Estes Comanche 3

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Apr 28, 2009
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After a slight lapse in judgement, (I spent money on something other than a FlisKit, :eek:.) I've started work on this three-stage. Is there anything I should know about it before I finish it? I've read it has trouble keeping fins on. Is tip-to-tip glassing out of line? I'm thinking a baffle is also in order, since that paper shock cord attach is just begging to fail.
First...I donno what everyone has with the tri-fold method. It works fine when constructed properly. The big thing that often needs to change on the Estes kits is the length of the shock cord to prevent that infamous "Estes Dent." If you can double the length that would make it about perfect.

Second, glassing the fins is not a bad idea (albeit overkill) so long as you use a very light layer of glass and have some nice rounded fillets. Fiberglass does not like corners - especially inside ones. One layer of 2 oz. is plenty. 6 oz. would be waaaaay too much and adds unnecessary weight. I glass my fins on some of my LPR builds this way so I can get away with a streamer rather than a parachute. Realistically, no fiberglassing is needed if you are flying on soft fields and use good construction techniques.

On a side note, there was a group of guys at one of our launches that bought a Comache 3 on site along with some 5 minute epoxy and managed to build and fly it all in the same day. Flew perfectly except that the unpainted rocket is the same color as the corn silage that was out in the field. It made recovery a bit of a pain. :D One recommendation - paint it with bright colors.

Good luck.

I used the tri-fold for years and it works, but after fifty or so flights there's just not much of it left. We had an Estes Fat Boy a while back that planted its self to the fins in wet ground because of it. We had to get a shovel to dig it out. :D Good call on the paint, those boosters are going to be tough to find.
i built my comanchee with 5 minute epoxy...flew all three stages perfect and went WAAAY out of sight. recovered perfect.
1) Don't bother with a baffle. You've got 32" of BT-50 - that's a lot of airspace, and I've used one sheet of wadding every time and never had a streamer melt or shock cord snap.

Alternatively, you could use a baffle and have it separate in the middle of the main body tube. That would mean it'd come down slow even if the streamers (which are very tight in the tube) stick.

2) Don't bother glassing the fins. Just use wood glue and fillet. I've had my boosters survive many hard landings without a scratch.

3) Bright colors are good. Also, putting an ounce of flour between your wadding and streamer will make a nice visible cloud for spotting ejection.
I went ahead and glassed the fins with 3/4 oz. just to make absolutly sure everything stays together. I fly off of pretty much concrete-ish ground out here in the valley, so even normal landings can hurt. I still haven't decided on the baffle.
Mine is built with Yellow Carpenters Glue and light 5 minute epoxy fillets on the fins. I think I cracked a single fin on the 1st stage once, but I do mostly have grass for landing areas.

I haven't used a teabag shockcord mount since the mid 70's, preferring a Kevlar/elastic or now-a-days a stainless leader/kevlar/elastic shock cord mounted to the sustainer motor mount. Incrasing the elastic end to 40" beyond the forward end prevents the Estes dent.

It's had a number of decent flghts but I've never had an opportunity or big enough field to go all up. However on back to back D12-0, B6-0, A8-5 flights the sustainer with twin 1" x 72" Green and Yellow surveyors tape streamers was completely out of sight for more then 20 seconds in Clear blue cloudless skys. Be selective with our motor selection when you fly or be prepared to possibly loss the upper stage;) This one really does zoom out really fast. It's also a very good idea to have a number of other sets of eyes watching the stages as they return.
I would put your name and phone number on all of the stages. Worked wonders for me.

The Estes Comanche 3 is a fun little rocket. It'll give you a bunch of altitude.

With the standard gluing and fillet of the fins, they'll be fine. I use carpenter's glue. It is a little stronger and much easier to work with.

The standard Estes paper mount will work fine, no needing of changing it.

The only problem I've had was putting a kink in the tube when it landed on a fairly hard grass field. I feel that the streamer should be a bit longer.

Enjoy and keep your eyes on it.
I launched my Comanche on a D12 / B6 / A8-5 combo and it stayed in sight the whole time against cloudy skies.
Here's mine and the landing I got today. Ejected the motor instead of the chute. Not a mark on it after it went through the shade net!



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I need to build another of these. been wanting to clone one, then it was rereleased.

