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1/144 Saturn I Block II SA-5 Build

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Well I don’t usually overlap builds, but I knew I was going to have to wait a bit before I could get back to the Millennium Falcon.  I started my next project which is another kit from Martin’s Models from the UK.  This one is a conversion set that modifies an Airfix 1/144 Saturn IB into a Saturn I Block II SA-5.  It was the first Saturn I flight to have a live S-IV second stage.  I love that rocket.  It has those great classic lines.



Again the resin parts are quite rough and some are out of round, but it will be a great starting point and should build into a nice model.  Here are the components of the build.



I started by removing the pour plugs from the parts and doing any necessary trimming to the resin parts.  Next I started removing the fins from the thrust structure of the kit part.  This time I would not be removing the fairings from the base part since SA-5 had these.  When I used the Airfix kit to make the SA-205 Apollo 7 Saturn IB a few years ago, I had to remove them.



For SA-5 I did have to remove part of the top of the parts that made up the first stage fuel tanks since SA-5 had only a very small flat section.  In the picture you can see how much had to be removed.  The part on the right has the extra plastic cut off while the part on the left has not been modified yet.  You can also see how much the plastic had yellowed over the years.  I bought this kit when Airfix re-released it in the 1990’s.



Here is the thrust structure with the fins removed.  You’ll notice that I had to fill a couple of divots that I made when I was removing the fins.  I got a bit zealous with the Dremel and created an oopsi moment.



Next, I moved on to some of the resin parts.  The tapered interstage needed to be sanded a bit on both ends to get a flat and square surface.  Unfortunately the interstage is not quite round.  I’ll have to do more work here to get a more rounded part.  The instrument unit on top is not glued in place, I was just doing a level check.  Sorry for the out of focus pic.



The nosecone was not pointed enough for the version that was on SA-5.  I started tapering it a bit more.  I’m almost there.  I’m not sure how much more I can sand it though.  I keep hitting air bubbles that prevent a sharper point.  I’ll continue to try and refine it.



Here it is after more sanding.



Thanks for looking.  More to come.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Time for a progress report on the SA-5 build.  I started on the aft structure of the first stage.  I needed to drill a hole for a brass tube that would attach the model to the display base.  I marked an X on the top of the part and put the heat shield on the bottom of the base.  I then went to my drill press and drilled a hole through the top down through the heat shield on the bottom.  I then inserted a length of brass tube through the top and down into the hole in the heat shield.



I only pushed it through until it was flush with the outside of the heat shield.



Then I applied epoxy to the portion of the tube sticking out of the top.  When that had cured I removed the heat shield and then applied epoxy to the tube from the bottom side.  Then I put the heat shield back on.  Once that had cured I had a rod that was positively attached to the aft structure and would not move while I added weight.



With the head shield removed, I put some BB’s in and then poured in epoxy to secure them.



With that I was ready to start adding details to the aft section.  First I glued the halves of the tank section together and then removed the molded in antennas.



Next I added some details to the heat shield.  I scribed lines into the heat shield to match the pattern of SA-5.  I filled four holes for the inboard engines that will not be used.  The inboards did not have the turbo pump exhausts around the engine bells like the outboards did. I also added four small bits of styrene rod to represent the water quench disconnects.  I then added the flame shields for the outboards by bending some insulated copper wire bent to the correct shape.



I then went back to the aft structure.  I filled the ribbing that was molded in.  It is in the wrong place and does not cover enough of the base.  I sanded that smooth and applied a light coat of primer to make sure I had them filled properly.  I created a pattern to allow me to get the stringers spaced properly.  There are fourteen stringers between each fin, with a blank area surrounding each fin.



With the pattern secured to the part, I started gluing the .020 x .020 styrene strips in line with my pattern.  I had to cut out a bit around where the inboard turbo pump exhaust goes.



After adding all the stringers, I sanded a slight taper into the leading edge of them.  With that complete I created 8 access doors from .005 styrene sheet and sanded rounded corners into each one.  I then made two umbilical doors out of the same .005 sheet styrene.  I then marked all round the aft structure for the placement the doors.  I glued them on with my Tenax cement.



That's it for now.  Much more work to go on the first stage.


Thanks for looking.


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  • 2 weeks later...

