Well, it's official. I am after the great white whale of baby boomer modeling – a scratchbuilt Launcher Umbilical Tower to go with my 1/200 Saturn V.
After a couple of weeks collecting photos, plans, modeling supplies and planning out how exactly I'm doing this, I started today, setting up my writing desk in the workshop to draw up plans, and Daddy's old drafting desk at my side for references.
I've been able to locate most of the original LUT blueprints online, and together with the many photos of the actual LUTs and photos of models, I was able to come up with a plan that I think I can pull off at this scale.
Step 1: Assembling the Launcher
The base of the LUT is a two story box that sits 21 feet off the ground referred to as the "launcher". I drew up plans for the launcher in 1/200 scale by taking measurements from the original plans and converting them to 1/200 scale. Once I had the dimensions, I came up with an exploded view of the launcher as I planned to build it in order to gets a parts list of the various pieces it would need.
One of my favorite things about modeling unusual projects like this is learning new skills trying to figure out how to solve problems. One of the first problems I ran into was cutting such long straight pieces. Working mainly with 1/700 ships I never deal with long pieces, and am almost always using only .020 sheet plastic. For this larger modeling, however, I went to .040 thickness, which was still too thin I discovered, but I still couldn't cut it cleanly. But I quickly learned that I could use my woodworking clamps to set up a sort of a jig to let me cut long, straight pieces.
I assembled the launcher frame upside down to ensure the top was level, then added braces as I discovered how flimsy the .040 sheet plastic is. But by the time the top and a partial bottom (which is all I'm planning) were in place, it was pretty rigid. I began puttying and sanding tonight, and was able to get the first coat of primer on before bed.
Tomorrow I hope to finish sanding and get a final primer coat on, then spend the afternoon adding fine detail, and maybe begin working on the jigs for the tower, which has eighteen identically-sized platforms with a variety of pieces of equipment on each.
Most modelers don't have their nervous breakdown until they start detailing the platforms. See the photo of a finished model (in 1/96 or 1/72) below to see what I mean. Eventually the tower will be swarming with pipes and arms, and one of the difficult decisions will be when to stop.