Friday, 18 January 2013

Retro Rocket No. 3

I have been working on this one for a long time… and there are a lot of photos in this tutorial!

After the initial Retro Rocket came out looking perfect for a Flash Gordon style game I found a shower radio that I felt had potential to become a much more “1950’s” feel rocket. This was the result!

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What follows is an extensive photo tutorial on how I constructed the model. Firstly, I had the radio lying around for a while and I spotted the little clip-on torches in a pound store. I knew immediately that I had to get some of the torches to use as rocket engines (they couldn’t have been much more perfect).

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I stripped down the radio, and disposed of the internal workings. The three knobs were dumped into the bits box and I glued the case back together again. As you can see, the battery compartment makes an idea cargo hatch.

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I took these photos just to get an idea of how the rocket might look in flight (note the knobs had not quite been abandoned when i took these photos).

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Next up I had to fit the rocket engines, I could have gone with just the two, but I felt a third top engine made it look a little different from my first Retro Rocket and also helped with the balance of the look of the model. I removed the clips from the torches and then sanded down the ball joint at the angle that best fit the curve of the rocket’s body. To attach them to the body I drilled and pinned them, this gave me a little play in positioning so that I could get them exactly lined up.

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Once the two side engines were in place (the top engine was left off while I finalised what I was doing with that part of the model) I filled and sanded the joints. I didn’t feel that the round curved rod that supported the engine look substantial enough for my liking so I decided to add a fin in behind the rod. Not an easy task, as there are four different curved surfaces that needed to fit perfectly. I started by cutting paper patterns to work from.

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Once I had a good fit with the pattern I traced it on to a piece of plastic sheet ( had thought it was acrylic, but when I started to cut it I realised it was clear polystyrene sheet).

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I cut the fins out using a scroll saw. Unfortuantely, as the polystyrene sheet cut it heated up and I got quite a lot of melted debris along the cut lines (this wouldn’t have happened with acrylic sheet). I new I would have to file the files quite a bit to get them to fit, but it turned out to be a bit more than I would have liked!

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This is the final fit, before a little filling and sanding.

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Now I moved on to the cockpit window. I wanted a typical domed shaped cockpit and found a ball (from a vending machine in a supermarket) that was just the right size. Now as the dome was half clear I initially considered leaving it clear and building a cockpit with pilots into the model. However, on closer examination I decided that the dome was in poor condition and also had both the plastic injection nipple and a small air hole that would need to be filled. I also considered having a roof over the back half of the cockpit. But I wanted to keep it fairly simple, in keeping with the period feel.

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Once I had cut the dome, I filed it until it sat reasonably well onto the curved body of the rocket.

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At this stage I also decided to use my laser cutter to add some detail to the rear of the rocket. I cut two panels of acrylic, a round door and a back plate. Glued them together and stuck them to the back of the model… it finished that part off very nicely!

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Returning to the dome, with it firmly glued in place I filled around the edge, as well as the two holes on top.

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Next I needed to fill the holes in the body. For this I used car body filler. A two part filler that sets in ten to fifteen minutes. Once set it can be machined or sanded, it is also very useful for gluing certain materials that don’t stick very well with other adhesives.

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Once I had done the filling and some sanding I returned to the join around the cockpit canopy. Some kind of border was needed between the ship and the canopy. I used a pre-cut strip of polystyrene (plasticard). I glued it at the back of the canopy and the worked my way around slowly bending the strip and gluing it in place. Once I had gone all the way around the dome I cut the plastic strip with a craft knife, filled the joint and then filed it down.

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I was finally ready to attach the third engine to the top of the rocket.

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Once the engine was in place I felt the model was ready to receive a coat of primer. The paint evens up the look of the model, revealing flaws and showing what needs sanding.

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As the model is to be used on a wargames table it will need to sit on a runway or launch pad. I decided that the rocket needed an undercarriage. Rather than hunt around for existing wheels to use I scratch built them from some acrylic and several different diameter plastic rods.

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Once I had built the undercarriage I glued it in place.

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As the under carriage was glued on to the surface of the rocket I needed some hatch doors. I returned to the plastic strips and cut three pairs of doors.

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I glued the strips either side of each wheel. With a little black paint in between it would look like a recess.

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The final part of the model was the weapons. I wanted something that looked suitably “Sci-Fi”, I also wanted them to not look too aggressive, possibly only sensors, not necessarily weapons. I raided my bits box and found some old Epic bits, some wheels and a couple of modern shells.

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On to the painting, I gave the model another coat of primer and then sprayed it with a coat of chrome paint. I think it was a little cold in the garage when I sprayed it as I was really not satisfied with the finish.

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I decided I wanted to have a flag on the the model, the intention was to create something that was reminiscent of a swastika, but was different enough that it would not have any of the associations…

To paint the flag I took out my airbrush. Now I must point out that haven’t used an airbrush in over twenty years, and back then I used it while painting on board or paper, I have never actually used one on a model before.


So this was a new experience, an something that I will be doing more of in the future. I laser cut some masks in sticky backed plastic (I didn’t have any proper masking film handy) and then applied them to the model.

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I masked the rest of the model off with kitchen roll and then sprayed the un-masked areas purple.

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Once the purple had dried, I applied the next level of masks and sprayed with black paint. Unfortunately I was a little over enthusiastic, or probably should have applied the paint a little slower. It bled under the mask in places and so I ended up touching it up with a brush by hand.

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I applied the rest of the colours with a brush and they turned out pretty well…

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  1. This is fantastic. It really looks the part. Great write up as well, even I could make one now.

  2. Fantastic. Thank you for posting both the images and the work-in-progress.


  3. "Your're the man!!" Beautiful modeling!

  4. This is great work you have done here, I've really enjoyed all of you retro-rocket projects! Keep up the great work!


  5. Fantastic... looks great where did you find the figure?

  6. The figure is from Hydra Miniatures Retro Raygun range.


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