Introduction: Bullet Bill Rocket

Picture of Bullet Bill Rocket

Bullet Bill is a character that has appeared as an enemy in almost all of the Super Mario games from the very beginning. There are a few varieties, and their look and behavior has changed over the years. Like me, I'm sure you've been killed by a Bullet Bill many times.

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

Picture of Version 1 - a Quick View

This is a quick view of version 1. Both versions were built from foam core, cardstock, thin painters' masking paper, and lots of glue. Version 1 was 19 inches tall, and 12 inches in diameter (without the fins attached). 

Construction details were very similar for both versions, and will be covered fully in steps 4 - 14.

Step 2: Version 1 - Finished Details

Picture of Version 1 - Finished Details

I was quite proud of the finished result of this rocket and was tempted to not even shoot it off, knowing the likely consequence.

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

Picture of Version 2 - Homemade Rocket Tube

After all the work for version 1 and the awful launch, I was surprised at how quickly I wanted to get back to this. I couldn't go down like that!

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

Picture of Engine Mounts and Fins

The engine mounts were made using store-bought tubes that fit the size engines I was using (D- and E-size), and foam core.

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

Picture of Bullet Bill Nose Cone

In version 2, Bullet Bill is the nose cone. This was made with a skeleton of foam core, just like version 1. The design was laid out on paper, carefully cut out with exacto blades, and pieced together like a puzzle. This was all glued with regular white glue. Once the glue was dried, I used a sharp utility blade to shave off the square edges of the circular pieces on the dome.

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

Picture of Nose Cone to Tube Transition

The bottom of the nose cone had to receive the top of the tube snugly, but not too tight. This should, in theory, pop off when it's time for the parachute to come out and bring the rocket safely back to the ground.

This area was made with light card stock.

Step 7: Bullet Ridge

Picture of Bullet Ridge

The ridge on the bullet was made with pieces of card stock that were carefully measured, cut out, and glued in place.

Step 8: Covering

Picture of Covering

I found that painters' masking paper is a great covering for this type of model. Each piece of covering is cut out separately, painted entirely with watered-down glue, and quickly glued in place. As the glue-wash dries, the piece of covering stretches and becomes tight.

A light coating of glue over the entire surface helps strengthen the covering.

Step 9: Rocket Body

Picture of Rocket Body

The rocket body was made of foam core that was built directly onto the tube and covered in the same manner as the nose cone.

Step 10: Painting

Picture of Painting

A few coats of primer were used to seal up the paper and make it ready for the final coat of paint. The rocket was painted with two coats of flat black spray paint.

Step 11: Details

Picture of Details

I made some stencils to help me lay out the details for the rocket. The details were painted on with craft paint, and the rocket received a light coat of lacquer to seal it up and make everything shine.

Step 12: Parachute

Picture of Parachute

The parachute was made from rip-stop nylon. I hit the edges with just a touch of flame to melt them and keep them from fraying.

Step 13: Launch Preparation

Picture of Launch Preparation

I did some balance tests and determined that I needed to add about 2 oz. to the nose to make this flight-worthy. I cut out one of the panels on the nose, added the right amount weight, and patched it up. The final flight-ready weight was just a little over one pound.

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

Picture of Final Thoughts

Bullet Bill version 2's flight was fantastic. The rocket flew straight, and it flew high.

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!


olivia1232 (author)2015-05-05

.thank that is how mine is going to look like

NanoRobotGeek (author)2015-01-07

I can still remember first seeing this project way back in 2011 XD. nice project Seamster.

wit-bot (author)2013-02-24

so cool guys

yourmom1999 (author)2013-02-22

cool :) :)

Asriel Grim (author)2012-12-14

Amazing!! Awesome work!

jrast362 (author)2012-08-18

Please add the pdf for the rings on the head. i think your whole idea is great and I would like to make one for a school project, but i will need the ring dimensions to be able to do it right.

seamster (author)jrast3622012-08-18

Please examine step six. The size of the rings you will need will be based on the exact size of the included pdf plans, once you print them.

