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upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit

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  • #31
    You know, I know we all say it a lot... and I know this is just another day at the office for you... but jeeeeeezus, this is some incredible **** to watch. Blows me away every single time.

    Thank you for documenting it all as thoroughly as you do. Truly.
    Dead men tell no tales...


    • #32
      Originally posted by DMTNT View Post
      You know, I know we all say it a lot... and I know this is just another day at the office for you... but jeeeeeezus, this is some incredible **** to watch. Blows me away every single time.

      Thank you for documenting it all as thoroughly as you do. Truly.
      Leave all slaughtered sacrificial animals at the door as I'm currently atop Mount Olympus dishing out miracles -- typical long day for me.

      The Magnificent
      "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


      • #33
        LOL, to quote Captain America "There's only one God Ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that ...”
        If you can cut, drill, saw, hit things and swear a lot, you're well on the way to building a working model sub.


        • #34
          Originally posted by He Who Shall Not Be Named View Post

          Leave all slaughtered sacrificial animals at the door as I'm currently atop Mount Olympus dishing out miracles -- typical long day for me.

          The Magnificent
          Handsome and humble! Look out ladies, he's the whole package!

          Dead men tell no tales...


          • #35

            Over the years I’ve collected and sometimes modified little Jeweler’s files to suit specific jobs. Such as you see here: the file has been cut away where only the tip is capable of cutting into the work, some of the shank removed to clear adjacent areas of the work – this specific file is one of my favorites when working a fillet within the tight confines between blades of a small scale propeller, such as this master for the 1/96 ALFA.

            The files are used to refine the shape of the CA fillets I laid down a few days back. The now very hard adhesive is responsive to the rigid metal files, specially formed to suite the careful work being performed on an area where three different types of substrates – white metal, RenShape, and hardened cyanoacrylate adhesive; each with its own peculiar mechanical properties – have to be worked into one rational surface form.

            The problem of cutting and shaping one or more different surfaces is akin to the problem facing a skier who starts his run on powder but unexpectedly runs over a patch of wet, compacted snow. Something to be prepared for or disaster results.

            A portion of the two-sided abrasive sanding stick used to smooth out the faces of the metal propeller blades was split. This to both reduce the thickness of the tool (providing clearance between the tight fitting blades), and affording more flexibility to the abrasive surface of the tool. You can see the compliant bending of the modified sanding stick as I abrade the surface of a propeller blade.

            The upcoming oxidation of the blades is more effective if there is fresh, virgin metal at the surface. The sanding, before the pickling in acid, assures complete oxidation of the metal blades surfaces with no glue, fingerprints, or dirt to get in the way of the process.

            The metal blades of the master were sanded with modified sanding sticks – these ones secured from a beauty supply house and featured a soft padding between abrasive faces. If you buy these things from the hobby shop you might as well grab your ankles after first handing the staff. Most stuff in today’s hobby store is crap anyway.
            Best to get the abrasive sticks in bulk, for next to nothing, from the local beauty supply house.

            The only thing today’s hobby shops are good for is glue, magazines, and bad advice issued from some counter-person outfitted with metal rings in his eye-brows, and who would be much better employed shoveling out the grease-pit at a near-by burger joint!

            Anybody here remember when hobby shops were worth a god-damn?!

            Most non-Ferris metals don’t bond well to many of the different types of coatings we employ. So, it’s a good practice to oxidize the surface of such substrates with an acid or alkali – whatever chemical process that will effectively oxidize the base metal(s) of the part being prepared for filler, putty or primer.

            I’ve found Ferric chloride acid to be the ideal oxidizing agent for white metal parts as well as copper and alloys of copper. White metal is an alloy of Tin and Antimony. The acid, in contact with the metals surface oxidizes the metal, producing microscope pits which aid in a coatings ability to adhere to the metals surface. The process is sometimes referred to as, ‘pickling’.

            As the vapors from the acid will corrode many metals -- particularly high carbon metal, like knifes and files -- you are well served to keep the acid isolated and in a leak and vapor proof container. Class jars are ideal for this purpose.

