HellFire, sponsored by the Utah Rocket Club (UROC) takes place this year August 3,4,5,6. Though HellFire is technically an amateur launch, we’re talking serious rocketry here. Participants from around the country launch rockets ranging from foot-tall wonders to towering monsters that weigh in at over one hundred pounds, feature high-tech electronics, use a propellant similar to that used on the space shuttle, and lift off with 750 pounds of pure thrust.
Now in its 22nd year, HellFire continues to grow. Many people attend not to launch, but simply for the thrill of watching. Between launches, visitors enjoy examining rockets and components close-up and speaking with the experts who build and launch them.
Spectator Admission to HellFire is free and the public is welcome. HellFire will be held on the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah. Take Exit 4 on Interstate 80 and follow easy-to-spot signs. The event takes place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, August 3 through Sunday, August 6.
Discounted registration for flyers is available for UROC members.
Many more details to come over the next weeks.
Tips for visitors:
After trying several ways to create the nosecone for the ASP (Atmospheric Sounding Projectile), I've decided I won't use any of those methods again. Here are some notes and photos of what I did, and a few suggestions for what I'd do differently. Any input would be welcome.
We (Luke, Ian and I) had earlier experimented with gluing up just the foam (styrofoam insulation), turning it to shape, splitting it and then gluing it to the wooden ribs that were to support it. Bad idea all around in my opinion. It was a pig to put (and keep) on the lathe and cutting the finished product into four equal pieces would be a pain. Maybe it'd be OK for a smallish cone but not for this one. By the way, gluing a piece of styrofoam to a wood disc and attaching that to a faceplate on the lathe works pretty good for pieces up to maybe a foot long and a foot in diameter.
The next experiment was to create a wooden support structure with a 1” dowel at the center and 1/4” plywood ribs for support. The dowel had four 1/8” deep dadoes cut into it to hold the plywood.
I then cut the ribs so that, when glued to the dowel, they would make a structure defining the size and shape of the finished nosecone. Stacking the rib blanks and taping them together made it fairly easy to cut them the same size and shape.
I drilled and cut foam circles just a little bigger than the wooden structure and quartered them.
A 3/4” center hole worked great and careful quartering produced a pretty good fit when I began gluing the pieces to the ribs.
The first attempt I made at this procedure can be seen on the lathe in the background of the picture above. I thought I might be able to do it cheaply by using liquid nails to hold the foam together. - -Wrong.- - The liquid nails ate the foam from the inside out and the whole thing blew apart under stress on the lathe.The assembly in the foreground has wood glue for the wood joints and Devcon epoxy for sticking the foam. I used 5-minute epoxy but I had extra hands there to put the cable ties on and help mix the epoxy. Working alone would definitely require slower epoxy.
This attempt went well. I planned on using a skew (angled knife) to turn the foam down until I hit wood and figured I'd get the right shape and a nice smooth finish that way. The first time I nicked the wood I could tell I'd have to change plans. Even with a razor sharp skew, the difference in density between the foam and the wood made the knife catch and pull. I ended up using a drywall sanding block and paper to get the finished shape while the lathe was running. One downside to sanding instead of cutting was that any amount of pressure applied to the sanding block wore the foam more than the wood resulting in a dip along one edge of the rib. Another downside to using the sanding block was that I couldn't get the nice crisp corners I wanted on the angles in the lower portion of the ASP's cone.
The Finished Product - Next time I'd make the wood ribs smaller than the finished cone size and fill in with 1/4” strips of foam. It would take some careful work with a skew and calipers to get the exact shape but I'd prefer that to sanding and I think I'd be happier with the results. Turning the foam on the lathe is easy and that's nice, but the stuff is so soft I ended up looking for a filler to take care of some nicks. Lightweight vinyl spackle seemed to do the trick.
Something else I'd like to try would be to turn a wooden form and create the cone out of fiberglass. Maybe glue a wooden support structure in later after the cone was removed from the form. That kind of glass work is beyond me right now but I'd love to learn. More to come, Evan
P.S. You can find out more about this project on Jim Yehle's pages at http://www.xmission.com/~jry/rocketry/projects/asp/asp-group-project.html.
