How To Build The Black Hole’s Cygnus

The Black Hole was one of the most heavily-promoted flicks of the late seventies’ burgeoning category of post-Star-Wars sci-fi blockbuster-wanna-bes. Back then, the Star Wars universe was not yet a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney, and so Disney – like the rest of the studios – desperately tried to play catch-up with George Lucas’ (and 20th Century Fox’s) blockbuster.

The result was a flawed, but much-loved-by-fans-of-a-certain-age, epic. With the marketing might of Disney behind it, there were puzzles, read-along storybooks, model kits, and – perhaps best of all – Mego’s line of Black Hole action figures.

[Via] Action Figure King.Com

But what the model kits of the time couldn’t hope to duplicate was the sheer intricacy of The Black Hole’s delicate spacecraft. And you can’t really fault them for that: the complicated, visible girders gave the movie’s main setting, the wayward U.S.S. Cygnus, a cathedralesque look. Trying to mass-produce a replica of that in lightweight plastic would be begging for trouble: a model too delicate to stand up under its own weight.

But we live in the future now, and enterprising fans with mad 3-D skills – and no readily apparent budget ceiling – have finally put the Cygnus within your reach…for a price. (To quote a robot from a much more recent Disney sci-fi epic, it’s high…it’s very high.)

Industrious, and quite possibly even-madder-than-Dr.-Hans-Reinhardt Black Hole fan “Primitive Dave” has made it possible, via 3-D printing service Shapeways, to accumulate and assemble the pieces necessary for an almost-filming-ready model of the Cygnus.

This is not a project for the faint of heart, the scarce of budget, or those short on skills: some assembly, to put it mildly, is required. Better assemble some funds, too: all of the pieces necessary to put together the model itself run nearly $1,200.

A Flickr album by “The Lazy Modeler”, a.k.a. Jeff Bond, shows the painstaking construction of not just a complete U.S.S. Cygnus model from the Shapeways page, but one with internal lighting and blue LEDs for the engines.
Cygnus - Jeff Bond
Cygnus - Jeff Bond

(Jeff Bond played Dr. McCoy in some of the final episodes of the incredibly well-produced fan-made series Star Trek: New Voyages, and wrote the liner notes to the long-overdue official cd release of the complete soundtrack from The Black Hole itself. If building this model – and the eye-popping selection of other models in the background – doesn’t earn Mr. Bond serious geek cred, then those credentials, and the wealth of liner notes he’s written for many other soundtrack CDs, should put him over the top.)

The other thing about this entirely 3-D printed Cygnus model? It’s huge. Clear a shelf…a shelf that runs the length of an entire wall.
By the time it’s completed, and LED-lit, the only thing missing…is an equally detailed scale model of the relatively tiny U.S.S. Palomino berthed in the docking elevator.

Maybe “Primitive Dave” will have us covered on that in due time. (By the way, I suspect that Jeff Bond is not lazy, nor is Dave really very primitive. Call it a hunch.)

If you seek a massive modeling challenge, go in(sane), through (your entire bank balance), and beyond (the available space in your living room) aboard the Cygnus! Floaty robot buddies not included.

Snap Together Star Wars Vans


Fellow Retroist Iseerobotsrecently posted a great magazine scan featuring Star Wars. The highlight for me was the Star Wars Snap Together Vans and I immediately set to work to find out more.


Thanks to the Star Wars Model Kit Gallery site, I now know a lot more about the vans and have a better idea of what they looked like. Generally made of around 25 pieces and released in 1978, the kits looked fairly easy to assemble for the 8+ age group.


Of the three that were made, my favourite is the Luke model with “Artoo-Detoo” a close second. I’m not too keen on the artwork for the Vadar van but I’d still like to own the full set!


Be sure to check out the Star Wars Model Kit Gallery site for more great models and to see the instructions and more images for the van kits.

Apollo Contractor’s Model

Golden Age Space Contractor’s Models can be very rare. But when you have the opportunity to check one out, you should. They are always pleasing for their attention to detail and general awesomeness. Hake’s is selling this wonderful Apollo model, and while it is not in the greatest condition, I think it would look great on just about any shelf in any home.

Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park

Michael Paul Smith started out trying to perfect his twin hobbies of model building when he started what would become Elgin Park, but what started small (literally) has grown into “a dream-like reconstruction of the town (he) grew up in. It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of (his) memories.
And like a dream, many of the buildings show up in different configurations throughout the photos. Or sometimes, the buildings stay put and the backgrounds change.” He has been featured in the New York Times and now he even has his own website. So if you like Americana and appreciate the art of model building I suggest your drop by Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park photo page on Flickr.

Yes…this is a photo of a model.

Summer Storm Approaching