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1/72 Dragon Lunar Approach CSM/LM

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I'm starting a new model build. This will be the Dragon Apollo 11 Lunar Approach in 1/72 scale.



This will fill out my 1/72 scale US Manned spacecraft set. I've previously built the Horizon Models Mercury Spacecraft and the Dragon Gemini Spacecraft. I also have a 1/72 scale Space Shuttle Columbia that I built many many years ago.


Here are the parts for the CSM. I'll be building the LM after the CSM is built. I'll also be using the New-Ware upgrade set to correct some of the faults and add some of the missing details for both the CSM and LM.



I started with the Command Module. Here it is straight from the kit.



Well almost straight from the kit. You can see that I scribed the outline of the main hatch. The next thing I did was start sanding down the raised area which is much too pronounced. I also removed the raised area for the hatch window and the frames for the two side windows.



I then added the PE window frames for the side windows and the hatch window.



Since Dragon opted to not mold open windows I them all up.



Next I added the EVA hand holds. I used the ones from the kit. I didn't mind the look of the kit provided hand holds and it saved me a lot of folding of tiny PE parts. I did use the New-Ware hand hold for the main hatch since Dragon didn't provide one. But, I had to modify it since it was definitely too long. I cut part of it off and refolded it. I think it is still a bit large but it isn't too bad. I also added the ring hand hold near the docking area. The New-Ware detail set includes purge ports in both PE and resin. I liked the look of the resin ones so I used those.  I also removed a bit more of the raised area surrounding the hatch. It just seemed like it was still a bit thick.



Here is a view from above.



I drilled out some of the attitude thrusters. I considered drilling out the roll thrusters, but at that steep angle I don't trust myself to not screw it up. So those will have to do until I can do some tests on something else.



That's pretty much it for the CM since there is no interior. I think it is about ready for primer. More to come.

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Thanks, Pete.  Yes, Tom does do pretty good work.  I've bought several of his upgrade kits.


BTW, I did some experiments on an old 1/96 scale CM and found that it was possible.  With that knowledge I grabbed my Dragon CM and drilled out the roll thrusters.



I think they turned out good enough.  Now, it really is ready for a first coat of primer.

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I started on the Service Module by looking at the forward bulkhead where the Command Module will attach. The instructions indicate that you should drill out the holes where the CM braces will attach to the forward bulkhead. It seems simple enough.



However if you carefully examine the part something strange begins to appear. Here is the forward bulkhead with what appears should be the top.



The problem is the locating pegs for attaching it to the SM are on the wrong side. You also see something that apparently represents a tank dome. When you turn it over you notice something else out of place.



The locator pin for the CM is on the wrong side. It seem like this pin is supposed to fit into the CM heatshield to center it on the model. There is also an odd rectangular pin that doesn’t have a place to go. To illustrate, here is a photo of the bulkhead and the attachment ring that fits inside the SM.



The ring contains the three holes where the three pins on the bulkhead are supposed to fit. It also has a circular cutout for the lump that contains the tank dome that you see on the other side of the bulkhead. Note that the ring also has a notch on the outer edge for an alignment peg to fit. It is not for the peg on the bulkhead. That peg is too large for the notch. To illustrate here is a photo of the ring and the side of the SM that has the peg that fits the notch.



On the right of the SM side you can see the peg where the ring will attach. It’s almost like this kit was rushed to production without any fit checks. Anyway, I decided that I’d fix the problem by drilling out the holes for the CM braces as indicated on the instructions and then remove the tank dome lump from the back side so I could flip the tank dome to the other side. I also removed the odd rectangular pin. Here is a photo of the start of the process.



Here I have drilled the holes and removed the peg. I removed the tank dome lump while trying to preserve the actual tank dome itself. With the lump removed the piece of tank dome dropped out cleanly. I then glued a piece of sheet styrene to the backside of the bulkhead and glued the tank dome to the sheet stock. It came out fine. I also filled the ejector pin depressions. Here is a photo.



After that I glued on the CM braces.



