Revell 1/96 Saturn V: Fully Assembled

Revell 1/96 Saturn VThis is the final post of my three-year project to assemble Revell’s 1/96-scale Saturn V model kit. It’s intended to provide a few views of the completed model, and to act as a sort of index to the various sections of the stage-by-stage build log I wrote as I went along.

The kit is fundamentally flawed because it was based on the original SA-500F Facilities Integration Vehicle, a test version of the Saturn V which never flew. (Any Apollo buff can tell that, immediately, from the paint pattern featured on the box art.) The sad thing is that Revell have never revised the kit, despite reissuing it a regular intervals, including this year’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. So the kit includes parts, decals and painting instructions that are inaccurate for any of the Apollo flights, because based on an early test article. It also includes things that are just plain inaccurate—wrongly placed and wrongly sized parts, and incorrect alignments of each stage with its neighbours.

To help me understand and try to fix these problems, I used David Weeks’s 1/48 Saturn V drawing sets, available from RealSpace Models. At exactly twice the scale of the kit, they were a real boon to confirm the location and orientation of various details.

To correct many of the kit’s errors and omissions, I used various after-market detail sets—batted F-1 engines and a Block II Command/Service Module from RealSpace, New Ware’s extensive resin, photo-etch and decal detail set, and a separate decal set for the CSM from Space Model Systems.

1/96 Saturn V aftermarket details
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First, here’s a four-quadrant view of the completed model, which depicts AS-506, the launch vehicle and spacecraft for the Apollo 11 mission:

Four quadrant view of complete Revell 1/96 Saturn V kit
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And the upper section, in isolation:

Revell 1/96 Saturn V with RealSpace & New Ware details (upper part)
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There now follows a stage-by-stage description, from the top down, with links to the relevant parts of the build log.

RealSpace 1/96 CSM (2)
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RealSpace 1/96 CSM (1)
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The kit provides an early Block I Command/Service Module, whereas all manned flights used Block II CSMs. This is the resin replacement Block II from RealSpace. Kit parts are used for the Service Module’s Reaction Control System thruster blocks and S-band antenna. Some additional details were added from the New Ware set. RealSpace’s scimitar antennae on the Service Module were poorly moulded, and were removed and replaced with New Ware’s photo-etch parts. Bare-Metal Foil for the finish on the Command Module and aft Service Module heatshield. Some detailing with styrene sheet on the SM aft bulkhead. Decals from Space Model Systems appropriate for CSM-107, the Apollo 11 spacecraft.

Revell 1/96 escape tower and RealSpace BPC
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The kit lacks a Boost Protective Cover for the Command Module—this is the vacu-formed part that comes with the RealSpace Block II Command/Service Module. I punched a couple of holes in it to represent the two windows over the central and commander’s (left) window of the Command Module. I added the kit Launch Escape System tower, detailed with some styrene rod to simulate structural ribbing and wiring harnesses.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA & IU (2)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA & IU (1)
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This is the Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) which housed the Lunar Module and supported the CSM. The kit provides an upper and lower section. The upper section contains an unrealistic window, to allow viewing of the Lunar Module in situ. The lower SLA is moulded in one piece with the Instrument Unit, in reality a separate section of the launch vehicle. I filled and painted over the SLA window, and detailed the structure with New Ware parts and styrene strips. I found it was possible to leave the upper part detachable from the lower section, so that the Lunar Module could be displayed in a realistic position on top of the Instrument Unit and S-IVB stage. I also scribed out an umbilical connection port, and corrected an error in New Ware’s decals—the black -Y axis marker provided for the Instrument Unit should be +Y. The moulded support for the kit CSM was removed, since it was positioned wrongly for the RealSpace CSM.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB thrust structure
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With lower SLA attached:

Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB with lower SLA
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The alignment between the kit SLA and S-IVB stage is wrong, and requires correction—see build log for details. The kit parts include a printed styrene sheet to be rolled to form the central tank structure. This is marked USA, which is inappropriate for manned missions—I turned it inside-out and painted it to match the rest of stage. The fore and aft skirts needed extensive detailing from New  Ware, and the service tunnel was replaced.

