Monday, April 30, 2018

Annual Blog Letter

About once a year I have to post some ground rules for the blog. As it continues to grow, some things can get out of hand.
These suggestions aren't meant to discourage any blog readers.

I don't want this blog to turn into a forum.
When a builder posts a question on a hobby forum, the original post gets too many answers. Many could be wrong, suggested by builders with very little rocketry experience.
So please don't offer advice to a question posed in a comment.

I do read and respond to blog comments. I will also delete anything that is out of line, including spam. You'd be amazed how many spam comments include sneaky website links.

Everybody has their own way to do things. Don't tell me I've done it wrong! I make errors and will post them. Hopefully, my mistake could save you some frustration on your next build.
If you think your methods are better, please start your own blog. I follow four other rocketry blogs.

I pick out model builds I feel would be interesting. I have built rockets that were requested in the comments, a suggested build is coming up! I can't always do this, especially if a model is out of production. OOP kits are expensive and not interesting if nobody else can find the same kit for a reasonable price.
If an out of production kit is featured, I might offer decals and templates so you can build one yourself from currently available parts. There are exceptions, once in a while I'll find something different on Ebay and share it here.

I realize some posts may have repeat information. How many different ways can you assemble a 20/50 engine mount? There are always new readers who may not know. I learn best through repetition, especially when things are drilled in.

I can (and do) answer build questions by email, if I've had experience with the kit in question. But, please understand, I can't be a "pen pal". In the past a few have wanted me to walk them through an entire build through multiple emails. 

Please do not post vendor links and sources in the comment section. It's better to email me with a product I may not be aware of. If it turns out to be of interest, I always give name credit to the person who suggested it. The blog is not here to sell products for anybody else. Vendors occasionally send me kits to build. I'll feature new products if they are interesting to the LPR builder. I will occasionally mention my own line of kits. Unless I am contracted to do a build or draw up kit instructions, the only money I receive from the blog is from advertisements and Patreon donations.

EDIT: If you copy a picture of a finished model from this blog, please give photo credit! In the past a few vendors have copied a finished build picture, then pasted it on their website to sell kits. That's the reason I have to put the blog name on a finished picture. I don't build models to make money for somebody else.

The blog was started as a record of my builds. The goal was to share techniques for better built, better performing model rockets. I don't claim to have all the answers, I'm still learning! If someone picks up an idea or tip, it's all worthwhile.
Thanks for reading the blog!

Estes Mini A Heli #007272, Build, Background

Here's a new one from Estes.
"IT'S HERE! GREAT for NAR Competition! Mini engine powered and competition ready helicopter recovery."

I'm probably going to NARAM this August. I did compete back in 1975 and 1976, but to be honest I know very little about model rocket competition. Back then, most of my competition models were from CMR kits (Competiton Model Rockets) I've never entered a helicopter contest before.
I've built an Apogee Heli-Roc but never flown it. I also have a FlisKits Rose-A-Roc in the bag.

This Mini A Heli looks like a simplified Rose-A-Roc, no wires to bend and no complex central spindle. The blades are on the outside of the central BT-5 tube.

Here's the front and back of the package.
The face card illustration shows the blades against the body tube, but there is no burn-through thread shown.

The kit includes an 18" long BT-5 tube. The tube is packed tightly between the sealed bag ends.

I looked over the tube before opening the bag. It seemed okay - 
There was the start of a crimp in the BT-5 tube. It's near one of the ends. 2" of the tube will be cut off and discarded. Maybe this crimp will end up under the coupler?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Finished

This wasn't quite the same as my old Centuri 1/100 scale Little Joe II. The Centuri Joe had well defined corrugations on self adhesive chrome.
It did capture the small kit size. This Estes re-mix uses 13mm engines.

Here's a comparison of the two models I put together. On the left is the Estes partial kit with the corrugated wrap.
On the right is my copy, without the corrugation. If you ask me, not much difference at this size!

If you have a spare 1/100 scale Estes Apollo capsule and tower kit and some BT-58 tubing, you could build a baby Joe. I have the wraps, fin pattern and decals available on a free PDF.
Email me at: and request the Estes 1/100th scale Little Joe II.

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 19, New Better Decals

I'm making two Little Joe IIs, so decals were drawn up earlier for the second build.
These were sneaked in while I was putting together some F-104 kits. I hate to waste decal paper.

The old decals peeled off easily. I hadn't done any clear coats.

The capsule decals seemed to adhere better. I had to remove them with masking tape.

Here's the replacement decals.
Good adhesion with no cloudy edges.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 18, Old Decals, Uh Oh!

The original decals were in the partial kit purchased on Ebay.

