The beginner Estes rocket set I'm sending my niece

Originally published at: The beginner Estes rocket set I'm sending my niece | Boing Boing


I used to do model rockets as a kid, launching from athletic fields at school campuses and such. But anyone doing it these days really needs to check into local regulations to make sure they’re doing it safely, legally and not at risk of heavy fines. In much of California it’s very hard to find a place to do it legally without jumping through a lot of hoops and getting the proper permits. Basically if you’re somewhere with restrictions on fireworks (which is most of California) you’ve got restrictions on model rockets at well. So do your homework!

Last year during the midst of the pandemic I did build some rockets with the kids and drove out to the middle of a dry lake bed in the desert on BLM land to do the launches. It was a super safe location but not especially convenient to get to.


Are you a nice uncle that sent along a pack of 1/2A6-2s and A8-3s,

or are you the rad uncle that sent only B6-4s and C6-5s!!!


Last time I went back to where I grew up, all the open spaces we used to launch rockets in were are all built up. Model rockets has to be a lot harder hobby to get started in for kids nowadays.


The one rocket I built as a kid was so cool. We got to fire it twice before it disappeared (likely into some kids backpack while we were looking for it).

I’d love to get started with them here, but there aren’t a ton of great places for it. There’s either too many trees for a rocket to get stuck in or the risk of starting a forest fire is just too high (which is often the case from July to October-ish here). It’s a shame because my space loving 6 year old would really enjoy these rockets.


I still have my original kit! Not the original rocket… it got lost in a field :frowning: I looked and looked but couldn’t find it.


Back in MY day, you got a bag with a sheet of balsa, a balsa nose cone, tube[s] for the body & a sheet of instructions.
You had to cut the fins with a razor blade, and shape them with sandpaper, and glue them on the body… then you had to paint the thing.
After all that, you still had to balance the thing so it wouldn’t do a Crazy Ivan on you after it clears the launch rod.
It’s interesting that the instructions told you how to balance it. They didn’t mention what happens if you don’t.
And an ‘A’ engine? Ha! Gimme a ‘D’!
Those let people know you mean business!
They also teach you that you are sometimes better off using streamers instead of a parachute.


First rocket I flew a couple of years ago, didn’t know what the recovery wadding was for (or even that it was required); parachute promptly melted due to the final charge. Have subsequently learnt that you can just stuff a some grass clippings into the tube before you stuff in the parachute. Grass is biodegradable; not sure about the normal wadding.


One nice thing about being a Cub Scout leader is that we were able to take the kids to a BSA-owned campground where we could do our launches legally. We’d do it in the wet season which not only increased safety but meant that the area around the launch pad would be steaming with water vapor after each launch, which always looked extra cool.


I always find that the custom paint jobs are a big part of the fun. Never too early to start teaching the kids proper spray paint technique!


Grass huh? Must of been fresh grass. One time as a kid, I ran out of the real stuff and decided to try paper towels. It didn’t work. The towels and the chute caught fire.


I still miss the smell of butyrate dope.

Don’t forget the frustration of attempting a perfect fillet with Elmer’s glue without breaking off the wing.


Yep, just pull up a fistful from the launch-site - has enough moisture to prevent combustion. I think lettuce leaves et al also work.


Lucky niece! I love the fact that you can buy a $10 keyring video camera to tape to the side and get launch video. (Mind you, I think this was a C rocket)


The beginner Estes rocket set I’m sending my niece

Ummm…how, exactly?

lift off vintage GIF by US National Archives

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Luxury. We had to paint ours uphill. Both ways!

Yep, I remember those bad old days. Oh, the crooked fins!


Well you can still do all of those things, but I would work up to that level. I still don’t think I have done a D engine Model.

In highschool I wanted to make a scale model of a Sidewinder missile - even took measurements off of one at an air show. But like so many things in my life - I only half finished :confused:


Cool video!
50 years ago, Estes made a CamRoc. It had a film camera in the nose & you had to send the film back to have it developed. Never had one, myself… it was way beyond the means of a 7th grader making a buck an hour p/t washing dishes & cleaning tables at a local restaurant.

Oh, we could only dream of hills!
We had to paint ours in the teeth of a howling gale, using brushes we made from the fur of rabid squirrels!

There’s a Country Song in there somewhere:
‘We were Nerdlings, when Nerdlings were not cool…’

In 7th grade science class, we did model rockets as a class project. I had been building them for a while & I splurged for a D model from Estes. It was called The Goblin.
It was big… it was loud… and I watched it drift serenely into the woods behind the school.

I hear ya…


5th grade in 1976 here, and I bought the Big Bertha. Being in Kansas, it drifted off a loooong ways away.

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I remember that one! Remember the Gyroc?
I had one that had a glider on the back, kinda like the Shuttle on the back of its 747, Damned if I can remember what it was called.

Keeping in mind that 300 yards now is about 3 miles then, for the same reason that when you visit your old Elementary School, the whole place has shrunk

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My school (gasp…they tore down my elementary school!) was a short walk from Wichita State, so I’d hope a university student found it.

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