No worries on the fins, I never had one break, all with yellow wood glue.

Leave out the motor mounts, so you can fill it up, D12, D12, E9 :)

last one I had was lost on D12 to an old Aerotech E10-0 ( direct stagable :D ) . to D12-7. but with the E9, it will be fun in the top , hehe ...

anyone have a spare decal sheet for on of these ? ;)

~ AL
My son and I are building the Comanche 3, and we lost the shock cord. Can anyone tell us how long the stock one is? We have some sewing elastic, like comes with a lot of rockets, that we plan to use to replace the "rubber band style" cord that we lost. Thanks!
Funny. I saw a bunch of Commanche's this past Saturday at the LUNAR launch on Snow Ranch.

All seem to fly well and it was fairly raining boosters.
My son and I are building the Comanche 3, and we lost the shock cord. Can anyone tell us how long the stock one is? We have some sewing elastic, like comes with a lot of rockets, that we plan to use to replace the "rubber band style" cord that we lost. Thanks!

I'd use probably 3-4 feet of 1/8 elastic. Normal sewing elastic should be fine.

Many people say the longer your shock cord, the less likely you are to suffer the dreaded "Estes dent." There is some argument on the actual data, but there is near-unanimous agreement that really short cords (as used to be found in many kits) produced frequent snap-backs of the nose cone against the body tube (usually with bad results for both).

Many people use ridiculously long shock cords, especially in larger rockets.

The trifold shock cord mount can be problematic if done sloppily -- if the folded-up "teabag" is bulging out into the interior of the tube, the chute or streamer can hang up on it on the way out. Press that sucker down hard against the interior of the tube and you should be good.

And as many others have noted, I would definitely paint it in glaring bright colors.
Funny...I just finished building mine tonight! Unfortunately the wind here in Clovis, NM NEVER seems to die down, so now while I wait for a calm launch day I'm on to Vagabond #2 or the new Leviathan. Cant make up my mind :confused2:
Funny, I started working on mine tonight!

kgladstone: The shock cord in my kit is 18". I'll be doubling mine.
I ordered mine through E-Bay. When it arrived, the main body tubes were damaged. I replaced them with 2 24" body tubes, giving me an extra foot in length.

I used the tri-fold for years and it works, but after fifty or so flights there's just not much of it left. ...snip

If you get fifty flights without losing it, you should get a trophy.
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. We went with about 30" of elastic, and it's been working fine. Now our problems is that we snap off at least one fin on this Comanche on every launch, and then we have to re-glue it. The provided streamer just doesn't seem to slow it down quite enough. This is the only rocket where we keep snapping off fins!
Hmmm. You could try attaching a small eyelet, hook or other attachment point at the base of Stage 3, then hooking up a long Kevlar thread to attach to the nose cone and the existing shock cord, setting up a kind of cradle attachment for the recovery system, resulting in the rocket coming down more or less sideways rather than tail first.

With the rocket descending sideways instead of straight down tail first, it is presenting a much larger lateral surface to the airflow and at least in theory should slow down more in descent. Plus it may be less likely that the absolute tip of a fin is going to be the first part of your rocket to strike the hard ground, which may cut down on your fin snap-offs.

Or on the other hand you may just have to go to a parachute. But then you may end up taking a hike.

Another option is to build it with a nose block instead of a coupler to make a long payload section that comes down on its own streamer. That way the main body weighs a lot less, lowering the probability of a snapped fin.

Separating the top part does eliminate recoil...but increases the in-flight parts spam to 4 pcs :eyepop:

Speaking of the SC mount, I usually change the tri-fold to the Centuri style 3-hole "weave" with cardstock instead of paper. Much lower profile in the tube and still reliable. One of the few situations where I will actually use carpenter's glue.

...going downstairs to dig out a Comanche kit...
If you're not flying all three stages, consider a small (10"?) 'chute. For the full stack launches there's not much in the way of options unless you like to gamble with thermals or have a huge flying area.

You're using dual streamers, correct?
Trace the fin pattern onto some poster board. That way, if a booster gets lost you can easily cut out some new fins and get some 2.75" length of BT-50 to make a replacement booster.
Are the decals dark/opaque enough to fully cover the lighter color underneath, or should I paint my stripes on?