Bubblegum Galactica – Make a BSG-inspired Model Spaceship From Gum Containers

One of the truly awesome superpowers you gain when you start kit bashing and scratch building scale models is a limited-scope future vision that allows you to see which everyday household objects would make great spaceships.  It’s like a really useless ESP or an X-Ray vision that doesn’t let you see through blouses.  Seeing as I lack any decent super power, I’m not going to register my complaint with the Justice League just yet.

The key components used in the spacecraft pictured above are Hubba Bubba measuring tape gum dispensers.  My son loves the stuff and probably chewed his way through a few miles of it before I started scratch building.  Not long after my super power was attenuated, I saw a couple of the empty containers in the back seat of my car and visions of the Battlestar Galactica rag tag fleet danced in my head.

The "Mineral Ship" from the new Battlestar Galactica series - aka the "Livery Ship" in the original BSG series.

As a kid, I loved the original Battlestar Galactica.  My favorite parts of every episode were the establishing shots of the “rag tag fleet” all floating in space together.  I remember the original series with the same fondness I afford to The Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, The A-Team, and Automan.  Yes, they were cheesy and have not aged well.  Fortunately, the reboot of Battlestar Galactica was one of the best television series produced in the past several years.  I thought it was intelligent, funny, and thought-provoking.  The writing and acting were both excellent.  And the spaceships looked really cool.  As a kid, I especially liked the tri-disc-shaped ship and my nostalgia sensors overloaded when I saw it had been reproduced for the new series.

Activate the jump drive and follow me to the next set of coordinates where instructions on how to turn discarded Hubba Bubba containers into your very own BSG-inspired ship await your discovery.

You will need three of these. Chewing the gum is optional.

You can procure Hubba Bubba brand chewing gum in the measuring tape configuration at any purveyor of fine corn syrup-derived food products near you.  About $5 should get you three.  Shove all the gum in your mouth at once and use a sticker-removal solution to remove the stickers.  You will be left with three pleasantly plump pink ship shapes.

I used a length of sheet styrene and model cement for stability.

If you choose to walk the path of the model maker, you will need to become familiar with the wonders of sheet styrene.  With it, all things are possible.  If you enjoy Lego, get some sheet styrene and glue and be prepared to lose many hours of your life.

I suppose if you’re enterprising and better with a hot glue gun than I am, you could probably get away without the sheet styrene spine.  I think it looks better and it will help to keep the structure more stable.  This is the underside of the ship and I’ve added two small bits from an abandoned Tamiya 1/48 scale Tiger tank kit.

Again using model cement, I've added more from the Tiger tank kit, washers, plastic dental picks, and the guts of a broken watch

Since the main shape of the ship was repeating circles, I decided to use that as a theme and use circular bits where possible.  This was purely a style choice.  The great thing about making a spaceship is there are no rules.  It doesn’t have to make sense or even be aerodynamic.  Once you start looking, you’ll see lasers, warp coils, dilithium chambers, and photon torpedo launchers everywhere.  Once you catch the bug, you’ll never be able to look at a store’s travel size section the same way.

This is how the top of the ship started out. I had a lot of circular pieces and I tried to keep everything as symmetrical as I could.

With the bottom complete, I began to think about practical things like the ship’s purpose, where the bridge should go and what the propulsion system ought to look like.  I knew I wanted it to be like a super space tanker or freighter.  I figured most of the bubblegum parts would be cargo holds and, though the ship was huge, the crew would be small and be mostly confined to a small area on the top.

I cut two pieces of sheet styrene to the same size and etched panel lines in them so they would look convincing.  One of my big found object secrets is to go to nearby tire shops after they close and scan the parking lot for discarded tire valve cores and weights.  The valve cores make excellent weapons and the weights can be just about anything.  The silver squares are tire weights.  I used a highlighter marker cap for the nose and a Glide floss box top for the rocket shield.  The rest of the parts are from grab bags of jewelry bits sold at the best hobby shop in L.A., Kit Kraft.

Three brass nozzles from the hardware store hot glued inside the dental floss box lid make for a fairly believable engine.

Trips to the hardware store are much more exciting with my new superpower.  The aisle of washers and brass fittings is like a allotment shed.  I used three brass fittings for the rockets.  They fit perfectly inside the Glide lid.

