Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s not that I haven’t been working on anything. I have been working on this build since October, but I’ve been busy on other things that have gotten in the way of writing posts. I now have made some time to get back to posting my progress.

The latest build from the stash is the Dragon 1/144 X-15 1+1 kit. I bought it about 8 years ago, so I guess now is a good time to build it. The kit allows for two versions of the X-15 to be built from the one kit. I’ll be building the pair as X-15-1 (56-6670) and X-15-3 (56-6672). The X-15-1 will represent the first powered flight (flight 1-2-7) and will be built in landed configuration. The X-15-3 will represent one of the research flights (flight 3-22-36) that carried the Rarefied Wake Flow experiment (it was unsuccessful).

The kit does not contain tail numbers for X-15-3, only ship 1 and 2. I will have to create some decals for that. I’ll also have to produce some other decals for items that were on the ships but are not on the decal sheet. One in particular for X-15-3 is a hand painted design that says “Little Joe the II” with a pair of dice. That was on the #3 ship for a few missions as a tip of the hat to the crew chief who was also the crew chief for the X-1E.

I plan on building these planes mostly out of the box. The fit of the parts is hit and miss. Some of the parts fit nice and snug, but other are loose and sloppy. It has some reasonable detail considering the small scale, but I think there are a few items that I can add without much trouble.

Let’s get into the build.

The nose of the model contains some very shallow depressions representing the RCS thrusters in the nose. I used a straight pin to slightly deepen the holes to make them more visible.  I also added the nose part for the long instrument boom for X-15-1.

You can barely see where I used a straight pin to deepen the RCS thruster nozzles.

I next checked out the business end parts. The XLR-11’s are represented, but they are shallow and do not represent the nozzles very well. The nozzles don’t stick out far enough but I really don’t have a good way to add extensions. I did drill out the nozzles to give them a bit of depth for a more realistic look.

You can see how little depth the XLR-11 nozzles have. Here I have started drilling on the top XLR-11.
Now both XLR-11 engines have had their nozzles drilled out. It is a much better look I think.

Then I turned my attention to the XLR-99 nozzle. It’s not bad and has some molded in details, but I felt it would look better if I drilled out the turbopump exhaust.

There are some molded in details but the turbopump exhaust needs drilling out.
Now the exhaust port is drilled out and has some depth.

I then moved on to the cockpit. It is very basic and has little detail. But when you see the size of the windows on the X-15 and consider the scale of the model, there really isn’t much that will be seen.  The kit has no provision to build the model with an open canopy without some major surgery.  The kit is designed only with a closed cockpit in mind.

I used my references and picked some representative colors for the cockpit tub, instrument panel and seat.  You have to slide the cockpit tub into the model from the open end of the fuselage.  The way Dragon made the fuselage parts as an tube shape prevents seams running down the center line that would have to be dealt with.  But that presents its own problems with getting the cockpit tub in place.  Sliding the cockpit tub in from the open end is a bit tricky and really needs the seat to not be installed until the tub is glued into place.  Once the cockpit was in place, I glued the cockpit canopy on with Future Floor Finish and then masked the windows off.  You can tell how little of the cockpit is going to be visible in the pic below.  Everything that is clear will be painted, only the masked off windows will remain clear.

You can see the painted cockpit parts.
Now the cockpit and seat is in place.
Here you can see the installed canopy and masked off windows.

Next came some filling of areas of the fuselage that are not going to be used in this build.  Since X-15-1 was going to be built in the landed configuration I filled the mount hole with putty.

Forground is X-15-1 with mount hole being filled in. The back one is X-15-3 and I’ll be using the mount hole there.

After some checking I needed to drill the mount hole in X-15-3 out a bit at an angle so the mound rod can be inserted at an angle rather than straight up.  This will allow me to put it on the stand with a bit of a nose up direction.

Mount hole drilled out at an angle for the mounting rod.

I then glued the rear fuselage to the forward sections of both ships.  I then sanded the bottom of X-15-1 smooth and started work on X-15-3 and its flight surfaces.  The wings fit reasonably well if a bit loose, but the horizontal stabilizers were very sloppy and required work to make sure a good anhedral was maintained.  Two small holes on either side of the ventral fin will not be used.  They are for attaching the ground handling rig which will not be used in my build.

X-15-1 fuselage glued together.
X-15-3 wings and horizontal stabilizers glued on and unused holes filled.

At this point I decided to concentrate on X-15-3 and it’s details before continuing the work on X-15-1.  The build will continue in the next post.

Thanks for looking.  More to come.

Bandai 1/72 Scale Millennium Falcon Perfect Grade Build Update 8 (Final)

I finally finished the Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon.  In case you hadn’t noticed I’ve kind of been procrastinating on the weathering.  It always intimidates me a bit to weather a model.  I’m always afraid that I’m going to ruin it.  It usually turns out OK but the trepidation is still there.  The only real thing that caused me to really pause was that the pressure regulator on my air compressor broke and I had to get a new one.  I also found another distraction by starting to learn Autodesk Fusion 360.  I’m planning on getting a 3D printer in the near future and I decided I needed to learn how to create 3D models.

