Building the Estes (clone) Ranger (part 2)

So here are some parts.IMG_3229

I got the nose cone from BMS, as I said. I was surprised when I got it. I was expecting a balsa nose cone. I got a balsa nose cone… with a hole drilled in it… and a hardwood dowel plug to go in the hole in the nose cone… which had a hole drilled in it… and a screw eye to go in the hole in the plug. Awesome. Of course I don’t want the screw eye (and the plug) in the nose cone, I want it in the nose block. Still, it makes life easier.

I also got the motor tubes, thrust rings, and motor hooks, none of which I had enough of on hand, from BMS. The original Ranger did not have hooks, but I was thinking mine would: the older style with the 90° bend at the end, which is less obtrusive than the newer style. A sacrifice of authenticity, for the sake of avoiding friction fitting three motors at a time. But on further thought, I’m leaning toward using a different retention method. More on that later.

The body tube, nose block, and launch lug I had.

I bought the basswood at Michael’s. The picture shows 1/8″, but after some dithering I’ve decided to use 3/32″. Even without the added thickness, basswood’s higher density means it’ll pull the center of gravity far enough back that I may want to add a little weight in the nose.

The instructions, full size fin pattern, and a copy of Technical Report TR-6 “Cluster Techniques” came in the NARTREK Silver package. The instructions and fin pattern also are online at


So, having decided to paper the fins, what was the first thing I did? Painted both sides of the basswood with CWF. Why? Because I enjoy making pointless extra work for myself, apparently.

Or possibly because I’m the sort of person who shouldn’t tie his own shoes without consulting a written checklist before each step.

Anyway, I sanded the basswood down, then marked it up for cutting. I used a push pin to mark the non leading edge corners using a paper pattern. For the leading edge corners, which I aligned on the basswood piece’s edge, I marked points near the corners on the adjacent edges. Then when I drew the lines I extended them to the edge of the wood. You’ll notice I started by drawing a line 2″ from the edge, then made sure each fin had a corner on that edge; it made it easier to get a consistent alignment of the pattern on the wood.

IMG_3312(And yes, I could have laid them out with less wasted wood if I’d used both edges. This just seemed easier, and basswood’s cheap enough especially with one of those 40% off Michael’s coupons. But next time maybe I’ll do it differently.)

I cut the fins with my snap blade knife, using a new blade, and then gang sanded the edges.IMG_3314Look at those nice smooth surfaces! You’ll never see them again.




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