Thursday, February 28, 2019

Estes Black Brant II Kit #1958 Build, Part 5, Fin Tapers

Both the kits had die-cut balsa. The blades must of had been dull - the cuts didn't got all the way through on both sheets.

This is why you had to stack and sand fins!
Look at the die-crush on the trailing edges.

One set of instructions mentions rounding the leading edges. The other instructions imply the leading edge is left square. The fins are thick, I decided to make them a bit sleeker.

I checked Peter Alway's Rockets Of The World to see how the original fins were shaped. That looks like a very complicated profile.
But, the taper from the root edge to the outside edge could be added.

To better visualize the taper width when sanding I marked the outside edge.
A good wipe of CA glue seals the outside edge so the ink won't be absorbed deep into the open end balsa. The CA glue also strengthens the thinner outside edge of the fin. Don't do this on any area that will be a glue joint later on!
After the CA glue is dry, I did a quick pass with a Sharpie.

Using my Great Planes Easy Sander with 220 grit sandpaper the fin was tapered.

On the right is the before, on the left is the after.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

New Estes 2019 Catalog

Here's a couple screen grabs from a short Estes 2019 Catalog promo video. It will be available in March. I like how the catalog is set up. To see the video, CLICK HERE
"Here's some of the past, present and maybe future kits."
On the NARAM Estes tour I did ask about the 1/100 Saturn 1B. Ellis Langford said it will be a kit but didn't give a production date.

The 1/200 Scale Saturn V is shown. It's hard to read the price but it looks like $69.99.
I'm not saying that's the price, that's what I see - 
There are clear plastic fins that are held in place by the screw on engine retainer.

Estes Black Brant II Kit #1958 Build, Part 4, Engine Mount

The instructions imply that you should glue the low end of the short BT-55 tail cone tube first. You do want to put the bead of glue on the tube so nothing squeezes out when the parts are slid together. I used the Beacon Fabri-Tac glue on the plastic to tube joints.

GOTCHA: You should glue the top of the tail cone tube first. If you glued the bottom of the tube you won't be able to get glue inside the top edge. The blue tube would be in the way!

Two 50/55 centering rings are glued on top of the plastic coupler.

The first ring was slid on the top. I set down a bead of glue then slid down the ring. As the ring was slid down it was turned to spread out the glue.

The second ring is glued and stacked on the first one.
Notice the blue tube is extended out the top. The instructions show it even with the top of the upper ring.

The yellow spacer tube is marked 1/2" from the low end.
The engine block is slid in from the top. My engine block was very loose, I had to build up the sides with a bead of glue.

With the yellow tube slid in up to the pencil mark, the engine block is slid from the top until is rests on the yellow tube. Then a glue fillet was set in from the top.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Estes Black Brant II Kit #1958 Build, Part 3, Engine Mount

Mentioned earlier -
The instructions say to open up the small end of the tail cone until the yellow tube slides in.
Mine did, but just to double check I tried to slide a D engine in. It didn't fit!

Some 220 grit sandpaper was again wrapped around an engine casing and the hole made larger.

The edge of tail cone was now getting very thin. I could sand some from the bottom to widen the lip but that would effect the fit of the trailing edges of the fins.

Some Beacon Fabri-Tac glue was used on the plastic to tube joint.

If the space around the tube is equal, the tube should be sticking straight up, right?

This is as far as I could slide the blue tube in. It should probably be even with the end of the tail cone.

That was the problem. Sand and shorten the tail cone and the low end taper of the fin won't fit. If it were to thin the tail cone edges would be paper thin.

Friction fitting an engine in this assembly will be doable, but tricky.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Estes Black Brant II Kit #1958 Build, Part 2, Engine Mount

The tail cone ends up as two separate pieces. Double check the instructions to be sure you don't cut it apart in the wrong place.

I used my razor saw to cut off the ends.

Notice where I am pointing with my tweezers. Don't cut on this recess! I went ahead and cleaned up the seams before cutting apart the tail cone.

