Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The crafter of nose cones...

I am what is termed a "builder" - I take parts and assemble them into a complete rocket. However, I do not make the nose cones, transitions, and other parts - that is the role of vendors and "makers", such as my friend Duane. To be truthful, I have no desire to transition from builder to maker, because a) I am a klutz extraordinaire, which makes me extremely cautious around power tools, and b) I have little creative talent, preferring to build rockets from plans and paint them according to the kit art. But I do greatly admire makers, so when Duane offered to show me how he crafts nose cones and transitions this past weekend, I took him up on the invite.

In theory, making nose cones and transitions is easy - you spin a balsa block in some sort of power tool and use chisels and other sharp objects to carve the spinning block to the desired shape.  The tools are not hard to find or acquire - Duane has one of those nifty 5-in-1 shop tools, but I have known people to use electric drills for small cones. The main requirement, as in so many things, is patience. A steady hand is also necessary, which is why I am not too keen on making nose cones - I do not wish to do the klutz squeal of "Whoops, there goes part of my finger." But based on my observations this weekend, a fearless, sure-handed individual can make a BT-80 size nose cone in about 30 minutes, including frequent stops to make measurements and check shoulder diameter.

Duane checks the shoulder diameter using a piece of BT-80 (Click to enlarge).
Duane had already glued a wooden dowel into the center of the balsa block, which was then carved to a hexagonal shape. This was then placed into his shop tool, with the dowel fitted securely into the "drill chuck". The block was spun at a decent speed, and I watched as Duane used his chisels to shape the cones. First up was the shoulder, which he carefully formed using a big chisel, stopping every so often to measure the diameter with a caliper. When it was close to BT-80 size, the chisel was exchanged for sandpaper, which removed the final bits of balsa. There were numerous stops here, as Duane was constantly checking the diameter by trying to slide a piece of BT-80 tube over the shoulder.

The nearly finished nose cone (Click to enlarge).
After the shoulder was done, the chisels came back out as Duane shaped the curve of the nose. This was easier than I thought, and it was not long until a very nice nose cone took on its final appearance. The short video below shows Duane doing the early shaping of the nose. I was quite impressed with the quality of the final product, and hung around to watch him make a BT-70 to BT-80 transition for his Geezer TARC rocket. This was done in a similar fashion, except a transition has two shoulders. After another half hour, Duane had his transition, which would have cost around $15 from a vendor. His was the cost of the balsa, which was probably about $5 - not too shabby!

But I still ain't going to mess with power tools - $15 is a small price to pay to preserve my extremities.

No comments:

Post a Comment