Neil Armstrong Reheat Models 120mm
In 1997, I saw for the first time a ReHeat Astronaut figure. It was a blast for me! The first and only resin astronaut in that size. My late friend Mauro Freschi came from Italy and brought with him Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut in 120mm. His assembly and radical concept of painting was not taken too well by IPMS judges in Venezuela or USA. But his work caught the interest of FineScale Modeler Magazine. In the gallery of the issue that covers the 1999 IPMS NATS in Orlando, his figure makes the cut. In the show Mauro introduced me to Mike the owner of ReHeat Models (Sorry I don’t recall his last name) I bought from him Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, both in 120mm. For that show I already built Alan Shepard, Jr. Apollo 14 http://www.ninfinger.org/models/html_pix/rsshepard.html, that won the 3rd place in the 120mm figures category in the 99 NATS. Building that figure is another story http://astronomyspaceflights.blogspot.com/2011/02/millas-millas-y-millas-capturando-un.html
The model was cast in gray resin, great casting it does not have any bubbles. Once that you clean it up. It will fit perfectly. The only problem that I found was the details. The suit was not quite an A7L model. It requires extra work to correct the missing details. For references go to the space modelers yahoo group, or the on line “Bible” for space modelers ”, Sven Knudson site http://www.ninfinger.org/models/models.html. Check the old site Karl Dodenhoff that lives there http://www.ninfinger.org/karld/My%20Space%20Museum/index.shtml . The most comprehensive reference will be The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/. These are the best online references, but if you are into space suits, I recommend that you buy Mike Mackowski booklet SIM # 8 https://www.spaceinminiature.com/books/sim8.html this will cover all the space suits with a great detail. The SIM’s texts are the “must have” for real space modelers!
Because of these small missing details, I was forced to grab the Dremel and putty and start to correct the little missing things that will make a more realistic flight A7L suit model. The ReHeat models were based on preflight Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) practice suit pictures. The hoses cover was the major issue. The chest was made on a mix of details of the cover, that don’t exist at all. The hoses gets out of it, as it were not cover. I sand the border and reconstruct the details for: the chest hook, the cover of the hook and Velcro attachments. I added the upper and lowers harness for the PLS and the hooks that attach to the suit center bracket. The patch where you are supposed to paint the flag had the wrong size and position, so carefully I removed it. Once that this was done, I turned to the legs. I deleted the incorrect legs pockets (four of them), after that I reconstructed the utility pocket used for the Apollo 11 mission. This was done with two component Tamiya putty, the folds were created with a sculpture tool. Then I made the biomedical access flap with the same material. The lower part of the legs had the incorrect pattern for the suit reinforcements. The details was so thin that I was forced to used a heavy thin foil. Gluing the foil and preserving the folds was a little challenge. When you glue it with CA to the resin and press to the legs you must use slow drying glue. This will allow one to recreate the folds. The Apollo Oxygen Purge System (OPS) had some minor work to do. The folds were not right, and the base of the antenna was completely wrong. So I took the old Dremel and got rid of the wrong detail. Then with the Tamiya two component putty I made a cover and attach it to the top of the OPS. Then I dig the hole for the flat antenna. I added a couple of strips of plastic card to simulate the Velcro. In the back side of the OPS it had a flag. The size and thickness were wrong, it looks a little odd. I decided to remove it completely. The Portable Life Support System (PLSS) NASA meatball had the wrong shape. It was rounded, that was the right for the embroidered patches, but the ones used in the A7L suit were printed in a square patch and then sewed to the Teflon cloth that covers the PLSS. The unit has a vent under the PLSS name tag. This was molded rise and should be recess. Easy fix, just a question to cave it with the Dremel. One detail missing from the suit was the straps from the lower part of the PLSS. Because of its thickness and the flexibility they will need to position around the figure's torso. I decided to make them with heavy tin foil. The details are not easy to find. I was lucky because a couple years ago, one of these straps showed up in an auction. Detail pictures were made for the catalog. My reference was there. I learned by force that they must be positioned with enough clearance to attach the PLSS hoses to the suit. I left them a little long to be sure that they will fit with the plastic hooks that I made in the front part of the suit. The Remote Control Unit (RCU) is a nice piece, but it had some flows. The upper layout is completely wrong. It was necessary to remake it again and fabricate the new upper round switch, the Communication Mode Selector Switch. It’s a very visible part of the suit. The bottom part came almost as a complete block. In the real unit, there are two walls that protect the inverter changing of the position of the control switches (the Push to Talk and the Pump). With the cutting disk of the Dremel, I cut it in half, once that was done, I started to reduce the thickness of the walls to match the scale. Then I worked on the back part and added the clamps used to attach the unit to the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), better known as the spacesuit. The RCU bracket need a little improvement, the actuator doesn’t have the pull ring. Also, it will need to insert a pin for the future attachment of the OPS actuator. Once the modifications were done the parts were ready to be primed. The lunar boots have the wrong straps, I molded them with Tamiya putty of two component, again the folds were sculpted with a sculpture tool. Once they were dry, I glued them to the legs and drill holes to install two wires to handle the model in the painting phase. These holes will be also be used to do the final attachment to the base.
