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Making rocket items from Scratch

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I prefer to:

  • Buy all my supplies

  • Make as much as I can

  • Have others make it for me

  • None Of The Above


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accooper

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OK, if you have a knack of making things like centering rings Parachutes, or anything that could save a rocketeer money, or you know of a better way of doing something, that could possibly save money, I would like to here from you.

I am not a moderator, but I love making as much of the stuff that goes into making a rocket as I can. And I think we have some pretty talented people here that could make all of out rocketry lives easier.

So lets hear from you!

That means you to John!

Andrew
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rocketsmith

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I try to make everything. I buy 1/4" baltic birch ply ($28.00 for a 5'x5') and cut fins and centering rings. Turn nose cones and make molds for fiberglass parts. Of course I make all my own recovery harnesses and use mil surplus chutes whenever I can. I even lay up all my own G-10 and end grain balsa-cored fiberglass composite for finstock. Wire my own AG1 flash bulbs for ejection charges. Body tubes and hardware is all I buy, well, except for Pinnacle nosecones from Giant Leap. There is no way I could afford to build as much as I do if I had to pay retail.
 

gpoehlein

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Pity your survey did not include an "All of the Above" entry! ;)

Most of my rocketry is in the low power range, so I do build quite a few kits, as well as using premade components. That said, I also hand make a lot of parts as well, especially for my competition models (I fly four NAR regional contests a year). With the exception of nose cones (I use Apogee vac form nose cones for a lot of my competition models) a large part of my contest birds are hand made from cardstock and paper. Centering rings are usuallu printed on 110# cardstock and laminated to a piece of cardboard or several layers of cardstock together. I have been known to wind paper around a mandrel to make thicker Estes style centering ring/engine blocks. Fins are often two layers of cardstock wrapped around a cardboard core for stiffness and to give it an airfoil shape. Tubes are either cardstock cylinders or are 20# computer paper wrapped around a mandrel. I really like to make tubes from either 20# or 67# Astrobrite papers (no paint needed and they are really visible if you use red, orange or yellow paper). Nose blocks are made from cardstock tubes with foam core caps.

Parachutes come from garbage bags or Target sacks with carpet thread shroud lines. Streamers are made from crepe paper party streamers, mylar birthday banners, surveyor's tape or cheap mylar space blanket material.

As far as money is concerned, some of my paper rockets have been built for less than a dollar, including fishing weights for nose cone ballast. In some cases, the rockets are actually cheaper than the motor used to fly them, and I usually try to buy a lot of my motors with the 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby! :D
 

Handeman

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I try to make everything, nose cones, parachutes, centering rings, fins, even the BT for the smaller stuff.
 

MarkII

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I couldn't vote in the poll, because there is no option for my answer. I do some of both - buy supplies and also make some of my own. I think that is what most hobbyists (not just rocketeers) do. It really depends on the particular item and how easy it is to obtain it. I construct some things that simply aren't available, such as unique subassemblies that I need in order to provide a certain feature in a rocket that I'm building, for instance. I buy all of my decals but I also cut nearly all of my own fins. I often buy body tubes in the longest lengths available and then cut sections of them for particular builds. If there are high quality components readily available and reasonably priced, I purchase them and save my time and energy for fashioning the items that I cannot easily obtain. Otherwise it would take me even longer to build rockets than it already does! :eek: My choices are also influenced by the fact that I have almost no shop equipment and just a basic set of hand tools.

There is nothing wrong with fashioning all or most of your own components, and there is a long history of that not only in model rocketry but in hobbies in general. I base my decision on how much hassle each option would be for me, and whether I would need special equipment, etc. I don't have the resources to just go out and buy a $6k milling machine, for instance. (And I would have no idea how to set it up and use it even if I did.)

People used to build their own desktop computers, too, and some still do. But the vast majority buy them from an established manufacturer, because they want to get the acquisition out of the way and move ahead to doing actual work with them.

