Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Estes STM-012 Kitbash to the B32-M Spike, Part 1, Parts

The STM-012 parts were all high quality and a good value for what I paid on Ebay.
The STM-012 is a tall rocket made up from two 18" lengths of BT-60. The "Spike" will be shorter.

The parts of interest:
That 8 3/8" LONG nose cone
The black engine hook holder (coupler)
The 4" long red body tube coupler
Two slotted BT-60 tubes

Some Vashon Videos and Links

While doing some searches for Vashon Cold Propellant (Freon) Rockets I came across this website:

It looks like it is linked to the Clay Brothers Video Rocketry site.
Lots of great information, Vashon videos and links.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Estes STM-012 Kitbash to the B32-M Spike, Background

Well, I thought it might work!
I bought two Estes STM-012 kits on Ebay with the hopes of kit-bashing one of them into an AMRAAM.
It never even occurred to me that the STM-012 model would have three through-the-wall fins. The AMRAAM has two sets of four fins. I would have to buy a couple new lengths of BT-60 to do the conversion. That, and the STM-012 nose cone was long!

So the kits sat for a few months with me wondering what to do with them. Then I remembered this design from Madcow:
The AGM-33 Pike.
I've always like the looks of this one, I did the instructions for their 1.6" diameter kit.
This won't be exact copy of the Madcow kit, just a look alike with different paint and decals. The Madcow design isn't based on an actual missile so you've got some creative leeway.
I'll be calling mine the B32-M SPIKE. Yep, I just made up the name. This should be fun!

This kitbash is certainly not meant to draw attention away from the Madcow AGM-33 kit. These are heavier duty, made for larger engines. Madcow produces great kits with well fitting components.

Carded Model TIP

Bruce Levison (designer of the Odd'l Rockets Corkscrew) made two of my carded BT-20 models, the Patriot and A-20 Demon. He kept track of the builds and passed on a tip for body tube skins.

"Use a white length of BT-20 if available, or coat a brown cardboard tube with white paint or primer. The dark color of the tube will show through the 24lb paper to some extent the white tube makes the colors look brighter."

I hadn't noticed and brown tube showing through the white paper skin overlay. I guess I've used white BT-5 and BT-20 tubes when makking carded down scales.  Bruce's tip makes sense, a brown tube color might show through making a lighter print skin darker.
TIP: Be sure to use a white body tube (or painted white) when making carded models with printed wraps.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Carded Red Max Build, Finished

Here's the cliche picture you'd take to show how small it really is -
Only 5 3/16" tall and weighs .33 oz. Much of the weight is the clay in the nose cone.

The nose end picture shows a mistake! Can you see what it is?
I had to go back, fix the art, print and build again. Everybody that requested the Red max PDF got the corrected art.

Here's my Red Max family,
The standard BT-60 based Red Max, the BT-50 Mini Max and the BT-5 Micro Red Max.

Is It Just Me?

Or does anybody else see something else in rocket designs?

Every time I see the Estes Scorpion -

It reminds me of a running Greyhound.
That's probably why I didn't buy the kit.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Carded Red Max Build, Part 8, Glued Assembly

The black fin position lines were lightly scraped for better glue adhesion.

At the paper seam joint on the launch lug, the seam was sanded.

The fin lines were also scraped and the fins glued on.

On a printed, carded rocket it's important to use white glue on the outside surfaces. Wood glue would dry yellow and discolor the print and model. White glue dries clear and is invisible on the finished model.

There is no room for a streamer, this model used a simple nose blow recovery.

The nose cone was 2/3 full of clay weight.
The Kevlar line was tied to the nose cone base with a secure square knot.

Carded Red Max Build, Part 7, Ends & Edges

A small notch was cut into an engine block and some 65 lb. Kevlar tied on with a square knot.

A 13mm engine casing was marked at 1/8". Normally an engine could extend 1/4" out the back, but on some models that could set the engine lower than the tips of the fins.

A great thing about a pre-printed carded rocket, the only thing to paint is the nose cone!
The shoulder was masked off and spray painted gloss black.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Carded Red Max Build, Part 6, Tube Wrap

The final BT-5 length is 2 13/16" long. You might find it easier to use a piece of tube about 5" long and trim it to the size of the wrap after it is glued on.

Without using any glue check the fit of the tube wrap. The inset picture shows the black border line being trimmed off before gluing.

Draw a pencil line straight down the tube to line up the wrap edge.

Apply glue stick completely over the back of the wrap being sure to cover the edges well.
Start the wrap down the pencil line lining up the the top edge with the top of the body tube.

