Head first into the model rocketry pool after 35 years away.

Estes Mini Honest-John. Does 300+ feet on an A3 or A10 series 13mm size engine.
Photo: me! (My cruddy phone)

The flyin’ kind. Remember those? Cub Scout camp? Your youth? Well since my kids are now youths, and interested, I guess I found something I can get into right now without waiting for the car restoration fund to fill up. They can’t wait, plus, I discovered a friend of mine is into the much higher-powered stuff, and contests always get me going…

Growing up and in the Cub Scouts I was exposed to this at summer camp. Two years in a row of it. We, all of us, built the same rocket. The wizard is still in production since the 70's. It’s a basic first rocket that’s sold in large bulk packs for science teachers and large outreach programs/groups such as, guess, the scouts.


It was assembly line-like. All of us sat at the long lines of fold-up tables where we put the thing together. we popped the fins out of the balsa sheet, took them to a table where a lady had a hot-glue gun and would put 3 big globby beads on the body where we drew pencil lines, and we stuck the rough and unfinished fins on at whatever angle we managed. then attached the rubber band inside and to the nose cone and tied the streamer around the band. Stuffed it all inside and then to another table where everyone’s was panted standard orange. If you wanted, you could decorate with a brush and some tried the BSA logo, or something else. Always resulting in a blue diamondy blob and yellow dots.

They launched 8 at a time the next day. Even with oddly angled fins they managed to decently track straight-ish. One in twenty would actually pop the un-sanded balsa nose cone off and deploy the streamer and land softly. Otherwise they lawn darted into the mud about a hundred feet in the distance. Eight excitedly bouncing boys at a time would be let go to run out and grab their mud-caked rocket, pull the nose out and run around with streamers trailing behind for a while. If they were anything like me, I loved it but the rocket also would eventually break at home because there was no way to launch it and the parents had no idea this was a thing at all.

So I made it a thing.

I was really into sourcing things the best I could to a degree that he parents realized they better foster this science thing and they bought me a launch pad/controller before I hurt myself trying to put one together. Once I had that I got a legit rocket, the Maurader.


2nd down 


It had a payload section, although I never put anything in it, and had a great flight path look on a bigger C-sized engine. I started fifth grade fully into this and my science teacher noticed, thought this was the coolest thing ever and would actually move the kids on the playground to give room to launch a rocket! At school, during recess.

I’m pretty sure now that was probably against so many city/county/safety regulations, not just the ones in the NAR (National Association of Rocketry….not the association of realtors) rules of use that come with any engine or rocketry piece of equipment.


Anyone under twelve should be supervised, those rules say, and here I was at ten and eleven, blasting off with kids running around trying to catch it. Supervised my ass. The maurader was heavier and larger than the wizard, so it wasn’t a zip into a spec, but slower accelerating. We could watch it ascend!

Then I got another rocket. A similar cargo one to the Maurader but with a straight body. I got creative and give it a bigger parachute, which turned out to be a bad idea because it never opened! It kept getting stuck together and the whole thing would just crash down again and again. In recess. Super safe though given 1984 standards! Nothing wrong here.


My friends got into it. They started buying rockets. They got their own launch pads. I followed up the two I had with a Cobra-1500. The tallest you could get with the 18mm C-size engine. D’s were 24mm and you got less per pack so I couldn’t afford them (and never got the D-engined legend, “Mean-Machine” 6 footer.) That one would also clear 700 feet and under the chute kind or rotated in a slow helicopter seed-pod way. That was a good one. Really inspiring as it could be seen the whole way up and over.

mine was with a red lower body.


 We started really spending some recess time about once a month or so blowing money on engines. Four to a pack at the time was about $5. We used up about $20 of engines one day ($45 today) and couldn’t believe it.

I got a mini_mean_machine 3-foot rocket since I couldn’t get the Big 6-footer. It flew on mini engines and did 700 feet on those.


But the engine mount got lost and the only way to rescue the build was to get an engine clip from a normal C-sized engine mount and glue/tape that on the body. It looked a bit ugly, yeah, but in the end, we flew it on a C engine, where all three-feet of it zipped out of existance. I knew then things were getting crazy and out of hand when we were overpowering a half-pound thrust rocket with almost 2 pounds thrust. I’m fairly certain we neared 1,800 feet or more. Suprisingly it came down straight on the chute and hung in a tree by the playground. To us it seemed like two minutes before we saw it again.


Fins would break off and we glued folded poster board on and some would come off on launch making trajectories a bit curious. It was a great time of not knowing if it was safe or not, but also knowing it was a good thing.

I don’t know what mom did with everything I had. Seventh grade hit and it was the farthest thing from my mind. A paper route and imagination required role-playing games were foremost instead. Car-Wars, Battletech, etc.


Driving around and playing video games was the next thing. Rockets? Psh, girls pizza and college. I had no idea there was any sort of amateur/advanced/science based amateur rocketry organizations ever where I lived. It was a flash in the pan, to make myself sound old today.

So, now, I’m building. Masking and painting. This one is 30" tall, C-power to 750 feet,


Got the 10 year old a nice small rocket that she loved building with my light guidance. She painted it herself like a candle. Squiggly blobby designs but that makes it so much more of what this really is. Pure fun.


My six-year old will do the same when here rocket shows up this week. A short fat thing. And my stuff shows up soon. Including a 2-foot tall V2 rocket scale replica. E motors….But I’m also targeting some competition stuff. For me, I’ve always liked small engines in capable things. So altitude records on small engines will be my target. 75 meters on a 1/4A engine is tough but fun to try. Nothing that requires waivers and large areas. Scratch building required, and no active playgrounds.


Instead of dreaming on bring-a-trailer, staying inside and wishing, I’m outside. The kids will remember fun with dad. As long as they’re excited and discovering new challenges, they’ll take a sense of completion with them to the next thing, whatever that is.

Now If I can get them to do protractor math to find out how high it goes, I’ll be really happy.

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