MarkII
 

n5wd

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I'm pretty lucky to have access to a well-equipped workshop at the school where I teach. Though I don't have nearly as much time as I'd like to play, the ability to make my own centering rings, fins, and bulkheads has enabled me to begin to play with some not-so-standard airframes - about to start on a couple of different sized Crayons, for example.

And, as a result of getting better at it myself, I've been able to take more of the load off our mentors to help my students do more of their own work on the TARC and SLI rockets that we're working on this year. And since our school doesn't have any kind of woodworking shop, the kids are getting their first experience in some power tools as well.

We're not really set up for any big fiberglassing jobs, but perhaps in the future.... ;)
 

kelltym88

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I work in a shop that makes commercial countertops and lab shelving, so I can pretty much make just about whatever I need. Several of my rockets I have made my own CR's, fins(I can get 1/4" 4x8 birch for like $11), bulkheads. I fashioned the nose cone on my Manta Bomber upscale and the tailcone and vent on my upscale Tomahawk. Sometimes it makes for alot of extra work, but finances are usually why I make them myself.
 

Micromeister

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I have to agree! the poll misses one of the most important combinations...All the Above!

My motto in life has always been "If I can't make it, I don't need it". and I "CAN" make everything needed to build just about any Model or Micro rocket. But there is also a point where it doesn't make sense to make your own of some things...IF and I say IF you can purchase them in quantity and or directly from the manufacturer.

A good example are body tubes.. I can roll my own and do when I need as spacific off size but for the majority of models I have purchased tubing (IN BULK) for pennies on the dollar. Would you believe .11each for a BT-5,20,50 all 36" long. True these were purchase several years ago but I have them to build with now. Was there an initial outlay..sure but I believe it was well worth it.

I buy Balsa and other Woods in bulk. From the major sources in sheet, slab and blocks to make my own parts..even have a friend in Costa Rica that sends me a log every once in awhile. but I've also over time collected a pretty large array of various sized NC and transitions in Styrene as well thur auction, kit bash, demo and retrievals.

Small metal parts, Centering rings, etc are or can all made in house because I have a Wood and Metal shop in the back room of my tiny townhouse. Being in the sign Business I've had to learn to adapt and use materials from just about all trades so I have tools to make or improvise things as they come up:)
having Cabinetmaking, carpentry and metal working has side hobbies helps alot.

For the same reason, (Job) as a graphic artist and sign painter I have can make and print my own decals foom true silk screen, alps printed to hand painted and/or vinyl cut.

I've taught myself most of the Mod-roc electronics needed for Ground support and Night flying purposes, even built a few flight packages in my day...have enough electrical knowledge to be dangerous LOL!

Between the better 2/3rds and I we can make recovery systems from just about any medium that is needed for 1/4mil mylar, sheet plastic, various papers and cloths, ripstop nylon or silk.

I could but refuse to make my own motors; I do however make my own cluster motor and micro igniters.

I've tried to pass along just about every trick or quicky little item i've come across which is what I think of when we talk about paying forward. If we learn to do this or that and keep it to ourselves it really doesn't do anyone much good. I've always said and will mention again, if your looking for a way to make or find something all ya gotta do is ask. I can't speak for anyone else but I truely can't remember everything all the time! but if you ask a question about something it usually triggers a spark to bring a long forgotten trick or item back to mind.
Hope this helps.
 
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accooper

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I sure would like to know where you buy bulk body tubes! I cannot roll my own tubes, as mention in past posts, my fat little fingers just aren't nimble enough.

I don't have a lathe so I don't make my own nose cones, but just about everything else I make.

Andrew
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MarkII

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Buying in bulk requires an investment. That's not always possible for some of us.

MarkII
 

Micromeister

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I sure would like to know where you buy bulk body tubes! I cannot roll my own tubes, as mention in past posts, my fat little fingers just aren't nimble enough.