Anyway, I finally got off top dead center and started weathering by making a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Black Gray and thinner.  I then sprayed that on the open maintenance bays and the battle damage.  I also sprayed some mist layers on the front sections of the mandibles.  Then I moved to the back and sprayed the engine grills and some of the vents in that area.  The vents on the top of the docking tunnels also got sprayed.

Then I started making the grime streaks on the Falcon.  I started with the bottom side first.  I was using the Tamiya Weathering Master pigment powders.  I got off to a bad start as the pigments just would not stick very well to the Vallejo clear coat I had sprayed earlier.  I could only assume that the clear coat was just too slick to take the pigments properly.

Tamiya Weathering Master pigment sets B and D.

I decided to give the bottom side a light covering of Vallejo Matte finish.  Then I tried the streaking again.  This worked much better.  I also used the brush applicator to dirty up some other areas around vents and major hull intersections.  When the bottom was done I sprayed more clear matte to fix the pigments in place.  When that dried I turned it over and gave the upper hull a light coat of matte and when it dried started applying pigments.  I applied it to the spine details on the cockpit tunnel and the side details between hull halves.  I kept applying it to different areas until I got close to the effect I was looking for.  I know I could have gone further, but I didn’t want to go overboard.  Then it too got another layer of matte to fix the pigments in place.  I’m happy with the result and hope others will like it.

Here are some photos of the under side of the weathered Falcon.

Here are some photos of the upper hull.

I then assembled the stand and put the Falcon on it.  It’s a bit wobbly as I’ve seen some others note.  I might have to search for something a bit more stable.

Falcon on stand.

It is finally finished and I’m quite happy with it.  It is an expensive model but it is worth every penny in my opinion.  Now I have to decide what I might work on next.  In the meantime I’ll be learning Fusion 360.

Thanks for looking.

1/144 Saturn I Block II SA-5 Build Update 9 (Final)

Saturn I Block II SA-5 is finally finished.

When I posted the last update I was at the stage where I needed to scratch build the S-I retrorockets.  I used a short section of 0.125 inch styrene rod about an inch longer than I needed.  I chucked that in my Dremel tool and used it like a lathe.  I used my #11 X-acto knife to shape the forward section of the retrorockets.  They have a rather odd shape.  It starts out like a cone and then has something like a button on the end.  Once I had the shape right I removed it from the Dremel and cut off the excess.  They were then painted white with the bottom black.  The below pictures show the before and after.

Now that I had them completed I needed to get my decals printed.  I ended up printing three sets.  I felt like I needed extras in case I screwed something up and to give me some extra white decals in case I needed to double them up to cover the black.  Here is one of the sets.

One of the decal sets.

After I printed that one I realized that I did not print enough of the blowout covers for the interstage.  There are eight blowout covers not four.  So the next set I printed I had extras.  I also found out that my decal paper is getting old and sometimes the thermal ink doesn’t stick as is should.  Time for an order of new paper from Tango Papa.  I was able to get enough good decals with the paper I had so work can continue.

Before installing the retrorockets or the S-I engine nozzles, I decided to apply the decals.  It is a bit simpler to put on the decals without the retrorockets.  The trickiest part of applying the decals was the S-IV and the interstage.  All those details made getting the decals on an interesting task.  I found the best way was to cut the decals into sections that would go between any protrusions.  The checkerboard decal also required a few careful snips to fit around the hydrogen vent pipe standoffs.  The black/white stripe decals that went at the base of the S-IV also required cutting into sections.  It took a few hours to get them on in decent shape.  I did have to do a bit of touch up with black paint in a few places.  Also the curved decals that went around the S-IV upper interstage confirmed my cone calculations were correct.  They went on smoothly and look quite nice.  Once all the decals were put on I installed the S-I retrorockets and gave it a coat of clear.  When that had dried I then sprayed on a clear flat.  Here are some photos of the completed decals.

After the decals went on I installed the engine nozzles.  The inside of the bells were painted with Tamiya smoke.

Base of SA-5 showing engines.

Here is a view of my Saturn I family.  The only one I need to add is SA-10 the last S-I Block II.  That will give me a model of each significantly different version.

SA-1 on the left and SA-5 on the right.

Now I guess it is time to get back to the Millennium Falcon and start weathering it.  I’ve put if off long enough.

Thanks for looking.


1/144 Saturn I Block II SA-5 Build Update 8

Time for another update.

The construction is finished except for adding the S-I retrorockets and the S-I engines.  The engines have been painted.

S-I engines painted.

The two halves have been glued together with epoxy.  I then applied a final primer coat after a small bit of sanding on the S-I/S-IV joint.  Once that was done I gave it an overall coat of white.  After letting the paint cure for a couple of days, then began the tedious task of masking off all the areas that are to remain white.  Once that was done I sprayed on the black.  It turned out pretty good, only a handful of leaks that had to be cleaned up.  After letting the black cure a couple of more days, I started painting some of the details.  The antennas got painted yellow.  The half sphere on the instrument unit was painted black, the LOX and fuel fill and drain ports were painted steel, and the S-IV ullage motors got painted with some red leaving a strip of white on the top.  The joint between the S-I and the S-IV interstage is supposed to be black and I’ll do that with a decal, which should be easier that painting since masking that area would be very problematic.

