Introduction: Print and Assemble the Saturn V Moon Rocket - 1:96 Scale Paper Model

About: I love experimenting with science and physics, especially projects that involve electromagnetism, energy conservation and audio.

I've always love space, and ever since I was a kid I've wanted scale models of rockets - but they were (and still are for the most part) too expensive. Then I discovered that I could build my own models, using free patterns that I found online. You simply print, cut out, and assemble the parts, which are held together with nothing more than good ol' Elmer's Glue. As you can see, the results are impressive! I've built a half dozen different models this way, but this instructable will focus on the the Saturn V (pronounced Saturn Five) launch vehicle. It remains the largest and most powerful rocket ever to fly successfully, and was used to send men to the moon during the late 1960s and early 1970s. No collection of model rockets would be complete without a beast like the Saturn V.

The story of this model begins with me searching for a pattern online. I only found one pattern for the Saturn V that wasn't in a scale that was either huge or tiny - one from 2003 by designer Ton Noteboom. I was able to construct a model from it, but just barely. With very little instructions or even reference photos to go by, it took a lot of time to figure things out and in the end, after all the headaches and mistakes, I wasn't satisfied with the results. So, I've redesigned the model to make it more historically accurate, incorporated silver metallic cardstock into the design, and also created a new internal support structure to simplify construction and improve the rocket's form. Hopefully, this instructable will fill the need for instructions and reference photos, making the model relatively easy to build.

I would have reached out to the original designer Ton Noteboom, but his website is long gone and all I can find of him are his models, posted on third-party sites scattered around the net. If you are out there Mr. Noteboom, I want you to know that I appreciate all the time and effort you put into this model, and I hope you like what I have done with it.

Interested in building a paper scale model of a rocket, but not the Saturn V? A great site is AXMPaperSpace, a site actively managed by Alfonso Moreno. He’s currently designing models of SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy prototypes (the successful ones anyway). He’s got lots of other must-have models as well, like the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System. You have to build them yourself of course, but his patterns are almost all free, highly accurate, and come with complete instructions. He’s even got a YouTube channel now so he can post video tutorials for his designs. I've built his Falcon Heavy and SLS, and display them alongside my other rocket models in places like public libraries in an attempt to promote knowledge and interest in space exploration.

I am entering this instructable into the SPACE CHALLENGE so if you like it, please vote! I would be insanely grateful.

Okay, let's get to building - it's rocket time!

Step 1: Gather Supplies

To construct the model as shown, you will need:

  • 21 sheets 8.5"x11" Heavy Cardstock (110 lbs, acid and lignin free from here: Hobby Lobby)
  • 3 sheets 8.5"x11" Cardstock (80-90 lbs, acid and lignin free from here: Hobby Lobby)
  • 2 sheets 8.5"x11" Metallic cardstock (Hygloss brand, silver color,here on:
  • 1 sheet 8.5"x11" Clear printable sticker paper (Silhouette brand, Hobby Lobby or Micheal's)

Or, if not using metallic cardstock and clear printable sticker paper:

  • 23 sheets 8.5"x11" Heavy Cardstock (110 lbs, acid and lignin free from here: Hobby Lobby)
  • 3 sheets 8.5"x11" Cardstock (80-90 lbs, acid and lignin free from here: Hobby Lobby)

You will also need:

  • 1/4 or 3/16 inch thick foam-core board (I don't know where mine came from, but they sell it at Hobby Lobby)
  • A computer connected to a color inkjet printer, with the ability to open a PDF document
  • A self-healing cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Razor knife
  • Dead pen (a ballpoint pen that doesn’t write)
  • Scissors
  • Round cylindrical things of various sizes (to curl the paper around)
  • Elmer’s Glue All (school glue would also work – I prefer Glue All though)
  • Tweezers
  • Small paint brush (can be useful for spreading glue into small parts)

Step 2: Download the Pattern

Download the pattern here:

*Note: pattern includes parts to build this model both with and without silver cardstock

Step 3: Print the Pattern

Printing out the pattern may sound simple, but it is important to get it right.

