Picture of Make your own Kraft Paper Tubes
I've enjoyed making homemade model rockets ever since I was a kid. I make almost every part of my rockets from scratch, including the paper tubes for the rocket bodies.

I often need to make homemade paper tubes for other projects as well, so I thought this deserved a proper write-up. Hopefully someone will find this information useful.

Note that these tubes will not be adequate for any firework-type application, if that's what you're looking for. There are plenty of tutorials online for making convolute (or parallel, non-spiral wound) paper tubes. 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
First, you will need some kraft paper. I bought a 36-inch wide roll at Home Depot a few years ago, and it will probably last me a few more. Sometimes I use thin painter's masking paper, but only as a final layer. You can get this at home improvement stores as well.

You will also need some water-soluble glue. I use Titebond (which is a basic woodworking glue), but you could use Elmer's or something similar.

Other basics you will need are a long ruler, cutting mat with rotary cutter or x-acto blade, paint brush, masking tape, and rags.

Most importantly, you will also need some kind of existing tube to use as a form. I generally use pieces of PVC or old cardboard tubes (like mailing tubes, carpet roll tubes, etc.), but I have also used steel pipe and other random cylindrical objects.

For whatever item you use as a form, it is crucial that it is true (meaning without any warps or bends). You can quickly test objects out by placing them on a flat surface and rolling them back and forth. If you see any light coming through along the bottom edge at any point, it means the tube is not true and you should use something else.
Honus made it!yesterday

This is awesome! I'm building air rockets with my kids and I just
finished wrapping my first tubes. How long do you typically wait for the
tubes to dry?

seamster (author)  Honusyesterday

You're building air rockets with this kind of tube? What kind of air rockets?

This type of tube seems like a lot of extra work if their going to be anything like these. So you've definitely piqued my interest!

Regarding drying times, I live in a pretty arid place and a three-layered tube would usually be fully dry within a day. Just be sure to remove them from the forms (or move them to a smaller one) because they will shrink quite a bit.

Honus seamster23 hours ago

These are higher power compressed air rockets. We're working on my oldest son's science fair project doing a bit of accelerometer data logging. We're having a lot of fun with it- I built lots of rockets as a kid so it's bringing back lots of great memories for me.

The larger tube in the picture is a little bit smaller than a BT-50 tube as it's wrapped around a 3/4" PVC tube- it's about 23mm OD. I pulled the tubes off the forms last night and let them dry standing up and they're perfect now- I did three layers. Of course now I want to make my own light weight fiberglass tubes- LOL! :)

seamster (author)  Honus21 hours ago


I've been getting back into model rocketry with my boys for the last few months, and it's been quite fun. I'm glad you found this and am happy to hear it worked out for you!

I'd love to see some pics when you're all done... or will there be a full instructable write-up? :)

Honus seamster15 hours ago

There will of course be a full write up! :)

seamster (author)  Honus4 hours ago

I would expect nothing less! Can't wait to see it.

so the length and width of the paper strips will work with a 3 inch wide and 18 inch long tube also

bdubu2 months ago

Quite impressive! The results look to be of commercial quality!

johnnycarlos2 months ago

I bought "kraft" paper off amazon, but it doesn't look as thick as yours. More like waxy, butcher paper. Darn. Should have went to Home Depot like you.

builderfish243 months ago
Do you think I could use a mailing tube like
Or would they be too heavy to be used for a rocket?
seamster (author)  builderfish243 months ago

I've never used them for rockets, but I suppose it could be done. They are built to be durable, so they are pretty heavy though.

builderfish243 months ago
I was using elmers glue. They were pretty thin coats too. Are there any other methods you know of to make rocket body tubes?
seamster (author)  builderfish243 months ago

Sorry, not that I'm familiar with. You can always just buy tubes, which isn't a bad idea considering the time and trouble it is to make your own.

I'm just kind of a maker-masochist, and I enjoy headache-inducing creative processes . . . but understandably that's not for everyone.

If you do end up purchasing some tubes, I've gotten lots of supplies from apogee components, and have been really happy with their stuff.

builderfish243 months ago
I'm trying to make this for the gopro rocket (3 inch diameter) and the paper just gets soggy and wrinkly. Any tips?
seamster (author)  builderfish243 months ago

Hmm. What kind of glue are you using, and what kind of paper?

