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Norwich MBC Submariners joint Model Boat weekend - 27/28th July

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    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit


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    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Empty upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit

    Post  merriman on Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:25 am

    I’m working up a set of detailed appendages and fittings to complement the classic 1/96 ALFA kit offered by Scale Shipyard – the subject of this work in progress (WIP) post. Currently what’s offered are just the basic two hull halves. No appendages or propeller. I’m working to make this a much more user-friendly kit. Pictured here are just some of the additional parts I’m working up for the kit.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit UDCjLo

    For over three decades I’ve been producing masters, tools, and parts for ALFA kits of various scales and manufacture. My first r/c ALFA was the grand-daddy of the kit featured here, a very fine 1/96 scale, GRP hull offered by The Scale Shipyard. Just like the ‘new’ one I got from SSY recently to join my fleet of r/c submarines to this scale. Once I’ve updated things I’ll send a set of the tools to Lee so he can offer them with the hull kits he sells.

    While I’m working up this particular model, Eric Bertelsen will be doing the same with his own SSY ALFA kit – I hope Eric will chime in here with his observations about the kit and his efforts to get it worked into a practical r/c submarine model.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit PZmogz

    I know the ALFA. For example, I designed the KANOVALOV for the movie, The Hunt for the Red October as well as manufactured the propeller master for that effects miniature. I think it fair to say that over the years I’ve become the unofficial repository of all ‘public domain’ information on the class. I know the ALFA -- that guy has become an old friend.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit QCnnjV

    The horizontal stabilizers are done, as are the bow planes and main condenser scoops. I still have to produce masters for the propeller, dunce-cap, creeper propellers, vertical stabilizers and rudders, masts, control surface yokes, and WTC foundations.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 2euVGZ

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 6ZC4HA

    I have yet to get a good fix on the total above waterline displacement of the kit – once that’s done I’ll know how much water the WTC’s ballast tank has to contain – but I think the stock 2.5” diameter SubDriver I developed for some of the Small World Model sub kits will be suitable for the 1/96 ALFA. We’ll see.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit V0YhYj

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit V09ZCQ

    Note that the lower hull has an equatorial indexing lip built into it. This permits a reasonably tight fit with little distortion between upper and lower hull. To ease assembly I’m using little metal straps to hold the two hull halves together as I bond the forward lower hull to the upper hull, and bond the upper hull stern to the lower hull. More on that next installment.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit HwoCqa


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    Post  merriman on Sun Jun 30, 2019 3:12 am

    A marking-board was made from some shelving. Its purpose to hold a hull half securely while I marked off specific positions, such as operating shafts, Z-cut points for the bow and stern, and the desired location of the models center of gravity and center of buoyancy.

    Radial lines would be laid down with the assistance of a pen loaded surface gauge running along the vertical face of a fence screwed to the marking-board and its face oriented perpendicular to the hulls longitudinal axis.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit HKhmBS

    Where the tail-cone and bow pieces would be removed from their respective hull halves were indicated by two closely spaced radial lines put down with the pen loaded surface-gauge (waterline marking tool, if you will). The space between these closely spaced lines represents kerf loss. The thickness of the kerf established, I then knew how much material has to be built up at the radial edges once the re-attached stern and bow pieces were bonded to the opposed hull half.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Ak1g78

    The radial lines are laid down with a pen loaded surface-gauge riding along a vertically oriented fence, that fence secured with screws to the marking board.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 9F8QiW

    Two strips of folded-over sandpaper produced a non-slip surface between the edges of a hull half and the top of the marking-board. Note the use of rubber bands and eyes to hold the hull down securely onto the marking-board.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit R6e7Yy

    Off the marking-bench I drilled preliminary holes where the rudder and stern plane operating shafts would penetrate the stern. So identified I ground out the interior of both hull sterns to make room for the rudder and stern plane yokes, pushrods and propeller shaft. It’s the job of the yokes to operate the control surfaces, but to do so in such a way as to not interfere with each other or the centrally running propeller shaft.

