Adventures in model making – Building the 1/350th scale Enterprise

It was on my bucket list.

Like so many things on my bucket list, I had put it off. I was too busy with other things, I had too much work to do, I couldn’t put aside the time to do it. I also questioned myself, thinking that I wasn’t good enough to do it.

Then I had drinks with my friend Neil, and he told me how he was doing this – the same activity I was procrastinating – to relax, to take his mind off things. It helped him. “Work-life balance,” he said, as he drank down a gin and tonic. “Work-life balance.”

After that chat, I decided – screw it, I’m doing it.

“It” in this case was building the biggest model kit I ever attempted – Polar Light’s 1/350th scale model of the USS Enterprise from the original Star Trek. Finished, the model is over 32 inches long – almost three feet.

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It was intimidating.

As I started putting it together, my wife (aka She Who Must Be Obeyed) rolled her eyes, but she understood – as a father of three, and the sole breadwinner, I very seldom did something just for me… and the more I continued the more I realized I really did need to do this.

It was easier than I thought, but it was still hard to do well… and I wanted to do this well. I wanted the finished model to be a museum quality piece, and that meant patience. I tend to rush things, and the process of building out this ship meant that I needed to take my time.

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I decided not to light it, because A) I wanted to recreate the prop model that was used for publicity shots before the show began, way back in 1966 and B) I couldn’t afford the very pricy lighting kit – not to mention that if She Who Much Be Obeyed found out I had spent that much it would put a real damper on my love life. I instead painted the windows black and white before gluing them in, and made sure to add accent colors that were as close to the original as possible. I ended up using sharpies more than model paint, because it gave me more control when detailing.

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It took three days over two weekends., but when it was done I was extremely satisfied. Is it perfect? No. But it is MINE, and when doing it I was reminded of the satisfaction I felt when I crafted things by hand. I – and I think we, as a culture – have lost a lot of that, in our rampant consumerism. In this I agree with TV personality Mike Rowe – we should build more things, learn a trade and a craft. Model making is not construction or woodwork, obviously – but the satisfaction at the end of the project is the same.

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I also learned I should not put off things as much – I live a life of great privilege compared to much of the world, and I need to appreciate it and take advantage of that. I only have one life, so I need to live it more. For me, that means travel, and knocking off some of those items off that bucket list…

And, yes, building models.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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