Monday, June 26, 2023

Battle of Scarif - creating the base of the citadel tower


In my last post I looked at the process I went through cutting out and creating the elements of the base and starting to turn it from bare foam into something that looks like a Star Wars base. Initially this required looking very closely at a range of reference photos and straining to make out obscure parts of the infrastructure. I can’t stress enough how important this step is if you want your model to match your reference. It’s at this stage that I begin to determine the height, depth and angle of things and as well as establishing my colour range and palette. It’s also really annoying when you find a photograph later in the build that shows an element in a different light so I find it’s very worthwhile spending time on your research followed by careful organisation of the results so that you can find things. But also, once you’ve made your decision, go for it and don’t worry about it afterwards.

Central base

This was the first time I’ve used pink XPS insulation board so before I worked the surface I applied a quick and thin application of polyfilla. I’m not sure it was needed but I got into the habit and it didn’t take very long. I then bevelled the edge of the central spikes facing the reservoir.

For the central landing pad I needed the sides to slope inwards and so remarked the top of the pad by knocking 3mm off the radius and then cut the sides slowly and carefully using the snap off knife. I was able to sand it and was pretty happy with the result even though it was mostly judged by eye. To make the landing pad look like the images from the movie I used 3 layers of 2mm deep EVA foam. This allowed me to create water drainage channels around the edge of the centre, raise the edge and create ramps down to central pad.

I then marked out and cut plasticard in concentric geometric patterns and glued it onto the model. I Dremelled the edge and glued on a plasticard strip to give an even and uniform edge. Gaps and errors were filled.

The side was covered with more plasticard trapezoids and a U shape styrene strip to provide some variation.


I started with the outer ring of the reservoir and the buttresses. The photos suggested that there were 8 buttresses on the outer ring on the projection between each weir. It also looked like there was a gap in the middle. Measuring the length of wall and putting in a break and a gap between each buttress gave me the width of each buttress. I gauged their height as well. Here I was doing this visually as my reservoir is not as deep as the one in the movie simply for practical reasons. In order to try and uniformly place the buttresses I cut a spacing template.

Each buttress was cut from 10mm deep pink xps insulation. I used the snap off knife to cut the angled top. This is where I should really have used a hot wire cutting table. Although I tried you just cannot get consistency cutting by hand even with everything measured and marked out. 

Then to break up the uniformity I cut a notch in the middle at the top. Then I rubbed in some filler and sanded them down. I used dressmaker pins to hold them in place whilst I waited for the glue to dry.

Transit Lines

The six transit lines were quite complicated. There is a height variance between the edge and the central base, there’s a a spur projecting from the centre and a complex range of overlapping layers as the line expands.

I used D-line 20mm by 16mm D shaped electrical ducting for each of these central transit lines. This was pretty straightforward as I could just roughly cut them to length.

The central spurs began with a shaped trapezoid section of 10mm XPS. I used another block to get the elevation I wanted for the line. I then cut pieces of the 2mm EVA foam to act as sides with a piece of plasticard covering the centre. One of the last things I did on the build was add plasticard shapes to break up this central roofing area.

I also added some 2mm cork onto the ducting by the spur to break up the transition into the spur housing. Underneath the transit line I added a 5mm styrene tube and some styrene gantries as these can be seen in the reference photos.

Cooling water inflow pipes

I spent a lot of time looking at my options. I looked at all kinds of piping and pipe systems including air filtration systems, garden irrigation systems, food piping to try and find a system I liked and was within a reasonable price range. And I just couldn’t find a system that met my requirements. However the solution turned out to be fairly simple.

I purchased some 8mm diameter styrene tubing from evergreen and some 8mm copper right angle pipe joints that are used I think with boiler pipes. They fitted together beautifully. The only issue is that the right angle joints aren’t quite right but I’m probably the only person who will notice.

I also wanted to ensure that the pipe joints, visible in the photos, could be seen on the model. To do this I scored horizontal lines every 5mm into the styrene, that way the later inkwash would colour it before I dry brushed it.

I then used some railway cutting edges as the background for the ducts entering the base. I used some hexagonal and square pipes to match the photos and cut some old plastic model pieces for background. One of the things I’m really pleased about is that I inherited my father’s left over railway modelling materials and I have been able to incorporate some of them into this model. I think he would have liked that.

Outer Ring

I took a fairly straightforward approach to the outer ring. It looks fairly complex in the photos but I just simplified it and built it up in layers of 3mm foam board. These were cut in arcs using the compass and the laid out. Each piece varied in width as the edge seems to slope inwards. I used more of the styrene gantry to provide depth and to elevate the top piece so that it slopes inwards.

The edge was covered with EVA foam and other bits with filled with flexible filler. On top detailing was provided by the 2mm cork as I found this much easier to work with when the pieces were so small. Again filler was used to smoothen things out and a piece of EVA foam was cut to fit over them.

Paint scheme

I visited my local DIY store and picked up a selection of paint taster pots in various shades of grey, from very light through to black. I used these to paint the various elements generally working from the outside and bottom with the darker greys towards the centre and top with the lighter greys.

Lessons learnt

So this was my first time working with foam and my main take away is that I really should have bought a proper hot wire cutter with adjustable angle cutting arm. This would have made my life much easier and would have resulted in a more accurate and consistent build.

Doing everything 6 times, or in some cases 12 or 18 times got really old, really quickly. It added considerably to the time taken to recreate this model.

Foam, in multiple different forms, is really easy to work with. You just need to choose the right kind of foam for the job. It’s fairly easy to hide errors with filler or some other covering. It cuts easily, glues well, can filled, smoothed and painted. I’ll definitely be looking to use it again on future projects.

So that’s it for the build of the tower base. Next time I’ll talk about creating the islands and the various solutions I used to create the water on the model. Till then keep your dice rolling.

Charles the Modeller 

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