    Note the radial lines on the upper hull – this is where that portion of the hull will be separated, then bonded to the lower hull. Forming one-half of the Z-cut used to hold the two hull halves together. That arrangement will be made clearer in an upcoming installment.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit S7sHYk

    The big deal with very narrow sterns on single-shaft submarines is the need to work out – before the two hull halves are joined – the linkage that will operate both the rudders, and the stern planes; control surfaces that are oriented ninety-degrees from one another, and in the case of the ALFA, with the two sets of control surface operating shafts falling along the same radial plane. It gets very tight in there, very fast!

    To make room for the stern plane yoke (derived from a yoke originally developed for one of our r/c submarine fittings kits) a lot of excess thickness was ground away from inside the hull halves to produce the clearance needed to clear the yokes and centrally running propeller shaft.

    Only after I have assured myself that the linkages and shaft work without binding or interference with one another will I remove the tail-cone half from the upper hull and bond it to the lower hull. Fat fingers and the tight confines of a tapering cone do not a happy camper make if additional fitting work has to be done because I forgot something when access was easy.

    Life is hard. Life is harder if you’re stupid!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit ZofVq7

    A number of years ago I had a guy in the shop for a week’s training. His graduate project was creation of masters, tools, and castings for just this very kit. He got as far – with considerable overseeing from me – as the stern plan-horizontal stabilizer, main condenser scoop, and bow plane. We ganged those masters into a single tool and after two casting, had parts for an ALFA model.

    Here’s a set of those parts arrayed around the stern of the GRP 1/96 ALFA hull offered by Scale Shipyard. I’ll cut out the stern planes, integrate them with the horizontal stabilizers, and turn those parts into production masters -- functional stabilizers and stern planes. I have yet to produce the two vertical stabilizers and their rudders: tomorrow’s project.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit WWlWb3

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    Post  merriman on Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:27 am

    What would become the masters for the upper and lower vertical stabilizer-rudders started out as 40 lb. RenShape blanks cut to the outlines of those structures. The rudder portion of the two assemblies would be cut away from the stabilizer only after all profile and section shaping had been accomplished. A virtue of the relatively soft RenShape is the ease at which it can be sawed and cut with a knife – reducing the kerf lost as rudders were separated from stabilizers.

    Note the two closely spaced radial lines at the stern of the upper hull. These denoted the saw location as I removed this piece and later bonded it atop the lower hulls stern.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit J6iBxn

    Each blank was split on the band saw, sanded smooth and the adjoining faces darkened with a black marker pen, then glued back together with CA adhesive. This produced a sharp, dark line at all edges of the blank that served as a visual indication of the centrally running datum plane as I cut each vertical stabilizer-rudder master to its proper ‘airfoil’ shape. You can make out the outlines of the datum plane on the upper stabilizer master blank as well as the datum plane outline on the fully contoured lower stabilizer-rudder master. The clearly observable centerline assists greatly in assuring symmetry as I hack and slash with moto-tool, file, and sanding-block.

    The shapped lower stabilizer-rudder has been pencil marked indicating where I would use saw and knife to liberate the rudder from the stabilizer.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit A3vT82

    And here, with surprisingly little effort exerted, is the removed rudder and stabilizer. The vertical break achieved with a new #11 X-Acto blade, and the two horizontal cuts done with a very thin bladed razor-saw. To forestall the possibility of breaking the stabilizer trailing edge portions at the top and bottom I first coated the master with thin formula CA. The CA penetrates the porous RenShape and greatly strengthens it. The added strength making it stout enough to resist breakage as a result of the slight shear forces generated by the razor-saw.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit V43LkX

    The Russians don’t go in for ‘balanced’ control surfaces on their submarines – without exception they place the control surfaces center of rotation right at the leading edge. Such is the case with the ALFA’s stern planes and rudders. With the rudder now removed I’ll have to add a strip of RenShape to its leading edge and round that into a cylindrical shape that in turn will nest into a concave recess that will be ground into the stabilizer.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit GnpVrI

    Eventually I will pass a length of 1/16” brass rod through holes drilled through the stabilizer and rudder, that rod becoming the rudders operating shaft.

