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Request for a Tutorial on Installing Bridge Windows in Evil Empire Submarine Sails

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  • Request for a Tutorial on Installing Bridge Windows in Evil Empire Submarine Sails

    Oh, great and grizzled Wizard on the mountain high! Or, if you prefer, Wise-Ass on the Hill, could you please provide we lower-life forms with your wisdom on how to successfully accomplish the subject task? Including the materials used? I'm rapidly approaching that point on my current project and it seems to be just the thing needed to while away the winter doldrums here in the southern reaches of the Northern Wastes.

    Thank you, sir, for your consideration of this request!


  • #2
    **** yeah!

    I'm... collating (as I roll up a magazine into a very tight cylinder).

    I'll have something up in a week or so, COB.

    Resident Luddite


    • #3
      Excellent! Thank you!


      • #4
        Originally posted by wlambing View Post
        Oh, great and grizzled Wizard on the mountain high! Or, if you prefer, Wise-Ass on the Hill, could you please provide we lower-life forms with your wisdom on how to successfully accomplish the subject task? Including the materials used? I'm rapidly approaching that point on my current project and it seems to be just the thing needed to while away the winter doldrums here in the southern reaches of the Northern Wastes.

        Thank you, sir, for your consideration of this request!


        In navy parlance a 'deadlight' is any transparent material that permits sunlight into an otherwise dark interior. If the transparent lens of the deadlight passes enough light without significant distortion then that deadlight also serves as a window to the world outside the hull: port-hole; wind-screen, canopy; Navigator's sextant dome; running light lens; search-light lens; observers blister, etc.

        The term deadlight as applied to modern combat submarines describes the transparent windows set into the leading edge of the sail, near the bridge station, used by watch-standers to give them a view forward when on the surface in rough weather. The structure behind the deadlights, like the rest of the sail, is free flooding therefore the deadlights never see a differential pressure greater than wind-blown waves.

        As this discussion is on the practical problems of forming and installing such transparencies, I've pulled up examples of these transparencies (or painted representation of transparencies) from both submarine model work as well as aerospace displays we've been involved with over the decades. Regardless of subject, the methods of fabrication, installation, fairing in, polishing, masking, and painting remain the same; and the examples presented here, regardless of subject, serve to instruct.

        Ellie and I gained a foot-hold in the display building profession by offering our clients above average detailing. That means knowing where the viewers – our audience -- would concentrate their attention. With an aircraft display the viewer always looks into the transparency enclosed 'office'. The cockpit. That's where all the fun stuff is housed.

        Where competitors would offer a solid cockpit canopy with a painted on simulation of a transparency, we would model the cockpit and enclose it in a suitable transparent cockpit enclosure; that enclosure so expertly integrated with the surrounding opaque structure upon which it sat as to look 'real'.

        That attention of detail -- and joy of representing an interior within the display – carried on when our client base transitioned from defense contractors and private commissions to the needs of the r/c and static submarine model trade.

        A good example of a model submarine making use of transparencies is that of this enhanced SEAVIEW model kit, with its big 'windows' at the bow through which the crafts 'observation compartment' can be viewed; to the sail and stern navigation lights; to the big bow mounted search light; and the downward pointing lamps near the tips of the manta-shaped bow.

        The just machined acrylic parts to the extreme left were lathe turned from round stock. The parts and trees are clear items of the Moebius Models SEAVIEW kit. And the two large, creased window section above are cut and bent to shape from .040” CAB, these to replace the kit provided window parts with their distorted optics.

        There are all sorts of rigid transparent plastic sheet and shapes commercially available: Acrylic (Plexiglas is one common trade name), polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene, and cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB), to name but a few.

        We long ago settled on three transparent, thermoplastic types suitable for model work: Acrylic (Plexiglas is a common trade name) because of its hardness and wide selection of sheet thickness and extruded shapes such as round, square, tube, 'L' and 'H'; clear polystyrene sheet and kit 'trees'; and clear sheet CAB.

        We favor CAB clear plastic sheet because of it's ability to be heat-formed without incident, takes a crease without cracking or parting, and its low abrasion resistance, which makes polishing out scratches and paint over-spray a quick and easy operation.
        Here are arrayed acrylic round stock of varied diameter as well as a small hunk of rather thick acrylic sheet; some CAB sheet on the bottom, and a big piece of 'mirror' acrylic sheet, such as used to fake a transparency when there is no room within the models structure for interior details – a reasonable cheat in such circumstances.