  • I set my printer to “plain paper”, color, and the highest possible quality setting.
  • SCALING IS IMPORTANT! Make sure you look at what the scaling is set at because “none” isn’t always the default. If you want 1:96, make sure the page scaling is set to “none”. If you want 1:100, set it to 96%. I set the page scaling to 92% because while the pattern is in 1:96 scale, I re-scale the model to 1:104.

  • Whatever printer settings you choose, make sure that you use them consistently throughout the entire model and for any replacement pieces that you print to replace ones that you ruin.
  • Don’t necessarily print all pages of the pattern at once. Many patterns contain pages that must be printed multiple times, or pages that contain optional parts that you may choose not to print at all. Also, some pages of the pattern may need to be printed on different kinds of paper. So, be aware of all this and examine the pattern carefully.
  • I use an inkjet printer. A laser printer can be used for this model, EXCEPT FOR THE PRINTABLE STICKER PAPER. The printable sticker paper works with inkjet printers only. Also, laser printers are not recommended because the toner can flake off the paper when it is folded, or can rub off while working with it.

Step 4: Before We Begin - Construction Tips and Tricks

  • I use the ruler and the razor knife for cutting long straight lines, and the scissors for cutting out short straight lines and curves.
  • For any pieces that you cut out, make sure to dry fit them to the pieces that they are supposed to be glued to. Then, if everything fits up correctly and matches the reference photos or instructions that you are following, apply glue and join the pieces.
  • Glue is best spread in a thin even layer. A paintbrush or piece of craft foam can be useful for spreading out the glue. In most cases you want to use no more glue than is necessary to join the two pieces. Excess tends to just make a mess and can affect the appearance of the model.
  • Avoid getting glue on your hands as it is easily spread to the model itself in places you don’t want it.
  • Often in the case of rockets, you will want something round to roll the paper onto to help it take a curve. I use various cardboard tubes, but occasionally reach for pens, markers, or even a Pringles can depending on what model I am working on.
  • Don't use regular cardstock, like the Georgia Pacific stuff you get at Walmart. It is cheaper, but contains bleaching agents that will fade the inks over time. Go with cardstock that says "acid and lignin free".
  • The "dead pen" is for scoring - it is useful to make an indented line on the paper where you need to make a sharp bend. For straight lines, lay down your ruler and run the pen alongside it.

Step 5: Begin Construction on the First Stage

As you can see in the first picture, we have two identical panels with USA on them. We've cut them out and glued the side and top tabs on. The second picture shows how the panels attach to each other to form a cylindrical shape.

Step 6: Create the Internal Support "Doughnuts"

Now you can see that we've cut out the pieces to create one of the internal support "doughnuts" that will give the rocket rigidity and give it a perfectly round shape. Each support is made up of three pieces, stacked and glued together with the sawtooth-edged one in the middle. We'll put one to use in the next step.

Step 7: Install a Support "Doughnut"

The picture shows a doughnut installed in the top of the cylinder we created in step one. Position and glue in place.

Step 8: Work on the Bottom of the Rocket

Now, we are working on the bottom of the cylinder. There isn't a picture for this part (oops), but we've added two tabs inside the bottom - similar to how we did at the top but these tabs don't have pointy ends and they don't protrude from the bottom of the cylinder. The tabs can be found on the last page of the pattern. Then, insert a doughnut, but make sure it goes in enough to allow just enough room for the foam-core piece which comes next. The second picture shows a piece of foam-core cut out and inserted so that it is flush with the bottom of the cut-out notches in the base.

Step 9: Start the Next Layer

Now, we basically repeat what we did before with the first cylinder, except we don't do anything with the bottom of it.

Step 10: Build the Interstage Ring

Okay, so the first two layers we made were part of the first stage of the Saturn V. Next, we build the Interstage Ring. The construction is basically the same as it was for the other layers. Glue the tabs onto the panels, then glue them to each other to form a ring.

