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  #1  
Old 01-06-2012, 06:21 PM
luke strawwalker's Avatar
luke strawwalker luke strawwalker is offline
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Default "Friendship 7" 50th Anniversary Dr. Zooch Mercury Atlas build...

Well, we're about 6 weeks out from the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic launch of the Friendship 7, America's first manned orbital mission. SO, what better way to relive the glory days of the space program than to commemorate that achievement with the build of a Mercury Atlas 6 stack, of the Mercury Spacecraft #13 and the Atlas 109-D booster...

Dr. Zooch is releasing a 50th Anniversary addition, so what a perfect time to build one!

So, let's take a look at what you get...

Here's the box art...

Here's the inventory of the parts...

A BT-60 main Atlas body tube, a T-50 spacecraft adapter tube, a T-20 motor mount tube, a T-5 tube (for the booster engine bells/sockets for the Flamefins), a T-3 tube (for the Flamefins themselves), a balsa weighted conical transition (upper end of the LOX tank of the Atlas), balsa nosecone (core of the Friendship 7 capsule), a baggie with 4 small centering rings (for the Flamefins), three fiberboard 20/60 centering rings (two notched), a sheet of corrugated mylar (for the Atlas booster section corrugations), kitbag with the tower parts, a couple sheets of balsa fin stock, a wood dowel, trash bag chute, kitbag with screw-eye and recovery parts, sticky rings, chute string, bulletproof thread recovery cord, humorous instructions, and a printed cardstock wrap sheet.

More later!
OL JR
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  #2  
Old 01-06-2012, 07:56 PM
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Thanks for doing the build thread, I'm looking forward to this one!
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Old 01-07-2012, 01:32 PM
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SO, lets get down to this build...

We start off by modifying the notched centering rings. Cut the ring mod guides from the wrap sheet very carefully with a sharp hobby knife. These get glued with white glue to the notched centering rings, aligned very carefully, and set aside to dry. Later we'll notch the centering rings using a sharp hobby knife, according to the instructions. These notches will hold the "booster engine spoof tubes".

Next, we cut some "poly-coated Popielium" string off the parachute shroud line bundle according to the instructions. These bits of string get glued to the ends of the engine spoof tubes. The spoof tubes themselves are from the BT-5 tube in the kit, which you have to cut in half. I applied a tiny daub of white glue to the end of the string and the end of the tube, and then clamped the end of the thread about 3/32 inch up from the bottom edge of the tube with smooth-jawed hemostat clamps. Set these aside to dry.

Once the thread is securely glued to the end of the tubes, I applied a decent layer of white glue to the bottom 3/8 inch of each tube, and then carefully wrap the string around the tube, with about 3/32 inch (little less than 1/16) between each wrap-- these are the engine bell "hat bands" which strengthen the outboard booster engine nozzles on the real Atlas. I apply a little more white glue on top, and then going around the nozzle the same direction I wound the string, rub the glue into the string and onto the tube, securing everything in place. If the wraps aren't evenly spaced, go ahead and space them evenly now, using a fingernail or the back of the hobby knife blade-- the more evenly spaced and smooth they are, the better the rocket will look later on. You'll probably have to hold the end of the string down for a few seconds until the glue tacks up a bit to keep it laying flat and the hatbands wound tightly around the "nozzle" (tube). Once you're satisfied and everything's pretty well tacked itself in place, set them aside to dry.

Next, we glue the two notched centering rings to the BT-20 motor tube. Put a vertical line down the tube with your angle (or doorjamb method if you're still doing it that way-- and for pity's sake, get some cheap aluminum angle at the hardware store next time you're in there! LOL). The centering rings have a small "index notch" you cut in the back of the ring according to the ring mod guides you glued over the ring... (of course by this time you should also have carefully cut out the two 'half moons' on either side of each ring-- if you haven't done that, do it now before gluing the rings up!). One ring is marked "upper" and the other "lower"... they go on basically with the "upper" notched ring in the middle, and the "lower" one on bottom. CAREFULLY align the "index notches" (centered between the large "half moon" notches next to the motor tube) with the reference line you drew on the motor tube. The rings have to be indexed as close to perfectly as possible with this line, or the rocket will roll in flight later on, since the motor spoof tube alignment is determined by the half moon notches in the rings, and the Flamefins go into the engine spoof tubes for flight-- and the spoof tubes are aligned to the motor tube by the rings, and you want everything parallel and aligned. Glue the rings on with a dab of white glue, and once you're comfortable that everything is aligned properly, fillet the rings with more white glue.

