Estes Rings

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Papa Elf
Jan 21, 2009
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Penns Creek, PA
I just added four new Estes kits to my wall of rocket collection, (Echostar, Guardian, Renegade, and Outlander). Looking through the bag, I noticed one thing about each of these kits that really desturbs me... the material that Estes uses for their centering ring.... (and in the details on the Outlander).

It is the cheap cardboard stuff (white-brown-white).

The only experience I have so-far with these types of rings are with the Launchable kits I buy at Walmart... The Fat Boy came with them, and they were a pain to use, both the inside diameter and outside diameter holes were to small. They were also thin and weak. They wanted to warp...

My question is, did these rings give anybody a problem when they built one of these kits?
They do have a tendency to warp or flex a little, but they are fine with A-C engines. I just make sure I add good strong fillets to the tube / centering ring joints. For higher impulse models or for mods of the kits you mention you can also laminate the white cardboard rings with other materials, such as balsa or bass wood. You could also just replace them with custom rings made from these same materials. I laminated the stock rings on my Fat Boy kit with 1/8" balsa and 110# cardstock for a 24mm E engine modification. Rings came out strong with little to no flex.
I have used these rings in my E powered Mean Machine for probably 40 D and E powered launches with no sign of failure. The mount was epoxied in with good fillets and the outside of the bottom CR was coated with epoxy. Fat Boy and Big Daddy use the same materials with no problem. I did not have size problems.
Don't worry about it, most of my fleet is estes and I've never had a MMT rip thru the tube. You should be fine.
I built many Estes kits before, the ones with the nice white centering rings... these are not those nice white centering rings :(
Oh, they changed up thier CRs to something cheaper/weaker than the white CRs????? So far all the Estes kits I've built use white CRs, I have an Executioner on the way, hopefully it too has the white CRs, it would really be a tradgedy for Estes to cheapen/weaken up thier mid-power line, they're already far weaker than other mid-power designs, only advice I can give is to use plenty of glue.
The obvious solution would be to order some replacements from Fliskits. They sell black fibrous centering rings that are laser cut and are a dream to work with. The Fliskits version is just a hair thicker than the Estes. I think black rings are also available from Totally Tubular.

Estes centering rings in current kits look (to me, anyway) like the same cardboard rings I have been finding in Estes kits for decades. Yes they are crappy quality, and frequently require a little sanding to get back to the correct diameters. They are mashed and distorted on the back face where the cutting edge of the die has pushed the cardboard instead of cut it. And yes if you handle them enough they get mushy and loose, even before you get a chance to assemble them to a tube.

If you are having trouble with the cardboard during assembly, try soaking the cardboard with CA. Go ahead and soak them straight out of the packaging. This usually makes the CR turn into a fairly rigid disc for me, and keeps the CR quite flat. This will make it harder to accomplish any sanding to fine-tune the edges, but it's the best overall way I have found to do it. They will still take glue well for assembly to BT material, or epoxy if you prefer.

Once these CRs are in position and glued in place, they seem quite strong. If you have a wide web (like, a CR to hold a BT20 inside a BT60) you may want to add stiffening webs inside your motor mount to help transmit the motor thrust loads from the mount to the main BT. Otherwise, the Estes CRs seem strong enough.
That works for the regular rings and stiff... but in the case of the outlander... well... there is a lot of details made from the cheap stuff...