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REV 2.4 - Mon Nov 8 00:04:38 2010

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Custom Rockets
Serval
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SPECS: 23.25" x 1.325" - 1.7 oz
ROCKSIM FILE: MISSING - please submit here
SpaceCAD FILE: MISSING - please submit here
REC'D MOTORS: A8-3, B4-4, B6-4, B8-5, C6-5

[Picture] (07/20/98) The Custom Serval was the second tube-fin rocket that I put together, the first being Rogue's Hex Courier™. The Serval is a single-stage, 18mm-powered rocket.

The rocket is 23.25" tall and 1.325" in diameter. It uses a hollow, plastic nose cone and, of course, tube fins (seven of them). An elastic shock cord and a 2"x36" metallic mylar streamer make up the recovery system. There is also a small water-transfer decal page with a couple of strips and the name Serval in black.

See my Tube-Fin Rocket Comparison Page

CONSTRUCTION:

[Picture]There are four pages of construction instructions, including an inventory page, 15 steps of illustrated construction details and 3 steps of illustrated flying preparation tasks. The instructions are in logical order, including 2 steps on spray painting and applying the decals. The kit is rated skill level 2.

Assembly of Serval was, for the most part, without any complications. The motor mount is a standard tube, hook, and two centering rings. This kit uses 1/32" paper centering rings. Also like the other Custom kits I've looked at before, it uses the same thin motor hook. The thin (1/16") motor hook does it's job, however, it seems to get out of shape easier than the wider (1/8") motor hooks from other manufacturers.

There was also a decision that had to be made on the motor mount assembly by comparing the illustrations to the instructions. The instructions, in step 3, read, "Insert the motor mount until both tubes ends are flush." However, the color illustration on the packaging and 6 other illustrations throughout the instructions show the motor mount sticking out approximately 1/2". The latter is how it was assembled.

The kit comes with a "fin placement template" used for marking all seven tube-fins and the launch lug. This template seemed slightly bigger than the body tube so care must be taken in marking the body tube, especially the launch lug position. The positioning is supposed to allow the guide rod to pass through a gap in two of the tube-fins and then straight through the launch lug.

I used Quick Grab glue for attaching the tube-fins and have found this glue to work very well on this task. (additional comments about Quick Grab glue)

[Picture]
The recovery system is a standard 3-fold paper mount for the elastic shock cord which is then tied to an eye-screw that is screwed into the nose cone. There is one 6" shroud line that is attached to the mylar streamer using a round sticker. This shroud line is then tied to the eye-screw.

I used Plasti-Kote primer to fill the tube spirals and to make the entire rocket smooth. Then, I used Walmart's enamel primer for the final coat. While still wet, I dropped the rocket. This required more priming and smoothing. I then painted the entire rocket bright red with a black nose cone using Walmart enamel. (additional comments about Walmart paint) The sample paint scheme on the packaging shows the rocket in light gray and the nose cone black, but I like the red better. Lastly, the three black decals were placed onto the rocket without incident.

Overall, for CONSTRUCTION I would rate this kit 3 points.
 

FLIGHT/RECOVERY:

While preparing the Servalfor flight, I removed the nose cone and shook the line to let the streamer uncurl. The streamer dropped off the shroud line because the sticker didn't hold it. This being the second Custom kit using a sticker-to-shroud line approach, which failed, made me change it right away. I punched a small hole through the top of the streamer, about 1/2" in, tied the shroud line to it and then put the sticker back on.

I choose to follow Custom's recommended motor list on the Serval™, using an A8-3 for it's first flight. It's first flight was over quickly because the A8 barely got this kit off of the pad. It probably only went 70 feet off of the ground, ejected and the streamer barely got fully deployed before it landed 10 feet from the pad.

The second flight was on a B6-4 which proved to be a nice, lower altitude flight. The Servalflew very straight. Repeated perfect flights twice more on C6-5's which demonstrated that this tube-finned flyer was worth it's price.

Although I didn't get a chance to fly my Servalat NARAM-40, I enjoyed watching someone's fly on a "D" motor. Straight as an arrow. It looked like it was converted to a 24mm motor mount. I am ready to fly mine on an Apogee D3-7 for it's next launch.

For FLIGHT/RECOVERY, I would rate this kit 4 points, losing a point primarily due to the recovery system. The kit flies straight and true and looks good while doing it. The metallic mylar streamer also adds to its looks.

Overall, the ServalOverall, the Serval is a nice performing tube-fin rocket. I give the kit an OVERALL rating of 4 points.

[Submit your Opinion]

GUEST's OPINION:
07/03 - "The Serval is one of my all-time favorites. Mine will wiggle just a little bit off the pad, but then it looks like it was flying on a rail. I also recommend using a 'chute. The streamer does little to soften the landing. I used a 12" Estes from another rocket's carcass." (N.J.Q.)

