Fantastic Plastic Space Station V: Part One

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V Box Art
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After all the scratch building and revision work on my Apollo Recovery SH-3D Sea King, I decided I wanted to build something straight out of the box. With hindsight, this perhaps wasn’t the best choice from my stash—it’s not exactly a quick and easy build.

It’s is a resin and steel photo-etch kit from Fantastic Plastic, who specialize in science fiction models and unusual concept aircraft kits. The kit depicts Space Station V from the Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Space Station V from 2001 A Space OdysseyThe business about “variable scale” on the box art just means that the kit includes three different sizes of the Orion space clipper, which is seen docking with the station in the film. Because Kubrick combine images of different models, it’s not clear what the exact ratio of sizes should be in “real life”.

2001: A Space Odyssey reference 1How best to hover the model Orion in docking position is a matter for conjecture—I’ll come back to that in due course.

The kit comes with some fairly big chunks of resin, making up the body of the space station:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V resin parts
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In the photo above, I’ve already prepared and glued the two parts that make up each of the two docking ports—a lot of work is required to get rid of the pour stubs so that these pieces come together properly. There’s also a right way up and a wrong way up to combine them—the correct positions give a nice smooth profile to the docking bays; the wrong positions produce an interior step. There are also some quite nasty pour stubs to be removed from the curved sections that make up the rim.

And finally, there are the spokes. These come with little “outrigger” sections moulded in, but these are fragile and easy to damage, and in fact were already damaged and incomplete when the kit arrived. So I made the decision to strip them all off and replace them, in due course, with some brass strip of matching dimensions. Here’s an example of one of the spokes with outriggers in place, and the brass strip I’ll use to replace them:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V spoke moulding problem
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Another small problem was a missing corner from one of the short sections of partial rim, which I managed to patch up with some styrene sheet:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V patched part
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And so to start the assembly. I stared at the four rim sections, four spokes and the hub of the complete ring for a while, trying to figure out how to bring them together. The spokes come with stonking great locator studs at each end, which need a lot of filing and sanding to get them down to the size of the locating holes in hub and rim.

Having done that, I first got the spokes attached to the hub, using dry-fitted rim sections and the scale plans provided with the kit to get the alignment correct:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V assembling spokes
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This was helped by the realization that the outer end of the spokes are just the right size to act as vertical spacers to lift the rim section into its correct location relative to the hub.

The rim sections needed a little work. Laying them on the plans revealed that they had all flexed slight since moulding, assuming the wrong curvature. That needed a few cycles of dipping in very hot water, applying pressure, and checking against the plans until the correct curvature was restored. (It made the plans a bit soggy.)

Getting the rim assembled around the spokes was complicated by the fact that there are two slim photoetch shapes that need to be slipped between the butt ends of the rim sections and around the outer ends of the spokes. I seemed to have too many degrees of freedom to control, bringing all these parts together at the same time. Eventually I decided to assemble it in sections.

Here are the first two rim sections, clamped with balsa to keep them planar, and with a sliver of styrene strip acting as a spacer for the eventual placement of the photoetch detail:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V assembling rim
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Also notice the photoetch parts already glued in place on the free ends of the two rim sections. These wrap around either side of the flared ends of the spokes, which is what complicates the assembly unconscionably.

Then I applied epoxy to the end of one spoke, and lowered the hub and spoke assembly into place, using the photoetch and sockets on the free ends of the rim section as a sort of jig to ensure everything lines up properly:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V assembling rim 2
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Leaving the ends of the transverse spokes free to slide in their locating sockets (I slightly shortened their ends to allow this), I then positioned and glued the remaining rim sections, with more balsa to keep the assembly planar:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V assembling rim 3
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Once that had dried, I could gently closed the gap at the top around the spoke and photoetch, completing the rim. Finally, with all the glue set and the clamps removed, I slotted the remaining photoetch into place in the gap I’d created with my spacers at the start of the process.

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V rim assembled
Click to enlarge

I’m sure there are countless other ways to achieve the same result, but this one worked for me, and the final result needed only a smidgeon of filler and tidying up.

Then I moved on to assemble the resin parts for the incomplete ring. Hub and spokes came together using the plans for alignment and a suitably stripped pad of writing paper to provide a support of the right height to keep the ends of the spokes in the correct plane while the glue set.

The resin parts are tricky, because they are of different shapes and need to be positioned correctly to match the plans:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V sorting quadrants
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I attached the photoetch to the butt of one section in each pair, closing it around the corresponding spoke and fixing with cyanoacrylate. Then I applied epoxy to fix the correct parts around each spoke, and left the whole lot to dry supported on paint pots to maintain the plane:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V partial ring assembled
Click to enlarge

That’s all the resin assembled. Next time, I’ll start adding a very large amount of photoetch.

4 thoughts on “Fantastic Plastic Space Station V: Part One”

  1. Good morning from California Dr. Grant.
    I always enjoy your modeling posts. I used to be an avid modeler from grade school through to enlistment, where I fell out of a lot of things I used to do.
    When I was in Jr High my best friend growing up’s older brother was a modeler on a scale seldom seen. (He just retired from AMD as a integrated circuit designer.)
    He built the *entire* German and Russian WWII armored inventories, as well as artillery, even the stuff that didn’t have professional kits made for them. He’d occasionally have to make room, so he’d give his models away to the neighborhood kids to start on a new set. This was awesome BTW.
    He was the one who taught me how to do a “wash” on models to make them look realistically dirty/oily.
    Your posts always get me thinking about him.
    Hmmm, now that I think of it, they’re all Scotsmen as well!
    They’d take me to the Scot’s Games and Gatherings. A yearly event here in California. That’s where one year, as a High Schooler, I out performed the resident Champion at the kaber toss. Something I found out I was really good at once I learned what was required.

    1. Glad you’re enjoying these. They’re now the most commonly visited posts on the blog, especially the Saturn V build. Nothing like a worldwide lockdown to get people into fiddly little time consuming stuff to do at home.
      Respect on the caber tossing. Enough strength to keep the thing vertical, with a little left over for the end-over-end toss into the 12-o’clock position. There’s a guy called Rob Bell who makes documentary series in the UK, and he had a go at it the other day–almost did himself a serious injury just trying to get the thing off the ground.

  2. AND the log has to land as straight as possible in front of you after you chuck it end over end! Can’t forget that part. That’s where you score! So you huck it in such a way as it lands flat without an end bouncing first.
    That was the year *after* I first started weight lifting. With an outstanding coach, Mr. Ashby. (He had 26 inch diameter forearms!) I could bench press twice my body weight for 20 reps. Free bar no less.That was in high school. I got stronger as I matured of course.
    Oooh, I digress, big time.
    (I sometimes forget we’re not chatting over morning coffee.)

    1. Yes, the “12 o’clock position” I mentioned is the technical term in caber tossing for “as straight as possible in front of you”. That’s why there’s a judge dodging around behind the competitors trying to maintain a sighting line along the axis of the toss.

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