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How To Build a Borg Cube


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#1 Mark

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 06:15 PM

Mark: Last night, just for fun, I tried to build a model of a Borg Cube ship, using a nicely square piece of, Styrofoam, and a bit of black paint.
Now, I'm no chemist, but I certainly wouldn't have thought black spray paint would semi-melt the my lovely, perfectly square, plastic cube.   :whistle:  However, it did! I now know to use a water-based paint, instead of an oil-based one when working with Styrofoam.
I'm going back to the old drawing board tonight, to see if I can salvage my lovely Borg Cube ship, or begin entertaining the notion of turning this particular piece of plastic into Borg Cube ship that has been through a battle, and lost.

I posted this topic in "Exploring the Universe", because the idea of creating special effects for film purposes doesn't really fall into the "Creativity" category, to me. My mixture of chemicals failing to do as I wished seems more worthy of a science topic, rather than a creative process topic.

So, how would some of you other people consider building a Borg Cube ship from scratch? I've had that piece of Styrofoam in my closet for well over a year, and have looked at it, trying to figure out a way to turn it into my own version of a Borg Cube. Perhaps I should have used the Styrofoam for a mold, or something, instead?
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#2 Orpheus

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 06:44 PM

Well, Mark, it just occurred to me that I have the perfect solution to your quandary -- right in my hallway at the moment.

You can buy a 4'x8'  3/8" styrofoam insulating sheet for ~$10 (a little less for 1/4" a little more for 1/2") at any Home Improvement warehouse. It comes in pink or white. Typically a given store will sell one or the other (e.g.  HQ sells a pink which is more durable for many applications, and a thinner pink sheet insulation that is tough enough to use for light duty hinges! Lowe's sells the white styrofoam that I prefer for architectural and other modeling) The best part? It comes with (removable) aluminized backing plastic on one side.

It's very easy to work with. Traditionally it is cut with a plastic cutter made from a piece of nichrome wire, scrap wood and screws, while details are cut with a hot knife -- but frankly, a utility knife and carpenter's square works almost as well

#3 Mark

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 06:55 PM

View PostOrpheus, on Aug 21 2007, 06:44 PM, said:

Well, Mark, it just occurred to me that I have the perfect solution to your quandary -- right in my hallway at the moment.

You can buy a 4'x8'  3/8" styrofoam insulating sheet for ~$10 (a little less for 1/4" a little more for 1/2") at any Home Improvement warehouse. It comes in pink or white. Typically a given store will sell one or the other (e.g.  HQ sells a pink which is more durable for many applications, and a thinner pink sheet insulation that is tough enough to use for light duty hinges! Lowe's sells the white styrofoam that I prefer for architectural and other modeling) The best part? It comes with (removable) aluminized backing plastic on one side.

It's very easy to work with. Traditionally it is cut with a plastic cutter made from a piece of nichrome wire, scrap wood and screws, while details are cut with a hot knife -- but frankly, a utility knife and carpenter's square works almost as well

Mark: Yeah! Thanks, Orpheus!  
I remember reading and watching a special on the making of special effects for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and the prop-artist used a LOT of foam for certain things...like logs, rocks, etc...etc..  I was just using the wrong kind of "foam".
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#4 Orpheus

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 07:10 PM

Well, you can also pick up some spray polyurethane expanding foam (usually Great Stuff™ brand) at any hardware store for stuff like that. In the past, I've bought plastic resins (anything from tough tool casting resins, to epoxy, to polystyrene foaming resins from companies like US Composites (a division of Dupont). I find them indispensable for prototyping or even home repairs*. It's cheaper and better for larger projects.

* You know those plastic parts that break, forcing you to buy a new appliance? You can make them yourself!

Edited by Orpheus, 21 August 2007 - 07:11 PM.


#5 Hambil

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 07:20 PM

You can try lego. If they can do this: http://homepage.mac....otoAlbum27.html then you could certainly do a Borg Cube :p

#6 Mark

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 07:22 PM

View PostHambil, on Aug 21 2007, 07:20 PM, said:

You can try lego. If they can do this: http://homepage.mac....otoAlbum27.html then you could certainly do a Borg Cube :p

Mark: So why does the Lego version look better than my attempt at building a commercially available Enterprise-D model kit?  :glare:

Edited by Mark, 21 August 2007 - 07:23 PM.

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#7 Orpheus

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 09:27 PM

View PostMark, on Aug 21 2007, 08:22 PM, said:

Mark: So why does the Lego version look better than my attempt at building a commercially available Enterprise-D model kit?  :glare:
You're a Klingon. Obviously, the Lego Guy just has better spies in the Federation.

