# How much does it cost you to build a model rocket?

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#### Steven

Well...I've roughly $3000 in my Saturn V presently. #### prfesser ##### Lifetime Supporter TRF Lifetime Supporter Guess I'm a do-as-much-on-your-own-as-you-can kinda guy. (Or call me a cheapskate, though I really prefer 'frugal' ) For LP: I don't usually make body tubes but when I have a little time to spare... 15 cents at most for gummed paper tape. When I buy, I get at least a few of each size, in the longest length they've got. Easy to cut a long tube shorter but dagnabit, stretching a tube that I cut too short just don't work! I don't often buy nose cones but balsa/basswood blocks instead, I'll make the shape I really want. Centering rings, whether LP or HP are easy enough. Three foot lengths of balsa in various thicknesses for fins. Shock cord, about 10 cents worth of Kevlar. Plastic chute: one trash bag, a roll of scotch tape, a spool of heavy carpet thread. For high power, 1/8" and 1/4" ply are readily available in 4x4' sheets for fin stock. Be sure to get nice flat sheets. Warped ones make for interesting patterns in the tracking smoke. Nose cones: buy, or try turning one from foam and give it a coat of fiberglass. Airframes: sometimes I buy the real thing, sometimes it's fiberglass over a form. But for big'uns there are always concrete form tubes. (Warning! Not all 8" tubes are the same, even at the same store! They're slightly different sizes for nesting; cheaper shipping.) Parachutes? I've got a couple in each size from puny to gawdalmighty so just pull out the 36" chute when it's needed. I might have two bucks worth of material in a modroc, more in the bigger ones. I've had 4" HP rockets that probably didn't top$30-40 (half was usually a PP nose cone).

That doesn't mean I don't buy kits. Just got a Big Bertha. Simple stuff is fun! (Learning to paper fins)

Oh yeah....I have too much stuff.

Best -- Terry
"He who dies with the most toys, wins!" -- Max Hendrix, from years gone by. See who remembers that name.

TRF Supporter

#### Steven

Why didn't I think of that?

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#### dr wogz

##### Fly caster
And, to get really picky /technical:

Some parts are the cost of the "part" [what it is]. Some are considered 'consumables' and while they have a cost, they they are either amortized over a number of builds, or are a 'house expense' [part of teh 'expense' to produce]..

What do I mean:

the kit costs. that's defined. that is quantified: $27.58... taxes & shipping in. that's what you paid for the kit. But you need stuff to build / finish the kit, to make it what is it supposed to be: Glue, paint tools, etc.. are consumables. A 5oz bottle of glue will do many rockets, so each rocket is using .05oz (or there abouts) Same with paint.. so, the initial$5 for the glue is really only pennies per rocket, when spread out over a number of builds.. But you need to buy teh glue for the first rocket.. same with paint, sand paper, X-Acto blades, etc. Tools also kinda fall into that category. you need to buy some clamps and a knife, and a cutting mat. $40 spent right there, but they will last thru a few [hundred?] builds.. So, the first rocket my cost you$137.63 ($27.58 +$110.05 in 'consumables & tools'), because of all the stuff you need / require to get set up to build rockets.. but over a year @ 10 rockets per year, over 3 years, that $110.05 becomes$3.67 added per rocket.. Mind you, that number is more likely to be an even $4 because some parts / consumables are used faster than others. Sand paper is a good example.. and paint as well.. Get what I mean? For arguments sake, we could say that each rocket will use: 1 sheet of sand paper, 1/2 a can of paint (but requires 3 colours) and 4 X-Acto blades. So, we might say each kits will have an extra$4.50 per build, as a 'rule of thumb', regardless of the initial cost of the kit.

It takes a bit of 'capital' to get started, but once you've got a few kits under your belt, the "relative" cost becomes cheaper..

#### Ez2cDave

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Scratch-Building is always cheaper than buying Kits . . .

If you want a larger rocket, "re-purpose" paper towel rolls, make centering rings from 3-4 layers of poster board to give radial support to the tube, along with a stuffer tube for longitudinal strength, and use scrap styrofoam to make cheap nose cones !

Dave F.

