Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build Update 6 (Final)

When I started this project back at the beginning of December I really didn’t think it would be the beginning of March before I finished it.  I had some distractions along the way that caused some of the delay and then life stepped in there for a while.  For example, I had to delay putting on the decals for a couple of weeks when it got so cold that the humidity inside the house dropped to 12%.  At that level, my decal setting solutions evaporated before I could get the decal on the model. But eventually the weather changed and I could complete the project.

Here they are with their topside decals placed.  At this point I still needed to apply Solvaset a couple more times to get some of them to really settle down into the details.  No clear coat done yet, just decals.  There are a few small decals that will go on the underside.

Topside decals applied

After putting on all the decals I let them set for a day, and spent the time on the base for the pair.  It is just a round wooden base that I picked up from Hobby Lobby.  It needed quite a bit of sanding, then primer and then some more sanding.  Once that was finished I added the rods that will hold the models in place and then sprayed on some Dupli-color gloss black.  After giving that a day to dry I put on the X-15 project decal and then two other decals that list the specific plane and mission being depicted.  Once those were dry I then gave the base a coat of Tamiya Clear Gloss to protect the decals from the Tamiya Dull Coat that was to go on next.

Base for the models

I then placed the models on the base.  There is a short rod that keeps X-15-1 from slipping off the base.  The angled rod is for the X-15-3 which I’m displaying in flight.  Here are a couple of shots of the planes on the stand.

Here are some closeups of the planes showing some of the small decals.

The end result looks pretty good and it will take it’s place with my other 1/144 scale manned space vehicles.  The decals took much longer to create since I kept finding more markings than I originally thought were on the planes.  Plus, I had to redo them a couple of times to get the sizes about right for the model.  I’m not sure how much longer my ALPS printer is going to last as the last set of decals I printed gave me a few problems.  As long as it holds out I’ll keep making custom decals when I need them.

I don’t know what the next project will be yet, I guess I need to go through the stash and find something that strikes me.

Thanks for looking.

Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build Update 5

Here is a quick update of the work so far. The birds have been painted and are just about ready to have the decals applied.

Here they are with their overall color of Tamiya NATO Black. It is not as black as Black paint so it gives them a better look.

Here is the business end of X-15-3. I attempted to paint the radial dark pattern you see in the photos, but not very well. I may try that again. The experiment box has also been painted. I painted the fuel/H2O2 jettison pipes with Tamiya metallic gray. The air brake actuators were painted the same color.

I painted the q-ball in the nose silver. Sorry for the blurry photo.

Next I painted the nose of X-15-1. I started out painting silver on the forward half and then added white stripes on the other half.

Lastly, I painted the XLR-11’s and the deployed airbrake actuators with the Metallic Gray.

That should do it for the detail painting. Everything else will be decals.

Thanks for looking.

Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build Update 4

I’ve make a lot of progress on the decals since the last update.  I’ve completed and printed them.  I started out by drawing them in vector form on Paint Shop Pro.  I then printed them on my laser printer and cut them out and laid them on the model in their approximate position so I could verify that they were the right size.

Laser printed decals cut out and placed.

Most of the smaller ones look like hieroglyphics when you zoom in on them, but at this scale once they are on the model you can’t read them anyway.  Here is a screen cap of the decals before I printed them.

Screen capture of the decal artwork.

I draw them on a blue background so I can see the white decals.  In order to print them I have to create a couple of separate files.  One for the white and another for the other colors.  The ALPS ink is rather translucent so if they are going to be placed on a dark painted area I underlay them with white.  So the first layer that is printed is the white layer.  I print that twice to make the white more opaque.  Then I run them through again to print the colors.

Here are the printed decals.  The small decal sheet on the left is the original Dragon decal sheet.

Original decals any my custom decals.

In all my research it appears that the X-15 US insignia did not have the blue circle around the star.  It was just the white and red.  Obviously I added a lot of markings that were not included in the Dragon kit.  Their decals really only allow you to build the original rollout version.  Even at that there were a few that were left off.

