Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module: Part 1

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:

1/96 Lunar Module from Small Scale Shop
Click to enlarge

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:

Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, ladder from Revell kit
Click to enlarge

And for reference, here’s the Apollo 9 LM:

Apollo 9 LM, showing problematic areas of Small Scale Shop legs
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Detail from NASA image AS09-21-3183

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:

Detail from David Weeks LM Descent Stage plan view

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:

Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, modifying legs, 1
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And then added filler moulded into roughly conical shapes:

Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, modifying legs, 2
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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:

Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, replacing plume deflectors
Click to enlarge

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:

Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, positioning vertical plume deflector struts
Click to enlarge

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:

Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, Descent Stage painted and foiled
Click to enlarge
Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module, Descent Stage underside painted and foiled
Click to enlarge

Next time, I’ll get on with the landing legs.

6 thoughts on “Small Scale Shop 1/96 Lunar Module: Part 1”

  1. 3D printing is a great help to the hobbyist. Wonder if the ladder chunkiness is simply a result of the minimum dimension requirement. Although I’ve not submitted a design to be printed, did look at the requirements a year or so back & there were both a minimum wall thickness and a minimum part diameter which would be accepted to print. This is shaping up to be a nice little model.

    1. Thanks. I’m sure you’re right about the printing requirements/limitations—the parts that are overthick are all the same thickness. I’ll need to redo some of the fine aerials on the LM, too, but overall I’m pleased to have something that’s the right shape, to start with.

  2. Excellent work as always!

    According to Scott Sullivan’s VIRTUAL LM, those conical features are thermal covers over the outriggers made of black-painted aluminized Kapton. They seem a little different between the H-mission and J-mission LMs.

    Having built many pristine black-and-white LMs as a kid in the 60s, I’ve always been amazed at how complex and colorful the thermal blanketing really was.

  3. Thanks for that.
    Yes, I think the paint schemes for the old models were established while the LM was still on the drawing board (and still called the LEM).

  4. I just received the same LM in 1:144 scale, I am looking at the CSM docking ring. This appears to out of position. Is this the same on yours?

    1. Hi Al:
      Yes, mine’s the same. I’ve flagged the problem with the maker on Shapeways, but so far no reply.

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