When I finished the modifications, something looked odd to me. The model needs an extra detail. In Apollo 11 Neil and Buzz exchanged the camera, Armstrong took almost all the pictures of the mission. Mysteriously there is not a single tourism picture of him on the Moon. I don’t want to discuss theories for this subject, but Buzz is not my favorite astronaut. The picture issue makes hard to do any figure of Neil on the Moon. The best way to approach this challenge was based the work in the preflight pictures. Also there are not too many pictures of the real flight hardware in practices sessions. With this issue in mind, I decided to scratch build the Hasselblad camera to highlight this point. I built the camera with plastic card and some plastic tubes. The shape was not too difficult, the lens was a little challenge but at the end it turned out good. I primed the camera with AMMO One shot white primer and then applied Alclad Aluminum. Once it was dry, the labels were done with Tamiya acrylics. The lens was finished with a few drops of Tamiya clear to simulate the glass.
I pre-assemble the figure, legs, arms and the gloves. Then I glued the head and filled out with Tamiya fine putty the gaps between the top of the helmet and the extension of the Lunar Extravehicular Visor Assembly (LEVA) cover and the suit neck ring. The cover extensor of the LEVA had the wrong shape, so I molded the missing part with Tamiya putty of two component. You need to be careful and check the mold against the OPS and the helmet. If you add too much volume the back of the neck will hold the PLSS in the wrong position.
I primed the entire figure with AMMO One shot black primer. This helped me to view any imperfection in the assembly, also it creates a great base for the acrylic paints. I left out the PLSS and OPS. I glued them together but did not attach them to the body. Also, I left out the RCU unit and the hoses. I painted the figure with Tamiya White using the airbrush. The black base makes a nice contrast for the recess areas of the figure. Then I created a transition between the darker areas and the light areas. To do this I switch to oils paints. I chose to use the AMMO by Mig Oilbrushers: Medium Gray AMIG 3509, Light Flesh AMIG3519 and White AMIG 3501 to create different shades of whites and grays. Every fold of the suit was worked with different shades to achieve the right light effect. I painted with Medium Gray the spaces between black and white. Again, I bled 3 tons of gray to do the transitions. Then using the same technique, I applied the Light Flesh, creating 3 tones. I blend the edges of both colors using a round paint brush. Ensuring that the transition was soft. Then I applied Grays with the Whites to make a new transition between these colors. This process was used in all folds of the space suit. Making a little darker under the legs, edges of the PLSS and the arms. Once it was finish, I left the figure dry for 4 days and then applied satin varnish to seal the layer. After the varnish was dry it was necessary to reapply black to some of the recess edges of the suit, some areas were covered by the oils.
