I’m starting a new build. This will be the first for the year. Last year I completed three models. That is a record for me. I’ll see if I can do better this year.
First on the table this year is an all resin kit of the Saturn I Block I (SA-1) from Martin’s Models. I purchased this kit directly from Martin in the UK at least 4 years ago. Some people say that the castings are pretty good. I’m not quite in that camp. Maybe over the years his casting process has gotten better. The castings in my kit are not quite up there with New-Ware or RealSpace Models. There are some casting flaws and some parts are a bit out of round, but it should still build up to a nice model. I’ll just have to do more cleaning than usual and do a little scratch building.
First thing I did was to gather everything together to see what I had to work with. A number of the parts will require some clean up and filling. On some of the parts it is hard to tell where the the pour plug ends and the part itself begins. I also don’t think I’ll be using the included display base. I’ll display it like I’ve been doing with my 1/144 manned launchers. The included decals are not bad, but I might be doing some custom ones before it’s all over.
I cleaned up the parts and removed the pour plugs as best I could tell. Many of the parts will require more work to look good.
I sanded the bases of the major sections and then started stacking them to see how far off from square I was. It is really difficult to sand them exactly square, so I rotated the parts until I got what looked like a straight rocket from the bottom to the top. I also made some alignment marks so that as I stack them later for gluing I can be sure that the alignment remains in the original orientation.
Next, I made some marks on the first stage boat tail. This will allow me to drill a hole in the center for the rod that will hold the model in place on the base. I also made a diagram to assist me when I scribe the lines on the base heat shield.
Then I glued the first stage tanks to the boat tail. I had to use a couple of shims to get a vertical stage. I attached them with CA. Then I started the process of filling the areas where the tanks meet the boat tail. This is still a work in progress. You can also see from the pictures that there is some clean up to be done between the tanks as well. I also filled a major divot on the boilerplate second stage.
Well construction is done on the Discovery XD-1. I made my goal of finishing it before Christmas (if you don’t count the stand). I’m still working on how I want to display it. I don’t know if I’ll use the stands that are included in the in kit or if I’ll try to find something else. It is quite a long model and takes up a fair amount of space. I may try to find a solution that allows me to hang it from the wall. Anyway, when I come up with something I’ll probably post an epilogue on it.
I glued the forward neck sections together and added the spine connecting piece to the reactor section.
With painting complete I removed the remaining masking and started installing the interior of the command sphere. I first installed the window shelf before using CA glue to place the cockpit in the upper half of the sphere. I then applied some JB Weld epoxy around the edges as an additional light blocking and to permanently attach the cockpit.
Next came the pod bay installation into the lower sphere half. Here I needed to make an adjustment. If i tried to place the pod bay in where it fit then the extended pod platform wouldn’t fit since I had included the door frame. If I had left off the door frame then it would have been fine. To fix it. I installed the pod bay just a bit higher in the sphere half. This meant that the bottom of the interior would not rest in the bottom of the sphere. This would lead to a very weak attachment at just a couple of points at the top of the pod bay. To sturdy it up, I added some styrene extensions to the bottom of the pod bay. They were at first attached with CA then after the pod bay was properly glued in, I used some JB Weld to more permanently attach them. It is now installed very firmly to the sphere.
Next I glued the two sphere halves together with some Tenax. With the sphere together I, soldered the cockpit and pod bay wires together and then added the long wires that will travel the length of the spine back to the batteries in the reactor section. I then threaded that wire through the command sphere back plate and glued it to the command sphere.
I then turned my attention to the steel rod that went into the reactor section. I needed to create an opening in it to allow the wires to exit the spine and get attached to the battery switch. I used my Dremel tool to grind of a section and then used a file to remove the sharp bits.
Now I could start building the spine to put the rest of the model together. I used a bit of JB Weld epoxy in the back of the command sphere where the forward rod was to go. Then I threaded the wire through the rod and put the rod in the command sphere back. Next I glued the neck section to the command sphere back. This would also help center the rod in the command sphere back since there was a bit of play at that joint.
I was then able to start adding the spine sections with CA. The forward section was finished with the addition of the antenna complex. The antenna complex also contains the rod connecting sleeve. I glued the sleeve to the forward rod with a bit of CA trying my best to get the antenna section lined up properly with the command sphere.
Then I moved on to the the rear section of the spine. First was to thread the wire through the rear rod. I had to slide on the spine sections and reactor section even though I would not be gluing them at this time. This was necessary to make it easier to get the wire through the small hole in the rod. I then applied CA to the rod and sleeve in the antenna array. Now I could start gluing the spine sections as earlier for the forward section. Finally the reactor section was glued in place.