The paper does tend to get a little wrinkly and soggy, but not so much that it falls apart. Make sure you're not using too much glue. There should only be a very thin, uniform layer.

If you continue to have trouble, post a photo or two of what you're experiencing, and maybe I can offer some more specific advice. :)

I should also point out, this is not a super easy method and it can be quite frustrating. So I completely understand any struggles you may be having with it.

padbravo1 year ago
Tks for the info... I needed to make some of them!
thallone1 year ago
I have found that when cutting off of tubes, a large, very sharp knife makes the straightest lines. I usually use the largest straight-blade kitchen knife to cut straight on tubes, rolling the work as I use my weight to cut into the material.
darthpope1 year ago
Thank you. Very well done. I have wondered how to make this tubes. Awesome job.
godspiral2 years ago
great post. Thank you.

Do you think it would be possible to make a very large diameter tube without a complete form?

For instance using a narrow tube and moving it inside, as you wind from the bottom?
seamster (author)  godspiral2 years ago
I don't think that would be possible. It's a tedious process with iffy results of you're not very careful as is. I think trying something like you suggest would be incredibly frustrating, and just plain not work. Sorry!
junglebrad2 years ago
Do you think these could be used to make this project?
seamster (author)  junglebrad2 years ago
Ah, probably not. These tubes I make are a lot more work than it would be worth for a project like the tube light. For the tube light, I would just use mailing tubes or something similar. It would save you a lot of time and hassle.
PaulTozzi2 years ago
When making your own rockets, do you make your own nosecones as well? If you do, how do you do it?
seamster (author)  PaulTozzi2 years ago
I have, yes. Although I don't have it down to a science, like I do for the tubes. I've used homemade paper cones, plastic easter eggs, carved balsa or foam, and a number of other things. To be honest, it's a weak spot in my homemade designs.
Thanks for the quick response! I've been looking everywhere for a method that allows me to make any size nosecone, but can't seem to find any. I would definitely use carved balsa if I had a lathe.
Nice work. However as a professional pyrotechnician, I'd have some doubts about a "spiral wound tube as a motor housing, or in a lot of other applications. I would usually recommend a straight wrap, especially for anything which may have to hold back the kind of pressures that might develop if things go wrong.

I know it's done, and as long as things work as they should, you can get away with it.

Alternating Direction is a good thought, but will indeed tend to loosen the layer underneath.

Paper does have grain, but it's not quite like wood. The issue here is more about the seams than the paper itself.

Please don't think I'm trying to rain on your parade, those tubes are very good and they do look very useful. Your Instructable is well documented and nicely presented.

I know Fireworks can be fun, and god knows how frustrated I am at the Laws here in the UK that prevent a lot of fun experimentation even by professionals like me.

Have fun, but do stay safe folks.
seamster (author)  Dream Dragon3 years ago
Thank you for your words. I've never done any work with fireworks, so I'll take your advice there. As far as using spiral-wound tubes for rocket motors mounts, I should have noted that I've only ever worked with relatively small-scale Estes rocket motors. So for those, at least, these homemade motor mount tubes have always been adequate. They are very similar in beefiness to kraft paper tubes that are available for purchase for the same applications--like these.

For pyrotechnic devices or larger scale rockets, you are most certainly correct about using a stronger straight-wrap technique.
Do you ever alternate the direction of the spiral for greater strength?
seamster (author)  Captain Pedantic3 years ago
I tried alternating the direction of the second layer one time, but as I wrapped it on it seemed to loosen up the first layer that had initially been tight on the form.

It does seem logical that doing so would make the tube stronger, kind of like how plywood is made, but it didn't seem to work very well.
Yeah, and on second thought, since there is no grain to paper, it probably wouldn't make as much difference as with wood.
timwikander3 years ago
Awesome! Super informative but easy to follow directions. The egg nog bit made me laugh too. Can't wait to make some tubes.
Denger3 years ago
Nice instructable. The price of commercially made model rocket tubes (even when bought in bulk) has always galled me, so I will have to try your method. Thank you!
Endlessly useful!  Great job!