Sunday, June 25, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 23, Engine Mount Gluing

If you have added the fin spar reinforcements you should do some dry fitting before gluing in the engine mount.
The lower centering ring will sit slightly higher and butt up against the bottom flat of the fin spars.
A dry fit also lets you visually set the spars looking through the nozzle holes.
The fin spars were glued to the engine mount tube and to the inside of the body tube cut outs.
When you get the mount in place, draw some pencil alignment lines on the inside tube wall and lower ring. Reference the rear view in the instructions for nozzle placement in relationship to the tunnels M and N.

I'm not gluing the lower ring on so it can be flown without the nozzles in place.
Two wraps of masking tape kept the loose ring at the 1/2" mark.

Glue the engine mount in place with the lower ring on the engine mount tube. You can remove the tape and lower ring after the glue dries on the upper ring.

The instructions say to apply glue at 2 1/2" from the end of the tube. I drew a pencil line at 2 1/2".
TIP: Gotcha - The upper ring ends up about 3/4" higher than the 2 1/2" glue ring. I would apply the glue higher at 3" in the tube.

A Q-tip taped to a dowel was used to smooth out the glue ring on both sides of the upper ring.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 22, Tower Assembly

Mentioned earlier, the top left strut of the "X" aren't in the holes. The plastic was a bit warped.
It's easier to take care of this after the tower was glued up.

Push in the pin, brush on the glue and hold until dry.

Set the top into the escape rocket bottom and check the alignment.

Here's a dry fit.
This is an impressive assembly, almost worth the 47 years it took for me to get the kit!

Delay in the Estes Starship Nova Release?

Estes has had the Starship Nova shown on the Coming Soon page since March.
It seems this kit release has taken longer than normal.

A thread on YORF (CLICK HERE) might explain the delay. Go to Page 4.
Bob Sanford received an early release of the Estes Starship Nova kit -

Bernard Cawley posted:
"But if you look in Bob's second picture there you can see that the main body tube looks a little odd. Apparently there was some kind of miscommunication with the supplier and the BT-50 in the kits that are in the warehouse in Penrose don't have a glassine layer. may be a bit yet before the kits get distributed."

John Boren (of Estes) added:
"The first production run of this kit will in fact have tubes without glassine on them. The cost and time needed to get new tubes to China would stretch the release of this kit into at least first quarter of next year."

My thoughts:
It's not a big deal to buy a replacement BT-50 tube. The old kit instructions (CLICK HERE) say it is a BT-50K at 15" long. 
If it were me, I'd buy a replacement BT-50H (heavier wall BT-50) before buying a kit with a no glassine layer tube. (See comment responses below - go with the BalsaMachining T50H-34 tube). BT-50 tubes are thin enough already and prone to buckles on a hard landing. Without that glassine layer, the tubes in the first run of the Starship Nova kits will be even thinner than normal. That thin plastic layer seals the tube and adds a lot of strength. Rough tubes can also suck up more paint.
I'm not complaining about a kit release taking some time. The Pigasus and F-16 kits took a year from initial drawings to the first kit sold. Stuff happens and you want it to be right!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Starship Excalibur Listed on EBAY

The Classic Estes (Semroc) 
is up for auction on Ebay!

This is a pretty one, I almost hate to see it go! (But I need room for other builds)
To see the auction - CLICK HERE

Also being auctioned:


This is the better of the two kits built on this blog. 
It's an original kit from 1991-1993, not the Classic Series reissue.

To see this auction - CLICK HERE
Stop by, make a bid and support the blog!

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 21, Tower Assembly

The visible mold seams were sanded lightly before assembly on the two largest outside pieces.
I only sanded down the seams that were on the outside. Nobody will see the slight mold seams on the interior.

A dry fit showed the upper strut wouldn't fit into the tower side. I didn't seat it, it'll be pushed in and glued after all four of the tower sides are glued on.

After the first two sides are dried the center ring is set.
One of the "X" strut centers didn't have a hole for the pine on the ring. I carefully spin drilled a recess into the X.

The ring fit well. Two small drops of glue were set into the X brace holes and the ring pressed in place.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Model Profile - The Centuri F-104 Starfighter

The F-104 Starfighter was introduced in the 1977 Centuri catalog, the fourth model of the Fighter Fleet series. For variety, Centuri picked the West Germany motif
These jets had "fibre" fins, die-cut from a .050" thick card stock. While card stock made an easier assembly for a young modeler, older builders weren't too fond of the kits.
Many design compromises were made to the jets for vertical, stable flight.

