(11/19/04) I picked up the Smoke and Fire kit when I
from Thrustline Aerospace via E-Bay (Not thrilled with that, but did it
anyway). Many of Thrustline's kits draw me to them and this one was no
different. I loved the fact that it was a larger rocket with 3x24mm cluster
configuration and the many fins and transition.
The kit's price starts at $34.75 (starting bid
on E-Bay). Interestingly, Thrustline doesn't use the "buy it now"
feature (presently). For this price, there is a lot of rocket. How can I say
that? I compare it to the price of an Estes Executioner E for about street
price of $31.
Like a number of Thrustline's kits, it is
based off of the 1.64" x 5.5" solid balsa nose cone (PNC-60MS). This
attaches to a 14" payload tube. This then uses a solid balsa transition to
a 12" piece of BT80 (2.6") tubing. There is plenty of 1/8" Balsa
stock for the many fins. The kit also includes two laser-cut 1/8" plywood
centering rings, three 24mm motor tubes, thrust rings, and retaining clips. Two
18" Mylar parachutes, Kevlar
and Elastic shock cords, swivels, and eye-screws. Thrustline provides both
1/8" and 3/16" launch lugs. And lastly a bag of BB's for nose weight,
.80 ounces worth.
The instructions are printed on a 7 pages of
8½ x 11" paper (single sided). There are black&white photos
throughout to assist in the assembly of the kit. There are fin templates and
tube marking guides made from standard printer paper. There are also Mylar
parachute assembly instructions. The kit would probably be considered a skill
level 3 or 4 with all the various parts and activity.
There are many parts and building steps to this kit,
but let me highlight the main events:
The cluster motor mount is assembled first.
Interestingly, the use of the provided motor hooks is optional. Step one points
out that if you'd rather friction-fit your motors then to skip "...all
the steps that pertain to the engine clips". I wanted to use them, so
that meant that I need to cut the notches in the lower centering ring. The
instructions say to use a sharp hobby knife, but I hit it with a Dremel tool.
The motor hooks are then added to the 24mm
motor tubes and taped in place. They are then mounted into the two centering
rings. Only a light sanding was needed on the 1/8" plywood centering to
make everything fit.
Once dried, the builder needs to add a
1/16" hole to the top centering ring. This allows the 26" Kevlar
shock tether to be tied around the three motor tubes.
The body tubes are marked next using paper
tube marking guides. No issues.
I'm not terribly happy with the 2.6"
tube. It is Estes-like thin tubing. I find it to be the weakest component and
would like to see a thicker (LOC or AT-like) 2.6" tubing. Probably would
need to add more nose weight if it was converted.
Thrustline responded to this comment this
way: "As for the BT80 tube, I've never had any problem with it. It's
the same tube used in the Mike IX which I've had a lot of success with. As far
as it being weak, I have not found that to be the case. The motor mount gives
excellent rigidity to it."
I would agree that the motor mount gives the
bottom portion rigidity, but I found the upper opening as the weak point. Just
an observation I made while handling the kit. Not that big of deal.
The fins are then cut out using paper fin
templates. Boy oh boy, I rather have card stock, especially for those thin
Eye-screws and a piece of 1/4" elastic
is provided so that the nose cone can be attached without being glued in place.
I didn't do this and chose to glue my nose cone into the payload section (which
technically could no longer be called a payload section since it is no longer
The upper tube is glued to the upper part of
the balsa transition. Then the five (5) small strakes are added.
The nose cone is prepared for nose weight by
drilling four 3/16" holes and using epoxy to set the BB's in place. The
center of the nose cone is where an eye-screw would go if you were making it
removable for the payload section.
Both the 1/8" and 3/16" launch lugs
are glued in place. Why two sizes? Thrustline says, "In the photo
you'll notice I used 2 sizes stacked against each other at 2 and 8 inches from
the end of the body tube. This allows me some flexibility when choosing launch
rods at club launches. I have included 2 sizes (2 each) so that if you prefer,
you can use a similar method."
