Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mega-Review: Art Applewhite Standard Flying Saucers (VERY LONG)

Because of their similarity, I decided to conglomerate all my reviews of Art Applewhite's 'standard' flying saucers is one easy-to-reference location.  These are the ones that have an opening around the motor tube (unlike the Delta Saucers which are solid aeroshells).  Also, these are all stock builds.  I'll follow up later with some of modifications that I have made in these versatile kits. If interested, continue through the page break.

24mm/9in diameter (out-of production)

This Flying Saucer has a 24mm motor mount and was designed to fly on C11-0 and D12-0 motors. It was comprised mainly of pre-printed card stock and split into two parts at apogee, both of which use tumble recovery. This saucer was also offered in USAF and Smiley Face print schemes, or in blank card stock. This sized saucer was no longer available at the time of this review.

Components:

  1. Two preprinted card stock sheets comprise the top and core assembly of the saucer.
  2. One 9" plastic picnic plate comprises the bottom.
  3. One 2.75" BT-50 motor tube
  4. One 2.75" motor hook
  5. One 3/16" launch lug
  6. 3/32" basswood fin stock

Tools and materials required:
  • Scissors
  • Exacto knife
  • Elmer's white glue
  • Rubber cement
  • Clear enamel (RUS-TOLEUM Crystal Clear or equivalent)
  • Double-sided tape
  • 150 grit sandpaper
Construction:
The construction of this kit is quite simple and the whole rocket can be built in one evening. I saved the painting for the next day. The instructions come on four sheets and include illustrations and the required templates. They are detailed, but should be read carefully from start to finish before starting construction.

You first cut out the top and core pieces and glue them together using the printed tabs, similar to any paper shroud. An inner ring is attached to the core, and the core is glued into the top section. These steps use white glue, and, of course, the glue must dry between each step. Although I got it together fine, I think most grade-schoolers could have done as well. Using a provided template, a hole the size of the paper core is cut in the plate. The template is supposed to be attached temporarily with double-sided tape, but I just used clear tape. The plate is then glued to the saucer assembly with rubber cement. I again deviated and used Liquid Nails. The results were OK, but rubber cement would have worked better and I recommend you follow the instructions on this point. This completes the body of the saucer.

To assemble the fin can, you mark, cut and sand the fins. These are attached to the motor tube like any other fins. You optionally can add card stock spin tabs, which I did. The launch lug is added and the fin unit is complete. Make sure you glue the launch lug on so that it will not interfere with the spin tabs. Oh, I left off the motor hook since I plan to fly this baby on the longer E9 motor.

The last step is to sand the tip of the fins so that the fin assembly slides into the core section of the saucer.

Finishing:
Finishing consists of spraying the printed top and core of the saucer with clear enamel. You have to make sure not to get this on the plastic plate as the paint might damage it. I guess you could paint the fin can, but I elected to leave it naked.


Flight:
For the first flight, I decided to stick with the recommended D12. Since I left out the motor hook, I had to use masking tape on the motor. That's about all the prep that is required. The saucer spun on the way up and reached an impressive altitude. It did not separate at apogee. Instead, it backslid all the way down and landed four feet from the pad. Pretty good since there were 5+ mph winds. 


Against Art's advice not to try a motor with an delay/ejection charge, I went crazy and stuffed in an E9-6. This time the saucer really tore off the pad. I couldn't detect the spinning motion, but it did wobble a bit. In spite of the extra altitude, the saucer impacted on its side before the delay was done. Luckily, there was no charring, landing damage or grass fires! Way cool flight!

After thinking about why my saucer didn't separate into two pieces, I came up with this explanation. When I sanded the fin unit to fit, it slid in easily in one position. If you turn it +/- 45 degrees it binds a little. So, I think the spinning motion makes the two section twist relative to one another until it hits that orientation.
 

Summary:
This is a simple, fun kit. It flies really great, and is pretty tough, tougher than you might think for cardboard!  As of this review, I've flown this rocket 8 times - 7 D12-0's and one E9-6.  On the E9, it landed before ejection and thus this motor is NOT RECOMMENDED.

24mm/7.5" diameter

Brief:
This is the 7.25" version of Art's saucer line. Like the larger 9" version (see avove), this saucer flies on C11-0 and D12-0 motors. The saucer's card stock shell is pre-printed in an USAF motif. Art now offers several designs, various colors, and blank versions of his 6", 7.25", and 9" saucers.


Construction:
The components are the same as the 9" version (but smaller, of course):

  • Preprinted card stock comprises the top and core assembly of the saucer.
  • One 7.25" plastic picnic plate comprises the bottom.
  • One 2.75" BT-50 motor tube
  • One 2.75" motor hook
  • One 3/16" launch lug
  • 3/32" basswood fin stock

Construction is identical to the 9" version, with the same materials being required. You first cut out the top and core pieces and glue them together using the printed tabs, similar to any paper shroud. An inner ring is attached to the core, and the core is glued into the top section. These steps use white glue, and, of course, the glue must dry between each step. Using a provided template, a hole the size of the paper core is cut in the plate. The template is supposed to be attached temporarily with double-sided tape, but I just used clear tape. The plate is to be glued to the saucer assembly with rubber cement. When I built my 9" saucer, I substituted some old Liquid Nails. It had thickened some and I thought the recommended rubber cement would work better. Well, I had bought some fresh Liquid Nails and decided to try it again. This time it worked fine.

To assemble the fin can, you mark, cut and sand the fins. These are attached to the motor tube like any other fins. You optionally can add card stock spin tabs. On this saucer, I elected to leave them off (I used them on my 9" version). Finally, the launch lug is added and the fin unit is complete. If you are going to use the spin tabs, make sure you glue the launch lug on the side of a fin that is away from the direction of the tabs. As with my previous saucer, I left off the motor hook to allow longer motors, staging, etc.

The last step is to sand the tip of the fins so that the fin assembly slides into the core section of the saucer.

Finishing:
Finishing consists of spraying the printed top and core of the saucer with clear enamel. You have to make sure not to get this on the plastic plate as the paint might damage it. I guess you could paint the fin can, but I elected to leave it naked.


Flight:
I flew the saucer on a D12-0. Its boost was noticeably faster than its 9-inch cousin (no real surprise) and it really put those silly plastic RTF saucers to shame :-). As with the bigger saucer, the fin unit and saucer sections did not separate. Unlike the bigger saucer, however, it came down nose first.


Summary:
This saucer is easy and fun to build. It looks better, IMHO, than the RTF ones, and there are several colors/patterns to choose from. If you like saucers, I suggest you get one of these and go drag race a Snitch :-).  At review-time, this rocket has logged 16 flights on these motors: D12-0, C11-0, micro-hybrid,and some non-designated EX things.


29mm/10.25in diameter


I don't know what Art was feeding his saucers, but they just seemed to keep gettin' BIGGER. This offering is 10.25 inches in diameter and flies on 29mm motors. The construction is almost identical to his 7.5 and 9-inch saucers, with a few components beefed up a bit. This one is fluorescent orange, but he also offers a 'Texas Special', USAF, Stars and Stripes, Smiley Face, and several other solid colors.
 
Construction:
The parts are simple, are all of good quality, and include:
  • Preprinted card stock for the top and core assembly.
  • One thick 10.25" plastic picnic plate for the bottom.
  • One thick walled 29mm motor tube
  • One 3/16" launch lug
  • 3/32" basswood fin stock
Tools and materials required vary slightly from it's 24mm cousins:

  • Scissors
  • Exacto knife
  • Elmer's white glue
  • Devcon. 2 Ton epoxy or clear, 30 minute epoxy
  • Clear enamel (Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear or equivalent)
  • Tape (clear or masking)
  • 150 grit sandpaper

Still, this saucer is another easy build. There are five pages of detailed instructions with plenty of diagrams. White glue is used to assemble the conical top and core assembly. I will re-emphasize the construction notes about using thin layers of white glue. More does not help and will only warp the paper. If you follow this guidance, the results will be nice. Art has added some notes about using plates and bowls to hold the pieces together as they are assembled. These techniques worked great, taking advantage of the geometry of the structures to keep them uniformly in contact with one another. Once the top and core are assembled, it is time to add the plastic plate to the bottom. He provides a template to cut out the center. Unlike its smaller cousins, the plate is epoxied to the top assembly. You first sand the plate to fit, and then spread a thin layer of epoxy over the entire inside of the top and core. You reinstall the plate and clamp it down with a suitably sized bowl. I know this is an odd statement coming from me (Mr. UseWhatYou'veGot), but use the Devcon 2-ton epoxy recommended in the instructions. In a previous experiment, I found that Bob Smith epoxy would bleed through the cardstock. The fin can assembles with white glue (I used carpenter's glue for this step) like any other set of fins. The basswood fin stock is nice and easy to work with. Unlike the smaller saucers, the fin unit is glued in place, completing the assembly.

Finishing:
I sealed the fins with Fill-and-Finish and painted the fin can in a camouflage pattern with various day-glow colors. I painted 99.9% before installation, and touched up around the fillets after it was glued into the body. Finally, per the instructions, I sealed the cardstock with clear enamel. Looks pretty good if I do say so myself.