        CAB is my go-to type of transparent plastic sheet. I bought packages of varying thicknesses nearly a half-century ago, and the stuff is as clear and work-friendly as the day I purchased it.

        OK. Now. The nitty-gritty of how to represent transparent structures on the model, and do it in a way that adds to the quality of the display, not distract from it.

        Transparencies Derived From A Liquid

        A departure from the use of solid machined or sheet clear plastic is the use of a clear liquid resin to form-in-place windows in per-existing window frames, such as these inserts with open window frames inlaid flush with the surface of this effects miniatures fuselage.

        A backing mask within the fuselage was affixed behind the open window frames, then catalyzed clear epoxy laminating resin was applied with an eye-dropper within each open window frame and left to cure hard. Excess hardened epoxy was filed, sanded, and polished to follow the contour of the fuselage. The inside masking was removed to reveal credible looking transparent passenger windows. Back-lighting the windows would later render that 'lived in' look to the miniature.

        Or, reversing the process from the airplane example:

        This 1/96 KILO model had its deadlight openings masked off, using packaging tape, from the outside. The catalyzed epoxy built up and applied to the inside of the sail. Application of the clear epoxy made easier by thinning the catalyzed adhesive with a bit of MEK or lacquer thinner.

        It usually takes about three layers of epoxy to achieve a transparency approximating the wall thickness of the surrounding structure. You have to moderate how much wet epoxy is laid in – too much and it will run. Hence the need for multiple layers of epoxy, not just one massive glob of goo.

        These three sails of 1/96 BLUEBACK kits demonstrate the three major steps in the liquid deadlight process: To the left, the outside of the deadlights are masked (it does not matter if the mask is clear or opaque), and the epoxy is applied from within the sail.

        The sail on the right, with the epoxy deadlights cured hard, has had its external mask slightly pulled away to reveal the raw epoxy deadlights. From this point the epoxy deadlights are sanded and polished flush to the contour of the sails leading edge.

        The center sail, it's deadlights polished to optical clarity, now receives individual masks in preparation for spot priming and paint.

        And the completed 1/96 KILO and BLUEBACK sails. Both outfitted with deadlights employing the transparencies-derived-from-a-liquid method.

        Credit to Dave Manley who originated these fine r/c model submarine kits and who refined and popularized this method of deadlight representation.

        One more example of a model submarine sail outfitted with leading edge deadlights made this way, is this 1/96 WEBSTER sail.

        Note that the interior of this ready for primer structure has been stuffed with paper towel shreds. This type masking to prevent primer (and later paint) from getting into the sail and spoiling the optical qualities of the deadlight transparencies. I also draw your attention to the blue masking over the clear lens of the starboard running light, and at the trailing edge a mask covering the clear plastic lens of the emergency stern light.

        Applying the first layer of primer. The masks, inside and outside the sail structure, preserve the transparency of the deadlights and running light lenses.

        External masking temporarily removed to check the work.

        Paint Simulated Transparencies

        Sometimes the modeler is just as well served by simply simulating a transparent deadlight, window, astrodome, or other such structure with an off-shade paint followed by a gloss clear coat. Often this cheat is employed owing to the subjects small size where practical transparencies would be a waste of time. Or, a situation where a practical deadlight transparency would be subject to damage from collision or rough handling while in or near the water.

        These little 1/144 scale KILO model sails had their bridge deadlights represented with an off-white. Note that the off-white is sprayed carefully to leave just a hint of dark-gray in the lower edges of each deadlight frame. This give an illusion of 'depth' to each simulated deadlight.

        Paint simulation is an acceptable cheat for small models representing transparencies that do not require back-lighting.

        Though this large 1/60 scale ALBACORE model would have looked a lot better with a proper heat-formed, compound curved bridge deadlight/spray-shield transparency, I elected to retain the much stronger cast resin area – ever fearful of collision damage with surface traffic as I race my toy submarine beneath the surface. This move compelled me to simulate the deadlight with paint. A darkened silver. I went with the silver over an off-white as the location, up high would catch more sun, and that would read better to the observer as a transparency.

        Only the forward portion of the deadlights received an heavy opaque coating of silver paint; I left just enough black at the after end of the deadlights to suggest 'depth'. What made this simulated transparency pop was the gloss over-coat, which produces the reflectivity of a transparency possessing compound curves. Almost like the real thing!