    Today I’ll give the upper stabilizer-rudder blank the same treatment and then work up the fillet between the root of each assembly and the hull.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit UxXWU9

    When cutting into a fiberglass reinforced structure, such as your typical glass reinforced plastic (GRP) r/c submarine hull, keep in mind that your cutting tool either has to be tougher than glass or at least of an ablative type that will cut, fail, and be consumed as it grinds through the glass.

    Diamond is tougher than glass, so if you can identify a diamond cut-off wheel thin enough to keep the kerf less than 1/16” then go with that. If not, do your cutting with a thin, un-reinforced carbide cut-off wheel. Both tools swung with your typical MK-1 Mode-0 Dremel Moto-tool. Eye and lung protection a must during this dusty operation!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit ZFW9zc

    The removal of the upper hull stern and lower hull bow is done to produce the Z-cut between the assembled hull halves. The stern section bonded to the lower hull, and the bow section bonded to the upper hull.
    Once the pieces were cut away they were cleaned up and tack-glued to their respective hull halves with CA.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit FoSloV

    Glass tape, saturated with slow-cure epoxy laminating resin, applied inboard, bonded the bow and stern pieces permanently in place.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit CBvFcs

    A radial flange has to be provided at each end of the hull haves. To capture the compound curve at these points I simply laid down some glass strips over the hull and saturate the work with laminating resin. Once cured hard they are removed, cleaned up and installed within the hull so each project a bit past the radial cut, forming a lip, or foundation, upon which the other hull half radial edge can seat.

    To keep the work from sticking to the hulls I first laid down a strip of masking tape, over which was applied a layer of mold-release wax.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit QiOTTb
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    Post  Tom(ADMIN) on Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:59 pm

    I so appreciate that you take the time to document and share your work!
    Thank you for all you do.

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    Post  merriman on Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:10 pm

    Tom(ADMIN) wrote:David,
    I so appreciate that you take the time to document and share your work!
    Thank you for all you do.

    Thank you for the acknowledgment, Tom. Most posts to these type forums have not only reduced in numbers over the years, but the content (with the occasional pleasant surprise) of the posts are mostly chatty fluff. I look on this and like forums as ones last chance to pass on the specifics of a hand-Craft.

    Too many have surrendered their skills to the robots. And that trend now reaching into the public schools. Anyone old enough to remember, 'shop-class'?

    I do appreciate the above average signal-to-noise ratio here and will continue to contribute as long as there is an interest in this sort of stuff.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit LVJaGJ

    Last of the Buggy-Whip makers

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    Post  merriman on Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:54 am

    Bouncing the models length against 1/96 drawings I found the stern, where the propeller hub would butt, was too big in diameter, and short about 3/8”. As the stern is a cone, lengthening it would produce a smaller diameter at the stern. So lengthening the hull at the stern would solve both issues.

    I employed a radial screeding tool to build up a Bondo stern extension over a brass tube, which served as an Oilite bearing stand-in. In the photo you see the purpose built tool for this job as well as a selection of other radial screeding tools used on other jobs. The T-shaped item is a linear screeding tool used to form mast fairings – use of that tool discussed at my DANIEL WEBSTER WIP post.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit TO4Xp2

    The outside diameter of the temporary brass tube within the stern equates to that of the eventual Oilite bearing that will replace this tube at the stern. I took care to center this tube with the hulls longitudinal axis with the white plastic temporary bulkhead you see at the extreme left.

    The after end of the brass tube was coated with wax so as not to stick to the hardened  Bondo during removal. To reiterate: the brass tube forms the bearing within which the screeding tool spins along the longitudinal axis of the hull, and once the tube is extracted it leaves the bore into which the Oilite propeller thrust bearing would be inserted.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AvXR9s

    It took three passes to get a flaw-free build-up of Bondo that formed the stern extension, but the work went quickly and the tool produced the desired near perfect round, tapered section.