I don't have a lathe so I don't make my own nose cones, but just about everything else I make.

Andrew
Dark Lord Of The Scratch Builders
Rolling your own really isn't that dark a science once you have the mandrels needed which I always find to be the biggest hastle.
As mark mentioned, bulk purchase Does require a purchase investment but doesn't nessassarlly mean it must be absorbed completely individually. If done in a group or Club Bulk purchases can be most rewarding for all involved.
Our club as purchased many items this way, Body tubes, Sheet Woods, Micro Motors, certain competition components, even bulk order kits. but this method can greatly reduce the investment and freight cost while helping to increase good building inventories.
 
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Gillard

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i try to make as much as possible, but sometimes its easier to use pre made components, however, alot of that is about to change as work is about to get a laser cutter next tuesday - i'm going to be a busy boy.
 

Neutron95

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In my 5th grade science class, we built rockets completely from scratch, rolled our own tubes, glued notecards together to make fin stock, sanded out foam nosecones and made motor clips from paper clips
 

MarkII

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In my 5th grade science class, we built rockets completely from scratch, rolled our own tubes, glued notecards together to make fin stock, sanded out foam nosecones and made motor clips from paper clips
Absolutely doable and a totally legitimate branch of the hobby. I did quite a bit of that when I started back up in the hobby a few years ago. The cardstock rocket modeling that is being discussed elsewhere on TRF is an example of this "totally from scratch" building.

My own TFS building reached its ultimate expression (or ultimate absurdity) when I constructed the rocket shown in the attachments. It is a ~350% upscale of the FlisKits Midnight Express. It is 2.6" in diameter and 41" tall. The fins are solid basswood with TTW construction and it has a 38mm motor mount. With the exception of a few hardware parts, the Kevlar shock cord and the SkyAngle parachute, all of it is completely hand-made (with NO use of power tools)! The body tubes and couplers are made from several layers (5 for the tubes, 4 for the couplers) of letter-sized 110 lb. cardstock sheets. Since the sheets were so narrow, I constructed the airframe in 4 sections. I used a 2" length of Schedule 40 PVC pipe (left over from a bathroom renovation) as a mandrel. I used a cat treats container that was just the right size as a mandrel for the couplers. I built up a 1.25" diameter dowel with layers of cardstock to (eventually) make it 38mm in diameter and rolled three layers of cardstock around it to make the motor tube. I made the centering rings and bulkheads (the upper 1/4 of the rocket is a payload section) out of basswood; I drew the outlines with a compass and hand-cut the rings with a craft knife. (Yes, it hurt.) In most cases I built-up the rings from three or four layers of thin basswood, laminated with the grains at right angles to each other to impart stiffness. I did the same for the bulkheads. The nose cone was rolled from a piece of poster board which was then fiberglassed on the inside.

I had not planned to make the airframe BT-80 sized - it just worked out that way.

I chose the TDD version because it was easier to upscale (and required much less ink to print) than the original version of the Midnight Express. I upscaled the ME patterns on my computer and printed out wraps for the airframe, covers for the fins and the nose cone shroud on my ink jet printer. I printed the body tube wraps on poster board, but after gluing them on, I realized that the graphics program that I had used to upscale them had left out some of the detail (especially the red stripes). So I had to print them out again, and used photo paper that time. I also printed the fin covers on photo paper. So portions of the airframe are made from as many as eleven layers of rolled paper. :eek: (Four layers for the coupler, five layers for the airframe, one layer of poster board for the badly printed first wrap and one layer of heavyweight photo paper for the final good wrap.) The nose cone shoulder was made from three wraps of cardstock, using a tomato paste can as a mandrel. The entire project took me four months to complete.

