This is the home stretch on the build. Just a few minor things to do. First was to finally remove the masking from the underside of the plane. There was very little bleed from the black over spray. It was easily touched up.
You can also see that at this point I’ve added the two underside antennas. I left the masking over the screw hole so that the upcoming clear coats will not gum up the threads.
I next sprayed on a gloss coat in preparation for the decals. Then decals started going on in earnest. I started the process about 7:00 pm one night and got on a roll and when I had finished I noticed that it was 3:00 am. Oops, I hadn’t planned on making it an all nighter, but there you are. Here is a view of the right side of the plane with al the decals on.
I used only a few of the kit supplied decals. Namely, the yellow NASA tail stripe, the large and small “Star and Bars”, “U.S. AIR FORCE”, and the large “USAF” decals. All the other decals came from the aftermarket Hypersonic decal sheet. This is an excellent decal sheet. I believe that there are markings for any variation of the three X-15 aircraft.
This decal sheet is meant to be used with a set of masks that they also sell. The masks are for the markings that come from the Special Hobby sheet. Those markings were originally the wrong size. Special Hobby did correct them for later runs of the kit. The kit I was working from had corrected sizes. However, I think the “USAF” markings were still just a bit large. Not a deal breaker, but still not quite right.
Anyway, after applying some MicroSol to make sure the decals settled in to any details and then giving them time to completely dry, I sprayed on a matt clear to take most of the shine off the airframe. Once that had dried, I removed the masking over the windows and the dot covering then screw hole.
It is time to mask for the slightly lighter Black Gray for some of the panels. I first used Tamiya masking tape to outline the areas and then covered the rest of the bird in more Tamiya tape as well as blue painters tape. I then sprayed on the Vallejo Black Gray. When the paint was somewhat dry I removed the masking.
While the paint was fully curing I moved on to piping the external tanks. I started with the ammonia tank and the pipes that run from the pylon forward. I had to use a straight pin to clean out the holes on the stand offs a bit so the 0.015 round stock would pass through without a lot of pressure.
I chose the ammonia tank first since its piping was a little more complex than the oxygen tank. Several of the pipes need to cross each other on their paths. The scratch built sliver piece of hardware where you see three of the pipes going have holes drilled in them to help in attaching the pipes. I next moved to the back of the ammonia tank to add the piping there.
The back of the tanks have some piping needed to be added as well.
I followed a similar procedure for the front and back of the oxygen tank.
The external tanks have had their decals added. I started with the black stripe that starts at the forward black stripe and then spirals around to the back of the tank. The two tanks do not have the same spiral. The white tank has a spiral that goes from the top front around the tank and back to the black end also near the top. The silver tank spiral starts at the same place as the white one, but the spiral ends at the back near the bottom instead. Then there a LOT of info and warning placards on the tanks. There are eight on the front of each tank under the nose. Then there are four on top of the tank. Fourteen on the outside of each tank. Two on the inside of each tank. Five at the back of each tank. Finally there is one on the pylon of each tank. I then put on a light coat of matte clear to protect them.
The next thing up for them is to thread the piping on and through stand-offs. But now it is time to start painting the X-15 itself. I started by painting an area of Vallejo White from the ventral stabilizer and up to the nose gear door. Then another white area from wing tip to wing tip near the flap hinge line.
I then masked off exactly where I needed the white stripes to go. I used 1/8 inch wide tape for the wingtip to wingtip stripe and two strips of 6mm tape slightly overlapped for the stripe from the ventral fin to the nose gear door.
With that done I sprayed the model with a base coat of Tamiya NATO Black.
Now I need to let the paint cure for a couple of days before I mask off for the areas that will be painted with Vallejo Black Gray. That should give me time to get the external tanks all piped up.
At the end of the last update, I had the external tanks painted and ready for the final details to be added. I did that by using CA to attach a device that I had previously scratch built. I’m not sure the exact function of this device. I can’t find any documentation for it as of yet. However, it is built and looks similar to the one on the actual tanks. I painted it silver and then attached it to each tank. I then sprayed on a clear coat to prepare them for the decals.
I next moved back to the X-15 itself. I glued on the dorsal fin/rudder with Tenax. There is a gap that will have to be filled where the fin meets the fuselage, but it is not too bad. I also glued on the resin helium tank box. It will require a bit of filler to make it properly meet up with the air brakes. There are also a few small pinholes on one side that will need filling.
I then glued on the ventral fin. It too has a gap at the fin/fuselage joint that will need filling. It also had a much larger gap at the base of the air brake on the right side. I couldn’t use filler since the air brake was a moveable surface and should have a small gap at the fuselage. I ended up gluing on a strip of .010 sytrene to fill the gap. The end result looks good.
It was time to add the landing skids. I removed them from the pour plug. They are a two piece assembly. One small piece represents the hinge where the skid is attached to the fuselage. The instructions indicate to glue the hinge to the fuselage first then glue the skid to both the hinge and the fuselage at the same time. Of course by this point I have ditched the instructions long ago. I glued the hinge to the skid and made sure they were square and lined up properly.
I then glued that assembly to the fuselage. This worked very well and allowed me to get them on exactly where they needed to be and straight.
