(by Kenneth R. Johnson - 04/01/02)
An entry level 3FNC rocket that tries hard to beat the Estes Alpha.
Like the other Custom rocket kits I have built, the nose cone was excessively
loose and had a lot of casting flash. And like the others, the parting line had
a number of dimples and flaws that detract from the rocket if not remedied.
Otherwise, the quality of components are quite good. For your money, you get
real balsa fins, a good (but not great) 24mm tube, a nice looking set of
decals, a plastic 12" parachute, and a very Estes-like short shock cord, a
mylar launch lug, and an un-springy motor hook, all in a plastic bag. No
surprises here. But when construction begins, it is very reminiscent of the old
Estes Alpha before they started getting too plastic'ky.
Other than a couple of typographical errors, the instructions were well
thought out and logical. A first time builder would have little trouble
assembling this kit, but the nose cone would require a bit of tape to fit
properly. Unlike some other Custom kits I've built, the balsa on this kit was
excellent quality. An experienced modeler might immediately begin thinking
"D power!" but I fought this temptation, and as it turned out, it was
a wise move. More on this later.
To fix the loose and poorly finished nose cone, I slathered a bit of 90 minute
epoxy on the outside from tip to shoulder, and set it aside to dry for a day or
two. To aid in adhesion, I sanded the glassine coating off the aft end of the
body tube, and attached the fins with white glue, along with the launch lug.
Once everything was dry, I coated the entire tube and fins with a light coat of
the same epoxy. To avoid zippering, I usually put a light coat of epoxy on the
inside of the body tube, which really stiffens it a lot.
Once dry, I sanded the whole thing down with 120 grit sandpaper and used
automotive gray primer, applying several thin coats. Allow each coat to dry
completely before adding the next. Proper care will ensure a completely
seamless finish, and will be darn near bulletproof as well.
I painted the whole thing in white enamel, followed by a bit of yellow and
the decals. After drying a couple of days, the whole thing was covered in clear
enamel. Looks are incredible! It's a bit hefty, though. You may want to
lengthen the shock cord as I did. Mine is now a good half meter long.
out of 5
Custom advises launching this rocket with a 1/2A6-2 for the first flight.
Baloney. You'll get a good indication of what the rocket can do by going with
an A8-3 initially, which will give a decent altitude but not so high that you
can't see the phases of flight. Makes a great demo rocket! With a C6-7, it'll
nearly disappear. Prep for flight is completely no-hassle. There are no cons,
IF you've fixed the nose cone. Otherwise, it may give you fits, because the
nose was so wobbly it'd probably have an effect on flight, and possible drag
induced separation could occur. Thought it would be cool to change to a 24mm
motor, but that would have been overkill. As it is, an 18mm C is plenty.
Custom uses a pretty stiff plastic for the chute, and mine shredded. This was
possibly due more to a "bonus" delay in the motor than anything, but
it was discouraging. I solved the problem with a scratch built mylar chute.
Still, this thing will take a wallop and survive!
out of 5
If Custom could get a grip on quality control in the nose cone department,
they'd have a real contender here. As it is, it'd make a great first or second
rocket for a new rocketeer. I didn't really like this rocket all that much at
first, but the more I worked on it, the more I found to like. It really is
reminiscent of the old Alpha I built in 1970-something, and flies like it too.
It is squarely one of my favorite low powered rockets.
½ out of 5