#8 Christopher

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 09:38 PM

I'd think the simplest way to build a Borg cube is just to take the plastic frames from a bunch of model kits, the ones that hold the model pieces together, and just glue a few layers of them together to make each side and then glue the sides together.  Something like that.  I wouldn't be surprised if the original cube miniatures used similar components.  Back in the olden days, before computers took over the world, a lot of TV/movie miniatures were "kitbashed" from model-kit components.
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#9 Captain Jack

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 02:07 AM

Take Orpheus' advice and buy the pink sheets.  Put 'em together, and leave them like that.  No one ever suspects a pink Borg cube...just the silver and black ones.  ;)

View PostChristopher, on Aug 21 2007, 07:38 PM, said:

I'd think the simplest way to build a Borg cube is just to take the plastic frames from a bunch of model kits, the ones that hold the model pieces together, and just glue a few layers of them together to make each side and then glue the sides together.  Something like that.  I wouldn't be surprised if the original cube miniatures used similar components.  Back in the olden days, before computers took over the world, a lot of TV/movie miniatures were "kitbashed" from model-kit components.

That's actually what a friend of mine did.  He bought flat sheets of styrene plastic, made a cube, and buit up layers upon layers of used plastic frames and trees from his other model sets.  He als cut smaller rectanges and squares and glued them on in some places as "patchwork" since not the entire cube is "see thru", and has some "solid" looking parts to it sporatically arranged.  He also added LED lights here and there, and a battery pack since the center of the cube was hollow.  He hid the hatch on top to replace the batteries.  Use Testors model glue (you'll probably need 2 tubes of it) sparingly.  His was about 3 feet cubed.
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#10 Christopher

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:34 AM

Actually, wouldn't the simplest way to make a Borg cube be to dump an old car into a junkyard compactor? :D
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#11 Mark

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 12:30 PM

Mark: I'm starting to think it may be simpler to build my Borg cube from 1/4", or 1/2" plywood, hen covering it with a thin coating of flat black, or dark gray primer paint. From there I would glue tiny squares of black chrome, and/or square pieces of large-type glitter (meticulously placed), and use paper clip wire of differing sizes for the conduit looking pipes that protrude from the cube.
I could route the plywood in a few strategic places to create some depth (as I remember them having some)...and mount different colored lights (mostly green, or clear) inside the cube, drilling tiny holes through which the lights would appear. It would be really nice to have a green laser or two emitting their light from my cube, also.

I think this project is simple enough to be achievable, and cheap enough for even me to afford. If done properly, I don't see why it wouldn't make an effective, real-looking ship...even for use in a home made Trek film.

(still trying to imagine why the new Flash Gordon series is choosing not to have a rocket, or other space vehicles as part of their production) I just don't see having a space ship prohibited by budget concerns...unless the producers only thought of employing the usual Hollywood model-makers who create model ships for productions, and charge many thousands of dollars for each one. Or, are only computer-generated ships being considered for use in productions these days?
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#12 Zoxesyr

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Posted 17 September 2007 - 05:03 PM

View PostChristopher, on Aug 22 2007, 02:38 AM, said:

I'd think the simplest way to build a Borg cube is just to take the plastic frames from a bunch of model kits, the ones that hold the model pieces together, and just glue a few layers of them together to make each side and then glue the sides together.  Something like that.  I wouldn't be surprised if the original cube miniatures used similar components.  Back in the olden days, before computers took over the world, a lot of TV/movie miniatures were "kitbashed" from model-kit components.

((whoops, I missed orph's post about paintable styro, so i edited this paragraph out))

The original Borg cube in TNG (in the Q episode) was actually a matte painting that was animated.  So was the initial cube in the first part of TNG "Best of Both Worlds", but the one appearing in the second part was a physical model that could explode.

In reviewing the explosion, it is very clear that the cube was model-kit sprues layered onto some kind of hollow cube.  It was painted nearly black with a silverish dry brushing on top.  Judging from the sprues, the exploding cube couldn't have been more than 10 to 14 inches on a side.

I think that plywood is overkill and that you could use something much lighter, like foam-core, or even thick cardboard.  Check out StarshipModelers.com or FineScaleModeler.com.  I think both of them have Borg cubes, spheres, etc, etc.

You would also want to put some kind of lighting on the inside, to give the glare effect seen in the show.

Edited by Zoxesyr, 17 September 2007 - 05:22 PM.

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