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Thread: Air Rockets!

  1. #1
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    Air Rockets!

    No this is not woodworking, but it sure is fun!

    I subscribe to Make Magazine, and they have all kinds of fun stuff in there.
    One of their classic earlier articles is an air rocket system, from issue #15.
    This involves rockets made from paper and a launch system from PVC pipe bits and a sprinkler valve.

    Here is a link to the makershed where you can buy a rocket kit like this.
    It's not that I want you to buy the kit, I didn't buy it myself, mostly since it is out of stock. But they have a nice video there that walks you through building one, and launching it.

    Here is what the completed system looks like. There is a pressurized air chamber at the bottom, made out of a section of 2"PVC. Above it coming from a T-connection is an electric sprinkler valve, for releasing the air, and then a launch tube where the rocket is mounted.
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    Here are two rockets. They're just paper and tape. You can find a download template on the make website that prints on legal sized paper. Took me about 45 minutes of cutting and rolling and taping to make each one. I made one using duct tape, and one with just green masking tape. Both were about equally easy. There is no parachute, it just falls after a launch. They're light enough, though the nose cone might get banged up a bit.
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    At the one end of the air chamber are some reducers which hook up the chamber to a length of hose. (I need to get some small hose clamps, as the zip ties are NOT strong enough. The hose pops off when you hit 50lbs pressure.)
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    At the end of the hose you need a bicycle pump. Pick one with a gauge on it, as you need to know how much you have pressurized the system.
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    The sprinkler valve is the key to making this work. You need a way to quickly dump out the pressurized air, in order to launch the rocket. This is probably the most expensive bit to buy. They are around $25/27 here in Canada at the Borg. I found them for $12-14 in Lowes over the border in Port Huron MI.
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    You also need a battery and switch in order to open the electric valve. You can make that yourself with a pair of 9v batteries in series with a momentary switch of some kind. I macgyvered this instead. I had a flashlight that came with my 12v hitachi drill/driver kit. The flashlight died ages ago, so I ripped off the top and wired it up with some lamp cord to the valve. That gave me a quick, safe, and easy way to hook up a 12v battery (since i just pop it in and out of the bottom) and a switch all in one. Now one issue is that this is an on/off switch, and not a momentary switch. So we have to remember to hit the switch twice each time, so that it also turns off and releases the valve. (and as a matter of extra safety we are always pulling the batter out of the handle any time we stop using it. I don't want any power in the system when it is not being used.)
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    Here it is, ready to launch. I found it impossible to catch it mid-way through a launch with my camera. I might try again tomorrow.
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    Here it is, way up top in the photo, falling fast. It is about 1/3 of the way down at this point.
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    I repeat, there is no parachute, the rockets just fall "lightly" to the ground. I still would recommend you NOT be standing under it as it falls!
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
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  2. #2
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    I can see making one of those for the Grand Kids to play with except I think I'll use my compressor and set the regulator for a low pressure. Then I can just use a quivk connect instead of the clear air line....... hmmmm now where did that sprinkler valve go...
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
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    I keep telling myself I should subscribe to Make.

    Very cool project. I made a peanut gun using a sprinkler valve like that once. Put a peanut in it, and when it hit the wall on the other side of the shop it was shelled AND made into peanut butter, all in the blink of an eye!
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post


    I keep telling myself I should subscribe to Make.
    The really nice thing about Make is that the subscription includes FULL access to all their online stuff. So I can see a digital copy of any issue they've ever ade. (Unlike Fine WW which charges more.) My kids try to grab the issue when it arrives in the mail, but LOML fights them off and makes them wait until I've seen it first.