I then added some masking tape to the back of the ventral fin/rudder at the air brake opening. This will keep primer and paint from getting on the detail parts inside that are already painted.
I next tackled the APU exhaust ports. They are small pipes that exit the fuselage near the cockpit at an angle. I took a piece of 3/64 styrene rod and drilled it out to make a tube. I then cut off some angled sections and glued them in place.
After cleaning up some final spots that needed some more filler I sprayed primer over the whole model. This let me better see if I had some additional areas that needed filling. Of course there were. I had to do additional work on the wing/fuselage joints, the fuselage halve seam, the ball nose and a couple of spots at the back near the engine. When those were cleaned up I sprayed primer again.
After looking it over I decided that I had to add the BCS thrusters on the wings. The ones on the nose had been drilled out earlier in the build. They had markings showing where they were. The wings had no such markings. There were two upward facing thrusters and two downward facing thrusters. I went through my documentation and finally found some dimensions that the would allow me to measure where they should be on the model. I made some marks and then drilled out some nozzle representations.
I lastly went back and re-scribed some panel lines near the front of the tunnels that run along the sides of the fuselage.
The only parts left to add are a couple of antennas on the lower side of the fuselage and the two vent booms that project from the back of the rocket motor. I’m leaving them off until painting is finished since with all the handling that will need to be done I will probably break them off if I put them on now.
Next up is to paint the white stripes on the bottom of the aircraft and then mask them off prior to spraying on the base color.
Time for another update. Progress is continuing on the X-15A-2. I have the external tanks primed and the first color applied.
I then moved to a part that I’ve been procrastinating on. The windows on the cockpit canopy have to be cut from a supplied square of clear plastic. I started by cutting out a rectangle of the approximate dimensions and then I carefully sanded the rectangle into an oval shape that will fit the openings in the cockpit canopy. It actually wasn’t as difficult as I was imagining. It did take a while to get a shape that fit, but careful sanding slowly created window that fit well into the opening. In the picture below if you look closely you can see the window in place. I used Plasti-Zap CA glue. It does not fog clear plastic, but holds the parts together very tightly.
I then shaped another window for the other side. I only dropped a window into the carpet once. Fortunately I was able to find it and didn’t have to shape another window. Once they were glued in and the glue cured, I used some alcohol on a cotton swab to clean the windows both inside and out. I then brushed on a coat of Future Floor Finish on both sides of the windows. It not only makes the windows very clear, but it also helps to hold them in place similar to the glue.
Next I applied some Tamiya masking tape and used a fresh #11 blade to mask the windows for future painting.
It was now about time to glue the fuselage halves together, but before I could do that I needed to nail down how the model was going to be displayed. Special Hobby does not provide any stand for the model if you build it as an in-flight version. My friend supplied a stand that he had bought some time ago. He and I were both fairly sure it would not work. Once the external tanks were mounted, the stand would not fit between them. I looked on the internet for an alternative. I thought I had found one, but after it arrived and I started doing some fit checks, I realized that it wouldn’t work very well either.
The stand had a very long chrome bar that came up from the wooded base. Since the X-15 has a substantial ventral fin, this stand would have required the model to be mounted just behind the cockpit. That was the only way to be sure the ventral fin would not hit the chrome bar. This would have resulted in a very unstable mount. So back to the internet I went. I finally found one that looked narrow enough and had flat metal bar that would be next to the model that was only and inch or so long. That would easily clear the ventral fin.
When it came in I was even more pleased. It included a threaded insert that could be glued into the model and then it had a thumbscrew that secured the model to the stand. It also had another short pin that went into the model and prevented it from spinning on the thumbscrew. Here some photos of the model with the holes drilled and the threaded insert in place, but nothing is glued in.
After verifying that this was going to work, I added a small styrene fence and then poured epoxy all around the threaded insert to permanently affix it to the model.
Now finally I could glue the fuselage halved together. The halves were slightly warped, but that was easily taken care of by gluing the halves together bit by bit from the nose toward the rear. When I was about a third of the way down I shifted to the rear and moved forward. It went together pretty well. I used Tenax 7R and it welded that halves solidly.
It required a bit of seam scraping and some filler. Then I needed to re-scribe some panel lines where they cross the seam. I then epoxied the ejection seat into the cockpit. It looks pretty good. I didn’t go all out on the instrument panel since so little will be visible through the tiny windows.
The canopy didn’t give me as much trouble as I was afraid of, but it did take a fair bit of sanding, scraping and re-scribing.
The wings gave me more trouble than I was expecting. They were both warped. I hadn’t noticed this before, but then I wasn’t really looking at them very closely at the time. I soaked them in boiling hot water for a few minutes and then took them out and carefully bent them to remove the warp. I wasn’t able to get all the warps out, but they are now visibly straight and you need to look closely to see the remaining warp.
I also attached the horizontal stabilizers. Now it is really starting to look like an X-15.
The external tanks have been painted. All that is left is to paint on the final few details and then spray them with a clear coat prior to adding the decals to them. I’m sure that I will have to run a drill bit through the small holes to remove the bits of paint and clear coat so the 0.015 rod will pass through.