Saturday, November 12, 2016

Estes Wadding Test

In a recent comment, Daniel (the Rocket Noob) wrote:

"Well, I can't attest to White Cloud's usefulness as wadding, but Estes wadding will also burn really well if you touch a match or lighter to it - as I learned when I did a demonstration at Rocket Camp.

"See? Wadding won't burn if you... Oh! Oh, gosh!" I said, stifling my desire to swear as I threw it on the floor and stomped it out.

That was last year. One of my returning kids kept bringing it up this year."

I also did a burn test recently of several different Kevlar sources. The Apogee shock chord burned a lot more easily - and more vigorously - than the Kevlar kite string I got from

So, the match test may not be a good indicator. You might need to do a static test in a tube. I tried soaking cotton balls in water with baking soda, as I'd heard baking soda would make paper towels into wadding. The cotton balls turned out stiff and didn't stay fluffy like I'd hoped, so they weren't superior wadding, but they definitely did the job with no flames or even scorch marks like you sometimes get on the Estes wadding."


I touched a lit match on some Estes wadding this morning. I tried to light two different pieces from two different packages.
The first piece lit on fire, it was a slow burn and was put out in water.
The second piece from another package was blackened but didn't catch fire.
There might be some inconsistencies between wadding packages. Estes made their wadding in the US for many years. I believe production went to Mexico for a while and is now made in China.


  1. I only tried it the one time, and the kids laughed their heads off. This year, a returning student - one of the kids I had to watch so their behavior didn't get out of control - kept asking me "Can you set some wadding on fire again?"

    I probably had to tell him no about 15 times over the course of two weeks. Kids like fire, I guess.

    Anyway, I figured the sustained burn of a flame against the wadding would probably set it off, but that it was fire retarent enough that a quick ejection charge inside a tube - where the available amount of oxygen would be limited - wouldn't do it. Looks like you can do the match test after all, and that some wadding is better than others!

  2. Back during my original rocketry days I made my own wadding with TP and Borax. Used the alcohol burner and lab beaker from my chemistry set to bring the Borax/water to a boil, dipped the tissue paper in the solution, then let it dry. Came out a little stiff but still worked. Since I swiped the Borax from the laundry room and the toilet paper from the bathroom it was free - at least to me!

    1. Hi Openroad,
      I tried to make my own wadding from paper towels after watching a YouTube video.l It was too much work. Now I just buy flame resistant crepe paper rolls and cut 4" squares from that. So much cheaper than the Estes wadding.

  3. I was at a LUNAR launch, I'm going to say back in August 2016, and we arrived to the launch with a grass fire going. Launch is on a runway, but with grass edgings. Apparently, someone used toilet paper for wadding.

    I think there were a few new flyers there and a lesson was learned as we heard over the P.A. several times why not to use toilet paper for wadding.

    1. Hi Wildcat,
      Yep, I've seen flaming toilet paper at club launches before.