The sawed ends were pretty rough!

To round out the ends I wrapped 220 grit sandpaper around a 18mm engine casing and sanded.
GOTCHA: Following the instructions, you are told to sand the opening until the yellow spacer tube slides into the tail cone. The yellow spacer tube is the diameter of a "D" engine, not the larger diameter of the BT-50 engine tube.
I quickly found out much more had to be reamed and sanded out. If you assembled the mount without checking the fit with an actual engine casing you wouldn't be able to friction fit an engine! See the next blog post.

Sunday, February 24, 2019


I've started prepping for my presentation at NARCON 2019. My session will be sometime on Saturday, March 2.

"How to Successfully Make 
Card Stock Shrouds"

Why card stock shrouds? They have been the downfall of many rocket builds. Usually Poor fitting, creased and out of round. The weak link of rocket construction.
I'll have plenty of tips, display models, giveaways and maybe a short bit of music. (Very short on the music)
I can promise the presentation will be much more interesting than the topic!

Checking the NARCON vendor page I noticed Estes, Quest, Aerotech, ASP, Northcoast and JonRocket will be there! 

To go to the NAR / NARCON page: CLICK HERE

Estes Black Brant II Kit #1958 Build, Part 1 Parts

Initially the parts seemed to be of good quality. I'll get into the concerns later on.

The newer kit had a blue engine mount tube, the older kit had the stronger brown tube.
Parts of interest from the left going clockwise: A red coupler, the tail cone, three toothpick antennas, the water-slide decal sheet and the nose cone in the center.

Here's the stick on decal sheet from the newer kit. You might be able to use these if you cut right on the edges of the ink.
The problem is the C.A.R.D.E and the nine small white "CC II A 16" stickers. Those would have clear borders around the print images.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Estes Black Brant II Kit #1958 Background

The Estes Black Brant II kit was available from 1986 - 1998.
This model was the second design from the Canadian sounding rocket program.
I always thought it was a clean, classic look with a very interesting roll pattern.
BT-55 based and D engine powered. Recovery was an 18" parachute.

Estes brought back their BT-50 based Black Brant III kit last year.

Somewhere along the way I picked up two Estes Black Brant II kits. These were obviously from different kit runs and different years. The earlier kit on the left had water slide decals and a parachute you had to assemble. The kit on the right had stick-on decals and a assembled parachute. The instructions were different in both kits. All other parts were the same.

Interesting to note the Skill Level was "3" was on the older kit with the water slide decals. The Skill Level 4 was the rating on the sticker version.

I actually started this build last year and set it aside. There were some concerns with the tail cone, fin fit and antennas. I doubt the toothpick antennas would stay on the after the first launch. There was some trouble shooting on this build.


Does this happen to anyone else?

These are the parachute shroud lines from one of the Black Brant kits. For all the newbies, years ago you had to assemble kit parachutes. The shroud lines were rolled and held together with a piece of tape.

I was careful when removing the tape - this is what I ended up with! After 10 minutes of untangling I finally had one long usable shroud line.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Mistake in Estes #1969 Saturn V Inter Stage Wrap? Part 2

Kylie Gamble posted on Facebook:

"Update, on the issue of the inter stage wrap being molded incorrectly. Estes told me to cut the bottom line of the wrap and rotate the cut bottom so the tunnels line up. The best John Boren Estes R and D man could tell me. Still not quite correct but will have to do."

Some (nameless) builders went overboard with their responses - 
"Why can't F-ING Estes rockets company do it, and do it right the first time."

My thoughts in italic:
Wow - you should count your lucky stars there is even a new Saturn V kit. 
It's an easy fix, easier than cutting out the vacu-form wraps themselves. On a revised, complex production like this you might expect adjustments. Every rocket kit I've built from easy to complex has requirecutting, sanding and fitting of the parts. 
Hold that "F-ing Estes" comment until you've produced and sold a few thousand scale kits. 