    Note that the screeding blade is adjustable, making the tool adaptable to other like jobs.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit CwZNvV

    Cutting the rudder away from the surrounding stabilizer was the easy part, done with knife and razor-saw. The difficulty laid in carving out the concave ‘trough’ within a stabilizer needed to clear the rounded leading edge of the built-up rudder. Which brought up the other problem: the need to add another piece of RenShape to the leading edge of the rudder to form the half-cylinder shape required – eventually the leading edge of the rudder would nest, with a little clearance (an annular space of about .015”), into the trough of the stabilizer. Adventures in model-building!

    To the left is the upper vertical stabilizer with its installed rudder. Note how the upper and lower portions of the vertical stabilizer form the two support bears that keep the rudder in place but free to rotate about its operating shaft. To the right are the yet-to-be-assembled lower rudder pieces and its vertical stabilizer.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 2WfuOi

    As you recall the vertical stabilizers and rudders were formed from a single blank. Only after profile and sectional shaping had been completed were the rudders cut and sawed away from their vertical stabilizers.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AeBo46

    Special gouges were made from brass tube and strip stock. These were used to dig out the trough within each stabilizer. Once the rudder leading edge piece was glued to the rudder it was worked with file and sanding block to a semi-cylinder whose forward area nested within the concave trough of the vertical stabilizer.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit OiSGK4

    Yesterday I laid up two radial flange pieces from multiple layers of glass and epoxy laminating resin. This morning I took the cured pieces off the hull portions that gave them their correct shape for installation. They were cleaned up on the sanding machine and cut to fit the forward and after radial edges of the lower hull.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit UVoUTS

    The larger forward radial flange is bonded to the forward radial edge of the hull, and the smaller after radial flange is glued to project a bit forward of the after radial edge.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit PqY04w

    The radial flanges were attached with epoxy laminating resin thickened with micro-balloons.

    This Z-cut, with the longitudinal and radial flanges insures good tight registration and assembly of the two hull halves, needing only a single machine screw at the stern to hold it all together.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 1mbyDs
    david f
    david f
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    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Empty Re: upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit

    Post  david f on Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:29 am

    Thanks David for these posts. Your posts show craftsmanship in action, really well.

    Your comments on the Forum are interesting. Forums came early onto the internet but they seem to be very good for capturing projects, such as yours. They can also deal with topics in some depth.

    I assume that you are referring to Facebook as "chatty fluff". Facebook has its place (The AMS has a site too) but for  such a young thing it tends to lack focus and suffers memory loss! It can be fun though.

    Keep on posting and remember that Buggy-Whips never went away completely. They are still available and valued!


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    Post  merriman on Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:26 am

    Just some of the documentation broken out and arranged for easy examination as I work up the propeller, and prepare to engrave the hull with a much more accurate representation of the hatches, access plates, limber holes and other openings unique to this class of Soviet … err …. Russian submarine.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit NtRwnf

    Final work on the rudders to get the stabilizer troughs ground to the correct depth and shape. An old trick: to one of the parts that will either mate or be in close proximity to the other affixed a piece of sandpaper and rub the parts together until the face of one part matches a face of the other part.

    In this case a strip of sandpaper is wrapped around the leading edge of the rudder, the rudder installed to the stabilizer, and the rudder rotated, grinding the stabilizer trough to final shape.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit UxAWjN

    A little more work at the stern with Bondo. After sanding smooth – Bondo is a weak and water absorbing substrate – the work was coated with a layer of CA adhesive, this greatly strengthens the two-part filler and makes it resistant to water.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit YPnw11

    The brass tube, of the same diameter of the eventual Oilite bearing that would fit at the stern, was twisted a bit, breaking the weak bond between its end and the Bondo, and pulled forward and out of the hull. Here you see a test fit of the bearing that will be permanently CA’ed in place.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit G2Kht0

    I was disappointed to find that the longitudinal edges between the two hull halves was uneven – in the case of the upper hull the edge was so formed that portions had to be re-built. With the lower hull, the half outfitted with the longitudinal indexing flange, its longitudinal edge was found to be severely warped.