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##### I don't do spirals
TRF Supporter
The amount of energy expended answering this question for an OP that is gone could have powered Cincinatti for an entire day. A/C Too.

#### Kirra Labas

##### Member
Indeed. I am thankful for all of your insightful replies.

#### mtnmanak

##### TRA & NAR L2
TRF Supporter
Scratch-Building is always cheaper than buying Kits . . .

If you want a larger rocket, "re-purpose" paper towel rolls, make centering rings from 3-4 layers of poster board to give radial support to the tube, along with a stuffer tube for longitudinal strength, and use scrap styrofoam to make cheap nose cones !

Dave F.

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Well, to be fair, at one point I realized I had purchased about $3000 worth of tools/stuff to work on$10 scratch rockets

On the other hand, there is no such thing as too many tools.

Also, if you are really good at it and your household commander doesn't understand tools, you can always find reasons to justify new stuff. She is catching on though. The other day she asked me to hang a picture. Told her I would need a new compressor and 12" compound sliding miter saw for that. Didn't fly.

#### AfterBurners

##### Well-Known Member
OP never specified the reason for the question. Trying to build as cheap as possible? Trying to stay within a particular budget? Just curious?
agreed! That's like asking how long is a piece of string? Too many variables to accurately answer and why bother. Be specific!

#### tsmith1315

##### Well-Known Member
But you need stuff to build / finish the kit, to make it what is it supposed to be:
Many childhood rocket kits were built with no more investment than a tube of Testor's Wood Cement in my house. You know how it is with budget cuts and deadlines.

A pair of scissors for the fin guide & shock cord mount, and a pencil to mark the fin placement. With pre-scored fins, an old razor blade, a kitchen knife, or whatever looked up to cutting the tabs holding the fins to the stock.

#### OverTheTop

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
I reckon my half-scale Nike Apache would be about $3k worth of stuff in total. Down here a basic Estes LPR will set you back about$35AUD.

Rockets can be a good excuse to buy tools.

#### mooffle

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Some parts are the cost of the "part" [what it is]. Some are considered 'consumables' and while they have a cost, they they are either amortized over a number of builds, or are a 'house expense' [part of teh 'expense' to produce]..
I have a lathe and mill in the workshop that total over $12k (AUD). They are more a life-long investment but are handy to have around for making rocket parts. Lots of other useful stuff too. Dr Wogz and Overthetop hit the situation pretty well here. At my cheapest I think I've built for pennies, at most probably$75 or so (camera payloads and such).
-wood glue lasts forever and is cheap
-a BIG block of balsa can last quite a few scratch builds given patience with hand carving noses
-keep the edge scraps from kits and you have fins ready to go

And as far as recycling (but these can be very hit or miss depending on the product)
-paper towel, wrapping paper, reynolds wrap= free tubes once the household part is gone
-cereal boxes make decent centering rings

All that said, my build quality does not rival the skill some have here or the precision of good kits.

TRF Supporter

#### BABAR

##### Builds Rockets for NASA
TRF Supporter
maybe I missed it, but what happened to “time is money”?

aside from making your own motors (let’s must not go there), just about every part of a low power rocket can be made by stuff thrown in a trash can, so materials are potentially free.

shopping bags for chutes (hobby lobby bags are tougher than Walmart or Kroger) or streamers
aluminum foil or plastic wrap rolls for body tubes.
cereal box cardboard for fins (may need to go double or triple thick), also motor mounts, centering rings, engine blocks, true conical nose cones, transitions, launch lugs
plastic Easter egg capsules.
toothpaste caps or ketchup cups for simulated motor nozzles
paper soda straws make great launch lugs as they attach with paper or wood glue. Unfortunately hard to find. Plastic straws work but need epoxy or tape or something else to attach, they don’t stick well with paper or wood glue
used string for shock cords,
used underwear for elastic (do not use with Skidmark motors!)
used Gift wrap paper for color on tubes fins, and conical cones.
windshield wiper blade metal for motor hooks.

