I enjoy making crazy, non-traditional model rockets. I built regular ones as a kid, and I still find it extremely rewarding to test out new building methods and trying to push what I can do with simple, inexpensive materials.
I thought it would be neat to build a life-size Bullet Bill model rocket, as it provided all sorts of great challenges. I ended up building two versions, both of which I thought were beautiful in many ways, and they taught me a lot of new tricks.
Version 1 is covered briefly in steps 1 - 3. I began this first attempt with most of the planning focused on how to create a lightweight, visually accurate model of Bullet Bill. I didn't think much about its flight-worthiness until it was complete. At that point, I knew it surely wouldn't fly well, but thought, "Well, lets just go shoot this off and see what happens."
It didn't end pretty. The video is in step 3.
For version 2, which the photos show here, I applied the building techniques I learned with version 1, but paid closer attention to giving it a shot at actually flying. It was scaled down a bit, and built (somewhat) more like a real model rocket. The video of the launch of version 2 is in step 15.
Take a look at the steps involved and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
Step 1: Version 1 - a Quick View
Construction details were very similar for both versions, and will be covered fully in steps 4 - 14.
Step 2: Version 1 - Finished Details
For both versions, the launch rod goes directly through the middle of the rocket, and a cluster engine setup is used.
Step 3: Version 2 - Homemade Rocket Tube
I began version two by making a homemade paper tube. I've been making my own rocket tubes for a few years, and I'll be honest--it's tricky, and can be messy and frustrating. But it is very rewarding to make your own lightweight rocket tubes.
I figured out this method through a lot of trial and error. I found that using a straight piece of pvc works best as a blank. I cut out strips of brown craft paper, and roll one tightly onto the blank. This is taped in place at the ends of the paper strip, making sure the edges of the strip don't overlap each other, and the entire strip sits snugly on the tube.
A second strip is painted with white glue (or wood glue) that has been watered down about 1 part water to 4 parts glue. This is carefully rolled over the first strip, being sure to cover the seams. Three or four layers of craft paper can be done, although for this I only did two. Each layer needs to be quickly rolled and pressed into place. The paper is extremely porous and the glue bonds the paper almost immediately, so you only get one chance. I've tried all sorts of other adhesives, and only white and wood glue have worked for me.
A final layer is added in the same manner, only using painters' masking paper. This type of paper is thinner and less porous than the craft paper, and takes finishing much better. It is sealed with a coating of the watered-down glue, and then lightly sanded with 220 grit sandpaper.
The paper tube is cut from the pvc and is slid off to dry. If you spread the glue thin and evenly, and don't stretch the paper too much, the tube will dry straight. If not, you'll have a warped and worthless tube, which I have made a lot of!
Step 4: Engine Mounts and Fins
Fins were made with 1/4" balsa. When gluing things like wood and paper, it's always best to put a thin layer on both surfaces, wait a few seconds, and then put them together. Once each fin was dry, fillets were added with more glue.
The most useful tools for this project were a circular protractor for laying out angles, scientific calculator for figuring radii and such, metric rulers, exacto blades, cutting mats, and a couple of good compasses.
Step 5: Bullet Bill Nose Cone
If you're interested in making something like this, I've attached a PDF with scans of the plan I made for version 2. The plan may not be precisely the same size as my original once you print it out and piece it together, but it should help you get going.
If you just want to make a lightweight model of the Bullet Bill character, it should work well for you. Cut out the cross section-piece and use it as a stencil to trace and cut out six pieces from foam core. Match a compass up to the plans to determine the various distances needed to lay out the circle pieces. Use a protractor to lay out where the notches will go to fit the cross pieces. Study these pictures carefully to see what you need to do. It will be challenging, but you'll get it!
Step 6: Nose Cone to Tube Transition
This area was made with light card stock.
Step 7: Bullet Ridge
Step 8: Covering
A light coating of glue over the entire surface helps strengthen the covering.
Step 9: Rocket Body
Step 10: Painting
Step 11: Details
Step 12: Parachute
Step 13: Launch Preparation
The parachute, wadding, and nose cone had to be prepared for launch with the launch rod in place. Three D-size engines were used.
The launch pad is homemade, and the launch controller is a modified Estes cheap-o that I hook up to my cordless drill battery. For cluster engine launches, I have an octopus-like attachment that works very well.
Step 14: Version 2 - Launch Video
Step 15: Final Thoughts
The parachute failure just killed me, though.
It was due to a stupid, avoidable oversight in the design. When the chute deployed, it went straight into the nose cone, and there it stayed. If I had built a paper cylinder of some kind inside the back of the nose cone, it would have prevented the chute from being shot up inside of it and getting stuck. You can basically see what happened at the end of the video, and here in photos 4 and 5.
Overall, I was very happy with this project. Thanks for taking the time to look at this. Let me know what you think!