Space van

 Sometimes you begin a project almost out of nowhere. You see something, a piece, any unexpected bit of rubbish, any everyday object, no matter what, and then you see it. You envision a totally different thing. This happened to me recently. Earlier this year I saw a very particular pen holder at the office. Great thing to keep pencils and markers separated, to have your post-its or whatever. Sure. But I saw a different thing.

CD for scale. Not included in the pen holder. No, it doesn't play music either

The shape of this thing immediately resembled me a space ship. I know, I know, it's not the standard thing any normal person should see here, but in my defence I'll say you should see how I perform at Roscharch tests.

Anyway. A space ship. In 28mm. The curved part would be the prow, the bulkier part would be the main hull section. Please let me, if not elaborate, at least show. First of all we'll need some medium-rough cardboard.

The ship is too short now, so it needs some length. I made an extension at the stern, in which I also put the rear cargo ramp. Cardboard is kind of underrated in the hobby. It can provide some decent structures with very little work and it's easy to handle. So I made this weird box and it somehow worked. Not only that, it allowed me to make a curve shape on the top part, so I felt quite encouraged to keep on.

I insist to see a space ship here. Please give me some time

I got this textured sheet and cut these two pieces:

It will make sense. Eventually

I had to fill in this empty section between the two main shapes, so I thought it would be the right place to put the access doors. So what you are seeing is just the step in front of the door.

Both sides, I'll make two doors

I said that working with cardboard has some advantages. Here you have, I thought I could make some portholes for the ship:

First time I use this thing for modelling purposes, promise

This is a weirdly shaped piece...

And where is this... thing supposed to go?

Here! This is roughly the basic shape of the ship!

No, it's OK if you are still skeptical

Let's go for the "roof" of the main section. This time I needed a thinner cardboard piece, to adapt it to the curved shape:

Something like this

I took the opportunity to make this hatch and add some more 3D feeling

I hope you can see the general idea by now! The next stage would be the pilot's cabin.

It will be placed in the central section

I toyed with the idea of assymetry and having the cabin on one of the sides, but in the end I thought it would work better this way.

More punched cardboard! It's addictive!

But why am I making so much trouble out of this? Why am I making the inner part of the ship?

Oh, because I expect it to be seen!

It doesn't look like that, but I know what I'm doing


I cannot honestly remember where did that piece come from. I only know I have been keeping it in my bits box for more than two decades. Quite literally. I had always planned to add it to any weird project, but in my mind I always thought more of giant robots or something like that. I have finally found a place for it! Horaay!

The piece is translucent, so in my mind the original plan was to make some detailing in the interior, but not too much (spoiler: there will be a change of plans ahead, but we'll get to that later...)

For now just keep this in mind, the interior will be visible

As the canopy is supposed to be translucent, there's no need to make a super detailed area. I can make it a little bit crude or rough.

No joking, that's going to be the seat!

I mean it!

So now that you are following my train of thought, why bother adding tons of realistic details? If it's not going to be really well seen, I can simply paint the stuff instead of building it!

You thought I was bluffing?

For the pilot I took one of my old sci fi civilians and made a slight conversion. Again, a crude work, having in mind the translucent canopy. So it's a relaxed guy, with his thermo flask, clicking all those buttons pilots click on the movies.

Check. Check. Check.

So this is more or less the general idea and the basic shape of this space ship:

Flying brick. Totally ready for WH40K

Just an idea. If the Millennium Falcon is a light freighter, this tiny thing is kind of the equivalent of a cargo van!

Let's keep on. After many ridiculous and unsuccessful experiments, I finally found the way to add a couple of engines.

Test #56 (give or take)

Hmmm. I could work with this...

I primed the inner parts now. Once attached to the hull it will be impossible to spray them!

So you can finally see the real shape of the space van

Yup, that thing on the shelf is the Athenian Trireme WIP

Well, from now on it's all a matter of adding details.

By 'details' I mean 'more rubbish', of course

I made a shy experiment with metal wire, but I wasn't really able to make it fit the shapes of the ship, the engines and so. Then I made the easy solution:

Green stuff!

Final stage: the landing gear. No sweat, just give me some more cardboard:

Two layers on every piece

Crappy yet functional

They are sturdy enough for their purpose. In fact cardboard offers a lot of solutions for many problems. As said above, it's so underrated!

Here you have, the finished ship!

It's so awful that it's beautiful

It's shabby, I'll give you that, but that's precisely part of its charm! I mean, it's kind of a trope itself in sci-fi, the old, ugly ship, on the edge of being sent to the scrapyard. Oh, now I'm perpetuating cliches!

Whatever. Let's get some paint on this piece of junk!

She finally looks like something when primed!

Time for an embarrassing confession...

