Introduction: Making a Wooden Rocket-ship Toy!
So I first came up with the idea for this project when I was watching my son playing with his toys. He grabbed a block and flew it around his head pretending it was a rocket. With his birthday coming up I decided that I was going to try and give him a new toy to play with.
I didn't know how to make the rocket, I was going to have to figure that out... on the fly (ya see what i did there?)
At the very least I figured I could improve over a block.
Anyway, read along and I'll show you how I came up with this toy rocket!
Clear coat finish (optional)
Step 1: Making "trapezoid Stock" for the Rocket Body
Ok so first off, rockets are cylindrical.
I didn't have a way of doing that well so I figured: "Hey, a hexagon is kinda sorta a cylinder (if you squint at it right) so I decided this rocket was going to be a hexagon (because I know how to make a hexagon)
To make a hexagon you need trapezoids, specifically trapezoids made from cutting 30 deg off each of the sides of a rectangular wood strip. Why 30 deg? Well, let's math real quick:
Hexagons are polygons in which each corner represents 120 deg angles. Now let's assume we're splitting the cross-section of a hexagon into triangles. To do that we need to bisect the 120 deg angles into 60 deg. That means that each triangle corner needs to be 60 deg.
Now let's make a those triangles into trapezoids. Basically you cut one corner off the hypothetical triangle and now you have a trapezoid with two 60 deg sides.
But I said 30 deg cuts before...so what gives?
Well to get 60 deg on a table saw, you tilt the blade to 30 deg and the remaining material will have the compliment angle (90 deg - blade tilt angle = compliment angle)
90 - 30 = 60. Ah THERE IT IS! ok so let's sum up:
1) take a 1" wide 0.75" thick plywood strip.
2) pass it through the table saw with the blade tilted 30 deg
3) make the cuts so you remove the corners of the wood strip (but wihtout reducing the width of the strip)
ok we got it. Now you've got a long strip of, what I'm calling, "trapezoid stock". Now let's move to the next step.
Step 2: Cutting Up Strips and Prepping the Body Glue-up
The next step was to cut up six, 11" long strips from the trapezoid stock we just discussed. These will be glued up together to create the hexagon body.
Additionally, I cut a 45 deg bevel on one end of the strips . This will later become the nosecone.
Ok so here's how this is gonna go:
I lay the 6 pieces next to each other and use tape strips to link them together (side by side). The tape will allow the pieces to roll up on to each other as well as supply clamping force during the glue-up
Step 3: Rocket Body Glue Up And...well... Me Having to Get Creative.
OK so the trapezoid pieces are lined up and now it's time for glue. Once all the surfaces are wiped down with glue it is time to roll up the pieces into a hexagon (using the excess tape to wrap around the hexagon to clamp them all in place)
well at least it would be if I wasn't going to have to start jerry-rigging tooling for the upcoming steps.
So before wrapping up the strips and letting them bond, I cut a dowel I had so that it had a faceted, hexagon end. This was done by holding the dowel and taking a light cut on the table saw, then turning it and taking another light pass. I repeated the process until i had a hexagon.
Once I'd done that, I finished clamping the trapezoid strips to create the hexagon as I mentioned above...however I ALSO clamped the trapezoids around the faceted dowel.
And why did I do that? Well let's get to the next step to see.
Step 4: I Made a Lathe...well Kinda
Ok so I didn't want the rocket to be so..hexagon-y so I decided to smooth out the rocket body on a lathe.
oh, right...I don't have a lathe.
Well here's what I did instead:
I took a belt sander, mounted it up-side down on my workbench and flipped it on
Then I took the rocket body with the dowel (which I would NOW be using as a handle) and turned it over the sander.
So yes, I hand-spun the rocket body as I pressed it against the sanding belt (talk about sore fore arms) and manipulated the angle between the rocket and sander to modify the contour.
Ok so "lathe" is a generous term. But I DID manage to shape the contour to a more rocket-y, less hexagon shape.
Now let's work on making it look even more like a rocket.
Step 5: Rocket Fins!
What's a rocket without fins?
Well if my experience with Estes rockets taught me anything...a crazy couple seconds of panic followed by a rocket body embedded a few inches into the ground near the launchpad.
Anyway, moving on from childhood traumas...
Let's talk about how I made THESE fins.
I sketched out a couple ideas on cardboard, then once I had a shape I liked I copied it onto a piece of plywood. Then I cut it out with a jigsaw and copied it a few more times to get all the fins.
Now, I want the fins to all look the same and let's just be honest...I'm not good enough with a jigsaw to pull that off. So I wanted to sand them all to match. The problem is, that I'm ALSO not good enough with a sander to ensure THAT.
So I sanded them all at the same time. Yup, just clamped them together and sanded them all till they matched. Problem solved.
Step 6: Attach the Fins
This is a toy for my son. My young, active, and ...well markedly destructive son.
So these fins are gonna take a beating. So I want them attached REALLY well. The way I decided to do that was to use a router to cut recesses into the faces where the fins would go. I ended up marking the placement of the fins and then cutting a .5" deep groove. Next it was time for glue.
I decided to place tape around the edges of the hole to keep the glue from squeezing out of the groove and absorbing into the wood. That helps with getting a good finish later.
oh and once the glue was dried you can bet I stress-tested the fins. They are solid. So I can only assume they will be fine.
Or my son will once again amaze me with his ability to destroy.
Well if that happens we'll just make like Elon and call it an "unscheduled, rapid dis-assembly"
Anyways, moving on...
Step 7: Boom. Sanded.
Time to spend some time with some good old-fashioned sand paper. Gotta get everything smoothed out and ready for painting.
Oh. And you can see from the picture of the rocket that I added a little engine on the back. I hadn't mentioned that yet cuz I just sort of threw it in.
I had a remnant from the faceted dowel I used for the handle and glued in into the back end of the rocket. I didn't have to do anything special to do it since the rocket body is hollow... so I just had to cut the dowel to match the opening and glue it in.
Step 8: Painting
The painting process was as follows:
1) spray paint white base coat
2) let the paint dry
3) put down tape on the rocket body -- leaving only the fins, nosecone, and engine exposed
4) spray paint red accent coat
5) let paint dry
6) peel off tape to reveal the white base coat
Also, while spray paint is a pretty good finish on its own...I am giving this to my son, aka: ball of endless energy, aka: destroyer of toys
I put a clear coat of lacquer over the paint. Well actually 3 layers. I figure that should extend the lifetime of the toy by a few days. Perhaps.
Step 9: Houston, We Have Ignition.
"Houston, we are reading good to go here"
"Copy that, all systems are go. We are at T-10 seconds"
"Main engine ignition, and WE HAVE LIFT-OFF"
Thanks for following along. It was a fun project and I'm really happy with how it turned out. If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes! Or tell me how you jerry-rigged your lathe. Or maybe let me know where and how I can get a lathe.
In fact, definitely do that last one. My arms are really sore.
Participated in the
Toys and Games Challenge