Sport rocket motors approved for sale in the United States are stamped with a three-part code that gives the modeler some basic information about the motor's power and behavior. For example, a "C6-3" designation indicates that the total impulse of the motor ("C"), This number specifies the average thrust ("6"), and finally, the last number indicates the time delay between burnout and recovery ejection ("3").
Total impulse is a measure of the overall total energy contained in a motor, and is measured in Newton-seconds. The letter "C" in our example motor above tells us that there is anywhere from 5.01 to 10.0 N-sec of total impulse available in this motor.
In a typical hobby store you will be able to find engines in power classes from 1/2A to D. However, E, F, and some G motors are also classified as model rocket motors, and modelers certified for high power rocketry by the NAR can purchase motors ranging from G to K.
Since each letter represents twice the power range of the previous letter, total available power increases rapidly the further you progress through the alphabet.
Average thrust is a measure of how slowly or quickly the motor delivers its total energy, and is measured in Newtons. The "6" in our example motor tells us that the energy is delivered at a moderate rate (over about 1.7 seconds). A C4 would deliver weaker thrust over a longer time (about 2.5 seconds), while a C10 would deliver a strong thrust for a shorter time (about a second).
As a rule of thumb, the thrust duration of a motor can be approximated by dividing its total impulse by its average thrust.
Keep in mind that you cannot assume that the actual total impulse of a motor lies at the top end of its letter's power range -- an engine marked "C" might be engineered to deliver only 5.5 Newton-seconds, not 10.
The rocket is traveling very fast at the instant of motor burnout. The time delay allows the rocket to coast to its maximum altitude and slow down before the recovery system (such as a parachute) is activated by the ejection charge.
The time delay is indicated on our sample motor is 3 seconds. Other typical delay choices for C engines are 5 and 7. Longer delays are best for lighter rockets, which will coast upwards for a long time. Heavier rockets usually do better with shorter delays -- otherwise the rocket might fall back down to the ground during the delay time.
Motors marked with a time delay of 0 (e.g., "C6-0") are booster engines. They are not designed to activate recovery systems. They are intended for use as lower-stage engines in multi-stage rockets. They are designed to ignite the next stage engine immediately once their own thrust is finished. Often their labels are printed in a different color to help prevent you from using them in a typical rocket. In a multi-stage rocket, you would usually select a very long delay for your topmost engine.
First, please read the fine print... There are many different solutions to the rocket design challenge. Rules of Thumb simply provide a solid starting point that many have found useful in the past, and that will, in many cases, provide a suitable solution for your design problem today. Rules of Thumb are guidelines. They're not laws. They are nominal solutions that usually, in many cases, most of the time, get the designer in the right ballpark. Once a rocket designer's judgement has been formed by lots of experience, some Rules of Thumb can be stretched, bent, stood on their head, or ignored completely.
Using Rules of Thumb certainly does not take the place of stability tests, or attention to safety. Proof of stability and a constant focus on safety are the most fundamental and unchangeable Rules of Thumb I know. If you know Rules of Thumb that are not mentioned here, e-mail them to Tom Savoie and they could appear in a future update with your name as the contributor. Comments are always welcome.
Motor Mount Size
Build your rocket for the largest motor you might want to fly in it. You can always adapt down, you can never adapt never up.
Whatever your choice, use a primer, finish and clear coats that are compatible. Many times this means sticking to the same brands-e.g., Krylon primer, Krylon finish coat, and Krylon clear coat.
Diameter And Length Of The Rocket
The ratio of rocket length to diameter, sometimes referred to the aspect ratio, should be from 10 - 20:1. For example, a six inch diameter rocket would mean a length of 60 -120 inches.
Reinforcing the Airframe
The larger the rocket, the more important reinforcement becomes. Two layers of a lighter fiberglass fabric work better than a single heavy layer. Two layers of 4oz fiberglass works well for 3-4 inch rockets, 2-3 layers of 6oz for 5-7.5 inch rockets. A final wrap of 2 oz glass provides a good sanding veil. Glass a rocket measuring 2.56" or greater that will reach equal or greater than 0.85 Mach.