    Were the upper hull edge had to be built up I employed CA and baking soda, using the edge of masking tape to define the location and height of the build-up required to straighten the edge. The lower hull distortions were ground away with moto-tool and file. It took an entire day to get the upper and lower hull to match up together without significant gapes or binding!
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit TdhQar

    Bondo (trade name for a common two-part, polystyrene automotive filler) was used to tighten the gaps at the forward and after radial seams. Here I’ve just placed some catalyzed Bondo to the forward radial flange and assembled the hull halves. Of course, before that I had waxed the inside of the upper hull so no Bondo would stick to that. Once the Bondo cured hard the halves were pulled apart and the excess Bondo filed and sanded away.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 8ZKdTh

    Work on the propeller started with a close examination of what photos I could find of an ALFA’s propeller out in the wild. In recent years more and more of this kind of neat stuff has appeared on the Internet, so I keep looking for chestnuts like these.

    Once I have a reasonable idea of the geometry of the blades and hub I prepare a ‘blade-chart’. This document defines the shape of a blade, both projected and developed – the developed shape derived from the angular displacement (difference between apparent and actual shape), revealed as specific radius points along the span of the blade are laid once the pitch is determined.
    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 5rEFeV

    Working off the blade-chart I cut a blade blank from RenShape and got to it with moto-tool, knife, and file. The eventual propeller blade master will be used to make a rubber tool, from which I will cast five white-metal blades, and assemble those around a RenShape hub, forming the propeller master.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit UNpyVG

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit YUiIFv

    Three assumptions had to be made, as I’m not on the Malachite design bureau’s mailing list: The propeller is of the constant pitch type (All radius points along the span advance the same linear distance with each rotation of the propeller); total developed blade area is between 60-70 percent of the disc, less the hub; and that the pitch equals the diameter of the propeller – a bit arbitrary, but a default ratio that has served me well over time.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Ejkqif

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    Post  merriman on Fri Jul 05, 2019 2:16 pm

    The popsicle stick handle I used to hold the work as I formed the blade master now serving as a sprue extension had its base affixed to a mold-board; a length of clear Lexan tube used as a flask to contain the RTV silicon mold-making rubber; rubber mixed up, de-aired, and poured into the flask, encapsulating the master forming the propeller and sprue cavities required for metal casting. Once cured hard the rubber tool was removed from the flask, and the rubber split along its length till I could withdraw the master.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 0VTMsD

    I cast up ten white-metal propeller blanks. Nothing fancy -- just, ‘leadless solder’: 95 percent Tin, 5 percent Antimony. Melts at about 500 degrees. The TC-5050 BJB rubber I use can tolerate that kind of temperature all day. Production goes fast, as quick as I could pour, de-mold, and pour again was the speed of things. And I get rock-solid parts that are easily machined, and exhibit no shrinkage of the parts -- white-metal actually expands as it changes state from liquid to solid! Beautiful stuff.

    Though I was building a five-blade propeller master I needed in excess of that one blade, trimmed short, to butt up against the hub, using it to mark off where to cut slits into the hub; and another blade, cut to a length that would fit within the slit, that blade used to mark off the production blades that would be bonded to the hub. The other extra blades, like the extra hub-dunce cap, were just there for insurance.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 3QFP86

    I turned two propeller hub-dunce cap assemblies from RenShape. Never hurts to have a back-up for operations that might require a ‘do-over’. I was taught this and many other tricks by the finest model-builder I’ve known: the one and only, Ben Guenther.

