Introduction: Model Rocket Launch Pad
This is how I made a pair of folding launch pads to use with mid-power model rockets.
The launch pads are made from plywood along with some bits of other common materials. They fold up for storage and are quite solid despite the slim profile.
My goal was to come up with a launch pad design that was sturdy enough for launching mid-power rockets, but adaptable for launching anything smaller as well. Step 1 includes a PDF pattern for cutting out the main parts.
If you're looking for a homemade model rocket launch pad design, I hope you'll consider using mine!
Thanks for taking a look.
Step 1: Print and Cut Out Pattern Pieces
Each launch pad is made up of a circle platform that has three P-shaped hinges glued to it that protrude from the bottom side of the platform. Legs are attached to the P-shapes with small pieces of 3/16" metal rod, that act as hinge pins.
I used 10mm baltic birch plywood from my scrap bin for the main components.
Note that you can easily adapt the plan for use with other thicknesses of plywood. Simply make the cut-outs in the circle platform piece match whatever thickness of plywood you are using. (3/4" plywood may not work if it were used for all three pieces of each leg. But if 3/4" ply was used for just the main leg pieces and P-shapes, and 1/2" ply for the upper leg hinge pieces, that would make a super-strong launch pad.)
The cost for materials and finishing supplies to make both of these launch pads was only $20. Most of that was for the four launch rods (two 1/4" primary rods and two smaller rods to use with smaller rockets). So this was a relatively inexpensive project.
Step 2: Cut Out Pieces
The pieces from the pattern were traced and cut out using a band saw. A jig saw could be used as well.
The top portions of the legs as well as the P-shaped hinge pieces were carefully punched with a nail set through the + marks in the pattern pieces. These marks indicate the location for holes which are then made using a drill press. These holes need to be precisely located and drilled at precisely 90 degrees. (Doing these by hand is not recommended.)
The top hinge portions of the legs as well as the leg pieces themselves can be made any length you'd like; I've noted the dimensions I used on the PDF pattern.
I chose to add a small taper to the bottom halves of my main leg pieces and rounded ends as well.
The top photo has notes indicating the number of parts needed to build one launch pad. A few miscellaneous bits are not showing, but are mentioned in later steps.
A metal deflector plate is needed. I made mine from some thin scrap steel. A piece of an old cookie sheet would work great, or even an old pot lid or whatever else you can come up with.
Step 3: Glue Hinges and Dowel
The P-shaped hinge pieces were drilled through the marked spots with a 3/16" bit on a drill press. These were then glued in place into the platform.
The wooden dowel piece was glued to the platform in between the hinge pieces. I put a weight on top of the dowel to apply pressure while the glue dried. (Since the dowel I used had been finished, I sanded off the finish where it touched the hinges so the glue would create a better bond).
Step 4: Glue Up Legs
The leg pieces were glued up with clamps.
I used a piece of 3/16" metal rod to help line up the leg hinge pieces correctly while the glue dried.
Step 5: Dowel Portion
The dowel portion of the platform is what holds the launch rod.
I wanted the connection between the platform and the launch rod to be metal-on-metal for durability and precision.
I purchased two steel spacers for each platform that were 1" long with an inside diameter of 1/4" and an outside diameter of 3/8". I got these at an Ace hardware, which (at least where I live) always seems to have the best selection of miscellaneous hardware.
Using a drill press and a 3/8" forstner bit, I bored a hole through the dowel from the bottom side all the way through the top.
The steel spacers were tapped into place, flush with the top of the platform. They did not require any glue, as the fit was extremely tight. The bottom-side of the hole was plugged with a piece of 3/8" dowel that was glued in place.
Step 6: Prepare Hinge Pins
The legs are attached to the platforms with pieces of 3/16" metal rod that act as hinge pins.
I used a vise to hold the rod from which these were cut, and cut each pin using a handheld grinder.
The sharp edges of each pin were ground away so they would be easy to install into the wooden hinge pieces.
Step 7: Dry Fit
The pins were installed into the legs to test fit them into the platforms. Everything looked good, so I took them apart for finishing.
Step 8: Finish Pieces
I wanted my launch pads to have a sorta-classy dark finish but with some colorful leg-ends.
I stained all the pieces with a dark oil-based stain per the instructions on the can, and then followed this with several coats of spray lacquer. In between each coat of lacquer, I lightly sanded the pieces with 220 grit sandpaper by hand.
Step 9: Paint
I masked off the leg ends with tape and masking paper.
The leg ends were sprayed again with a coat of lacquer to seal the edges of the tape. This ensures a crisp and clean paint line with no bleed-under.
The ends were then spray painted with several light coats of yellow paint, and then the masking was removed.
Step 10: Assemble
The legs were fastened to the platforms by installing the hinge pins.
A bit of superglue was added to the ends of the pins once they were installed, to keep them in place.
Step 11: Velcro Strap
A Velcro strap was added to one of the legs.
This has a dual purpose. One is to hold the legs together for storage or transport. The other purpose is to hold the ignition wire in place so there's no undue weight on the igniter clips when launching a rocket.
Step 12: Fasten Blast Plate
The blast/deflector plate was fastened to the top of the platform with a few pieces of double-sided foam tape.
Step 13: Adjustments
I wanted the rod to be perfectly plumb on the tripod. To do this, I added some bits of thin cardboard with double-sided tape above the necessary legs to act as shims.
The tripod will always require a little adjusting in the field when in use, so this may not really be necessary. (If launching from uneven ground or into the wind, a suitably-sized rock placed under one leg is all that's really ever needed, in my experience.)
Step 14: Other Sizes of Launch Rods
I prepared two other rods to use with these launch pads as well. One is an 1/8" rod and the other is 3/16". These allow smaller rockets with smaller launch lugs to be launched. (Launch lugs are the straw-like guide tubes on the side of a model rocket that keep it straight until it leaves the launch rod).
I added tape to the ends of both of these so they would fit snugly into the 1/4" steel spacers in the tripod platform.
Step 15: The End
Thanks for taking a look, now go launch some rockets!