Here's the launch lug cover piece -
By the time you get all the way around you may have to add some more glue under the overlap seam. Burnish down the seam closing it up.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Corner Chip Fill - TIP

Well, we've all been there - the balsa grain runs in such a way that the trailing edge tip can break off.
If the tip break is small you can fill it.

Sand off some balsa dust from some scrap balsa. Don't sneeze.

Apply some yellow wood glue to the broken corner. Use wood glue for this, yellow glue can be easily sanded.

Press the glued corner into the balsa dust pile from all sides.
Let the balsa dust and glue dry.
Note in the inset picture that the dust and glue is a little larger than the chip area.

Here's the same filled corner after filling and sanding to surface.
Not perfect, but after the fillets are applied it won't be noticeable.

Carded Red Max Build, Part 5, Fin Skin Gluing

The upper picture shows the three layers viewed from the root edge.

Use your burnisher to round off the cut side edges. This won't be a full round like the folded leading edge. The burnishing just takes the squared edges down a bit.
Don't burnish over the root edge, leave that square and sharp!

Run a small bead of white glue down the outside and trailing edges of the fins. Let dry and sand lightly with 400 grit.

Repeat the glue bead again, let dry and lightly sand.
This seals the open edges and rounds them over a bit.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Kevlar Supplier, Part 3

This softer Emma Kites Kevlar can fray at the end.
Tie an overhand knot close to the end.

Here's the weird thing about the Emma Kites Kevlar.
Normally a square knot stays tightly together after being pulled closed. After tightening, the knot starts to loosen and open up!

It's easy enough to fix.
A small drop of white or yellow wood glue adds the right amount of grab and keeps it closed. Apply a small dot of glue and pull the knot tight.

Here's the knot after the glue dried. It is closed and tight.

TIP: NEVER use super glues on knots, whether it is a Kevlar shock cord or shroud line knot. Super Glues run down the line and away from the knot. When the CA glue dries it makes the cord and knot stiff, brittle and breakable.

Carded Red Max Build, Part 4, Fin Skin Gluing

Don't use liquid white glue to attach the skins! Use a glue stick.
TIP: Glue sticks don't over saturate the paper or card stock. They also allow re-positioning before the glue dries.

I use the colored (purple) glue stick so I can see if I have good coverage. Be sure to apply enough down the center fold and along the edges.

Set the skins over the rounded straight leading edge of the cardboard. Press the leading edge fold down on the interior cardboard edge first before smoothing down the sides.

Burnish the skins down onto the cardboard interior piece.
It's not necessary to set these under a weight or in a book to dry.

Be sure your knife blade is new and sharp so the backside skin won't tear when cutting.

After the fins dry, cut through all the layers down the fine line on the "Root Edge" side.
The inset picture shows the other side of the fin. The back side is printed oversize to be sure the red ink covers edge to edge.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Carded Red Max Build, Part 3, Fin Skin Folding

To emboss the leading edge fold line sometimes I use the back side of a single edge razor blade. The sharp side is taped over with layers of masking tape.
Any rough burrs are sanded off before embossing.

You might find it easier to use the tip of a dull butter knife to emboss the leading edge fold lines.

Emboss the leading edge fold before cutting out the fins.
Lightly score the center lines using a straight edge.
Cut out the fins outside of the red image area. The white edges will be cut off after the overlay skin is glued to the center core.

Notice the ink coverage one side is larger. This ensures full ink coverage on the backside of the fin when it is cut out.

Pre-fold the leading before gluing over the center core. As always, I'm using the back end of a Sharpie barrel as a burnisher.

New Kevlar Supplier, Part 2

For a while, FlisKits included braided Kevlar in their MicroMax kits. Braided Kevlar is made up of smaller lines, is softer and more flexible. The braided Kevlar will burn through and break quicker than the twisted line.

Here's how the Emma Kite line is shipped. The label is marked: "1,000 feet - 150 lb. - Twist".

Will this line be better than the stiffer line from The Thread Exchange? Time will tell!
My past experience with the stiffer 135 lb. line is it will last for about 20 flights before breaking, usually right above the engine mount. That's one reason I developed a "Replaceable Kevlar Engine Mount" CLICK HEREIf Kevlar is tied beneath the upper centering ring of an engine mount there is no way to tie on a new line once it breaks.