    (Ben is a retired NASA-Langley model-shop supervisor – he’s done and seen some weird shit in his time. Today he specializes in very small scale armor, air, and spacecraft models. All scratch-built and with a fidelity to prototype that is near photo-perfect. The array of skills Ben has is unmatched in the world I know. Not only that, but this true Master of the craft is the calmest, most soft-spoken person I’ve ever dealt with in this arena. You have to see he work to believe it:



    Ben has taught me so much! I will always be grateful to him and the other Masters who so freely share their skills and findings with the rest of us. Because of these guys the Craft will survive.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit TNgtsy

    Each metal blade would fit a slot cut into the side of the propeller hub, everything indexed properly on a ‘propeller assembly jig’. First task was to cut one of the metal propeller blanks so its root butted up against the side of the hub as the blade was positioned to the correct pitch, skew, and rake angles – temporary support of the blade achieved with some oil-based clay between the blades pressure face and jig.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit NcCZ6B

    While so positioning the correct pitch was assured by an angled piece of plastic sheet set between pressure face and jig. Once happy with the blade-to-hub orientation I penciled onto the side of the hub the outline of the blades root.

    Note that I’ve temporarily taped a copy of the propeller blade-chart plan view atop the propeller assembly jig, this illustration serving to both identify the specific radius points along the span of the blade, but also a visual reference to guide me as I set the skew angle between blade and hub.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit J6y6GZ

    Removed from the jig, the hub was then hollowed out between the pencil lines and a propeller blank – its root extending about 1/16” into the slot – inserted and CA’ed in place. This work done on the assembly jig to insure correct positioning as the glue set.

    The first production blade in place I pulled the propeller master off the jig and jammed it into the stern of the ALFA’s stern. Looking good! Now, with confidence I set about the task of outfitting the assembly jig with a blade support crutch that would insure symmetry of all blades as they were glued into the hub.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit GGlub2

    Back on the blade assembly jig a Bondo blade crutch was formed by shoveling mixed Bondo between the pressure face of the blade and the surface of the jig. Prior to that, the blade was coated with wax to prevent adhesion between it and the Bondo. Strips of clay were used as dams to insure a complete fill of Bondo between blade and jig.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit R4Mm48

    Not apparent in the photos each blade has a shallow indentation at its tip, an indexing mark. During blade assembly to the hub these marks would align over a radiating line from the center of rotation – this to assure symmetric spacing of the five blades about the hub.

    Here, not yet trimmed, is the hardening Bondo and portions of clay used to direct it between blade and jig.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit X5etSv

    While in a ‘green’ state (hard, yet soft enough to cut with a knife easily) I trimmed away excess Bondo from atop the blade and around the blade edges. Waiting a few more minutes for the Bondo to harden a bit more I pulled the blade-hub assembly away from the jig, revealing the ready to use blade crutch. This is how blade rake, skew, and pitch symmetry is achieved for all blades.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit HgBE0H

    Most apparent here is the severe helical twist of the blade – a consequence of the high pitch of the ALFA propeller. Remember, that wheel was designed to push that submarine to nearly fifty miles per hour, submerged! That’s a lot of thrust; a lot of water to bite and push around at a high rate. The ALFA propeller is a monster! God damned Soviet’s! They make the neatest looking boats and planes!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit BLD13U

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    Post  merriman on Sat Jul 06, 2019 2:19 am

    And here is how the five white-metal blades were assembled to the hub with assured symmetry of blade spacing, rake, pitch, skew, and radius. The ‘finger’ and thumb-screw works to hold a blade in place atop the blade crutch as the tight void between its root and hub is filled with CA and catalyzed with baking soda and a shot of liquid ‘accelerator’.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AeOZio

    Just for fun I oriented the raw assembled propeller to correspond to the aspect this picture of the real ALFA propeller was taken. “Close, Ward … very close”.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit QHsud6

    Basic assembly of the 1/96 ALFA propeller is done. Lots to do yet: build up the fillets between blades and hub, build-up the vortex attenuator plates at the after end of the dunce-cap, and a lot of etching-priming-sanding-putty-etching-priming-sanding-putty-sanding-etching-priming and finally rubber tools for production of propeller and dunce-cap kit parts.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit DpMvdE

    The handle permitted me to more easily maneuver the hub as I milled out the recess and test fitted a blade.