In traditional figure painting school, astronauts with helmets don’t have a: face, an expression or visible hands. This could be the debate, because the face of the astronaut is the refection of the visor. If you analyzed any of the Apollo missions’ pictures, you would find reflections of the lunar surface with astronauts and equipment. This effect must be captured in the figure to achieve a realistic representation of the subject. With the ReHeat Armstrong figure, there is a flag and a glove near the face plate. Your reflection must capture these objects. To understand what you will need to do, you must understand that helmet had a spherical shape. The reflections will have some kind of deformation. To approach this type of painting I consulted the work of the only artist that that had gone to the Moon, on Apollo 12, Alan Bean. Bean's work https://www.alanbean.com/ is inspirational, in his paintings you will find great reference for the visor reflections. The first step was painting the entire face plate in semigloss Black. Then I divided the areas with a pencil. After that I started with the flag. The flag was painted with a forced perspective. This gives the impression of the distortion generate by the LEVA visor. The second step was to paint the glove, then the top of the RCU and the Camera. If you see any Apollo visor reflections, you will notice that the edges of the LEVA are reflected in the visor. Finally, I added the moon surface with a tint of brownish. Once that the colors were dry, I masked the rest of the body to start to apply thin layers of gloss varnish. This is a tedious process; it requires layers and layers to achieve the glossy look of the visors. During this process it was required to move the figure to different positions, This will allow a uniform layer for the varnish and a good simulation of the LEVA visor.
The PLSS hose tubes need minor adjustments to enable them to land in the correct position. I tried the parts to see where they should land. In some cases, it was required to break the parts and extend them a little. To connect both edges I installed a piece of wire. Then I covered it with two component Tamiya putty. The radio cable and the RCU actuator were made with spare wires. The RCU hose needs to be attached to the bottom of the unit, the kit incorrectly indicates that the hose should be connected to the radio receptacle of the EMU. After the modifications were done the hoses were painted with the same technique used in the body of the figure. The heads of the hoses were primed with gloss black, then they were painted with Alclad gloss aluminum. Once that they were dry, I painted them with Tamiya clears, Red or Blue. This gave them the realism that they need.
The flag provided by the kit was very thick and the pole part doesn’t look like the real thing. When they were packed for the mission, the flags were tightened to make the least room possible for storage. When they were unfolded the wrinkles makes the illusion that the flag had wave movement. Because the flags were not able to extend properly. I try to replicate the aspect of the flags with thin foil. That didn’t work at all. Then I turned in the direction of printing my own flag. I selected a picture of a real flag; I printed it in color and then I did the same folding that was used on the moon mission. This gave a very realistic effect, but some parts of the paper print cracked. I retouched the broken areas and added some variation of colors to give a more three dimensional look to the flag. The pole was fabricated with aluminum tubing recreating the L shape use for the moon missions. Before attaching the flag, I varnished it with matt varnish to protect the paper.
One of the “must have” touches of this project were the decals. Over the years in different web sites, the hidden details of the spacesuits unfold. Several Apollo enthusiasts had the opportunity to review lost documents, they had encounters with the real suits and record and document every little detail. This treasure I recorded in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/alsj-FlownSuits.html. With this photo library I was able to recreate the name tags and printed them, for this project and my future Buzz Aldrin in 120 mm. Name labels, name tags, everything is in the website, all that you will need to make them is MS Word or any graphical software. Other choice that I made to make for this project, was the type of medium that I used for the decals. If I go the traditional way, printing the decals in decal paper. It will require that I replicate with aluminum foil the thickness of the name tags, indicator, mission seals, etc. I decided to go with paper, print them with the thinnest paper that I can find. Because of the bigger scale of the model, printing the decals in paper was perfect. The only thing that you will need, is applying a matt varnish to seal and protect the paper deals.
Finally, all the pieces were ready, and it was time to turn to the base. The kit comes with a nice resin base, it was primed with AMMO one shot black and then painted with Tamiya Neutral Gray. Different detail was raised using variations of the neutral grays and white. Then the astronaut was glued to the base and with the figure fixed it was time to use the pigments. Using a combination of AMMO colors: Factory Dirt Ground, White, City Dark Dust and Concrete. I recreated different shades using a flat brush to simulate the lunar dust attached on the suit during the Apollo 11 moon walk. Once that I was satisfied with the quantities, I fix the pigments with the AMMO fixer and let it dry for a day.
The Neil Armstrong Reheat Models in 120mm was a fun project, it requires a little effort to make it look realistic. If you would like to avoid all these modifications you can buy the series of astronauts sold by Space Helmet Models https://www.facebook.com/Space-Helmet-Models-438055056281252/ They are made by Ignacio Bernacer, he had all this little issues solved with his series.
I hope that you enjoy this article, you can get in touch with me through my Facebook web page RicardoS Hobby Attic https://www.facebook.com/rshobbyattic, liked if you would like to receive updates from my modeling projects and other interesting things. Ricardo Salamé Páez