Items Needed (not included):
PLEASE NOTE: the following links are provided for your convenience. I have not tried or tested all these sources. Make sure you purchase from a place where you can easily return or exchange the parts if needed. Also note that some of these links are “affiliate link” which helps to support this growing “garage business”.
Detailed assembly and finishing instructions are available to walk you step-by-step through the process.
The common sizes are 1/8″, 3/16″, and 1/4″ rods. The ones Estes makes can be “broken down” and they fit into my portable took box that I bring to the field, which is handy.
[1/4″ rods] are usually around 4 ft long. A 3/16” rod is usually around 3 feet. And an 1/8” rod, around 2 to 2-1/2 ft. The limiting factor is flexibility of the rod, which is determined by the material. A hard aluminum rod will be stiffer than a mild steel rod. Stainless steel is also harder than mild steel. I’ve been using polished stainless rods which I purchased as raw stock from a local metal supplier, cut to length, and then polished by chucking them in a drill and running through progressively finer sandpaper down to steel wool. At the same time, I tapered and rounded off the ends for the last inch to ensure a snag-free transition from guided to free flight. Smooth as silk and quite stiff.
10.5″ Blast Deflector Plate
- The easiest way to get both the 10.5″ Blast Plate and 1/4″ Launch Rod is probably to purchase the Estes Porta-Pad E Launch Pad.
- However, my favorite option is to purchase a 10.5″ circle made from 10 gauge steel from Steel Supply LP. If you go this route, you will have to drill your own center hole. But you get a MUCH sturdier (and heavier) blast plate. In the photo to the left, the top image is the Estes Blast plate, the bottom one is the 10 gauge steel from Steel Supply LP.
- Do NOT buy the “002241 – Blast Deflector Plate” that is normally sold by Estes. At only 5″ in diameter, it is obviously too small.
Ryobi A10KC31 Drill Chuck
- This is another item that is a little tricky to source. Amazon may have some, but it seems a little expensive. eBay usually has them for around $16. Can also check with Home Depot.
1/2″-20 x 1″ Grade 8 UNF Hex Head Screw
- Used to securely attach the drill chuck to the plate.
- This may be the hardest item to obtain!
- Basically, you want a 1/2″-20 screw with 1″ length threads.
- The only place that I could find it was on Amazon (but it comes in pack of TWENTY-FIVE!). Leave a comment if you found a better source!
Camera Tripod and Fluid Head
Obviously, you can use whatever tripod and tripod head that has a standard 1/4″-20 mount for the launch pad. But I would not recommend a flimsy or cheaply made tripod. For safety, make sure you choose one that is sufficiently heavy and sturdy (preferably with hefty aluminum legs). Unfortunately (for rocketeers), hefty aluminum tripods are getting harder to find. Most photography tripods nowadays are made from plastic, thin aluminum, or carbon fiber to make them lighter.
If you want to copy my gear, here’s my setup:
- I used my ancient Manfrotto 3130 Tripod head which is no longer manufactured (this may work as replacement). A “fluid head” will make adjusting the launch pad much smoother and easier. No need to “break the bank” on a super expensive fluid head for launching model rockets. I have a better fluid head that I swap on and off for photography.
- I also used my old Manfrotto 3021 Aluminum Tripod (available on eBay used).This thing must be 18 years old but it still works GREAT! It’s nice and heavy which makes a GREAT base!