    Only after I was reasonably sure the blade would fit did the hub go back onto the jig. Note that a wheel-collar at each end of the hub secured it firmly to the handle.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit JKE0Pe

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit VdF2Cj

    Using a .052” drill as a hand-held milling bit I dug out the recess in the hub to accommodate the root of a propeller blade. The recess to the right is done, and you can just make out the pencil outline of the blade root on the partially milled out recess at the center of the hub.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit K6fUcK

    With the hub mounted on the propeller assembly jig, the short ‘marking’ blade was used as a stencil to indicate where the hub had to be dug out to make room for a propeller blade root.

    A blade is then positioned over the blade crutch and examined to insure that it sits flat on the crutch with no binding between the blade root and sides of the hub recess. The blade in place on the crutch I made up the securing brass ‘finger’ to keep the blade from moving as it was permanently bonded to the hub with CA.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AIIQFw


    Posts : 240
    Join date : 2011-10-16
    Age : 70
    Location : Virginia Beach, Virginia

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Empty Re: upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit

    Post  merriman on Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:25 pm

    The cast resin horizontal stabilizers (originally production kit parts, but these two here pressed into service as masters that were further worked to produce practical stern planes) and their imbedded stern planes were addressed with razor-saw and cut-off wheel to free the planes from the stabilizers. I incorporated stern plane operating shafts, operating shaft plane bores, and stabilizer plane operating shaft bearings (bores at the base and tips of the horizontal stabilizers to make the control surfaces practical. Material lost to saw and wheel kerf was made up with slivers of RenShape.

    The upper and lower RenShape vertical stabilizers and rudders received the same treatment.

    All control surface operating shafts are 1/16” diameter brass rod. At this point all attachments were done with thin formula CA adhesive.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit S8Y8PE

    Some special tools were involved in this work: The tubular gouges were needed to rough out the troughs within the vertical and horizontal stabilizer masters; a half-disc shaped knife blade was ground to shape, this tool to plane the flats of the stabilizers where the upper and lower edges of the rudder and stern plane masters interfaced with their respective stabilizers; and purpose cut sanding sticks and round files helped refine the stabilizer fillet work.

    I was remise in not showing the dapping tool pressed into service as a fillet screeding tool – used to produce a constant radius fillet along the base of the two vertical stabilizer masters.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit JNFrvH

    First task after removing the just assembled propeller master from its assembly jig was to cut and scrap away excess CA adhesive from the roots of the blades and around the hub. Note the use of a handle – the hub of the propeller held tight on the handle shaft by sandwiching it between two wheel-collars.

    The cutting and scraping alternated between a straight and curved edge knife, the choice of tool driven by which side of the blade I was working: the highly convex curved ‘suction’ side of a propeller blade was addressed with the straight blade; the flat, nearly concave ‘ pressure side of the blades worked with the curved blade. Right tool for the right job!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit NCipHQ

    Small radius fillets between propeller blade roots and hub was the next objective. Several layers of thin formula CA adhesive were carefully worked into the creases with a pointed piece of 1/16” brass rod. Capillary action is our friend! After each layer was put down, the propeller master was hit with a good spray application of CA ‘accelerator’ to harden the glue. The built up fillets were given final form with a very small rat-tail file and a great deal of patience.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 7dyqOj

    Careful work with .020” plastic sheet and a RenShape dunce-cap resulted in a fair approximation of the iconic Soviet type propeller vortices attenuator. Two razor-saw axially directed slits, situated ninety-degrees from each other, at the after end of the dunce-cap, accommodated the two strips of plastic sheet.