This is my largest brush

Right, I'm wild crazy enough to do that. I thought that was already settled by now. So, some hours later...

Shades and repeat the process!

Some more hours later...

No, I wouldn't define my laugh as 'maniac'

I'm keeping her in a kind of dark-ish scale of colours, but I don't want to go too dark (or even worse, too grimdark!). In fact, don't you think she looks like... like a...

...a chibi Serenity!!

Dammit, I cannot unsee it now.

I painted the rear ramp, as it was too dull:

Yes, I should have done it 3D, but I'm way too lazy

Some more colour! And a few decals!

Serenity so kawaii!

OK, now I faced an unexpected problem, that in fact made me take a different path and change my original plans. I tried to clear a bit the translucent canopy, in order to make it a little bit more transparent. I read that brushing some toothpaste on the piece would do fine. So I tried!

Spoiler: It went wrong.

After the first attempt it was more opaque

After three attempts I got this shit

Then, science is based on observation and experimentation. Trust me, I had my share of science (sigh). The good part of this is that the canopy now smells great! I won't need to sculpt an air freshener to hang from the rearview mirror!

Of course this all means that I needed to take a different approach.

Deep breath.

My only choice was painting it all as if it was glass. But, as shabby as the interior of the cabin was, once it was done I really didn't want to cover it definitely and lose the whole piece. So I made my choice.


Smallest magnets I could find

Some cardboard strips

And some weird bits cut out from a sprue!

Of course if I was doing a detachable canopy, it had to be detailed in the inside!

First of all, everything primed in black


Random guiding systems and stuff

Ahh, the buttons the pilot is clicking!

Then the outside. My recipe for glass is quite easy. Dark blue and then lighter hues to make reflections.

Kind of comic book effect, but it works for me

Lighter blue

Again! Even lighter! Next step is just almost pure white and...


I also added a small HUD on the pilot's desk, some kind of holoscreen.

Still check. Check. Check

Here you have the space van from different angles. If you look closer you will see my usual signs in Gothic. Aeris ductus (Air intake), Cave pedes (watch your step), Non gradere (no step), Cautio (Caution) and this time I have added Abite (Stay away) on the rear ramp.

There's little else I can add. Just a final pic, as I have come to a terrible revelation...

I need a bigger spaceport on my board!!!

Oh, well, a final pic. A final, final pic, this time it's true. Just to see the size of the ship, a comparison shot:

Suberian Airlines

That's all! I believe I have to give the ship a name. Being a chibi Serenity, I don't know, I guess the Calmy could be an option. The So-so. The Easy-ish. Oh, I guess I'm better taking your suggestions!! :D


  1. That is incredible. Love the whole process and what a great looking ship in the end! I really admire your creativity and talent to produce these scratch builds. The finished shot in the star port was just fantastic.

    1. Thank you very much! I have to admit that, though I had a rough, general idea in mind, I wasn't sure of how would it end up looking! But I guess that's part of the fun in these projects, to let them flow and let them take you wherever! :D

  2. Wonderful work Suber, from concept to final execution. When you showed the basix structure could instantly see possibilities, there was a toy in the 70's that had a similar shape, if slightly elongated. Can you ever have too many spaceports ! LOL As for a name have you considered Tranquillity ?

    1. Thanks! Right, the shape of this thing was really asking for something, I couldn't leave it undone! Hmm.. Tranquility. I like it!

  3. Fantastic work Suber! Great imagination from start to finish and a awesome result.
    Everyone needs a larger spaceport!
    I do like Dave's suggestion of Tranquility.

    1. Thank you! Haha, I have to arrange space for platforms and more spaceports!! :D

  4. Great stuff man!
    As for the toothpaste, what I've learned is the toothpaste acts as a gentle abbrasive if you thoroughly polish the piece with a piece of cloth after applying it. Then wash it off, and finally put on a coat of clear varnish.

    1. I was going to suggest clear varnish to save that canopy but I think the end result was just as good.

      There are also abrasives much finer than toothpaste, but they're specialty and probably not cheap. Definitely not worth it to save a one cent plastic part.

    2. Thank you both! What happened with the toothpaste remains a mystery to me, but I'm quite intrgued, so I think I'll try more experiments on the subject!

  5. What a fantastic build, and a such a detailed post showing how its done. You don't stuff like this much these days! Two thumbs up!

