Yet Another Diversion

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Blog entry by handsawgeek posted 07-08-2016 02:31 PM 912 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s been awhile since I last wrote a post for this blog, so here is an update on the handsawgeek world….

Doubtless, many of you have other interests and hobby pursuits that run in parallel with woodworking.
I’m the same way.

Occasionally, something will spark, and I find myself ‘binge-ing’ on another interest for a short time, at the expense of putting off work on the current woodshop project.

That’s what’s occurred recently.

The latest of these diversions is model rocketry.

Before the days of becoming a woodworker, I was a very avid model rocket enthusiast. Built and flew hunnerts of them between about 1973 and 1983. Was an active member of the NAR, and participated in lots of large regional model rocket contests and events.

So, in early May, I happened to get in touch with one of my old model rocket cronies from back in the day. Unlike me, he never quit the hobby, and has been active all these years.
This lit a fire under me.

I found some of my old rocket stuff stored away in a RubberMaid tote, items that I had withheld from the sale of most of my rockets in 1985. I found also my old home-built launcher and controller.

Then I got on the Wonderful World Wide Web to see what the state of model rocketry is these days. I was astounded to find that there were many other folks like me – ones who had been in the hobby back in the early days, put it down for years, then got back into it in recently. We’re called ‘BAR’s’. Born-Again Rocketeers.
I was also delighted to find that plans for all the old vintage kits are available for download – all those cool Estes and Centuri rockets form the ‘60s – ‘70’s golden years.

Then it was off to the hobby outlets to pick up a few new kits and engines.

OK…I’m hooked.

Of course my first project was a restoration of my first ever model rocket built in 1973.

This was how I found it from years of careless storage…

And here it is now, after some careful re-building, and re-finishing. It’s now ready to launch. The last time it flew was in 1981!

This project hasn’t been entirely devoid of woodworking, though – that stand holding the model was hand cut and the beveled front formed with a hand plane. It will eventually get a finish and a model name tag and clear plastic cover added.


-- Ed

3 comments so far

View CO_Goose's profile


203 posts in 2399 days

#1 posted 07-09-2016 03:49 AM

Nice Rocket. Don’t let anyone tell you that model rocketry is not woodworking. as long as something is wood, then it’s wood working, just on a smaller scale. I have dabbled with rockets since ‘74, and still have my first rocket. Just think of all of the model rocket related woodworking projects, Launch stands, display stands, range boxes, Fin jigs…

I think I will have to go build another rocket now…

-- Just making sawdust

View handsawgeek's profile


663 posts in 2003 days

#2 posted 07-11-2016 02:41 PM

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to become a BAR, too!
The biggest surprise in all of this was remembering how soft and fragile balsa wood is – quite a change from all these years of hacking away at dimensional pine and various hardwoods with handsaws, planes, and chisels.

Balsa requires only Xacto knives and fine sandpaper to work effectively.

This weekend, I took apart an old broken Craftsman scroll saw for which Sears no longer supplies replacement parts. I salvaged the motor and mounted it on a base. It just so happens that I have an old drill chuck hanging around that fits nicely…just have to break out the tap and die set to make some threads on the motor shaft. Voila… Instant mini-lathe for turning my own balsa and basswood rocket nose cones and tube transitions.
Even though I have a full sized lathe, this thing will be better suited to making these precision small items. Basically, it’s just a matter of gluing a dowel into a balsa block, and inserting the assembly into the chuck and getting to work with small turning tools and sanding blocks.

An added bonus is that the balsa nose cone grain can easily be filled and sanded while still mounted in the ‘lathe’.

Time to start working on some of those scratch-built scale sounding rocket models that I never got around to building in the 70s.

-- Ed

View CO_Goose's profile


203 posts in 2399 days

#3 posted 07-11-2016 08:34 PM

I used the Dowel in the balsa trick as well, works pretty nice. I also have several short (.5”) lengths of body tube to use as a gauge for the shoulders. I ended up using a belt sander to shape the cones, it seemed to work pretty well as the balsa is soft and didn’t like my lathe tools.

-- Just making sawdust

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