Finally, the 42" long piece of 3/8"
flat shock cord is tied to the Kevlar
shock tether and then the 18" parachute is added. The second 3/8"
flat elastic is attached to the large end of the transition and then its
18" parachute is attached.
Finishing... yes, finishing. Get your
fillers, sand paper, and patience all together. There is a lot of balsa exposed
here. Lots of grains to fill. Lots of joints to sand. Lots of work!
I used my typical multiple coats of
Plastic-Kote Primer and sanding in-between. Having to fill and finish the nose
cone, the transition, and 10 fins took a lot of time and coats of Plasti-Kote
Filler Primer. The transition is hardest due to the grain exposure AND because
the upper fins are half glued to the transition! I then used Walmart White and
Black paint (additional comments
about Walmart paint). I painted mine with some funky patterns. Got a bit
carried away with the masking. I was going for a NASA look. Eh, it has grown on
Overall, for CONSTRUCTION I
would rate this kit
points. The instructions are very good with the photos. There are a
number of building options that the builder needs to decide on: hooks, payload
nose cone, and launch lug size. The parts quality was good with plenty of balsa
to cut out the five lower and five upper fins. There is a balsa (BT60) nose
cone and a balsa transition. There is Kevlar to Elastic shock cords and mylar
parachutes. There are no decals.
Didn't find any motor recommendations in
Thrustline's instructions, however these are what are listed on the E-Bay page:
3x - C6-5's, C11-5's, D12-5's.
Thrustline indicates the finished rocket
should weigh about 8.6 ounces. My finished rocket weighed 8.1 ounces.
I flew mine on the 3/16" lug/rod. I'm
not sure I'd like the variability that would surely come from flying it on a
1/8" rod (whip).
First flight was on three C11-3's. They were
the motors I had and I figured the early ejection would not be a big problem,
especially with the two-piece recovery method. I should have waited for some
C11-5's. I had a very early ejection, but that was not the worse of it.
Apparently the bulk of wadding I added was not enough. It was 6-8 squares. So
the lower recovery section was badly burned, including the lower 'chute. The
upper section ejected well and descended fine. The lift-off was fast. I mean
I repaired the lower 'chute and shock cord and added a
heat shield. I then cleaned out my three C11's and drilled a larger hole in the
clay nozzle. I inverted them and had instant 24mm-to-18mm adaptors.
I then loaded it up with three Est SU C6-5's.
Excellent flight up, straight and stable. Ejection was past apogee. At ejection
the lower section 'chute never opened due to a tangle.
I loaded it up again with three Est SU
C6-3's. Another slow and graceful lift-off. Slower than the C11's, of course.
At ejection the upper and lower sections got tangled and it came down on only
the lower 'chute. No damage, though.
Determined to have success, I loaded it up
again with three Est SU C6-3's. This time after repeating a great lift-off, I
had a fully successful parachute deployment. Bravo!
For FLIGHT/RECOVERY, I would
rate this rocket
½ points. The Smoke and Fire looks great lifting-off on three
C6's. Can't beat that slow, majestic look. It is a stable rocket as well. The
complications that come from a 2.6" body tube and a two piece deployment
showed itself with my flights. All of these can be addressed with practice, so
that, in itself, makes this a fun rocket for flying.
I give the rocket an OVERALL rating of
½ points. I need to say... DON'T BUY THIS KIT if you are looking
for an easy to build and easy to finish rocket! However, if you are looking for
a moderately challenging build and a highly challenging finish (unless you
don't care about balsa grains and paint it all one color!) then this kit could
be one of your choices.
On the other hand, once finished, this one
can give you some nice flights. They can be more expensive since you are using
up three motors a time... but hey, how else will you enjoy clusters?
(Contributed - by Joe Policy - 11/06/05)
A big 3 motor cluster with a payload section. Its 5 lower/5 upper fin design
helps this beast to stand out at a launch. It is rated at level 2/3.
The parts list:
- 1 Fin Stock 1/8" Balsa
- 2 1/8" Launch Lugs
- 2 3/16" Launch Lugs
- 2 Swivels
- 2 Small Eyelets
- 1 Large Eyelet
- 3 Engine Hooks
- 3 Engine Blocks
- 2 Centering Rings
- 1 Kevlar
Shock Cord Tether
- 1 1.25" wide Elastic Shock Cord
- 2 3/8" wide Elastic Shock Cord
- 2 18" Mylar Parachutes
- 1 Balsa Transition
- 1 Balsa Nose Cone
- 3 24mm Motor Tubes
- 1 .8 ounce BB's for Nose Weight
- 1 14" Payload Tube
- 1 12" Main Body Tube
You know that when the kit arrives and the bag it is comes in looks
impressive, you know the rocket will be as well. Thrustline hand packs their
kits and I have yet to have a kit from them that was missing a part. The only
complaint I have is the instructions. Although quite thorough, the photos are
fuzzy and lack detail. Also, I think they should be printed front and back to
Construction starts with the 3x24mm motor mount. You have the option of
using motor clips for retention or friction fit. I opted to use the clips which
meant putting three notches in the aft plywood centering ring. The forward ring
needs to have a hole drilled in it for the Kevlar
shock cord tether. I would have been nice to have this hole pre-drilled since I
had no small drill bits. (I do now!)
As you mark the body tube for alignment of the 5 fins, the instructions
mention you are on your own for placement of the lugs. I had to eyeball a spot
between the fins. I believe the fin alignment guide should have a spot marked
for lug placement. You have the option of using 2 x 1/8" or 2 x 3/16"
lugs or both. I used the 3/16" lugs only.
There is just enough balsa to cut all 10 fins, so there is no room for
mistakes. You must be careful in how you cut the upper fins since the rear root
edge rides on top of the transition. I had some minor gaps in mine which I
filled with glue.
After your fins are glued, you build the payload section. It is enormous.
One nice feature is that the nose cone is tethered to the transition via
elastic shock cord so there is no chance of losing the nose during
deployment--unless you lose the whole payload section of course!
The nose cone needs holes drilled in it to accept BBs for nose weight. I
had a little trouble holding onto the nose cone during drilling, but I got the
Both the upper payload and the lower boost section get their own 18"
Mylar parachutes. The elastic shock cord on the lower section is tied to the
tether. This helps protect the elastic from the hot ejection gasses and is a
nice feature on any kit. Overall, this is a fairly easy build for the
I needed this rocket completed quickly for a launch, so I kept the color scheme
easy. The photo of the finished model in the instructions shows the lower and
upper fins a different color from the rest of the rocket. This would need a lot
of time and a lot of masking. I applied sanding sealer to all balsa surfaces.
The spirals were quite light, so I opted not to fill them. I applied two coats
of primer and painted the lower section/nose cone one color and the payload
section another. No decals were provided or suggested.
½ out of 5
My instructions had no motor recommendation, so I used the ones from the
Thrustline website. First flight was with 3 C11-5s. I used a Nomex
heat shield since the main body is a BT-80 and would require a lot of wadding.
The rocket really lived up to its name, plenty of smoke and fire took this bird
way up and way fast. Both halves were recovered successfully.
Next flight was on 3 D12-7s. Only two the motors lit but is was still an
impressive site to see. The 7 second delay may have been a bit long because two
of the shroud lines tore out of the parachute. I still had a good recovery and
the parachute was easily repaired.
Last flight of the day was again on 3 C11-5s. This flight was perfect in
all aspects. Although this rocket can be flowing on 3 C6-5s (although no
adapters were included), I think the C11 or D12 cluster truly lets this rocket
live up to its name.
The mylar parachutes really shine on a sunny day and can handle the wear and
tear of multiple flights when you use the correct delay. The Kevlar
tether is showing no signs of stress and the Nomex
I added has done it's job of protecting the recovery components.
½ out of 5
This is a great big, albeit expensive kit. The instructions could use a little
work and some decals would have helped to really set this kit apart from the
½ out of 5