All of this material means that the rocket is absurdly over-built, of course, and weight-wise, it is a pig. Total weight with recovery system is 49-52 oz., depending on what nose weight I give it. I built it at the end of 2005 and it has never flown. At the time, the smallest motor available that would safely launch it was an H (AT's G80 SU was an outside possibility), and I didn't have HP certification. (I still don't.) Since then, Aerotech has come out with the G71 (115 N peak thrust) and the G76 (way more than enough thrust), so I can buy motors now that can launch it, but I haven't attempted to do so yet.

I used Acme aluminum rail guides instead of lugs on it (the only time I have ever used anything but traditional launch lugs) and I even built my rail launcher especially for it. I didn't have a 38mm motor case when I rolled the motor tube. When I finally obtained one later on, I found that it fit my hand-made tube like a glove. :D

It was the most complex rocket project (and by far the largest) that I had ever attempted at that point, and it was fun to build in spite of all of its flaws. I learned a lot about construction as a result. I had previously scratch-built 24mm and 29mm minimum-diameter versions of the Midnight Express (both subsequently lost on their initial flights in early 2006). (Sadly, I have no photos of them.) Someday I may try to build this project again, but make much more intelligent use of materials so that the finished rocket doesn't resemble a boat anchor.

The second photo shows a close-up of a fin, with a couple of Micromaxx downscales of the Modnight Express in from of it.

MarkII
 
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5x7

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What about a blown eggshell?

They weigh 5 to 6 grams, and are pretty easy to produce. Would not want to do it for NARAM, but cheap, easy and fragile.
 

rstaff3

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I mostly like dumpster diving (figuratively, unless I can see something good :D). I checked 'make it' but maybe it's more like I'm reusing stuff other people made.

I make fins, cones, rings. I have make a tube but generally like reusing non-rocket tubes for rocket purposes. I buy cord, chutes, hardware, etc.
 

Shade

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Make as much as I can.

Save BT's and NC's I make most of my items from sheet stock. I have a
lathe but have not gotten around to turning my own NC's yet, but then again
it is a metal cutting lathe and cleaning saw dust up from all the oil and
residual chip is not an appealling idea.

I use my scroll saw to cut out CR's and various bulkheads, I have also used
my Bridgeport and hole saws but I can get so much closer to a finished size
with the saw, I just clean them up with a drill mounted sanding drum.

Trash bags and Spiderwire fishing line make great chutes. As I get further
into HPR I bet I can get SWMBO to sew up some ripstop for chutes also.

I view rocketry in three steps

1. Design and build
2. Paint
3. Fly

I like steps 1 and 3, 2 not so much, more of a necessity, and I fly
alot of my scratch builds with just a coat of primer.
 

Shade

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For those who roll their own BT's how do you get them off the mandrel?
 

JRThro

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I sure would like to know where you buy bulk body tubes! I cannot roll my own tubes, as mention in past posts, my fat little fingers just aren't nimble enough.

I don't have a lathe so I don't make my own nose cones, but just about everything else I make.

Andrew
Dark Lord Of The Scratch Builders
Andrew, you can buy tubes and other supplies in bulk from:
www.balsamachining.com and from Totally Tubular, but I don't have a URL for them.
 

JRThro

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Parachutes come from garbage bags or Target sacks with carpet thread shroud lines.
Greg, the normal-sized Target bags make the best parachutes ever! And they have that cool repeating red target pattern on them.
 

bandman444

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I think posting this thread on this section of the site skews the results (as can be plainly seen by the votes)

Anyway

I am lucky enough to have a school that has a shweet wood shop including a laser cutter and a 2.5D router

Kids in the class help me out all the time I just let them know what i want and I pick it up next period!!!

Centering rings and fins and nosecones is all we've made
 

JAL3

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So lets hear from you!

That means you to John!

Andrew
Dark Lord Of The Scratch Builders
I just found this thread.

I'm lazy. I buy what I can and adapt it as best I can for what I want. My scratch skills are poor but I'm working on them.

The latter is best illustrated by this project: http://www.rocketryforum.com/showthread.php?t=14

It still isn't complete!:confused2:
 

BobH48

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I voted none of the above because I buy some of my supplies, I make some of my supplies and I have had certain parts made for me.

