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1/144 Saturn I Block I (SA-1) Build

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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 bench 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.  But the kit is *way* less expensive than either of them.  There are some casting flaws, pinholes 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 for some of the details.


The first thing I did was to gather everything together to see what I had to work with.  As I mentioned above, a number of the parts will require some clean up and filling.  On some of the parts it is not obvious where the the pour plug ends and the part itself begins.  I 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.



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 when I stack them later for gluing I can be sure that the alignment remains in the original orientation.


All sections stacked to ensure a vertical orientation.



Closeup of the first stage area.  Clean up of the parts will continue.



Upper sections.  You can see the alignment marks.



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.



That's it for now.  More to come soon.  Thanks for looking.

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I've made some more progress on the build this week.  I glued the top section of the first stage in place. 



I also glued the second and third stages plus the nose cone together.



I'm continuing the clean up of the first stage.  I thought about using my Dremel to get rid of some of the junk in between the tanks on the first stage, but it is such a confined area that I’m afraid that I’ll mess up the tanks on either side.  I think I’ll add filler between the tanks to cover up the bumps there. The dummy upper stage assembly also requires some filling and sanding.


While waiting for some filler to dry I started scribing the panel lines into the base of the boat tail.  I also drilled some holes to insert locator pins for the engine bells to be added later.



Next I drilled a hole in the base of each engine bell.



I also glued some 3/64 inch styrene rod into each of the locator holes in the boat tail.



The outboard engine fairings that come in the kit are too small and do not fit well on the boat tail.  I instead used some 0.010 inch sheet styrene to make some replacements.  I glued them on with Plasti-Zap CA glue.



I continue to add filler to the tanks on the first stage.



I also started making the inboard engine turbopump exhaust ports.  I’m not that great at bending styrene rod, so when I can, I adapt other parts.  I had some piping left from a Walthers Piping kit that I used on a steampunk rocket a while back.



I pulled out the runners to see if there were some parts there that I could use as a turbopump exhaust.  Sure enough I found some.  I only had four pieces that I could use, so I had to make sure not to mess them up.  After cutting them from the runner I carefully trimmed off the ends that I didn’t need.



I then drilled out the exposed ends so they look more like pipes instead of rods.



That’s it for now.  I have to make some brackets for the turbopump exhausts before they can be attached to the boattail.  I also have some more detail items that need to go on the first stage tanks, but first I have to finish the filling and sanding.  There are also supposed to be three hemispherical air scoops that go on each fairing.  I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to model those.


Thanks for looking.


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So far ... so good Randy!  :thumbsup:


Not using the Dremel saved all kinds of grief, I'm sure! That little machine is just too quick at spinning and one fraction of a second of distraction results in an hour of repair work.

Sanding the putty by hand, much better!


And you're moving pretty quick on this one too, eh? 



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Thanks, Pete.  I was moving along pretty well.  Now the filling all the surface blemishes on the parts is taking me a bit more time than I anticipated, but I am making progress none the less.  I should have a new post in a couple of days. (hopefully)


In the end it really is a fairly simple kit, above the first stage that is.  All the detailing is on the first stage.




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Finally time for an update.  I looked at the photo references I have for SA-1 (in fact all the Block I vehicles) and the outboard engine fairings have angled sides that match the angles on the boat tail.  I cut my fairings to roughly match the subtle lines on the boat tail.



The next thing I did was to complete the turbo pump exhausts.  I cut a bracket out of 0.010 sheet styrene and glued it to one of the exhaust pipes.



It looked good so I made three more.  I'll attach them to the pipes and then they will get attached to the model at a later stage.



I then drilled some small holes in the first stage boat tail to accept the exhaust pipes.



I also drilled holes at the base of the fuel and LOX tanks to match photos of SA-1.



Finally, for this post are a couple of pictures of the continuing filling and sanding of the model to cover some of the blemishes in the castings.  I sprayed a coat of primer on them to highlight some of the remaining rough spots.  The more subtle blemishes don't show up well on just the bare resin.



You can also see that I’ve added some tunnel covers to the fuel tanks and a vent pipe on the fuel tank of Position 4.



That's all for now.  Next I should be able to get the final primer on the two main sections in preparation for painting.


Thanks for looking.