The kit provides a single part for the S-IVB aft interstage. The alignment between this part and the S-IVB stage is wrong, and needs to be corrected—see the build log for details. Instead of using New Ware’s replacement retro rocket fairings, I added simulated fairing covers to the kit part using epoxy. I also scribed a personnel access hatch, using David Weeks’s drawings for guidance. The chequered sway targets I painted are too large, but this is deliberate—when sized correctly they could not be made to look square, because of the oversize stringers of the kit parts.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB aft interstage 1
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB aft interstage 2
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V with New Ware details (upper interstage)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-II (2)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-II (1)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-II forward skirt and tank
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-II thrust structure (2)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-II thrust structure (1)
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Revell 1/96 S-II stage + interstage
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The S-II stage is wrongly aligned with the S-IVB aft interstage—see build log for details of the correction required.

This stage is very poorly depicted by the kit parts. Fairings are missing or wrongly positioned, and need to be replaced with New Ware parts. Attachment points for the kit parts need to be removed and the stringers restored. Stringers extend too far on both the fore and aft skirts, and need to be trimmed back. I added an additional insulation layer to the fore skirt using styrene sheet. Several other areas need to be cleared of stringers to allow the addition of New Ware umbilical connectors and hatches.

The liquid oxygen vent pipes are wrongly positioned, and need to be moved. I also corrected the number and position of the gores on the forward tank dome so that the vent pipes could be properly placed in the correct position. New Ware provides a resin aft heatshield—the support structure was scratch-built using 0.5mm brass rod. The kit’s aft thrust structure is extremely inaccurate, and required considerable modification and detailing with styrene rod before adding resin instrument packages from New Ware. Again, I turned the kit’s printed styrene sheet inside out so that I could produce a uniform paint job, and then mark up with decals from New Ware.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-II aft interstage
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V with New Ware details (lower interstage)
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Revell 1/96 S-II + aft interstage + New Ware details 1
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The kit S-II aft interstage comes with eight ullage motors. These were reduced to four on the Apollo 11 launch vehicle, and were later omitted entirely. The attachment points for the kit parts therefore need to be removed and the stringers restored. The kit motor fairings are too small and need to be replaced with New Ware parts. The S-II fairings extended on to the aft interstage—all the New Ware resin fairings need to be divided at an appropriate level, with their trailing parts added to the interstage and aligned. New Ware provides a photo-etch personnel access hatch.

The white flight-separation junctions, above and below the interstage, were added using 0.5mm x 1.5mm styrene strip, wrapped around the locating flanges at the base of the S-II stage and the interstage.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IC Pos II
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IC Pos IIII
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IC forward skirt and tank
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V with batted RealSpace engines
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IC aft skirt
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The S-IC stage is wrongly orientated relative to the S-II. I corrected this at the junction between the S-II aft interstage and the S-IC—see build log for details.

The entire aft end of the S-IC stage needs to be remodelled, because of inaccuracies in the heatshield and engines. The F-1 engines were covered with batted insulation, but the kit parts are bare. I used RealSpace’s resin replacements, with Bare-Metal Foil detailing and some scratch-building to reproduce the appearance of the real engines. The kit heatshield is surround by air scoops, most of which were removed in S-IC stages that actually flew—New Ware provides resin replacement for the heatshield, engine fairings and fins, and photo-etch parts for the remaining air scoops on either side of the engine fairings. The New Ware heatshield is poorly detailed—I printed a custom decal sheet to depict rivets and other details in this area. I also scratch-built lunate heatshields for the engine fairings—neither Revell nor New Ware provide appropriately shaped parts.