This is just a quick update before I jump back to the Millennium Falcon.  I was preparing to attach the fuel tank portion of the first stage to the thrust structure.  As I’ve seen before when I did the SA-205 Apollo 7 Saturn IB model, the tanks don’t exactly line up well with the thrust structure.  There is quite a step out nearly all the way around the stage that requires a considerable amount of clean up to get a proper looking stage.  While I was messing around with it trying to get the best possible alignment, I noticed that if I rotated the tank portion a bit in one direction most of the tanks lined up much better.  The only problem was that it wouldn’t stay that way and it also tended to try and pop the tank section open at the seam.


I decided to try and remove part of the alignment guides that are on the thrust structure, hoping that would allow me to slightly rotate the tanks into a better position. The photo below has been contrast enhanced to try and show what was cut off. I only highlight one of the guides in the picture below but there are four of them around the thrust structure and they were all trimmed the same way.



That seemed to work pretty well.  The tanks are now attached and are just awaiting some sanding, carving and filling to make them look good.  But since the tanks line up better it will be a much simpler job that it would otherwise have been.



There is still one of the tanks that will require a lot of work, but it is just one tank and not all of them which would be the case otherwise.



That is it for now.  I’ll set this aside while I tackle the decals on the Millennium Falcon.  Thanks for looking.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've had the RealSpace Models Block II in progress for a while now.  I've had similar challenges, but it's better than starting from scratch...maybe.


Anyway, that's the delusion I'll operate under for the time being.

Edited by Propellerhead
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Back to work on the SA-5 model a bit.  Work continues on the S-I first stage.  I got the puttying and trimming on the tanks done and they should be pretty smooth.  I scratch built the gaseous hydrogen vent pipes that go down the first stage at three points.  There was plastic rod included in the conversion kit but they did not include the bend at the top that was required to make the pipes meet their counterparts from the S-IV second stage.  I had some Evergreen plastic tubes that were a close match to the diameter supplied in the conversion kit.  I cut them to length and then cut a small section from the top at around a 30 degree angle.  Then I rotated it and glued it back on the tubing.  Then I needed to trim the back side of the angled section since the Airfix kit does not provide enough room.  I then taped them to the side of the S-I to see how they looked.  I think they will be fine.  Note also that at the bottom of the pipes I will need to trim them to fit over the stub fins at those locations.



Before I glue the hydrogen vent pipes in place I needed to add more details to the S-I.  I cut some narrow rectangles of 0.005 inch sheet stock to represent the antenna mount points and glued them in place at each quadrant position.  I also added the electrical conduits that run down the side of each RP-1 tank from the antenna mount to near the bottom of the tank at the boat tail.  I still need to add the antennas, the LOX and RP-1 fill and drain ports at two places, and also the LOX and RP-1 vent holes at the top of the tanks.



In concert with the S-I hydrogen vent pipes I also removed the vent pipes from the interstage.  They are mounted too close to the sides of the interstage and would end up not lining up well with the pipes on the S-I.  I debated with myself about doing this since it will require more scratch building, but I just couldn’t let that one go.



Speaking of not letting things go, I also removed the fairings from the base of the S-I stage.  They were just too clunky with the blocky attachment points.  So I removed them and will glue them back on after trimming all the excess plastic off.  This also allows me to move the heat shield down to the bottom of the S-I instead of being slightly recessed.



After removing the hydrogen vent pipes from the interstage I stacked the S-IV on it to see how they fit.  I knew that the S-IV was out of round but I didn’t know it was quite so far off.  I’ll have to do a good amount of work to get them to fit like they should.



Finally, I cleaned up all the fins and then adjusted them to fit on the base of the vehicle.  Each one was different in some minor way and the Airfix base was not quite as symmetrical as it looks.  Some of them also needed some putty to fill some irregularities.  They are now properly aligned and I labeled each one so I would know where each one fits.  They will go on after all the other details are complete.  Note the cut off fairings on the left.



That is it for now.  Thanks for looking.

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I enjoy watching you go through the mental conniptions trying to develop a solution for all these kit deficiencies ... and getting a lovely result!


I love the old school thinking, Randy! Keep it going!   :thumbsup:



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Thanks Pete,


The only problem is with as slow as this build is going I keep finding things I want to fix.  But it is a good problem I guess.  I really enjoy researching the vehicle and trying to modify the parts to make them better.  Not perfect, just better.




