Painting Rockets: Assembled or Subassemblies

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MCriscione

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For most of my rockets I use pretty simple paint schemes with solid colors, especially at break points where upper/lower or body/nose separate to deploy chutes. For these rockets I typically paint each subassembly (i.e., nosecone, main body) separately, masking as needed.

In building my first fiberglass HPR, I've decided to use a more ambitious paint scheme that has a number of asymmetric stripes running the length of the body, crossing the av-bay and onto the payload section. I'm using a number of masking layers to accomplish the job and I'd like everything to line up nicely when assembled for the pad.

So here's the question. Do I paint the finished rocket in 'launch' configuration? Or do I assemble, mask, cut the mask at each separation point, break into parts (fully deployed config), paint, reassemble, repeat until I've got all my color layers complete? I've got about 4 colors to lay down and I'm not looking forward to the repeated assembly/disassembly. Is it reasonable to leave assembled the whole time and simply hope it all comes back apart properly at the end of the process? I would plan to at least run a hobby knife over the separation points, but I'd concerned about any paint collecting between BT and coupler and fusing the parts together.

What do you do, especially on larger rockets?
 
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FatBoy

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Based on the description you gave of your paint job, I would probably put it all together and mask and paint it as a single unit. That way your lines will all line up and you won't have any minor color variations from one piece to the next.
 

TopRamen

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The best ones don't have paint. I'm not happy about that, but WE can live with it.
You obviously need to have structural integrity, so the mass probable does not change much...:yawn:

...
 
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FatBoy

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... I would plan to at least run a hobby knife over the separation points, but I'd concerned about any paint collecting between BT and coupler and fusing the parts together
This is just my opinion, but I wouldn't cut the mask at the separation points. Having masks span joints will help assure nothing rotates while you are masking. I doubt you will ever have a problem fusing parts together with paint. Future will, but not paint.
 

MCriscione

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The best ones don't have paint. I'm not happy about that, but WE can live with it.
You obviously need to have structural integrity, so the mass probable does not change much...:yawn:
I ... umm ... What?

[I've been drinking a bit tonight. Am I not parsing this correctly or is TopRamen also a bit sloshed?]
 

MCriscione

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Anybody else want to chime in? I'm nearing the point of applying the first mask layer. And I still have no idea what you meant TopRamen, would you care to clarify?
 

dixontj93060

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In 15+ years I have never painted a rocket before assembly. Don't really see any advantages and instead see tons of downside. You will ruin the paint job through handling during assembly and inevitably epoxy/adhesive will encroach where it shouldn't as you assemble the painted parts.
 

crossfire

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I for sure would build it 1st. How are you going to do your fin fillets after its all painted. Or any other epoxy work.
 

MCriscione

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I'm sorry. I may not have been too clear in my first post. I meant the the rocket would be fully built and then 'disassembled' by taking it apart at it's separation points. Like nosecone and body for an LPR or nose cone, payload, av bay abd, booster for a DD HPR. Construction on the one I'm alluding to here is essentially complete. Just av bay sled and overall paint left to go.
 

dixontj93060

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I'm sorry. I may not have been too clear in my first post. I meant the the rocket would be fully built and then 'disassembled' by taking it apart at it's separation points. Like nosecone and body for an LPR or nose cone, payload, av bay abd, booster for a DD HPR. Construction on the one I'm alluding to here is essentially complete. Just av bay sled and overall paint left to go.
In that case, yes, whatever works to get the paint combo you desire.
 

TopRamen

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Oh, yeah, my nose cone generally gets painted separately, and on my one rocket with an AV bay, I masked it from the inside when I..................



Holy Crap!! I just got the greatest idea!!!
Use my foam cutter to make a cool AV bay!!!
I can make it solid since the foam weighs so little, then glass, or CF it and machine it!!!

BT-80 SCALE!!!!
 

KenECoyote

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I personally prefer to assemble, spray all over with filler primer, sand, mask and paint. There are exceptions of course such as when the assemblies lend themselves to being easier to paint separately first (only example I can recall now was the Estes Outlander...a real logistical nightmare when it comes to paint and assembly IMHO).

Here's one I'm aching to finish soon (hopefully)...all done with regular masking tape and spray cans - here is the bottom half and believe it or not, the top half is much more complex:
 

MCriscione

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?..Holy Crap!! I just got the greatest idea!!!
Use my foam cutter to make a cool AV bay!!!
I can make it solid since the foam weighs so little, then glass, or CF it and machine it!!!

BT-80 SCALE!!!!
That would be pretty awesome! Better get the end caps too or your deployment charges are gonna have fun toasting them. :wink:
 

Nathan

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I always paint the rocket sections separately, even if it's just a single color. For a multi-color paint job like you described I would do the masking with the rocket assembled so that everything lines up but then still paint the sections separately.
 

MCriscione

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So I've got recommendations for both ways now. I think I'd prefer to do the whole rocket as a single piece, but I'm still concerned that I'm going to paint the damn thing into a solid piece. I guess I'll just have to do the dance to take it apart and reassemble repeatedly. I'll have to do that about 5 times (once per color) I think. :facepalm:

Thanks to everybody who offered their thoughts!
 

martinjaymckee

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I do basically all my rockets assembled, unless I am using the separation line as a break between two colors. I've never once had an issue with the two halves being glued together any more than a little -- a bit of elbow grease is always enough to get them apart. Typically, if I'm not overly heavy with my coats, they don't even stick together. They'll just slide right apart when I unmask them.

I've done it both ways, but I've moved to almost exclusively painting assembled though. I just find it easier overall.

Martin Jay McKee
 

dford

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Can't say I've painted large rockets but in my opinion I would line out your shapes as a full assembled rocket after you have primed. Wouldn't hurt to have a rough sketch to go off each separate sections color scheme to not get confused when masking off. It'll at least eliminate your reassembly process.

My 2 cents for what it's worth.
 
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