Set a compass directly on the printed plans to get the exact measurements for each radius that will make up the layout for each ring. Put the point of the compass on the center line in the plan, directly inline with the distance you need to measure. Set the compass accordingly, and draw out each circle that makes up each ring using the compass as it is set. See? No real numbers when you measure, just set the compass and transfer the distance directly. I planned it this way so I could build another one of these at some later date if I wanted, with minimal trouble.

I hope that helps. If you have any trouble, just keep trying. You'll get it. Good luck.

jrast362 (author)seamster2012-08-18

Thank you that is good to know

Red Smoke (author)2012-07-18

the pdf does not work please fix it

Red Smoke (author)2012-07-18

please could you include the instructions for the rings dimensions for the head because i would realy like to make one and i dont know how to make the rings

Flipyap (author)2011-04-09

i recommend adding resin to it in order to make the layer stronger, like the resin that some people use to make model helmets

badideasrus (author)Flipyap2012-03-13

i think the idea was to go light, but resin is a good idea. he's not building a tank here tho. he wanted a light rocket, and his method works very well.

badideasrus (author)2012-03-13

... you gave me an idea for a mod for fallout newvegas.... anyone care to guess?

BalintRules (author)2012-02-13

brb :)


sokamiwohali (author)2012-01-13

nice dent in the j/k just pullin your leg. try using Balsa next time. its lightweight and strong. Not only that, but an easy way to deploy your parachute better would be to figure out the best way to fold the parachute to get a more crispp opening (take the shrouds and make sure the gor edges are outside and the shrouds are in the inside. "S" fold EVERYTHING, and at the very tip of the chute, sew a drogue chute tab. does not have to be big. then take a plastic estes brand chute, baby powder it, add a little length of string to the loops of the drogue shrouds and stuff it in the cone. the drag from the rocket will pull the drogue out on its own, the length of string will allow a few seconds of acceleration to pull the mass of the main chute out to deploy. seems like alot of work but it really isnt (man its nice to be a rocket scientist sometimes!!! hehehe). ill make a picture up and post it here when done so you can better understand. Also consider making a X-Form parachte. they are quick to deploy, minimize wind drift, and rocket sway and are HIGHLY stable. i am in the process of making an ible on a X-Form.

ninjasamurai (author)2011-08-12

wow thats amazing but to me its IMPOSSIBLE to make such a complex rocket

it cant be impossible to anyone... i mean seamster did it... if you know what your doing youll be fine.

smpash (author)2012-01-04

you should make the bullet bill the second stage of the rocket

bob.the.devil (author)2011-10-16

i soooooo need to make this

nareksown (author)2011-10-06

great instructable 10/10 send in a pic when im done =D

nerd12 (author)2011-10-05

after seeing the first one 'fly' i didn't think that the second would do so good but somehow the tail is very effective at stabilizing

nateharrison 2000 (author)2011-10-03

Great instructable. It will be the first one I make. By the way, can you launch it
with and without the tailpiece? please let me know. :D

It can only launch with the tailpiece in place.

Be warned, this is a tricky one! If you do make one, I'd love to see a photo when you're done! Good luck!

LexiLovesPie (author)2011-07-17

could I just make this without the stuff to make it launch and just use it as a cool paper weight?

seamster (author)LexiLovesPie2011-07-17


If you do, post a photo so I can see it!

pratty boy 4 (author)2011-07-10

can u send me a pdf of the centre circle bits please

seamster (author)pratty boy 42011-07-11

See step 6. All the information you need is there.

seamster (author)2011-07-03

Noted... "bullet bill" not in super mario land for the Nintendo colour. Thanks.

hjjusa (author)2011-07-02

I made a Bullet Bill from a plastic easter egg and a sheet of typing paper rolled into a cone. Took a C engine, that one of yours is a real work of art though.

thelastonekills (author)2011-05-09

cool 5/5

Jon5000345 (author)2011-05-06

I think that if you out recovery wadding in to the engine tube tube and placed the parachute on top of it in the tube the weight of the falling nose would pull the parachute out and deploy it. Try it without putting the parachute in the nose is another version of what im trying to say

jimopertrat (author)2011-04-13

sweet rocket!! 5* without a doubt cant beleive how high it went!

