An entry level 3FNC rocket that tries hard to beat the Estes Alpha.
Like the other Custom rocket kits I have built, the nose cone was excessively loose and had a lot of casting flash. And like the others, the parting line had a number of dimples and flaws that detract from the rocket if not remedied. Otherwise, the quality of components are quite good. For your money, you get real balsa fins, a good (but not great) 24mm tube, a nice looking set of decals, a plastic 12" parachute, and a very Estes-like short shock cord, a mylar launch lug, and an un-springy motor hook, all in a plastic bag. No surprises here. But when construction begins, it is very reminiscent of the old Estes Alpha before they started getting too plastic'ky.
Other than a couple of typographical errors, the instructions were well thought out and logical. A first time builder would have little trouble assembling this kit, but the nose cone would require a bit of tape to fit properly. Unlike some other Custom kits I've built, the balsa on this kit was excellent quality. An experienced modeler might immediately begin thinking "D power!" but I fought this temptation, and as it turned out, it was a wise move. More on this later.
To fix the loose and poorly finished nose cone, I slathered a bit of 90 minute epoxy on the outside from tip to shoulder, and set it aside to dry for a day or two. To aid in adhesion, I sanded the glassine coating off the aft end of the body tube, and attached the fins with white glue, along with the launch lug. Once everything was dry, I coated the entire tube and fins with a light coat of the same epoxy. To avoid zippering, I usually put a light coat of epoxy on the inside of the body tube, which really stiffens it a lot.
Once dry, I sanded the whole thing down with 120 grit sandpaper and used automotive gray primer, applying several thin coats. Allow each coat to dry completely before adding the next. Proper care will ensure a completely seamless finish, and will be darn near bulletproof as well.
I painted the whole thing in white enamel, followed by a bit of yellow and the decals. After drying a couple of days, the whole thing was covered in clear enamel. Looks are incredible! It's a bit hefty, though. You may want to lengthen the shock cord as I did. Mine is now a good half meter long.
Construction Rating: 4 out of 5
Custom advises launching this rocket with a 1/2A6-2 for the first flight. Baloney. You'll get a good indication of what the rocket can do by going with an A8-3 initially, which will give a decent altitude but not so high that you can't see the phases of flight. Makes a great demo rocket! With a C6-7, it'll nearly disappear. Prep for flight is completely no-hassle. There are no cons, IF you've fixed the nose cone. Otherwise, it may give you fits, because the nose was so wobbly it'd probably have an effect on flight, and possible drag induced separation could occur. Thought it would be cool to change to a 24mm motor, but that would have been overkill. As it is, an 18mm C is plenty.
Custom uses a pretty stiff plastic for the chute, and mine shredded. This was possibly due more to a "bonus" delay in the motor than anything, but it was discouraging. I solved the problem with a scratch built mylar chute. Still, this thing will take a wallop and survive!
Flight Rating: 5 out of 5
If Custom could get a grip on quality control in the nose cone department, they'd have a real contender here. As it is, it'd make a great first or second rocket for a new rocketeer. I didn't really like this rocket all that much at first, but the more I worked on it, the more I found to like. It really is reminiscent of the old Alpha I built in 1970-something, and flies like it too. It is squarely one of my favorite low powered rockets.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5