1/72 Saturn V with Apollo Module

Normally a 1/72 model is pretty small. That is until you decide to built the Saturn V rocket in it's full lenght.

Kit by Dragon

The "Saturn V" project started on 01 June 2019 and was finished on [...]

Photos of this project can be found here:

The Making of

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A new attempt at commission projects

01 Jan. 2020 | Caernarfon, Wales (UK) | By Niek Nijsen

My second attempt and (at least for now) last commission project. For some reason I struggle to enjoy a project when it's for someone else. Not sure if it's got something to do with the restricting time frame or final expectations, it simply doesn't work for me very well at this point in my model "career". Who knows, perhaps something for the future.

Anyway, I was asked by a family member to build him a model after seeing some of mine displayed at home. But not just any model, he was interested in the Saturn V rocket and Apollo missions to the moon. Instantly that limits my options to what kit to go with. Most of the ones available are small (think 1/144 scale) and then there’s the very old 1/96 kit. None of them were suitable to the customer and after a little searching, we decided on the Dragon 1/72 model. However, that came with the ´Skylab´ instead of the Apollo module as the top section. Further surfing the web for some time, and I found a pre-made Apollo die-cast kit. With a bit of work this should fit nicely on top of our Saturn V rocket. Let’s begin.

Upon opening the box, I noticed a lot of cylindrical shaped pieces of plastic, obviously forming a long tube when put together, but I wasn’t aware of how long exactly. That was until I stood next to the behemoth, easily reaching up to my shoulder (don’t forget I’m well over 6ft tall)! My goodness, how on earth was I going to fit this on the work bench, let alone my small workstation in Wales. A quick flick through the instruction manual and it turned out that all stages can be built separately before putting them together. Normally this kit would be displayed as a single piece in an upright position. Not this time, as the final way of displaying this model would be like the real rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which means I’ll also be constructing a supporting frame for it in due time. The covers that connect the stages together are going to be cut in half to display the otherwise hidden engines and Apollo command module (something requiring me to add more details to the otherwise fairly bleak model).

I began work on the first stage of the rocket, which is the biggest section of all. It houses the largest amount of the fuel and carries the most powerful of the engines on board as it was designed to “push” the vehicle outside of the earth’s atmosphere. This section alone is well over 50 cm tall. In itself the detail isn’t too bad, although it could do with a few upgrades and additional wiring, which I achieved with the usual help of styrene and different sizes of lead wire. The top of the internal tank didn’t fit properly which needed a bit of work before it would sit at the correct height. The external bits were added next and the whole section started to look like a Saturn V stage I.

On to the next stage, the one that propels the rocket out of the earth’s orbit and towards the moon. This part of the model turned out to be the most work. For some reason, the manufacturer got this completely wrong, and by a huge margin. The original way of mounting the engines was no option and required significant amounts of work in order to look as it should. Firstly, I cut away the original support mounts for the engines, which left me with four massive gaps in the plastic part. These were subsequently covered using thin styrene sheets. I then proceeded by creating the mount for the centre engine with square styrene tubes. The engines could now be put together and glued in place. At this point references became a bit confusing, as some rockets show a heatshield in between the engines, where others don’t. Eventually, I decided to go with the looks of the one on display in Florida, which doesn’t have the shield fitted. Lastly, I added the missing plumbing and wiring to make it all look the part.
With work completed on the bottom end of the tube, I shifted my attention to the top, where work was needed on the dome-shaped cover and internal detail on the structure surrounding it. Styrene strips were used, and the top ring was made from scratch with I subsequently enhanced with bolt heads made by punching them from styrene offcuts. Although not fully clear to myself how the sections where held together exactly, I did find a lot of photos that show these bolts before separation of the stages. As I’ll be adding the Apollo stage to the top of this, I decided to keep these in place, whereas all the other stages have holes as seen on the real Saturn V at the Space Centre. External bits were added, and all seems were sealed using plastic putty.

We keep moving upwards to the next stage, Stage III, which was designed to propel the rocket out of the earth’s orbit and on towards the moon. Other than a bit of detail work on the engine section, this was mostly straightforward and put together in a few hours. As before, the top dome proved to be difficult to fit and required a bit of trial-and-error before finding its final place. The instrument ring that’s mounted to the top of this section was enhanced with a few parts from the spare box to represent all the electronics that were housed here. A bit of wiring was added and made the overall result look quite realistic. The aim is that the paint work will enhance this effect once done. As mentioned earlier, the connecting ring that sits below the instrument ring kept the bolt details since I´m leaving this stage “connected” to the upper structure (the bit that houses the actual lunar lander).
Speaking of that section, it came as part of the Apollo die-cast model and in order to fit the plastic model, I had to get the saw out and perform some minor surgery. To display the lander inside this part of the rocket, I removed two of the four doors that normally fold open as the command module is detached and rotates to marry with the lander inside. The remaining doors received styrene strips to liven up the internal (and completely missing) structural detail.

The top section of the Saturn V and the actual Apollo module only needed a few bits glued to it before being done. Call that the advantage of using a die-cast model instead of grey plastic. The escape rocket, which is mounted to the top of the command module, was cut in half to match the rest of the rocket display and glued in place. Frankly that’s all I did here, nothing else…

And so, we arrive at the closing part of this update, the bit where I leave you with an almost fully constructed rocket model. All that remains for me to do is fill a few seam gaps and get it ready for paint. I´ll be taking the model with me home soon once my spray booth is set up where we´ll begin the next stage: painting. However, I won’t be using the usual airbrush, as it’ll take far too long. Instead, I’ll be using spray cans for the base coats before detailing with the airbrush afterwards.

Until then, I’m going to love you and leave you. See you soon!