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.


Laser-cut model rocket stands


DIY Inclinometer: The SKYSCOPE


Make Podcast: John Maushammer’s CVS Rocketcam


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


Estes educator – Free resources for model rocketry


Controlling model rocket firing


Remote model rocket telemetery


How-To: Make your own model rocket igniters


How-To Tuesday: Compressed air rocket



10-Rail Model Rocket Mega-Launcher


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

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • dtownmaker

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

  • StefanJ

    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.

    • Gareth Branwyn

      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.

  • StefanJ

    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.