The "Laika", explorer flying ship

A whole new project today, to end 2023!

The title should give you a hint ;) For so many years I've been obsessed with those modellers who build sci-fi or steampunk flying vessels from scratch. After a long, long time I've made my mind up and I'm giving a step ahead. Let's see what happens!

First of all, I wouldn't like to put the cart before the horse. Or whatever vehicular allegory can apply here. I'm starting with the base. Just al old CD and two pieces of good, old school metal, who knows where from. I just happened to have those at the bottom of a box for decades. You can also see a brush, but don't be deceived, I'm not really using it:

Look at its case, though

Ah, there it is

You see, just some DAS clay and the top of the brush case. While all this gets ready, let's move onto the case itself.

And this strange piece of a tube I literally got from the works on a building close to home

I'm wrapping the case in plastic...

...and filling the outer space with green stuff

You'll see where this is heading in a minute. Let it cure. In the meantime let's get back to the base:

Pretty standard stuff

Sand, sand everywhere

Well, you can see I'm showing the project in chronological order. Some days were involved, but I hope you won't lose interest. Let me keep on and show what was the green stuff thing about:

Take the excess away...

Ta daaa! The hull of the ship!!! (Stay with me, please, don't close the tab yet!!!)

So, if I glue the metal rod to the hull, I can have a detachable base and can start to work on the ship itself:

Or else I'll have the most glorious, flamboyant cup of wine ever

I hope the process is understandable!

 A little bit morea bout the base:

Looks quite barren

Please let me introduce GamersGrass. Awesome beyond anything I could say

Told you

OK, time to start with the ship! I made some portholes with card and cut a round piece as the lower deck:

Weirdest recipe ever

A second round piece will serve as the upper deck, and a slush cup, conveniently adapted, will be the cabin:

Leela shown for scale. She however may pilot her in the end

So this is more or less the idea:

But... why two decks?

Because I'm opening an access between the two of them, so part of the lower deck will be visible:

I toyed with the idea of two rudders, but in the end I took another path, you'll see

OK, let's build some stairs:

Cheap and easy, just as the rest of this project

Will have to do


Awful, but will be barely seen, so it works!

I also worked on a little space under the upper deck, letting some stuff uncovered. A couple of tubes, a stopcock, whatever:

Difficult to see in this stage

Oh, better, but where does it fit?

Oh, there

Right, all this absurd work for a couple of tiny, narrow spaces barely to be seen. I know, I know

But I know they're there

I've seen enough horror movies to know I must not walk those stairs down

You see? You see? I told you could see the lower deck! I'm not crazy!

Now I have the basic structure. As you can see, I grey primed it all. Working with the transparent bowl was kind of confusing:

Looks like the face of a robot in disapproval of your life choices

The cabin is pretty tight, but some stuff can be done. I recovered a mdf door I got like centuries ago, in the elegant shape of the doors in the Serenity. The rest is just cardboard:

Pretty rough, I'll have to add some stuff later

I also added pieces from an old kids toy (I believe from one of those ball machines) as the engine. Let's see what can be done of this stuff:

Don't worry, I'll take the brush itself away!!!

So, with some additions here and there...

That's more or less the idea!

However, the engine look a little bit... bland, I don't know how to put it into words. At this point I was going towards some kind of Ghibli-like design (which of course would be lovely, but not my current aim). I recovered this other broken toy...

Not everything here will be needed...

...but the pieces will be put into good use

It was in need of something else. Something that visually added some volume, to avoid the Ghibli-esque sense of tiny, fragile bubble. I found that an absurdly oversized helm was the answer:

But now I'm getting some kind of Star Wars vibe, hmmm...

Whatever. I have to move on. I then faced a problem. The base was not resistant enough to support the weight. So I supplemented the fix of the plastic cane

Again, I didn't want the greenstuff to get stuck to it!

I needed acces to the inner space

Now the cane can get really sturdy and fixed

I glued it to the base and added quite a lot of more plants to hide the ugly union:

Less desert, but more natural

OK, base is definitely finished and problems solved. Where were we? Oh, yes, additions to the hull:

Nice smell to the room and three... gravitic stabilizers

It was these ot felt pen caps

 It looks like all the lower structure is done! OK, to the upper deck then! I added some more stuff to the cabin, including a mast:

Now it looks a little bit more crowded

But not too over the top

Again, it's all just pieces of broken toys, some wire, green stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. On the next pic you have more of that. A piece from a firemen truck, a lollipop stick and an atenna from an old helicopter I had whan I was a child (from the Marvel Secret Wars ranges, back in the '80s)

OK, this is definitely Ghibli no more

One man's trash can be that very same man's repository of bits

An idea I had since the beginning was adding a platform on the prow, from where the crew could shoot harpoons. I had kept this piece from an old router from some time, and I knew it always was meant for this project.