This model isn't one of my builds. Lonnie Buchanon gave me some original Fighter Fleet rockets he found in Craig's list buy. An F-16 helped the design of my Odd'l Rockets kit.

The F-104 was 15" long and 1" in diameter. The tube was Centuri's heavier walled ST-10.

Here's some of the compromises -

For stability, the wings are set farther back. The intakes aren't round but long rectangle boxes formed from thinner card stock.
The bombs (or tanks depending on which model you were building) were the same used in all six of the Fighter Fleet series.
The missiles were also used on each model. They looked a little like a Sidewinder without the forward fins. The small nose and fin can were glued into a launch lug tube.

Notice the reinforcement pieces needed for the card stock wings and missile standoffs.

The model was 15" long, 5" of that was just the nose cone!
The cockpit decal is on but the clear canopy is missing. I don't know why the nose cone was never painted.

Why am I featuring this model? Stay tuned . . .

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 20, RCS Housing and Nozzles

The RCS nozzles housings are small and slippery, no alignment pins!
Do your best to line up the sides and brush some glue on the outside joints.

On the left is before sanding the sides flat.
The inset shows the top seam is almost gone. The corners still need to be sanded.

On the sides stay away from the nozzle pins.

This is the RCS housing ready for the nozzles to be glued on.

There are 16 nozzles so set up an assembly line.
Glue on one nozzle, while that dries move on to the second RCS housing. By the time you've glued on the fourth nozzle on the last housing the glue should be dried on the first one.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 19, Escape Tower Nozzles

The tower and capsule plastic parts are made from the old Centuri kit molds. The newer Estes (lower body) plastic molds fit much better.
The (Centuri) escape tower nozzle halves don't have alignment pins. After glue was applied to the inside, glue was sparingly brushed on the outside. This liquid glue dries clean and doesn't distort the plastic. Go light.

The outside joint is a bit rough. The flash is scraped and the sides sanded smooth.

I had to sand the sides of the assemblies so they would slide together.
The inset shows the nozzle ends sanded flat and even.

Here's the two nozzle halves joined.
Don't worry about the top, it'll be covered by the tower cap.

Photon Probe Comparisons

I finally got the decals on the second Photon Probe model.
The orange one is an older kit, the purple is the newer version form the Estes Classics Series.
Moot point - 
The long vertical decal with the kit name are different. The older kit was transparent under the name allowing the (orange) contrast color to show through. On the newer (purple) model the name had a white background. Graphically it isn't as effective.
Notice too the decal above the word "Probe". The reissue kit didn't have that decal.

I usually start a roll pattern decal on the launch lug side. If the decal wrap is short or long, the different widths won't be visible when the model is on the launcher with the rod a launch lug to the back.

On the older orange version, placing the start of the wrap decal at the launch lug put the open inverted "U" centered over the fins. On the new version the decal start placed the bottom of the "U" over the fins.
The differences in this lower wrap are consistent with the face card pictures in the two kits.

These observations are not complaints, just noticed differences between two versions of the same kit.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 18, Nozzle Gluing

I used Plastruct Plastic Weld plastic solvent cement.
This was one of the plastic cements recommended in the TRF builds.

In a blog comment, Metalhead 1986 gave some sound advice:
"I'm sure you know, but if your readers are not familiar with these types of adhesives, they are meant to be used with the parts pressed together and the brush touched to the joint. Capillary action will draw the glue into the joint, dissolve the plastic, and complete the "gluing" when the plastic re-solidifies as one piece. The included brush is useless for all but the most basic jobs. Any fine work, like this, and the Tamiya 1/16 RC tanks I build, will require a more precise brush to get the solvent just where you want it. When I build my next LJII, this is what I will use.

I very lightly sanded the nozzle side with the holes to make it flatter. This takes down any flash off the sides and can actually give a cleaner glue joint.
You can't sand the pin side with the raised inside edges.

First I applied glue to the inside edges of the hole side piece. The two halves were pressed together.

After that I brushed more glue down the joint on the inside.

On the left is the nozzle after the glued dried. The seam joint is very tight.

400 grit was wrapped around a dowel and the seam sanded. On the right the seam is pretty much gone!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 17, Fin Support

Here's the final stick size - Your fit may be different. Cut a little large and fit to your model.
The overall length is 2 11/16" with the taper starting 1 5/16" from the end. The tapered end to the right fits into the fin cavity.

