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