However, I originally kept it thinking about some Star Wars thingie, look at that design!

It ook a whole night's work to cut and shape this with my poor cutter

But I think I was getting to where I really wanted:

General view

I hope it will hold on!

I then faced one of my most dreaded problems. How to add a handrail there. Anything I could think of was too fragile and simply wouldn't resist. Then I found this other piece, forgotten for ages too:

Originally kept for some kind of cage/castle portcullis/something

Oh, but it stands! And it's resistant! Phew!!

You can also see I added what (if you have some imagination) can serve as a gangway (only for bold people!). You may think I misplaced it. It's natural place would be totally on the port side, close to the stairs down. Why did I place it there? Because I'm placing these at both port and starboard:

What do you mean these don't make any bloody sense? Of course they make sense!

A ship needs sails!

Of course they are functional! As much as the rest of the boat!
At first I was a little bit hesitant, I feared they added too much volume to the general shape of the boat, but in the end I feel thay have some kind of steampunk quality that makes them feel in place.

Then I built the harpoon thrower:

No, most definitely not Harpoon missiles

 The light below comes from another toy of old, a Playmobil ship of my youth. In my mind it rotates with the harpoon thrower, so it can bring light to wherever the gunner is pointing (Yes, in fact I even though of doing it functional and rotable, but the project was just out of hand as it was!).

You 'll have to use your imagination, sorry

I think this covers all the basics. I could call it done (at least the scratch building!):

There are some more details to add, but I need to paint it before. So... spray primers!

First time I ever use three different primers on a model

Upper deck remains white. Well, dirty, of course, but "white" in a broad sense

For the hull I had some choices. My first idea was going into some deep turquoise or dark green. However, I was convinced towards red or warm tones. I did so and I'm happy I did it!

The colour is debilerately brownish/reddish... dirty

The yellow stripe broke monotony

Yellow and brown here and there
I though of adding some design on the sails, but I'm happy I didn't. This is not a sports ship, it's an explorer/fishing boat. No budget to make it nice and comfy.
Plain sails. I could have added more texture though

Some decals and painted details and she looks better!

Oh, I called her the Laika because she's small, stinky and she's a pioneer of exploration. Really didn't want any cheesy Warhammerish name.

Anyway, she looks too clean for a backwater world desert explorer

Ahhhh, much better

Now you can tell this beauty has seen some action

Once I had it all painted I added the final details, such as the harpoons on the handrail, the rope...

It was kind of tricky to get all that rope look like it falls natural!
The purity seal below comes from a Titan, I believe. I thought it was a fun thing to add, even if it looks totally out of place. It brings the ship together with the Rogue Trader/WH40K universe. After all, every engine and vehicle has to be blessed and supervised by the Mechanicus,

I guess it states that the ship has the ISO 40,001

These may be the cleanest items on board

Then with this litte addition you are about to see, I declare the Laika finished:

Of course there are flags! What were those threads for if not for flags?
This was another idea I had in mind from the beginning. When it came to actually drawing them (this very afternoon), then I thought that I could of course make them up. But it took the same effort to make things right, so I consulted the actual International Code of Signals. So below you can read something in the mood of : "I'm a fishing boat engaged on trawling, keep clear of me. You are running into danger. I am carrying dangerous materials. Keep clear of me; I am manoeuvring with difficulty".
Fun with flags
I haven't provided a crew of her own, but for the pics these minis will do. They are from Astropolis or from my old sci-fi civilians project:


This is it! Here you have different angles on the whole airship:

A group shot among her peers:

Someone who didn't know me could think I'm planning to build some kind of spaceport or something

Exploring the desert and the wastes can be hard and risky. The small vessels who dare to enter the solitude of sand try to catch some of the elusive fishing banks that fly from here to there, or sometimes they try to pursue and capture some moist from a storm. Harsh people, the airsailors. Always errand, always searching what they cannot apprehend. From time to time an airship wanders too far and ends up exploring mysterious places and discovering things that should have better left alone...

Dammit, Bob, speed it up! Told ya we shouldn't come here!!!

(Excuse my three minutes of photoshop, but I couldn't avoid it!!)

This is it for today and, given the date, I guess I won't be able to update the blog during the rest of the year! So please let me wish you merry Christmas (or Io Satvrnalia if you are feeling more classic today) and my best wishes for 2024!! See you all on next rotation!

All the best! Cheers!