Can someone explain Estes skill levels?

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katinthebox

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I understand they're changing/have changed their terms for everything, but what about a kit makes it 2/Intermediate as opposed to 3/Advanced, 1/Beginner, or 0(?)/E2X?

When I started getting back into this a few months ago, I felt pretty confident I could jump right in, but figured I might want to start a step down from what I used to build at first. So, I looked up the Viking (having put together something like 50 of them for a school science project as a kid) and saw it's intermediate... It was literally the first thing I ever built!
I ended up getting the Tandem X launch set- it's labeled as beginner. I built the Crossfire first and assumed the distinction between beginner and intermediate was the cutouts for the wings, but then I started the Amazon and... if that's beginner, what the heck is E2X??
What would make something advanced/3 or harder?
 

neil_w

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The old system was better, but we're stuck with the new one, so....
  • Beginner now covers E2X ("Easy to assemble") and various variations of "Ready to Fly" or "Almost Ready to Fly" and such. Usually that means critical parts like fins and such are some sort of plastic assembly that doesn't take much skill, everything is pre-finished so no painting required.
  • Intermediate is what used to be Skill level 1. Mostly paper and wood construction, painting and decals required. But nothing complex, usually only one set of fins.
  • Advanced covers rockets that would have been Skill levels 2 and 3. More fins and/or more complex assemblies and finishing required. Or multi-stage, or cluster.
  • Expert and Master are just increasing degrees of difficulty in assembly and/or finishing.

You can browse the Estes site by skill level, just looking at the different rockets at each level will give you a decent idea.
 

caveduck

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The Estes skill levels have a long and convoluted history, begun ~50 years ago for marketing purposes to try to keep customers in the hobby longer. IMO the skill levels are very compressed towards the low end compared to other "builder" hobbies. This is likely because the average customer still only ever builds a few rockets in the course of 12-18 months before exiting. The original 1-5 levels were created before there were any RTF or ARF products, so there were gyrations in the levels to make up for that. If I were them I'd reduce the number of levels to beginner / intermediate / advanced. No other hobby business that I know of has such an elaborate and confusing difficulty rating system, for so little benefit.

If you already have decent skills from plastic models, airplanes, ships, etc. you can probably build almost anything in the Estes lineup without too much trouble. If you're just starting, I would do a few in the "Advanced" or lower categories to learn how things work for rockets, but I wouldn't worry too much about the Estes ratings.

To get the real scoop on the complexity of any given model, you can check the kit instructions archive on the Estes site here: https://estesrockets.com/instructions/. It's a gold mine of info, well worth a look before you buy the kit!
 

katinthebox

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I agree 100%, and honestly, don't think I paid attention to anything aside from motor size (wasn't allowed to use anything > B) as a kid, and never had any trouble.
I guess part of why I'm asking is because I've got this ACME Spitfire kit sitting in the corner that I very desperately do not want to mess up... but I'm seeing so much variance between "intermediate" and "advanced" that I'm 😬 about starting on it... What if the advanced Estes kits I've done aren't actually that advanced?
Seriously, the only clear distinction I've seen is if there are precut slots for fins and complexity/presence of decals... and frankly, I couldn't care less about the damn decals unless it's a replica of an actual rocket (especially if they have a manufacturer logo on them! Barf!)
 

katinthebox

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I'm SUPER excited about it! But, like I said, very much anxious about doing it "well," which is hilarious given the design, y'know? OH NO IT CAME OUT WONKY LOOKING!
 

rklapp

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I think the idea is for builders to work their way up the scale to avoid rocketn00bing the kit. Also, builders should have to at least successfully complete one capsule escape tower before progressing to a Master kit. I'm about to complete the Saturn IB, but the Air Walker kicked my butt. Go figure...


It seems to me that the level also takes into account how easy it is to paint the rocket and to lose the rocket on its first flight.
 

katinthebox

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I think the idea is for builders to work their way up the scale to avoid rocketn00bing the kit. Also, builders should have to at least successfully complete one capsule escape tower before progressing to a Master kit.


It seems to me that the level also takes into account how easy it is to paint the rocket and lose the rocket on its first flight.
LOL in my experience, how easy to paint/lose is equally contingent on did it get painted, what color did you paint it, how cloudy was it, and what did it land in...
Screenshot_20210410-002545-01.jpeg
Screenshot_20210410-002626-01.jpeg


Iridescent paint that changes color depending on the angle of light? Extremely red glittery part that'll dangle on the way down? Bright orange chute? No leaves on the trees yet? Plenty of sun, but slightly overcast in a very uniform manner?
Vanished!
 

rklapp

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How many times have we seen a new rocketeer who announces their second rocket build is gonna be a mid-power on a F motor?
 

SecondRow

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I'm SUPER excited about it! But, like I said, very much anxious about doing it "well," which is hilarious given the design, y'know? OH NO IT CAME OUT WONKY LOOKING!
The worse a Spitfire looks, the better. It‘s a unique build. It requires a lot of patience, because you can really only glue in one centering ring or one body tube section at a time. Here’s what you need to be able to do to build a Spitfire:
1. Cut a body tube into four sections along curved lines.
2. Cut unique fin shapes from balsa stock.
3. Carefully glue in each centering ring and tube section separately so that the CR is attached to half of each tube section. This is probably the hardest part. You will need a 1/8” launch rod to help with alignment of the rings.
4. Roll a nose cone from cardstock.

This thread gives an excellent build pictorial for the Spitfire and is what I used when I built mine. Good luck! https://www.rocketryforum.com/threads/fliskits-acme-spitfire-pictorial-build.50138/
 

katinthebox

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The worse a Spitfire looks, the better. It‘s a unique build. It requires a lot of patience, because you can really only glue in one centering ring or one body tube section at a time. Here’s what you need to be able to do to build a Spitfire:
1. Cut a body tube into four sections along curved lines.
2. Cut unique fin shapes from balsa stock.
3. Carefully glue in each centering ring and tube section separately so that the CR is attached to half of each tube section. This is probably the hardest part. You will need a 1/8” launch rod to help with alignment of the rings.
4. Roll a nose cone from cardstock.

This thread gives an excellent build pictorial for the Spitfire and is what I used when I built mine. Good luck! https://www.rocketryforum.com/threads/fliskits-acme-spitfire-pictorial-build.50138/
Oooh thank you!!! Next time I have a day with favorable humidity levels (they call it the Chickahominy swamp for a reason) I am finally going to open the damn bag and get going on it!
 

jrap330

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I'm SUPER excited about it! But, like I said, very much anxious about doing it "well," which is hilarious given the design, y'know? OH NO IT CAME OUT WONKY LOOKING!
well read the instructions and make a determination. You stated you built kits, so are the fins 2 piece. You stated decals and I will say on 2 military aircraft kits those decals did make it a complicated build and drove straight to drink.
 

dr wogz

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Fliskits are excellent kits! the instructions are top notch!

With all kits, it is recommended that you read thru them prior to building. This helps understand the steps involved, and helps establish what the assembly flow will be. It's also a chance to validate the process, inspect / understand the parts / their fit, and ask / inquire if something isn't clear..

Fliskit's 'Nell' is a more challenging build than the ACME spitfire!

Remember as well, what one company calls "challenging" is another one's 'intermediate'. Don't let Estes set the bar for complexity.. (With one, maybe two exceptions, I feel all of Estes's kits are a "3" or lower when compared to the many other suppliers out there..)
 
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