Beginnings of the Cockpit

I’ve started on the layout of the cockpit panels.  Some tricky geometrical shapes to work through, but I’m slowly sorting through the issues.

I’ve also been working on shaping the outer skin panels, but these cannot be permanently attached until the cockpit is properly fitted out.  Some progress pics:

Small steps, but it’s beginning to take shape.


The Shape of Things to Come…

While waiting for one of the hottest Summer’s on record to end, I’ve been doing what I can in the morning’s or late afternoons.  I’ve started to prepare some of the larger skins for the main fuselage.




I also did some proof of concept sheeting to get an idea of the accuracy of the overall shape of the fuselage – to get a sense of the shape of things to come.  So far so good.




From the inside – looks quite authentic to me!




Before I permanently sheet the outside of the cockpit area, I’ll need to fit out the internals of the cockpit.  That oughta be interesting…

On a final sad note, RIP Richard Hatch, immortalised as Captain Apollo.  One of the great sci-fi hero’s of my childhood and played so well by Richard.  From all reports, a real good bloke who genuinely made the world a better place.  Certainly a big inspiration for me and this project.  Gone but not forgotten…

Some Fuselage Progress, at last!

It’s been well over 6 months since I last reported any progress on the project.  Time certainly gets away!

I’ve been continuing to work on the Viper’s fuselage albeit very sporadically.  My attention has been distracted by other projects and real life.  We’re now in the Summer months in my part of the world and my garage once again turns into a sauna between the hours of 10am and 4pm.  As keen as I am at the moment to get stuck into the build, it’s just no fun at all to be in the garage when it’s so hot and sticky!

I’ve been primarily concentrating on getting the nose section properly fitted and secured to the main fuselage, as well as reinforcing the majority of riveted joins.  This has presented a few engineering challenges for me, as I originally had intended for the nose section to be separable from the main fuselage, for transport purposes.

However, as the build progressed, I changed the design to secure the nose section, and make the fuselage able to separate from the tri-engine rear section instead.  By doing it this way I’ll have a 5.5 metre fuselage and 4 metre engine section to accommodate for transport purposes.

In terms of the engineering/build – this has required me to include a number of additional structural components.

I’ve also been including structural components for the mounting of the front landing gear.  The primary strut for the landing gear is a 100 mm x 5 mm galvanised section of pipe.  It won’t be retractable but I am planning on designing it so that it can be made to go lower to allow the fuselage to be more easily moved around.

The area that has most obviously changed is the addition of the top panel on the forward fuselage, in front of the cockpit:






That’s about it for the moment.  I’m hoping some cooler weather over Christmas / New Year to get a bit more done.

PS- For anyone who hasn’t seen the Youtube clip of the assembly of the X-wing for the Rogue One red carpet premiere, well worth a look.  A thing of beauty – very inspiring and motivating for me.



Fuselage Foundations

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my progress, but I’ve achieved a worthwhile milestone and thought it would be a good time to share.

I’ve been working on the main fuselage, completing the formers and working on the underside sheeting.



With this done, I began preparing to fit the nose section to the main fuselage:



A little more alignment to get it looking right:


The view from the cockpit and behind:


Next on the task list is attaching the stringers to run the length of the fuselage and then fitting out the cockpit.

Formers/Frames/Bulkheads Almost Done!

Work on the former/frames/bulkheads has continued to the point where the main fuselage is almost ready for the stringers to be attached.





The previously constructed nose section will be fitted to the front of the main fuselage.  The below shot gives some idea of the scale of the main fuselage:


The next part of the build involves attaching the stringers around the former profiles, running lengthwise along the fuselage.  The sheeting of the fuselage will follow soon after…


Formers/Frames/Bulkheads, repeat…

My recent efforts on the Viper have all been related to the fuselage formers, frames or bulkheads.  These are what gives the fuselage its shape and profile.  Very important to get right and very time consuming to build right.

Former number 1, the largest former at the rear of the cockpit section was fixed into place and then former 8 was constructed at the front.  The completed nose section will mount against this former.


Former number 4 is at the front of the cockpit section.  This was constructed in a similar fashion to former 1, double sided with a flange in between.  Strong and light weight.


View from the cockpit.

Former 5 is single sided with an inner and outer flange.



The fuselage is taking shape, but I still have another 4 formers to build.