Usually I'll try an Estes logo decal first, or a decal I wouldn't use on the model anyway. This way I can test the soak time and how well it transfers onto the model. There was no extra decal on the sheet, even the kit name didn't have a clear coat on it.

Holding the decal sheet up to the light, I could see there was a wide overhang of the clear coat. I cut the escape rocket decal close to the black ink and tried to soak and transfer the clear edge.The clear strip broke up!

I rarely use Microscale decal film but it can come in handy. This adds an additional layer of clear coat to an older, brittle decal sheet.
It seems expensive for the little bottle. I wonder if it is just re-packaged Future acrylic floor finish.

I applied a coat of the decal film onto the decal sheet with a foam brush.

Using my big Estes Little Joe for decal placement, I set the UNITED STATES down the body. The bottom of the second T in STATES Lines up with the bottom of the mid wrap strip.

Notice the clear areas on the decal seems foggy.

Turns out the decals didn't stick!
When they dried they turned up on the edges. I know, I should use the Microscale Setting solution. Well, I don't have any.
I'll have to draw and print up my own decals.

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 17, Silver Paint & Upper Wrap

The raised edge on the wraps made for an easy mask of the silver

The self adhesive upper wrap was pretty old, who knows if it will still stick.

The border edges are cut off. Peel the backing off the excess and test that for adhesion.
The peel and stick wrap was still good!

When applying a wrap like this, I like to keep the backing on and peel it off as I go around the tube.
Leaving the backing on keeps dirt and oils off the body tube and wrap.

I expected a slight overlap at the seam.

What I didn't realize was the wrap didn't reach the top of the tube!
Oh well, not a big deal.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Salvage 1, Vulture

On the Facebook Model Rocketry Fanatics page,
Charles Fassel-Reynard De Foch asked:
"Has anyone ever tried building and flying this baby?" 
Salvage 1 (1979) TV Movie

Another reference and link from
"Estes created a prototype flying model of the fictional Vulture spaceship featured in the TV program "Salvage 1."  A kit, however, was never produced."

Michael Hellmund tells the back story: CLICK HERE

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 16, Fin Gluing

The fins are glued on even with the end of the body. There will be a step gap where the fin goes on top of the lowest wrap.
The instructions are concerned with very slight fillets. A minimal fillet probably won't fill that gap.

While holding the fin in place, the root edge was traced and cut with a new knife blade.

The wrap was removed for a smooth root edge surface.

Here's how the fin fits after removing a small section of the bottom band wrap. Much better!

The entire model is sprayed gloss white before masking for the silver.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 15, Trim and Fin Fillets

The tunnel covers go on last.
These are very small. To apply the glue, I held them down using the tip of my knife.l They were picked up with tweezers and pressed in place on the body.

Here's how they look in place. Fins are next.

I hope all that black ink (placement lines) will be covered by the silver paint!
Looking ahead -
The instructions saw to use a toothpick to apply  the glue fillets. Huh? I would assume the fillets are at a minimum, keeping the root edge joint sharp.

I'll probably do one application of yellow glue fillets, not Titebond M&TG. They'll dry, shrink and be small enough.

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 14, Body Wraps and Trim Strips

The corrugated wrap goes around the low end of the tube, the bottom edge even with the end of the tube.
When I got to the end the edges were burnished with the back end of a Sharpie barrel. I didn't want to burnish over the entire wrap, just the ends that tend to peel up. Any pressure would also flatten out the very subtle embossing. The ends don't match up, the gap will be covered by a card stock tunnel.

The wide bottom strip is even with the end of the tube. I used my sanding block to help even up the edge.

A couple of the cover strips are very thin. Cut carefully - the thin strips can move around under the straight edge.

It won't take much glue to adhere the thin strips. Remove any excess before applying so you'll have less glue squeezing out when the strip is pressed onto the body.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Nesletter Archives

Buzz Nau posted on the N.A.R. Facebook page:

"I started this project a few weeks ago and it's finally finished. With help from John Potts, Roger Wilfong, and Mark Chrumka, the entire library of Tminus5 from HUVARS (Huron Valley Rocket Society) and Apogee from MIVARS (Miami Valley Rocket Society) is online in PDF format. Each index also includes an "About" page with a short description of each club and their newsletters."

The Tminus5 archive is located at
The Apogee archive is located at 

There is plans, tips, trivia and rocketry news from 1985 through 1989 - 
To get an overall view, go to "The Best Of" collections:

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 13, Kevlar and Wrap

The engine mount has already been glued into the body tube. I probably should have tied the Kevlar loop, fitted to the BT-5 engine mount tube.

To do it after the fact,
The Kevlar I'm using has started to unravel. Some glue was applied on the last inch and a half. Twist the Kevlar as you rub the glue into the fiber winds. This stiffens the line and allows you to tie it and feed the loose end through the interior tube.

