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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
[November 23/09
This is a third edit of my original start to this thread, done to repost my updated “final” versions of my 1/537 Excelsior sketches. Final in quotation marks because I know that they’re not, that with any luck a lot of you out there will spot mistakes, add new information, make corrections. And there is a Rule of the Universe that says whenever anyone spends upwards of 60 hours making their own drawings of something, within days of finishing someone else will post on the Net or publish in The Art of ST Vol 2 the actual ILM blueprints of said subject.
My reposts are of new scans of my drawings. Anyone who was here before will know that my original attachments were made on my home scanner and consisted of 11 million sheets of paper that you'd have to print and tape together or download and photoshop together to make something whole. There was the inevitable scanner distortion at the edges of the pages and I even managed to miss scanning a vertical slice of one side view. So I took my drawings into a professional copy shop and for $27 they scanned both my Excelsior drawings and my Spindrift blueprint. I've taken the pdfs and converted them into much, much smaller jpgs for posting here. If anyone wants giant pdf versions and has high speed, pm me and I'll see what I can do. Interestingly, the quality of the big pdfs isn't much better than what I hope to post here.]

A note on my thinking about scale:

I started this out of my frustration detailing the Ertl Excelsior kit. I had built it years ago upon its initial release and recently discovered a few new inaccuracies to fix, and remembering how much work went into that little tiny model and how much more was going into it, thought yet again that it would be just as easy to scratch build a larger version. Wondering at just how big a 1/537 Excelsior would be, and wanting to create an “accurate” set of drawings of the thing, I set about first enlarging all the pictures I had of the overall Excelsior to a size based on a primary hull two decks thick at its edge. I matched that thickness to the edge thickness of the Ertl’s 1/537 Enterprise Refit. I came out much longer than I had expected. (There are plenty of pictures and drawings and schematics out there, but nothing definitive re: the size of the ship. The issue is further confused by the fact that the Excelsior miniature was built to the same size as the Enterprise Refit, so it ends up in all sorts of places like spacedock, looking the same size as the Refit.)

The Excelsior’s primary hull has an indent on top and a third set of windows, presumably a third deck, extending almost to the edge, and I used these levels to make a saucer edge thickness as thin as it could possibly be, while maintaining the Refit’s deck spacing.

Still a huge spaceship, much longer than any of the estimates from Trek “technical manuals”, both studio licensed and fan produced. I then enlarged Doug Drexler’s cutaway of the Excelsior to the size I was settling on and found a number of size matches with the Refit that reinforced the feeling that I was on the right track. The size I finally settled on was 45 3/8", or a 2000' Excelsior. The early ILM concept of the Excelsior was for a ship 1500' long, but at that length, the Excelsior cannot keep both its profile and the number of decks delineated by windows.

Also at this length, all of the following match the 1/537 Refit:
-the phaser platforms are the same size
-the hangar bay doors are the same height
-the lettering is the same size
-the RCS triangles are the same size
-the primary hull is the same thickness both at the 2 deck edge and overall
-the blue panels on the bottom of the saucer are almost the same size
-the windows are the same size
-the Drexler rendition of the shuttle scales perfectly
-the Drexler # of decks fits and matches the windows
-the bridge on the NCC version is almost exactly the same size as the Refits
-the sensor/deflector dish assembly can be identical


It’s all circumstantial evidence, true, but it’s enough to convince me.

Once the sizes of various familiar things seemed to make sense, and I had scaled the sketches to fine tune the overall ship, I started to Photoshop photos of various parts of the ship to match the outlines and add the details.

There were a few constants: the distance between the primary and engineering hulls, the distance between the impulse exhausts and warp nacelles, and maybe two others. The rest was trying to make everything work.

I expected photos to have distortion along one axis relative to another. I never expected that a photo could be distorted in two opposite directions along even the same axis. I had no idea that the same photo downloaded from two different sites could be distorted in different directions. The angle of the subject, the lens, the camera, the processing, the scanning, the printing - anything and everything can distort a photo. Matching photos to scale drawings or trying to make scale drawings from photos is so insanely difficult I don't think I would have started this if I knew how long and frustrating it would be. To minimize such distortions, for details, I used multople photos and/or multiple angles wherever I could and I cropped as small an area as I could use from each source.

Overall, I think I’ve come pretty close. For the overall shape, I estimate my error to be in the +/-2% range. The engine nacelles might be just a shade too tall, and if just a 1/16" were taken off the glowing sides of the nacelles would exactly match the height of the glowing sides of the nacelles on the Refit Enterprise. That would make sense to me.

The nacelles might be 1/4" longer than they should, and the engineering hull might be 1/4" longer than it should, (just a nagging impression) but I don’t think so. I believe I’ve nailed this sucker. Otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting your time by posting these.

