January 1st, 2009

Building a Firefly – Part Two

Happy New Year, Core-Techs! And what a wonderful New Year it’s looking to be – new products on the way, new contests to be won (more on this soon), and a new chapter in the “Building a Firefly” photo essay.

For Part Two, we’re focusing on the engines. I know we’ve covered these at some length before, but as one of the most intricate (and only articulated) parts of the design, I thought it was worth another look, now that all the bits are done.

Below is a gallery of the complete engine. Note that the sculptor has managed to reduce the part count down to about a dozen bits for both main engines – not a bad piece of engineering considering how complex the engines are:

The engines are designed to be poseable during the build process. What this means is we can adjust the position of the engines as the replica is constructed for each customer. Because of how easy it would be to damage or outright bust the brass fittings that attach the engine to the engine mount and the mount to the wing, we probably won’t have the engines move once they’ve been set in place.

This does, however, open the possibility that customers will be able to order their Serenity “posed” the way they like it – engines down for reentry, pointing back for hard burn or opposing for a Crazy Ivan. Add that to the ability to pose the shuttles as docked, in flight or some combination thereof, and it opens up some intreguing possibilities, dong ma?

Another item to note is how fine some of the parts of the engine are. The outer ring of the turkey feathers are cast so thin, they feel more like tin-sliced bamboo than resin. As a result, they aren’t very sturdy until you mount them over the inner ring. But, boy, do they look good when assembled:

One other note before we hit the gallery: With all the new folks who made their way to the ShipWorks over the holidays, questions on cost, availability, etc. have been coming up again. So, thought I should give everyone a quick update: The sculpt is basically finished, except for the bridge (which Wolvster should be finishing up shortly). Next step is electronics, visual effects and paint mastering. Best guess is that work will take about 3 months to get to prototype stage, at which point we’ll start production mastering. We’ll probably go through about a dozen test builds before finalizing everything, plus packaging design and final signoff.

Best guess is we’re looking at a summer release. Sooner if we can manage it, but after working on this baby for three years, we’re not going to stumble this close to the finish because we rushed the final details.

As for pricing, I still don’t have anything solid enough to share. Once the electronics are designed (which typically represent more than half the parts cost, especially with custom work like this), I should be able to give you a pretty solid street price.

For what it’s worth, everyone is waiting on this – from the studios to some of the biggest resellers of collectibles – they’ve all expressed great interest in Our Girl.


33 Responses to “Building a Firefly – Part Two”

  1. Jim in St. Louis says:

    Another great update! She is really looking great. Can’t wait to see more.



  2. Atom says:

    3 years? Wow, have I been visiting the site that long (I was pretty sure I’ve been watching since the site launch). Looks great as always, and that each is essentially a custom model with engine posing options is awesome.

    As far as price is concerned, I understand collectible pricing, especially on a project like this. I would think anybody visiting the shipworks would understand that 500 bucks wouldn’t be out of question (in fact that price seems pretty good). Anybody taken aback by this; just save 3 bucks a day, when it comes out you’ll be first in line (I’ve been saving up a special fund since last year).

    Just look at the engine with all the piping, incredible!

  3. micjwelch says:

    Has there been any further consideration on selling this as a kit?

  4. Mechamaniac says:

    The engines won’t be poseable? Crap. I think we have ourselves a deal breaker.

  5. admin says:

    Atom – Well, the project started waaay before we started the blog. We spent over two years on research (not to mention begging Zoic for the movie wireframes) before the blog launched :-)

    Mike – At this point there’s no plans on doing a kit. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least being a kit this complex in the relatively small runs we’d be making would cost hundreds of dollars each. That and there currently is no license for a ship model kit (although that could change in the future)

    Mechamaniac – Sorry to hear you feel this way. We will continue to look at the issue, but at this point there are just too many ways for those engines to break if we leave them poseable. Keep in mind, an Artisan Replica is work of art and not necessarily something you want to handle more than absolutely necessary. We’re even talking about making the lights operate off a remote, to reduce the need to handle (plus, how cool would it be to push the “hard burn” button from across the room and see your Firefly light up?)

