Estes - Baby Bertha {Kit} (1261) [2002-]

Contributed by G. A. Dean

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Diameter: 1.64 inches
Length: 12.75 inches
Manufacturer: Estes
Skill Level: 1
Style: Sport

Brief:
The Baby Bertha is a new kit (2002) based on the venerable and popular Big Bertha kit. The rocket has the same large, V2-like fins and blunt, rounded nose cone as the Big B, but is 1/2 the length at 12 inches. Rated at "Level 1", it's an easy to construct kit using traditional, Estes-style methods that would make an excellent kit for a beginner, or young rocketeers.

Construction:
If you have ever built an Estes Alpha or similar kit, the Baby will give you a familiar construction experience without surprises. The motor mount uses an engine clip and motor block to restrain the engine, and two die-cut paper centering rings to position the mount in the body tube. The Baby uses Estes BT-60 body tube which at 1.6 in. diameter is wider than most Estes rockets, so these may be larger centering rings than you are accustomed to. The four balsa fins are relatively large and much easier to align on the tube than the small, light fins on most rockets of this size. Even new builders should have a relatively easy time with these fins.

I used my favorite technique to attach the fins. After roughing up the tube with fine sandpaper I attach each fin with medium CA glue and hold it in the perpendicular position until it sets, which takes only 15 seconds or so. I use very little glue for this step, just enough to hold the fin. Then I apply ample fillets with wood glue. The big fins and big tube on the Baby Bertha makes fin attachment very easy.

The shock cord attaches with the usual three-fold connection to the body tube. As I do on all my rockets, I used a length of Kevlarcord for the booster-side connection and tied that to the elastic shock cord. I attached a twelve in. chute to the cord.

The construction "PROs" for the Baby Bertha have to be the larger size of the components which makes things easier on an inexperienced builder. It's a great 'trainer' for balsa and paper construction techniques. No surprises or special challenges.

I can't think of any serious construction problems or issues, except the almost standard Estes problem of inadequate shock-cords. The Baby goes together easy.

Finishing:
I used thinned Elmers Wood Filler on those big slabs of balsa (the fins) and the spiral seam in the tube. I also created fillets for the launch lug. This is a pretty good rockets for learning the wood-filler technique. I wanted to duplicate the black and white paint scheme from the package art (actually, I had other ideas, but the kids wanted the package look). After two coats of grey primer, I taped off facing sides on the fins (the fin patter is tough to describe but obvious when you see the package), and applied two coats of gloss black. Once that dried I removed the masking tape and covered the black areas. This turned out to be tricky as there are several angles where paint could pass through to the black areas. I would recommend painting the white fins sides first, then mask them off and paint the whole rocket black. I also think that there are plenty of alternate paint schemes that would look great on this rocket. Try some V2-style paint schemes, for example.

The kit comes with one long decal which runs along one side. The decal actually reaches past the body tube onto the nosecone. Once the decal was placed I used a hobby knife to cut it along the seam between the nosecone and body.

The white pinstriping in the package art is not provided in the kit. I used white trim tape (get it at the hobby store), and it looks sharp (although mine is not as 'fine' a line as the one on the package). I'm giving some thought to duplicating the line in black on the white fins.

The "PRO" for finishing is the opportunity to experiment a bit with design. This rocket will look good in a variety of schemes, so have some fun with it.

One possible "CON" would be the large amount of balsa to fill if you want a real smooth finish. I didn't find that an issue, and I think this is a good rocket to practice those techniques. If you're not real concerned about filling all the grain then there is no problem at all. One could also object, I guess, to the relatively difficult "stock" paint scheme. and the single decal. The best thing to do is to ignore the package art and design your own scheme. If I were Estes I'd give the Baby it's own, fun color scheme like the Fat Boy, rather than try to duplicate the current Big Bertha look.

I'm rating it at 4 1/2, taking off a half point for the shock-cord.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

Flight:
We have one flight on the Baby. We used a B6-4 to launch it in light to medium winds. The boost was straight, fast and to a greater altitude that I expected. The chute deployed close to apogee and recovery was within 100 yards of the pads. A nice, satisfying flight.This rocket is a bit heavy for A motors but does well on B's and ought to fly to 800+ feet on a C.

This is a great flyer for the smaller fields we use. I expect to have at least one Baby in our flying fleet at all times from now on. I like to have at least one 'old dependable' at a launch, for when curious kids come around and wish they could fly a rocket. I usually load a B6 into the Custom Razor and hand it to them. It never fails to give a great flight and is easy to replace if lost. I think the Baby Bertha has the same characteristics.

Recovery:
The Baby is heavier than most rockets in this class and does not seem overly prone to drift. It's sturdy enough to use a streamer, in my opinion, if the winds build.

The wide body tube requires plenty of wadding. I expect that burnt chutes and fried shork-cords will be a problem with this bird. I'm going to use Kevlarwadding for future flights (I get mine from Pratt Hobbies) and I have already mentioned the Kevlarcord.

I'll give it a 5 for flight and recovery. We only have the one flight on it so far, but it was a good one and the sim results indicate that this is a good, schoolyard and small field bird.