            Periodically dunking the work into the acid and then working the acid over the surface of the metal blades with a (duh!) acid-brush works to quickly bring out the dark shade of oxidized white metal. So pickled the metal now has the mechanical ‘tooth’ needed to assure tight adhesion of the primer to the white metal surfaces.

            Note that this acid has no effect to the polyurethane RenShape hub or cyanoacrylate fillets between hub and blades. It will, however, do a number on your eyes, lungs, and pinkies, so exercise some care with this stuff.

            Once all the blades have assumed a uniform very dark color, the master is dunked in fresh water (spiked with some baking soda, the high pH killing whatever acid remains on the work) and the acid-brush is again used, but this time in the fresh water. Once thoroughly rinsed the propeller master is blow-dried and set aside for its first coat of primer.

            After building up the Bondo fillet at the root of a stabilizer and popping the master off the hulls stern, a sanding stick was used to achieve the correct outline of the fillet. As it turns out, the solvent in the Bondo transfers some of the hull marking onto the bottom of the now hardened Bondo. The imprint of the desired fillet outline, now on the bottom of the stabilizers root, is the perfect guide as I sanded the fillet to that outline.

            Note how the excess Bondo accumulated onto the masking tape used to define the upper edge of the fillets radius.

            The tape not only spared me some clean-up work on the master, its lower edge produced a very slight relief between fillet and stabilizer, something we see on the actual boats, as the Soviets obviously installed sheet metal, compound curved fillets at the root of the stabilizers and hull only after the primary structures had been joined – you see this practice in aircraft assembly as well.

            Pulling away the masking tape demonstrates how it did its job of holding back the excess Bondo from marring the work above the fillet and, at the same time, producing the slightly raised edge between fillet and stabilizer.

            Here I’m tightening up the fit between lower vertical stabilizer root and the tapered portion of the hull where the eventual cast resin part will nest.

            "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


            • #36

              To insure this tight registration between the root of a stabilizer and the hull I used the sandpaper trick to lap the surface of the underside of the stabilizer to match the contour of the hull exactly – in this case the hull forming the perfect compound-curve sanding block needed for the job.

              I also employed a round file (one of many different cut pattern and diameters I’ve collected over the decades), which was slightly smaller in radius than the fillets. The file used to smooth out the rather rough surface of the raw Bondo fillets.

              The job of primer is two-fold: first, to fill sanding scratches and small imperfections. Second, the primer identifies gaps and flaws not readily apparent to the eye when the work was in its natural color and texture – the neutral gray perfect for throwing the shadows needed to identify flaws in form or finish.
              Note how all but the propeller and dunce-cap masters are temporarily suspended by 1/16” brass rod – handles used to hold and direct the orientation of the work to the spray pattern as the primer is applied.

              With the exception of the propeller master all other masters were scrubbed with lacquer thinner to de-grease them and make them receptive to the primer.

              Automotive acrylic lacquer primer was sprayed onto all the masters with my trusty Paacshe Model-H, single-action, deep-sea, wonder spray brush. Note how the open cardboard box I used to stow the primer and spray brush is also used to suspend the just primed parts. That box also serves as a holding caddy for the spray brush when it’s not in hand.
              "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


              • #37
                What is the status of the upgrade package. I see you have moved on to the Nautilus build?


                • #38

                  The propeller master features a tapered hub which continues the lines of the ALFA’s stern. It’s vital, as the master is worked -- as I file and sand to refine the radius of the fillets between root of the blades and the hub -- to insure that circular symmetry be maintained along the hubs tapering length; and that the hubs terminus at each face is both circular and of the desired diameter. To achieve those two goals I turned a pair of brass, ‘abrasion guides’: the forward one defining the diameter at the stern of the ALFA’s hull; the after one defining the diameter at the forward end of the dunce-cap.

                  Here I’ve mounted the propeller master on a, ‘working fixture’. A length of .125” stainless steel shaft equipped with a handle. The putty and abrasive work will be done with the propeller master so secured, giving me the flexibility to orient the work any way required as I apply putty, and file, and sand the work down to a smooth, unblemished finish.

