Recently I had a birthday, and one of my favorite gifts, given by my in-laws (yes that's the kind of in-laws I have), was the Lego version of the Saturn V rocket used by NASA for the Apollo missions. Like most people, I built it, then set it on display on a shelf, so that I could admire it as the true space nerd I am. Needless to say, there were a few close calls during that time where potential tumbles threatened to destroy my prize. More than that, the Saturn V rocket is an elegant piece of engineering, with the Lego version being, no less, impressive. With that I felt that it needed to be displayed appropriately. Not just in its launch form, but staged so that all of the intricate details could be seen, giving a true representation of what the rocket was capable of.
The stand had to fit three criteria: First, it needed to be stable. No more accidental tips threatening to potentially destroy it. Second, It needed to be decorative. What good is it if detracts from the beauty of the original design? Finally third, it needed to be modular. After all, I may want to...you know...play with it again. Being able to disassemble and reassemble it on a whim, is what LEGO is about, now isn't it?
Now, displaying a project that ends up being 48" tall is no easy task, so you'll have to excuse the inadequacy of the pictures, but I hope they at least give you a hint as to the grandeur of what this rocket represents. To me, it is literally the coolest thing I own.
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
- Table Saw and/or Scroll Saw
- Staining Brushes
- Palm Sander
- Bench Sander (optional)
- Router (optional)
- Side Cutters
- 48" long, 1"x2" wood. I used pine, but if you want to spend a bit more on oak, it'll work just the same.
- 10"x12"x1" wood. Again, I used pine, but you don't have to.
- two 3"x3"x1" blocks cut into wedges
- 12' 3mm rod. I used copper coated welding rod because I liked the look, but it's entirely up to you.
- Wood Stain (optional)
- Polyurethane Wood Finish
- 80, 100, 220 grit sandpaper
- Wood Glue
- Wood Screws 1 1/2"
Step 2: Creating the Base
You'll need to start with your 10"x12" board, which means cutting it from a larger piece. You're not held to that size, however I found that it was the smallest I could make it, and still maintain stability.
Next, there are two ways you can round the corners. The first way is marking the round using a scroll saw, then sanding them round later, however I've found it simpler to cut the last 1" corners of your board off 45 degrees. I used a chop saw, but the same can be accomplished on your table saw using a guide, or by marking and following the lines with your scroll saw. With the corners cut off, I just ran them over the bench sander rounding them and getting the board ready for routing.
**Note** It's a good idea to sand the edges down to 100 grit before you perform the next step, as it will make it much easier to hide the tool marks from routing.
Step 3: Creating a Decorative Edge on Your Base (optional)
This step isn't essential, but it goes a long way toward a detailed stand that enhances your display.
I used a router that was set into a table, as I find its easier to move the wood piece, rather than the other way around. The first step is to choose your edge design and install the appropriate bit. Next, grab a scrap piece of wood and test the edge it creates for depth of cut, and overall shape. It's also handy to practice a bit before committing to routing your final piece to avoid mistakes. Once you're satisfied, start routing your base. I used a guide rail that helps quite a bit on the long runs of wood, but the corners are pretty much done free hand, allowing the bearing on the bit to do all of the distancing.
**Note** Go really slowly, especially if you'll be passing by a knot as it can catch and rip pieces, destroying your base and causing you to start over.
When you're done routing, and you're happy with the depth, you can start sanding. You won't be doing the final sanding till later, so it's not necessary to go finer than 100 grit. The edges, however can be sanded fully, just ensure that you don't damage the sharp edges you've just created. A crisp edge is essential to a good routed piece of wood.
Step 4: The Vertical Beam and Supports
For the vertical beam, I wanted it to be wider at the bottom, where it attaches to the base, than at the top, however I decided not to route the edges, keeping it square. I did, however, round the top, rocket facing, corner using the same method as was used on the base.
Leaving the bottom 6" intact, I marked a 33 degree angle that went to a depth of 1/2" and progressed up the length of the beam. For the long cut, I used my table saw, with the blade fully extended to make the cut as straight as possible, and finished before the angle, which I finished using a scroll saw. I then cleaned up the cut using my bench sander, adjusting the bevel to my tastes. I then finished by sanding the entire piece to 100 grit.
The supports are made from two 3"x3"x3" pieces, where the last 3/4" of two of the corners are cut off. You can design them any way you choose, but these are sufficient to keep the vertical beam stable. Clamping them together (which keeps any work done on them even), I proceeded to round them, just as I had the other cut corners. This gave me two pieces that were a perfect mirror of each other.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
Mounting the Supports;
The supports are essentially to stabilize the vertical beam, but also serve as decorative pieces. With my design, I opted to hide the screws that attach them, and also glue for additional strength. I used a drill guide jig that allowed me to hide my screws under the 'T' between the vertical and the base, as it both counter sinks, and taps the hole for the screw. You can, however, do the same thing freehand if you prefer. Just be sure to stagger the angle of the screws so that they don't hit each other inside the vertical beam, and countersink to hide the screw heads.