    To the left you see the 1/8” diameter shaft of the handle I use to hold the propeller master as I work it. Evident are the two wheel-collars that compress the faces of the hub to hold it in place on the handle and keep the work from rotating as I work with knife and file.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit WECp7l

    Carefully cut slits in the RenShape dunce-cap permitted me to slide in two pieces of internally slotted plastic sheet. After gluing these in place they were cut to profile. Here I’ve temporarily mounted the propeller-dunce cap assembly onto the hull, just to see how things are shaping up. Looking good!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit K1FrfQ

    The upper edge, where the eventual fillet would fair into the surface of the vertical stabilizer was marked with the dapping tool itself. Running the dapping tool head along the hull and sides of the master left a slight mark. That mark on the vertical stabilizer was later enhanced with pencil and masking tape applied above the pencil line. That tape to prevent excess Bondo from marring the work above the fillet during the build-up operation. A little care at this point saves a lot of clean-up work later.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 71TIur

    The enhanced line denoting the top edge of the eventual fillet is clearly seen on the lower vertical stabilizer on the right. Center is the upper vertical stabilizer, masking tape already applied to prevent any unwanted Bondo from sticking to the work when its Bondo fillet is built up. The cast resin horizontal stabilizer master already has the proper stabilizer-to-hull interface fillet and serves to illustrate what I’m after with the two vertical stabilizers.

    The guy’s at the Malachite design bureau make the most beautiful submarines in the world! In spite of these men being the product of such a repressive society, those Engineers sure had a romantic side to them. The looks of the NOVEMBER, VICTOR’s, and ALFA ain’t all hydrodynamics!!!!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit ZmZ7Co

    Using the lower hull, specifically its stern, to give form to the Bondo fillet that was to be applied to the root of the two vertical stabilizers, the area under which the fillets would be formed was waxed and the hull suspended over a mold-board and the vertical fence (previously used to mark off the radial lines that denoted where the bow and stern pieces would be removed) pressed into service to provide the fore-aft; side-to-side alignment gauge to insure everything was plumb as the applied and screeded Bondo fillet was built up around the base of a stabilizer.

    (I got your run-on sentence, right here, pal … grabbing crotch!)

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 7ZPpQ3

    Initially, just a little Bondo was used to adhere the stabilizer master to the hull – the weak bond (the wax preventing a sure bond) of the Bondo to the hull would insure that the eventual fillet stuck to only the sides of the stabilizer, not the hull during disassembly. Anyway, that was my hope, I did manage to damage the first fillet during removal, but it was fixable. A bit more wax on the other vertical stabilizer, and the part popped off the hull with no damage to the fillet.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AaIgRF

    It took about three passes with fresh Bondo pushed into shape with a dapping tool of the correct radius. Work went quickly. Note how the masking tape on the sides of the stabilizer has its edge right were the upper edge of the screeded Bondo terminated as guided by the dapping tool. That tape saved me a lot of work.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Tte4Iz

    And here is the completed fillet applied to the upper vertical stabilizer master. This picture is a bit of a cheat: some of the fillet material broke off as I pulled the stabilizer off the hull – not enough wax on the hull, apparently. However, I was able to remove the errant piece of fillet off the hull and glue it to the stabilizer where it belonged. A little work with more Bondo and file, and the fix was near perfect.

    I’ve re-mounted the filleted stabilizer to the hull for this group shot which illustrates the previous work done on the horizontal stabilizers – cast resin pieces pressed into service as masters; a look at the lower vertical stabilizer awaiting its turn on the hulls stern for its fillet; and the two detached rudders.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 77WmGX


    Posts : 240
    Join date : 2011-10-16
    Age : 70
    Location : Virginia Beach, Virginia

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Empty Re: upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit

    Post  merriman on Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:35 pm

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit U9IzKN

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AXfPKW

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit 0Xmrvm

    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?!

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit KhiKLD

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit AIp8ri

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit T7W5ko

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit QASQlH

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit Af6UwB

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit B1hrbO

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit TnIirn

    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.

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit LHxljD

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit WDFkHH

    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.

    upgrading the SSY 1/96 ALFA kit L2llIJ

      Current date/time is Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:55 am