A fin that is 2 diameters of the airframe in root length and span and a chord length of about 1 diameter will be effective.
Fin Shape or Planform
The shape you see more than any other is called the clipped delta, and is known for its effectiveness. The clipped delta resembles a parallelogram, with the fin swept somewhat to the rear. The root and chord lines are near parallel, and the leading and trailing edges are near parallel. There are many, many shapes that will get the job done. Some look cooler to me than others. One of the most efficient fin designs looks like a simple rectangle attached to the tube.
Shaping the Fin
The leading edge of the fin should be rounded, the trailing edge shaped like a V. The chord edge should remain square.
Number of Fins
Three fins will almost always do the job. Four fins work too, but only marginally better as far as improving CP. Some have said that four fins reduce wind-induced spin.
Black Powder Ejection
Use enough BP to yield a 15 psi pressure within the airframe. See article on Ejection Charges for a detailed discussion.
Sizing The Parachute
You want your rocket to descend at about 15 feet per second under nominal conditions. Slow it up over playa and concrete. Use 3.5 square feet of chute per pound of recovered rocket weight. Determine chute size by doubling the square root of the weight of the rocket. For example, a 16 pound rocket would use a 2X4=8' chute. A 49 # rocket would use a 2X7=14' chute.
Streamers should be 10 times as long as they are wide.
Drogue recovery descent should be about 50 ft/sec.
A full-hemispherical canopy has very little performance gain over the more efficient and less bulky quarter-spherical--the top-half of a full-hemispherical chute.
Recovery Harness Strength
Tensile rating for recovery materials should be at least 50 times the static weight of the rocket.
Sizing Tubular Nylon
9/16" serves well in rockets up to 15 pounds. Go with 3/4 up to 30 pounds. 1" up to 50 pounds.
Length of model rocket shock cord
Make shock cords for model rockets a minimum of 2 to 3 times the overall length of the rocket. Middle or high power rockets should use tubular nylon at least 5 times the rocket length.
Use enough wadding to fill 2 x the diameter of your BT. Any more is probably overkill. Any less may allow hot particles through to hit your chute. Do not pack it tight.
Knots, Loops and Sharp Bends in Shock Cord or Bridle
Knots, sharp bends, including sewn loops, in the tubular nylon or flat webbing will weaken its load capacity by 50%.
How Tight is Tight?
Many people use masking tape to finesse the fit between an airframe and a coupler that must separate at deployment. A common question is: how tight do I want it to be? Use enough masking tape so that you can pick the rocket by the nose cone without the rocket coming apart. If you vigorously shake the rocket up and down, and don't see any movement off the coupler, you've probably got too much tape on, Jack.
Use 25% less Black Powder if your deployment system is piston driven.
Running a damp cloth through your airframe after flying will clean out powder residue and keep your piston moving freely.
Use shear pins on any rocket where you need a little extra piece of mind to know everything will stay in place until the proper time. Use 1/16" styrene rod or #2 nylon screws on almost any high performance rocket. For example two styrene shear pins each on a 2.6" phenolic airframe, 4 nylon screws on a 6" bird. See the article on Shear Pins in the CONSTRUCTION area for more detail.
Shortening Delay Elements
Note: Adjusting the delay as described below is considered a modification to the motor and is therefore against the rules in a TRA/NAR sanctioned launch. Delay grain burns at the rate of 1/32" per second. Shorten delay time by drilling a 1/16" bit to drill a hole into the ejection charge end of the delay. Drill to a depth of 1/32" for every second you want to shorten the delay. A piece of tape wrapped around the drill bit at the proper depth will help ensure an accurate depth. Don't drill more than 25% into the length of the delay.
Margin of Stability
The CG should be forward of the Center of Pressure by 1-2 calibers. A caliber is simply the diameter of the bird. One caliber of stability is also known as a margin of stability. In other words, in a four inch rocket, the CG must be ahead (closer to the nosecone) of the CP by 4 - 8 inches. More than .5 but less than 1 margin of stability (less than one caliber) and a rocket is "marginally stable'. More than two calibers of stability is known as "over stable". An over stable rocket will tend to dramatically turn into the wind. A marginally-powered, over stable rocket can end up almost horizontal.
