What’s your favorite igniter for Estes D through F motors?

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

rich56

Active Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
39
Reaction score
11
Had multiple duds due to igniters burning but not igniting the motors. They were. Carefully seated. Estes igniters and motors. Are there other brands? What’s your favorite?
 

SharkWhisperer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
296
Reaction score
166
Had multiple duds due to igniters burning but not igniting the motors. They were. Carefully seated. Estes igniters and motors. Are there other brands? What’s your favorite?
Estes igniters are the absolute worst. Fortunately, BP is pretty easy to get jump started and burning.

I wash the white cornstarch/glue "pyrogen" off newer Estes igniters & dip them in an NC lacquer/BP/MgAl powder slurry for Estes and homemade BP motors. Al powder gets pretty hot too and will work, but the MgAl alloy burns hotter and throws a bunch of sparks, without the reactivity and potential long-term storage issues of pure Mg. You can "perc up" your slurry if you want a little extra oxygen in the mix. BP granules are 3Fg or 4Fg commercial or -40 mesh to dust if you make your own. Fires up easily off of a 6-volt unit, better off of a 9V, but I usually use a 12V lead-acid scooter battery for instant ignition, though LiPos have lower internal resistance. And a roll of nichrome 80 (I use 34-40 gauge) is about $10 for a 500-foot roll, which will last you quite awhile. Smaller gauge has higher resistance and heats up faster but is more difficult to work with if you have fat fingers. And nichrome doesn't solder easily, though it's possible with an acid flux and silver solder, but I'm good with just wrapping and crimping. Kanthal is an FeCrAl alloy that has a lower resistance than nichrome but withstands high temperatures better (I'll sometimes reuse igniter wires if they're not burned through, but gotta wash the corrosive BP burn products off of them), and might be easier to solder if that's your thing. It's easy to find online, or at smoke shops--it's often used for wire heating coils in vape pens/pipes. So long as you know your wire length/gauge/resistance and your battery characteristics, you can calculate the minimum power delivery needed. I generally overshoot with current delivery with a healthy margin, because I don't like waiting seconds after I push the button for a rocket to launch. But they'll launch off 6 volts of alkaline batteries if that's all you have handy.

With Estes motors, simply pouring a little bit of 4Fg or meal powder down the throat and stuffing a stock igniter or a piece of cannon fuse in it typically works, too. If fusing, some motor classes have a very narrow throat so you'd need the thinner small-diameter visco fuse that's available online (cannonfuse.com's as good as any for small amounts). Primative but functional, and how it used to be done. Make sure your launch stand is solid so no surprise launch rod tilting! Wouldn't try that for APCP composite motors--you need a hotter mix than plain BP and you absolutely want top-down ignition (igniter rammed deep inside), so gravity is not your friend in this case. If fusing BP motors, don't skimp on fuse length too much. Those baby motors will still scorch the skin off your hands with the quickness. You don't want your hands under there. Use a camping lighter or propane torch for extra distance. Don't try this at an NAR or Tripoli sponsored launch--you'll get scolded by a hundred grannies and men acting like grannies for overtly breaking one of the NAR 10 Commandments on safe rocketry practices. This is by forum definition a "research" project.

These NC/BP/MgAl igniters typically work very well for Quest/Aerotech APCP composite motors, too, but you need to fashion them so you can slide them all the way up the core of the motor for good top-down ignition. No matter what you're igniting, test out several from any batch far away from any motor so you know precisely how they behave. Good idea to assess igniter and total ignition system resistance; easy with a simple multimeter. Please do not attempt a clustering ignition unless you have 100% knowledge and confidence in your ignition system, including igniter characteristics. Seems from your description that they're heating up. Do they glow brightly when powered up outside a motor?

If you're mostly into finned rockets and not fireworking, you probably don't have any MgAl laying around. NC is easily made by dissolving single-base (NC only) or double-base (more common, NC + NG) in acetone to 5% by weight (or eyeball it). Some use ping-pong balls (celluloid, which is low-nitration NC) but most on the market are no longer NC--they need to smell like camphor (stabilizer) and burn cleanly themselves without residue. The plastic ones will not work. Dollar store fingernail polish remover works fine, though read the label to make sure it is only acetone and doesn't have a bunch of other crap in it (or added water). Acetone is hygroscopic and happily absorbs atmospheric moisture, so keep the lid closed when not in use. You can also buy it at HD or Lowes. For smokeless/NC powders, you want the thin flakey stuff made for shotshells--the hard extruded pellets made for magnum rifles will take forever to dissolve, but eventually will. If you don't make your own, BP can be purchased at a sporting goods store, though it's harder to locate than smokeless powder due to shipping/storage restrictions. Common brands are Goex and Old Ensford. Bad homemade BP might work, but I wouldn't trust it. Most people who self-teach themselves how to make BP make pretty crummy stuff. My BP's pretty hot, so that's never a concern. MgAl and Al can be purchased from any fireworking chem vendor online, but you don't need all that much and a pound minimum order would last quite a long time (unless you're building other fireworks or experimenting with novel propellants!). I'm happy to send you a small quantity of MgAl to test out if you PM me details. BP I will not mail.

There's also several videos online about making igniters that are variable in quality and safety practices. Some are ok. Ask if you're unsure.

And like the folks below inquired--what's your electrical system? Estes igniters usually do the trick, especially if you ram a few extra amps down the wires, but that's not sufficient for me. And no way would I ever spend a buck or more for an extra igniter (to accommodate Estes' crummy igniter quality) when they cost about 2 cents to make. C'mon--a piece of wire with a dab of cornstarch glued on? Ridiculous. And what do your igniters look like after a launch attempt? Are they heating but just not firing the propellant grain or are you not getting juice to the igniter at all? You checked your battery output, right?
 
Last edited:

Spitfire222

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2020
Messages
251
Reaction score
274
Instead of messing with different ignitors, I recommend getting the PSII Launch Controller and using a 3S lipo battery. In over 100 launches since I became a BAR, I haven't had a single failure to fire using the standard white-tipped ignitors. A bit more expensive, but in my opinion a lot less of a hassle than messing with homebrew solutions. 🤷‍♂️
 

neil_w

Good at some things
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
11,638
Reaction score
4,439
Location
Northern NJ
Instead of messing with different ignitors, I recommend getting the PSII Launch Controller and using a 3S lipo battery. In over 100 launches since I became a BAR, I haven't had a single failure to fire using the standard white-tipped ignitors. A bit more expensive, but in my opinion a lot less of a hassle than messing with homebrew solutions. 🤷‍♂️
This raises a relevant question for the OP: what launch controller were you using when you had the igniter failures?

I will say for myself: when launching with a club running off a 12V system, I've had maybe one failure ever with the Estes igniters. Nonetheless I do look forward to the new "energetic" variety.
 

rich56

Active Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
39
Reaction score
11
The club I shoot with is using pro looking equipment with car batteries. I can test conduct before launch. Before I go farther I will prep the motors with igniters at home carefully.
 

bronicabill

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Nov 12, 2019
Messages
132
Reaction score
115
Had multiple duds due to igniters burning but not igniting the motors. They were. Carefully seated. Estes igniters and motors. Are there other brands? What’s your favorite?
To date, I have NEVER had an Estes ignitor fail to start the motor, and I've been flying these things since 1970 or so!

Now you can call me lucky, or crazy, or a flat-out liar, but I'm being serious here; I have certainly had OTHER failures with Estes products (always my own fault in the end), but never a failure of an Estes ignitor to start my motor!
 

Cape Byron

The BAR formerly known as Skippy-2
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
1,521
Reaction score
1,548
Location
Northern Rivers, Australia
Instead of messing with different ignitors, I recommend getting the PSII Launch Controller and using a 3S lipo battery. In over 100 launches since I became a BAR, I haven't had a single failure to fire using the standard white-tipped ignitors. A bit more expensive, but in my opinion a lot less of a hassle than messing with homebrew solutions. 🤷‍♂️
I've been testing the PSII controller (just with dry cells, not a LiPo) and it's working well with the 'new' Estes white ignitors and have had good 2x cluster results - only one fail and that was my fault.

Good controllers make for good flights. More power = betterer
 

Spitfire222

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2020
Messages
251
Reaction score
274
I've been testing the PSII controller (just with dry cells, not a LiPo) and it's working well with the 'new' Estes white ignitors and have had good 2x cluster results - only one fail and that was my fault.

Good controllers make for good flights. More power = betterer
Full disclaimer: I have had a few (less than 5) failures to launch, but they were due to either a shorted igniter, or me not properly inserting it into the motor.
 

dhbarr

Amateur Professional
Joined
Jan 30, 2016
Messages
7,228
Reaction score
1,649
Most of my fails were from sleepy batteries or folks not press-and-holding the launch button. Energizer Ultimate AAs ( LiFeS2 ) work better than any other AA in my experience. 14500 's will also fit in the same space.
 

Flyfalcons

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2015
Messages
2,515
Reaction score
710
I just use stock igniters and rarely have a failure. Good power in your launch controller is crucial.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BEC

Mike Haberer

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 7, 2019
Messages
557
Reaction score
352
I found a post elsewhere on the forum to dip Estes igniters in Testor's silver paint. There are aluminum flecks in the paint. Significantly increases the thermal output. Cheap. One little bottle will enhance a thousand igniters. No extra steps required, just dip and dry. No BP required. Easy-peasy.
 

neil_w

Good at some things
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
11,638
Reaction score
4,439
Location
Northern NJ
I found a post elsewhere on the forum to dip Estes igniters in Testor's silver paint. There are aluminum flecks in the paint. Significantly increases the thermal output. Cheap. One little bottle will enhance a thousand igniters. No extra steps required, just dip and dry. No BP required. Easy-peasy.
I dug up a bottle of Testor's Aluminum that I happened to have... do you think it is likely to perform similarly to the silver? I don't know if they use different types of metal in there for the different colors or what... would be funny though if the silver paint uses aluminum and the aluminum paint doesn't...
 

Mike Haberer

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 7, 2019
Messages
557
Reaction score
352
Best thing to do is just try one. Dip it and let it dry. I tested it by sticking the igniter leads into a 2S LiPo battery connector (or touch them to a 9v battery's terminals). No need to drag out your launch controller. Do it in the garage and wear gloves.
 

neil_w

Good at some things
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
11,638
Reaction score
4,439
Location
Northern NJ
Best thing to do is just try one. Dip it and let it dry. I tested it by sticking the igniter leads into a 2S LiPo battery connector (or touch them to a 9v battery's terminals). No need to drag out your launch controller. Do it in the garage and wear gloves.
That's a good idea.
 

Rocketjunkie

Addicted to APCP
Joined
Jan 19, 2009
Messages
4,395
Reaction score
604
The easiest for Estes 24 and 29 mm motors is an ematch like used to fire deployment charges. Make sure you can see BP at the bottom of the nozzle. (Won't light if clay covers the BP.) Stick ematch head into nozzle as far as it will go. It does not have to touch the propellant. Cover nozzle with a piece of tape to hold it in place. Wire in parallel or if current limited up to 3 in series. Ematches are designed to fire in series as they become a momentary short as they fire.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BDB

blackjack2564

Crazy Jim's Gone Banana's
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
9,127
Reaction score
1,288
Location
Savannah Ga
+1
common e-match are cheaper and havenice long leads.
even if they don't fit in nozzle, just place on top and tape, i will fight.

Many size heads, but u get what u get...no choice really. They all will shower the grain with sparks.
12135312295_de19278130_b.jpg
DSCN4812.jpg
DSCN4814.jpg
DSCN4816.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: BDB

Dugway

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
229
Reaction score
99
Location
Draper, UT
I use nothing but these in black powder clusters:

It looks like they've been out of stock since November. I'll have to check my supply!
 

Ez2cDave

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
4,536
Reaction score
1,355
To date, I have NEVER had an Estes ignitor fail to start the motor, and I've been flying these things since 1970 or so!

Now you can call me lucky, or crazy, or a flat-out liar, but I'm being serious here; I have certainly had OTHER failures with Estes products (always my own fault in the end), but never a failure of an Estes ignitor to start my motor!
Try using them to ignite large clusters . . . Your experience will change rapidly !

Dave F.
 

jrap330

Retired Engineer, NAR # 76940
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
652
Reaction score
189
Location
NJ
This raises a relevant question for the OP: what launch controller were you using when you had the igniter failures?

I will say for myself: when launching with a club running off a 12V system, I've had maybe one failure ever with the Estes igniters. Nonetheless I do look forward to the new "energetic" variety.
To add to Neil's response and what I mention in a previous post........hey Nichrome wire with you forming a coil always works off a 12 v lantern battery, back in 1960s/70s......so my guess is...pyrogen was added so controllers could use smaller "AA" batteries and maybe to aid in clustering engines. So why, deal with all the hassle. BUT i will try the trick about dipping in Testor's silver paint.....simple easy...no issues in acquiring the paint.
 

neil_w

Good at some things
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
11,638
Reaction score
4,439
Location
Northern NJ
BUT i will try the trick about dipping in Testor's silver paint.....simple easy...no issues in acquiring the paint.
I dipped 8 in my aluminum paint tonight, and will try firing a couple when I get a chance. I'm hoping it works the same as the silver.

I have to say, dipping the igniters in the little paint bottle was weirdly enjoyable.
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
5,137
Reaction score
2,425
Location
Melbourne Australia
I have taken to using straight eMatches and all have been successful. If they won't fit in the nozzle just sit them there with a bit of tape. Works a treat.
 