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Here is a quick update of the SA-5 progress.  I glued on the antennas, the umbilical door, and the hydrogen vent pipes.  The umbilical door is cut from .005 sheet stock while the antennas are cut from some strip stock I had that looked close.  The hydrogen vent pipes look a bit different that the last update.  I added the short straight section after the bend at the top of the pipes.  I at first thought I could leave it off, but the more I looked at it the more I knew that the short sections needed to be added.



The bottom of the vent pipes needed to have a slit cut into them so they could fit over the stub fins.  Also note that I have glued the fairings back on the base of the vehicle.



Here are a couple of pics of the stub fins dry fitted to the hydrogen vent pipes.



Note in the pic below that I have also drilled the vent holes in the tops of the fuel and LOX tanks.  These pics also show the LOX and fuel fill and drain ports.



I also fashioned some hydrogen vents for the stub fins that will be glued on later.



I have also filled the areas on the inboard nozzles where Airfix had molded in for the turbopump exhausts.  The inboards on the Block II vehicles exhausted their turbopumps out the sides of the boat tail in aerodynamic ports which are not yet installed.



The outboards have had their turbopump exhausts added.  I need to clean these up a bit.  They seem a bit over done with the exhaust lines.



That is it for now.  Thanks for looking.



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A little more work on the S-I stage.  First I took out my Dremel and thinned the walls of the eight H-1 engines.  The kit engines have nozzle walls that are far too thick.  The picture doesn’t show it well but the walls are much thinner than before.  The one on the left has had the walls thinned.



Next I glued on the stub fins with CA.



When those were cured I added the large fins at Positions I, II, III and IV.



After those set I added the hydrogen vent extensions to three of the stub fins.  Also note the inboard turbopump exhaust fairings at the base.



Here is a closeup of the completed fin area.



Now the S-I stage is complete and ready for it’s first coat of primer.  That will allow me to see where the final rough spots are and get them corrected before painting.

Here is a summary of what I added/deleted from the kit/upgrade parts.

  • All ribbing was removed from the base of the boat tail and replaced with 14 styrene strips between each of the eight fin locations.
  • Access doors were added between each fin location and umbilical panels were added at two locations.
  • The engine fairings were removed from the base and glued back on after removing the excess plastic.
  • Flame curtains were added for the four outboard H-1 engine locations.
  • H-1 nozzle walls were thinned.
  • About 1/8 inch of top of S-I was removed per the upgrade kit instructions.
  • Kit fuel/LOX tank locators were trimmed before gluing the tanks in place.
  • Kit antennas were removed and antenna panels were added over kit locations and corrected antennas were added.
  • Electrical conduits were added to each of the four RP-1 tanks.
  • Gaseous hydrogen vent lines were added at three locations with styrene tubing (replacing the update parts which were too short).
  • LOX and RP-1 fill and drain lines were added with round styrene stock.
  • Vents were drilled at the top of three of the LOX tanks.
  • Vents were drilled at the top of two of the RP-1 tanks.
  • An umbilical door was added at the top of one of the LOX tanks.
  • Hydrogen vents were added to three of the stub fins.

Now it’s time to start on the interstage and S-IV stage.


Thanks for looking.

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They can be challenging.  The quality varies from vendor to vendor.  I've built some resin kits from RealSpaceModels and they were pretty good without a bunch of extra work.  NewWare is also pretty good but I have yet to build an all resin kit from them.  But it is still fun to work on a subject that I probably wouldn't have done without a resin kit starting point.


Even injection molded kits can present a challenge if you are trying to build an accurate version.  The Saturn V I built last year was a conglomeration of a Revel Saturn V and an Airfix Saturn V along with upgrade kits from NewWare and RealSpaceModels and new decals from Space Model Systems.  It came out great!  You can see that build in the Completed Group Builds section of these forums (1/144 Saturn V Apollo 15 )

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Progress continues on the SA-5 model.  I made the decision to replace the S-IV that came in the upgrade kit with my own that I would make out of some resin that I already had.  This would give me a round S-IV stage that would match the interstage without massive amounts of filler and hours of sanding to get it round.


I started by gluing three rods into the bottom of the interstage part.



Next I glued a circle made from .010 sheet stock to the top of the three rods.  I applied thick CA to the edges to seal the circle to the inside of the interstage.  This would be the bottom of the S-IV mold.



I had previously decided that I was going to be displaying this model as a complete stack without separable stages.  This allowed me to pour the new S-IV to the top of the interstage. I then glued a section of cardboard tube to the top of the styrene circle to make the walls thinner and lighten the model.



I also cut a section of cardboard tube that was 1.5 inches in diameter on the inside, which almost exactly matches the interstage diameter.  I glued a strip of styrene to the top of this tube to give me a physical indication of how far to sand down the top when the resin cured.  I coated the inside with thin CA glue to seal the cardboard and then gave it a light sanding to remove some of the surface roughness.  Next I sprayed the inside with some mold release to hopefully make it easier to remove the tube after casting.  I also drew a line on the inside so I would know how far down to push the tube over the interstage to get the correct S-IV length.



I slid the outer tube over the interstage and then prepared to mix and pour the resin.



My resin is getting a bit old and part of the resin was starting to separate out.  I stirred it well to get a smooth resin and then measured out equal parts of resin and hardener and mixed them together.  I poured it into the mold to just below the top edge of the styrene strip inside the tube.  Unfortunately there was still too much air in the resin after I had stirred it up and the cured resin expanded and rose up out of the top of the tube.



This was not exactly desirable, but I could just cut off the excess and then remove the outer tube and it would be fine.  Except that after removing the outer tube, I could see that the extra air caused a bunch of bubble holes that would need filling.



Oh well, at least it is round and all I have to do is smooth the outer surface.  I sanded the top down to the indention made by the styrene strip and now I had a round S-IV with the proper length.



Much more to do.





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I decided to add a few details to the interstage.  It needed standoffs for the three gaseous hydrogen vent pipes and also needed to have the camera canisters added next to the stub fins at positions 1 through 4.





I then sprayed on a first coat of primer.  Then glued on the S-IV interstage and sanded the junction with the S-IV body to a more rounded profile.



I sprayed a coat of primer on the S-I stage and did a bit of additional filling and sanding on some of the fins.




Next I sprayed on a final coat of primer to complete the S-I stage.



That’s it for now.  Much more work to be done on the S-IV stage. Thanks for looking.





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Your calm, cool attitude comes through in your posts Randy ... the resin expanded a bit too much?, oh well, I'll just ... cut it off!

Rather than getting your knickers in a twist and throwing it against the wall, you just ... carry on! That's the way to enjoy this modelling activity of ours!  :rolleyes:


And this is really looking good, young man!

Keep up the wonderful scratching stuff!  :thumbsup:



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Thanks Pete.  Sometimes it takes putting it down and walking away for a while.  When you come back you can give it a fresh look and carry on.  Just remember the reason you started the project and keep heading for the goal.


Besides, I'm making notes going through this model, since I'll be applying almost all the lessons learned on this one when I tackle the SA-10 conversion which will have 90% of the same parts as this one.




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  • 3 weeks later...

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.




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.




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.


Some of the details near Pos I.



Other details going toward Pos II.



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.



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.



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.

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All those surface details really add to the quality of the build Randy! This is gonna look GREAT!

The painting of it, for me, would cause some palpitations ... so I hope it goes well for ya!


And for your home made decals, can I ask what decal film/paper you use? I have a couple of packs of Papilio which is just awful stuff ... I think it's more for making 'stickers' on coffee mugs and scrapbooking type activities, not for scale modelling.


Thanx for posting these Randy ... this is really looking Terrific!



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Thanks Pete.  I'm sure there will be some masking issues.


I use decal paper from Tango Papa Decals .  I don't remember if you can use it in an inkjet or laser printer.  I use an old ALPS 1300 printer.  It uses color ribbons and allows me to print in white when I need to.  It works well for me.  I also always coat my printed decals with Microscale Decal Film.  It holds the decal together and is pretty thin and responds well to Microscale setting solutions.  I also use the Decal Film to coat old decals so they don't crack up when I put them in water.



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  • 2 weeks later...

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.



The two halves have been glued together with epoxy.  I used epoxy to have more time to get them aligned.  As is typical for the upgrade parts, they weren't quite round and some sanding was needed to get a good match between the S-IV interstage and the S-I.  I then applied a final primer coat and then an overall coat of white.



After letting the paint cure for a couple of days, I then started the tedious task of masking off all the areas that are to remain white.  Masking over all those little details required lots of cutting and trimming of masking tape especially around IU.



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 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 around the edge and I’ll do that with a decal, which should be easier than 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.

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