  6. Mechamaniac says:

    I assume that the ship will be mounted “in flight” so I would not imagine being able to do a landed, folded pod pose with it. But to limit it to one pose only really detracts from what promises to be a stunning model in every other aspect. To not be able to at least rotate the engines on their axis is really disappointing. I’d hate to be forced to choose one pose then decide down the road that I’d really like her in VSTOL or Crazy Ivan configuration. Why go to all the trouble to design this model so intricately just to (literally) clip her wings? I understand you’re probably dealing with fuzzy physics to some degree but surely there must be a way to let the engines at least rotate 180 degrees.

  7. admin says:

    Hi Mechamaniac – Again, sorry that you feel that way. We’re looking at the issue and if there’s any way to articulate that part of the ship and also make it serviceable, we will. But we have to ensure first that such an intricate replica is going to be sturdy as well as beautiful (or at least survive the shipping process!) If you look at other high-end replicas, you’ll see that no one makes them poseable for precisely this reason. I think the argument is these are not meant to be played with; they are meant to be displayed and drooled over.

    The fact that customers can choose their pose when they order I believe will make the Serenity replica unique. However, we can look at allowing customers to choose not to have the Engines attached at all (not sure this will work, as there is some very delicate wire running through the wing to the engine for the marker flashers and exhaust lights). It would then be up to you to attach them as you see fit.

    BTW, we welcome all kinds of feedback – positive and not-so-much. The whole point of having this blog was to give folks like yourself the opportunity to tell us what you like and what you don’t. This will hopefully allow us to make Serenity even better.

  8. keelhauler says:

    I’m not so bothered about nonposeable engines. It would be cool if they were poseable, but I can live with a fixed position.

    Atom, I would consider $500 a heck of a deal. I’m betting the price will be much closer to $1,000, though – like the Cylon Raider replica.

  9. darthviper107 says:

    Yeah, I completely understand the non-posable engines.

    Since I’ve studied the ship a lot it makes sense that it would be hard to be able to pose them. There’s a cylinder that extends from under the wings to the engines that supports the engines while in flight and then clamps onto them magnetically to fold them into the wings when landed. To be able to rotate the engines between horizontal and vertical would mean that the cylinder support wouldn’t be able to connect to the engine which would be a problem as far as keeping the engine supported and it wouldn’t look right still if you wanted it in the horizontal position.

    So great job guys, this is really great. And I’m glad you’re planning on summer for this, at that time I’ll be working a lot and should afford it.

    Just one question, are you planning on putting it up for order once you have the first shipments ready or will you have it up as a preorder when the prototype is finished and the factory details have been worked out?

  10. john vaughan says:

    fixed and in full burn for me, so not an issue . just one question tho’, is that coupon i got with one of the many shiny things from QMx still good? Because judging by the size and sure complexity of this boat, i’d say keelhauler is aiming a bit low.keep flyin’ my fellow browncaots.

  11. darthviper107 says:

    Yeah, they said in an older post that they’d still be accepting the coupons for the ship that came with past products.

    And yeah $500 is probably way too low, that was the original idea but it’s looking more like around $1,000 now which really isn’t too bad. Consider the Millennium Falcon replica from Master Replicas that was $2,200, yeah that was bigger but they seem like they’re in line for the accurate price for value.

  12. Jim in St. Louis says:

    Full burn for me as well. I’m not worried about not being able to move the engines. Nobody, but nobody will EVER be touching this replica. I think it is a great that you will be offering an option though. A remote is also a good idea, especially if it will be in a case. $500.00 would be great but I’m not counting on it ;)

  13. admin says:

    Hey guys – thanks for understanding the issues on poseable versus fixed positions for the engines. And DV is correct about the extension arm. The fact is the extension arms magically disappear when the engines are in VTOL position, which will make it very difficult to have a place for them on the replica if it isn’t in “hard burn” position. We’re still working on that.

    As for the coupons, we will absolutely honor those when the time comes.

    I should caution you on the pricing speculation, however: Even we don’t know where these are going to price out. Fact is, no one’s ever tried to do something quite like this before – a licensed, limited-edition hand-cast, hand-constructed and hand-painted entirely in the U.S. by pros replica. I can’t stress that last part strongly enough – your Serenity will not be put together by someone making $2 an hour in a foreign country; it will be made by someone who not only knows Serenity intimately, it will be built by someone who works professionally as a film miniature artist.

    About the only thing comparable may be the Artisan Raider. Although, honestly, Serenity is so much more complex than the Raider in every measurable way – kit, paint and electronics – it’s not an entirely fair comparison, either.

    Most of the licensed high-end, limited-edition replicas you’re probably familiar with are mass produced – built on an assembly line in China. Not that that’s a bad thing in of itself; a model properly designed for mass production and then carefully supervised during assembly can be a beautiful thing (believe me, I have a house full of them). But something like Serenity is of an entirely different order altogether. The level of detail, accuracy and flash that’s possible with an artisan-made replica simply can’t be matched on an assembly line.

    Anyway, I prattle on (as I so often do on this subject). Needless to say, we’ll do everything we can to keep Serenity affordable – except compromise the quality ;-)

    Oh, before I forget, because these will be made-to-order, we won’t start accepting orders until we’re ready to build them. However, once we’ve locked down final pricing, we might have a reservation program of some type. Is that something you all would like to see?

  14. darthviper107 says:

    At the price point it’ll probably be at I don’t see it being a big issue of everyone trying to buy one. The only reason I’d want to reserve is perhaps to get a lower edition number. Maybe some kind of lottery to reserve the first hundred numbers then once they’re ready to go into production it would be regular ordering procedure.

    Like maybe you have 24 hours where you can try to reserve one of the first hundred and then after that you’ll be notified if you will be able to get one of the first hundred and what number.

    That is, if you’re doing limited edition numbers, otherwise there’s no reason for anyone to order early.

  15. admin says:

    These will absolutely be numbered and limited :-)

  16. john vaughan says:

    i will have one. thats it, bottom line. i’ve waited for this ever sence i came across QMx. you guys just take your time and get that midbulk transport done, and done right. you’ve done a hell of a jod so far. i want my ship. keep flyin’

  17. Jim in St. Louis says:

    admin Says:
    However, once we’ve locked down final pricing, we might have a reservation program of some type. Is that something you all would like to see?

    Yes, I will put my reservation in as soon as you say GO. I will even send in a down payment to hold one.


  18. Atom says:

    Man, I moved recently. Where did I put that coupon I got so long ago I thought it would never see use….

  19. Jbar says:

    I’ve also been saving my pennies for this one and a reservation system would be a great idea; it would also help you gauge the demand and decide edition size.

    I think whatever price is decided upon will be reasonable if the quality of the build is as good as it looks. After the MR 1701 I am more than willing to pay for something that looks good and lasts.

    A few questions:

    Any chance of getting cast or producer signatures like you did with the Raider replica? I think a signature edition was originally planned for?

    Will you show pics of completed models with the various engine positions available?

  20. Kevin says:

    I think some kind of reservation program is in order and hope to be one of the first on the list.


  21. Akin says:


    Oooohh! A remote would be cool!

    Will power be fed through the base, like the Cylon Raider? That way we could hermetically seal it in the case and never need to disturb it…

    As for the engines, I expect I’ll have them in regular flight mode, but possibly at a forty-five degree angle… hopefully we’ll get to see several pictures with them in different poses before we decide. I was just thinking how cool it would be to have a diorama of the ground with the ship flying low over it, inside that case they had at the Con…

    A final idea… how about making the name plate removable from the base, or however it will work, so that we could take it to Cons and get signatures on it?

  22. admin says:

    JBar – couldn’t agree with you more. We’re working on a number of “Secret Toy Surprise” options for the Serenity replica, including siggies. One of the things we want all the Artisan replicas to come with is a special bonus. Nothing would make us happier than to have folks say, when they open their Serenity, “Wait, I get this, too? Cool!”

    At least, that’s what we’re hoping for :-)

  23. admin says:

    Okay, so based on everyone’s replies, we’re going to do a reservation program. Not quite sure what that will entail, but we have a little time to figure it out. I will want to make sure the prices and configs are all locked down first, tho. So you’ll know exactly what you’re going in for.