        Mirrored Acrylic Sheet

        In those situations where the transparency is so large that it can't be effectively represented through a paint simulation, and there is not enough real-estate within the model for a proper interior, then a good effect of transparency can be achieved by using a mirror coated plastic sheet. Such is the case with this big model of the FS-1 (the SEAVIEW's Flying-Submarine).

        I would have loved to have had the internal space to gin up a proper interior – which would have looked great through a proper set of transparent deadlights. But, as you can see, every square-inch of internal space was taken up by the water tight cylinder, propulsion units, battery, and flotation foam. The mirrored plastic sheet was my only viable alternative to transparencies. Nuts!

        Mirrors. A viable cheat for actual transparencies.

        Last edited by He Who Shall Not Be Named; 11-28-2022, 12:47 PM.
        Resident Luddite


        • #5
          Thank you, sir!! Somehow, I feel smarter and not so unwashed now!!!


          • #6
            Originally posted by wlambing View Post
            Thank you, sir!! Somehow, I feel smarter and not so unwashed now!!!
            Don't rinse off yet, Bill. More to come. And don't be shy to ask if some points I raise still need amplification -- I got a zillions photos to share that will help explain any questions raised.

            The Horrible
            Resident Luddite


            • #7

              Heat Forming Transparencies

              Those situations where an actual transparency of compound-curve is needed (an airplane canopy, a spaceships astrodome, a submarines 'greenhouse' for example), one is best served to take advantage of the thermoplastic property of CAB. Vacuforming is one form of the process: heating sheet plastic to a state of softness and then forcing the sheet over or into a form to give it the desired shape. Once cooled to room temperature the sheet plastic is once again hard and will retain the new shape unless heated again. Heat forming is the technique of choice for production of clear parts of extreme curvature.

              An example of a heat-formed transparency of compound curves is this well glazed cockpit at the front end of this effects miniature:

              A wooden pattern of the cockpit area was turned and split longitudinally into halves. The cockpit patterns placed on a plenum – essentially a box whose top is perforated. On one side of the plenum box a suction hose leading to the vacuum pump is attached.

              Secured within a two-piece wooden frame a sheet of CAB is heated and quickly placed over the patterns. The bottom of the frame makes a seal between the bottom of the sheet and the top of the plenum. Air is extracted from the pattern side of the sheet. Immediately the differential air pressure between top and bottom of the sheet pushes it down, tightly wrapping the soft sheet over the two patterns. When the sheet cools it hardens, the vacuum is broken, the frame patterns pulled away, the sheet is removed from the frame, the two ogive halves cut out, trimmed, and assembled into a clear nose section ready to be joined to the rest of the model.

              The completed clear nose section is glued to the rest of the model. The union between them filled, filed, sanded, primed, and inspected – those steps repeated til a seamless integration between the transparent and opaque portions of the model was achieved.

              Though this example of vacuforming is being performed on opaque, white, polystyrene plastic sheet, the same process applies to CAB clear plastic sheet.

              Note the use of a wood frame to hold the outer boarders of the plastic sheet as the plastic within the frame is heated. Note also the deep draft of these well pieces; those vacuformed parts eventually inserted within the top of a SEAVIEW sail master later used to make a rubber tool.

              To better illustrate, I've laid prepared vacuformed inserts next to the wood patterns that gave them shape – one representing the well of the open bridge. The other a well to accommodate the retracted radar antenna.

              The vacuum source can me nothing more overwhelming than the household vacuum-cleaner. The differential pressure between top and bottom of the heated plastic does not have to be extreme.

              Here you see the vacuum plenum; the holding frame; and a just pulled upper half of a saucer shaped hull – part of a commissioned 29” long model of Star Trek's ENTERPRISE.

              No better example of a display employing practical transparencies to show off a vehicles interior furnishings and do-dads than this rather large model of the FIREBALL XL-5 – an early commissioned work for one of the Editor's of Starlog Magazine.

              Both the FIREBALL Jr. and main body had their own cockpit transparencies. One in the shape of a half-ogive canopy, the other a rather bulbous tear-drop shaped canopy. Both of these transparencies possessed extreme compound curves, making heat-forming the only viable fabrication means of producing transparent canopies from scratch.

              The formed half-ogive and bubble canopies in process of being polished to optical clarity before being assembled to their respective hull structures. The patterns that imparted shape to the canopies during the heat forming process are in foreground.