Emma Kites includes a snap swivel with each spool of line. I don't know if I can use this style swivel on a rocket but I'll hang onto it for now.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Kevlar Supplier? Part 1

NOTE: Before you order any Kevlar line from this supplier - Emma Kites, 
PLEASE WAIT and read the third post in this series. There is a concern with this Kevlar that some might have trouble with.

I had known about for quite some time. They sell Kevlar line for kite flying.
They are much cheaper than or
I was running low on the Kevlar I had bought from The Thread Exchange and this time ordered through Emma Kites.

On the left is 135 lb., #346 Kevlar from the Thread Exchange. I usually buy it in 4 oz. spools that are 264 yards for $37.00.
On the right is the Kevlar from Emma Kites. This is 150 lb. line, 1,000 feet for $23.00.
The Thread Exchange line (bottom) is three strand and a bit stiffer than the Emma Kite line on top. The Thread Exchange line is very similar to what you would find in a Quest kit.
The Emma Kite line (top) is made up of finer lines twisted into three strands. Those three strands are twisted into the final line. The Emma Kites Kevlar is close to what you get from The Kevlar Store.

Contrary to what some believe, Kevlar line can burn and degrade after many ejection charge hits. It's fire resistant, not fireproof. I did a very unsophisticated test holding a burning match under each line. Repeated match burn tests had both catch fire at about the same time.

Carded Red Max Build, Part 2, Fin Core Prep

My early art layout page had a LOT of extras. The body tube wraps are printed on 20 lb. paper, the fin overlays are printed on 110 lb. stock.
Lightly spray the print side with clear acrylic. The model will get a final coat of clear after it is assembled.

The center core of the fins is cereal box cardboard.
Here I'm cutting of the edge to have a straight leading edge of the fins.

After the straight edge is cut, run some 400 grit over the edge and round off the top. It doesn't take much, just knock off the corners.

With some 220 grit sandpaper rough up the glossy printed side of the cardboard for better adhesion.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Carded Red Max Build, Part 1, Parts

I've seen a few pictures of "Rocket Families" on the forums. The Red Max is a favorite with the Estes Mini Max (BT-50 based), standard Red Max (BT-60 based) and Mega Red Max.
Well, how about a smaller BT-5 version for 13mm engines? This one is tiny at just 5 1/4" tall! It performs like a BT-5 Mosquito.

At one time I had a little carded Red Max model. It was a BT-5 diameter with a Micro Max engine mount. I lost it somewhere along the way and wanted to make another one.
After a few searches I couldn't find it. I thought it might be at Wayne Hill's Rocketry Blog - CLICK HERE 
There are many carded rockets there including my designs.

The carded Red Max I had before had three piece laminated fins. The redraw I did has two piece "butterflied" fins where the center fold becomes a rounded leading edge. The center core is cereal box cardboard.

The decal art was taken from the online instructions at Jim Z's, cleaned up a bit and reduced.

Don't use the illustration at the right to make the rocket.
Email me at: and I'll send the full size PDF.

Two prints are made, one on 20 lb. paper a second on 110 lb. cardstock. This print gives you enough to make two rockets or have some extra parts.

PARTS: You'll also need some BT-5, a plastic Quark style nose cone, 1/8" diameter launch lug, 65 lb. Kevlar and a 13mm engine block.
TOOLS: A sharp knife, a dull butter knife for scoring the fin leading edges, clear acrylic spray, white glue and a glue stick.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mars Lander Embossing?

On TRF a post was made about the quality of the embossed pieces of the Semroc Mars Lander.
I noticed the embossed lines weren't as defined as my original Estes Mars Lander but it wasn't a deal breaker.

I would assume the Estes embossing was done using a combination of heat and pressure. This gave slightly deeper, more defined lines. The Semroc re-issue kit may have used a simpler pressure embossing. This is just a guess on my part. Years back I worked in a print shop and saw some heat embossing done.

The only place where the embossed lines totally disappeared was on the landing pads. The thin band in the center "sandwich" did have lines until glue was applied it was wrapped.
I re-embossed the lines using a small jeweler's flat screwdriver.

I thought a few of the TRF posts were harsh. I applaud Semroc for bringing back such a complicated kit.

Goony X-15, Part 11 Comparisons

Here's a comparison between the Quest X--15 and my Goony version.

I didn't use as many decals on the nose cone.
To be honest, the Quest decal sheet had all those little decals in different areas on the decal sheet. A real pain to place all those tiny details. On a Goony it's not really needed.

Here's all the tiny decals I didn't use on the Goony!

In 1988, Estes had a stumpy NASA X-15 kit #0889.
The side fairings look great but were probably hard to form out of cardstock.