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Well I only thought I was going to be ready for final priming.  I was going through some of the SA-1 photos that I have and noticed a couple of new detail bits that I had not noticed before.  One was a fairing over the Position 1 fuel tank valve.  This apparently covers the valve and provides an attach point for the on pad fuel fill and drain line.  It has a semi rounded profile with tapered front and rear sections.  I made a stack of three styrene strips to get the approximate size and shape.



Then I sanded them to the right profile.  This was then attached over the original valve hole that I had made earlier.




Next I moved on to the air scoops on the outboard engine fairings.  I’ve been thinking of how I would model these parts since I began the build.  I finally came up with an acceptable solution.  I pulled out the Walthers piping sprue that I used earlier to create the turbo pump exhausts.  I looked carefully at the ends of the runners that lead to some of the parts on the sprue.  Some of the ends had a rounded profile and were close to the right diameter.  I used a sharp #11 blade and cut off the hemispherical ends of the runners and then cut those in half.  This left me with some 1/4 sphere shapes that were close the size needed.  I then glued them in place on the fairings and used the #11 blade to shape them to more closely match the correct profile.  They may still be slightly oversized but they look close, so I’m going to leave them at that.



I also noticed that there were vent openings at the top of some of the fuel and LOX tanks.  Not all of them just some of them.  I found some drawings online that showed the plumbing of those vents.  The drawing along with some photos allowed me to determine which tanks had the vent holes and where they should go.  I used a small drill bit in my pin vice and made the vents.



I then primed the dummy upper stages again.  I’m sure it won’t be the last time I prime this part.  It seem that every time I think I’m done, I find some more pin holes that need to be filled.



I primed the first stage to check for any other areas that need to be worked on.  For the most part it looks good.



I also attached the engines and turbo pump exhausts to a paint stir stick and primed them as well.



Next up will probably be attaching the dummy upper stages to the first stage.


Thanks for looking.


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I was wondering when you were gonna mention fitting the fins onto the 1st stage, then I did a search for this vehicle and ... saw that there aren't any! 

Well, I'll be darned!


You're doing really nice work on this Randy! And your solution with the Air Scoops was good "outta-the-box" thinking!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I’ve been working on this model for a while since the last update.  After the primer went on, many flaws showed up that I couldn’t see on the bare resin.  Fixing these required many iterations of putty, sand, primer, and inspect.  Sometimes I thought I was getting close only to find some new pinholes show up due to sanding the surface of the resin.  Martin really needs to invest in some vacuum casting tools.  Anyway, I finally got through that stage and was able to start painting.  I started out by painting the engine nozzles and turbo pump exhausts with Tamyia bright silver paint.  Then I painted the inside of the nozzles and the holes I drilled in the turbo pump exhausts with clear smoke.



I then gave the model a coat of gloss white.



After letting the gloss white cure for a couple of days I started masking for the black areas on the first stage boat tail.  The rest of the rocket is white.  The boat tail was a challenge to mask due to all the compound curves.



I finally got it masked satisfactorily, including the heat shield area on the base.



Next I sprayed gloss black on the base of the rocket.  I let the paint dry for a few hours before removing the masking tape.  The black areas turned out fine.




The black tanks will have some custom decals applied rather than trying to mask them off.  The area between the tanks is still a bit rough, but it is MUCH better than it was out of the box.



To create the custom decals I started out with a scan of the decals that came in the kit and then photos of the actual vehicle.  I made a new layer over the originals and started drawing my new decals over the old ones.  I resized and modified them as needed to make them more accurate.  I added stripes that go halfway around the dummy third stage just below the nosecone and also at the third stage/transition junction, both centered on Position I.  I also added some inverted “T” shapes that appear on the dummy second stage at the interstage junction.  The checkerboard roll pattern that appears around the top of the first stage was not correct at all in the kit decal.  I measured the circumference of the area and then using photos counted the number of checkers and drew a new decal.  Also there is a slightly larger block that appears at 8 places around the roll pattern and I added those as well.  I double printed the white areas of the vehicle number and position number decals to help keep the black from showing through.


More on the next post...