Next came adding the containers. This required special attention to the instructions to be sure that they were glued on in the proper order Some of the sections were a bit trickier that others since they had only one attachment point and a large over hang on one side. But it all went well and surprisingly enough I didn’t have to redo any containers.
Once the containers were on I used some black wash on the engine exhausts, glued then in place in the engine stalks and then glued the completed engines to the reactor section. Unfortunately the engines do not touch each other as they do in the film. I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory fix so I just left them with a small gap between each other. I also soldered the wires together in the reactor section which completed the wiring process. The pictures show the lighting bluer than it actually looks.
I epoxied the stand sections to their steel rods and sprayed them with primer. I believe I will paint base and rod matte black and the top piece I’ll paint with the base color of the model. Like I said at the beginning I’m still not sure exactly how I will finally mount it.
That was a fun build and I really like the final product. Thanks for following along.
Progress has finally made it to the color coat stage. After hand brushing the darker gray colors and then masking them I painted everything in my base color using Vallejo Model Color White Gray. To my eye it makes the perfect base color. It is almost white with just a hint of gray. I sprayed all the parts with the base color. Model Color is primarily intended for brush painting but I was able to airbrush it by thinning it 50/50 with a custom thinner I made that was 66% distilled water and 33% isopropyl alcohol with a few drops of Model Color Flow Improver added. This worked very well and gave me pretty even coverage.
After painting the base color I removed all the masking, except for the open pod bay door and the cockpit window area. I let the paint set for a day and then mixed a batch of 25/75 base color/thinner and applied a mist coat over the command sphere and neck parts that had the darker gray areas. This toned down the difference in shade from the base color and looks pretty good to my eye. Sorry I didn’t get any before pictures. I’ll apply a clear flat overcoat to protect the paint. It is rather fragile and can be damaged if not handled carefully. The clear coat should give a tougher surface.
Next up will be to start installing the interior parts into the command sphere and continuing the assembly.
I didn’t get as much done this week as I wanted. The holidays tend to do that. But there was progress.
I assembled the 10 spine parts. These each consisted of 5 pieces. There were no locator pins since there needed to be room to run the metal tube through them. They did have an over lapping lip that helped the parts go together. Once the two halves were set, then the three reinforcing ribs were added. Then I just needed to do that 9 more times. I also then assembled the cargo/fuel containers. You have to build 60 containers of 5 different types. The fit was pretty good. Some Tenax and a bit of pressure glued them together with very few seam lines. The parts are all keyed so there is very little chance of putting them together incorrectly, but some organization will speed the process. There are some seams on the back sides that may not be hidden. I may not fill the seams if they can’t be seen. But, they are all done and ready for primer.
I also took the time to glue some sheet styrene pieces into the reactor section to hold the battery holder in place. They should keep the batteries from moving around when the model is moved.
Now that all the parts are primed, it is time to start masking the larger parts and painting the dark panels. I’ve started with the command sphere. I’ve masked off the areas to remain light gray. I’ve started painting on the two darker shades of gray. You can see that on the command sphere half on the right in the photo. When I get all the darker gray areas painted I’ll mask over them and spray on some Vallejo White Gray for the base color. After that will come some detail painting on the spine and reactor sections. One that is complete the whole thing will get a mist coat of White Gray to tone down the dark panels.
The cockpit light boxes were a bit more difficult than the pod bay. They had to fit around some complicated shapes. This time I made some patterns out of index cards. I then trimmed the patterns until they fix nicely around the cockpit. I then used this as a pattern to cut out the shape in styrene sheet. I then slightly scored the sheet at the fold lines to make bending simpler. The boxes were then glued together with Tenax cement. I then checked them against the cockpit and made whatever final trims were needed to make them fit fairly well. Any small irregularities would be covered up with JB Weld epoxy when they were permanently attached.
With the light boxes installed, I decided to light them up and see what they looked like. They look pretty good. The photos are a little bluer than what they actually look like. The different colored panels and buttons in the cockpit light up really well. Too bad most of it will be unseen when the whole model is complete.
With the lighting complete for now, I moved on to the antenna array. I followed the order of construction for the array, and found out that I should have done more test fitting first. The main antenna went on fine, as well as the cross piece and the spike. But the lower portion of the antenna mount does not fit that well and required some sanding, filling and more sanding. All of that would have been a lot simpler if I had installed those pieces before adding the main antenna. I think what I have done will look OK but it would have been a lot easier if I had done some checking first. (Normally I do, but I got a case of “go fever”.)
The connector tube that is in the base of the antenna mount required a bit of adjustment to line up with the hole properly on both ends. This tube connects the forward and rear tubes that run the length of the spine. Also in the third picture above, notice the small antennas. I did not use the small spikes in the kit. Instead I cut thin sections of plastic runner and glued them to the center. If you look carefully at the small antennas in the movie, you can see that they do not have spikes. Instead they have flat plates with some small rectangular details on them. At this small scale, I couldn’t get the small rectangles right so I left them as just flat plates.