Slots must be cut in the kit’s aft skirt to accommodate resin hold-down posts from New Ware. The kit service tunnels are the wrong shape and size, and New Ware provides photo-etch parts that can be applied to 7mm half-round rod to produce a more realistic result. Again, I turned the kit’s printed styrene sheets inside out, so that I could achieve a uniform paint job, and then apply New Ware’s decals. And again, stringers need to be removed in several areas to allow the addition of multiple umbilical connections and access hatches from New Ware.

NB: I failed to notice, until it was too late, that this stage is almost an inch too long for its scale size, with most of the extra length being in the forward tank and intertank skirt. This means New Ware’s service tunnels appear too short on the completed model.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V LM (2)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V LM (1)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V LM ascent stage
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Positioned in SLA:

Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB with SLA & LM (1)
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V S-IVB with SLA & LM (2)
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The Lunar Module provided with the kit is wrongly shaped in several respects. I added some scratch-built detailing, painted the thermal panels and adding foil in appropriate shades for Apollo 11’s LM-5, and blocked off the hole in the access tunnel with styrene sheet. I also revised the tank support strut on the left front of the ascent stage—this is modelled as a flange in the kit part, which was removed and replaced with styrene rod. A lot more detail (plume deflectors, aerials and a docking target) could easily be added but I decided against it on the grounds that the LM would be invisible in the assembled model, and would be easily damaged on disassembly.

And that’s it. Something of an epic build, involving equal parts frustration and satisfaction. I’m glad to have done it, but I wouldn’t care to undertake such a large-scale revision project again.

Well … not for a while, anyway.

29 thoughts on “Revell 1/96 Saturn V: Fully Assembled”

  1. I have been looking for some time for a comprehensive build on the Saturn V as I have only built it out of the box. This is an amazing journey and it looks like I’m going to have to step up my game a lot to do an accurate version. I do have a simple question, if I may, as the stages were built by different manufacturers was there any gloss/matt or colour matching considered?. In terms of this build would I be right in saying that tamiya flat white and black were used?

  2. From photographs of the real thing, it’s clear that various shades of white were used, and the paintwork is sometimes visibly patchy, apparently touched up after engineering revisions. I thought about trying to reproduce this, but eventually made a decision to use a uniform paint job and no weathering. So I haven’t researched that aspect to any great extent.
    The paint is actually Tamiya white primer and Lifecolor flat black, sealed with Humbrol acrylic gloss varnish for decal application, and then sealed again with Humbrol acrylic silk. This is a slightly bonkers combination, because the Lifecolor doesn’t bond very well with the Tamiya primer, so chips extremely easily before the varnish is on. But it let me revise paint mask leaks using a scalpel blade to lift off runs – I found it impossible to mask all those stringers perfectly every time, and there was always a bit of fixing-up required.
    It’s a combination that came about by accident, and in some ways was a hassle to manage, so I make no recommendation.

  3. Question regarding the S-1C stage being “almost an inch too long for its scale size, with most of the extra length being in the forward tank and intertank skirt.” How much of each section would need to be removed to make it accurate?

  4. Hi John:
    My original comment on this was a little rushed, and I didn’t make exact measurements because the boat had rather sailed for me, with everything assembled.
    I’ve now gone back to David Weeks’s diagrams, and used the station heights (heights in inches above datum) for the various S-IC structures to derive the correct 1/96 scale heights, and then compared them to the kit parts. In fact, the overlength errors are in the front skirt, forward tank and intertank, with the rear tank and thrust structure slightly undersized, bringing the total height error for the full stage to 0.6 of an inch.
    Here is a screenshot of the spreadsheet I produced, with all dimensions and errors shown. All values in inches and hopefully self-explanatory in the light of the text above.

  5. Thanks. I’m in the first stages (no pun intended!) of using 4″ PVC repair couplings, beefed up with some sheet wrapped around to get the diameter up, to replace all the wrap sections and make the whole build more solid, so I figured I might as well correct the height issue while I’m at it.