                  Few things are more upsetting to me than to examine an otherwise well crafted display piece only to find that the builder/assembler slapped on a commercially available propeller whose hub diameter only came close to matching the subjects stern-tube or after strut fairing. Nowhere is this potential shortcoming more apparent than on a single-screw submarine with its running gear standing proud, at the end of the hull for God and everyone to clearly see. On a subject like the ALFA, you simply gotta get this right!

                  The abrasion guides started out from a turned piece of machine brass. First, I bored a .125” hole through its center and tapered it to the same angle found at the stern of the ALFA model. The two radial pen marks denote the desired diameter at the end of the hull and the forward face of the dunce-cap. Not coincidentally the longitudinal distance between radial lines is equal to the length of the propeller hub.

                  Note the less than perfect circular face at the after end of the propeller master hub – the very reason for use of the abrasion guides: to true up the circular symmetry of the hub.

                  Advancing toward the goal of producing the two tapered ‘abrasion guides’. Here I’m working to part the forward and after elements of that tool from the work. Note that I’ve already drilled and tapped holes for set-screws that will securely sandwich the propeller hub between the two abrasion guides once the three elements are slid onto the shaft of the hand-held working fixture.

                  Here I’m preparing to apply air-dry Nitro-Stan automotive touch-up putty. The putty will be applied atop the propeller master hub and adjacent fillets between hub and propeller blade roots. The trick is to retain the ‘roundness’ and tapper of the hub as its worked with file and sanding tools to knock down the excess putty – that’s the job of the two abrasion guide pieces, seen to the right and left of the propeller master. The hex-wrench is used to tighten/loosen the abrasion guide set-screws.

                  The two elements of the abrasion guide in place on the holding fixture as I brush on, neat, some Nitro-Stan touch-up putty. As it’s a thin application it only takes a quarter-hour for the stuff to harden enough to be wet filed, wet sanded, and abraded with … you guessed it … wet #000 steel-wool.

                  Note how the two abrasion guides continue the tapper of the propeller master hub from end-to-end.

                  As you can see here all the abrasion to the hub stopped at the two brass ‘abrasion guides’. The softer primer, putty, CA, and RenShape are worked easily with file, sanding stick, and steel-wool. But, not the brass abrasion guides – they do the job of maintaining a circular cross-section to the hub and the correct diameter at end of it.

                  A little more sanding of the blades themselves; a quick dunk in Ferric chloride acid to pickle exposed metal; a thorough rinsing in fresh water; the work dried off; and the propeller master is given another shot of primer.

                  Damn! I’m good.

                  "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


                  • #39
                    In your last post, bottom. That`s an understatement!!!! WOW I want a set of your upgrade parts when you are ready. PLEASE let me know.
                    Thank You.


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by george View Post
                      In your last post, bottom. That`s an understatement!!!! WOW I want a set of your upgrade parts when you are ready. PLEASE let me know.
                      Thank You.
                      I'm rounding the finishing turn on this project, George. Hit me again when you see me pouring resin and metal.

                      "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


                      • #41
                        YES SIR! Thank You!


                        • #42

                          All this work dedicated to the fabrication of masters, tools, and parts needed to flesh out the 1/96 Scale Shipyard ALFA kit. Almost there!

                          Here I’m wet sanding the stern tapper of the hull. Best tool for simple curves like this is the sanding block or, as seen here, a length of stiff brass strip with sandpaper glued to its face. But, most of the work pictured here was the filling of file-marks, dings, and gaps found on the appendage masters with Nitro-Stan air-dry touch-up putty. The flaws revealed after spraying on the initial coat of gray primer.

                          The hardened putty was abraded down with various sanding tools ranging in grits from #400 to #600, the #600 grit producing scratches small enough to be easily filled by a moderate coat of primer. All sanding at this stage is done wet: the work is either dunked in water or water applied with a wet paper towel, and the sanding tool dunked in water periodically to keep the cutting surface clear of abraded particles.

                          Abrasion: the process and tools is such an important and varied topic that I’ve gone out of my way in this installment to give the subject special attention. Abrasion is so much more than scrubbing a models surface with a loose piece of handy sandpaper and calling it a day!