Now I have a forward bulkhead with the locating pins on the back side and the braces and tank dome on the front side.  Of course, after I had that all done and was looking it over, I realized that none of this will be seen when the model is done.  Oh well, at least I know what to do when I build another one where it might actually be visible.  It also would have been nice if Dragon has see fit to add some more detail to this bulkhead. That might be an exercise for a future build.


Now on to the SM cylinder.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I've started on the Service Module main structure by cutting a hole for the PE flyaway umbilical panel from the New-Ware detail set.  I used my X-acto knife handle to give the PE part a curve to help it match the curvature of the SM. I tried to reduce the thickness of the plastic in that area as well. Hopefully without weakening it too much.



I needed to drill a hole for the model mount to go. Dragon has put a depression on the inside of one of the parts for this. I won’t be using their display stand but the hole is perfect for my mount as well. After drilling out the hole I put a short section of brass tube through the hole.



After drilling the hole and placing the brass tube I glued the forward bulkhead ring to one of the panels and then glued the other SM side panels in place except for the two long bay covers. That gave me access to the inside so I could use JB Weld on the brass tube. You can see that I broke the side panel where I had made the flyaway umbilical cutout. It was a clean break so I should be able to repair it without a lot of trouble. You can also see where I labeled the Y and Z axis orientation and the Side 1 through 4 panels. That should help me keep things aligned as the SM construction continues.



Looking at the SM parts it at first seems like a strange way to divide up the parts of the SM sides, but they divided the parts along panel lines. We’ll see how that affects the looks when primer and paint go on. Here is a side where two of the sections meet.



Below is the side with the SIM bay panel. The SIM panel is on the far left. This bay was not used on Apollo 11. You can also see I have repaired the break where the flyaway panel will go.



Here is the panel that covers the fuel cell bay.



Most of the molded panel details will be replaced with PE parts from the New-Ware update set.


Thanks for looking.

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Time to add the New-Ware details to the Service Module. I started with the PE parts for the RCS panels. You can see that I filled the recessed detail lines on the model. I had to fill them since their lines were slightly larger than the PE parts. The PE RCS panels look really good, but they are very thin and you need to take care when bending them to fit the curvature of the SM.



In the above picture you can just make out the back of the PE flyaway panel.  Here is the view from the front.



Next I applied the rest of the PE parts to the fuel cell panel.



The New-Ware resin parts for the Rendezvous & Docking Light and the Rendezvous Radar Transponder & Antenna were the next items to be applied.



Finally, the EVA light was added. It has a folded PE base glued to the resin EVA light mast.



Next it will be time to add the rear bulkhead and assemble the High Gain antenna.


Thanks for looking.

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I glued the rear bulkhead to the Service Module. The rear bulkhead does not cover the full circle of the cylindrical SM. To fix that I glued on a strip of 0.040 x 0.010 strip stock to fill the gap and then sanded off any extra.



Next I folded the SM/SLA Electrical Umbilical Disconnect PE part and glued it to the rear bulkhead. I also drilled three small holes into the rear bulkhead for some wires that will run from the Umbilical Disconnect to the base of the high gain antenna array. The wires will be painted white and added after SM is painted.



I then moved to the High Gain Antenna Array. If you look at the instructions, they call out parts that don’t match the illustration anymore. Parts B4 and B9/B10 are radically different from what the illustration shows. Even part B2 is different. Part B2 has holes instead of pegs on the antenna end. Those new holes are for the pins that are now part of the new B9/B10 parts. The parts C7/C9 are on the tree but they are redundant now. The new parts B9/B10 have the C7/C9 parts already molded together as one piece.



Here is a picture of the actual parts. I’ve already attached the horn (B4) to the mast (B2). It is a snap fit to allow positioning of the antenna array after assembly. I guess it’s another sign that this kit was rushed through to production or maybe just crappy QC.



It was about at this point that I realized that I had assembled the New-Ware EVA light incorrectly. I assembled it in a folded position. That would be correct if I was building it in launch configuration. Since this is being modeled in an in-flight mode, the EVA light should be extended. I didn’t realize that the EVA light extended as soon as the BPC was jettisoned during launch. Yet another interesting fact found while researching a model. Anyway, this is how it should look. I’ll attach it after most of the assembly is done, otherwise I’m sure I’ll just knock it off.



