Model Rocketry on the Cheap: Favorite No-cost or Low-cost Ways to Build Model Rockets?

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brockrwood

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If you have ready any of my posts in TRF, you know I love to discovery no-cost or low-cost ways to build model rockets. Not only do I like saving money, but I get a certain satisfaction from being able to say, "Yes, I did this. And it didn't cost me a dime!" or "Yes, I did this. And it only cost me a dime!"

What are your favorite "no-cost" or "low-cost" ways to build model rockets?

Here are my two favorites:

1. The model rocket painting stand/holder made out of wire coat hangers.

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2. Discovering that the local, city "hazmat recycling" facility, let's you come pick up as many donated cans of spray paint as you wish. For free.
I have gathered about three dozen cans, of various colors, including some primer. Some cans have never been used. Totally free. Score!

IMG-5892_cropped.jpg
 

RAHagen

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I got my start building model rockets out of old cardboard tubes lying around the house... I didn't know anything about rocket stability... or fin design... or anything really... But that was my start! I'm sure they would have flown a lot nicer if I knew some stuff though 😂.
 

RAHagen

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In all seriousness though, one of the cheapest materials I've worked with was foamboard. It was crazy easy to use as well.

Trace out your fin geometry, cut with a razor blade, cut a "v" shape out of the foamcore down the leading and trailing edges, pinch the edges together, tape, and you have an airfoiled fin that can easily take low to mid power rocket motors.

Another plus of foamboard is epoxy or gorilla glue soaks into the foam board when you glue them on to the body tube and it's like concrete when it cures.

Not suggested for anything running on composite motors, but foamboard can take a lot more than even I thought!
 

brockrwood

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Trace out your fin geometry, cut with a razor blade, cut a "v" shape out of the foamcore down the leading and trailing edges, pinch the edges together, tape, and you have an airfoiled fin that can easily take low to mid power rocket motors
Going to try this!

The fins look good after painting? Easy to glue on?
 

teepot

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Yes they do. I made a couple rockets out of shipping boxes and tubes. I used foam board. Laminated two pieces together. Here is a picture of one. The only cost was $1 for the board and the motor mount.
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ThirstyBarbarian

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I’ve used foam board, and it works really well. I made 2 rockets out of trash to fly my old E9 and E12 motors in case of catos, and I used foam board for the fins. I didn’t paint the foam core fins with spray paint because I thought the paint solvents might eat the foam. Instead, I papered the fins with label paper, and the paper really stiffened the fins a lot. I also papered the body tubes with wraps I printed on label paper.

I used old wrapping paper tubes for the body tubes. I cut and glued old paper towel tubes to the right diameter for the motor tubes. I hand cut the centering rings from cardboard. The chutes were old ones with burn holes or other cosmetic issues, and the nosecones were salvaged from destroyed rockets. Lots of clubs have bins of salvageable parts, like nose cones.

Here are the pics. The one uses an old nosecone from an exploded Trajector, so that one got a fancy wrap which I laid out in the super crappy graphics editor in MS Word, believe it or not. And Smoky Nick is an ugly-ass riff on a Nike Smoke. That homemade nosecone was not satisfactory, so I used a salvaged nosecone when I flew it.

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brockrwood

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Too windy here in Boulder, CO, to paint fins. Going to the “Art Parts” second hand art supply store to look for parachute shroud line cord. Silk thread? Rug “yarn”? They have lots of good stuff. If you have a similar type of store in your town, check it out for model rocket building supplies!
 

jqavins

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(Lunch time is over, so I don't have time to read the previous posts; I'll catch up later.)
  • Holders from used engine cases glued to squares of cardboard.
  • Fin/bulkhead/CR material from two pieces of corrugated cardboard, laminated with their "grains" perpendicular to one another. Surprisingly good stiffness to weight ratio, but thick. Make sheets of it then cut the shape you need. For fins, seal the edges after cutting with the material of your choice.
  • Pictures printed on the color laser printer at work, used instead of decals. Applied with white glue as if you were papering fins.
The first I use a lot. The other two I came up with for the Office Supplies rocket, and wouldn't mind using again.
 

