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Scratchbuilding a 2001 Monolith

Among the most-recognizable SF movie pieces is the imposing and ominous monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's also a very simple scratch-build project to begin on. The final size of this monolith is 1" x 4" x 9", based on the proportions given in Arthur C. Clarke's novel. The movie tweaked these proportions slightly.

Supplies & Tools


0.1" sheet styrene, cut as follows:

  1. 2 pieces, 4" x 9" (front and back)
  2. 2 pieces, 0.8" x 8.8" (sides)
  3. 2 pieces 0.8" x 4" (ends)

8 spacer blocks of balsa wood, just under 0.8" x 1" x 1"
The only critical dimension on the blocks is the just under 0.8" so that the blocks fit inside the monolith.


Save and print this assembly diagram. Refer to the inset in the upper-right corner to see how the pieces should abut each other.


Measure carefully with the ruler and square as you mark your pieces for cutting. Be sure your corners are square. It's best to cut a little bit outside your lines; the excess will be removed. Before assembly, the sides and ends need to be finished to a width of 0.8", and the sides need to be finished to a length of 8.8". If you want, you can finish all the pieces to their final dimensions.

Make a sanding surface by attaching a sheet of sandpaper to a smooth flat surface. Wet-sand the edges of the styrene pieces until the pieces measure their finished dimensions. Be sure to keep the pieces straight upright while sanding so that the sanded surfaces are square to the rest of the piece.


Step 1
Place the ends onto the back. Then fit the sides in between the end pieces. Dry-fit the pieces first and tape the corners. Check your width (4") and length (9") measurements and squareness. Apply cement to the inside edges and let it flow into the joints. check measurements & squareness one last time. Let the joints dry.
Step 2
Using white glue, set the spacer blocks of balsa wood inside the box built in step one. Make sure the blocks' 0.8" dimension goes from back to front.
Step 3
When the white glue has set, place the monolith front on to the assembly. Make sure the spacers let the front fit well. It should rest against the side and end pieces without having to be pressed in place.
Apply white glue to the spacers, then place the front on and position it. Apply cement to the edges. Let dry
Step 4
When the cement has set, check the edges for gaps that may need filling. Apply putty as needed and let it dry until odorless. You may want to make a sanding block by attaching sandpaper to a block of wood with square corners. Wet-sand the monolith until excess plastic, putty, cement smeej and other irregularities are gone.


Prime the monolith. You will probably need to prime & paint in two stages, holding one end of the monolith while painting the other. When the first end is touch-dry, paint the other end. When dry, check for irregularities in the surfaces and edges. If you find irregularities, sand the primer from the irregular areas, re-putty and re-sand, then re-prime and re-check. Once you're past the "re" stage, apply a coat of flat black paint.

When the paint's dry and odorless, lightly wet-sand using 400 - 600 grit paper. Be careful at the corners not to sand through to the primer or plastic. Apply a second coat of paint and repeat the sanding process. Finish with a coat of satin-gloss (combine 2-3 parts flat finish with 1 part gloss).


The Model Citizen's "Sprue U" pages are �2000-2004 Roger Sorensen
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last updated 04 December, 2007