"Given the historical importance of this rocket, plus it being marketed for the 50th anniversary, I'm ashamed Estes didn't double check everything like this. Yeah it's no big deal in terms of flying but when it's marketed as the limited edition 50th anniversary kit, it is." 

You're ashamed? Given the historical importance - changes were made. The Illage rockets are Apollo 11 correct now, four instead of eight. The vacu-form details are better. The decals have been corrected. The tower is easier to assemble. There's that new LEM Shroud. No more vacuform fins! 

Estes R&D has made the build much easier.

Evan Patrekis said it best: "I've dealt with far worse!!"
You and me both!

Odd'l Rockets Stealth Build, Finished

That little band of chrome around the engine tube adds a lot.

The wing was glued on 1/8" forward of the main body tube. I thought it gave the model more dimensional interest.

I think this one captures the spirit of the Estes design.
The wings might be a little large, it should be plenty stable!

I don't think I mentioned, the gray paint is Rustoleum 2X Stone Gray. This gray is a pretty good match to the catalog picture, maybe a bit darker.

Before anybody asks, I don't know if this one will become a kit or not.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mistake in Estes #1969 Saturn V Inter Stage Wrap? Part 1

On the NAR Facebook page, Jay M. Chladek may have found an error -
If the wraps are aligned (as molded) and shown in the instructions, the vertical half round wood tunnels may not line up between the Inter Tank and Inter Stage vacu-form wrap locations!

"ALERT: There is an error with the S-1C to S-II wrap as designed by Estes. The details on the S-1C part of the main wrap are clocked over by one position. The four sectors on the Saturn V are labeled Positions I, II III and IV. The S-II and Inter Stage part of the wrap from left to right starting at the seam are Positions II, III, IV and I. Unfortunately the details on the S-IC part of the wrap from left to right are Positions I, II, III, and IV. To fix that, I had to cut the S-II part of the wrap off the model after I had applied it! But I got it fixed and it didn't require much repair (thank goodness)."

"This is a scan from the instruction sheet showing the wrap as it appears in the kit. The problem isn't evident until you apply the wrap. If the modification is not made, it is amplified when the lower S-IC wraps are added as they help to align the two tunnel rails. If you don't reposition the wrap, you now have a tunnel rail going down the gantry swing arm side of the rocket and the umbilical port on the middle S-IC wrap is now sitting in a completely wrong sector."

"Here is the fix. It is easy to do, especially if you haven't glued the wrap on yet. Cut the wrap at the S-IC to Interstage seam, or at the seam below it (which I did to keep from damaging the ullage motor fairings). Then reposition the S-IC part of the wrap. If you do it right, the swing arm umbilical at the top of the S-1C should be perfectly centered directly under the access door on the interstage area. If done properly, everything below should align correctly on the shifted wrap seam while everything above should still align properly on the original wrap seam positions from the S-II on up (with the minor exception of the SII to S-IVB transition which should have the molded in access door also aligning with the swing arms/umbilical attachments as well). 

I contacted Estes about the problem and suggested they make an addendum to the instruction sheet. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. But the fix works and the rocket will be more accurate when done."

I haven't built the new #1969 Saturn V kit so I can't verify the alignment. It sounds like Mr. Chladek found the error and made the correction after noticing the tunnel pencil lines didn't line up! 

The #1969 Saturn V kit instructions are now posted on the Estes website: CLICK HERE
Go to pages 7 and 9 (right side of PDF) to see the tunnels and how they should vertically line up with the molded wrap tunnel locations.

On the left - It looks like they corrected the names on the scale kits page.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Odd'l Rockets Stealth Build, Part 11, Decal Placement & Canopy Gluing

The darker elevon decals worked well set on the trailing edge of the wings.

The USFF decals were set at an angle like the original Estes kit.

The rear of the cockpit decal is set about 1/8" from the nose cone shoulder lip. Use a damp Q-tip to conform it to the curvature of the nose cone. Let it thoroughly dry before gluing on the clear cockpit.