brockrwood

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Fin/bulkhead/CR material from two pieces of corrugated cardboard, laminated with their "grains" perpendicular to one another. Surprisingly good stiffness to weight ratio, but thick. Make sheets of it then cut the shape you need. For fins, seal the edges after cutting with the material of your choice.
Ok, this I gotta try. Corrugated cardboard is so easy to cut and sand!
 

brockrwood

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My favorite was using the lid of a plastic juice container with its corresponding thread as a motor retainer on midpower rockets. Cut off at the neck to match the 29mm tube, then epoxy on.
Juice jug threaded motor retainer? Awesome! Ok, what brand and size of juice do I need to drink?
 

brockrwood

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(Lunch time is over, so I don't have time to read the previous posts; I'll catch up later.)
  • Holders from used engine cases glued to squares of cardboard.
  • Fin/bulkhead/CR material from two pieces of corrugated cardboard, laminated with their "grains" perpendicular to one another. Surprisingly good stiffness to weight ratio, but thick. Make sheets of it then cut the shape you need. For fins, seal the edges after cutting with the material of your choice.
  • Pictures printed on the color laser printer at work, used instead of decals. Applied with white glue as if you were papering fins.
The first I use a lot. The other two I came up with for the Office Supplies rocket, and wouldn't mind using again.
Spent rocket motors are so handy! From using them a “plungers” to put an engine block right where you want it, to using two of them taped together to test the fit of a two stage rocket, to just being handy to use as a rocket painting stand, I keep a plastic bag of them handy.
 

Cape Byron

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Spent rocket motors are so handy! From using them a “plungers” to put an engine block right where you want it, to using two of them taped together to test the fit of a two stage rocket, to just being handy to use as a rocket painting stand, I keep a plastic bag of them handy.
Mine are in a ziplock bag on the desk, 'cause they stink, but super handy for a million things.

BTW, I'm trying to turn a 9yo dog into a rocket finding hound by getting her to fetch used casings I throw off the deck. One day...
 

smstachwick

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My younger child (now 19) loves the smell of a black powder powered rocket after launch. That sulfur smell is like aroma therapy it seems.
Me too.

One drawback: Blowing on a heavily-used BT-5 like a blow dart gun all morning to get a shock cord to pack makes eggs somewhat unpalatable. Good way to make breakfast (or a low-effort dinner) taste like stinky rocket.

  • Holders from used engine cases glued to squares of cardboard
I do this for my display stands, except I glue two casings of the same size together, so the rockets are supported by the thrust rings and not the motor hook. Then they go onto a 2 x 4, so there's a whole row of them. Great way to get a cool-looking display, especially when you've got rockets on a 13mm, 18mm, 24x70mm, and 24x95mm all set together. I'm also building a 29mm Star Orbiter kit that will definitely go on there.

For painting I generally prefer to roll up some thick paper and stick it in the motor mount tube, then just hold it while I spray paint it.

My favorite was using the lid of a plastic juice container with its corresponding thread as a motor retainer on midpower rockets. Cut off at the neck to match the 29mm tube, then epoxy on.
I did the lid trick as well, but I did it without the jar's threads. I cut the lid's thread off and cut down the remaining disk to match the body tube diameter, then put two screws directly through what was left of the lid and all the way into the aft centering ring. Much more secure than a friction fit, but likely a bit heavy and more difficult to open than @Dipstick 's. Also there's the problem of potentially losing the screws.
 

jqavins

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Hmm. What do you use? I guess I could just paper over the edges of the fins if looks are not terribly important.
For Office Supplies, I used Scotch tape so I could work in another office supply item. If I use the technique again, I't paper over the edges. After sanding and paint it shouldn't show.

My younger child (now 19) loves the smell of a black powder powered rocket after launch.
Mine said the same. I though it was odd, as she's not in the hobby (or any other involving BP) until she explaimed that it reminds he of me. 🥰

For painting I generally prefer to roll up some thick paper and stick it in the motor mount tube, then just hold it while I spray paint it.
For spray time, that's at least as good. But then you've got to put it down somewhere, so it's very handy to have the rocket already on a stand.
 
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