I couldn't tie the tube loop with the mount already glued in so it was tied around a scrap piece of BT-5. Tie it fairly tight but give the loop a little slack so the engine hook can have movement.

The loose end is fed through the tube and the loop fitted around the short extension of the engine mount tube. Long tweezers can help fit the loop.

The corrugated wrap is slightly formed in the palm of my hand with a 1/2" diameter dowel. Concentrate on the ends so they curve and meet at the tube joint.

Make two small tape loops with the adhesive side out. You don't want it too sticky, it could peel up a layer of paper when it's pulled off.
Before setting on the finish, corrugated side, press and peel off your pant leg a few times to reduce the adhesive.
Set the tape loops on the outside surface of the wrap, one on each side.

Set the wrap, printed side down on scrap cardboard for a shot of adhesive. The tape holds the wrap down close to the backing board preventing any spray from getting under and on the finished side.
I use the 3M 77 adhesive spray.
The 3M 45 is too light a tack, the 90 formula is too strong.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 12, Tower Assembly

The long escape rocket is glued into the tower skirt.
The fit of the pin was very tight. I sanded down the bulb on the end slightly.

Here's the finished tower, ready for a coat of gloss white.
You probably don't have to paint it, but after sanding off the capsule details you'll want a smoother surface for the decals to stick.

A screw eye is set into the capsule base disk.
The hole is small and required a much smaller than standard screw eye. I picked up these size 8 screw eyes at Home Depot.

Paint Problems On Plastic Nose Cones? TIP

On the NAR Facebook page, Thomas VanBruggen posted:

"I am so frustrated right now… I know I have seen you guys post about the same issue but thought it was always because the clearcoat was a different brand then the paint underneath. Well I’ve learned my lesson, and I’ll never use clearcoat again. Rustoleum 2x paint and then Rustoleum 2x satin clear."
Some thoughts:
Plastic typically takes much longer to dry than body tubes and wood fins. Tubes and fins "breathe" and can dry from both tube surface sides, from the outside and inside. Plastic is "sealed" and and the paint only dries from the outside paint skin going in to the surface of the plastic.
So . . . You might want to wait a day or two longer before follow-up coats on that plastic nose cone. John Boren of Estes has posted that Estes will no longer include balsa nose cones in new kits. If you come across balsa nose cones in a recent Estes kit, they are probably using up old excess inventory.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 11, Tower Assembly

The instructions say to sand and even up the sides of the smaller tower sides. It takes very few passes with sandpaper before the sides get to be too small.
Sand a little and check, sand and check again.

Gluing in the sides is easier when there is a slight friction fit.

I pressed the sides in place and then brushed a little liquid cement over the joints.

On every Saturn V tower I've assembled, the internal "O" ring has been too small.

I build up the outside diameter by gluing and wrapping a thin strip of paper around it. Two complete wraps should help the fit.

Even with the wraps there wasn't contact on the one side.
Oh well - it's stronger than it would be otherwise.

Grey or Gray paint?

Anytime I type the word Gray (or Grey) I never know if I got it right.
From the website: I found this:
When all else fails . . .
grAy is how it's spelled in America 
grEy is how it's spelled in England

What is the difference between grey and gray?

According to a very comprehensive color charted provided by (a trusted resource on color swatches) grey and gray are actually two different "color swatches".

According to a survey conducted both in the U.S. and England, many people believe grey is an actual color perceived as the hue of "silver", and gray is a sliding scale of values from black to white.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Estes Little Joe II (Small) Build, Part 10, Tower Assembly

You might be better off only cutting off the escape tower nozzles as you need them. Cut one off, glue in place. They are very small and easy to lose.

TIP: Liquid plastic cement should be used for the capsule and tower assembly. This is the liquid cement in a bottle with a screw cap and attached brush. Because of regulations, new formula plastic tube cement will not glue and hold the plastic pieces together.
This picture was from the first capsule I assembled. I cut all the nozzles free at the start.

I found it easier to use tweezers to hold the nozzles. These tweezers had notches cut into the inside ends for a better grip. Liquid plastic cement was used.
Pick up a nozzle, brush on a bit of cement and position the nozzle in the notch with the tweezers.

Here's a closeup showing the notch and nozzle fit.

Try to get the nozzles to follow the diagonal line of the skirt as shown on the right.

Some masking tape was rolled over sticky side out and set on the work table to hold the tower skirt steady.
The two longer tower sides are glued into the "V" notches in the tower skirt.

After this dries it is flipped over and set into the holes on the top of the capsule.

Hold the tower steady and brush liquid cement over the tower legs through the holes on the inside of the capsule.