Adjusting the Center of Gravity
To move the CG forward, add weight to the nose, lengthen the rocket, or lessen the weight in the aft end of the rocket. To move the CG aft, (for example, if your rocket is overstable), do the reverse.
Adjusting the Center of Pressure
To move the CP aft (more stable), increase the size of the fins. To move the CP forward, decrease fin size.
How Long is Too Long
A rocket must maintain its rigidity in flight. Any tendency to bend will be magnified in flight resulting in a kinked tube and likely a failed flight. If you hold a rocket horizontal by its tail section and notice any curvature in the rocket, your bird probably isn't stiff enough. Sorry, rocketeers, Viagra will not cure this problem.
Sizing the Motor
In selecting a motor to power your rocket, you need to have at least a 5:1 thrust to weight ratio. See a detailed discussion of this guideline Motor Selection in the PROPULSION area.
Launch Rod Diameter
Determine by motor size:
A,B,C - 1/8"
D,E - 3/16"
F,G,H and a body tube less than 2.6" - 1/4"
F,G,H,I w/ 2.6" to 4.0" body - 7/16"
I,J - 1/2"
Over J and body tube over should use rail buttons
Minimum Speed for Stable Flight
44 fps (30mph) is generally accepted as a minimum safe speed for stable flight. Faster speeds are necessary to achieve stability in windy conditions.
Mounting launch lug(s)/button/s
When mounting a single lug, cover the center of gravity with the lug. Always mount at least two rail buttons. When mounting two lugs or buttons, mount the lower piece at the rear of the airframe. The second should be on or just behind the center of gravity.
Submitted by Tom Savoie
Originally printed in Extreme Rocketry Magazine
Rocketry is one of those things you do in life that has no in-between. You have either a complete success, or an unmitigated disaster. Every flight, including failures, is a new andunforgettable learning experience. While some of the disasters can be attributed to bad or defective equipment or materials, a lot of failures can be attributed to incorrect preparation.
You certainly feel bad when you forget wadding in your Big Bertha, but it pales in comparison to forgetting something when flying your Big Kahuna. And the more we pay attention to the successes and failures of others and ourselves, the more we learn and the better our chances are for successful flights in the future.
Flights with a regular model rocket are basic. Wadding-parachute-motor-igniter-plug and you're off to get a launch pad. Mid- and high-power rockets are more complex, so more things can go wrong. The lack of proper preparation reminds me of one flight I saw. The rocket represented a considerable investment of time, effort and money for this person. The lift-off, boost and coast were perfect, and separation charge fired at apogee. However, during separation, everybody saw the one little "oops" this rocketeer forgot: to fasten the shock cord to both sections of the rocket. The upper part of the rocket came in under parachute, but the booster came in ballistic. Ouch.
Trying to document all of the possible ways to go wrong would fill a James Michner novel. Here is a small list of failures what I have either witnessed or been guilty of myself: All it takes is something like a forgotten O-ring in the motor and you get a CATO. Or there's not fastening the shock cord correctly and you get more pieces coming down than went up. Forgetting to arm the recovery electronics gets you a ballistic rather than parachute recovery. Using the wrong size launch rod will send your rocket off in unwanted directions, if it cleared the rod at all. Forgetting wadding turns your parachute into either a melted wad or the equivalent of a screen door, both bad for future flights. Not verifying your CG on assembly can turn your vertical flight into a horizontal one. That's not a good way to get the crowd to do the Wave.
Since we are all rocket scientists, I decided to take a "page" from the professional rocket scientists and write check-off lists, or "procedures" as they call them, for rocket preparation and launch evolutions. Even in the middle of the Apollo 13 disaster, everybody had a procedure for everything. If there wasn't one, you wrote it to make sure everybody was clear on what they needed to have and what they were supposed to do. This made sure everybody was "on the same page."