Attaching the Vertical to the Base;
You will be drilling four holes; one for each of the supports, and two for the vertical beam. The best way to ensure everything is in line is to divide the base along its 12" length exactly in half, then measure in 1 1/4" from the 10" edge and mark another line. Drill your holes for the vertical beam 1" apart while you may want to add another 1/4" to 1/2" for each support to avoid hitting the screws in the base. It's a good idea to countersink these screw holes in the base so that they sit flush and don't affect the stability of the display.
There are a lot of 'professional' ways to line up the vertical with the base, but the simplest, I've found, is to sink a screw into the bottom of the base so that just 1/16" is sticking out, and use it as a pivot to line up the rest of the holes by eye. When you've got it lined up, you can mark their positions by inserting a scribe tool through the holes and punching into the base of the vertical. I recommend pre-drilling the holes, in the vertical and supports so as not to split the wood.
**Note** To prevent your drill bit from 'tearing' the wood around your holes, use a strip of masking tape. I can't explain why it works, only that it is effective at keeping your holes clean.
When all of your holes are marked, add glue for extra strength and attach your pieces together, using a damp cloth to wipe away the excess glue. On flat areas, such as you see in picture #6, it isn't really an issue, but on concave corners, it can be a pain removing old glue, which can severely interfere with your staining, making it look blotchy.
When all is said and done, it's time for some sanding. Finish off with 220 grit, removing any dried glue that may have stayed on the surface. Try to keep your edges crisp, but not sharp, as it'll look better in the end.
Step 6: Staining and Polyurethane
Stain in two coats, for best effect, with a wipe down and a light sanding of 220 grit in between. If you end up with glue in the corners preventing your stain from taking, (hence my warning in the last step) you can either carefully scrape it clean, or use a fine brush to cover the glue without wiping. Either works as the poly coat applied after will seal it in.
Wait 24 hours before applying the poly coat to ensure the stain is completely set. I highly recommend a minimum of 3 coats, with a 4-6 hour wait time in between to ensure a smooth even finish.
Leave the whole thing to dry for 24 hours before continuing to ensure a hard finish. You may need to leave it longer depending on weather as humidity and heat can lengthen the time.
Step 7: Creating the Wire Supports
As I mentioned, I wanted the whole thing to be modular, so I wanted the LEGO model to be removable from its display, on a whim. I also wanted the entire thing to be staged as it is displayed on the back of the box, in an outward arc as if it is launching. This means installing each stage in sections, and visually assessing where the next section would mount.
To accomplish this, I used a 3mm rod that was strong enough to support each section using two lengths for the heaviest pieces and with the topmost wire supporting each stage roughly 3/4" longer than the last. This creates an outward curve that overhangs the base.
The Wire Supports;
Creating the wire supports is much simpler than one would think. First, I bent over the tip and hammered it flat on an anvil. This is a nice extra step that'll prevent the tip of the wire from scratching your model. Next, I used a round form, roughly the size I need and shaped the wire around it roughly 270 degrees, leaving the end open. This allows for fine tuning if I'm not exact on the size of the loop I need. You can see an example of this in pic #3 and #4.
**Note** to save on material, create the loops on the end of your wire before cutting to length. This will allow for better fine tuning of your supports.
Installing the Wire Supports;
Installation is easy. Just mark the position, on the face of the vertical, put a piece of tape over the spot (again to prevent the wood fraying) then drill to a depth of 1 1/2" with a 3mm drill bit. Gluing is optional as they hold pretty well on their own. It may, in fact, be an advantage to leave them unglued as it will allow for future adjustments and alterations.
Mounting the Stages;
First, I started with the bottom stage using only one wire, as it will sit directly on the base. This creates a 'start' position for the outward arc. Each additional section has an undersized support that it sits on, and another proper sized support that wraps around the stage, holding it firmly. With the final lander stage, I mounted it slightly differently as there is a piece used on it that has a 3mm hole that the wire can hold to directly.
I'll leave the next step as a visual of how I mounted each step through images.
The Launch Escape System and Lander Shroud;
The launch escape system (nose of the rocket) separates with the bottom stage and so I mounted it off angle from it. Again, I'll try and show it in the images in the next step. For the shroud, there was no way to attach them with the 3mm rod, so I ended up drilling a 3mm hole in a discrete location, under each piece, where the wire could be inserted. I honestly recommend you doing the same as it seems to be the most secure way of installing them.
Step 8: Visuals for Mounting Stages
The images are in order, from the bottom stage up, on how I mounted each. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Heck, if you can think of a way I could do it better, let me know. I'd appreciate the input.
The important thing is to mount each stage section by section, leaving roughly 2" between each, and angling each subsequent section outward at the top. This will create the impression that the rocket is staging as it is launching.
Step 9: Finished
That's it. The Saturn V is one of the most amazing creations to come out of LEGO, and is a great way celebrate the legacy of the Apollo missions that took man to the moon.
As usual, I hope you enjoyed the instructable, and thanks for following.