Next, the spoof tubes are glued on. I actually jumped steps a bit and went ahead and installed the motor hook first per the instructions. Cut the reinforcement band, glue it in place with white glue, install the motor hook, put a drop of CA on the upper end/tube slit to harden the motor tube a bit, wrap tape around the motor hook, and then glue in the motor block in the front of the tube ahead of the motor hook. Check the alignment and fit of the spoof tubes in the centering ring "half moon" notches, and do a little fine sanding or filing to get a good fit... I found that I had to widen the notches slightly on mine, and sanded the front notch on one side and the back ring notch on the other side to correct for a tiny misalignment in the rings... To check the alignment, hold the spoof tube in the half moon notches with one finger, and while looking past the tubes at a fairly dark background, carefully roll the motor tube to bring the visible edges of the spoof tube and the motor tube together... the spoof tube edge should completely "eclipse" or hide the edge of the motor tube... any misalignment will be visible as a small wedge-shaped bit of the motor tube still visible. A tiny bit of sanding is all that's usually needed to bring everything into virtually perfect alignment if you got the centering rings "keyed" to the reference line on the motor tube correctly. Once you're satisfied with the fit, go ahead and glue the spoof tubes to the rings, using white glue, and the fillet them. They are supposed to overhang the back of the rear centering ring by 9/16 inch, but I gave them a little bit more, because looking at the Atlas-Agena I did last year, I think they look a little better a bit further aft (and I remember from the Atlas-Agena having to fiddle with the upper end of the spoof tubes a bit because they were hitting the insides of the fairings when it was time to glue them on).

Fillet everything and set it aside to dry.

More Later! OL JR
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  #4  
Old 01-08-2012, 01:39 AM
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SO, back to the build...

The next step is to make the balsa strips that will serve as the fairings on the sides of the Atlas booster. Cut two strips off one of the balsa sheets in the kit 4 inches long by 9/16 inch wide. Cut two more 2-5/16 inchs long by 9/16 inch wide. Coat one side of one of the long ones and one of the short ones with wood glue, in a thin, even layer, and then press the two long ones and two short ones together. Wiggle them around a bit to ensure the glue is evenly spread, and then clamp them lightly with clothespins or small clamps, and set them aside to dry.

When dry, remove the clamps and sand the edges of the strips lightly to ensure they're all level and smooth...

Next, per the instructions, mark the strip 1/2 inch from one end, and the center of the strip at the very end. Then, using a sharp hobby knife and straightedge, trim the corners off to make the strips into an even point.

Now, using 220 grit sandpaper, invert the strip so that the line you drew across the end of the strip 1/2 inch from the end is resting line-side down on the sandpaper, and tilt it up to about a 10 degree angle and gently sand away the top layers of balsa until the strip comes to a shallow point on the triangular end. The angle you sand at should be flat enough that the point of the triangle lies flat on the sandpaper all the way back to the line across between the edges of the triangle... Correct the angle if needed and sand a bit until it's all even and smooth. Now, using the sandpaper carefully, round over the sides of the strip on the top side edges, along the entire length of the strip. The top corners should be rounded off, and the bottom corners left square. Basically you want to round them over to make a sorta flattened inverted "U" shape. Carefully extend this rounding over along the crisp sanded-in edges along the triangular tapered part down to the point itself... sand carefully to keep it all smooth and even. The finished product should look something like these...

Now, grab your 220 grit sandpaper and wrap it around the BT-60 body tube. Wrap the paper tightly so it conforms to the curvature of the tube very closely (don't use a whole sheet-- just a piece about 3x4-5 inches is ideal). Now, CAREFULLY sand the balsa fairings you just made UP AND DOWN the length of the sandpaper to curve the bottom side so it conforms to the body tube... BE SURE YOU KEEP THEM ALIGNED VERTICALLY ALONG THE LENGTH OF THE TUBE AS YOU CAN! You want them to match the curve of the tube, but you also want them to lay straight on the tube when you're ready to glue them on... it's not TERRIBLY difficult but it requires you be aware of your sanding position and motions... and consciously making straight-line movements and keeping the tube and fairing parallel with each other... I find that sometimes the edges want to stay a bit higher, so wrapping the sandpaper around your fingertip and sanding the CENTER of the underside of the fairing often helps to remove a bit more material, allowing the outside edges to snuggle down tight against the tube-- just don't carve the Grand Canyon in there-- you just want to minimize the gap at the edges, not create a huge void in the center of the strip where it should be gluing tightly to the side of the body tube...

Now we're finished with the fairings...

Later! OL JR
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  #5  
Old 01-08-2012, 01:41 AM
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SO, now we're ready to start bringing the booster together...

