Painting The Magg (or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)

Nathan

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I often get asked about how I paint my rockets, so in this thread I will describe my rocket finishing technique in detail. I took lots of pictures while finishing the Minie-Magg which I just completed. This is the rocket that I will be using for my L1 attempt. This process took 5 weeks so I am going to squeeze 5 weeks of rocket finishing into this post.

Instead of doing a build thread, I'll start at the point where I have already completed assembling the Minie-Magg. First, here some of the finishing-related steps that were already done during the build:
  • Sanded the outer surface of the airframe tube with 400 grit sandpaper.
  • Before attaching the fins, I beveled the leading and trailing edges of the fins and then sanded all fin surfaces with 400 grit sandpaper.
  • Sanded the bottom surface of the aft CR with 400 grit sandpaper.
  • Applied and sanded 2 coats of AeroGloss sanding sealer to the fins and the bottom of the aft CR.

This kit has a HDPE (polyethelene) nosecone. I've heard that it can be difficult to get paint to stick to HDPE but I've never had a problem. You first just need to wash it with hot water and dish detergent, let it dry, and then really rough it up with 150 grit sandpaper. While sanding the nosecone make sure that you thoroughly sand down the mold lines on the sides.

Here's my paint design. I came up with several designs that I liked but had to eliminate some that would have been too difficult. This one was fairly easy.
36680163782_51623f7a8f_o.jpg


Here is the bare naked Minie-Magg:
36041993753_f5d833c5d1_o.jpg


I use Duplicolor high-build primer:
36711796671_72dd40b9f9_o.jpg


I spray as many coats of primer as necessary to completely fill the spirals and cardboard texture of the body tube, and also the mold line in the nose cone. After letting each primer coat dry, sand off most of the primer with 400 grit sandpaper. The idea is to get a smooth even surface, not just build up a thick layer of primer. To assess my progress during priming I use a flashlight at a low angle to highlight the spirals and roughness of the body tube. This is the bare tube before primer:
36042075403_b53b710b9b_o.jpg


You can see from the picture above that to get a very smooth surface on the body tube, it is not just the spirals but also the rough surface texture of the cardboard that needs to be filled.

After spraying and sanding 4 coats of primer I finally got the tube perfectly smooth with no spiral marks.
36042075253_e5d6242938_o.jpg


The woodgrain on plywood fins is easier to hide so by the time there are enough coats on the body tube, the fins are also perfectly smooth. Another benefit of four coats of primer is that it also evens out minor imperfections in the epoxy fillets.

Here is a shot of my rocket workshop with the Minie-Magg primed and ready for paint. Notice that my speaker stands are spray paint cans and the subwoofer is my footrest. So I can rock out while I build rockets:
36016532164_c283b44d9d_o.jpg


The paint that I am using is all DupliColor enamel.
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Enamel gives a very hard finish that polishes up nicely but the downside is that it takes a while to dry. I wait at least one day between coats and at least 2 days before wetsanding the final coat of each color. Enamel actually takes weeks to fully cure.

I sprayed 3 coats of white on the body tube and fins. I sanded the first 2 coats with 400 grit sandpaper before spraying the next coat. Here it is after spraying the final white coat:
36711851391_ec277b4e57_o.jpg


After 2 days, I wetsanded the final white coat on the body and fins. I use 2000 grit sandpaper for wetsanding:
36454786060_fbb16130bf_o.jpg


Optionally you could wetsand with 1500 grit sandpaper but then it would require more polishing to remove all the 1500 grit scratch marks. Wetsanding with 2000 grit is a very slow process, but it's an important step that can't be rushed if you want a perfect finish. I probably spent about 6 hours wetsanding the body tube and fins. I could wait and wetsand just once after spraying all of the colors, but wetsanding before spraying the next color creates a nice smooth surface for masking for the next color. Here it is after wetsanding the white:
36042497673_2447b94a0e_o.jpg


I sprayed 2 coats of black on the nose cone. As before, I waited 2 days and then wetsanded with 2000 grit.
36851339675_f2944ac094_o.jpg


The upper part of the body tube will be black with green and yellow stripes. But you can't paint light colors over black so the stripes go down first then the black goes on last. Here it is masked for the green stripe. I mask using a combination of blue painter's tape and medium size trash bags.
36454694000_f4afd98dae_o.jpg


The picture above shows that I also used green 3M automotive masking tape on this one, but I stopped doing that because my green tape got fouled with dirt so I threw it away (since then I started storing my masking tape in a sealed plastic bag). I have also found that normal blue painters tape does a perfectly good job as long as you seal the edges with clearcoat.

Here it is after spraying the green stripe. For each color I first spray a light coat of clear enamel to seal the tape, wait several minutes, spray a light color coat, wait about 10 minutes and then spray a wet color coat:
36711851331_b9377b50cc_o.jpg


And after removing the masking:
36042116483_744aa4a445_o.jpg


Meanwhile, I polished the nose cone.
36016531984_a6feb00223_o.jpg


Polishing is an often misunderstood process. Polish does not put anything on the finish, it is just an extremely fine abrasive paste that actually removes some paint. I am referring to car polish here, not floor polish which I understand some people actually put on their rockets :y:. I polish by hand using a cotton cloth, then buff off the polish with another clean cloth.

With enamel, the longer you wait before polishing, the better. If you polish too soon after wetsanding it might initially look good but will then get dull as the enamel continues to cure, requiring re-polishing. I try to allow the paint dry at least 5 days before polishing. I do a two-step polishing process using Sonus brand car polish.
36454787410_dbfb706f26_o.jpg


The first step is medium cut polish (aka swirl remover) followed by fine cut polish (aka finishing polish, or "prewax" polish). You could use only fine cut polish but it would take a lot more work to polish out all the 2000 grit scratch marks. And if you used only medium cut polish it wouldn't get as shiny.

Here is the body masked for the yellow stripe:
36042116423_464da545a9_o.jpg


After spraying the yellow stripe:
36711875651_0c7aaeb12f_o.jpg


And after removing the masking:
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I wetsanded the green and yellow stripes, then masked for the black:
36711875411_062e5e9f26_o.jpg


After spraying the black:
36711875361_c43dffa0a5_o.jpg


And after removing the masking. Now it's starting to look like my paint design:
36711875291_5da0697505_o.jpg
 
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Nathan

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That was the easy part. Now time to start on the fins. Here it is masked for the black on the fins. Masking for the colors on the fins was the most tedious part of the whole job.
mmpp20.jpg


After spraying black on the fins:
mmpp21.jpg


After removing the masking:
mmpp22.jpg


At this point enough time had passed that I could wetsand the black paint on the body tube. This pic is a good example of how it should look after wetsanding: non-glossy, smooth, and even.
mmpp23.jpg


And now masked for the green on the fins:
mmpp24.jpg


After spraying green on the fins:
mmpp25.jpg


After removing the masking:
mmpp26.jpg


After masking for the yellow on the fins. As you can see by now, I go through lots of tape and plastic garbage bags.
mmpp27.jpg


After spraying yellow on the fins:
mmpp28.jpg


After removing the masking. Now I finally have all the paint on the rocket! I also removed the tape that had been covering the exposed end of the motor tube and glued on the Aeropack retainer. You can't tell from this pic but while I was working on painting fins I also polished to body tube.
mmpp30.jpg


After wetsanding the fins:
mmpp31.jpg


After polishing the fins:
mmpp37.jpg


All the polishing is now complete, time to apply a coat of wax. The wax makes it glossier and slicker, and also protects the paint. I used Chemical Guys 5050 carnauba wax but any car wax will do.
mmpp32.jpg


I also made this stand for it because if I balance it on its motor retainer it would fall over for sure. The stand got a similar paint treatment:
mmpp40.jpg


Now just need to screw on the rail buttons and it's FINALLY FINISHED!!!
mmpp43.jpg
 
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GRIFFIN

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.........Don't ever fly it!!!!!!




Awesome job, I wish I had your patience.
 

sodmeister

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Now that`s a professional looking paint job !!

Great work ,the effort and time you spent sure did pay off big time :handshake:

Take care

Paul T
 

nh4clo4

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Beautiful work!

... and thank you for sharing. I just learned a bunch about the finishing process. :)
 

JPVegh

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You never get tired of making the rest of us look like total amateurs do you? Seriously though, incredible work man! I wish I could do anything that would be even half as good. I am in awe of your skills.
 

Nathan

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.........Don't ever fly it!!!!!!

