the detail not be obvious when sealed up inside. When the internal LEDs are on I am sure it will be the dog’s belongings.

You know what else I like? This is easy. Despite the cost the weekly build might take only a few minutes. If you save it up for a month as I am doing then you can put it all together in under a couple of hours of basic assembly. It won’t make a big dent in your spare time and there is always that magazine to read – which, I admit, despite not being a Star Wars nerd, is reasonably enjoyable. It doesn’t need much skill. It can be done on any large flat surface like your kitchen table. I am actually quite looking forward to the next issues. I am genuinely excited by this build. It is everything a build should be – especially if you are young and new to the hobby. No endless super-detailing. No paint. No glue. Just simple assembly of parts that look great out of the box. It is a heck of a lot of fun. I am looking forward to building some of the sections up with my daughter. She’ll get a kick out of it. DeAgostini really know how to deliver.

The only question remains is this: where the heck are you going to put this thing when finished? You know what?

I don’t care. It’s the journey that counts.    


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