Then back to the high gain antenna. Here you can see the finished antenna framework.



Next was to put a curve into the flat PE antenna dishes. New-Ware does not provide anything to help make the flat PE antenna curve to the proper shape. I scrounged all over the house trying to find something with a decent curve that I could use to press the PE into the right shape. I found an old mouse ball that looked good but then I needed a concave object with an equally good curve that I could press the flat part into with the mouse ball. I finally found a measuring spoon in a box of junk that our son brought back from college years ago. I found a mallet that I could use to tap on the mouse ball in a box of old leather working tools.



So here is a close up of the finished product. I think it will work.



That’s it for now. Thanks for looking.

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I remember being thrilled when Dragon started releasing all these Real Space kits, only to be disappointed by the multitude of inaccuracies and mistakes in their kits - especially the big Saturn V.  It takes a lot of work to correct them, as you are demonstrating.  Keep up the good work.  👍

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Thanks habu2,


I'm disappointed at the missed opportunity by Dragon.  They had all the research available to them yet they still did some dumb things.  But it is a much better starting point than the original Revel kits.  Plus, it did give me a set of spacecraft in 1/72 scale, that was never available in injection molded form before.  I do wish they were still in production.  There are a couple of them that I didn't get, in particular the 1/48 CSM.  Now they are only available at outrageously inflated prices.


You are right though about the Saturn V.  I've got one in the stash.  It is really sad that they got so much wrong.  When I finally get around to building it, I'll probably try fixing some of the most egregious errors with some 3D printed parts.



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3 hours ago, as205 said:

You are right though about the Saturn V.  I've got one in the stash.  It is really sad that they got so much wrong.  When I finally get around to building it, I'll probably try fixing some of the most egregious errors with some 3D printed parts.


When Squadron was winding down a couple of years ago they had the Saturn Skylab kit deeply discounted so I picked up two with the intention of kit-bashing them together to get the correct length of various tanks and intertanks.  I also picked up some detail parts and decals meant for the Apogee 1/70 kit, and a ton of Evergreen sprue to correct the stringer count.  Someday.....

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  • 4 weeks later...

I took a bit of a detour before continuing on with the SM. I decided to go ahead and build the docking probe. It consists of four parts. In the photo below the parts are assembled from left to right.



After assembling them you get a pretty nice representation of the Apollo docking probe.



I dry fitted it to the Command Module to see how it looks.



I’ll keep it around if I ever decide to display the CSM alone.


I then went back to prepare for painting the CM and SM. Here I have already primed the CM and the SM nozzle and then sprayed them with Alclad gloss black base in preparation for the metal color.



The Command Module will be painted Alclad chrome and the inside of the nozzle will be Alclad burnt metal.


The Service Module was primed with Tamiya white primer. I then masked off all the areas I wanted to remain white in preparation to spray the SM with Alclad stainless steel.



Next I went ahead and glued the RCS nozzles in place.



That's if for now.  I'll post more in a bit.  I'm trying to catch up from the holidays.

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While the paint was curing I started on the Steerable High Gain Antenna. I painted the PE dishes NATO Black. The mast was painted Vallejo Silver and the rest was left primer white.



I took some 32 gauge wire and cut some to the length needed and bent them to run from the SM/SLA Electrical Umbilical Disconnect to the holes that I had previously drilled in the back of the Service Module. I painted them Tamiya Flat White.



When they were dry I glued them on with some CA.



You can also see that I painted the SPS engine curtain yellow. I also finished painting the SPS engine nozzle. The bottom portion is NATO black and the upper section was painted Tamiya Metallic Gray. The nozzle is not in permanently, it is just dry fitted to see how it looks.



That's it for this post. More to come.

