50 years ago today, the Saturn V carrying the Apollo 11 mission was launched, beginning the journey of the first humans to set foot on a celestial body other than Earth. It’s probably cliche and trite to build this model and schedule the blog post to release at the exact minute, 50 years later, but I’m going to do it. Or, well, I’ve gone and done it, that is.

I really appreciate that Metal Earth has made more of the real world space exploration models, and continues to do so. It’s especially nice that they made these in time for the 50th anniversary. I’ve long been wanting a rocket of some sort (maybe I was thinking a Falcon 9 more than a Saturn V, but I’ll take what I can). I just didn’t realize how cool it would be to have the gantry along with it!

This model is pretty well divided into two builds that come together at the end, which is kinda nice. The gantry section took me about 45 minutes, while the rocket itself took about an hour and a half. I split that over two nights, and I think it worked out well for me.

Building the gantry section is pretty straight forward, with not many surprises at all. The only real frustration is if you prefer not to twist external tabs. It makes assembling the tall rectangular sections a little bit of a balancing act. Luckily, before you get to the final side of that tall section, you attach the assembled sections to a fully formed base section. Though it does seem quite wobbly at this point, it will become more stable as you add the other sides.

The real challenge of this model is the rocket itself, which is, unsurprisingly, made up almost entirely of cylinders! Having a good set of drill bits or other cylinder shaping tools is a must. And I highly recommend some sort of cone shaping tools as well; I personally used the 3D printed tools that Animate Orange sells on his Etsy store (not a sponsor, I just like them; and he’s a good guy).

There are a few points during the build of the rocket where it actually helps (at least for me) to do things a little out of order… specifically when forming a few of the conical sections. In this middle of the rocket, there is a piece (part #20) where you are instructed to join it to the base of the assembled rocket without forming the conical sides. This is because the lower section of the rocket is attached with tabs that slot up through this piece, and then you are supposed to curve the sides of the cone as you fold it up over the tabs. I decided to go ahead and shape the sides, without folding them up, before attaching this part. Well, really, I decided to take the part back off and do that, once I realized what I was supposed to do later on. I feel like this made it easier to get those cone sides nice and tight around the upper section (though it still is a little misaligned…).

The other section I skipped ahead was at the based, with the thruster cones. In this section, it directs you to form and attach the central cone, and then form the four outer cones. I caught myself early this time, and decided that things would go best if I tackled this intimidating piece without any delicate parts attached to it.

There was also one other big change I made when building this model, and that was to add some tiny, but strong, magnets inside the rocket. I happened to have some 3mm round by 1mm thick neodymium magnets I purchased a while ago, and they fit almost perfectly. I’d picked up 100 of them on AliExpress after learning a trick to use them to help loose models stay on their stands (thanks again, @iwallod!). Well, this time, I put them inside the model so that I wouldn’t have to attach the rocket permanently to the gantry. One magnet is located inside the upper stage of the rocket, underneath the flap of part #19 (curse that upper stage, I couldn’t get it straight!!!), and two other magnets are placed inside the outer engine cones with the tabs sticking out of them. Those magnets lend their magnetism to the nearby tabs so that they end up a little “grippier” in their slots.

Finally, there is one last section that was quite challenging, at least for me. It was the fins and outer thruster casings. I’m probably not using the correct terminology for those, but I think you know what I’m talking about. First of all, it’s not easy to tell what type of curve the casings have, whether it’s conical or cylindrical. Or how much to curve, for that matter. And then there’s the fins, which attach with two tabs. Thankfully, the slots account for the fact that the tabs are not actually parallel, but folding the tabs inside a curved surface that’s small… it’s not easy. And I really wanted them to be straight, so I used some 5-Second Fix to glue them once I did get them aligned… but I’d guessed wrong on the curving amount/shape, so I had to adjust after the fact. I’m still a little annoyed at the gaps at the top and bottom sides of the casings. Oh well, it is what it is.

Oh, and here are the links to the YouTube videos of my full build: gantry and rocket. These aren’t videos to watch for entertainment, I’m just posting them for reference, in case you want to see any particular part of the build when you are building the same model.