  6. Hello from Canada Grant,

    When I was nine (in 1969) a school friend gave me his built Revell Saturn V (as he had lost interest) but my parents refused the ‘charity’ and made me give it back. I always wanted to correct that, so now at age 59 I have bought the same Revell 1/96 Saturn V kit and all the upgrades you recommended.  I was once an experienced modeller, but stopped ten years ago, and have been wanting to pick it up again so I can finish my ship model the SMS Pommern. Your blog and images are absolutely invaluable and I am very appreciative. I don’t touch anything on the kit until I carefully study that section on your blog. It has been a tremendous help.

    May I ask a basic question please?  Did you prime the inside of the styrene stages to cover the incorrect printed markings and black strips? I am concerned that they might show through.

    Thank you, Tony

    1. Hi Tony:
      I didn’t do any priming inside the reversed sheets, but I did apply multiple layers of white primer to the outside. If I shine a light behind my Saturn V, some of the reversed printing inside the stages will show through, but otherwise there’s no problem.
      I think if I did this over again, I’d just cut some blank styrene sheet to replace the kit parts. It seemed like a fine idea to reverse the printed kit sheets, so that I could use the locating holes provided, but (as I describe in the blog), the locating holes turned out to be poorly positioned and caused more problems than they solved.
      The appearance would also be improved by having styrene sheet that formed a butt joint behind the service tunnel, rather than the clumsy overlap provided in the kit.

  7. This model is scheduled for delivery today. I haven’t read the post completely, but I have bookmarked it for reference. I’m going to follow Tony’s lead and study each section before I work on it. Thanks so much for posting this!

  8. Your efforts are not lost, even after the years roll by. I wish it were financially feasable for the kit guys to correct the inaccuracies, but I must say, then I would not have a pardon the pun,” roll model”, to follow. Thank you. Detail on.

  9. Grant –

    Since I’m beginning my third iteration of this model (the first when it was initially issued a very long time ago), your blog is a true gold mine of reference. My most successful Apollo model is the Airfix 1/144th S1B, although I wish I would have corrected the clunky kit first stage fin shapes. Not being nearly as fastidious as you, I’m not going to model the parts you can’t see once assembled which will speed up the process immensely. I did get a good laugh reading your observation of the confusing coordinate system and getting lost in space.
    Two questions – What did you do with the finished product? And did you ever consider building the Edu Craft launch pad/umbilical tower model to display it? The YouTube video I watched of that build was amazing, but it took him over a year and a half.
    If you haven’t already do yourself a favor and get a copy of Apollo Remastered by Andy Saunders. His work is stunning and my opinion is you and he are in way creative kindred spirits.
    Regards, Brian

    1. I’m glad you’re finding the blog useful.

      The model currently sits in disassembled stages on a shelf above my desk.

      I’m a bit handless with card models, so I haven’t considered the Edu-Craft crawler or LUT, though I understand they’re excellent. I do have their 1/32 Lunar Module sheets in a filing cabinet, which I take out and look at from time to time, and then shiver and put away again.

      Yep, Apollo Remastered is gorgeous. I had it on pre-order, so got it the day it was released.

  10. Congrats on your retirement and your praiseworthy build of the Saturn V. Your knowledge, skill and humor in relating your experience was very informative and entertaining.

    I too retired a couple of years ago and among other pursuits, have decided to resume my long dormant hobby of model building. I had quite the collection back in the day until a house fire made plastic puddles of my handiwork.

    I’ve spent the last few months re-familiarizing myself with the those old modeling skills, while learning some new ones. Your blog has been most helpful and encouraging in that regard. One of my goals has been to rebuild my collection of Apollo (also Mercury and Gemini) era spacecraft. Having assembled the Revell Saturn V when it was originally released in 1969, I look forward to building a more accurate version now.

    To that end I’ve purchased the same upgrades mentioned in your blog and studied your build, as well as done as much research as I can. Your coordinate system blog, as well as the Space in Miniature series are tremendously helpful in correcting the orientation of the various stages of the Saturn. I was even lucky enough to pay a visit to Mike Mackowski’s house, who was gracious enough to invite me to see his incredible model collection.