Step 11: Stack the Interstage Ring Onto the First Two Layers

The layers we have made so far can be stacked and glued as shown. Just line up the seams. Everything we have built so far is symmetrical. Two more tabs get glued onto the top of the interstage ring, and another doughnut gets inserted into that. After that, the rocket will be ready for the next layer.

Step 12: Build the Next Layer

And now, we build another layer. Same construction principles apply, only this time the tabs we attach to the top have a saw-toothed edge.

Step 13: Construct the Truncated Cone of the Next Layer

So this part is pretty self explanatory.

Step 14: The Body of the Third Stage

Step 15: Assemble the Tapered Part That Attaches the Third Stage to the Command & Service Modules

Again, pretty self explanatory.

Step 16: Construct the Service Module

Here we have the page that we printed on clear sticker paper. Loosely cut out the sticker that makes up the Service Module, then stick it onto the shiny side of the metallic cardstock. Cut that out and curl it as shown into a cylinder.

Step 17: Construct the Command Module

This is the Command Module. It is basically just a cone. The little circle goes on top to cap the hole.

Step 18: Build the Launch Escape Tower

This little guy is a bit tricky. Cut out the piece, then score the back and make the long folds. After that, unfold the piece and cut out the internal segments like in the picture. After that, assemble as shown and you can even glue it to the top of the Command Module as shown.

Step 19: Construct the F1 Engines

The engine exhaust nozzles are made of two truncated cones, constructed from silver cardstock. After that, create the pipe that leads down to the nozzle as shown, and assemble the pipe and the nozzle. The next pipe gets assembled in a similar fashion, but is smaller and has a cut-out. Assemble as shown.

Step 20: Construct the Covers for the F1 Engines, and Attach Guide Fins

Cut out the engine covers, then cut a slit in them for the guide fins to go through (as shown). Then, construct the guide fins as shown and slide them through the slot you cut in the engine covers. Glue them in place, then finish constructing the engine covers by gluing them closed and add the little white letters and silvery bottom edge as shown.

Step 21: Finish and Attach Service Module

The service module has core formers and saw-toothed tabs that go with it. Glue them in, then attach the Service Module to the white truncated cone that goes below it.

Step 22: Adding Details - Outer Cladding

So the rocket has another layer of paper that goes on the outside of it in places. In the pattern, the pieces are laid out so that you can see where they are supposed to go. But, make sure you refer to the pictures. This part can be a little tricky because the parts are not necessarily symmetrical and they have to go in the right places.

Step 23: Fuel Line Construction

Here you see the fuel lines being constructed. Score the pieces, then fold them and glue them. Before gluing them onto the rocket, glue on the little rectangles on that bridge the gap where the fuel line goes.

Step 24: Third Stage Details

Here we are attaching another fuel line, this time to the third stage.

Step 25: Add the Things on the Sides

Step 26: Attach the Base Plate

The base plate is made up of the two pieces in the top part of the picture above. Glue one on top of the other, and then glue the base plate onto the bottom of the rocket.

Step 27: Attach Engines and Guide Fins

Step 28: Putting Everything Together, Adding Finishing Touches

Be aware that the rocket is only made of paper, so it is subject to damage or corruption from dirt or water. Also, the inks can fade from exposure to sunlight so be sure to protect it from that if you can. I've heard of people using UV blocking sprays (like the ones people use on paintings) on paper models before, but I've tried it and didn't like how it looked. So, make sure you test any coating on a scrap before committing to it. Other than that, your work is done! Congratulations.

Thanks for reading, and again I am entering this project into the SPACE CHALLENGE so if you like it, please vote! I would be INSANELY GRATEFUL! THANK YOU!!!

Step 29: Addendum - Going Further

So, I should mention that this Saturn V model can be built without using the metallic cardstock or the clear printable sticker paper. I've added the optional parts to the pattern to allow for that. Also, there is a Lunar Module that can be made in the same scale of the Saturn V, and although it currently has no instructions, that's a problem I am trying to remedy. I might tweak it to make it more accurate/better looking so we'll see. Please note that the pictures above show the first Saturn V that I made with the old pattern.

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