    1. Thank you very much! You see, this was kind of a temporary crazy impulse I couldn't resist! It was a lot of fun, if not a little bit addictive, now I want to scratch build tons of crazy stuff! XD

  6. LOVE IT! Not sure what else to say. IT'S SO GOOD!

    1. Thank you very much! I won't dare to say she's a classy vessel, but she's certainly my baby!

  7. Brilliant! That really is great work. Seeing it all build up through the pictures is excellent. Really cool.

    1. Thank you very much! I have to say I even expected it to take me much longer, but as the main lines of the ship were already given to me, it all was much swifter than anticipated, so I won't complain! :D

  8. This was super enjoyable from start to finish, great work all the way around and thanks for sharing! 'Calmy' gave me a chuckle, but I think Dave's 'Tranquility' is more fitting ;)

    1. Thank you so much! You can see it all was super easy to do, I never use difficult techniques or specialised materials. I would like to say that it's because I adhere to the spirit of the Rogue Trader times, but in fact it's mostly because I'm that lazy!

  9. Really fantastic build - illustrates perfectly what can be done with an interestingly shaped bit of plastic and some card. It's a shame that the cockpit didn't work out as you'd hoped, but the magnets are a good fix.

    1. Thanks! Right, you know that I never make things more complicated than needed, I always keep things cheap & easy, and this ship is an example of it. The cockpit was a bummer at the first moment, but I also enjoyed the alternate solution, and it allowed me to do more crazy stuff, so I'm happy with how things happened. I was talking on another blog about "happy accidents" the other day, and this is indeed one of them!

  10. As soon as I read "Chibi Serenity" I laughed out loud at my work desk. So funny.

    What a fantastic build and impressive vision mate! The finished product is perfect for all sorts of sci-fi settings too.

    As for a name - that thing looks like it should never be able to fly, so how about the Dodo?

    1. Except that the dodo looks like it can't fly, and also could not in fact fly. Whereas this looks like a dodo but soars through the heavens as gracefully as a swan.

    2. Hahaha, thank you!! The Dodo made me chuckle too! I think her lines are quite generic, I mean, this ship could work on 40K, on Star Wars, on Firefly... you know, that's the kind of stuff I enjoy. I knew I wanted a flying brick, and I think it opens some possibilities for scenarios in such different settings.
      BTW, of course she's so graceful. I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar.

  11. Ah that is amazing! Love how your modeler's eye saw that organizer and thought "spaceship". The painted inside of the canopy is so cool, and I would never have thought to do the stars, but it totally works out.

    (there is a pen organizer I keep eying at work that says " 1/300 scale office tower")

    1. Thank you very much!! I believe that the spirit of this plastic piece is now more satisfied, now it has achieved a real purpose! The same goes for you, that pen organizer is really calling you!!!

  12. Una vez más, me dejas sin palabras…, ¿cómo eres capaz de ver a partir de un cacho de plástico que todos tiraríamos, una promesa de nave espacial. Y lo más alucinante, es que vas haciendo un paso a paso que parece obvio, como si únicamente estuvieras uniendo los puntitos del típico dibujo para niños… En serio, me descubro ante semejante trabajazo. Y por si fuera poco, no te contentas con hacer la nave espacial, preparas una carlinga y pintas por dentro y por fuera, ¿es necesario?, no, pero da igual, tú sabes que eso está ahí, que la puedes poner y quitar y desde dentro, puedes ver lo que el piloto ve…

    Una maravilla de trabajo, mi más sincera enhorabuena por la idea y la ejecución

    1. ¡Muchas gracias! En realidad es un poco como dices, la forma de la nave estaba ahí desde el principio, yo solamente he cerrado los espacios abiertos y poco más. La verda es que he disrutado el proceso como un enano :D

  13. Whoa! This is amazing. The blunt utilitarian look and the variations of width and height along its profile are pleasing.

    It's the sort of thing I always imagine doing, but then I imagine it turning out looking like a giant pile of poop. But yours is not poop. Not at all.

    1. Oh, thank you very much! I think you really said it, it's the different heights and widths what make this thing work visually (alongside with the combination of curves and straight lines, I believe). I would have liked to make it even more 3D, but I guess I'm still learning to scratch build objects this size. Some lessons learned for future projects!

  14. Te ha quedado genial, ahora me han entrado ganas de hacer una cosa parecida, como si no tuviese esceno o minis a paladas para pintar :(

    1. ¡Muchas gracias! Esto de construir desde cero es un vicio, yo ahora quiero hacer muchas más cosas de repente, jaja

  15. Awesome scratch build, lovely finish, really enjoyed the step by step process too!
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you very much! It was a different thing to do, and I did enjoy it all the way!

  16. Absolutely stunning work.

    1. Thank you! But you see, cheap & easy, I run away from complicated stuff!!

  17. ...este es el tipo de proyectos que me gustan. He tenido que leer bien para asegurarme que era el piloto y no un tío cagando... no se porqué me ha recordado a cuando viajas en avión, te entra el apretón y estando en plena faena vienen turbulencias xD Está más que genial, mis dieses.

  18. Suber ... I know I am NOT doing your work justice with this short comment ... but this is simply AMAZING work. Love it!

    1. Oh, thank you so much! I do appreciate it :D