Next I moved on to the back of the command sphere and the reactor/engine section. First I took the back of the command sphere and drilled a hole to allow the wires to pass from the sphere, through the spine back to the reactor section where the batteries and switch will be. I made sure that the hole is not so large that the tube will pass through. I then moved on to the forward neck section. I left it in three pieces to make painting easier.
The reactor section also needed modification. In order to get access to the inside where the batteries will be, I needed to lengthen the slots that hold the detail panels. I then applied the detail panels to the top and bottom of the reactor section. The lengthened slots and not gluing the two halves together will allow the top section to be removed and provide access to the inside. I then added the rear neck pieces. Finally, I assembled the three main engines.
With the main sections complete, the next thing up is the extremely repetitious spine and cargo pods. I’ve got them removed from their runners and organized in numbered cups. I still need to clean up the edges and then start putting them all together. Hopefully I can get them done soon since next week’s weather is favorable for painting.
I have complete installing the pod bay doors. They required some filling and sanding as they are just slightly smaller than the opening in the command sphere. I cemented the doors in and made the frames flush with the bottom of the opening. The kept the gap at the top of the opening. I inserted narrow strips of sheet styrene to fill as much of the gap as possible. This was then cemented in with Tenax 7R. The tiny bit of gap that was left was filled in with some small dabs of gap filling CA.
Next came masking of the command sphere halves. The lower half only needed to have its glue tab masked to give a better bonding surface later on. The upper half needed to also have its glue tab masked, but also the cockpit window opening.
I also started work on the light boxes for the pod bay section. I started by using some .010 sytrene sheet cut to form the shape and size of light box I needed. The sides of the pod bay used rectangular boxes and the top needed a pie shaped piece. I then sprayed the inside with gloss black paint and then checked for light leaks. I had touched up any light leaks and then painted the inside chrome silver. After that had dried for a day, I cut out small rectangles for the LED’s to be installed. I tacked them in place with some white glue.
When the white glue dried, I mixed some 5-minute epoxy and then put a dab over each LED and also a spot on the wire leads for each LED. The extra spot of epoxy will act as a strain relief so that when twisting and moving the wires around it won’t put as much pressure on the LED’s. After the epoxy set, I painted the backside of the LED’s with some chrome silver and when that was dry, I applied some gloss black to keep any light from escaping. After that I, tacked the boxes in place on the pod bay with some Plasti-Zap CA glue.
The next thing to do was to mix up some JB Weld epoxy to permanently attach the light boxes.
That’s it for now. Next up should be building the light boxes for the cockpit. Thanks for looking.
This update will show the completion of the pods, the painted pod platforms and some work on the rest of the command sphere. The pod platforms were painted flat black. I glued a pod base to the right hand pod platform to place the unlit pod. I also glued the pod base in place for the lighted pod. I put the pod platforms into the pod bay and did a test fit. I then noticed that the extended pod was resting on the pod bay door frame and would not allow the pod bay to get a proper fit into the command sphere. I had heard that before on a YouTube video a few week ago. Sure enough it didn’t fit quite right.
After some careful moving and fitting I decided that if I could remove a bit of the frame near the bottom I could get the pod bay to seat well. It would also mean that I would need to shim the back of the pod bay where it meets the sphere at the bottom. I then started sanding the pod door frame along just the bottom third of the frame. When I had enough removed I did another test fit and found that it should work fine. When everything is in place it will be hardly noticeable.
Painting the details on the pods was tricky. They are very small. The stationary pod was completed first. I added the black accents and a small red square on the back. I then put some Tamiya clear gloss where the window should be to simulate glass. Then I put some Micro Kristal Kleer where the headlights were to go. When that had dried I painted them silver, and when that was dry I painted on some Tamiya Clear Gloss. Next went on the arms. They were CA’d into place and then painted flat white. The lighted pod had a few more steps. I made sure the complete inner surface was painted chrome silver. Next, I carefully pushed the 1mm fiber optic fibers into the four headlight holes that were 3D printed in place as part of the pod. I pushed them in until about 1/4 inch was inside the pod. The fiber tunnels force the fibers to slightly bend toward the lower center of the pod so they can catch the most light from the LED. I left some extra sticking out in front to make it easier to use the Plasti-Zap to glue them in without fogging them up. After the CA set I trimmed off the extra. I then hooked up the LED to see how they looked when lit. It looks like they pickup the light well.
Next, I’ll be starting to mask the sphere in preparation to paint the interior for light blocking. Thanks for looking.