                          I pride myself on exacting adherence to shape, symmetry, and smoothness of finish, be the work a master or the display piece itself. This achieved by the proper use of tools. Tools designed for specific jobs; coupled with the wisdom, (acquisition of information and practice of process) to chose the correct tool for the specific job at hand, and the ability to create tools when none are at hand. Understanding the many types and grades of grit; physical characteristics of the grit backing; ability to form the abrasive to cut as directed; and to have developed the motor-skills needed to work these tools with exactness is a prerequisite.

                          Below is some of the specialized abrasion tools formed from sandpaper. Various small, stiff sanding blocks of flat, simple, and compound curved shape; stiff double-sided sanding pieces; twisted sanding tools for radius cutting; and end-cuts of raw sandpaper of various grit grades ready to be turned into a specific tool.

                          In the old days the only commercially available sanding sticks were the ones sold as nail-files, and most of those of unknown grit and quality.

                          Today, there is a wide range of commercially available sanding sticks featuring pliable backings. These sanding sticks have as their core a material that ranges from reasonably stiff to spongy soft. They feature materials that are water resistant and are stout enough to give long service, wet or dry. These sanding sticks can be re-surfaced with another layer of grit if the need arises.

                          A tip: If you can find a bag full of sanding sticks of the grit and size you need from the down-town beauty-supply house, then get them in bulk from that source as the local hobby shop will charge you two-bucks for a single stick of the same thing -- why pay more if you don’t have to?

                          (Today’s franchise hobby-shops are only good for bad advice, magazines, r/c toys, and glue. Other than that look elsewhere for your model-building needs).

                          More examples of abrasives mounted in unconventional ways. Metal backed sanding blocks, soft backed sanding blocks, tubular backed sanding blocks; convex sanding sticks; rotary sanding drums; chisels (just snuck that in to see if you were paying attention); riffler and specialized jeweler’s files; steel-wool, 3M abrasive pad; twisted sandpaper; pointed abrasive coated dowels of various grits (useless!!); and specialized continuous-belt sanding sticks.

                          All are means of grinding away the surface of the work at hand. The trick is knowing the surface physical characteristics of the work and what abrasive tool is suitable for the job.

                          "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


                          • #43

                            Polishing is abrasion, but with a much finer grit. That grit bonded to a backing like the more common varieties of sandpaper of cloth, foam, or Mylar. Or, the fine grit is suspended in a liquid vehicle such as oil or water and is applied and worked over the subject being polished with a cloth, wet stick, or polishing wheel. These specialized abrasives find little utility in the world of model ships and submarines other than rendering transparent items, bridge window, deadlights, navigation light lenses, and searchlight lenses optically transparent.

                            Brian Starkes, who is a Master at this game, gave me a steer to a line of contact-adhesive backed rolls of sandpaper of various grits – those four rolls you see in the upper right of the picture below. This is a neat product and permits you to quickly mount it to a stick or dowel in seconds. Brian owns and operates a big-time automotive refinishing shop and he’s taught me a lot about abrasive use and sources of supply over the years. And his model work has to be seen to be believed!


                            A sanding block can be a simple stick of square wood with some loose sandpaper wrapped around it, or it can be a commercial tool usually made from extruded T-section aluminum. I prefer to take a length of Pine block and glue the sandpaper to one or more faces with the aid of contact cement. Being the impatient sort I accelerate the drying of the spray applied contact-cement with a heat-gun.

                            When a foam-backed sanding stick gets worn down, I’ll apply contact cement to the worn face and slap on a fresh piece of sandpaper. Never throw out a sanding stick – you can always breathe new life into it.

                            Today’s sanding sticks, owing to their pliable cores, have enough give to make sanding of compound (complex) curves an easy matter. However, where you need a stiff, thin-sectioned abrasive tool to get into tight places and cut corners or edges with precision, double-sided sanding strips are the way to go.

                            A double-sided sanding strip is made by selecting the grit you need, folding the sandpaper in half (cloth and mylar backed grit can be used this way too, but is more difficult to glue and not nearly as stiff as glue saturated paper), hitting its backside with CA accelerator, applying CA to the other half, and quickly folding over and sandwiching the joined halves under a weight and flat surface till the glue cures hard.
                            The stiff sanding strip is cut with scissors to any shape that the job dictates.