First we have to notch the BT-60 for the motor mount, as per the instructions. Use the marking tool on the wrap sheet, sort of a "bullseye", and center the tube over it, and carefully transfer the four arrow marks to the tube to indicate where the cuts should be made. Using an angle, make four vertical lines on the tube along these arrow marks. Next, connect the two adjacent lines 1-5/8 inch up from the bottom of the tube, defining the "rectangle" of material that will be cut out of the wall of the tube, to allow the spoof engine tubes sticking out the side of the motor mount to clear main body tube. Use a sharp hobby knife to carefully cut these away. Test fit the motor mount in the body tube DRY-- NO GLUE, to ensure that everything slides together properly and smoothly and to find the best fit. I found rotating the motor mount resulted in a slightly better fit for some reason... I also had to sand the frontmost centering ring a bit too to slide into the tube a bit easier at the top of the notch cuts on the main body tube. When you're satisfied with the fit, apply white glue inside the body tube aft end and insert the motor mount, and push it forwards until the spoof engine tubes seat against the bottom of the cut notches...

Now we'll glue on the pod fairing covers. Since the motor hook is centered between the nozzles, and should look better on the pad on the "back" of the rocket, a quick check in my "Rockets of the World" book showed that the longer fairing should be on the right hand side with the "front" of the booster toward you (considering the side with the LOX line to be the "front"... the capsule window and hatch should be aligned with the long fairing in this position). Anyway, so with the motor hook down, I put the long fairing on the right hand side of the rocket, and the short fairing on the left hand side. I grabbed an angle out of the toolbox and extended a line on either side of the "spoof engine tubes" sticking out the sides of the motor mounts so I could align the fairings vertically. Test fit everything, outline the forward tips lightly with a pencil (to ensure you don't mix them up as to which fairing goes on which side if you're trying to keep the motor hook in "back") and then apply a healthy even layer of white glue to the tube, and then press the fairings in place, aligning them vertically with the rocket body tube, with the flat end against the top ends of the "spoof tubes". Slap some rubber bands on there to keep everything tight while the glue dries.

Next, we'll cut the aft booster engine fairings from the wrap sheet... again using a sharp hobby knife, a straightedge on the long straight sections, and a steady hand on the short straight and curved parts... set them aside. You'll also need to cut the "heat shield templates" out of the wrap sheet-- they're these little 'fingernail clipping' looking dilly-oh's... and glue them down in the corner of the balsa sheet we've been whittling parts off of. These will be assembled later into the tapered aft booster engine nacelle fairings.

Now, I'm gonna jump around a bit... we're at that part of the build where following the instructions usually means you do one thing and wait hours to overnight before you can do the next step, so it just makes sense to do a little "parallel development" (in NASA parlance) here to speed up the process a bit. While the glue is drying on the fingernail bits, I started working on the capsule. First we cut the "Friendship 7" (or whatever your favorite Mercury mission was... there's even a "generic capsule" that could serve as Deke's "Delta 7" that he never got to fly because he was grounded with a heart arrhythmia... at any rate, cut the capsule wrap of your choice from the wrap sheet, curl it around and glue it up into a conical shape. Be aware that there is no glue tabs marked on the wraps, so be sure you cut a little extra on the edges, or conversely you can also cut a small strip off the edge of the wrap sheet and use it for a butt-splice connection, connecting the two edges of the capsule wrap into a conical piece. Clamp it securely and set it aside to dry.

Cut the small recovery compartment cylinder strip from the sheet, carefully roll it into a circle, and glue the ends together. Once dry, grab the balsa capsule core (nosecone) from the kit and carefully test fit the cylindrical recovery section on the upper end... if it doesn't fit, carefully sand the balsa down a bit until it fits smoothly. The capsule "bell" wrap should be try by now-- test fit it as well. When everything fits smoothly, apply white glue to the conical part of the balsa nosecone, and slide the capsule "bell" over it, tugging and pressing it gently but snugly down into place. Test fit the recovery cylinder again, and if everything's cool, apply a thin layer of white glue to the balsa cone, align the seam in the paper recovery compartment with the seam in the lower "bell", and gently slide the cylinder over the top of the nosecone, and press it down gently til it seats on the lower section of the capsule. Gingerly remove any glue that seeps out without smearing it and making a mess. Apply some wood filler (I used white glue myself) to the top of the balsa capsule (to cover the raggedy end grain of the balsa cone) and set it aside to dry. Your capsule should now look something like this...

