Missiles and Guns

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Well-Known Member
Jan 18, 2009
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I've got kids coming in these next few weeks working on fair projects and I wanted to have some materials available for them to add guns or missiles to their rockets. I thought I had some small tubes in our build box but those must have been used up last year.

What other cheap, easily available materials have you used?
Hmm... First, I'd go to your local craft store (Hobby Lobby, Micheals, etc.) and check out the woodcrafts section. They should have packages of very small wooden dowels (about 1/16" diameter) in 3-4" lengths that are perfect for small gun barrels. As for small tubes, I'd simply roll some out of paper or cardstock - you can pick up some 1/8, 3/16 and 1/4" brass tubing to use as mandrels from your LHS. The easiest way to roll the tubes is to cut a piece of computer paper about twice or three times as wide as you need to wrap around your mandrel, and use thinned white glue to make it stick. The mandrel makes sure it is nice and round. pull it out and let it dry, and you've got instant tubes - or LOTS of launch lug material! :D

To make good looking guns for fin tips, go over to Jimz and download the plans for the Colonial Viper. For Sidewinder type missiles, I'd simply cut 1/8" to 1/4" dowel to length, sand one end round and glue some poster board or thin cardboard fins to each missile.
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You could try the local hobby shop and go with styrene rod. They have various diameters starting at 1/16". A little superglue or plastic cement to attach.
Dowels and launch lugs are the way to go, I think.

Rather than buying pre-cut lengths of dowel from a craft store, it'd be a lot cheaper to head to a hardware store, Lowe's, Home Depot, whatever and buy one or two full-length dowels, then cut them yourself.

Yeah, it's a little more work, but it'll be a lot cheaper.

round toothpicks

bamboo skewers (grocery store), available in diams like approx 1/8, 3/16, and if you look around, as small as 1/16

someone mentioned "plasti-strut"-type supplies from the hobby or craft stores, and that's a great idea----just be aware that stuff is available in a lot of interesting shapes besides round rods

small paper tubes (less than 1/4 inch diam) are a lot easier to roll than you might think, although you are probably going to have to prepare these tubes rather than the kids
I would recommend using printer paper and elmers-type glue (watered down 1:1) and not trying to make paper tubes much longer than 4-5-6 inches at a time
try rolling around metal rods like launch rods or smaller but be sure to make sure the end of the rod is free of burrs so you can slip the paper tube off later
pre-lube the wire with a light wipe of oil or WD40 and slip the paper tube off after you roll it.

last-but-not-least: lollipop sticks
I've made Gatling guns before for models that turned out pretty well. All you need is the "Bic Stick" ink pens (about 1/4 inch diameter white round barrel ink pens, typical office pens with the tapered blue or black insert in the end holding the ball point and ink tube on one end and the small rounded cap on the other end) Cut to whatever length you want the 'body' of the gun to be, and then cut off about a 1/8 inch or so long 'band' to hold the gun barrels together at the other end. Take 7 standard round toothpicks, snip the tips off with nail clippers or a hobby knife about 1/16 inch from the pointed end-- leave a little of the 'taper' of the toothpick at the end for the gun barrel 'muzzles' on six of the toothpicks. On the seventh toothpick, cut it about 1/4 inch or so from the end so it's completely cylindrical. It's the 'hub' barrel around which the others are mounted. Glue two of the tapered toothpicks to either side of the "hub" toothpick, recessing the end of the 'hub' toothpick about 1/8 inch or so behind the others. Once the glue is set/dried, start gluing the others to them to make the rotary barrel assembly. This can then be inserted and glued into the gun body piece, and the short 'band' piece worked over the end and slid back about 1/4 inch or so from the ends of the barrels to make the 'rotary bearing' on the muzzle end of the guns. The gun is then ready to glue to your model as you see fit.

The Bic Stick pens also make good 'cannons' in their own right, if you carefully remove the ink stick from the ball point end and then put the pen back together, and cut the pen stick to about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. The ballpoint end and tapered adapter looks like a laser cannon 'barrel end' or emitter and I've used these too on rockets. Once painted they look great!

Good luck! OL JR :)
Weed Wacker line! Bends instead of breaking (like toothpicks, etc)

Use Sharpie pens to 'paint'.
I just sent the first group home and they decided to go with the bamboo skewers because a) I had some on hand and b) they were fast and easy.

You know how those Thing-a-ma-jigs always were begging for some missiles. ;)

I've got some scratch builders this year so I'll offer these other ideas to them.

Thanks a bunch.