The black circles are centered on the ends of the intakes.
Against the gray paint the home print black decals show as a dark black.
Use a medium CA glue to adhere the canopy. Medium CA (not thin CA) will help with any gap filling around the edges.

Squeeze a small "pool" drop of CA on some scrap cardboard. Dip a toothpick tip in the glue, remove the toothpick and let the glue dry.
The dried CA will prevent the next application of glue from soaking into the toothpick.

Squeeze out another small drop of glue. Hold the canopy down on the nose cone centered over the decal. Set the toothpick into the CA picking up a drop of glue. Run the bead of glue commpletely around the edge of the canopy.

Odd'l Rockets Stealth Build, Part 10, Decals and Trim

Here's the decals from the Estes kit and

There were also two Air Force stars and bars decals using white ink for the wings.

While the Estes kit had you paint the molded in canopy black, I decided to use the cockpit decal from the Odd'l Rockets Fighter Fleet models. The blue colors were changed to gray. The intake decals are round to fit the end of the BT-5s. The gray "boxed" elevon decals are a darker shade for a better contrast over the lighter gray overall paint. On this home print sheet the stars and bars won't have any white.

You can't use the AIR FORCE name without paying a licensing fee these days. I doubt they would ever find out but I won't take the chance. You'd think as a taxpayer you've already paid for the name rights.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Odd'l Rockets Stealth Build, Part 9, Canopy Fitting

Around the edge of the clear canopy there is a slight "trench". So you can better see the cut line, run a pen around the trench. I prefer to use a fine point Sharpie. 
With a new knife blade, trace around the canopy along the pen line. You don't have to cut all the way through.
TIP: The plastic will be stretched thinner at the highest or widest areas. The center area of the long sides will be thinner - Go light!

To make the edge removal easier,
Make some side cuts from the scored line to the outside of the canopy.

Bend the edges back and forth until the sides crack away from the center canopy. You might have to go back and score the line again.

Here's what the rough canopy cut will look like.

Wrap some 220 grit around the main tube and sand back and forth in a straight line.

The upper picture shows the edges coming off. You should sand until the pen lines are gone and the sides are smooth.

Check the fit on the nose cone.
On this canopy I had to make a deeper radius at the front. Notice the sandpaper is wrapped over the front end of the nose cone. The rear of the canopy is raised up when sanding.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Odd'l Rockets Stealth Build, Part 8, Lugs and Up Until Now

In the original kit, there were two launch lugs glued on the bottom. Because there are two, I assume these were meant to simulate some sort of guns or missiles.

From above, the wing assembly does look "Stealthy".

There is quite a lot of fin area on this model. This probably isn't a good windy day rocket, it could turn into the wind.

Here's the build after the first white undercoat. It's really a good looking model.

In the next post we'll cut out and fit the canopy.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

#11 Blades - CHEAP!

From TRF, Frederocket found some cheap #11 style blades -

"If looking for #11 blades, try the link below. The blades are made in the USA by a company in NJ called TECHNI-EDGE, recently bought up by Black and Decker/Stanley. 100 blades in a pack for $10.95 or the more you purchase the cheaper the packs are."

Here's the link: CLICK HERE

Most of the the comparable 100 packs of X-Acto #11 blades start at more than double the price.

Odd'l Rockets Stealth Build, Part 7, Wing Tip Fin Fitting

In the original kit, you would sand an angle in the outside edge of the wing. The larger wing tip is glued into the angle.

I took pictures of this but they aren't on the flash card in the camera! My small build camera is having some trouble.
Look close at the REAR VIEW drawing at the lower left corner of the template. Sanding the wing edge makes a weak area with the balsa being thinned.

Also note in the REAR VIEW that this drawing is upside down. The two fins pointing down are glued 90 degrees to the wing surface.

Here's the wing assembly, glued onto the top center of the body tube.
The larger fin is glued 1/2" from the center of the wing joint. Both upper fins are glued straight on the flat wing surface.

On the lower right is the lower fin that had its root edge angle sanded.