    Like you, I’ve decided to build the rocket from the top down. Having looked over the parts from the Revell and Real Space Models kits, I was a little disappointed to see that the diameter of the CSM is a good 1/16 in smaller than the Revell SLA. Is this something you ran into? As luck would have it, I found an extra SLA on ebay, so my thinking is to ditch the clear panel altogether and craft a new SLA by cutting the two solid parts in half, tapering them slightly to reduce the upper diameter, and gluing it back together.

    I also decided to smooth the rear of the resin Block II CM and attach the Revell heat shield. Then I thinned the walls of the SM and inserted the upper assembly of the Revell SM, allowing for the easy attachment and removal of the CM from the SM. Since every other stage plane will be getting detailed I thought this was appropriate.

    I also have run into the same issue with the poor quality of the docking probe and will need to scratch build a replacement. As my kit does include nicely molded RCS quads, I wish they had also recreated the docking mechanism in the same way.

    Hope this info proves useful to anyone else who decides to build the Saturn V based on your experiences. Cheers!

    1. I’m knee deep in the build. I don’t know if you have purchased the Real Space batted F1 engines, but I did and probably wouldn’t have if I had seen them first as the quality of the castings is marginal at best. However his drawings are worth their weight in gold but be warned – they can and likely will lead you down all sorts of scratch building rabbit holes. I am building never intending to disassemble the finished product.

      1. RealSpace certainly seems to have some quality control issues, or at least they did several years ago when I last used them. I actually have two of their 1/96 CSMs, and the one in the stash is a much better moulding job than the one I worked on for this build log.
        The RealSpace batted engines certainly needed a bit of work—mine had some quite nasty surface flaws that needed filled.
        Agree completely about David Weeks’s drawings. They’re a thing of beauty.

    2. Thanks for the kind words, Gary.
      Puzzlingly, my RealSpace CSM was actually a precise fit for the Revell SLA. The thickness of the PE brass panel frames from New Ware sits slightly proud and if I were redoing this I’d just sand an equivalent amount of styrene off the Revell part to improve the alignment.
      I’d also avail myself of some of the CSM aftermarket detailing available from Shapeways—there’s a nice-looking docking probe at 1/96 scale, for instance, though I can’t vouch for what the finished product is like in your hand. The same supplier, The Aerospace Place, provides a fair range of detailing for the CSM.
      I take it that you carved the CM off the RealSpace CSM with a razor saw? I salute your boldness!

  11. Thanks for the tip about the Shapeways probe. I will have to check out their other offerings. Funny that I created 3D medical animations for a living, and even prepared 3D files for prototyping, but tend to forget that this market exists for the hobbyist!

    As for the Real Space CSM, perhaps they have modified their kit since your purchase. In addition to the inclusion of RCS quads, the CM and SM are separate castings, with a pronounced recess at the top of the SM that mimics the Revell kit. The CM has a matching protrusion on the heat shield that fits snuggly into the SM. I simply sanded the protrusion off so that I could attach the Revell heat shield. Because of the smaller diameter I needed to remove some of the thickness of the upper SM wall and reduce the diameter of the top plate from the Revell SM. Sounds more complex than the reality. That leaves me with the three pins to connect/disconnect the CM and SM.

    My goal is to honor the legacy of the designers and builders of the original machines. The more I read about the engineering, construction and launch preparation involved with an Apollo launch, the better my appreciation for the Herculean task that it was. The fact that every launch was successful is simply amazing. Thanks!