    And Don, that is a cool idea... A quick connect shouldn't be that hard to add on! Hmmm. But really, it is only about 5-8 strokes with the bike pump to get a good shot out of it. Kids need the exercise!
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
    www.wordsnwood.com ........ facebook.com/wordsnwood

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mulder View Post
    And Don, that is a cool idea... A quick connect shouldn't be that hard to add on! Hmmm. But really, it is only about 5-8 strokes with the bike pump to get a good shot out of it. Kids need the exercise!
    Yea Art but I don't own a bike pump but I got a lot of hose for my compressor..
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  6. #6
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    Ah Yes, the things we already have do influence the design of our toys.

    Enjoy,

    JimB
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.
    VOTING MEMBER

  7. #7
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    Nice job Art. You have inspired me to do something similar! Thanks


    I have built an air cannon using that or a very similar valve. I need to get a good hand pump like that for the grandchildren.
    Last edited by Garry Foster; 03-19-2012 at 11:13 PM.

  8. #8
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    Art this looks so cool, i have too much on the go to divert and try now but will add to my list. THis is one of those things i have an interest in. In the past i have always played with those rocket kits with the solid fuel engines and electric fuses. Had a space shuttle and used to bring it out on Guy Fawkes night for the kids to see before we set off our fireworks. But it got lost.

    Have a kit in the closet waiting to be built when time permits. But i like the air idea. You got any idea of how high you get.

    What about using the cardboard roll off a paper towel to act as the core you can add stabalizer wings to this too. At least then there is a base to build from.

    The solid fuel kits have a percussion pop at the end of the burn which is able to pop a nose cone off and eject a parachute. This is how my shuttle used to work. You pack some wadding in behind the nose before you load the parachute. Here is a pic of the kit from way back when seems like its no longer available another reminder we getting to be dinosaurs

    Cant think of how you could get a chute to deploy without something of the kind.

    Good to see some barefeet in the pictures. When i first walked around our neighborhood barefeet here in Canada i got some strange comments and looks. Guess its the city folk here. I aint one for socks and sandles.
    cheers

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    But i like the air idea. You got any idea of how high you get.

    What about using the cardboard roll off a paper towel to act as the core you can add stabalizer wings to this too. At least then there is a base to build from.

    The solid fuel kits have a percussion pop at the end of the burn which is able to pop a nose cone off and eject a parachute. This is how my shuttle used to work. You pack some wadding in behind the nose before you load the parachute. Here is a pic of the kit from way back when seems like its no longer available another reminder we getting to be dinosaurs

    Cant think of how you could get a chute to deploy without something of the kind.

    Good to see some barefeet in the pictures. When i first walked around our neighborhood barefeet here in Canada i got some strange comments and looks. Guess its the city folk here. I aint one for socks and sandles.
    Rob...

    When you are standing almost directly under it, height is tough to estimate. Yesterday I would estimate we were getting 150ft vertical. But I still am limited to about 40lbs pressure, since I don't yet have a hose clamp on there. My son found this other place: http://itsablast.com/cart/ which sells a slightly different kit where the bike bump hooks directly to the air chamber, so no need for that hose + hose clamps. I kind of like being a little bit away from the unit.

    I suspect that the cardboard roll off a paper towel wouldn't work well. The rockets need to be sized so that they just slip over the 1/2" pvc pipe that makes up the launch tube. In fact you use a section of pipe when making the rockets -- roll the paper around the piece of pvc and then tape it to itself. A cardboard tube from a paper towel has a much larger a diameter. I don't think it'd work without a snug fit.

    My older son also tried to work out a parachute system, but has not succeeded. (yet.)

    As for the bare feet ... they're confined to the backyard, sorry Rob. That's one place where we're at least reasonable certain no dogs have done their business. (Let alone sticks and glass and so on.)

    ...art

    ps: oh we also have some solid-fuel rocket kits. But this was nice since once it's built we don't need to buy motors.
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
    www.wordsnwood.com ........ facebook.com/wordsnwood

  10. #10
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    Yeah Art what about that foam stuff they use for between the doors. Like a swimming pool noodle. That stuff shaped a bit would be awsome too.
    cheers

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