Forgive me for the bad pun, but it’s who I am. If there is a pun opportunity, I am going to take it. And that means that when the model starts with the Russian components of the International Space Station, then I’m going to make a bad joke. Nevermind the fact that I didn’t actually start with that – I started at the end of the instructions: building the display stand. There’s no way I’m going to be completing this build in one sitting, and I want somewhere safe to place my partially completed model as I go.

After that, though, I followed the instructions and started at the very “back” with the Progress resupply vehicle docked at the rear of the Zvezda Service Module. At the forward end of the SM is a junction point with Poisk (a mini research module) on top and Pirs (a docking compartment) attached below, and the beginnings of the Zarya Functional Cargo Block forward of that. Also, docked to Pirs is a Soyuz spacecraft! And yes, I did just look all of that up. Figuring out that there were spacecraft docked was the biggest challenge to doing so, but I find it interesting to learn about this while building it.

Now, if it’s not obvious to you from the get-go, you better be comfortable with cylinders before you begin this build. Cause there are a lot of them. But that’s not all! There’s also cones, domes and pseudo-spheres. Okay, well, I’m assuming on the domes, cause I haven’t reached any yet, but it looks like they are going to show up eventually. Another thing that there are a lot of: thin, fragile segments that hold things together. And handling hazards, lots of handling hazards. My advice: don’t keep straightening things out – if it gets bent once, then you are probably going to bend it again. And you don’t want to over-adjust something to the point it breaks off. So hold off on “fixing” those fiddly bits until the end, if you can.

As far as things to watch out for on this section of the build, I’ve got a little anecdote for you. I found myself, after my first build session, asking myself how in the world what I was holding represented 2.5 hours of build time. But I also knew the answer: parts 8 and 18. Part 18 is a top-level challenge of forming. One I fought with possibly too long. Part 8, on the other hand, is not a super-challenging part to form individually (there are two of them). The challenge comes as you join them together, and then forming the resulting object. Oh, and being me – I even goofed up building the stand!

So… let’s start there: how did I screw up the stand. Well, it was very simple… there are three support arms, two of one size, and one that is shorter. They also have specific “claws” at the top, again two of one type, and one of another. So… big goober that I am, after forming all three support arms, I grabbed the one short one, and attached one of the claws for one of the long arms. Thankfully, it’s a folded-tab situation, so correcting it was easy. Also, while I’m here I’ll mention that if you play it right, you can have both “open edges” of the arm facing the middle of the stand on the two tall front pair. Just make sure that you keep them straight. Also, the instructions seem to suggest that you shape the “claws” into a somewhat closed shape, and I decided not to do that until I had a better idea of what it would be closing around, so I left them a bit more open.

Now on to the meaty business, starting with parts 8. So, as I’ve already said, forming the individual instances of this part is not impossible. It’s a little challenging, because you don’t want to curve the solar panels section, but that’s not too bad. However, after that you need to fold the tabs inwards and then line up two pairs of opposing tabs through slots in the same opposing parts. You have to get the curves equal, and the tabs perfectly aligned, and it’s not easy. First off, I suggest you bend the solar panels back a little past perpendicular to the edge, so it doesn’t get in the way of alignment – you can bend it back afterwards. Then just trial and error. After that, the next bit of fun is that the two halves are supposed to form a cylinder. Mine did not look like a cylinder – it didn’t really look like any sort of recognizable shape. But after a lot of fighting with it, I got it looking similar to a cylinder. Haha. We’ve all been there, right?

And finally, my first-build-session nemesis, part 18. Holy crap, part 18. Metal Earth has been upping the ante on complicated parts lately, and this one might have to take the cake for most complicated single part I’ve had to form in an metal model I’ve worked on. I’m not sure of the impetus behind this change in direction, but I imagine it has something to do with wanting to have fewer tabs? I go back and forth with this one, though. Having formed it as is, I found myself wondering if it would have been easier if it had been 3 separate parts. But then, would that have made the connections impossible or too loose? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter though, because this is the way it is. And it is hard.

Looking to try to make things easier on myself, I decided to start by curving all the flaps. I started with the middle section that will eventually form a pseudo-sphere, then the trapezoidal flaps on the cylinders on either side. It might be easier for people that do not have sausages for fingers, but it’s hard to get in there and pull that off. Eventually, I got every flap somewhat curved, and proceeded to form each individual segment into a cylinder or sphere.

For the cylinders, it was a little challenging because I couldn’t roll them on the table, so I just had to form them around my tools, so it wasn’t super smooth. The flaps at the end also cause some kinking in the cylinder, so it’s not going to be smooth at that end at all. And, of course, there’s slotting the tab on the inside, always fun on tight cylinders. The sphere, though… that I left the tab on the outside, and I just gently squeezed it over, instead of folding it back. Too fragile an object to put much torque on it.

The other thing I want to call out is the cylinder at the end with the solar panels. I had a good bit of trouble starting the curves on that one because it was hard to get in there without mangling the other sections or the solar panels. I ended up using the flat side of my hobby knife, inserted behind that segment, as a platform to brace against while forming around a cylinder tool. In this way, I was able to allow the other parts to rotate freely. I hope that makes sense? You can try scanning through the build video to see me form that section if it doesn’t make sense.

And the final step, with the formation of that one part, is aligning all of those sections to each other (and finishing the solar panels, but that process is a joke in comparison). I made the mistake of trying to squeeze the three segments of this part together so they were more flush. Do you know what that does? It just squashes part of the curved ends in, making it look horrible, and causing it to be impossible to line up with the adjacent segment. Don’t. Just don’t. That little gap is okay. Leave it there. Leave it alone. However, as a suggestion for helping aligning the three segments, consider using a toothpick. Insert it from the open end of one cylinder, through the sphere, and into the other cylinder. this helps keep the connection points aligned while you straighten the cylinders to each other.

As I always try to do, I’m including the full, real-speed video of this build session. As I’ve said, it’s 2.5 hours long (roughly). And it’s without any sound. So… don’t expect something exciting or anything. Here ya go: