Constructing the Nautilus Model

By Demetri Capetanopoulos

Materials used in the construction of the Nautilus model:

  • XTC-3DTM Liquid Coating for 3d Printed Parts
  • Tamiya surface primer (grey)
  • Tamiya (TS-63) NATO Black
  • Krylon® Metallic Gold Leaf 
  • 1:200 scale architectural figures
  • Sewing pins for rudder, propeller, and diving planes attachment
  • Sifted play sand
  • Modeling strip wood
  • Wood glue
  • India ink
  • Assorted acrylic paints
  • Bondic®

The model of the Nautilus is comprised of eleven parts:  The forward and aft hull sections, the pilothouse, the dinghy, the beacon, the propeller, the rudder, and four diving planes.  The inner faces of the hull sections have a flange and recess to facilitate joining and should mate together tightly when printed to the same scale.  For this relatively small, 9x40cm diorama, the model was printed at 1:200 scale.  The dinghy is shaped to fit the cutout in the superstructure.  For added detail, grooves can be cut in the hull to accommodate the dinghy davit mechanism, which was created by inserting short strips of styrene in the grooves and attaching them to the bow and stern of dinghy.  The superstructure fairing that encloses the dinghy on the port side was constructed from a strip of styrene cut to fit the curve of the dinghy hull.  The pilothouse and beacon are glued in place atop the hull.  To attach the propeller, rudder, and each of the diving planes, a small hole was drilled in the part to accept a metal shaft made by cutting off the head of a sewing pin.  Another hole was drilled in the hull to receive these pins and allow for movement of the screw, and presentation of the rudder and diving planes at various angles.  Bondic® proved especially useful for adding detail to the dinghy davit mechanism, correcting small printing defects, and forming the two large salon viewport windows.

The model was coating with XTC-3DTM epoxy to eliminate the ribbed texture from printing and provide a smooth surface for painting.  Tamiya surface primer was sprayed on all surfaces before applying NATO Black to all parts except the propeller, which was painted with metallic gold leaf to give it a more sun-struck sheen than an authentic bronze color would have provided. The hull plating was then lightly scribed into the paint using painter’s tape to guide the circular rings and a straightedge for the horizontal plates.  At this scale, even the finest of scribe lines appear overly prominent, so after scribing, the hull was given a final light spray coat of NATO Black to subdue their appearance.  Finally, a touch of yellow was added to the beacon lens, and sky-blue to highlight the pilothouse windows, before a layer of Bondic® was applied to each to give a glass-like effect.  

The diorama depicts the day, in 1865, on Lincoln Island, when Captain Nemo is addressing his crew just prior to the launch of the Nautilus.  The model was set in scaffolding that was entirely scratch-built, board by board, from scrap modeling wood joined with wood glue.  To age the wood, the completed structure was given a liberal wash with India ink.  The base is made from a quarter-sawn oak plank, treated with a Minwax® stain.  The top surface is cut on a shallow 1:50 slope toward the shoreline to create the landform.  Fine play sand was oven-dried and sifted before being added to the model and affixed with diluted wood glue applied with an eye dropper. It is important to tamp the sand down as evenly as possible because even the finest of grain is grossly out of scale.  But, because the model is viewed up close, the sand’s texture provides the eye with a satisfying authenticity that excuses the violation of scale.  To form the water, clear epoxy was poured in several thin layers that were allowed to dry in between.  The sand naturally wicked up some of the epoxy to create the effect of wetted sand along the shoreline.  When the epoxy was partially dry, the surf lines were picked with sharp tool and acrylic paint was used to add color to the water before a final epoxy layer was poured.  The addition of the crew gives a sense of scale to the model and provides a focal point to bring the scene to life. A brass nameplate and felt feet provide the final touch to finish the diorama.