              This is what the FIREBALL XL-5 transparent canopies looked like right after being formed over their respective patterns. Note the use of two-piece, hinged wooden frames to hold the plastic sheet during the heating and forming phases of manufacture.

              When done right the union between clear and opaque portions of the display should be undetectable.

              Working as a third-party contractor we got the job of building two von Braun designed spacecraft models for IBM.

              Those vehicle concepts (interpreted by illustrators Bonestell, Klep, and Freeman) came to the public's eye in the early 50's through articles that were published in Collier's magazine and later appeared in several Viking Press books dealing with the subject of space-flight.

              This model of the Moon Reconnaissance Ship featured a wide clear, truncated, hemispherical Command Station canopy atop the Personnel Sphere, and a much smaller hemispherical sextant equipped star-sighting astrodome to the side of the Personnel Sphere. Both of these transparent items were heat formed from CAB plastic sheet.

              (That work eventually displayed during a one year residency on the second-floor of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C. A thrilling surprise for Ellie and me).

              A well built model aircraft will draw the observer's eyes to the cockpit interior, so it is with spacecraft...

              … What's behind that clear canopy? What wonders of model-building will be found in the dark interior of that model?

              I try not to disappoint.

              Under that big transparency is a fair representation of the illustrated 'command-chair' and attached optical instruments which were visualized in the magazine and books mentioned previously.

              Incidentally, I bet Mr. Freeman (a master of detailed cut-away illustration) was influenced by his study of the powered gun-turret style White-Sands and Canaveral rocket tracking cameras developed at the dawn of the space-age.

              You can just make out the two semi-spherical vacuformed transparencies below in this rogues-gallery shot of parts fabricated for the Moon Reconnaissance Ship display.

              Ironically, about the time of our IBM work, Bob Burns, out in California, who was very much plugged in with the effects houses and talent that serviced the film industry there approached me to consider joining a team of other professional model-builders engaged in the restoration of the much abused big 'hero' miniature of the Spaceship-One from the George Pal movie, The Conquest Of Space.

              At the time I was serving on a destroyer tender, which, for embarked Diver's amounted to shore-duty, meaning I could squeeze in enough free-time to take on the job. The stars were in proper alignment.

              Spaceship-One was made up of three separable units: The big wing which would glide itself, with the return-to-earth ship mounted on its back, to a landing on Mars. A booster that would provide the Delta-V to get the craft from Earth orbit to Mars, and also provide the breaking required to get the rest of the ship into the Martian atmosphere. And the return-to-earth ship.

              The design of the entire Spaceship-One effects miniature was loosely based on the ship proposed in the book, The Mars Project, authored by Dr. Wernher von Braun in the late 40's (which, incidentally was the source material for the above mentioned magazine articles and Viking Press books).

              This photo, a frame enlargement from a copy of the movie, shows the dramatic lift-off of the return-to-earth ship from the discarded wing section.

              It was agreed I would restore the return-to-earth ship on the east coast (I was stationed in Florida at the time), while the booster and wing element would be handled by the Burbank guys on the other side of the country. Luminaries of the special effects industry they were. Bob and Dennis Skotak, Bob Burns, Mike Minor, and a few guys from the ILM crew.


              They shipped the return-to-earth miniature – what was left of it – to me. This was our introduction to the big time of effects model building.

              The movies return-to-earth ship miniature was practical in that it contained custom made solid rocket motors who's grain was formulated and cast to throw plenty of smoke and fire, but develop little thrust, as the movies take-off scene employed wire-work to actually lift the miniature up and away from the miniature set depicting the Martian surface. The smoke and fire produced by the miniatures 'engines' was for effect, not propulsion – they didn't want this thing to punch a hole through the studio roof!

              I assume that multiple takes of that take-off scene were required because, as I dug into the return ship miniature, I found plenty of char within the GRP hull, and the two transparencies (off model when I got it), though well distanced from the nozzles, had yellowed with age and also evidenced distortion from heat.

              And the three stabilizing fins were missing – one of the California guys informed me that they were broken off previously by a Jerry Lewis production crew as they rigged the miniature for a first-unit gag shot. All for not: that footage wound up on the cutting-room floor.

              (Most post-production effects miniatures don't fade away, they are first tortured to death then unceremoniously tossed into a dumpster!)

              In foreground, left-to-right, is the cockpit hemisphere; astrodome; two smelly, terribly decomposing latex space suited figures; the pipe-stand hard-point that held the miniature during some of the in-flight shots; and a fin pattern used to make a tool from which I cast glass reinforced resin replacements.