But it often takes more TIME to gather those materials and cut, carve, file, reinforce or otherwise modify them than it takes to just to buy ready made parts

about the only thing I think would be impractical to make is glue (I suspect it is do-able, but THAT sounds like a lot more trouble that it is worth.). You can use discarded wrapping paper for color on body tubes fins, and true conical nose cones, so you don’t even need paint.

this one was basically free

#### dr wogz

##### Fly caster
@BABAR I was going to mention 'time' as well, but I assume the time component is a given; the one thing you do yourself & consider a 'non-expense' (you would be paying yourself..)

We could go even further.. and include the cost of the desk you build on, the shelf on which the parts are stored, the electricity to power the light you build under, the 12 square feet your 'build site [desk]' occupies (rent), and other assorted 'overhead' costs..

"Time you choose to waste, is not time wasted"

#### BABAR

##### Builds Rockets for NASA
TRF Supporter
@BABAR I was going to mention 'time' as well, but I assume the time component is a given; the one thing you do yourself & consider a 'non-expense' (you would be paying yourself..)

We could go even further.. and include the cost of the desk you build on, the shelf on which the parts are stored, the electricity to power the light you build under, the 12 square feet your 'build site [desk]' occupies (rent), and other assorted 'overhead' costs..

"Time you choose to waste, is not time wasted"
There is always Carl Sagan‘s quote.

if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

although in this case frequently if not always it takes more time to obtain and fashion a scratch part than to buy one. An exception which I bumped into with a discussion with @neil_w was Centering rings. Yes, they are dirt cheap when you get them as part of an order with shipping already covered, but if you only NEED two and nothing else, with shipping it is costly. more important for those of use who don’t plan ahead (or who screw up and mess up a part) is that when you realize you NEED them is NOW, so fashioning a part may be a good Option compared to waiting at least 48 hours for something to be sent to you.

#### dr wogz

##### Fly caster
and there is the argument: I do it because I enjoy it.

A NC or CR may be available, but joy in making the part, using the tools, achieving a certain level of precision with your own hands is its own reward...

Are you only interested in the destination? or are you enjoying the journey?

##### Well-Known Member
Since this is a hobby, any time invested is free and should not be counted. If you had to account for time, it is a chore or a job and no longer a hobby. Hobbies are by definition what you do with your free time.

#### mtnmanak

##### TRA & NAR L2
TRF Supporter
and there is the argument: I do it because I enjoy it.
Are you only interested in the destination? or are you enjoying the journey?
From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen
- The Professor

#### prfesser

Since this is a hobby, any time invested is free and should not be counted. If you had to account for time, it is a chore or a job and no longer a hobby. Hobbies are by definition what you do with your free time.
As McCloud would say, " 'ere ya go!" (yes I'm an old fart). I've said this before in several ways, but...what is a hobby but a way to spend time and money; the desired product is happiness. (Not my quote, saw it in a book on telescope making.)

#### neil_w

##### Ennui poster child
TRF Supporter
Since this is a hobby, any time invested is free and should not be counted. If you had to account for time, it is a chore or a job and no longer a hobby. Hobbies are by definition what you do with your free time.
While there is a great deal of truth to this, it's not the whole story. Folks enjoy different aspects of the hobby, and want to focus their time, to the extent possible, on the more fun parts. Some time-consuming and perhaps unrewarding tasks do indeed impose a cost because they consume a limited resource, which is time available to spend on a hobby.

So: I, for one, don't want to burn my precious hobby time, say, cutting my own centering rings or rolling my own body tubes, even though it would be "cheaper". That time *is* a cost for me.

#### mtnmanak

##### TRA & NAR L2
TRF Supporter
While there is a great deal of truth to this, it's not the whole story. Folks enjoy different aspects of the hobby, and want to focus their time, to the extent possible, on the more fun parts. Some time-consuming and perhaps unrewarding tasks do indeed impose a cost because they consume a limited resource, which is time available to spend on a hobby.

So: I, for one, don't want to burn my precious hobby time, say, cutting my own centering rings or rolling my own body tubes, even though it would be "cheaper". That time *is* a cost for me.
Absolutely! I am hiring - anyone that wants to come over and be my sander and painter, come on down!

Job Description:
- Dirty Job
- Lots of health hazards
- Must like breathing Fiber Glass and Carbon Fiber dust
- Natural immunity to ketones a plus