Appollo64 (author)2011-04-12

AMAZING instuctable. Where can I get the foam core, cardstock, painter's masking paper and such?

seamster (author)Appollo642011-04-12

Foam core and cardstock are available at office supply stores or Walmart. You can find painter's masking tape at home improvement stores.

Are you going to make one? If you do, post a photo when you're done!

Raven Destroyer (author)2011-04-10

now we are going to make one that can be fired in a mortar XD still nice

bobdole5656 (author)2011-04-05

can i buy the second verson from u the longer and more slender one

seamster (author)bobdole56562011-04-05

Alas, it's mostly in scraps. I fixed and kept the Bullet Bill portion. Do you want that?

bobdole5656 (author)seamster2011-04-10

ya sorry that i responded so late but yes how would i get it tho mail

rc jedi (author)2011-04-09

the paper was creative, an alternative may be the iron on covering for model airplanes. the artboard you used can stand moderate heat so we could use low heat covering like tower coat, or econocote. these are safe for styrofoam, so could be used instead of paper. plus, it is much stronger and puncture resistant. It patches easily. comes in all basic colors too. about $11 a roll 27" by 5 ft i believe.

great project! good pictures too.

seamster (author)rc jedi2011-04-09

Yep, I've had a few people mention that. I might have to give that a go sometime. Thanks for the tip!

seabananers (author)2011-04-09

no if only that fat plumber would move back to brooklyn

JimKelleher (author)2011-04-09

I have an Estes scale model rocket of, I believe, a Titan II missle. Because it is a scale model it doesn't really have any fins. Instead it has a twist lock plastic adapter on the bottom that lets you a attach 'fake' engine nozzles for display purposes or a set of clear fins to make it flight worthy. BTW, an awesome build and instructable.

flamesami (author)2011-04-08

ok, this is just a complete outsider's sugestion...what about if you used a pre-charge to blast of the nose-cone, then the parachute charge...would this work? or is this what you did andi'm just stupid?
(i can't watch the vid because my computer is a little bi*ch and will freeze if it has to work hard..)

seamster (author)flamesami2011-04-08

Model rocket engines perform in three phases: thrust phase, delay, and ejection charge. Unfortunately, a second ejection charge isn't an option.

The simplest solution to my problem was for me to be smarter and build my nose cone just a little differently than I did. Hopefully I won't make the same type of mistake again!

Honus (author)2011-04-08

Awesome project! The construction of this gave me tons of ideas.

seamster (author)Honus2011-04-08

Thanks! The construction was really fun, and it gave me lots of other ideas too.

One of the best parts is that it's a relatively inexpensive building technique, and only requires basic tools. (It does require a bit of patience, though!)

tn. (author)2011-04-08

would be nice to adapt this to make a storage container ie, for a kid's room....!

woodNfish (author)2011-04-07

Nice project. I am surprised that the thin structure of foam you built was able stand up to the stresses of a launch - especially suing it for engine mounts.

Here is a great rocketry site with some totally cool rockets and how they made them:

seamster (author)woodNfish2011-04-07

Cool. Thanks for the link, I'll have to take a look! Yep, using foam core for the engine mounts was questionable. I wouldn't do that again, as I don't think it would hold up well to the heat from multiple launches.

woodNfish (author)seamster2011-04-07

I was wondering about the heat.

Let me give you a teaser for the link - bulbous rockets.

And some cool foam work.

About This Instructable




Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
More by seamster:Making Quick & Easy Work Tables12 Do-It-Yourself Diversion Safes Spray Paint Secret Safe
Add instructable to: