Introduction: Paper Rocket (Really Flies!)

Before you start I just want to tell you that I do not own nor possess the funds to purchase a camera of any standard or quality; the one image I did manage to take was with my friend's phone. This does not mean there are no images, because can use Windows Paint. I think it looks cleaner anyway. I tried my best to make it look easy to understand. Now here's how to make a rocket that those matchstick-tin foil lame-o's could never hope to achieve.

I want to make this very clear: This is not intended as something to leave your 8-year-olds doing, while you get drunk on the couch. The resulting fire will be your fault entirely. This is no Matchstick-tinfoil little buzz bee firecracker setup, either. If you want something to light on fire, go to a fireworks store. If you are under 16, stop, go away, and never read this instructable again. If you are the slightest bit unsure, get out of your house, rub yourself in snow, and stay there to ensure you won't catch fire. If you just want a rocket to go up, Hobby Lobby has some great options. But if you want to build, to create, to watch as it miserably fails, and I mean horribly, there's going to be so much failure, you gotta be prepared to watch it go up in flames, and if you can handle the heat*, if you can deal with the consequences*, if you can most importantly read the directions first, then you, too, can make your own rocket.

I get this is just a basic little hunk of junk, but if you want to go on to better ventures, you need this on your resume**. If you want to advance ever, you need to do this first, no cuts, no buts, no coconuts. The experience is very real, and you can't run with the big dogs if you can't even keep up with chihuahuas. Now then, without further ado, I present:

The Paper Rocket that you will be building... I can't think of a name... this intro got botched... like your rocket will if you don't do it right. Also, a point: Launch window. start this project in the spring, because it's the best time to fly. Optimal Launch Conditions: 1. Clear sky. 2. No wind. 3. Big (huge) field. 4. No trees or things it'll catch on. 5. No cars it'll get stuck on and then they crash and you get sued infinite dollars. If you can't comply to these, stop, because they are all required. Sometimes you gotta admit that you can't always get what you want. So be real with yourself: Don't do this if you can't follow the instructions 100%. Now go, either to pictures of kittens somewhere else on the internet, or, if you dare, keep reading, but I don't advise it.

*Of it going through your neighbor's window

**Don't put this on your resume.

Step 1: Materials

Before you begin, you'll need some things. If it isn't obvious enough why, I'm not sure you should be doing this. I must make it VERY clear: THIS IS NOT FOR KIDS. YOU'LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT. I'm not kidding. It involves fire, chemical explosives, and ballistic trajectories. Do you want your child blowing off their fingers? Then keep them safe.

Now this is what you'll need:

1 Paper Towel Tube

1 TP tube

TP, no longer on the tube, but still rolled

1 Large Piece of Cardboard

1 pair of scissors


A knife

a marker or pen, ect.

a kitchen scale with a zero button

Glue (super and if you want, hot)

A candle (anything works)

an amount of salt (anything is fine, don't waste your money)



Acrylic Paint, decals, etc (optional but it makes it so much more pretty, and no it won't weigh you down)

3 white, thin grocery bags

1 large black bag

Tape (Scotch/masking/duct)

Paper (A stack)

Reese's cup paperboard


Wire (use an old cord; it'll be fine.)

Tin foil tube (Don't waste it or you'll get yelled at. Wait for it to run out, or be like me and sneakily transfer it to a second roll.)

Ruler (Those three-sided ones are magical for working with cylinders)

A pan (Not your fine china. Be sensible. But then again you're doing this so you probably aren't anyway.)


2 bricks, of the same size.

1 large garden tile, about 1 1/2 bricks long.

2 switches (Basic toggle switches, small ones from Ace hardware)


OPTIONAL battery case, for whatever battery you're using, I have 2 9 volts.

A cardboard box (shoe-size)

alligator clips (double ended, 10)

a stirring stick

Dowel, pen, something the width of a zip tie, but heat resistant

Black powder (AKA gun powder. I saw some in Nevada, which just so happens to be the BEST place in America to do it.)

If you can't get this, just buy a model rocket motor, and slowly strip the paper. Or, take a pair of pliers and a bullet...

Stump Remover

Karo Syrup

Rust powder

powdered sugar

Baking soda


With that out of the way, you can start. Be careful and smart.

Step 2: Preliminaries

Before you begin you'll need to cut out a disk the diameter and circumference equal to the paper towel tube.

To do this easily, trace the tube on a piece of paper as best you can. Cut this out. fold it in half. Unfold and refold, as in the second image. Make sure to align the previous crease, to get a cross on your disk. Measure both lines, check that they're the same, and do the math to find the tube's circumference. With this info, use a compass or something (Maybe even cut out a thin segment on a second, equal tube to trace with more accuracy) and make a second, better circle. Don't fold it, just use the first one to trace a line on it. Poke an extremely small hole through it with a thumb tack.

Keep this circle with you, in an open space, and don't ruin it. You'll need it. Also, keep these instructions in mind.

Using your magic tracing abilities make a second disk with your current circle. It'll be useful later on.

Step 3: The First Part

Now you have to make an actual thing. This is a nosecone. Or at least it will be, eventually. Start by drawing a big circle on your paper. Make it good and clean. Trace a bowl if you must. The bigger it is, the pointier it'll be, but keep it within the realms of sanity. Now you have a set of disks. It's a good idea to know which is which.

1. Body. This is your rocket's body. It isn't a rocket without it.

2. Small Disk. This is for you to know the dimensions of your body.

3. Big Disk. This is your nosecone-to-be.

4. Center. This is that paper thing you need to remember about.

Remember this.

Step 4: Fins

If you haven't blown your face off yet, congratulations! You'll probably live a healthy long life. If you skip this step your "rocket" will likely spin out of control and crash miserably, going through your neighbor's window.

If you don't want it to do this, tackle the root problem: spin. How do you stop things from being aerodynamic? Sheets of things. It's why airplanes have those wings on the back, and guess what they're called? Stabilizers. Now, on a piece of paper, draw a shape of a fin you want. it should look good on your rocket, so use your imagination to see what it would look like. Too big? make it small. Too small? Make it big. Too pointy? not an issue, ever*. I love this material: Cardboard. It's free and strong. use it. Cut out the good drawing of a fin, just like you want. don't copy me, I just used this to show you what it should look like. Now trace this fin onto the cardboard, carefully. Once done, cut out this fin. Use it to trace on more cardboard, the shape of the fins you want. take this fins and smooth them with sand paper. take out paper, fold it in half, put glue on both sides of the fin, and press it in.

When it's done drying, cut it out, and keep the paper equal of the cardboard. Don't attach these yet, you need a guide to tell you where to glue em.

Alignment Guide

Take a piece of paper, cut out a piece. Wrap it around the body. Get it tight. Mark the overlap. Cut off the remainder, leave a tad. Take it off. Fold it, end to overlap, in half, perfectly. Do it again. You should have 4 equidistant folds on your paper. Put it back on, super tight. mark the lines. Take it off. Put superglue on the bottom of all 4 fins. Glue them on. Make sure they're straight up and down, and not leaning to one side. Once set, do the next. Then, when all 4 are done, Put a layer of hot glue on the edges, to hold them extra steady. Good job, your rocket looks rockety.

*unless it's a knife blade... why are you using knife blades? What the hell is wrong with you!?

Step 5: Making the Engine

Take your tin foil tube and cut it to the length you want. (It should be over 4 inches) Now take your two pieces of Reeses cup paper (white) and trace the engine body on it. Use your center of the body to pinpoint the middle of the paper. do this to the second. Cut them according with the main body, so they fit snugly around the engine, and snugly inside the rocket. Make sure to test fit it. Too tight? Cut/sand it down. Too loose? Try again. Now glue it. It shouldn't wiggle, and they should be up vertically.

Step 6: Fuel

Once all products are ready, pour a 60/40 mix of Stump Remover and powdered sugar, stir, and then add baking soda, 15% by weight. So if it weighs 60 pounds without, add 9 pounds of baking soda. Stir thoroughly and pack it into the engine block, about 1/2 inch or so, but it depends on the length of it. Then add the following into a bowl or something: 58 grams* of Stump Remover, 29 grams* of powdered sugar, 13 grams of Karo Syrup (clear stuff), 1 gram of rust powder, and 30 milliliters of water. Put this in a pot, and saute on med-low heat. In about 10 minutes (I didn't say this was going to be fast) it will start to caramelize. In another 10 it'll be almost done. Once it's been fully done for about 2/3 minutes, grab your funnel** and pour. Once almost full, with about an 1/8 of an inch left, stop. Pan goes in the sink. Fill with water. Now quick and calm, back to the tube. Take your thin stick. drill a hole (this is called coring, if you want to know) by turning it back and forth, about 1 or 2 inches in. Keep it all vertical. Do this for 20 minutes, slowishly, and when it's hard, (ceramic-style) you're done. Keep it vertical. Now scrub that pan. SCRUB. If you have a friend, get him to scrub while you core. don't argue over who does what or you need to stop making this rocket and go watch cartoons. Let the pan soak and occasionally come back and turn the stick, to ensure it stays good. Once cement-hard put on the end cap, and you're done!

*units, lbs, kilos, stones, ppm, ounces, ect.

**You don't need one, if your pan has a spout

Step 7: Making the End Cap and Setting Your Motor

Trace the tin foil tube on a piece of cardboard. Take the trace, cut it out, make a center for it, and mark the midpoint. poke it with a pen or skewer. Cut out a strip of paper and wrap it around the top of your motor. Glue it, make it tight. Get the end cap glued tight. Take the tube, once glue it dry, and add a little bit of black powder. If you add as much in the picture, they will take your kids away. Put an end cap on the top, but let it slide it. TEST FIT IT BEFORE POURING. It should come out very, very easily. add it on**. You will no longer be able to play "space men" with this. I don't know why you were at all, but now is the time to stop*. Test-fit it in the body one last time. Now super glue the motor in place, it should just tuck up under the rim. Drop a little from the top down onto it. Make sure it can't come out, but don't pull too much, a little 1-2 should do. Take the body and put it down. Now it's time to make your parachute.

*If you were playing spacemen, throw it all away, you aren't old enough to handle this.

**Take your motor. (I used an A8-3.) With the paper off, slowly crush it into smaller and smaller pieces. Once you have it fine enough,shake it. the big hunks should be disposed of. Using a tissue or funnel, pour it in. If you don't have access to these either... I'm sorry, but you need it. You can't always get what you want.

Step 8: Recovery

If you want to use this rocket ever again, or at least look at it, you'll need a parachute. If you want the chute to open, and not be blown 80 miles away in the slightest breeze, you'll like this step very much.

Before you start you need to make the nosecone. Remember the circle from #3? yeah, make a center of it and make a midpoint. Cut a line down the length, and wrap it up as shown. Glue it good, and fill it until it has weight with salt*. Take it and light a candle over it, letting the wax drip a solid barrier on the salt. Then put a layer of hot glue, and a rim of superglue.

Take a strip of paper, and wrap it tight diagonally. Take it, glue it down, and measure the diameter of your cone. cut off the ends to make it fit, put it in, and glue it solid. Give it a tug. Now is the time to make the chute. take the bags and cut 3 equilateral triangles as big as you can. (I got 12 inches) Take the garbage back and do the same.

Take your triangles and make a hexagon. Cut out a circle 2 inches across. Tape this on, as well as the rest of your chute. Don't use too much, but keep it solid. Now tape 3 2 1/2' pieces of string to this, on the corners, going to their corner next to them. Take all of them and make a loop. Give this a tug. Slide the loop under the crossbeam. Pull it up. Slide the chute under your loop. pull it tight. give this a tug. Lay it flat on the table. The chute should be flat. Fold it in thirds. Roll it. fold it over. wrap the string around it until it's short enough to fit in the cone.

*An inch is enough.