                            As I demonstrated with the propeller blade-hub fillet work, there are occasions where you have to get around nearby structures to dig in where you need to abrade material away. Small files with exotically curved ends are sometimes the answer. And over the years these ‘riffler files’ have served me well in a variety of unique and otherwise impossible to do abrasion jobs.

                            You can buy them commercially, but you are at the mercy of a pre-packaged file cut pattern, size and shape of curvature – often these store-bought rifflers just won’t do the job. So, to develop a tool best suited to a particular task, you take a common jeweler’s file of the desired cut and cross-section and give it a tip curve suited to the job at hand. You make your own riffler file. And when the job is done you add it to your ever growing collection of specialized abrasive tools.

                            But, if you don’t want to be bothered forming your own, here’s a site where you can buy them:

                            It’s easy to bend high-carbon iron tools like this: Just get the work to a deep red heat and bend as required. Quench in water and you’re good to go.

                            Just about the last coat of primer to go down on the appendages.
                            This is the first shot of primer on the hull, and that localized to the stern where I did all the radial screeding, filler, putty, and sanding work. The rest of the hull is still in the raw. I’ve faired in the forward radial gap, but have yet to do the same to the after radial gap. Once those areas are tight I’ll install ‘capture lips’ to draw the longitudinal edges of the upper and lower hull tightly together – at which point another shot of primer will be laid down to find remaining problem areas.

                            Note that each master has been outfitted with a 1/16” brass rod holding fixture. These make it easy to handle these small items during priming and conveniently slip into the open honeycomb cells of a cardboard box, suspending the work as the primer dries.


                            I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait, once parts are nearing completion, to test-fit things together just for fun … and to examine the mock-up for symmetry and ease of fit. “Yup, looks like the ass-end of an ALFA to me!”

                            In foreground are the masters for the secondary loop condenser scoops and bow planes.

                            (The ALFA bow plane linkage on the eventual r/c model presents a special problem as the port and starboard planes do not fall along the same horizontal plane – they are slightly off-set from one another in height. So, I can’t just run an operating shaft between the two. I’ll likely provide an internal bearing tube for each operating shaft and use a piece of flexible tubing between them to handle the off-set between the shafts. We’ll see. Plans change as the practical installation matures in my hands. More on this little problem later.)

                            Test fitting the horizontal and vertical stabilizers without aid of tape or glue was made possible by the control surface operating shafts. The horizontal stabilizers shared a single shaft that passed through the hull. As all four operating shafts are on the same vertical plane the vertical stabilizer shafts used here for the mock-up fit only extended less than half-way into the hull till they hit the horizontally running horizontal stabilizer shaft. The arrangement was a bit wobbly, but good enough for the pictures presented here.

                            I’m almost ready to make tools from these appendages. Only chore remaining is to fill and sand some sanding scratches, and build up the slightly raised edge of the horizontal stabilizer fillets.

                            In practice the cast white-metal propeller will be secured to its propeller shaft with a 4-40 X 1/4” long set-screw. About 1/8” of shaft will project aft of the hub and the cast resin dunce-cap will be a press-fit to that.

                            Current task is making the little outboard propellers – used for in-harbor maneuvering and possibly as a back-up to the main running gear should a propulsion casualty occur.

                            It has been suggested that these direct-drive, electric motor driven propulsors might also have been used for ‘silent running’ in some tactical situations, but I’ve yet to read a reliable source saying so. The ALFA’s liquid metal cooled reactor could never be shut down to the point where the coolant changed state, so they needed primary pumps running all the time if any useful power-level was to be maintained. Knowing this I just can’t imagine the logic of this class of boat ever running silent on those two creeper-motors -- might as well expect to hear a pin drop at a KISS concert.

                            "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"


                            • #44
                              Wow! That Alfa is looking amazing! Your attention to detail sets the bar, IMHO. :)


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by jplonsky View Post
                                Wow! That Alfa is looking amazing! Your attention to detail sets the bar, IMHO. :)
                                I must say, this project has been the most fun I've had with my cloths on in some time. Almost finished! The next installment will blow you away! Stay tuned.

                                "... well, that takes care of Jorgenson's theory!"