1/100 Soviet N1----Really Koo Stuff

Steven40

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Hi Folks,

I recently completed my 1/100 N1 rocket and was very pleased with the result. I'd like to post my notes concerning the build in installments here.

I purchased my kit (rated level 4 difficulty) from Apogee Components in January 2021 (David Koo also sells direct; see his website). Winters can be tough in Upstate New York, and I was looking for something different and interesting to build.

You get that in spades with David Koo’s N1!

The major parts in the kit are 3D molded plastic. Really neat parts, I’ve never worked with that stuff before. The process of 3D printing creates a textured surface which requires sanding to obtain a smooth finish. More on that later. Major parts are formed from gray plastic; the second stage has a base plate with simulated engines molded in a metallic silver plastic. The first stage booster has a similar silver base plate with simulated motors. The first stage base plate is designed for display and must be removed if you choose to fly the rocket.

Speaking of flying the N1, the recommended engine is an Aerotech F67-4W. Check David’s website for additional future recommendations. No parachute is provided, a 42 inch or larger chute (nylon fabric, not plastic!) is recommended.

My intention was to build this model for display only. My philosophy is that if I’m going to spend a good amount of time and money on a scale rocket, I’ll build an Estes “Big Bertha” to fly!

Instructions are in a small booklet which has a “comic book” type format. I thought it was well done, and very clever. David is a very creative guy and I’m guessing he had a lot of fun designing the instructions.

Speaking of scale, on David’s website (worth visiting even if you don’t purchase) he estimates that as far as accuracy goes, the model is “90% accurate”. There were 5 N1’s built (one was a nonfunctioning facility test item) and all had slight differences. Documentation and photographs are not abundant. But I would say that building this model you’ll get a great representation which will look awesome next to a Saturn V or Saturn IB.

I did purchase the optional more detailed display Launch Escape Tower (LES).

.N1comp2.jpg
 

Steven40

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PARTS PREPARATION (I)

The first stage was assembled as described in steps 1–9. I did not install the stabilizers in step 10, those will be the last items I will install after carefully removing paint for solid glue contact.

Wanting to build this as a display model, I made a good effort to smooth the parts. The instructions claim that 30-40 minutes should be enough to do the entire rocket. That may be satisfactory, but I’m patient and find sanding and prepping parts are a relaxing and enjoyable part of the build.

I made various sizes and shapes of sanding tools by using 3M 77 spray contact cement to laminate the sandpaper to various sizes and shapes of wooden sticks; my method was to completely coat the back of a sandpaper sheet with adhesive, then cover the sheet with an assortment of wooden sticks. After cutting them out, you’ll have an abundant supply; as they clog up, I would toss them and grab a new one.
 

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Steven40

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PARTS PREPARATION (II)

I chose to start with a good coat of Rustoleum gray sandable primer, allowed to dry overnight. With sanding tools, a dish of water, and a roll of paper towels, I put on a good radio station, grabbed a cup of coffee, and got to it! It’s totally up to the modeler how far he/she wants to go with this. When I’d removed perhaps half of the primer I would apply another coat, put aside to dry, and get to work on the next part. This was repeated a couple more times until I was satisfied.

I would estimate I spent 12–15 hours over 4–5 days to complete the sanding. It wasn’t perfect but looked good; my color topcoat would be a dull satin finish which would disguise small flaws.
 

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Steven40

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PAINTING

I’ve come to really enjoy airbrushing Tamiya acrylics.

For gray, I combined 3 parts XF-24 Dark Gray with 1 part X-1 gloss black. Be sure to mix enough to have plenty for second coats, touch-ups, etc.

For white, I combined 3 parts XF-2 flat and 1 part X-2 gloss.

The combination of flat and gloss gave the satin effect that I was looking for.

More to come!
 

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Steven40

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ASSEMBLY

Next, I assembled the core of the rocket, or “skeleton”. The procedure covered in steps 15–33. I found the description of the installation of the shock cord confusing, but in entering my 70’s, lots of things are confusing. In any case, it got done!

Please study step 30. There has been some discussion on the internet that this portion of the skeleton is a weak point and should be reinforced. I glued a coupler inside the tube at this point to reinforce the tube. Don’t know if it’s needed, but it couldn’t hurt!
 

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STAGE ONE to TWO BOOSTER INTERSTAGE

There’s a lattice work (interstage) which connects the stage one booster to stage two. I prepped those parts as described in the instructions. But with a slight difference.

I thought that if attaching the parts one at a time it might be tough to get the parts aligned accurately. I decided to assemble the pieces in units of three; then attach those units to the booster.

These parts had been painted so I sanded the glue contact points; if I were to do it again, I’d paint after gluing. I wicked in some plastic solvent cement (Plastruct Plastic Weld) at the joints (I placed waxed paper under the parts), and before they completely set, formed them on a cylinder which matched the radius of the rocket. See photos.
 

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Steven40

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UPPER BOOSTER INTERSTAGE

The smaller upper interstage brackets were prepared in a similar way but in pairs instead of units of three. The tops of the interstage brackets flare slightly outward in the upper stage and I thought this would give me a better fit. It did work well. Forming these to a proper radius was accomplished using a “Dust-Off” compressed air can covered with wax paper.
 

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ASSEMBLY OF FIRST AND SECOND STAGES

The instructions have you essentially complete the rocket before adding the interstages; I choose to work in smaller pieces, so I joined stage 1 and 2, then attach those interstage brackets before proceeding to install the upper ones.

Rather than assemble the engine plate to the second stage casting, I chose to epoxy the plate onto the skeleton, then apply a fillet of epoxy to the top of the engine plate. Then the upper casting was cemented in place.
 

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INSTALLATION OF LOWER INTERSTAGE

The instructions recommend using “Gorilla Glue”, a strong but flexible contact adhesive to attach the interstage brackets. I would definitely use this if I were planning to fly the rocket. But as a static display model I thought I could do a neater job using a good plastic solvent cement. I used the previously mentioned Plastruct Plastic Weld cement and after cleaning paint from contact points it gave me a good, but somewhat brittle bond. That worked well for my purpose, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a model constructed to be flown. Also note that in some cases details on the boosters had to be modified to accommodate the brackets.
 

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INSTALLATION OF UPPER INTERSTAGE

Next, the third stage was attached to the second, and interstage brackets installed. I used a strip of tape as a guide to help keep things straight.

At this point all assembled interstage brackets were airbrushed with a bit of the dark gray to hide glue spots.
 

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Steven40

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FINAL ASSEMBLY

Now it’s as safe as ever to install the four stabilizers to the first stage, being careful to remove paint from glue points. The top of the rocket including the LES can be put in place. I stored the supplied clay (to place the CG far enough forward) in the stage four cylindrical section in case I ever decide to fly the thing.

A final paint touch-up was applied where needed. Where the upper gray interstage brackets sit on the white portion of stage 3, a bit of matt clear was applied to hide visible shiny glue spots.

I’m calling this build done! Well, almost.

The motor nozzles on the LES should be darkened to represent their open nature. I don’t think I can get a neat result with paint; I’m thinking small circles punched from black decal paper may be the answer.

Also, I found some (poor) photographic evidence to indicate that where the top interstage brackets lay over the white third stage, the tops of the brackets were painted white to match the third stage. I may do this if and when I can convince myself that it’s correct.

There’s one other issue I’ve struggled with:

The bottom stage has a very un-scale opening to accept a ¼ inch launch rod. There’s also a gap designed into the interstage lattices to provide clearance for the launch rod. Frankly, for a scale model, it doesn’t look great.

Here’s my solution. Select a location to display your model. Now rotate the rocket until the launch rod side of the model faces away from you. Problem solved!
 

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GENERAL COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS

One helpful addition to the instructions would be a guide to aligning the different stages relative to each other. Perhaps good documentation doesn't exist. I aligned to the best of my ability using photographs of the completed model supplied in the instructions. David Koo agrees that this should be corrected in future instructions. In addition, the photo in step 1 of the instructions needs to be corrected; the left centering ring doesn’t exist in the model as currently supplied.

The laser cut rings for steps 29–30 shouldn’t have notches on the inner circumference, as I found in my kit. They should be filled with glue to get good ejection charge pressure in a flying model. Centering rings in step 47 have the same problem.

At one point in the build, I placed the rocket near my woodstove to accelerate the drying of the paint. Mistake! One part developed a warp which I readily repaired, but one should probably be cautious about leaving the model where high temperatures might be encountered for extended time periods, such as an attic or closed car in the summer. The model will do fine with short bursts of heat from launches and ejection charges.

One final comment. David Koo was extremely responsive and helpful when small issues were encountered. I hope to purchase more products from him, if and when they are produced.

Now I need to tackle my Revell 1/96 Saturn V (with after market details from New Ware, Space Model Systems decals, and upgraded parts from RealSpace Models) to sit along side the N1!

Thanks everyone for following along. Questions and comments are welcome!

Steve
 

OverTheTop

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Nice build. I think I am going to build one of these but not fly it, like you did. Will be nice to sit it next to the 1:100 Saturn V I have yet to paint.

FYI there is some really good historical information here:

It is a great series of books to read if you want the history of the Russian space program.
 

Bravo52

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Excellent build and beautiful model! I like the idea of having a scale close to the 1/96 Saturn V that will make for a nice display. Great job.
 

mtnmanak

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Thanks for the build and the link. How did I not know about David Koo's site?! His stuff looks really great. I have two of Altaira Rocketry's N-1 rockets, but to say they are a bear to build is an understatement of biblical proportions.

This looks WAY easier to build and the results are probably better. I am definitely picking one of these up from David and I do plan to fly it!

And it looks like he is coming out with a scale Soyuz? Shut up and take my money, I am in.
 
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