Having recently completed my new, improved version of the 1/96 Command/Service Module of Apollo 11, using a RealSpace resin kit supplemented by 3D-printed parts from The Aerospace Place, I decided I might as well go the whole hog and build a better 1/96 Lunar Module too.
All this is a hangover from my long, slow build of Revell’s 1/96 Saturn V kit, the shortcomings of which I narrated in detail on my build log. You can find the executive summary of that experience here, together with links to relevant sections of the log. Of all the kit components, I found the Lunar Module to be the least redeemable—you can find my log for that bit of the build here.
So, while searching around on Shapeways for 3D printed CSM parts, I stumbled across Luis Glehn’s Small Scale Shop, which offers a nicely detailed 1/96 LM in various configurations. I went for a version with separate ascent and descent stages, for ease of painting; and I also selected the basic “Versatile Plastic” print, because Shapeways appeared to be having a bit of a laugh with the pricing of some of the other options.
Here’s what arrived from Shapeways:
It’s a fairly minimal kit requiring very little assembly. The plastic has a slightly rough surface (because I bought the cheapest kind), but I don’t think that will be a major problem. It has the massive advantage over the Revell original of being modelled on the real LM, rather than an artist’s impression.
Some of the support struts for aerials, etc., are a bit chunky, and I’ll replace some of those with finer brass wire. I’m also going to harvest some Revell kit parts—the styrene dish antennae, for instance, look better than the 3D printed versions.
So I started work with the descent stage. There’s one glaring problem there, which is that the ladder on the front leg of the LM is very badly proportioned. The Revell kit part is a much better shape, and less chunky in construction. So I carefully snipped the Revell part off its landing leg, and likewise removed the 3D printed ladder from its landing leg—I’ll assemble the hybrid part at a later date. Here’s the Revell ladder, at left, compared to the 3D printed version:
And for reference, here’s the Apollo 9 LM:
As well as pointing out the ladder, I’ve also marked another feature, which the Small Scale Shop model lacks. I chose this particular photograph because the bright background of the Earth silhouettes the large conical structures on the paired upper landing leg struts. I’ve no idea what these are for. Peering at Apollo 11 photos (in which these structures have black sky behind them, making them much harder to see) convinces me that they’re present, and slightly different on the front and back legs than on the two side legs.
David Weeks’s excellent 1/48 drawing set makes them look nice and neat:
But from photographs they appear lumpy and misshapen.
To add these mysterious features to my new kit’s legs, I first slipped on pairs of appropriately sized styrene discs:
And then added filler moulded into roughly conical shapes:
I also decided to replace the kit’s plume deflector structures with something a bit less chunky, so I scratch-built replacements using 0.5mm brass rod for the struts, and some thick aluminium foil for the plume deflectors themselves. Here are the lower support struts in place, the foil replacements, and the original kit part for comparison:
To position the upper support struts, I temporarily glued the ascent stage in place, and used it to measure and position my brass rod correctly, and then to slip the foil parts into their correct position:
With that done, I popped the ascent stage off again, and gave the descent stage body a coat of Tamiya grey primer. I brushed on LifeColor Flat Black, which is my go-to paint when I went a nice matt finish. And then I started adding two shades of gold foil, to simulate the two thickness of Kapton that were used as thermal insulation on the real thing, and some ordinary kitchen foil to reproduce the bright silver appearance of the nickel foil used elsewhere.
Here’s the final result:
Next time, I’ll get on with the landing legs.