SharkWhisperer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
296
Reaction score
166
I dipped 8 in my aluminum paint tonight, and will try firing a couple when I get a chance. I'm hoping it works the same as the silver.

I have to say, dipping the igniters in the little paint bottle was weirdly enjoyable.
Absolutely not a fan of the Testors dip. It's an acrylic paint with some embedded (low concentration) metallic fuel pigment. First, acrylic burns, emitting plenty of toxic gasses, igniting at about 550-600F. Medium hot. But it really burns like crap and is not self sustaining. There's no extra oxidant present as in ematches or igniters--just MORE fuel in the form of crappy Al flakes (coated no less. Shiny is not good for Al in pyro).

The metal content (probably only aluminum in "silver" paint because it's cheap, is large flake coated (probably stearin or stearic acid--fatty acids to prevent rapid atmospheric oxidation to dull grey aluminum oxide--"bright aluminum", which all fireworkers know requires extra heat to get through the protective layer and start the metal on fire. There's not a lot of metal in metallic paints, typically--the absolute minimum required (it's the most expensive ingredient).

I've seen videos of igniters made with Testors, and I am absolutely not impressed. Embarrassed, actually. The plastic coating hampers the already underoxidized aluminum (or whatever) fuel, and burns like polluting crap. And it's not that expensive, but it's by no means cheap, especially for the crappy effect it tends to give. I'm sorrry, Testors paint fans, but you've possibly become susceptible to overoptimism. Other mixes, simple mixes, work every time and are comparatively non-toxic. The only thing I'd trust burning plastic igniter coatings for (the aluminum is almost worthless as a pyrogen without an additional oxygen donor, and the plastic coating over it makes it even worse ) is a bad odor and an unpredictable burn.

It would never even enter the "bottom 10" of igniter pyrogens to consider. But maybe better than Estes cornstarch/glue white solar igniters--that's a super low hurdle to jump.

All said, if it works to your satisfaction, safely and reliably, great! If it doesn't, PM me and we'll have you firing BP and APCP motors for pennies instead of dollars. Simples!!!

And no, I am not in the business of making money from this. I just am happy to share proven formulations/designs. I don't wait one or two seconds for a motor to fire when I press the button--it's instantaneous. Every single time.

Peace.
 
Last edited:

Tyler P

Nom-nom-nom...
TRF Supporter
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
720
Reaction score
310
I love reading comments about how bad Estes igniters are. And then I wonder, what are you doing wrong to make these claims? I have boxes full of Estes igniters just from the extras they give in the motor packages. Mine always work unless I've managed to break them or accidentally short them out. Hundreds of perfectly successful launches on their igniters. I've had worse luck with composite motor igniters due to them being brittle.

I just don't get it.
 

Antares JS

Professional Amateur
Joined
Mar 5, 2020
Messages
968
Reaction score
1,078
Location
Eastern Shore, VA
Estes igniters augmented with quickdip. Works every time, including for clusters. You don't want misfires at a club launch; it can cost you a lot of time.
 

jrap330

Retired Engineer, NAR # 76940
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
652
Reaction score
189
Location
NJ
I dipped 8 in my aluminum paint tonight, and will try firing a couple when I get a chance. I'm hoping it works the same as the silver.

I have to say, dipping the igniters in the little paint bottle was weirdly enjoyable.
Post with your results
 

Ihocky2

New Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2021
Messages
3
Reaction score
1
It would never even enter the "bottom 10" of igniter pyrogens to consider. But maybe better than Estes cornstarch/glue white solar igniters--but that's a super low hurdle.

All said, if it works for you great! If it doesn't, PM me and we'll have you firing BP and APCP motors for pennies instead of dollars. Simples!!!

And no, I am not in the business of making money from this. I just am happy to share proven formulations/designs. I don't wait one or two seconds for a motor to fire when I press the button--it's instantaneous. Every single time.

Peace.
How do you feel about dipping the tip in Nitrocellulose Lacquer? Not the most common to find in the hardware store anymore but not hard to find either.
 

Ez2cDave

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
4,536
Reaction score
1,355
I love reading comments about how bad Estes igniters are. And then I wonder, what are you doing wrong to make these claims? I have boxes full of Estes igniters just from the extras they give in the motor packages. Mine always work unless I've managed to break them or accidentally short them out. Hundreds of perfectly successful launches on their igniters. I've had worse luck with composite motor igniters due to them being brittle.

I just don't get it.
The previous incarnations of Estes igniters that had pyrogen on the wire were okay.

However, the new "Starters" with a blob of Corn Starch, are pretty bad. Large clusters ? "Fuggedaboutit" !

Dave F.
 

SharkWhisperer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
296
Reaction score
166
How do you feel about dipping the tip in Nitrocellulose Lacquer? Not the most common to find in the hardware store anymore but not hard to find either.
Depends on your NC source. Nitrocellulose burns very quickly in some formats (think loose, high-nitration flash paper) and very slowly in other formats (some low-nitration true celluloid ping-pong balls, some fingernail polishes, expensive guitar lacquers), and moderately in regulated-speed, high-purity, high-nitration, chemically-stabilized comps like smokeless powder. Dissolved in acetone or MEK and dipped, burn rate will be a function of NC starting quality (purity and nitration level), but in any event will be much much better than the acrylic Testors paints (with miniscule amounts of metals added). Smokeless powder is the best source and is cheap and easily acquired in the US--it already is highly-nitrated and contains stabilizers (usually diphenylamine) so it lasts for years. Homemade NC is neither a difficult nor especially dangerous project, but quality control is difficult, and a decent chemistry background is essential. Importantly, homemade NC is usually fraught with impurities and lacks important stabilizing agents that prevent it from degrading over time--sometimes it's quality notably deteriorates within weeks. Fun for making small amounts for chemistry projects to wow the kids--flashcotton is actually pretty cool. But not really useful for igniters. But don't waste your time if using for serious purposes such as rocket igniters. Please visit this site for an intro into NC and examples of nitration levels expected in various products: https://www.islandpyrochemical.com/nitrocellulose-based-propellants/

If using a true pyrogen dip, too, I don't top-coat with NC alone to form a protective shell--the NC is slower burning than the pyrogen at low ignition pressures so actually hinders hot flaming particle dispersion, though it makes it "pop" louder. This "pop" is heat energy being wasted as acoustic energy.

Short answer: Compared to crummy Estes fake/non pyrogens and very slightly better burning acrylic paint dips (Testors, etc.; plastic burning is toxic and stinks...), I would do an NC dip only, any day of the week if my only alternative option. It would be a good improvement but still insufficient by my assessment and I would soup it up further. I do not ever need to hold my finger down on the launch button for a quarter second, a half second, a second, or gawd forbid several seconds wondering if/when my motor might fire. Ignition should be instantaneous and reliable. Every single time.
 

SharkWhisperer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
296
Reaction score
166
I love reading comments about how bad Estes igniters are. And then I wonder, what are you doing wrong to make these claims? I have boxes full of Estes igniters just from the extras they give in the motor packages. Mine always work unless I've managed to break them or accidentally short them out. Hundreds of perfectly successful launches on their igniters. I've had worse luck with composite motor igniters due to them being brittle.

I just don't get it.
They're delicate, have had decent pyrogen replaced with kaka cornstarch/glue, and are overpriced. That said, they "usually" work, and oftentimes failures are due to operator error. But there are failures, product failures, too. Which is why they give extras in motor packages (some, no longer).

And they often take several seconds to fire a rocket (or not), especially with the trainer 6V junk systems (and weak batteries). As a dual model rocketry enthusiast and pyrotechnician/fireworker, guaranteed positive ignition is a critical safety factor that is deeply ingrained in me. I push a fire button and it better fly or explode, instantly. Every time.

I do not expect many on this forum (all HPR folks excluded) have such strict expectations or requirements for launch devices--who cares if it takes an extra second of button pushing to ignite your LPR/MPR? Who cares if you need to use one of Estes "extra" igniters because of a failure? I do.
 

SharkWhisperer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
296
Reaction score
166
Estes igniters augmented with quickdip. Works every time, including for clusters. You don't want misfires at a club launch; it can cost you a lot of time.
Absolutely agree. And they're making a hot profit on breaking down standard pyro chems (cheap by the pound) into rocketry igniter-dipping kits, which is fine. I'm lucky enough to already be in the fireworking hobby, so these chems are standard and used already in comparatively large quantities.

But actually, for the price of a dip kit, anybody could legally buy (including shipping) the chems required to make several pounds of the pyrogen included in those kits. Here's a breakdown, for BP motors--composite ignites add some extra oomph : Oxidizer, $7/pound; Fuel: $7/pound; Ignition temp reducing agent (optional): $3/pound (454g); shipping around $10. Plus NC lacquer source/components. If you just want to light BP motors with BP, then it's even cheaper... Or you can spend $45/kit or more (plus shipping) for 40g of mix, which will indeed coat quite a few igniters and I'm sure is good quality, but you're paying a high premium for the convenience and for having somebody else do the (simple) legwork. But that convenience is worth the cost to many, which I understand.
 
Top