              Previous to this shot I had radially split the body of the ship to get at the pipe-stand support and powder-rocket support structure. The miniature was then put back together. The after portion has already been cleaned up and a check coating of primer laid down.

              Part of the work required to put this little piece of film history right was to lathe turn patterns of the forward cockpit canopy (the original, for some reason, was a full hemisphere) and side mounted hemispherical astrodome. Over those patterns I vacuformed new, optically clear replacement transparencies from CAB.

              Below is a shot of the completed Spaceship-One hero miniature, restored and ready for display at the Bob Burns Museum.

              This scene is a live set, representing a POV from outside the ship, looking through the astrodome at members of the Mars expedition.

              As I endeavored to capture and model as many elements of the ships interior that could be seen through the transparencies, I studied still shots like this and constantly reviewed a VHS copy of the movie.

              A gimbaled astrogator's couch and attached optical equipment was modeled to scale with the miniature and fit to the inside of the vacuformed astrodome.

              Though not practical on the miniature, the full sized set featured a sliding two-piece section of streamlined hull just ahead of the cockpit transparency that was lowered into the hull to afford a view for the pilots as they lined up for the landing on Mars.

              The miniature obviously had a plug-in section that has been long lost, so I made a new one that could be plugged in or removed depending on the demands of the display.

              The replacement cockpit transparency mounted at the front of the return ship. Within you can make out the crew ladder. (sick puppy that I am I even proved an out-of-sight 'space-speed-indicator' further down the ladder). Though no evidence of the brace-work under the canopy existed on the return ship miniature, it was most evident on the live set, so I modeled those elements as well.

              One last look at what can be made using the vacuforming process:

              Nearly an entire model can be constructed of vacuformed parts. A filming miniature of this spacecraft, built for the movie, Flight To Mars, seems to have been pressed into service for just about every 50's science fiction movie. Obviously, hardware nerd that I am. Here's that work:

              It took only three sheets of .060” thick polystyrene to come up with all the parts. The real work was cutting each part away from the sheet and sanding them for proper fit. Note the use of polystyrene discs within one hull half; there to strengthen and assure proper registration of the two hull halves as they were glued together with CA adhesive.

              A submarines 'greenhouse'?

              Well. For nearly three decades the incredible Ray Mason and I have talked about collaborating on a SEAVIEW model. Not the familiar one, but an r/c model representing the SEAVIEW as illustrated on the book-jacket below. The book a novelization of the movie screen-play.

              Ray and I were captured by the allure of this unique departure from the vehicle popularized in the movie and TV series. Yes, we're both acknowledged leading lights in this game of r/c submarining – total detail freaks and gear-heads. This kind of project is the stuff that keeps miserable old farts like us young of heart, and still joyously in the game.

              (I see you ducking for cover, Ray!)

              Basically a tricked out SKIPJACK hull form with a ball-room sized, well glazed, Observation Compartment blended into the trailing edge of an enormous sail.
              I bring all this stuff up to point to the fact that a pressure-proof, clear, practical, watertight structure like this can be achieved through the heat forming process.

              Resident Luddite


              • #8
                All good stuff, Sensei!!!! Even addressed what I will have to do for the stern light on the OTW Oberon I have languishing in the shipyard! Thank you! Can I rinse off now???


                • #9
                  Originally posted by wlambing View Post
                  All good stuff, Sensei!!!! Even addressed what I will have to do for the stern light on the OTW Oberon I have languishing in the shipyard! Thank you! Can I rinse off now???
                  Nope. Just keep the lather out of your eye's, Bill. The concluding part-3 will go up tonight or tomorrow. Read that and you're clear to hose off.

                  As for that OBERON. Here's a hint:

                  Last edited by He Who Shall Not Be Named; 11-30-2022, 11:43 AM.
                  Resident Luddite


                  • #10
                    The Oberon's use a small clear fairing on the end of the turtle-back to cover the stern light. Similar to the back 1/3 of a P-51 bubble canopy. Thanks again!!!!!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wlambing View Post
                      The Oberon's use a small clear fairing on the end of the turtle-back to cover the stern light. Similar to the back 1/3 of a P-51 bubble canopy. Thanks again!!!!!
                      Part-3 -- turning into a frig'n epic! -- should help you with exotic shapes that are back-lit. Stay tuned, sports fans.

                      Resident Luddite