Introduction: Rocket Corner Shelf

I come from a family of Space Engineers. My father was a NASA Engineer that spent most of my formative years launching rockets down at the cape. While studying engineering in college I was a coop student for NASA for six months. (I would have gone to work for NASA except the late 70s was not a good time to be starting in the field.) My son is an Engineer and he worked for a while at a Lockheed satellite skunk works. So when my son and daughter in law said they were going to decorate their daughter's room in a space theme, I knew I had to make a rocket corner shelf.

I wanted it to have a steampunk feel about it. It should look like HG Wells or Jules Verne might have built it.

I figure a late 17th/early 18th century rockets would have been build using steam boiler technology. I figured a ship that is 12 sided, bend and riveted at the edges made sense for the time and is feasible with early Victorian technology. The corner shelf is a quarter section of such a rocket with the skin pulled back. It is 7' tall.

Step 1: Make Pattern and Cut Rocket Sides

You will need to buy a full sheet of 3/4" MDF. Because I am building this for a child I used MEDITE brand MDF. (It's formaldehyde content is no higher than what normally occurs in solid wood.) For the pattern you will need two 1/4" x 2' x 4' sheets of hardboard. You will have to print out the pattern (included) full size and cut the three pieces. You will have three patterns; the ship top, ship bottom, and fin. The fin is separate so after cutting out the whole side of the rocket, it can be removed to cut a little definition line with a 1/4" cove box bit.

Attach the pattern flush to the long edge of the MDF with some 3/4" brads and use a router with a bushing to cut out the side. (The bushing rides flush with the pattern while the bit inside the bushing cuts the MDF.)

Bushing Source

You will need a ¼" straight cutter bit and a 1/4" diameter cove bit.

Use the straight bit to cut out the whole side. Do not try to cut all the way through the MDF in one pass. Increase the depth maybe 1/8" to no more than 1/4" at a time. I did this on a big thick piece of cardboard, making sure the bit never hit the driveway surface I was working on. (Cutting MDF is very dusty and the best dust control is to do it outside.) After finishing the cut, remove the fin pattern, switch to the cove bit, and cut the ¼" grove than defines the fin. Remove the pattern, flip the side over, attach the bottom pattern, and cut another fin grove.

The second side can be cut by spinning the pattern 180 degrees and mounting on the far corner of the remaining MDF. This time mount it 3/4" away from the long edge. The is where the two sides will be connected. Cut it as you did the first one. The remaining MDF will be used to cut the shelves.

You observant folk may have noticed a different router in each picture. I did this to show the bushing will fit on most any router. Now for those who are intimidated by making the patterns. I am willing to lend out my set. Just contact me, send money for postage, and promise that you will return them when you are done. I have no clue what postage will be.

Step 2: Glue and Screw Sides

Apply wood glue and screw the side together. Use 1-1/2" MDF screw. The fin definition detail really stands out here.

Screw Source.

I recommend SPAX MDF screws. They do not require drill a pilot hole and will countersink themselves. Eight screws should be enough. To seal the inside corner edge, use spackle or bondo. This will give a flawless edge when painted.

Step 3: Build and Attach Shelves

Each shelf is a quarter section of a dodecagon (12 sided). The shape is shown in the third figure. Start at the bottom and measure from the inside quarter to the fin detail. That is your X value. The small sides are 26.9% of this value. Use a compass, set at 53.8% of X, to draw the remaining two sides. Note the angle of the edge and cut. Glue and screw into place. Work your way up, shelf by shelf, measuring from the inside center to the fin detail line or outside edge. The placement of the shelves is shown in the pattern. The next three shelves are measured as the height between it and the shelf below. The following three shelves are measured as a distance of the outside edge from shelf center to shelf center. this is done so when the rivets on the sides will be centered on each shelf when spaced 1-3/4" apart.

Step 4: Add Detail to Fins

The outside edges of the fins look clunky and need to be refined. Start by drawing a line on the center of the outside edge of the fin. Then draw a line, on both sides, 1/4" away from the edge. Draw another 3/4" away. Sand file or rash from the center line to the first line, The used the second line as a guide sand to a nice curve. Special attention will have to be applied to the top of the fin where is meets the rocket body.

Step 5: Build Nozzle

Start by measuring from the center corner to the outside edge of the nozzle. Using a scrap piece of 1/4" hardboard, cut a quarter ring have this outside radius the is ¾ " wide. Nail and glue into place. The next ring is two thicknesses of the MDF glued together. Its outer radius is 1/8" less than the first piece and is a 1/2" wide and it cut at the same angle as the edges of the sides. Glue and Clamp into place. Now would be a good time to sand, file, or rasp the extra material on the outside pieces. Cut the last piece from the 1/4" hardboard. In radius should be an 1/8" greater than the piece behind it and ¾" wide. Glue and clamp into place. You now have a decent looking nozzle.

Note that in the photos some bondo is showing. It is really good for fixing mistakes and covering less than perfect joinery.

Step 6: Seal and Prime

It is important to take spackle or bondo and cover any screw holes, cracks or blemishes. Also cover any surface of the MDF that has been cut or shaped. After it dries then sand edges with 400 grit sandpaper till you no longer see the filler. What this does is fill and seal the edges so they take paint as well as the flat surfaces. After this is all done the paint it with a light colored auto primer. It comes in spray cans and can be bought at your home center.

Step 7: Paint Nozzle Assembly

Paint the bottom of the lower shelf and nozzle assembly with flat black paint. I used black auto primer.

Step 8: Paint and Pimp the Rocket

The body of the rocket is painted with a copper metallic paint. It comes in a spray can and you can even get it so it has hammered metal look. (I choose not too because I want it to look like it was built in Victorian England, not by the Roycrofters in New York.) The fins are finished with Silver Leaf Rub n Buff. The fin detail is hand painted with black paint. (I took the black spray paint and sprayed a bunch into a small jar. It was enough paint for the job.)

Rub N Buff Source..

Run n Buff is a combination of wax and metal pigment, You rub it on any hard surface and it looks like metal. It is something no Steampunk enthusiast should be without. The more you buff it, the shinier it get. And with a 40% coupon it's less the $4 a tube.

Drill 1/4" holes are on the edges and press in real copper rivets. On the sides, they are spaced 1-3/4" apart and are centered on the shelves above the fins. The rivets on the shelves are spaced as close to 1-3/4" as possible while keeping them away from the odd corners of the shelves.

Step 9: Pimp the Nozzle

1/8" holes are drilled on the bottom and 1/8" brass rivets are pressed in. The flanges are given a coat of silver rub n buff. In this case It is done a little bit sloppy. The nozzle traditionally gets a lot of abuse and it should look a bit worn.

Step 10: Test Flight

Space Commander Aria is helping rocket scientist M. P. (Pops) Buildswell calibrate the multi lateral gyros before the maiden voyage of the galactic cruiser Aristasia. It is delicate work but she is clearly up for the challenge. TO INFINITY AND A NAP!!!!

Step 11: Mods

If you want a night light just order one of these an attach it inside the nozzle.

Rocket Flame

It looks like a rocket flame.

Another cool thing is to get one of the USB LED Christmas trees.

Rocket Antenna

Place in on the top and not only do you have a night light, you have a hyper dimensional neutrino based communication antenna. Doesn't get cooler than this.

Space Contest 2016

Participated in the
Space Contest 2016