Now that I’ve completed the decals I have to get off my rear and paint the two birds.  It’s the home stretch now.  More to come. Thanks for looking.

Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build Update 3

Between all the holiday interruptions and playing with my new Elegoo Mars 2 Pro 3D printer, I’ve been working on the decals for the X-15 models.  In the process of researching the markings for these birds, I found that the particular flight of X-15-3 that I’m modeling did not have the ventral rudder installed.  In fact there were more flights made without the ventral rudder the there were with it.  The ventral and dorsal rudders were one piece wedges that moved in unison with each other.  It seems that at high angles of attack the ventral rudder was actually destabilizing.  So for many flights it was not installed.

Since I had already assembled X-15-3 and in fact I had primed it as well, I need to do some surgery to remove it.  I used my knife with a sharp #11 blade and slowly started making cuts at the panel line (which was also a glue line) to remove it.  It took a few careful strokes before it finally came off nice and clean.

Now the air brake actuator that was originally mostly hidden was exposed for all to see.  This means that I need to add some more details.  I did a bit of extra sculpting on the installed actuator to clean it up a bit.  I then started on scratch building a main hydraulic piston.  I used the same diameter styrene rods that I used on X-15-1.  I made the small rod longer than necessary and I’ll trim it off after fitting it.

I then turned my attention to the air brakes.  The opening in the installed kit part ends far too soon.  Not a problem with the rudder attached, but with the rudder gone you can easily see that the air brake vanes appear too short.  I remedied this by carving more of the part off until I had a depth that I could live with.  Then I laid the piston in place and noted where to trim the small rod.  I angled the back of the larger rod to match the carving that I had done and trimmed the small rod to the proper length and slightly thinned it where it would attach to the air brake actuator hub.  It was all glued in with some Tenax 7R.

It ended up not looking too bad.  Now back to prime it again and get it ready for paint.

More decal work to do, more to come.  Thanks for looking.

Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build Update 2

I’m building X-15-1 in its landed configuration with the air brakes open.  That meant that I needed to fill the open area under the dorsal fin.

Filling the open area on the dorsal fin.

Next, I needed to scratch build the air brake actuator parts since the air brakes will be open and the mechanism will be much more visible.  I started by cutting the components from rods and sheet stock.  The main hydraulic ram was made from .035 rod with the piston end from .020 rod.  The actuators were cut from .015 rod and they were connected to a hub piece cut from .005 sheet.  I then cut the “V” shaped rocker from .005 sheet stock.

Parts to assemble the air brake actuators. Also note the antennas cut from .005 sheet above the end of the ruler.

I first glued the hydraulic ram parts together and attached them to the hub and then glued that assembly to the back of the open air brake part.  I did cut a tiny part out of the back of the air brake to give the ram a place to rest.

Hydraulic ram installed in air brake.

I then added the actuator parts to connect the hub to the air brake plates.

Actuators added to air brakes.

I then glued the air brakes and ventral and dorsal fins to the fuselage.  Once they were glued in I added the “V” shaped rocker and the air brakes were done.

Completed air brakes with dorsal and ventral fins.

With that completed I glued in the XLR-11 engines.

XLR-11 engines installed.

X-15-1 with its XLR-11 engines had different fuel and oxidizer vent ports than when the XLR-99 engine was installed.  These were a much simpler part which looked like a simple pipe.

XLR-11 fuel and oxidizer jettison tubes. (from “Hypersonic” by Jenkens and Landis)

I used .035 tube to represent the XLR-11 fuel and oxidizer jettison ports.  At this point I also added the landing gear skids and nose wheel.  I also glued on the antennas.

Jettison ports, landing gear and antennas added. The nose wheel is not glued on.  It will be added after paint.

Finally, I glued on the pitot tube and the long needle probe.

Pitot tube, antennas and needle probe in place. Note the different position of the antennas compared to X-15-3.

With that X-15-1 and X-15-3 are ready for primer and paint prep.

Thanks for looking, more to come.