Step 9: Packing & Prepping

Your rocket is just about done. Take the toilet paper, and soak it in a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda for every 1/4 cup of water.

Cut a length of yarn equal to the leading edge of your fin. Line one edge in glue and place it down, smoothing out any bad spots. Once all fins are lined and dry, paint them. Paint the whole body. If you want a stripe or bunch of stripes, you can lay scotch tape down, paint in between it, and take it off again, though you'll have to re-paint the sections that were affected by tape. Hint: 1 vertical piece every 90°, to get 4 nice stripes vertically, and make it look realistic. Wrap 2 lengths top and bottom of the stripes (while tape still on) and lather up a different color. When fully coated and dry, take of tape, and get out your first choice of color. (I have a white rocket with black stripes, you can have a yellow rocket with gold stripes, it's up to you!) Make sure the horizontal lines are parallel with the body.

You can make an engine bell if you want. Just take some tin foil and shape it as with the nosecone. Cut a fringe and glue it to the engine. It'll help your rocket and be cool-looking too, but it's not necessary.

Take out the now soaked toilet paper. let it dry. Once dry, take off the congealed outer layers and throw them away. In a safe place, test 1 or 2 pieces of this to see if it is engulfed in flames. It should slowly cumple, not turn into a bonfire. If successful, take about 7 sheets and lightly crumple them, uncrumple, and kinda push down into there. It depends how much powder is in your rocket and how long the part that isn't the engine is. Mine's not a lot of powder or space, so I'll just use 7, but you can use up to 17. this is the good range, too much and the powder is useless, too little and the chute won't work. Use accordingly. Take 2 squares and cover the bottom of the chute with them. Now put it in the body. Put this aside and get out your bricks.

Step 10: Making the Launchpad

You don't need to be able to read schematics well to see what to do here. Take your box, two switches, light bulb, alligator clips, and battery, and hook them up as follows. Test this with a second small bulb to ensure it works.

1 goes out of negative battery terminal

2 connects from 1 to bulb

3 from bulb to 4

4 from 3 to switch 1

5 switch 1-battery

6 from wires 1/2 junction to switch 2

7 from switch 2 out of box

8 from 3/4 junction to out of box, next to 7 exit.

Now take the output/input wires, and connect them to respective lengths of wire, each about 15 or so feet.

9 from main line negative to ignitor in

10 from ignitor out to main line positive

Test this using a light bulb instead of the ignitor, to save on resources. If it lights up when only both switches are on, and switch 1 turns on bulb while switch 2 turns on test bulb, you're good to go, though I'd label the switches, for aesthetic design. Only use switch 2 for a second. Anything more and you'll hurt the battery.


Take the match

Cut a groove, slowly

Take 4 inches of wire

Put it in, inside the groove

Fold it over

Tape it good

This is a test ignitor. Test it using your ignitor box. If it lights on fire, you did this right. Now make another, the same way. Stick it inside your rocket engine, but don't force it. It should stay in, but should come out easily.


Take a couple bricks and piece of cardboard. I painted mine black, because it looks cool. cut a hole, so the exhaust can flow out freely. Put the cardboard on the bricks, with a large gap in between. Put this on a large brick tile. It's ready.

Step 11:

Now, using Google Maps, find a park suitable for launch. Use the Earth function, to determine if there are trees nearby. Are there cars? People? Buildings? Cables? is it far away? Is it private property? Is it heavily monitored by law enforcement? If all are no, go there. Leave the rocket. Look for yourself. Are there bad things? Snow, water, bushes? Is the grass really tall? Can you walk to the middle of this park? Be your own judge. some conditions are bypassable, don't be a perfectionist. Find a good place, go to the very middle, wait for optimal launch conditions, and set up your pad. This is your time, so do whatever you gotta do, countdown, get your camera ready, eat a snickers, get pumped, do your thing. Hook it up, turn on the ignitor box, and press the button. Woosh! Off it goes, into the stratosphere*!

*Your rocket won't go that high, if it even gets off the ground. I promise.