Procedures are essential to a person like me. I would forget my head, as the saying goes, if it wasn't permanently attached. I run down a procedure to make sure I don't forget something every time I leave the house. If I didn't, I would leave at least one essential thing behind, every time. I started using procedures years ago when I was SCUBA diving. It is embarrassing to get to the dive site and discover you forgot your weight belt, regulator or fins (or all of them) as I did on several occasions.
The source of my organization comes from my Palm Pilot. Not only do I use it to help keep me organized, I can also recover flight data from my onboard computer into it while on the flight line as well. I mention Palm specifically because there is a shareware program called HandyShopper that I use for these lists. I use the Aisle #'s as step #'s so that I can easily adjust the order of things in a procedure if I have to. In practice, after completing a step, I merely check it off, just like if I had just grabbed the bread or eggs. If you don't have a handheld computer, clipboards and paper served the professionals for years.
The best way to develop your own procedures is to sit in a quiet area and go through everything in your mind, start to finish. After you have imagined them, write them down and go through the list again. Then go and perform the procedure, adding notes and adding/changing steps as you go. As with all endeavors in our lives, your mileage may vary. The standard that you should aim for is that anybody can understand and complete your procedures. Imagine yourself in a full body cast with your jaw wired shut. A fellow rocketeer of approximate experience should be able to get you to the range, prep and fly your rocket without any "input" from you.
The first list is the material preparation procedure. You make sure your rockets are ready, double check you have everything, test electronics, dip a few igniters, whatever you need to do to make yourself ready. This will prevent the proverbial running around like a headless chicken the morning of the launch, which cuts into flying time. Doing this over an evening or two during the week gets you 90% ready. All you have to do the night before is quickly check everything before packing it into the car to make sure no one has "borrowed" something. I verify my range box, motor box, etc. are properly stocked by writing in the bottom or on the cover of every compartment what is supposed to be there, so anything missing jumps out you.
Next you can concentrate on the family. Lay out clothes for everybody, make sure your club ID's, cash for range fees and so on are on hand (preferably packed in your range box).
The next procedure is car-packing. The order that I use to pack the vehicle is the opposite of what I will need on the range. Things that have to come out first (tables, chairs, etc.) go in last. If you pack everything but food and drink the night before, you can do it calmly and you have the time and leisure to double-check and properly secure the items. You also make sure the vehicle is up to the job. Check the fluids, tires, gas and so on. If your alarm doesn't go off and you wake up late on launch day, you can jump into your clothes, dash out to the car and drive off, with the worst consequences being you have forgotten food, drinks and family members.
Once you are on the range and set up, you can relax a bit and take a break. Fly some model rockets, catch up with club members, volunteer as RSO/LCO for a shift, whatever. Your prior planning has given you this break.
Once you are ready to launch a big rocket, pull out its' pre-flight procedure. You will probably need an individual procedure for each of your HPR rockets. This procedure should take your rocket from cold (unprepared) to warm (ready for RSO and the launch pad). The number of individual steps is not important. Clarity of the steps is important. Thirty-seven steps to load and secure the motor into the rocket might be a bit of overkill, but you don't want to have just "stick it in and tape it down" either. Make sure your flight card is filled out, electronics are installed and ready, your CP/CG ratio is good and everything is connected and ready to go.
Now comes the final countdown. Get your rocket approved by the RSO, draw a pad from the LCO, and head out with the rocket and your final preparation procedure. Verify the launch pad can handle your rocket, put the rocket on the pad, insert the igniter, arm the electronics, take the rocket from warm to hot (ready) and head back to the range head to ready your cameras.
If you have invested the time in developing your procedures, you have eliminated 98% of human error on your part. You have done everything you could to ensure a safe flight that ends in a recovered rocket.
The investment of time you spend at home developing these procedures will save countless hours and rockets on the range. As the military puts it, "The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you will bleed in wartime."
Safe and successful flying!
Remember, the things you need FIRST go in LAST.
Model rocketry was developed during the "space race" era as an alternative to the amateur rocket activity -- involving metallic airframes and the mixing of dangerous propellants -- that was responsible for injuring and even killing numerous young scientific experimenters.