Next up is to scratch the S-I retrorockets.  I have an idea of how I’m going to do that.  Hopefully it works in the real world.  Then I’ll need to finish the decals.

That’s it for now. Thanks for looking.

1/144 Saturn I Block II SA-5 Build Update 7

It’s been a while, time for an update on the SA-5 build.

There are quite a few details that need to be added to the S-IV and interstage areas.  But before that I needed to add the payload section to the S-IV interstage.  There are a lot of details that go on the S-IV interstage and that would make it harder to get a relatively smooth transition from the S-IV interstage to the payload section (which includes the instrument unit).  I used CA to bond them and then started filling and sanding the areas to get a fairly smooth joint.

Payload section bonded to the S-IV interstage.

I then added the tunnel that runs down the side of the S-IV just to the left of Pos II.  This was made by laminating two strips of .010 x .100 strip stock.  I didn’t have any .020 x .100 stock so this worked out fine.  I also cut and shaped some .005 styrene sheet to make the antennas and an access hatch for the S-IV interstage.

Tunnel and antennas added.

I added two retrorocket fairings to the top of the S-IV interstage.  I thought about making some from styrene rod, but then it hit me to check my spare parts stash.  I had built a Saturn V last year from a mash up of the Monogram and Airfix kits, so I had a spare Airfix S-II.  It had retrorockets on the S-IVB aft interstage.  I pulled it out of the stash and checked it.  The angle was similar to the angle of the S-IV interstage and the size of the molded on retrorockets looked good.  I got my chisel blade out and shaved two of them off.  I then glued them to the S-IV interstage.

I then started adding details to the instrument unit at the base of the payload section.  It has several antennas, an access door, a rounded protrusion, and a panel that appears as though it may be somewhat thicker than an access door.  There are also a couple of antennas at the base of the payload section just above the instrument unit.  The documentation that I could find on the instrument unit is very sparse, but from photos and the few drawings I could find I think I have all the major details added.

I made the semi-spherical detail by sanding down a half pearl from a sheet I bought some time ago from Michaels.  I originally used them as rivets for a steam punk rocket I built a couple of years ago.  The thick panel was made from .010 sheet stock, the access door came from .005 sheet stock.  I made the large antennas at Pos II and Pos IIII with .020 x .040 strip. The medium sized antenna next to the semi-sphere was made from .020 x .030 strip.  The small antennas near a couple of the circular openings were made from .020 x .020 strip.  The last antennas added were the two tiny antennas at Pos I and Pos III on the payload section.  They were made from .015 x .020 strip.

Now it was time to add the fairings for the gaseous hydrogen vent pipes.  For this I started with the conical section of the LH2 fairings from the donor S-II.  I used white glue to temporarily attach them to a popsicle stick after cutting off the excess length.  I then used sanding sticks and a #11 blade to form them to the correct shape.  You can see them attached to the popsicle stick in one of the above pictures.  I used CA to attach them to the proper positions on the S-IV stage.  Then I cut some styrene tube (the same size I used on the S-I stage) to fit between the fairing and the base of the S-I interstage.  The base of the S-I interstage has an angle so I needed to try and match that angle on my tubes.  I then used Tenax to attach the front of the pipes to the fairings and CA to attach the base of the pipe to the S-I interstage.

Gaseous Hydrogen vent pipes added.

Next came adding a small umbilical panel to the left of Pos II at the base of the S-IV.  I used small sections of 3/64 rod to represent two of the pipes.  I then used a 1/64 drill bit to make the 10 small holes between the pipes.  I did not drill to the full diameter of the bit since the holes needed to be quite small.  I then used a 1/16 drill bit make the larger umbilical hole above the 10 small holes.  I again did not drill to the full diameter of the bit since the hole is smaller than 1/16 and also is not very deep.  Once that was done I added the four ullage motors.  I had to go the spare parts stash one more time to find a spare ullage motor since one of the ones that came with the conversion kit was not cast well enough to be used.  The other two came from the S-IB kit that is the base of this model.

Ullage motors and umbilical panel added to the S-IV.

Finally, I could put a coat of primer over the S-IV/payload part and see how it turned out.

The only detail left to add are the four S-I retrorockets.  They extend at an angle past the end of the S-IV section so I cannot add them until after I glue the S-I and S-IV sections together.  After that it will be time to start painting the white base coat.  I will not be using the conversion kit decals and instead will make some of my own.  It appears that the checkerboard pattern that goes around the S-I interstage has 10 squares from one Pos to the next.  The kit decals are off on that point.  There are also some other markings that are not on the decal sheets.  It is getting closer, but there is still quite a bit of work to do.

Thanks for looking.