So if there had been a category of all of the above I would have voted for that.

When I order parts, I'll usually buy several tubes of each size from BT-5 up to BT-80 all 34" long and cut them to length when I need them. Also I'll buy an assortment of nose cones without having a specific rocket in mind when I buy them.

When I'm making paper rockets I roll my own tubes. I make my own centering rings, fins, launch lugs from cardstock but sometimes I'll just put a plastic or balsa nose cone on it.

If I'm making a scale paper rocket, I usually make all the parts, but sometimes I will use a premade tube for the motor mount. The nice thing about paper rockets is they come out pre-colored with the markings in place and you don't have to paint them

Soyuz 24mm - 13mm.jpg


CZ-2F_2.jpg


Delta II_1.JPG


Maxsus_11.jpg
 
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MarkII

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For those who roll their own BT's how do you get them off the mandrel?
My parallel-wound cardstock tubes just pull right off. I don't apply glue to the surface that contacts the mandrel. If I am going to use multiple layers, like I did with my Mega M.E., I use cellophane tape to bond the first layer together. I pull out a strip that is a bit longer than the tube. I lay it on the length of the mandrel, sticky side up, and use more strips of tape to fasten it at each end, beyond where the tube ends will be. Then I start rolling the tube by pressing the first edge onto the tape but only covering half of its width. Then I roll the cardstock around and press the back edge onto the tape width that I left uncovered. After that one is on, I use glue for the other layers. To remove the finished tube, I cut the tape strip where it extends out from under the tube at each end with my craft knife, and peel off the exposed tape. Then I just slide my completed tube off. If you looked inside my Mega M. E., you would see a strip of cellophane tape running down the length of each tube.

I don't think that I mentioned it in this thread's account of that build, but when I got to the last couple of layers of the airframe tubes, the fit was so tight that I had a great deal of difficulty sliding them back onto the mandrel. (I rolled them one layer at a time, then pulled the tube off and let it dry before rolling on the next layer.) And then once I got them on and had rolled on another layer, I couldn't get them back off. The PVC pipe that I was using as a mandrel was too large to fit into my freezer, so I filled zip-lock bags with ice and laid them inside the pipe until it had shrunk enough to permit me to slide my tubes off. For the final, 5th layer of cardstock, I had to chill the pipe in order to get my tubes back onto it as well as doing so again when I wanted to take them off.

But even when I roll single-layer cardstock tubes, I never let any glue get under the tube and onto the mandrel. For them, I use a strip of cardstock as a glue tab. I glue it along the underside of the first edge, but position it so that half extends out from under the edge. I glue the back edge to that part after rolling the tube.

MK
 
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Trident

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I sure would like to know where you buy bulk body tubes! I cannot roll my own tubes, as mention in past posts, my fat little fingers just aren't nimble enough.

I don't have a lathe so I don't make my own nose cones, but just about everything else I make.

Andrew
Dark Lord Of The Scratch Builders
Andrew,

Nose cones up to about BT-50 size are pretty easy to turn with an electric hand drill. I made my first around age 12 or 13, using my dad's drill, clamped to my mother's utility step stool! You can probably find numerous instructions using Google, but basically you take a balsa block cut to the necessary length, put an "X" across one end, drill a hole for a 1/4" dowel, and glue that into the block. Use a knife or rasp to hack away the square edges, and get it roughly into shape to turn in the drill. If you cut a short length (1/4"-1/2") of body tube to put over the dowel before chucking the block into the drill, you have a reference for sanding the shoulder to size, and also for sanding the nose cone diameter to match the tube. With practice you can get amazingly nice nose cones turned from with a very simple tool. I got to the point that I could make up to BT-55 sized, and I did make a couple cones for BT-60s, but that is getting to be pretty large to turn with a hand drill, without snapping the dowel.
 
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