Model rockets are constructed of much safer materials -- such as cardboard, plastic, and balsa wood -- and are fueled by single-use rocket motors manufactured by professional concerns. These rockets may be flown over and over simply by replacing the used motor with a fresh one. They typically contain a parachute, streamer, or other recovery device that allows them to land gently for later reflight. The modeler need never mix, pack, or work with explosives or propellants.
Today, model rocket kits and motors can be purchased in almost every hobby shop and toy store. Kits are designed for all ages and all levels of challenge, from simple starter kits to complicated scale models. Motor power ranges from "1/4A" (the smallest) to "G" -- enough power to lift a six-foot model and a hefty payload!
Model rockets must be flown in compliance with the NAR Model Rocket Safety Code.
Throughout the year, the Utah Rocket Club welcomes Educational, scouting, Civil Air Patrol, 4H and other youth groups to attend our launches. Utah Rocket Club members are also available for presentations to schools, scout troops, and other educational and youth groups.
If you are interested in having a presentation or a launch for your organization, please contact one of the club officers.
UROC does not charge for youth or educational groups to participate in our launches. However, because of the heavy demand throughout the year, we ask that you contact us as far in advance as possible. If your group would like to attend one of our launches please contact us at least 4 weeks prior to the date of the launch.
Because of the nature of some of the launch events we hold throughout the year, NOT ALL LAUNCHES ARE OPEN TO YOUTH OR OTHER GROUPS. If you show up without checking first and the launch is not one open to public you will not be allowed to fly.
We also expect that there is an appropriate number of senior group members to assist in making sure that the kids are safe and under control at all times.
All flyers should be on their best behavior during a launch event. Building and launching rockets is fun but safety is paramount. If a group is too unruly or creating an environment that is unsafe for themselves or others they will be asked to leave. Group leaders and participants should read and understand the NAR safety rules before the day of the event. For Boy Scout groups we suggest that you get a current copy of the Space Exploration merit badge book available in local stores and online.
Participants may bring other model rockets for the launch if there is sufficient time, and the rocket passes safety review. Weather permitting, we will setup and run a model rocket range running under the NAR safety rules. If the weather does not permit launching UROC will schedule an alternate weekend for the event.
I enjoy painting plastic models and pewter miniatures used in games. I've used many different kinds of paints, so when it came time to paint another rocket, I decided to try some of them, rather than another can of Krylon. I've settled on using artist grade acrylics for my miniatures, so I decided to start there.
I chose acrylics for a variety of reasons. Typically they are non-toxic, they clean up with soap and water, can be thinned with water, are permanent, durable, and are readily available.
I purchase most of them from either Robert's or Michael's craft stores (don't forget the 40% off coupons in the Sunday newspapers).
The brand I like best is Liquitex, but I have had good luck with Golden and Winsor & Newton. The Liquitex paints come in a little wider color range, and are a little cheaper. Experiment yourself and see what works best! The model acrylic paints (like Testor's Model Master Acryl line) do come in a wider range of colors and are already thinned, but they seem fragile-any little scratch seems to take them right off.
Most of the artist paints can be heat-treated to improve their durability. Usually baking them at 200 F for about 30 minutes works, however, my wife would not appreciate an Alpha in the oven, so I put them on the dash of my car, and park in the sun.
Acrylic paints consist of two parts: a pigment and a binder. Usually the pigment is a naturally occurring mineral that is finely ground, and the binder is a plastic resin. Most artist acrylic paints across brands are compatible, but not all. Some very interesting colors can be mixed together. Get a color wheel and experiment. Also, there are a wide variety of pearl colors, or interference colors. Pearl colors appear as metallics, and interference colors change color depending on the angle you look at them
Make sure to buy the artist-grade, and not the student-grade paint. The student-grade paints are about 2/3 the price, but have less pigment in them, and come in fewer colors.
These paints have different viscosities between brands, and even between lines in the brand. High-viscosity paints have almost a peanut butter type consistency, and need large amounts of thinning for our purposes. The lower viscosity paints typically have the same amount of pigment as their high-viscosity counterparts, but need less thinning, so they go further. I use the medium-viscosity Liquitex, or Golden's Most of these paints have 2 ratings on them: Lightfastness and Opaqueness. Lightfastness refers to the pigment's ability to withstand fading. The highest grade of Lightfastness means the paint will stay it's original color for 100 years when exposed to museum-quality lighting. Most paints fall into this category, however many of the fluorescent colors shouldn't be used-they will break down in a few days of outdoor light.
