Monday, July 17, 2017

A Day In The Life - Full Time Rocketry

A lot of hobbyists dream of starting their own model rocket company. Here's a typical days activity here at Odd'l Rockets.
The morning starts with emails. I'll answer building questions and send out decal and carded model PDFs. Other days there could be orders for parts and supplies.

Most of the day was spent KIT BAGGING! 
Body tubes are cut to size and instructions are printed.
The picture shows a small part of the largest kit and accessory order I've ever received from Apogee. There are 15 Birdie kits in that bag! I've still got to make up Little Green Men and Pigasus kits, blast deflectors, parachutes and flame resistant shock cord.

Along with blog builds there are custom builds for clients.
This is an Estes Patriot with a 24mm engine mount, 3/16" launch lug and payload section.

Work continued on new products. There was some decal re-draws today.
On the right is the first draft decals for the F-104 Starfighter kit from Odd'l Rockets. It never fails, you think you've got decals right but after a few prototype builds there is always revisions.

I did some carving today.
The wing tanks for the F-104 were too small on the first prototype, shown on the left.
The scale size is shown in the center. At 1/2 inch in diameter they are too heavy, the model would then require nose weight.
On the right is a good compromise at 7/16" diameter. A little shorter than scale but workable.

Another custom build arrived. The new Shrockets Skonk Wulf will be an upcoming blog build.

The engine mount has already been assembled. The fins are cut out and filled. The body tube spirals are filled.
Tomorrow the filler/primer will be sprayed and sanded.

Last night I wrote another article for the Apogee Peak Of Flight newsletter after getting approval to proceed. That doesn't mean it will get published - Fingers crossed!

To make a living in model rocketry you work with many small income streams. Custom builds, graphic arts production for kit instructions, finished models auctioned on Ebay, articles, kits, consulting and blog advertising. It is rewarding but still a business.

So there's a typical day, most of it spent at home building, bagging and designing model rockets. You should see my living room. Boxes of parts on the floor, two models being built on the kitchen table. How do I get away with it? I'm divorced and not dating right now.


  1. Ah, the rocketeer's life. Sounds great, I'm a little envious.
    Looking forward to your Skonk Wulf build. I think I was one of the last to get a design pack (w/templates, parts list, assembly instructions, and WATERSLIDE decals) before the Shrox website was put on limbo a few weeks ago (probably due to licensing agreements with Apogee to sell kits only). Apogee did make a couple of changes: slotted tube w/TTW fins, and peel and stick rather than waterslide decals (ugh). I consider myself lucky since the kit costs about four times as much as the design pack. A heads up though, the paint pattern involves something like seven different colors, so a little planning ahead is required.
    Love those Shrox designs. Between him and Jim Flis you probably have two of the most innovative designers of our time. Cheers!

    1. Hi BAR,
      I have started on the Skonk Wulf. There are a few things I have upgraded on the build, more on that later. I did check out the paint pattern. Complex paint is something I expect from Shrox!

  2. That decal sheet for the F104 is awesome ! I imagine that the profit margin is pretty slim in the small-scale model rocketry game - sure am thankful for all the folks like you Chris who provide the nifty stuff that makes rocketry fun!

    1. Hi Openroad,
      The profit margin isn't high especially when most buy the majority of kits from Estes on clearance. (I'm guilty of that too!) Good to hear you like the Odd'l products.

  3. We're both building Patriots at the same time, only mine's just a little bigger and will likely have a different scheme, if you're going with the standard one for your client. I am also looking forward to you're Shrockets build. I have always wanted one of his kits, but there are always other things first.

    1. Thanks Metal,
      I've put together probably six Patriots in the past. It'll have the standard kit colors but water slides instead of the stickers.

    2. The only Patriot I have built up to now has been a Madcow mini Patriot, which I did in the standard scheme. That one will fit in the motor mount of the one I am building now, with room to spare. :-) This one will have a different scheme, too. I have seen it called the copper Patriot.

  4. Great post. Do you still enjoy it all as much when it is a full-time job?

    1. Hi Neil,
      Developing a new product can be exciting. Kit bagging is the real work though. It's a little like working at a theme park, everything turns into a job when the magic wears off and it becomes a real job.
      The rewards are when you hear or see build and flight successes.

    2. I hear you about working at a theme park. I spent two summers in high school working at Six Flags Magic Mountain as a ride operator. After that, I had a different perspective on trips to theme parks.

  5. Hi, Chris,
    That's kind of cool that you are able to eat, breathe, and sleep model rocketry!
    In my case with wife, kids, and grand-kiddoes, time is tight, so I have to go to some lengths to schedule my model rocketry activities. Many mornings I get up at 4:30 a.m. to grab a little bit of shop time before heading out to the gym and then to work. Many a rocket fin has been glued to a model while in pre-coffee 'blurry-eyed' condition. So far, all my models have flown pretty well, despite this!
    I also play a lot of music - church services and other small gigs I do, so a lot of time is devoted to practice, learning new tunes, transposing music lead sheets, and messing around with instrument maintenance. Also have a couple of woodworking projects in progress. No wonder the Lunar Patrol build posts haven't progressed too far lately!
    Anyway, I really enjoy reading your blog every day and following all the cool stuff you do with model rocketry!

    1. Hi Ed,
      I couldn't have done full time rocketry when my girls were growing up! Now they're off to college so some time is freed up.
      Music is on the back burner, I only play piano now. Entertaining on the cruise lines was good until the new bookers decided I was too old! I've done plenty of arranging and transposing on Finale. Show charts were constantly evolving.
      Thanks for stopping by the blog!

    2. Too old ??? !!! Geez...What do bookers know?

    3. If you've ever seen Chris on You Tube, his act is great, and the bookers booking young kids on the cheap are cheating the passengers. I would love to Chris's complete act.

  6. Chris, What printer do you use for kit decals?

    1. Hi David,
      I use a HP Officejet Pro 8000. It's a few years old and probably could go at any time!
      I've learned to do three clear coats of UV Protectant Krylon Acrylic to seal the ink.
      Here's how I set up the printer:

  7. Details about your rocket building offer Chris?

    1. Hi Loquacious,
      I do custom builds for collectors and a few for museums. I promise catalog quality builds. Prices vary, I would have to know what you want built before I can give a quote. Usual turn-around time is 3 to 4 weeks. Right now my paint schedule is slowed because of humidity and drying times.
      Let me know what you are interested in having done - For this it's best to contact me at: