(Contributed - by Mike Goss - 12/10/02)
The Honest John was a short range ballistic missile that was used for many
years in a peace keeping role armed with a nuclear warhead. Its
distinctive bulbous nose cone and delta fins make this a very distinctive
rocket. School Yard Rocketry is a new rocket company that I found through a web
search. They have two rockets at this time, the Honest John and the Patriot
Missile, and they are hoping to be adding more soon.
The Honest John arrived in the mail from School Yard Rocketry in a sturdy
cardboard box. Inside the kit was packaged in a Zip-Lock bag with a picture of
the real rocket on a mobile launcher, a nice touch. All of the parts were there
and in good shape. The parts consist of a body tube, nose cone, engine mount
tube, thrust ring, centering rings, launch lug, screw eye, shock cord, a balsa
sheet with the fin patterns printed on it, a cardstock sheet for the spin
motors, engine nozzle and shock cord mount, a sheet of water slide decals, and
a 12" nylon parachute. All of the components are good quality. One
interesting item is the body tube. The body tube is what they call a Tuff
Tube Airframe. This Tuff Tube is substantially thicker than your standard
Estes tube, and the outside is a little rougher as well. It turned out to be
easy to work with and finished nicely, but more on that later.
The instructions are printed on both sides of two 8.5"x 11"
sheets of paper. They are in a logical order, and include diagrams for each
step. There is one template for marking the location of the fins. The
instructions are easy to follow, if you have built a rocket kit before. In one
of the diagrams the fin outline is different than the ones that are used. This
could be confusing for the first time builder, however, if you have already
built a kit or two, this should not be an issue.
The kit goes together well. I did not find any places where the
instructions were difficult to follow or anything that needed more explanation.
The only thing that was difficult to build are the spin motor housings. These
are printed on heavy card stock and are to be cut out, folded and glued
together and then installed on the nose cone. The kit has twice as many as you
need for the rocket. This allows you to try and try again until they look
right. This is a nice feature. A couple of drops of thin CA cement will make
then easy to sand and finish. Also on the cardstock sheet is an engine nozzle.
This engine nozzle fits in between the motor mount and the body tube. It is
virtually undetectable on the finished model, so I wonder why it is included in
The Honest John is finished like most
rockets. The balsa fins and nose cone will need to be sanded and sealed, but
the body tube will also need to be sanded and sealed. Step 11 of the
instructions tells you to sand off any fuzzies between
coats of primer. I used Krylon gray sandable primer. The body tube
smoothed out very nicely after two coats of primer. The Spin motors are
optional in this kit. I used some wood filler putty around the motors to blend
them into the nose cone. I was pleased with the results. Included in the kit is
a sheet of waterslide decals. These decals are very thin and difficult to work
with. I had difficulty keeping them from cracking when I applied them to the
model. One tip with these decals is to cut further away from the color to allow
you to work with more of the clear carrier. This makes the decals a little
easier to work with. Once I completed with the decals I gave the model two
coats of Testors Dullcote. I have had trouble using clear Krylon on decals
before, and have never had any trouble with the Testors paint. The finished
model matches the cover photograph of the Honest John in the kit. As the
operational rockets were painted an Olive Drab, this must have been a high
visibility test rocket paint scheme.
out of 5
To prepare the Honest John for flight, one needs to install a motor, and
install the parachute. The motor relies on a friction fit, as there is no
retention hook. The elastic shock cord is held in place by a Estes type triple
fold paper shock cord mount. The Shock cord is then tied off to the nose cone
on a screw eye installed in the base of the nose cone. The parachute is a high
quality orange nylon parachute, one of the reasons I bought the kit. Pack a
couple of sheets in the body tube and then insert the Parachute. School Yard
Rocketry recommends using B4-4, B6-4 and C6-4 motors.
I launched the rocket on an A8-3 Motor. There was a 5 to 10 Mph wind that
day. The rocket flew great, with the ejection charge firing just after apogee.
The Parachute seems to be just about the right size as the rocket came back at
a reasonable rate, and landed without damage on the football field that I
out of 5
I give this kit an overall rating of 4.5. The flight was about as perfect
as you can expect. And I like it when manufactures include high quality
components like nylon parachutes with their models. For the price this is a
great deal. The on-line ordering was easy and painless and the kit arrived in
the mail quickly. The body tube is extremely robust, and should last a long
time. I particularly enjoyed the balsa wood components. There could be some
improvement in the quality of the decals, and the instructions could be a
little clearer as well. Overall this kit was fun to build and was great to fly.
½ out of 5
(Contributed - by Bob Ellis - 01/14/03)
I won this kit in the DesconX contest and decided to try something that I
hadn't done since '67, building a kit per the instructions, exactly per the
instructions, no changes or improvements at all. I normally wouldn't consider a
rash act like this, but while trial fitting the parts, I was very surprised to
find that all the parts fit on the first try, no sanding or other modifications
were going to be needed. It was also obvious that this was not a thin Estes
tube that needed reinforcing or extra support for 18 mm D engines. The
"Tuff Tube" trademark is serious. The BT 50 equivalent had a wall
thickness of .031, almost twice the thickness of an Estes tube and .006 thicker
than a LOC 24mm Motor Tube. I was very impressed to find a tube that thick with
a spiral that I couldn't feel with a fingernail. I thought briefly about
building it for a 24 mm mount to try out some of the new C11's, but the ID of
the tube is just a bit too tight for Estes and Aerotech 24 mm motors, so it was
back to building it absolutely stock.
The kit comes with a heavy duty BT-50 and a standard BT-20 motor mount. The
motor mount is centered by two wound cardboard rings. It has another wound
cardboard ring for an engine block, but no clip for motor retention, instead it
goes back to the old way of friction fitting the motor with tape. It uses a 24
inch long piece of 1/8 inch sewing elastic for a shock cord, mounted using a
tri-fold piece of card stock. The nose cone is a beautiful piece of 7-inch long
balsa. You cut the fins and the launch lug stand offs out of a piece of
pre-marked balsa, the launch lugs are standard 1/8 inch mylar. For recovery,
there is a very nice little pre-assembled 10-inch nylon with a snap
This was a really nice kit to build, the instructions were great, pretty
much following the normal small model building sequence. Build the motor mount,
add the fins, then the launch lugs. Glue up the shock cord and mount, place it
as far down the BT as you can reach. Add a card stock engine nozzle and some
optional card stock spin motors. Attach the parachute using a screw eye
(haven't used one of those since '67 either) and swivel clip and go paint it.
Actual building time was a bit less than two hours, using strictly DAP
Carpenters Glue (Yellow Glue), no epoxy or power tools were needed and I didn't
have to go out to the hardware store looking for any extra parts. The only
required tool was an Exacto Knife, I chose to use a Razor Saw since all the
cuts for the fins are straight lines. The most difficult step in the assembly
is getting the two launch lugs and their stand offs straight. I was very
tempted to use a couple of drops of CA, but resisted.
The only part that I wasn't completely satisfied with was the motor mount.
It looks like the same blue/green tube that Estes uses, and I feel that it
should be a much stronger tube to live up to the potential of the "Tuff
Tube" used for the BT.
I also did not add the optional spin motors, I just didn't have the time to
get them right and I liked the shape of the nose cone without them.
I used Elmers Fill and Finish (FNF) thinned down to milky consistency and
painted two coats of that on all the balsa surfaces. After sanding it down, I
remembered why I was so happy when the first plastic nose cones came out. That
beautiful 7-inch balsa nose cone needed three more coats before it showed a
smooth surface. I then put on a single coat of Kilz Spray Primer. I was right
about the lack of spiral lines, one coat of Kilz completely covered what little
line there was on the BT.
I painted mine completely with two coats of White Krylon, choosing not to
mask off for a Black fin. I then added the water slide decals and a cover coat
of Clear Krylon. The decals went on easily and look great.
out of 5
The first flight had to wait almost four months, because of the open fire ban
in Colorado, no rockets anywhere in the state all summer.
With a finished weight of only 1 3/4 ounces (50 grams) it should be a good
flyer on any engine from an A8-3 for a schoolyard safe 180 feet, to a C6-5 for
840 feet. For those that really want to see it move, the D13, D21 and D24 with
7 second delays all check in at about 1400 feet, and the D3-5 looks good for
about 1900 feet after a 6 second motor burn.
I tried it first on an Estes A8-3 and had my first ever CATO of an A8-3.
The motor burn was great, the rocket went almost straight up, just a very
slight rotation to keep it straight, good tracking smoke, then instead of a
nice POP at ejection, there was just a HISS that lasted about two seconds. The
ejection charge had just fizzled, toasting the wadding and melting the nylon
chute and shock cord. The only good part was that the nose cone was pushed off
just enough to prevent a lawn . When I went to pick up the model, I
expected to see burns and blisters thru the body tube, since I had seen smoke
pouring out both ends on the way down. I was very surprised to find that other
than one snapped fin, the only damage was the melted chute and the shock cord
had been burned thru in several places. The Tuff Tube had come thru with no
damage at all, fantastic considering the chute and wadding had blocked the
tube, containing all the ejection heat and pressure inside.
The model was easily repaired, the fin went right back on with Yellow Glue
and a bit of FNF to fill the crack, then touched up with a brush dipped in some
White Krylon. The shock cord was a bit harder, I had to soak the paper tri-fold
shock cord mount with water until the glue softened enough to peel out the old
mount, and then replace it with a new mount and shock cord. The chute was a
complete loss, but easily replaced with one of my own 10 inch nylon chutes.
The model has flown since on A8-3, B6-4 and C6-5 with great results, always
straight up, no weather cocking at all, just a slow rotation on the way up and
ejection right at apogee.
The 10 inch nylon chute is perfect, it packs easily, brings the model down
quickly, but with no damage even on our hard field. The only damage since the
first flite CATO was when the model came back down right on our club's aluminum
beam launch rack, the sharp edges of the aluminum rack dinged up the nose cone
and two fins, requiring more FNF and White Krylon.
out of 5
Excellent, a well designed kit with above average parts, it gets many comments
from fliers asking where I found a vintage Estes kit. All are surprised when I
tell them that it's not the Estes original, but that it's much better. It
should be a great choice for a second or third kit for a new flyer. It is built
of much heavier materials than most kits of this size and should be able to
stand up very well to rough handling. You could add an engine hook, but then it
won't look right and it won't stand up by itself.
out of 5