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Delta 7 Studios' 1/14 Scale Friendship 7 Paper Model

By David H. Allen - images & text © 2003

Scale: 1/14 scale for the capsules, 1/96 scale for the launch vehicles
Parts: PDF files print out as 1-3 pages per model on a color printer
Instructions: Each model comes with instructions for assembly in PDF format
Decals: N/A
Molding Quality: N/A (depends on your printer and the paper you use!)
Detail: 10
Accuracy: 8
Fit: 10
Ease: 8
MSRP: CDROM containing PDF files for all six Mercury capsules and launch vehicles, plus several bonus models is $24.95 USD (~$34.29 CAN/ 21.98EUR) available from Delta 7 Studios
Overall Rating: 10 - I found assembling this paper model a welcome change from the usual glue-prime-paint-decal routine.

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I have been a scale modeler for the better part of four decades, but until recently I have never been impressed with paper models.

[Raw materials]

^ Raw materials

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^ This photo shows the recessed observation window and the beautiful Friendship 7 logo. Note the binder clip clamping the body butt joint until it sets.

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^ This photo shows probably the most challenging part of this model, the retrorocket pack (the posigrade rocket nozzles have not been glued on yet in the photo). The white glue visible inside the retrorocket nozzle will dry transparent.

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^The extended periscope can be seen in this photo of the finished model. Optionally, the periscope can be assembled retracted with the door closed.

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^ More images of the completed model

Image: Looking down

Too many of them appear cartoonish, lack sufficient detail, or simple are unconvincing once assembled. About a month ago I stumbled onto the Delta 7 Studios website and I was impressed with the photos of the paper spacecraft models they offer in electronic (PDF) format. Currently Delta 7 Studios offers four collections of models on CDROM - Mercury, Gemini, "Blue Gemini", and Retro Rockets - with collections of models from the Apollo and Soviet space programs on the way. I jumped in with both feet and purchased all four of the currently available collections. I have not regretted it, and have spent many enjoyable hours assembling and admiring these models.

The Mercury CDROM collection includes all six Mercury capsules in 1/14 scale AND all six launch vehicles and capsules in 1/96 scale. You'll find several unadvertised bonus models on this CDROM also, including a nice memorial to the lost shuttle Columbia.

This review will deal with only one of the models from the Mercury CDROM collection, a 1/14 scale paper model of John Glenn's historic Friendship 7 capsule.

What You Get

The Friendship 7 model comes as a PDF file (about 3 MB) that includes the model, a display stand, a "plaque" modeled after the mission emblem, and the assembly instructions. The model itself is three pages and the assembly instructions are contained on a further three pages. I recommend only printing out the model pages, and saving ink and paper by viewing the instructions on your PC. The model is in color but, as the original is mostly grays and blacks, most of the ink will be out of your black ink cartridge.

While paper models cannot faithfully reproduce textures and 3-dimensional physical detail, the "apparent" detail is extremely good in these models. I have no idea how Dan Shippey (the designer at Delta 7 Studios) does it, but the detail is nearly photographic. The artwork includes shading and highlighting that creates a very convincing final product.

Building

Of course, your model will suffer if your printer and the paper you use are not up to snuff. I use an Epson 870 printer which is about two years old, so yours is probably at least as good as mine. I prefer to use the Premium Glossy Photo Paper, which to me is just the right weight (65 lb) and produces a nice glossy model. You may prefer a matte paper, or even a heavier weight (100 lb) for a sturdier model.

If you are reasonably careful in cutting out the pieces, you will find the fit is extraordinary. In some cases the fit is so precise that one piece can be glued to another simply by applying glue to the EDGE of the paper (no tabs needed). Dan has done a terrific job in engineering these models - the fit is not only excellent, it is a joy.

The directions that are included with the model include clear and helpful step-by-step instructions and an accompanying photo. There are approximately 25 assembly steps (although some include multiples, like the retro-rockets).

Use the assembly instructions to correctly orient the recovery compartment top, the persicope, the antenna can top, and the antenna can itself if you choose to glue it to the recovery compartment (I chose the not glue it as it fits snuggly and it can be removed to reveal the recovery compartment details.

I use white glue for nearly the entire model. The only exceptions are the joint between the heat shield and the body and for gluing the retrorocket pack retention straps to the body. I found it easier to dry-fit the heat shield to the body, joint with the body placed upside down on a flat surface, then apply CA glue so that it wicks between the heat shield and body. For the straps, I dampened the end of the strap with accelerant, applied a drop and glue to the body at the proper place, and then made the connection.

The plain gray area above the recessed observation window is covered by a separate hatch piece as part of assembly. Presumably this design feature would allow the ambitious designer to cut away the gray to expose a scratch-built interior! The UNITED STATES lettering, Friendship 7 logo, and flag are all printed as part of the body.

The model includes a simple yet elegantly clever display stand. I like to suspend my models from the ceiling on 4 lb. test monofilament instead. However, you may find the stand useful for displaying your model on a desk or shelf.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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