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When I was a kid, I lived for model rocketry. I was the vice president of our town’s model rocketry club. I raked leaves, mowed lawns, babysat bratty kids, anything to save up enough scratch to order from the Estes or Centuri catalogs. I can still remember the supreme joy I would feel on the days when those packages would arrive in the mail. And I will forever experience a little flashback to my nerdy youth whenever I heard that “SSHHOOOO” sound of a rocket launch and the sulfury smell of a spent black powder motor casing. Good times. Good times.

Here are some of our favorite posts about model rockets that we’ve featured on the site over the years. I’m not a “Born-Again Rocketeer,” but I certainly get the itch whenever I come this close to the hobby I used to love so dearly. I still may be tempted back onto the range before I blast off for my final apogee.

#10

Laser-cut model rocket stands

#9

DIY Inclinometer: The SKYSCOPE

#8

Make Podcast: John Maushammer’s CVS Rocketcam

#7

The iPhone rocket: The story (and data) of how an iPhone hit 1300ft

#6

Estes educator – Free resources for model rocketry

#5

Controlling model rocket firing

#4

Remote model rocket telemetery

#3

How-To: Make your own model rocket igniters

#2

How-To Tuesday: Compressed air rocket

#1

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10-Rail Model Rocket Mega-Launcher

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Bonus item! Link to post about PDF download of the 1971 Centuri Model Rocket Designers Manual!

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. dtownmaker says:

    Glad to see Doug’s efforts with the multi-launcher topped this awesome list!

  2. StefanJ says:

    By coincidence, my last launch of the year is tomorrow. Just a couple of small models. Mostly I’m there to help out others. I’ll have a dozen of my home-wound igniters on hand in case someone needs spares!

    * * *

    I actually have a copy of that design manual. Bought it from Eisenstadt’s hardware store (they carried EVERYTHING actually) around 1971.

    Someone recreated that lovely spaceship model on the cover. It is a “hollow log” design, made from slats of balsa over a frame.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      I had that Design Manual as a kid and spent lots of time staring wistfully at that cover and the awesome rocket on it. I also coveted all of the special Centuri- and Estes-branded supplies like the “Cute Powder,” the Centuri-branded “Model Rocket Glue,” and the Estes “Rocket Wax.” I could barely afford the rockets, the motors, and an X-Acto knife on the allowance money I got, so I couldn’t afford such frivolities. I dreamed of getting one of those big rocketry design kits (or whatever they called them) that had a bunch of body tubes, nose cones, different thicknesses of balsa stock, etc.

      The one persistent, vivid memory I have of getting those orders of parts in the mail (besides the intense joy of finally getting the stuff — on the long end of working chores to save up the money) was the intense letdown at the size of the boxes. I would collect, say $20 and spend hours pouring over the catalog figuring out how to maximize my dough. I’d have all kinds of stuff on the order form: besides a rocket or two, and a pack of motors, I’d have, say a parachute, some balsa stock, some launching lugs, extra igniters, whatever. It would seem like a lot of items so I’d have this inflated image in my head of a pretty large box and then this really small package would show up, not much bigger than a large hardback book. Bummer.

  3. StefanJ says:

    If anyone gets a Jones to build the designs in that Centuri manual, there’s a cottage firm called Semroc that sells tubes, nose cones, motor mounts and so on. No plastic parts, but the equivalent in balsa. They also have recreations of classic Centuri kits.