You could shrink these sketches by 10% and leave room for all the decks and their corresponding windows. You might try shortening it a bit more to bring down its length, but then you’d alter the profile.
In the end, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Aside from a few details like the width of the impulse deck or the shape of the neck, the Ertl kit, tho so horribly tiny, seems overall to be a very accurate replica. In fact, if you scale up any part of the Ertl kit by 2.47 times, you will come very close to these dimensions.

A note on sources: I’ve restricted myself as much as I could only to the ILM-built NX or NCC 2000. Virtually every picture that shows an Excelsior hanging by wires (and those are the majority of the clear pictures) are of Greg Jein’s re-build. I tried not to use any details from those photos unless absolutely necessary, as much of the detail isn't accurate and I am trying to keep as close to the original as possible. I’ve found few photos of the port side windows so I based my interpretation of the port side engineering hull window placement on the flyby of the NCC 2000 in ST6. I used the Ertl model only when confounded with how to represent certain details as they appear on compound angles. As far as my attempts at representing complex details on compound surfaces, forgive my crudeness - a draftsman I am not.

Beside hoping to have errors spotted by Excelsior experts, my only other goal for posting these is to provide something here that might help other scratch builders or detailers. There are eight sheets in total. These are the first:
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
This sure beats having to put a jigsaw puzzle of separate sheets together into one view! None of my other posts below matter any more. Hope someone finds these useful.
Now the last of them:
 

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So far, it looks very good. Much better than I could do, regardless.

I can't access the site from work, but Ex Astris Scientia has a starships section which should help out a bit. They've got quite a few different Excelsior-class pics in their gallery.
 

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Wow, those look like a great start.

I drew the Excelsior back in between 1989 and 1991 so I could make a model of her. My original drawings were of how the model originally looked, and then i modified them after the release of Star Trek VI (when the model was modified).

Of course this was pre-internet, and I had very few references to work from... basically, just a handful of published photos. Still, it was better than anything else I could find. And as this was before the first of the kits were released, it was the only way to build an Excelsior model back then.

I sold the original vellums (setup as a one sheet) to help pay for school. Here is a photo of it (sadly, I no longer have any copies myself)...


I've been studying the recent photos of the miniature from before it was auctioned off, it looks like you've done a nice job so far.
 

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Very nice! I spent months doing this same thing myself back in about 1998 for a friend's project. BTW, according to the design team at ILM who created the ship, it was 1500 feet long -- not 500 meters as many people seem to attest for some reason. It's exactly half again as long as the movie-era Enterprise.

A size/scale comparison chart was created for ST:III by ILM artist Nilo Rodis-Jamero and it clearly shows the Enterprise at 1000 feet and the Excelsior at 1500 feet. This was published in at least one magazine at the time.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Star-art: I don't know. That would make it 25% smaller than I'm proposing. And I've already listed all the reasons this size works. Here's another: a few days ago, I took Andy Probert's cross-section sketch of his hangar/cargo bays and reduced it to 1/537, placed the outline over my sketch of the 2000's hangar bay, and this is how they compare. Note that the height of the hangar bay doors on both is identical. I wasn't planning for it to happen that exactly, it just did.
25% smaller would make everything mighty tight, if not impossible to reconcile. Just for the # of decks alone to work, I wouldn't think there could be more than a 5% difference. As far as I can tell, I think the overall outline of my sketch is within about 2%. Of what the 2000 should be.
 

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The Lakota and what you are calling the "2000" (i.e. NCC 2000 from ST:VI) are the same model. The Lakota is what the model looked like after it's facelift for Star Trek: Generations where it was converted into the NCC-1701-B. The engineering hull has been modified because of the addition of the structures on either side. This destroyed the original deflector area as well.

I wasn't aware they changed the windows between ST:III and ST:VI. Why would they do that? The other changes were relatively minor, but messing with the window layout is a lot of work because it could require a repaint. They don't do things like that unless there is a good reason.

The best images do seem to be whatever photos we can get from the making of ST:VI.

Hope that helps! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Irishtrek! Thanks for that link to stguardian! There a couple of just perfect side views there that I can play with - redo some of those windows.
Do you think the 2 sides can be THAT different? However, it does seem to be the only logical conclusion.
My electric eraser is getting a serious workout...
 

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There are some very clear screen captures from ST-III(?) at http://www.st-bilder.de/ which clearly show the secondary hull window locations, and some decent shots of the NX bridge as well. I think everything you need for accurate window placements (at least on the NX) is there.

Oh, and I should mention that I love your drawings and hope to use them for a major scratchbuild project soon. :)
 

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Starseeker, in a another post you mention a concern about the windows, well there are 2 sets of windows in between each manuvering thruster and they go all the way to the front of the saucer.
On a side note thanks Griff for fixing that link!!
 
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