Now, cut the small antenna canister from the wrap sheet-- it's a small conical part. Gingerly apply glue to the tab, roll it to shape, and glue the ends together to form a tiny truncated cone. This is where the smooth-jawed hemostats REALLY come in handy! Clamp it up and set it aside to dry... Cut the TINY nose fairing from the wrap sheet-- it's the tiny "Pac-Man" looking thing kinda off to one side by itself near the antenna can you cut out before... (don't confuse it with the three conical LES tower nozzles set to one side nearby!) Cut the "lil' Pac Man" out and gingerly roll it over a pencil point to put a little curl in it, apply a daub of white glue to the tiny little glue tab, and roll it to it's conical shape, and clamp it together to dry with a hemostat, and set them aside to dry...

Later! OL JR
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Old 01-08-2012, 11:10 AM
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It's hard to get the capsule wraps to mate perfectly, which leaves some light colored balsa showing underneath. A neat little trick to help hide this is to take a little flat black paint or a black Sharpie and color the balsa where the two wraps will meet before applying the wraps. The resulting black may be darker than the printed wrap, but flat black tends to disappear better than light balsa.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbzep
It's hard to get the capsule wraps to mate perfectly, which leaves some light colored balsa showing underneath. A neat little trick to help hide this is to take a little flat black paint or a black Sharpie and color the balsa where the two wraps will meet before applying the wraps. The resulting black may be darker than the printed wrap, but flat black tends to disappear better than light balsa.


Good tip... Mine fits well, but the edge of the paper is visible... I'll have to go over it with pencil lead to darken it up... works pretty good.

lateR! OL JR
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:51 PM
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Well, now that the "fingernail clippings" for the aft ends of the motor spoof tube booster fairings are done, we can cut them out with a hobby knife and stack sand them to identical shape. Test fit them on the spoof tubes to ensure the curvature and depth are correct.

The antenna canister parts are dry and out of the clamps, and ready to be glued together.

After pre-curling the booster engine paper fairings, we test fit everything together to see exactly where everything's going to end up being put. The fairings can be slid forward or back a bit as needed, so we need to "mock up" everything into the positions that we want them to be in. I put an "S" on the "fingernail" and paper fairing going on the short balsa strip side (the "left" side of the rocket) and an "L" on the parts for the long strip side (the "right" side). This way I can custom fit the parts and ensure they mate up again when it's time to glue everything together. I had to do a little 'deepening' of the spoof tube notch in the "fingernails" with a half-moon microfile... and finished up with a bit of 220 sandpaper wrapped around a wood dowel.

Here's the finished bulkhead (fingernail) in place on the spoof tube... nearly a perfect fit!

Here's the test fit between the paper fairing skin, the fairing bulkhead, and the spoof tube... test fit EVERYTHING and see how it all fits together before you glue anything...

Later! OL JR
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  #9  
Old 01-08-2012, 06:53 PM
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Another shot of the test fitting of the paper fairing skins over the fairing bulkhead fingernails and the spoof tubes...

The antenna canister is glued together. I added three TINY little "tabs" to the top rim of the canister to help strengthen the joint to the canister cap. To do this, I cut a strip of paper about 1/16 inch wide and an inch long off the top edge of the wrap sheet with the hobby knife, and cut three small "glue tabs" from it about 3/16 inch long. I then applied a small daub of white glue to one end, and using the hemostats, inserted them into the small end of the antenna can, and pressed them into place with another hemostat. These were dry in about five minutes (because they're SO small and it's SUCH a small amount of glue being used). Bend them inwards at the rim of the can so they're nearly flat, just slightly standing up above the rim of the can. Then, apply a bead of white glue around the rim of the can and the top surface of the strips, and then carefully place and center the antenna can nosecap in place, press it a bit to seat it, ensure it's centered, and set it aside to dry...

Now that the test fitting is done on the fairings, we can glue in the bulkhead fingernails in the proper locations according to the test fit we just did and also glue in the three small reinforcement balsa struts... these are cut from the balsa we've been using to make the fairing parts. These are glued in to keep the fairing sides straight and prevent them "bowing outward" when glued into place. Fillet the main fairing bulkhead and then glue the three small strips into each fairing and set it all aside to dry.

The capsule gets a daub of wood filler on the top grain of the balsa cone, allowed to dry, then sanded flat with 220 grit. Then, paint it flat black with Testor's paint...

Later! OL JR
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  #10  
Old 01-08-2012, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luke strawwalker
Good tip... Mine fits well, but the edge of the paper is visible... I'll have to go over it with pencil lead to darken it up... works pretty good.

lateR! OL JR


Always a good practice with printed paper - hard to get ink on to the cut edge without obscuring some printed detail.
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