Monday, 14 March 2011

Model Making: Habitation Dome, Sci-fi table-top scenery (Part 1)!

I started a project to make a centre piece for a retro sci-fi wargame sometime early last years. The project was inspired by a plastic domed light fitting that I had had lying around for several years and not really know what to do with.

The project has stalled somewhat at the moment, as I work on other things, but I have recently been working up a few more scenic items for the sci-fi game and so I will probably get around to finishing it off sometime very soon!

As I built the model I photographed the whole process and so here is a run through of the construction.

Cut two 18"x 18" squares of 1" polystyrene which will make up the base of the piece. This is quite a good size for me as I have a series of base boards that are either 18x18 or 18x36, so this will fit in nicely with those.
I have also knocked up a simple plan, just to give myself an idea on how to proceed. The ground floor will be set into the top layer of foam, giving an extra inch of depth for headroom within the dome.
There is a central lift shaft which also supports the first floor control room.

hab dome 1

 hab dome 2
2 sheets of 1" styrofoam, cut 18"x18". The top sheet is marked out with the position of the dome the site of the entry ramp.

hab dome 3

This is the base ring for the light fitting.

hab dome 4

This is the dome in place.

Now I have to cut the ground floor out of the top sheet of foam and also cut the sloped entry ramp!
I just cut out the top layer of foam using a large hot wire cutter. I set the wire at about a 10 degree angle (just to make it a little more interesting than vertical).

 hab dome 5
I also cut the entry ramp, which was a little trickier due to the compound angles. So after cutting it I found I had to sand it quite a bit to get it level.

 hab dome 6
I have now glued the 2 layers of foam together and also glued in the entry ramp. I have used quick drying filler to fill the gaps and left the model to dry overnight.

 hab dome 7
Then I cut a 80mm diameter postal tube to use as the central lift shaft. Also, using 6mm MDF, I have cut the interior dividing walls. Due to time constraints and also some aesthetic concerns, I have abandoned the central ring corridor.
My projects always tend to evolve as I move them into 3D!

The black rectangle in the lower right of the photo is going to be a freight lift door set into the ground beside the dome, designed to suggest that there are more floors below ground.

 hab dome 8
This is the upper floor, cut slightly smaller than the outer ring of the building so that the roof dome will locate into the ring. Again 80mm postal tube used for the lift shaft.

hab dome 9

Dome in place, checking the fit of the inner floors and postal tubes.

hab dome 10

Then I cut the connecting doorways between each of the rooms. Normally on a wargaming model I would simply add door frames onto the wall and paint the wall as the door. But for this project I felt it would be nice to use some slightly thinner material for the doors, adding to the realism. I may also model one or two of the doors in the open position.

hab dome 11

Here I am gluing the doors to the inside of the lift shaft. I used some of the same tube to make the doors with. Fortunately the difference in the curve was not enough to cause any problems.

hab dome 12

I have been spreading flexible filler on the interior floor polystyrene, in an attempt to disguise the polystyrene beading. A slow process of fill, dry, sand, repeat!

hab dome 13

hab dome 14

I used a smaller diameter tube for the actual lift cabin. I thin the size will be deceptive, once the only way to see it is through the open doors!

hab dome 15

The open atrium area is now cut, also the cream coloured object is part of a yogurt pot that is going to be my main computer bank (very retro).
Added doors to the doorways, glued the main walls in place and added a coat of gray paint.

hab dome 16

Here you can see the open lift doors and open door on the lower deck.

hab dome 17

I added the dividing wall on the upper deck. This will divide the control roof from Hydroponics.

hab dome 18

The gray is darker than I would like. I will probably repaint a good bit lighter. Here you can also see the central lift shaft. I have placed a cone of card into it, and hopefully with some concentric rings and tapering lines painted onto the cone it will give an illusion of a deep shaft.

hab dome 19

Looking straight down the shaft!

 hab dome 20
Close up of the open door on the lower deck. The walls are made of 6mm MDF, the doors from 2mm MDF.

At the moment I am working on strengthening the polystyrene sheets, mounting a card edge to it to match my terrain boards and covering it with papier mache for strength.

Card re-enforcements for the edges of the polystyrene:-
hab dome 21

Papier-mâché used to cover the polystyrene, strengthen the whole board and hide the polystyrene's "bobbly" texture:-
hab dome 22

Adding more paper:-
hab dome 23

That is about where I have gotten to at the moment. I am slowly working on the main entry ramp and door at the moment. 

Also I have decided that even though the interior is purely 28mm scale I will keep any obvious scale items off of the outside, so that I can use it for my 15mm sci-fi games as well.

Part 2 of this post will hopefully come along sometime in the next month or two.


  1. Wow, this already looks very promising. Nice work!

  2. Great step-by-step. I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out. It looks great so far.

  3. That is looking great so far - a Fortress of Solitude, perhaps?

  4. After reading your recent CTB, the my first impression of the first few pictures was that it would be the Wheel of Pain. :)

    Looks great though!


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