I primed the ship black so those recessed areas would be exaggerated after painting.

It’s always good to get out of the house, even if it’s just to apply primer.  One of the features I like most about the Hubba Bubba containers is the ridges on the side.  I used black primer to give the illusion of shadows in the recessed areas.  I have only ever used Floquil aerosol spray primer on my models.  It goes on nice and even and it’s almost impossible to overdo it.

I airbrushed Model Master's camouflage gray acrylic for the base.

I used a heavily thinned acrylic paint to achieve my desired “spaceship grey.”  If you look closely, you can see how the black primer serves as an undercoat, adding a sense of depth and realism.

I used Model Master's British crimson and Tamiya's medium blue, gun metal, and copper, all applied with a brush.

Painting is where everything starts to come to life.  It doesn’t look like a collection of junk anymore.  It really is looking like a spaceship.  Once again, it’s important to remember there are no rules when it comes to spaceships.  Pick colors you like and go for it.

I used Tamiya's semi-gloss black for the bridge window and flat aluminum for dry brushing highlights.

I really cheated when it came to the bridge.  The piece there in the front has a nice curve to it, so I just painted it with a semi-gloss black and voila, you have a bridge window.  A lot of people in the model making community frown upon dry brushing, but I really like it as a technique for bringing out highlights.  I made my dry brush by picking a small brush with stiff bristles and cutting it down so that it is really quite stiff.  Dip the brush in a light color like white, silver, or aluminum and then use a piece of paper towel to get nearly all the paint off the brush.  Then begin to pick out highlights and raised areas by running the brush across the surface very lightly.  I recommend playing with the technique for a bit so you can see for yourself what it does.  You can see its effect on the radar dish and on the red and blue objects in the back.  It’s also a good way to simulate wear and tear.  After I was pleased with the results, I applied a coat of Testors Glosscote.

Decals are an easy way to add a touch of realism

I have collected a lot of models for the express purpose of kit bashing. I pick them up here and there for a few bucks at hobby shops that buy old kits from people’s collections.  In addition to having a junkyard’s worth of parts, I keep the decals for potential future use.  Most of the decals here are from an Airfix Spitfire that I broke.  But the bird is from some kit I picked up a while back.  I don’t remember what it was from, but I thought it looked great on the ship.  After the decals set, I applied another layer of the Glosscote.

Mining asteroids is a dirty job, so I was generous with the dirt wash.

Next to painting, weathering is the best way to give the model some character.  A lot of people like the factory fresh look, but I’m not a lot of people.  I like my models to look like they’ve seen some action.  I figured if this ship was going to be mining asteroids and trucking its cargo to the far reaches of the solar system, it was going to get dirty.

I made a dirt wash by scraping a black chalk pastel with the back of the X-acto until I had a small mountain of chalk dust in a Tupperware dish.  Then add water and a drop of liquid dish soap so everything mixes properly and  looks like dirty water.  I applied it liberally.  Since it has the gloss coat , if it comes out wrong, it’s easy to rinse it off and start over.  I made sure to get it into all the cracks and crevices.  After it dried, I wiped off the excess with Q-tips and paper towels. Once that was done, I scraped more chalk dust all over the ship and then brushed it away with a soft paint brush.  When all the space dirt was just right, I sprayed two coats of Testors Dullcote.

In flight, surveying the asteroid.

Since I envisioned my ship mining asteroids, I chose a mounting that reflected that.  I found this nice piece of lava rock at a local tropical fish shop.  I drilled a hole in the rock and used a length of brass tubing (available at any good hobby shop) to connect the ship to it.  Instead of drilling a hole in the ship, I heated up one end of the brass tube over the gas range and gently poked it through the plastic for a custom fit.

To keep the tube from slipping, I used some hot glue on the rock to hold it steady.

Close up view of the bridge.

Aft section and propulsion system.

I'm a terrible photographer.

I hope seeing how easy this is has inspired you to make one yourself.  If you do, please send a picture.  In fact, send me photos of any home brewed spaceships. I’d love to see what you’ve made.

Check out my other kitbash here.


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Filed under Art, Let's Make Something Beautiful, scale modeling

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