Upcycle Progress – Airship Design

So far, I’m still firmly in the planning stage of my project. I’ve spent a fair amount of time sketching out some different loose ideas, trying to figure out what direction to take different structural elements.

The most important thing I’m trying to establish here is a strong, well-defined silhouette. When you study character design, a lot of artists emphasize the importance of a distinct, recognizable silhouette: people should be able to get a sense of the character with even the minimal amount of visual information. And in a way, I want this airship design to have some character of its own. Plus, this is where I’m figuring out some of the key structural/design elements. One such area where I’m currently having a bit of trouble is figuring out the design for the ship’s lift and propulsion systems. I’ve bounced between more airplane-style wings, upward facing propellers more like a helicopter, an air-based balloon system (there are a lot of airship designs that basically boil down to a regular boat with a balloon strapped to it), or even something more sci-fi like what we see in Nausicaä. I’m leaning towards a design with propellers, but I want to make sure it doesn’t look too modern or realistic; I’m making a steampunk airship, not a WWII airplane.

I’ve also collected pretty much all of the materials I think I’m going to need. The majority of the construction is going to come down to cardboard:

I think I have plenty of cardboard.

Once I have the main structure built, it’s time for adding smaller details to make the design more interesting (in my previous blog post I go a bit more into the practice of ‘greebling’ and its use in miniature making), and this is where the spare parts I’ve collected will come in.

First, there’s these hardware parts leftover from some previous projects of mine. Most of these will be for decoration, but at the bottom there’s some rudimentary hinges I’d made that might be cool to use somewhere – maybe some kind of ‘flapping wing’ design.

Next, some parts I’m really excited to put to use: these are sprues from some of my dad’s old model kits. There’s a lot of cool ways I might be able to take this apart and reuse them to create some convincing-looking machine framework. There’s even some extra wheels in there I can use for landing gear.

Finally, here’s some random bits and bobbins I’ve collected that I might be able to use. I’m not sure if I’ll use all of these, but there’s a handful I think will come in handy. The wires I’d like to incorporate somewhere, though I’m still figuring out exactly where. And the plastic lightbulb(?) in the middle I’ve considered using as a sort of cockpit/observation deck; you can see this idea in most of the sketches I’ve done so far.

I’m going to keep sketching ideas over the weekend, try and finalize an overall idea by next class, or next Wednesday at the latest. That’ll give me a week to a week and a half to focus on construction, which I think should be pretty straightforward. I’ve worked with cardboard quite a bit in the past (even built a few similar model ships). Gonna take a lot of hot glue.


Update 2/11/24: I’ve settled on a rough final design!

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Lavender Giebner
    February 12, 2024 11:15 am

    Regarding the ship’s silhouette; I think you have made something very distinct here! The bulbous center fuselage (gas envelope?) combined with the front glass cupola and its snaggletooth overhang make this design look like nothing else that flies. How do you plan on shaping the flat and square cardboard stock into the more organic shapes you have on the underbelly and cockpit?

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ll be honest, I think you might know more about what I’ve designed than I do. Regarding the rounder parts of the design, I’m not too worried about following the sketch perfectly; I’ll be willing to settle for a blockier approximation of the original idea. For those sections, right now what I’m planning is to do cross-sections in cardboard and build out the body with horizontal strips of a lighter cardstock, maybe add some support with florist’s wire.

  • Alexander Fitzgerald
    February 11, 2024 12:11 pm

    This is a super cool project! I can tell you’ve put a lot of thought into your design and the manufacturing process. How do you plan to display the airship? Hung by string? Mounted on a desk?

    • Thanks for commenting! I definitely want to attach one of the hooks that I have to the top of the model so that it can be mounted on a string, although I don’t think there’s anywhere in my apartment I could actually hang it from, haha.


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