GUEST's OPINION:
02/00 - "I like the Serval a lot. I use it sometimes to check wind, etc. It has always been a reliable flier, not so reliable with the streamer. HOWEVER, the streamer seems to provide no advantage at all, and after the last time it separated, I decided to just eliminate it. The Serval always glides down tail first, apparently the tube fins provide some aerodynamic lift. Landing is always gentle, and the only damage I've seen is a very minor dent in one tube fin." (B.F.)

GUEST's OPINION:
07/99 - "This review was right on the money. I looked up the review prior to construction and decided to put a 24mm engine mount in this kit. I too punched a small hole in the streamer and tied the string to it. I then taped the end with scotch tape to reinforce hole. My first flight was on a windy day at a MASA launch (in MN) and I used an adapter and a C engine. It was a very straight flight and the streamer recovery kept the rocket close to the launch pad. For the next launch, I decided to try the D engine despite the strong wind. It launched very straight and quickly went out of sight. At ejection, a few sharp eyes saw that there was separation. The streamer flew free and the rocket fell from 1100+ feet. Surprisingly, the rocket only had a small dent in one tube fin that may have happened at ejection rather than landing. The streamer string had ripped through the mylar despite my attempt to tape the end." (W.F.)

GUEST's OPINION:
"I swapped out the streamer entirely for a 'stealth' 18" chute that I had left over after my Blackhawk pranged for the last time and found that it worked great...until it got ran over by a car. I am currently working on a 38mm version of this kit, probably using a j350 for my level 2 cert. I felt that the review was very good. I felt that the review was very good. Hopefully it will encourage more companies to try the tube fins." (E.O.)

[Enter Rocket Specific Tip]

SPECIFIC ROCKET TIP:
"" (x.x.)

[Enter Flight Log]
Date Name Motor Ejection/
Altitude
Wind Notes
10-04-2009 George Beever Est SU B6-4 Apogee - NC Down 10+ mph winds Event: SPAARSPAM-20
- First flight on model. Very straight boost despite 15mph+ winds. Great flight.
11-15-2009 George Beever Est SU B4-4 Apogee - NC Down 5-10 mph winds - Another good flight. Can't wait to try a C6 on this model.
05-02-2010 George Beever Est SU B6-4 Apogee - Perfect 5-10 mph winds - Good flight.
11-07-2010 George Beever Qst SU B6-4 Just Past (1-2sec) 5-10 mph winds - Good flight.
11-10-2002 Donald Besaw Est SU B6-4 Just Past (1-2sec) Calm - Very nice first flight. Perfect streamer recovery.
11-28-2002 Donald Besaw Est SU B4-4 Apogee - NC Down 0-5 mph winds - Great flight. Rocket stalled at apogee and then flopped over on its side then turned nose down then ejected and came down sideways. Very neat.
01-05-2003 Donald Besaw Est SU C6-5 Just Past (1-2sec) 5-10 mph winds - Great flight to around 650-700 feet. Recovered close to pad, no damage.
01-04-2004 Donald Besaw Est SU C6-5 None - Unknown 5-10 mph winds RIP - Went unstable on takeoff, looped a few times and crashed into the ground nose first at full power destroying pretty much everything including the nose cone. Only the streamer and shock cord were all that could be salvaged. I may rebuild it. Status: Lawn Dart
03-05-1998 EMRR Est SU C6-5 at apogee 5-10 mph winds - Nice straight flight. Used a large reefed 'chute.
07-18-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 5-10 mph winds - Very low altitude. Needs more
07-18-1998 EMRR Est SU B6-4 at apogee 5-10 mph winds - Nice and straight flight with good streamer deployment
07-18-1998 EMRR Est SU C6-5 at apogee 5-10 mph winds - Repeat, except landed on concrete and scratched paint a little
07-18-1998 EMRR Est SU C6-5 at apogee 5-10 mph winds - Repeat, except landed on concrete and scratched paint a little
07-18-1998 EMRR Est SU C6-5 at apogee 5-10 mph winds - Super, straight, high and good recovery
08-20-1998 EMRR Qst SU C6-5 just after 0-5 mph winds - Good flight with a nice white smoke trail the whole way. Was testing a J&P parachute, which snapped open and brought the kit down nicely.
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing-timing a J&P parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing-timing a J&P parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing-timing a reg nylon parachute, elastic broke at connection to shock tether. repaired.
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing-timing a reg nylon parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing-timing a reg nylon parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing/timing a J&P parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing/timing a J&P parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing/timing a reg nylon parachute
08-27-1998 EMRR Est SU A8-3 at apogee 0-5 mph winds - testing/timing a reg nylon parachute
03-20-1999 EMRR AT SU D21-7 after apogee light winds RIP - Punched off the pad. Ejection was late and blew the nose cone off. Recovered nose cone, not rocket. Lost. Status: Lost
   

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