Awesome job, I wish I had your patience.

It's going to fly. I plan to fly it at Red Glare this fall for my L1 attempt using a H225. I hope there's no wind because I got a really big parachute for it.

I added 8 oz of nose weight so it should be stable with any 38mm motor up to 6 grain.
 

AfterBurners

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As always Nathan this is the norm for you. Outstanding paint jobs. I wish I had the patience and skill to put out that kind of work, but in all honestly with my track record of blowing up rockets I rather not. The ones I don't blow up usually 9 times out of 10 get pretty dinged up.

It's always a pleasure to view the pictures you post of your remarkable paint jobs!
 

TopRamen

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Holy cow that's amazing!!!! Awesome Work and thanks for sharing! It inspires me to strive for a higher standard. If I can achieve a Paint Job half as good as yours, I will be content. Nice work!
 

VonMises

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Beautiful! The color choices are great too. I truly appreciate a paint job that isn’t afraid of close-ups. And we share the idea that they’re meant to fly. Bravo sir.

We need to talk. I’ll send a PM soon.
 

Onebadhawk

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Absolutely beautiful work,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Absolute attention to detail,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
You should be very proud of your efforts,,,,,,,,,,,,

Teddy
 

Onebadhawk

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Hi Nathan,
My name is Ted Chernok.......
I've done quite a bit of paint work,,,,,,,
I know how much effort it takes for a finished product to come out looking like that......
My greatest compliments.......
I make and sell shock cords on this forum and on ebay........
I'd like to send you one on the house to fly in that Mini Magg...........
I just got some new material in that I haven't taken pics of and set up an ad yet.
I think 25 ft of 1/2 kevlar would work well.........
Send me a PM with your address and I'll send you the cord..........

Teddy
 

lvgdgts

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That is really beautiful!

I'm curious as to what would happen if you sprayed clear coat on after the polish. Would that help to seal in and protect the shine or would it react poorly with the polish?
 

Nathan

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Hi Nathan,
My name is Ted Chernok.......
I've done quite a bit of paint work,,,,,,,
I know how much effort it takes for a finished product to come out looking like that......
My greatest compliments.......
I make and sell shock cords on this forum and on ebay........
I'd like to send you one on the house to fly in that Mini Magg...........
I just got some new material in that I haven't taken pics of and set up an ad yet.
I think 25 ft of 1/2 kevlar would work well.........
Send me a PM with your address and I'll send you the cord..........

Teddy

Wow thanks!

PM sent.
 

Nathan

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That is really beautiful!

I'm curious as to what would happen if you sprayed clear coat on after the polish. Would that help to seal in and protect the shine or would it react poorly with the polish?

I avoid spraying clear coat on enamel because it isn't necessary since polished enamel is already very glossy, and there is always the risk that I might screw it up and ruin 5 weeks of rocket finishing. Wax protects the finish. Synthetic paint sealant does just as well and lasts a lot longer than wax. I really like Blackfire Wet Diamond sealant but I used mine all up and haven't ordered more yet, so I waxed it instead.

autogeek_2267_74114314
 

thobin

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Now launch that thing and scratch it up, its just to darn purddy for a rocket.


TA
 

Onebadhawk

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The Red Porsche next to you looks like a 944S,,,,,,,,
An old favorite of mine,,,,,,,,,
as is the venerable 911,,,,,,,
in most all it's forms over the years.........

Now I'm drooling............

What year is yours.........

Please tell me it's not an automatic..........

Teddy
 

Nathan

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911 Carrera S
manual 6 speed
sports seats
sports exhaust
full leather

bought it new in 2008
 

rheil

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Like others have said fantastic job! And indeed thanks for sharing. I thought wet sanding with 600 was enough, you've upped the mark!
 

Onebadhawk

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That is a very special car,,,,,,,,,,,
Please tell me that you intend to keep
that car forever and ever................

Teddy
 

VonMises

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Apparently we share another interest Nathan. I used to race a 944 in the old SCCA GT2 series. Didn't drive. Just the chassis, and electrical guy.
 

AlfaBrewer

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Nathan - Thanks for posting this. I learned quite a bit about getting a "showroom shine" whether for my rocket or my car. Plus, my wife doesn't think I'm quite as insane anymore.
 
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