Flight:
The recommended motors list includes the Ellis G35, all Aerotech 29mm SU, and all RMS 29/40-120 reloads. I flew the model on a G38 with the ejection charge removed. I angled the rod slightly away from the crowd and almost parallel to the to the light wind. The flight was a real crowd pleaser, with lots of black smoke. The boost started straight (with the wind) and the saucer did a half-corkscrew turn into the wind. It gently landed maybe 20 feet from the pad. I didn't catch a launch shot, but you can see the flight of a beta-test version at the top of this review, also on a G38 (the materials were identical except for the decoration). On this flight, the winds were stiff so it weathercocked quite a bit, as is to be expected. Nevertheless, it was also a cool flight.


Summary:
Once again, Art has shown himself to be a master of simple, elegant designs. This saucer is mostly made out of common household materials, yet it looks great and holds up to G motors! This is a far cry from my first attempt at a mid-power saucer, which was built like a tank and flew like one too. I have flown this rocket on E through G power.


38mm/12" diameter

Brief:
Art has continued to expand his line of saucers, adding a 12-inch saucer with a 38mm motor mount and either a 1/4-inch launch lug or optional ACME conformal rail guide. The recommended motors include the Ellis Mountain H48, all Aerotech 38/240 RMS, and all Cesaroni Pro38 one and two grain motors. This kit would serve nicely as quick, easy, and inexpensive way to Level-1 certification. Add a 29-38 adapter (not provided or recommended by the manufacturer) and you could add G80’s and G125’s to this list.


Construction:
The parts are all good quality and include:

  • Six sheets of colored, 110 lb card stock comprise the top, bottom and core assemblies
  • One sheet of pre-marked, foam poster board to make the center plate.
  • One thick walled 38mm motor tube
  • 1/4-inch launch lug
  • 3-inch x 8-inch x 3/32-inch basswood fin stock
  • 1 7/8-inch self-adhesive, fiberglass drywall joint tape
Tools and materials required:
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Elmer’s white glue
  • Devcon® 2 Ton Epoxy ($1.97 at Walmart)
  • Clear enamel (RUSTOLEUM Crystal Clear or equivalent)
  • Fine sandpaper
There are six pages of detailed instructions with plenty of diagrams. White glue is first used to assemble the top and bottom cones and two cylindrical core assemblies (after a substantial amount of clipping with sharp scissors, of course). The bottom core must slide over the top core so it is test-fit before gluing. Unlike its smaller cousins, the saucer uses a foam board sheet in place of the plastic plates used in Art’s smaller saucers. The lines for the circular cuts are all pre-drawn, and you really need a new, sharp blade to make the cuts. There is also a circle drawn just inside of the outer rim. You cut through just one side of the foam circle and form a bevel on the outer edge. Some sanding is required to clean up this piece, and you must test fit it with the top and bottom cores before gluing. It took some effort and sanding for these components to fit together.

Art also provides strips of self-adhesive, fiberglass drywall joint tape to reinforce the top cone. Although the instructions say this step is optional, it is required for H flights and the only recommended G motors are the Cesaroni one grainers. I recommend you use the tape even if you only plan to fly on Gs. It doesn’t add that much weight, but makes the saucer far more sturdy. Anyway, rockets tend to like to eat the largest motor that they can.

Once everything fits, you spread epoxy inside all the sub-assemblies, slide them together, and clamp them by placing a suitably sized bowl on top. To prevent bleed-through on the cardstock, I suggest you use the Devcon® 2-ton epoxy recommended in the instructions. 

The fin can assembles with white glue (I used carpenter’s glue for this step) like any other set of fins. The basswood fin stock is nice and easy to work with. Finally, the fin unit is glued in place, completing the assembly. 

Finishing:
Since it is winter and painting must me kept to a minimum, I sealed the fins with Fill-and-Finish and hand-painted the fin can black. As recommended, I sealed the pre-colored cardstock with clear enamel.


Flight:
I flew the saucer on a Cesaroni H153, with the ejection charge removed. To hold the motor in on decent, I simply used a couple of wraps of masking tape around the motor's thrust ring and the rear of the motor mount.


Man, this saucer really scooted on this motor, flying arrow-straight to an impressive altitude. I was speechless and the crowd clapped. The saucer fell bottom first most of the way, but started to tumble just before it landed. There was no damage.

Summary:
The saucer was easy to build but it took some effort to get the components to fit prior to final assembly. In all, it was just a tad more challenging than Art's smaller saucers. This saucer gives a truly exciting flight.  I have flown it on G, H, and I motors.  If you fly it on an I49, wait for low winds - it is far ccoler when it goes straight up rather than weather cocking!