    We will definitely post images of all the options/configurations. And Scott- a removeable signature plaque is a *fabulous* idea, maybe with one BDH’s John Hancock, just to get you started?

  24. Therese says:

    Happy New Year to everyone!
    I am curious if you have considered a lay-away plan? Our financial picture shifted, (whose hasn’t?) and I was hoping there could be a way to be assured of being able to purchase one without going deeper into debt? I am setting money aside, but with what I am reading here, I can see that I need to figure out something, or this is a dream that won’t come true.

  25. Akin says:

    Aye, a “Starter Signature” would be shiny!

  26. darthviper107 says:

    They do have a payment plan setup although I think with their system you have to pay a fee if you have to cancel.

  27. john vaughan says:

    well, i’ve read this over and over, and feel some of us are missing the point here. this is not a model you can pick off the shelf at some hobby shop.nor is it a toy to be played with. this is a piece of art. the art of making movie models is slowly fading away with the use of CGI, and the fact that the people at the FX company are even allowing us( the fans) to be able to have this piece of the verse, let alone watch the building of it, is way shiny. yes times are tough, and yes it will be costly but look at what it is. and that is a chance to own the ship that blazed the trail in our tiny world of firefly and serenity. i for one tip my hat to those guys. if you want a ship with rotating pods there are other kits out there, but you put them together, you paint them, and nothing lights up on them. this i know, because i’ve bought one. yes the pods rotate, and yes the pods fold under, thanks to the use a dremel, and a lot of care. it’s 8 inches long and still cost over $90 to get. this is the top of the line here. i hope i didn’t step on anyones toes with this, but if i did, well get over it. keep flyin

  28. Gary says:

    I think it sounds like this is going to be a very costly item and a pay off plan is a must. I need to have this!!! please help us out and have something set up.

  29. admin says:

    John – Could not have said it better myself. We might someday do a “practical” version of Serenity, but it’ll be much smaller and won’t have lights or the “film quality” build the Artisan replica will. I can’t stress this last part enough – the difference between a film-quality build done by guys who actually work on movies for a living compared to something mass-produced is hard to comprehend until you see it up close. Whereas a lot of stuff looks worse in person than it does in idealized photos in a product catalog, these will actually look *better* in person.

    Anyone here seen one of the Artisan Raiders up close? I think you know what I mean :-)

  30. After looking at the pictures closer and reading your explanations, I can agree with not selling this as a model kit. I’m not even sure it would survive shipping if it weren’t assembled completely. And I don’t think that I could do justice to these parts assembling and painting them myself. I’ll leave it to the pros.

    The “practical” version that you mentioned would be a great idea, if you ask me. I’m sure all of us here can fully appreciate the skill that’s going in to this model, but we would love to be able to get a more hands on approach as well. I would love to have something I could put together myself and tinker with, or even something that I wouldn’t have a heart attack if someone wanted to touch.

  31. barebear says:

    i cant wait and will happily part with vast amounts of wealth if i can find it for this model
    this is a show piece model we are talking about
    something that will sit in the pride of place in a persons home and admire from a distance while it lights up from your remote control and i am very happy with that
    but saying that it would be a great thing that there is a practical version that you can open up the bay and look inside and pose the engine pods in any position you wish
    lets get the artisan version out of the way first then worry about the toy version later
    i think the name plate is a brilliant idea and hope for more great ideas

  32. TB says:

    Mechamaniac Says:

    “…But to limit it to one pose only really detracts from what promises to be a stunning model in every other aspect. To not be able to at least rotate the engines on their axis is really disappointing. I’d hate to be forced to choose one pose then decide down the road that I’d really like her in VSTOL or Crazy Ivan configuration.”

    Heck, no problem. I’ll just buy one of each pose!

  33. Chris Clubb says:

    I want to work on a new science fictions model kit .
    And I wish too to be working on it now .
    I am willing to pay for it very soon .
    When will it be on sell at comicbook.
    When will it be on sell at regular prices
    how muct mot.

    When can I be buying one soon .

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