The instructions don't mention it but imply the rear centering ring is even with the end of the body tube.
On the actual Little Joe II the nozzle plate was slightly recessed. I could build up the inside so the rear centering ring is closer to the bottom of the tube but will probably leave it as is.
This picture was posted by John Pursley in the TRF build. 

I'll be following John Pursley's advice and make the nozzle plate and centering ring removable. Some flights have shown some melting of the plastic nozzles.

With the rear centering ring against the square fin supports it's a very strong assembly.

Again I can't take credit for using a fin reinforcement spar. The master modeler's at The Rocketry Forum - George Gassaway, James Duffy and John Pursley figured out the structural improvements.

The fins are probably fine without the stick reinforcement. I've read a few launch reports where a fin has been knocked loose from the corrugated wrap on a hard landing. Plastic to plastic bonds between the fin and the body are sometimes a problem.

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 16, Fin Support

I used a new #11 blade in my X-Acto. You'll be cutting through the body tube and wrap plastic. My usual break-off blade knife wasn't used for these cuts.

Note the knife tip position set into the corners. I punched through all eight corners and then cut through the centers. This way the back of the knife worked like a "stop" and prevented me from cutting outside the square.

I cut a little inside the drawn square and then trimmed it to a friction fit of the stick.

After cutting one square I checked the fit of the fin position. All was good so the back edge was measured. Using the 3/16" square stick, the rear of the cut square was 9/32" from the back edge. The other three squares were marked and cut.

Note the engine mount was slid in to support the tube during the square cutting.

The inset shows some of the tube pushing in around the stick. I wanted a fairly tight fit around the support stick.
On the left is a pencil mark where the stick will be cut to glue to the engine mount tube. This will be cut slightly long and trimmed to fit.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 15, Fin Support

Well, I left out the post on the Fin Half Gluing. I've re-numbered the blog posts, scroll down to see a new post at #13. Everything should be in the correct order now.

The Little Joe II fins are surface glued on a vacu-form wrap, probably not the strongest joint. In post #229 of the TRF build, John Pursley showed an improved fin reinforcement. CLICK HERE

The first time he used a tapered wood dowel that went in the fin interior, through the body tube and glued to the side of the engine mount tube.
This revision used a square stick, Much stronger and the flat side lays against the right centering ring below it.
This allows the model to be flown without the nozzles if the lower ring and nozzle assembly is not glued in. Some flight reports have mentioned some melting of the plastic nozzles.The four square sticks will be very strong and also center the engine mount tube without the lower ring in place.

John Pursley used a 1/4" square stick, mine was 3/16". The length to start is 3" long. It'll be trimmed to fit later. Right now I'm just trying to get the taper to fit the inside of the fin.

The inside taper starts about 1 5/16" from the end.

Held up against a light you can see stick inside. It won't go all the way to to the outside edge. Don't press too hard or you could split the fin right down the glue line.

Fit the fin without the stick and you'll see the back edge is slightly above the end of the wrap. Take this into account when marking for the stick cut.

Rough up the wrap inside the fin guides with some 400 grit. A pencil won't write on the smooth plastic.
Press in the stick and set the fin on the body sideways. Trace the top and bottom of the stick with a pencil.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 14, Better Fin Fitting

This shows a dry fit of one of the fins. The fit against the corrugated wrap is good but could be better.

In the TRF builds, George Gassaway brought up a good point. On the inside edges of the fins are some raised circles. These are "ejector pads" from the molding process.

They bump into the tops of the raised guides on the corrugated wrap.
I carefully shaved them down. It's only necessary to remove the inside half of the circle.

Here's the improved fit. It's a minor point and probably not necessary but you will end up with a more contact on the gluing edges.

Estes Apollo Little Joe II Build, Part 13, Fin Halves Gluing

These new fins are very well molded. They fit very tight without glue and take a little effort to separate them!

When gluing these halves I only applied glue to the long, diagonal leading edge.

After the two sides were pressed together, glue was brushed over the outside joint seam. Again, go light.

Apply glue on seam side and squeeze the two halves together.

Additional glue was brushed on the inside.

On the left is the dried glue that was brushed on bottom side of a fin.

The inset picture shows the same fin surface after sanding smooth.
The joint seam is gone! I didn't need any seam filler at all.
The glue is a solvent and melds the glued edges together.