It’s warming up in this part of the world but I’ve been lucky enough to have a few wet and cool weekends to make some progress.  I’ll continue with the formers while the weather permits, but I suspect I won’t achieve much more during the summer months.


The Main Fuselage Construction Begins

I’ve been busy setting up for construction of the Viper’s main fuselage.  I’ve built a larger and more robust rotisserie jig to assist me with this part of the build.  It will also be useful for the construction of the rear, three engine section of the ship.

I firstly set up the bulkhead/former stations, ensuring they were square and level.  I then attached my previously designed fuselage profiles to ensure everything lined up as expected.  After a few slight adjustments, it all looked pretty straight.




Next up, I began attaching the main structural fuselage beams to the jig.  I found some 65mm square x 1.8mm thickness aluminium patio posts for sale locally for a good price, so I bought these to use as my primary structural members.  I cut these to size and began attaching them.  These will carry the bulk of the load between the nose landing gear and the rear engine landing gear – approximately 4 metres apart.



I continued building the structure of the fuselage forward of the cockpit, with some 50mm square aluminium section and 40 x 25mm section.




Now to build the formers or bulkheads around the structure.  I’m using 1mm thick sheet aluminium for this purpose.  The first 3 bulkheads which surround the main cockpit area will be built up with two faces and a riveted flange.  This is similar to the construction of the WW2 Spitfire and should provide maximum strength and rigidity.





Construction of the bulkheads will continue until the summer heat hits.  Unfortunately that will slow my progress down significantly, as the tin shed becomes the equivalent of a sauna in summer.

Sanding, Body Work and more

The sheeting on the nose section is riveted in place and it’s now off the building jig.



So begins the process of filling the dimples and unwanted panel lines.  I’m using auto body filler, commonly known as bondo or bog, depending on where you are in the world.



Fill, sand, repeat…  After a while I decided to apply the etch primer to the aluminium, just to get an idea how it was looking.



Then a coat of undercoat primer



Still plenty of sanding and smoothing to be done, but coming along nicely!

I’ve also been busy designing the structure of the remaining fuselage, back to the engine intakes.  I’m building the airframe in modules, both for ease of build and for transport purposes once it’s completed.  My am is to make the assembly quick and painless after its been transported.  So with this in mind, I built a 1/10th scale balsa model of the remaining fuselage to better conceive the design.  This is the fuselage and rear box section, between the engine intakes.


My aim is to have the two parts slide together and attach to create a strong and rigid frame.





And finally, I’ve built a larger and stronger jig for the remaining parts of the build.


Nose Section Panel Sheeting almost done…

The panel sheeting for the nose section is now almost done.  I thought I’d share a few photo’s of how it looks with the panel skinning in place.






I’m getting close to the stage where I’ll be ready to prepare for painting.  I’m going to fill the rivet dimples with body filler and smooth out all the imperfections, much like a car body.  I’ve done a little bit of this before, but like most things on this project, I’ll be learning as I go.  Then it’ll be primed and painted in traditional Viper colours.

Here’s a link to a short video of the Viper nose section, complete with my own (very poor)arrangement of the Battlestar theme music.  I think it gives some further perspective on the size of the nose section and the beauty of Ralph McQuarrie’s design.


Until next time…

Full Steam Ahead!

Work continues sheeting the left hand side of the nose section of the Viper.

Starting from the bottom, I begin cutting, drilling and dimpling the sheet aluminium panels.  The panel lines are very similar to the right hand side, but there are some differences.  Again, most of the sheet aluminium is 0.6mm, with a few of the smaller sections fabricated from 1.0mm sheet.



The following photos show the rough placement of a panel, which needs to be properly sized before being drilled and dimpled.



The photo below gives an idea of the size of the nose section, around 2 metres in length.


I also started on the development of the remaining fuselage, from the nose section back to the cockpit.  I started with the front and rear bulkheads/formers and using a straight section of pipe, spanned the distance between them.  The remaining profiles of the formers could then be determined, by measuring the distance from the centreline to the stringer locations at 30, 60, 90, 120 and 150 degrees.

The former half profiles are then cut out and spaced along the centreline.
Stringers are then positioned to ensure profiles are accurate.



But my immediate goal is to complete the sheet metal panelling of the nose section, before applying filler, blocking and painting.

Until next time…