Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Estes Dragon Ship 7 #1345, Part 17, Almost Finished

My California trip threw a wrench in my build and blog post schedule. Here's where the Dragon Ship 7 is right now.
That bottom "hook" fin is being sprayed gray. The instructions don't say anything about rivet decals, but they'll be added to matche the other fins.
The model will get a overall dull coat. The silver engine mount will be glued in after that.

I hope to keep the nose cone gloss black. The black area on the front wrap decal should also be gloss black to match it. The launch lug guns won't be glued on until after the dull coat so they will remain gloss black.
I'll follow up with finished pictures soon.

Engine Fit?

There has been a lot of Forum talk about the fit of the new Quest Q-Jet composite motors in BT-20 sized tubes. There has been occasional engine fit problems since I can remember.

The top picture shows a slip fit of an Estes 18mm engine in a regular BT-20 tube.

Here's the same engine in a Quest Viper model. The engine tube is a 20mm diameter with no yellow sleeve tube inside. I usually will do tape wraps for loose fit like this.

The previous Chinese made Quest 18mm engines wouldn't usually fit in an Estes 20mm tube. The stick-on label made the diameter too wide. I would typically peel off the label and the fit was fine. 
Sometimes Estes engines won't slide all the way into their own BT-20 tubes. Nozzle ends can have a bulge, from compression during  manufacture. You see this more often in 13mm Mini engines.

In the past I've lightly sanded down the wide end of the casing with a sanding block. Don't sand much, just enough to get the engine in without crimping the rocket body.

This probably could be looked on as "tampering" of the engine. I've never had an engine failure when a layer or two of the paper casing was sanded down.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Apogee Vacu-Form Nose Cone Fix

I bought two packages of vacu-form nose cones from Apogee. There are three nose cones in each package for six nose cones in total. I wanted to use these in my NARAM competition models.

Five out of the six nose cones wouldn't fit into the shoulders. The lip on the nose cones seemed smaller than the shoulder piece diameter.

Vacu-form nose cone walls are thin. You don't want to force a fit, you could flex, bend or even crack the plastic.

I ran my index finger around the inside lip of the nose cone and felt a smooth ridge.
This slight bead lip is very smooth and shinier than the rest of the plastic. This leads me to believe the edge was smoothed with heat, leaving a melted lip inside the end.
I doubt there was any test fits after the nose cone was made.

All it took for a fit was a scraping with my pocket knife. The pocket knife isn't as sharp or as thin as an X-Acto #11 blade. I could lightly scrape back the shiny lip.

Before scraping the lip, look close at the thickness of the plastic wall. One side could be thinner than the other side.

The shoulder was too tall to completely slide into the nose cone. The shoulder top was hitting the start of the nose cone taper.

I carefully cut off about 1/8" off the top of the shoulder with small scissors. This was smoothed off with 400 grit sandpaper on a block.

Here's the finished fit.

There is a slight turn at the top of the cone. I didn't want to reshape this and will leave it as is. You could easily sand through the thin plastic.

This is not a complaint about an Apogee product. These nose cones are probably made one at a time by a single operator. On small vendor produced products you sometimes have to make adjustments to short run parts.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Estes Dragon Ship 7 #1345, Part 16, Decal Fix

The decals were printed small and the top wrap didn't go completely around the body tube.
A strip of paper was wrapped around the body tube to get the circumference. That length was used to get the decal wrap close to the original length.

I hadn't sealed the decals so they were easy to lift.

Here's the new decals, a near perfect fit. Look close and your see there is a bit of clear extending over the top of the body tube.

After the decal dried the clear overlap was trimmed off with a razor blade after the decal dried.

I used a Sharpie marker around the nose cone shoulder lip so no white plastic would show with it slid into the body tube.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Estes Dragon Ship 7 #1345, Part 15, Gun Trim

The masking tape strip on the launch lug gun standoff was lifted. The paint lip was sanded smooth.

The guns were painted metallic black instead of just gloss black.
The clear red decal stripes won't show up over black paint so strips were cut from chrome Monokote trim.

Here's how the guns will look set over the flame decals.

I thought this might happen, the ends of the trim strips lifted after an hour.

A small drop of medium CA was set on the seam area. The ends were pressed into the glue until it set up. The seams are all in line and will face the body tube, out of sight.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Email from

Dear Customer,
We are having a close out sale for our laser clear decal paper and other items on our website.
Our company is closing so everything must go!
Hurry while supplies last!

Best Regards,

It looks like only the laser clear decal paper is on sale now.
I've ordered a lot of paper from them in the past. 
If they are closing up shop, I'll probably order through

Estes Dragon Ship 7 #1345, Part 14, More Decals

The wing decals are slightly different size. Be sure to check the width of the rear skid fins. The get the wider wing decal. The smaller wing decal goes on the dorsal fin under the canopy.

Here's where I realized the decals printed small.
The two piece front tube decals didn't match up!

By now I'm annoyed. I'm going to leave all the other decals in place and reprint the front tube decals a bit larger.

Even with the decals a bit small they still look okay. There is more border around the edges of the wing decals.
All the root edges get a rivet line decal. The dots had to be pieced together around the canopy.

Here's how it came out. The red/orange isn't as bright as the kit decals would be. Those had a white background. Heck, it's a clone. There are usually compromises on a scratch clone. It still captures the feel of the original with the different red/maroon coloring.

I kept track of how many decals were applied. So far - 
88 decal pieces! These decals took 7 3/4 hours! 
I thought the Estes Interceptor was rough, those decals took 4 hours. 
There are still rivet lines to go on the detachable fin.