To thin these paints, a variety of items can be used. Water is the most common, but don't use too much. As the water dries, the paint shrinks, and can crack. Add a drop or two of dishwashing detergent to the water to lower the surface tension. Windshield wiper fluid is another thinning agent, however I have had the alcohol react with the plastic binder in a few brands. Do not use mineral spirits or turpentine! Unfortunately, the best thinner for acrylics is not the cheapest--mediums. Mediums are sold for different types of thinning, from brushing to airbrushing, to giving a very glossy or dull finish without any overcoat. Most mediums are the plastic resin in a nonvolatile suspension. One thing I have learned, is to use the same brand of medium for the paint - different resins can react with each other. You can use several mediums, like combining airbrush medium with gloss medium. As a rule of thumb, do not user more than 25% medium in the paint. Try thinning to different levels, but remember, it is easier to thin the paint more than thicken it back up. A little medium goes a long ways.
I have applied these paints using brushes, rollers, and airbrushes. The best results have been with an airbrush, although a roller or brush can be used equally well with a few cautions. For brushing, use the highest quality, softest, synthetic fiber bristle you can find. Natural bristles tend to absorb the moisture in the paint, so it doesn't dry naturally, and can crack. Softer bristles leave less of a brush mark. Don't skimp on a quality brush, you wil thank yourself later.
If you don't have access to an airbrush, a spray bottle (like the kind for misting plants) can work too. Find the finest spray pattern you can, the finer the spray, the more uniform the paint will be. Pump-style hairspray bottles can work, but very little paint will go down per pump. Even though the paints are labeled non-toxic, I would still recommend using a NIOSH approved paint mask for any airbrush work. To use this paint in an airbrush, thin the paint to the consistency of heavy cream. Set your air pressure to about 20-23 lbs., and hold the airbrush as perpendicular to the rocket as possible. Start the spray before the rocket, and use a smooth stroke, ending the spray after the rocket. I practice on an old piece of cardboard, so that I can get the color and consistency that I want.
If you have spirals in the body tube to fill, I've used a product called Gesso with some success. Gesso is used to prime canvas for acrylic or oil paints, so that the paint does not soak through the canvas. It looks like a thick, syrupy material. I thinned it using water, then applied it using a brush directly onto the spirals. I had to let it sit overnight for complete drying, though. After that, I sanded the Gesso smooth. You can apply masking tape about 1/16" from each side of the seam, to make a guide if you like. It may take more than one coat, try to apply thin coats. If you want to use a primer, I've used whatever I had handy-spray cans of Krylon, airbrushing model paint primer, or an acrylic primer made by Designs From the Heart, or thinned Gesso. Each seemed to work equally well, but I let the oil-based primers dry for about 48 hours before I tried to apply acrylics over them. The solvents in the primer should be completely outgassed, or the paint will bubble later.
As a top coat, I have used either Liquitex's Solvar gloss varnish, the Gloss medium, Future floor wax, or simply left it alone. Some of the paints leave a little rough surface, and do need topcoating. Future has worked well, and it is cheap. The varnishes are a little on the expensive side, but very durable. Solvar is also removable with turpentine, so you can repair the paint easily. Solvar also has some UV inhibitors in it, which helps the paint resist fading.
Liquitex has a website with good technical information at www.liquitex.com. Golden's is www.goldenpaints.com. Winsor & Newton's website is www.winsornewton.com, but it seemed to concentrate more on their oil paints. Each has technical contact email, which I have found to be fast, friendly and expert advice (Liquitex put me in contact with their chemical engineer when I had a question on heat curing!). Acrylics have been a good alternative for me. They are more versatile, cheaper, easier to use than oil based enamels, and I because of their non-toxic nature, I can paint inside my house with them. Experiment with them, and see if they work for you.
Have fun, and keep the pointy end up! This article originally appeared in the December, 2002 issue of the Ballistic Beehive.