    1. Ah, interesting. The RealSpace CSM I used in my build is this one:
      Edit: Oooh, hang on. Not quite that one, which seems to have the umbilical tunnel moulded as one part with the rest of the CSM—mine provided the umbilical tunnel as a separate part.
      As you can see, the CSM is one big chunk of resin. I actually sourced a 1/96 resin Block II CSM with separate command and service modules cheaply from a supplier in the UK, but it was of such poor quality I didn’t use it.
      My stash RealSpace CSM is also all in one piece, but is made from a different, white resin that seems to provide better surface detail.
      Shapeways also have a couple of nice 1/96 Lunar Modules with folded legs, which look infinitely better than the irredeemable Revell LM, albeit madly expensive:

  12. Thanks again for the info. I did see the LMs, but they are a bit too rich for me. I’ll take a stab at tweaking the Revell version. At the very least, sand off the protruding “door” on top of the front hatch! I did order the docking probe, HGA and LES/BPC. The details on the RealSpace version are much too soft. I’ll let you know how these look when I receive them.

    In the meantime I had a question. I noticed that you left open the four slots in the lower ring of the SLA. I was going to fill them in, but thought maybe they were required to allow the legs of the LM fit inside. Is this the case?

    Speaking of the docking probe, I came across this in my research. Along with your excellent technical articles, this is one of the clearest presentations of information I’ve seen on the subject. Never really understood how the mechanism worked until now.

    Again, many thanks!


    1. Yes, the four slots in the SLA accept the “knees” of the stowed LM. It’s a pretty tight fit as is, and I thought trying to partially fill the slots and slightly reduce the knees of the LM might work, but would probably result in damage somewhere if I was planning to assemble and disassemble repeatedly (which I was).
      I’ll be interested to hear if the Shapeways BPC fits over the RealSpace CM. I agree the RealSpace vacform is woeful.

      Yes, how they manage to get a hard dock with the probe and then just extract the thing from the inside of the tunnel is something of an engineering wonder, isn’t it!

  13. Well, good news and… I received the Shapeways parts I ordered. Delivery was faster than predicted so nice surprise. The detail on all of the pieces is very nice. The HGA and especially the docking probe are first rate and will add a lot to the overall authenticity of the CSM. The BPC and LES are also nicely detailed. (I’d be happy to send pictures, but don’t know if there is a mechanism for that on your site.)

    However, as I think you probably suspected, the BPC is too large for the incorrectly sized RealSpace CM. It was obviously designed to fit over the Revell CM, which it does nicely. So now I have to decide whether to go the all-RealSpace route, live with the oversized Shapeways BPC, or, most likely, sand off all the details on the Revell CSM and apply the New Ware PE pieces along with some scratch-built detailing to convert the it to a Block II version. At least it will match the diameter of the SLA.

    One thing has occurred to me after looking through photos and other tech docs though. I had intended to be able to separate the CM from the SM by using the Revell heat shield and upper SM plate. But as I understand, the CM-SM umbilical stays connected to the CM. In reality, it must have swiveled out of the way when the two separated. This won’t happen on the model. preventing the CM’s removal. Better to find out now!

    Still trying to work out the LM in the SLA without the large “holes” being visible. At least if I damage the LM beyond repair, the spacecraft kit is still available! Cheers!

    1. Gary:
      Mixing and matching aftermarket detail is always a trial, isn’t it? I’m currently having a rest from trying to figure out what to do with two detail sets for a Spitfire cockpit.
      I don’t know if you have a typo in your comment, but maybe worth pointing out that the umbilical tunnel remained attached to the Service Module, not the Command Module. It pivoted back slightly when the Command Module separated, as can be seen here:

      When I was thinking about building a separable SM and CM, I’d considered using a magnetic attachment and a folded polythene hinge for the umbilical tunnel, but that all came to nothing.

  14. Ha! Yes, a typo. I like the magnet idea! And yes, choosing the right aftermarket pieces is a bit daunting. And expensive!

    BTW, I’ve been following your construction of the Discovery… congrats on an amazing build so far! 2001 has always been my favorite film. Saw it when it premiered at the Warner Pacific Cinerama Theater in Hollywood at the impressionable age of 14!

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