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The Alclad chrome paint was not curing properly. It couldn’t be touched without leaving prints or damaging the paint surface. So I’m going to have to clean the Command Module up and re-spray it. Part of it may have been me. I painted it at 20psi and it is recommended to use 15psi. I also was painting it during a cold snap and the garage was much colder than it is when I usually paint. Hopefully, this next time it will cure properly. I will also be applying a clear gloss coat over it before trying to handle the model.


Anyway, while I get ready to redo all that, I decided to start on the Lunar Module. I began by cutting out the windows and slightly enlarging them. I’m not sure what Dragon was looking at when they designed the model, but the windows are a fair bit too small. I also used my Dremel tool to remove the molded in front hatch. It will be replaced by the New-Ware PE front hatch.



I also noticed that the inflight S-band antenna is just a straight rod sticking out instead of a cone shape. I used my X-acto knife and re-shaped it.



I’ll remove the curve shape next to the S-band antenna before the next set of additions. It is a scimitar antenna that was only present on LM-1 through LM-3. Beside that it is much too small to truly represent the actual part.


I glued the mounting posts for the Rendezvous Radar and started adding more PE parts from the New-Ware set.



Here is a better view of the small stand-offs for the PE handrail to be added after painting.



After finishing that, I decided to do some test fitting of the Ascent Stage. I noticed that the back of the Ascent stage did not look like my reference photos. After some closer examination, I saw that Dragon had molded the bottom curve of the front of the Ascent Stage all the way to the back. It should have stopped where the “face” meets the mid section.



I took the back section and trimmed it to the proper size. In this photo the section I've highlighted the removed section in red.



After removing the section, I did another test fit. It looks good. Now I have to remove the portions of the bottom that have the wrong shape as well.



Note that I will have to bend part of the left hand angled bottom to match the new angle. While I was at it I decided to add a couple of pegs to more securely attach the Ascent and Descent Stages since it will be displayed horizontally docked to the CSM.



I drilled holes in the Ascent Stage bottom for the pegs. This picture shows that, as well as showing what will have to be modified to remove the incorrect rounded bottom. The part highlighted in red will be removed and the part highlighted in yellow will have a diagonal line cut from the upper left to the lower right to allow that section to be bent upwards to match the modified back section.



The section on the right will also have a small vertical strip of styrene added to meet the new roof. Here is a photo of the modified part. From this angle it is difficult to see the added vertical strip. I also cut off the top of the nozzle section and glued that to a hole in the new roof.



Here is a different angle that shows where I cut part of the mating rib off to allow the diagonal section to be bent upward.



Here is the outside of the modified part. You can better see the vertical strip. You can also see a wedge shaped piece that was added to the other side to compensate for the bent diagonal section. Finally you can see the diagonal score that was put in to allow the new bend. The part also has a first pass of filler putty applied.



The back of the part that connects to the “face” needed a strip of 0.020 x 0.020 added to fill the mating notch that will no longer have anything to mate to.



Finally, I did a new test fit and it now looks much better. I really don’t get why some of these obvious gaffs made it into a modern model when even models from Revel and Airfix that are decades old did it better. It just makes me a bit sad. Anyway, with some extra effort it will still be a nice model. (At least I hope so.)



That's it for now, I'm all caught up.  Thanks for looking.

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With the major modification of the Ascent Stage complete I glued the Ascent Stage together. I then spent some time filling and smoothing the modified under side of the Ascent Stage.



The face is not glued in place. I’ll have to wait until the painting is done because of the windows in it. I was happy that all the pieces of the Ascent Stage fit together very well and will need little to no filler. Here is a photo that shows some of the panel lines.



I haven't check but I'm sure that some of the facets are not at quite the right angle, but I'm not going to fix them.  I'm picking my battles here and that is one I'd just as soon avoid.


I did modify the front where the face joins the rest of the Ascent Stage. I noticed that it might be possible to see those pegs through the front windows so I cut off the most visible areas.



Also notice that I have glued in the rear RCS fixtures. New-Ware did not provide replacements for these as they are of the correct shape. However, you do have to cut off the two nozzles that are molded in. They are pointed at an angle from the center line. This is not correct. One should be pointing straight out away from the module, and the other should be pointing directly out from the back. I was afraid that I would have to reuse those nozzles after repositioning. But, I noticed that my kit had two “D” sprues. That left me with plenty of extra nozzles. Now I can use the extra nozzles for both the fore and aft RCS quads. I like the looks of the kit nozzles rather than the resin ones. The only downside is that the kit nozzles are not quite as deeply hollowed as the resin ones. Here are the two LM RCS sprues.



You can see in the above picture that the lower sprue has one nozzle cut off. I used that one to help me with drilling new holes in the aft RCS quads as you can see below.



Now I guess I’ll get the Descent Stage glued up enough so I can put primer on both stages. Then I get to start foiling/painting the model.


Thanks for looking.

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Don't concern yourself with the facets ... nobody's gonna notice if they're off a bit. It was only on the last LM I did that I realized Revell's Lis were ALL inaccurate ... and as you said, we pick our battles.   ;^ D

While I do like Dragon's crisp lines, and their RCS bells look terrific ... the way they've represented the foil on the Descent stage ... well ... I'm looking forward to watching your build of this stage.



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Well, it's pretty well known that it is a bit too small, but for this build I may not do anything about it.  The texture on the descent stage is over done and makes it harder to correct errors.  Since I'm about to the paint and detail parts on the ascent stage, I guess I'll have to start thinking about what I want to do with the descent stage.



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  • 1 month later...

It's been a while since I posted on this build.  My mother died near the end of January, so there have been a lot of other things that have taken me away from the hobby. Things have calmed down a bit and as a distraction I finally picked the build back up. It helps to have something else to think about that gives me pleasure. It's one of the things I like about modeling. You have a chance to relax and let your mind tackle a puzzle instead of dwelling on other things.  So, here is what I've done in the last few weeks.


Since I had the Ascent Stage complete except for the antennas and RCS nozzles I sprayed it with Tamiya Fine Gray primer. There are a few small spots that will need a bit of extra filler, but for a first pass it look good.




The window section (or as I like to call it, the face) is not glued in place. It was just dry fitted to prime the whole part. I’ll paint the stage and then add the windows and glue them together. The Space Model Systems decals have a decal for the window that either needs to be applied to the back of the window or applied backwards on the front of the window. I’ll try applying it to the back of the window and see how that works out.


In parallel with that I started on the Descent Stage to see what tasks I might have in front of me. Here I have just glued the top to the bottom. The top didn’t fit perfectly so I had to do some slight trimming and sanding. Then I used Mr. Surfacer 500 with a brush to fill the irregular gaps around the top edge. I also started to fill the extremely large holes for the downlock braces. There are also some very deep folds that I felt needed to be leveled a bit, so I applied Mr. Surfacer 500 to those as well.




I continued to apply Mr. Surfacer to the areas and little by little they started to look better.




At this point it was starting to look good. Here is a view of another side that is done. After the final application of filler I took a #11 E-xacto blade and carefully blended the edges.




Hopefully when I apply primer you won’t see where the patches are.


Next I started looking at the folded struts. These parts are really going to give me a problem. The attach points have large square ends. They are really not the proper shape or size. Plus, there is no place on the model for them to go.




The other side isn’t much better. There are two large cone shapes that fit into holes in the bottom of the Descent Stage. They don’t exist on the spacecraft and they force the struts into an incorrect angle. You can also notice the large cube with a notch in it. This is where the main leg strut is supposed to attach. That attachment point is much too large and I’ll need to do something with that as well.




So, instead of tackling that, I decided to apply decals to the CM and SM. Here is the CM with its decals applied. I also did the final detail painting. The windows will be added after the final clear coat is applied.




I glued the RCS clusters to the SM and did the final detail paint. Then applied the decals. Lots of very small decals.




There are two more decals to apply but they go where the big square piece of masking tape is right now. After I apply a decal protecting clear coat, I’ll remove the masking and add the final decals. At that point I think I’ll be ready to do the final assembly of the CSM.


That’s it for now. Thanks for looking.

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Let me extend my Condolences and Sympathies to you Randy ... I've been there and at around the same time of year ... 

But I'm glad to see you bounce back so-o quickly. I had used this hobby to deal with my Father's passing years ago.

This is certainly an effective method to relax and distract ... keep doin' what yer doin'!



This little LMs Ascent Stage looks really, really good. The details are nice and crisp and those standoffs for the EVA handle and Lights on the 'face' look GREAT!

And the SM ... sheesh ... there's a lotta nice surface detail on that and Mr Sternbach does a nice job on all-l-l those decals, and so did you!

My 1/72 LM is the o-o-old AIrfix one and it needed a LOT o' work over the entire model ...


The Descent Stage ... ? ... well, you've got some work ahead of you  ;^ D



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Thanks Pete,


Yeah, I'm still scratchin' my head on the folded landing gear.  I've moved on to assembling the CSM while I contemplate my options. 🤔

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  • 2 weeks later...

With the Descent Stage presenting me with some problems, I decided to finish the CSM. I started by applying Micro Kristal Klear to the the CM windows. Once dried they were very transparent. I then painted a couple of small gray circles on the CM that represented two of the areas that had omnidirectional antennas behind them.


I then glued the CM shell to the heat shield. I had to do some scraping and test fitting to get the parts to slide smoothly together. I needed that because I had glued the heat shield to the SM first. I did that so I could be sure of a firm attachment that would hold the weight of the LM without breaking.


Once that was done (sorry I didn’t get any photos of that) I glued the CM shell to the heat shield using a combination of Tenax and Plasti-Zap CA glue. I used Tenax on the two large posts that held the parts together and Plasti-Zap along the edge of the heat shield where they met. I like using Plasti-Zap whenever clear parts are involved since it doesn’t cause clouding of the clear part.


Well, I guess there is something about Plasti-Zap and Micro Kristal Klear because a couple of hours later, when I went back to check on the bond, all the windows were white. It was as if the Micro Kristal Klear had become un-cured. Or maybe it was the combination of Micro Kristal Klear and the Tenax. In any case, after leaving it overnight to see if the cloudiness would go away they were still completely opaque. (Once again, sorry no photos.)


I used my X-acto knife and removed the windows. I then let the kit set for a day to allow any possible gases to disperse. I then re-applied Micro Kristal Klear and allowed it to dry. The next morning all the windows were still clear.




Here you can see one of the small gray circles that cover the omni antennas. You can also see that the umbilical cover has been installed. The white area where the masking tape has been removed shows the final two decals that were applied to the CSM. On the left, you can barely make out one of the scimitar antennas that are now installed on the SM.



Here I’ve taken a photo head on to show the painted areas of the CM and the now clear docking windows. The docking probe is only friction fitted so I can remove it when I’m finished with the LM.



With that finished I added the High Gain Antenna and the SPS nozzle. I then removed all the remaining masking tape. Here is a series of photos of the completed CSM.







Now it’s time to get back to the LM. This may take a while.


Thanks for looking.

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This CSM looks terrific! All the details are crisp and clear! ... and in 1/72 ... the thinned edge of the SPS bell, the RCS nozzles, the entire Hi-Gain antenna, the handholds on the CM ... and so much more!


Well DONE SIR! The kit itself and your attention to detail make this look really GOOD! 

This build has changed my mind, maybe just a little, about this Dragon kit ... I'm looking forward to seeing this little LM come together too!


Keep up the superb work Randy!


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On 3/16/2023 at 12:53 PM, as205 said:

Well, I guess there is something about Plasti-Zap and Micro Kristal Klear because a couple of hours later, when I went back to check on the bond, all the windows were white.

There is a long history of CA glues and clear parts not playing well together. 😕 But, hey, at least in this case it was removable Krystal Klear instead of clear styrene parts glued on from the inside!

Brings to mind a model railroading friend who in the 1980s discovered Krystal Klear and heat likewise do not play well together when he used some for windshields in a couple N scale locomotives; after several hours of constant running at a show the windshields had melted.


Head-on photo on dark background feels like something right out of NASA's gallery! 😎

Edited by southwestforests
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