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1/72 Saturn V ... a semi-scratch amalgamation

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  • 2 months later...

It had to come to this …

I've dabbled a little here and there with 3D programs, but quickly got frustrated with the CAD-ness of the whole thing. (I've used Illustrator for well over 20 years … It's ingrained, and so not the same.) I'm thinking that if I'm ever going to finish this thing I'm going to have to learn how to use a 3D drawing program and get parts printed. I just have to buckle-down and learn it.

After a weekend of fits, starts and pouring over the manual, here's what I've come up with. Keep in mind these are at 1/72 scale, so they may seem a little rudimentary in detail.


I started with some IU details first. The H2O accumulator and Flight computer.


Some S-IVB, and IU antennas.


S-IC LOX control box ... these are tucked into the forward skirt.

So much more to do, but technology is our friend.

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Thanks! It IS Rhino, I was buoyed by the parts Vincent was creating for the 1/32 LEM with it. For me the learning curve is a little steep, but after nailing down a few of it’s nuances, it’s coming along a little more easily.

I'm kinda geeking out on the possibilities.

Edited by johnlove_mk_II
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I started to learn Rhino recently as well. I too have many years of Illustrator ingrained into my being, so bending my brain from 2D into 3D to learn such a new type of program has been a major challenge. It appears you are well ahead of me already. I had to stop when life got in the way, and now my 90-day trial of Rhino has expired :(

How did you go about learning it? Did you do any online tutorials, or just read the manual? What seemed to help you the most?

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I mainly just read through the manual. I started off with basic shapes and joining things together … once I got comfortable with that I started branching out to rounded edges, rivets and so forth. There’s been a tool to do everything I wanted to do, it just took a whole lot of trial and even more error to get it all to work. The good thing is it’s all starting to make sense and I can throw things together relatively quickly.

Also, you can import illustrator files directly into Rhino … which, for me, is a huge time saver. They keep their dimensions and you can extrude, make them a solid or anything you want. It’s pretty versatile.


Here are the S-II LH2 fairings I did last night. I still need to add some details here and there but I think it’s a pretty good start.

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Thanks! I’m having a blast with this stuff and wow it’s really addictive. I can’t wait for 3D printing to get cheaper!



Didn't have much time to “play" last night but I did get a chance to send a file over to Shapeways to see if the wire tray would even print and at what price. Pleasantly, it will ... and it's under $20bucks!

The tray support structure is kinda out of scale due to the printer limitations, but still … I certainly couldn’t do better in styrene or brass.

Edited by johnlove_mk_II
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It looks like your model and your CAD skills are coming along nicely, John.

Just a brief update... Regarding the 1:72 J-2 engines referenced elsewhere in John's build thread: if John (or anyone who has already obtained a one-piece J-2) would like to upgrade to the new, easier-to-finish version at a discount, I can share a link to a private zero-mark-up order page (Shapeways' cost only--no profit for me). A Shapeways email receipt with purchase details or online order record should be adequate proof of purchase. Also... http://meatballrocketry.com/shop/ now has a more user-friendly layout of our Shapeways parts and links--it should be somewhat easier to browse for parts than the Shapeways shop directly.

Back to your regularly scheduled thread. Keep up the good work, John!

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Thanks Josh! It's funny, just last week I was just looking a the updated design and thinking about how I'd go about finishing them.

Now for an update ...

I decided to really concentrate on one stage instead of bouncing around all over the place with this detail and that. I’m not getting anywhere. When I started this thing, I was going from the top down … but now, I think I’m going to focus on the S-IC stage. Structurally it’s not too difficult … at 1/72nd scale it’s a 5.5” tube. It’s just a matter of stringers and a “few” details, right?

My preliminary structural design will utilize the interstage parts from the kit. (I’ll be replacing the stringers on the S-II / SIVB interstage and adding stringers to the S-IC forward skirt, Interstage and aft S-II skirt.)


I just ordered the prototype tie-down details. There are two parts that will make up the tie-down, a vertical section and a horizontal section. The vertical will be fitted into a notch cut into the 5.5” tube, and the horizontal will be supported with a structure that will be part of the thrust structure assembly that will hold the LVM F-1s. All the seams will be covered with a wrap that will hold all the stringers.



I’ve started in on the S-IC umbilicals, here are the three that reside along the base.


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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Last Friday Night


I had never actually seen a Dragon Saturn V in person until last Friday night.  It was really impressive, even with all the imperfections.  I could feel the ”want” and “need” starting to bubble up from a deep dark place.  I started thinking maybe I could just buy one one of the ready-mades to display, just to tide me over, until I could get my colossal 3D model printed. Then after weighing the options, I thought why not just build the kit I have already.  Maybe a OOB build.  It wouldn’t take too long, and I think I’d do a slightly better job tossing it together than the factory did. It would be really cool to have.


Saturday Afternoon


I drove down to the storage unit and collected all the bits and kits from my last attempt and found that I had progressed pretty far before I let the retentiveness settle in and I shelved the whole thing. I think I’ll just carry on with what I have, building it slightly more accurate than stock and not fretting over the details too much.  Think “High Fidelity Toy Saturn V” rather than “Most Amazing Saturn V Model Ever Made”.  That’s what I’m shooting for … a fun cool model that I can display with all my other geeky stuff until I build the monster, bank-breaking, Saturn V.


It had been a while and I had forgotten all the stuff I had collected.  After I got it all home I decided to catalog all the subassemblies and other stuff to have a better idea where I stood.  Here’s what I have.


1 unbuilt Dragon Saturn V kit

Three unbuilt Dragon CSMs and LMs, all on their frets.

1 mostly complete CSM

1 mostly complete J mission LM

1 unbuilt Airfix LM

A set of LVM F-1 motors

3 Meatball Rocketry J-2s

6 Apogee F-1s

1 New Ware 1/72 CSM/LM detail set

2 Sets of Space Model Systems 1/72 Saturn V Decals

2 - 36” lengths of 5.5” Dia. Plastruct tubing (for S-IC and S-II)

1 - 36” length of 2.75” Dia. Plastruct tubing (For S-IVB)


Yeah, I bought all this stuff.  Crazy, right?


This week


So Sunday afternoon I start formulating my plan.  The main goal here is to have a semi-accurate,  fun model that can break down into its stages and be reasonably durable.  I also want to keep the fussing with absolute accuracy down to a minimum.  I took the kit and tape-mocked the entire stack … then stared at it for an hour.  It’s impressive, but the inaccuracies really started bothering me. For the launch vehicle, I decided to stick with my original plan of utilizing the kit parts for the S-IVB interstage, S-II aft skirt, S-II to S-IC Interstage, S-IC forward skirt and Plastruct tubes for the tanks.


The first step was trimming them to size.  I measured out the areas to be removed and placed rings of tape around their circumference as a guide.  I then carefully cut them to length with a razor saw.

I then measured out and cut the tubes to length.  After I had all the parts cut and started piecing things together a small, ridiculously tedious issue came to light.  The skirt sections are slightly smaller than the Plastruct tubes.  It was only by a millimeter or so, but they did not line up.  I split the tubes along their lengths and removed material until they were reduced to the right diameter.   After that little detour, they now match quite nicely. 




Here’s the corrected fundamental structure for the stages. (it's a little difficult to get it all in the shot)  I’ll be adding styrene wraps and stringers for the aft of the S-IC, the forward skirt of the S-II and both the skirts for the S-IVB.  


Next step is the S-IC trust structure and F-1 fairings.  I’m trying to decide if I should just order some Apogee fairings, or come up with my own … and how the heck to mount the LVM F-1s

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Aww. I'm a little sad that you are choosing to go the OOB route. Your plan of correcting all the details is what has been inspiring my efforts to build an accurate 1/72 Saturn V.


What styrene wraps are you using? The Apogee 1/70's or your own?


I know you've done some 3D work, here are the S-II feed line fairings that Michael Key has recently available:



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I guess it's only slightly "out-of-box" ... well, truth be told, it’s really similar to the prior idea.


The "stack" in the post above is based on the drawing posted below.  So for the LV itself, I'm really only using 4 kit parts.  For the S-II aft / interstage / S-IC forward kit parts I'll be adding stringers, between the kit stringers, to have the proper amount.  I thought this would be the best way to be able to separate the stages like I was wanting.



I am using my own wraps.  The art is mostly complete, so all I have to do is adjust them for the slightly smaller tank circumference and run them through the cutter again. I also have all the Evergreen strips on-hand for the stringers. 


Oh and I'm totally adding 3D bits and bobs to this thing.  I'm already developing the 1/72 S-IVB trust structure and will likely add a S-II structure.  (The 1/144 stuff I did earlier actually scales up reasonably well, it just needs some tweaking here and there.)

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Are you producing the wraps on your Silhouette cutter? How's that working? I've got the S-IC, interstage, and part of the S-II wraps all drawn out in Illustrator, but I'm having to get a friend to laser cut them for me. Ponoko was going to be too expensive, and they only offered .020" styrene.


I may need to purchase the thrust structures from you when the time comes. My 3D skills just aren't anywhere near where they need to be to make my own.

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Yes, still using the Silhouette.  I find that it's really good for transferring patterns to sheet, to cut-out later ... but for actually cutting out parts, it leaves a little to be desired.  I think the blades get dulled pretty quickly with the styrene.


I'm actually working on the engine support structure for the S-IC stage - that will be going to Ponoko for cutting.  For structural stuff I think they're great, but since they charge by the "laser-inch", the detail stuff can get really expensive quickly.


Luckily the heat shield I cut out a few years back will fit perfectly.  So, one less thing to quibble about.



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That looks eerily similar to the one I made. It fits the LVM resin batted engines. I worry about getting some 3D-printed fairings made that will fit them and also be as detailed and accurate.

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