(by Kenneth R. Johnson - 11/01/00)
An entry level rocket that suffers from some quality control problems. At first
glance, the lackluster packaging had me thinking "Siesta" instead,
but once I delved into the project, there was plenty to like about this single
stage 4FNC rocket.
The package was the typical plastic "hanging bag" that allowed most
of the components to be seen without opening the bag. As a plus (or minus, in
this case) the balsa fins were wrapped inside the instructions, along with the
decals, for protection. It was apparent that Custom had their sights set on the
market that Estes abandoned when the latter went to those ho-hum prebuilt
plastic rockets. Custom's offering featured real balsa that required actual
construction, which is loads better at teaching kids and/or beginners about
proper construction techniques. So far, so good.
The plastic nose cone had the most casting flash I have ever seen, but it
was easy to remove with an Xacto knife in a few seconds. The first quality
control problem was here: the nose cone was way too loose in the body tube, and
would fall out every time it was pointed down. This could be easily fixed with
masking tape, but that detracts from the overall finished look. The second
glitch was the fin stock. These fins were of the poorest quality I have ever
seen. They were warped, grainy, and really flimsy, though at least the die-cut
fins popped out with ease. No way would this thing fly straight. Custom also
took a page from Estes' playbook and included a really short piece of flat
elastic shock cord, and utilized Estes' method of mounting with the tri-fold
paper and glue. Well, it has worked millions of times, and this is a low power
rocket, so why not? And the body tube was slightly crimped on one end, but I
had other plans for this end by this point. The rest of the components were
The instructions were among the easiest I have ever seen, though I didn't
really use them. I especially liked the painting instructions the best, because
this kit was designed for a beginner, and gave a couple of good tips. I decided
at first to build this rocket using the same materials and techniques that a
kid would use on his or her first rocket, but the warped fins and loose nose
cone quickly made me change my mind. While it might fly, it certainly wouldn't
fly straight, so some modifications were in order.
First of all, I placed the fin stock between a paint can and a large
dictionary for a few days, and this flattened them out satisfactorily. I
decided against masking tape for the nose cone, and instead mixed balsa sanding
dust with 30 minute epoxy, let it set up a while, and slathered it onto the
shoulder of the nose cone and into a deep depression at the tip, which was
originally covered by the casting flash.
I built the motor mount per the instructions, which went together
surprisingly well. At least Custom has these parts down pat. Once everything
dried, I attached the fins with Elmer's School Gel. This particular adhesive
dries quickly, but remains tacky enough to move things around if needed. A
decent choice for a beginner.
Once the fins were tacked on, I drilled small holes at the root edge through
the tube, then used several thin coats of 30 minute epoxy to attach the fins
with epoxy rivets and to seal the horribly grainy fins. The result is a
bulletproof fin attachment and a much smoother surface. The shock cord was
mounted according to the instructions, but I substituted much thinner paper and
attached another 100 cm (about 3 feet) of flat elastic shock cord.
Prior to painting, however, I decided to repair the crimped body tube by
cutting the end of the tube into sections, then folded the flaps down to create
a boat tail. I then filled in the gaps with slow drying CA and balsa dust, then
again coated the whole thing with epoxy. Once sanded and painted, this added a
lot to the looks of the rocket.
Once the nose cone was sanded down, the entire rocket was sealed, sanded, and
painted gloss white. The nose was painted Calypso Blue that was left over from
a model car my son built, and the water based decals were attached. The whole
thing was then coated in several thin coats of clear enamel.
Other than the miserable fin quality and loose nose cone, the rest was easy
to finish. I would prime the whole rocket next time with Krylon gray primer,
then apply the white gloss paint, but it still worked out well, and barely any
spiral is visible on the body tube. The decals, which didn't look good to me on
the packaging, look dynamite on the actual rocket. Once the defects were
addressed, this turned out to be a good rocket. But the defects in the original
materials made me decide on a 3 1/2 rating.
½ out of 5
Custom recommends using really low powered 18mm motors for the first flight,
but I refuse to purchase 18mm A motors. Why? Well, I built a 13mm to 18mm
adaptor in a few second with stuff already in my parts bin. Since 13mm motors
are cheaper than 18mm motors, and there are 4 to a pack instead of 3, it makes
better economic sense. O.K. so I'm cheap. But if you buy this stuff in bulk, it
adds up. Anyway, with an A10-3T on board, the rocket will fly decently high
with a slow takeoff. Perfect for a small field. The prep is easy, just add some
wadding, stuff in the very long streamer, and attach the nose. Put it on the
launcher and fire away. Recovery is excellent on this long streamer. But if you
are going to use a C6-7, you'd better have a big field, some assistant
trackers, and no wind. This one really gets up there in a hurry! The only con
is the weak motor retention clip, which is more like a Quest clip than Estes,
in that it has absolutely no springiness to it. But the motors stay in, and I
give the flights a solid 5.
The extra long plastic streamer is a nice touch. I would definitely add at
least double the shock cord that Custom provides. This rocket is durable, and
should be around for many launches, IF you keep the power low!
out of 5
I like the fact that somebody is addressing the gap Estes left when they
abandoned beginning rocket builders. They now only feature kits that go
together with no skill, and kids don't learn anything from that. This one
required some real rocket construction techniques, and the shabby quality of
the fins and nose would ironically help a kid learn how to build a better
rocket by overcoming obstacles. I would not recommend this as a first or second
kit due to the poor quality pieces I found inside, but it would be great for
someone who has built a couple and may be looking for a challenge. Don't let
the dull packaging fool you- this is a great rocket.
out of 5
(Contributed - by Bob Patterson - 06/01/02)
Small, single-stage rocket with streamer recovery.
- 1 body tube,
- plastic nosecone,
- 3 balsa fins,
- 36" x ~1 1/14" plastic/nylon (can't tell which) streamer,
- 14" x 1/8" elastic shock cord
- 18mm engine mount with Quest style metal clip (only springier like Estes)
- centering rings
- water-slide decals
- 1/8" launch lug
Pros - easily assembled using only white glue (I provided the glue help for
my 7 year old, this was the first rocket he assembled). Masked fins to paint
yellow after base coat of gloss white (Krylon spray paint), then applied decals
and a clear coat to finish.
out of 5
First launch was with A8-3, standard wadding with streamer, engine slides in
eaily and held with clip. Flew great. Tried B4-x, B6-x, C6-5, C6-7, no problems
with any, except that with C6-x the rocket disappears from sight until it comes
back down. Almost lost it several times after C6-x launch because we didn't see
it come down. We were shooting into wind, and turns out the wind carried it
past us without anyone realizing it.
Shock cord is glued inside upper body and has held up
well, although currently we can see the 4 bare strands of elastic where the
cloth material has burned away. Recovery speed is good, not too fast. Have had
fins break off several times, don't think we're getting enough Elmers on them.
Will try hot-glue gun for next repairs. For its most recent launch on 5/26/02,
I used Kevlar
cloth for wadding under the streamer - apparently jammed it in a little too
hard, only the nose cone ejected. Apparantly came down pretty hard from a C6-7
launch (we never saw it, and wandered around where we thought it might have
come down). The boy who found it and carried it back tripped over someone else
running back, and may have landed on it - 2 fins came off, and 3rd was loose -
can't tell which was landing damage, and which was kid damage. Upper body is
also slightly crinkled, consistent with nose first landing. Bottom of streamer
was melted, the heat apparently carried thru the Kevlar
cloth (both were still in the rocket).
out of 5
I have no bad feelings about this rocket, great little one for higher wind
conditions and for nice high shots, the kids love launching it and chasing it
out of 5