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I knew I was in for a challenge in applying the fuel tank decals.  There are a number of raised areas that are hard to account for when making the decal.  I had to cut the decals in places and use some black paint to touch up a few spots.  Micro Set and Micro Sol were used quite a bit in getting the decals to settle over the added details.  I also had to double layer the decals that were put on over the black.  Even double printing the white when printing the decals was not enough to keep the black from showing through.  Applying the second decal over the first eliminated the black showing through.  In the end the model looks pretty good.



With the decals in place, I let the model dry completely overnight and then sprayed a gloss coat over them to protect them and prepare them for an overall clear flat coat.  After the clear coats dried overnight I then added the engine nozzles and turbo pump exhausts with some CA.  The nozzles were given a coat of clear flat to take some of the shine off since the photo references showed they were not real shiny.



The turbo pump exhausts are applied:



Finally, the model is done.  It looks nice sitting on its stand.



The stand should be temporary since I plan on adding SA-5 and SA-10 to the collection to show the Saturn I progression.  However those will have to wait a bit.  I need to take a break from the resin before tackling those kits.  Thanks for following along.  I hope to start the next build shortly, probably a sci-fi subject.


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Really nicely done Randy!

The decals look GREAT!! Reworking the checkerboard was a nice touch ... !

I'd love to see a few more pix of the finished project!


Did you make the decals or did a friend ... I ask because I have a couple packages of crappy decal film/paper from Papilio and wondered what yours is?


Thanx Randy!




Edited by K2Pete
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Thanks, I'll try and take a few more pics and post them.


I made the decals myself.  I have an ALPS MD-1300 printer that can print white.  I use decal paper from Tango Papa Decals.  I don't think his paper is safe for laser printers but it works fine with the ALPS ribbons.  I also don't know how well it would work with an inkjet printer.  You might contact Tom Prestia at tangopapadecals@gmail.com and ask him.


I also always use Microscale Decal Film over the printed decals for protection and to make them hold together better in use.  This combination make very thin decals that react well to Micro Sol and Micro Set solutions.




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On 3/2/2020 at 2:25 PM, as205 said:


Finally, the model is done.  It looks nice sitting on its stand.




The stand should be temporary since I plan on adding SA-5 and SA-10 to the collection to show the Saturn I progression.  However those will have to wait a bit.  I need to take a break from the resin before tackling those kits.  Thanks for following along.  I hope to start the next build shortly, probably a sci-fi subject.



Indeed it does look nice, very nice! I've worked with aftermarket resin parts before, but I've

never attempted a complete resin model like this. I can't imagine the challenges and all the

legitimate concerns, in getting the final results looking right... job well done!



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Thanks, it was definitely more work than I thought it would be when I bought the kit.  But, lots of research and patience paid off.  I did make some compromises along the way.  If I had tackled all the deficiencies in the kit I would have probably ended up with a near scratch build.  At 1/144 scale I can overlook the compromises and enjoy a model of a subject that is seldom modeled.



Here are some additional photos of the complete model.


This is the base.  I scribed the panel lines since the original part was smooth.  I left the too thick engine nozzles as they were since this view will be seldom viewed and I was afraid that I might break them in the process of thinning them.



This is a view of the boat tail area of the model.  I added the turbo pump exhausts and the air scoops on the fairings.  I had to do a lot of sanding and filling in this section.  The contours are still a bit off, but I like how it came out.



Here is another view of the boat tail area.  Here I'm highlighting the on pad fuel fill and drain cover that I added.



Here is a view of the vent line that was added to this fuel tank.  All my research indicates that this was the only tank on this vehicle that had this.



Here is a view of the top of the first stage with my custom checkerboard decal.



Here is a shot of the interstage area with the inverted "T" decals.  My research showed that they were on this vehicle but I could not find any closeup views of them.  This is an approximation of what they look like.  At this scale it works.



Here is a view of the dummy second and third stages of the model.  My research showed that the black lines that went about half way around stage.  The dummy stages took a long time to get the level of smoothness that I was happy with.



At some point I'll tackle the SA-5 conversion kit from Martin's Models.  It converts the Airfix Saturn IB into a model of SA-5, the first Saturn I Block II vehicle.  From what that kit looks like there will be even more scratch building than this one required.  But that is what makes part of the fun in modeling, taking a kit as a starting point and then forming to what I want.


Thanks for following along.

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