Flight Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:
My first thought on completing the Baby was, "what took you so long, Estes?" Downsizing the Big Bertha seems like such a natural move, and the result is a great addition to the Estes line-up. I believe that this is a great rocket for school and scout groups. The construction reminds me of the Alpha (the old style Alpha, not the plastic finned Alpha III), but its a bit more forgiving for unsteady fingers. The big fins and wide tube make a great 'canvas' for creative rocket decorating. Now that I have one Baby finished stock I'm going to have the kids build some more and do their own paint schemes.

The flight profile of the Baby is also a bit more 'forgiving'. Sure, the scouts might grin when their Alphas or Wizards zoom out-of-sight, but they're not as happy when they fail to return. A 'C' motor should take the Baby to around 800 feet, so you get all the noise and smoke but keep the rocket in sight and it's more likely to land on the school yard. Perhaps Estes can be convinced to offer the Baby in bulk packs.

There are many things the Baby Bertha is not, but what it does it does very well. It's a great family rocket that will give you more 'fun per dollar' than most. I expect to see plenty of Babies at launches in coming months.

As I mentioned above, I think this is a great rocket for beginners and kids, but as you might have guessed, even this 'old rocketeer' had some fun with it. I expect to be flying my own Baby Bertha drag races in a month or so. I want to find some 'flame' decals for a cool, 'hot rod' look, or perhaps a Tintin-like red checkerboard, or perhaps both! In other words, good, cheap rocketry fun. Enjoy!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Flights

Comments:

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B.E. (August 5, 2002)
I bought a Baby Bertha for my son to build as his first rocket. He loved it and couldn't have been more proud when he first took it to the pad at a club launch. He wound up flying it five times that day, completely bankrupting my supply of B6-6 engines. This is another great first rocket in a long line of them from Estes. BTW, I believe this one has been done earlier. Wasn't it once the Estes Rascal?
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K.R.E. (June 4, 2003)
The Estes Baby Bertha was a pleasant surprise. I had expected a kit that sold for less than ten dollars to have a least one flaw or two, but this kit far exceeded my expectations. Assembly was a no-brainer. If you have ever put together any other level one kits, the Baby Bertha will be no problem. The balsa was a little soft but certainly acceptable and the body and nosecone took paint very well. My daughter and I finished the kit with a gloss royal blue body tube and fins and a chrome silver nose cone. Although I liked the classic black on the package insert, the blue silver combination is a looker as well. First flight was on a B6-4. The day was gusty and not quite ideal but the Baby B did not disappoint. 500 feet, straight up. The chute deployed but gusty winds took the baby 300 yards away into a lake. (sound familiar?) Recovery was not possible and the Baby Bertha sank quickly. BUT, at its low cost and fine performance there is sure to be another in the stable in the future. Highly recommended.
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W.D. (October 15, 2003)
This rocket is now my favorite. The flight was straight up and landed 10 steps away from the pad! If you are hesitating to buy this rocket, go for it and you will have a great time.
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J.I. (December 21, 2003)
I really like this rocket. I've launched it at least a dozen times, and always have had excellent results. Nice straight flight and always a very nice chute deployment and landing. I'm not really fond of the Estes Shock cord attachment (or the shock cord for that matter), but this baby has always come through for me in any condition.
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K.W. (July 26, 2004)
I've now built about 50 of these kits with both high school and elementary school students. They are a great first kit, with large parts that are easy to align and correspondingly large glue surface area for strong construction. I find that even elementary students can assemble the kit in a three hour workshop. Flights are a little underpowered on an A8, but just right for small fields on a B6. I've seen this kit for <$5 online, so it is still a reasonable choice for groups even though there is no bulk pack available. Try it, you'll definitely like it!
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A.M. (October 4, 2004)
I built this kit stock, accept, I swapped a 24 inch chute in it. I used it for my Nartrek bronze chute duration, I got 145 seconds, only needed 60 seconds. This little rocket really rocks, and on a C6-5 will get way up there. Highly recommended for beginners, or even high power folks who just wanna have fun.
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D.S.C. (October 24, 2004)
I did a lot of research before settling on this kit for my cub scout rocket derby. I've been running these derbies annually where scouts build, launch and try to land their rockets as close as possible to a target pole. I've used Vikings, Alphas and even Mach 12s in the past but this year I've selected the Baby. The pros are the large size which makes it easy to build, easy to see and suitability for a small field with a B6 engine. I field tested one today and with an A8 engine, flies too low but just right with a B6, gaining about 300 ft altitude straight up but only 200 feet when angled 20 degrees from vertical making it perfect for this event.
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G.B. (July 9, 2006)
What's not to like about the Big Bertha's little sister? Nothing.....except that the shock cord supplied with my kit was way too short, and I should have recognized this and swapped in a longer one. The effect of the short shock cord in that the chute and nose cone snap back over the fins and tangle.
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R.W.L. (January 9, 2007)
This was my daughter's first rocket, and she loved it! She was able to do most of the construction herself (I did the cutting and tube marking), though she asked me to stick the fins on the bodytube once she had applied glue. The "apply glue and let it dry, then reapply" trick is really handy for getting the fins to stick. It's still in primer (we've got some pink spraypaint for it) but it flew beautifully -- my daughter used up a whole pack of B4-4 engines at the january SOAR launch. One flight arc'd into the wind a fair ways, but the other 2 were picture perfect!

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