Friday, January 21, 2011

Reviews: BiC® Pen-Rocs

This post present two rockets based on BiC® pens.  Once is scratch and one is from Art Applewhite.

Double Tree Pen-Roc

This is a total rip-off of the cool Bic Arcas from DesCon7. The rocket was named after the hotel chain that "donated" the pen.

* one Bic pen
* clear packaging plastic
* thin Kevlar® twine
* one small paper clip
* Mylar streamer stock

As noted in the introduction, this is essentially the same rocket as the Bic Arcas. The main differences are that I used clear plastic Nike-shaped fins and a Mylar streamer in place of the chute. I chose clear fins because the pen body is clear.

The "nosecone" is the tip of the pen, with the ink tube removed and the neck ground down so it fits loosely in the pen body. The rear plug was also cut down and used for the engine block. The shock cord is a piece of thin Kevlar® twine that is tied through a hole in the nose cone, run under the engine block, and then knotted. Finally, a piece of the ink tube was used for the launch lug.

I drilled small holes in the far back of the rocket and formed a small retention clip from a paper clip. The fins were made from packaging plastic. The package I used had a small lip, which made the fin attachment a snap. Because the lip is not perfectly perpendicular to the fin, all of the fins are canted slightly. The fins and launch lug were glued on with Liquid Nails.

The only finishing step was the application of American flag stickers.

The motor mount includes a thrust ring and positive motor retention so inserting the engine was easy. No masking tape here! I inserted some of the shock cord, a small piece of Estes wadding, and then packed the streamer. As with previous small rockets, I used a soldering tool with a notched end to stuff the shock cord into this tiny tube. This works great and is a permanent fixture in my range box.

The three flights were all perfectly straight and went to an impressive altitude. Deployment was also perfect (well, at least twice). The clear tube did become getting less and less clear, however. Despite several sets of eyes being on it, it was lost at NARHAM's Middletown launch field. I guess the clear body didn't help in this regard.

What I think is the neatest thing about this rocket, is that almost the whole pen is converted to rocket parts - very efficient! It is simple, easy to build, and it flies great. After re-reading the Bic Arcas review and getting a mental picture of what I wanted to do, mine only took me about a half-hour to build.

Micro Maxx BiC Stic

This is yet another rocket based on a BiC® pen. Plans for other BiC® rockets are available here on EMRR (BiC® ARCAS and the Double Tree Pen Roc) and you can download the plan's for this one from Art Applewhite's site. What you get here is a kit, with all the parts included.

The following parts are provided in the kit: One BiC® pen, card stock with the fin unit printed on it, a safety pin, and a shock tether assembly. The latter is pretty neat. It appears to be a teeny-weeny braided steel cord with a plastic covering. One end has a small loop closed with a crimp bushing. A second loose bushing is provided to form a loop at the nose cone. To assemble the kit you need a sharp knife, regular and Gel CA (I substituted Liquid Nails for the latter), a pair of pliers, and wire cutters.

Assembly is really easy. You disassemble the BiC® pen, leaving only the empty tube. You remove the ink tube and shave the shoulder of the tip (i.e the nose cone) so it fits easily into the tube. One warning: the pen is full of ink and is thus potentially very messy. Over a couple of paper towels, I removed the ink tube and set it upright to drain. I also cleaned the ink from the tip and inserted a small piece of paper towel, wadded into a ball. This will keep any remnant ink from leaking out. The tether is attached by making a small hole in the shoulder of the nose cone, inserting the open end of the tether, and crimping on the bushing with a pair of pliers. The safety pin is used to punch a hole through the rear of the tube. You then pull the pin halfway out and feed the loop on the end of the tether over the tip. The pin is then reinserted, snipped off, and presto, you get a both a shock cord attachment and a motor block.

Next, you cutout and fold the one-piece fin unit, slide it onto the tube, and soak it in CA, which both holds it on and strengthens it. Finally, you snip two small pieces from the ink tube and use them for launch lugs. Make sure you save the rest for other Micro Maxx projects. No finishing is required.

No streamer material is provided nor is it needed. Prepping consists of installing the nose cone and using masking tape for motor retention. The shock cord is nice and sturdy, but it is also stiff, so it takes some effort to feed it into the body tube. These Micro Maxx BiC® rockets really fly great. To help spot this one I used a small amount of tracking powder. The first launch flew and recovered nicely. On the second launch, however, it fell victim to a rocket eating tree and was lost...temporarily. After a good wind that night, I wandered over to look for it. To my joy and amazement, there it was! The nose cone hadn't ejected, which kept it from getting hopelessly snagged in the tree. Still, I guess I should quit using the open area down the street for my higher flying Micro Maxx rockets. Bummer.

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