A stylish yet standard three fins and a nose cone rocket for 29mm and smaller motors. Heavy body tube and rakish plywood fins make for a tough and fun to fly rocket.
The kit was neatly packaged in the standard clear plastic bag, with the motor tube floating around in the airframe tube, and a nylon chute, pre-cut plywood fins, rings, and launch lug inside a zip-lock bag. The fins are excellent quality, well cut, warp free, and the sharp ends taped to prevent damaging other parts of the kit. The instructions are clear but limited to a single 8 1/2 by 11-inch page. It's a simple kit and elaborate instructions are unnecessary. The other side of the page serves as the package facing and some advertisements for other kits. The recommended motor list includes the D12-3. Since just the parts stacked on the scale weigh in at over 10 ounces and since epoxy is recommended throughout, I seriously question success with a D12. My first guess at finished weight, sans motor, is in the 13 ounce range, which puts it over the recommended weight for a D12-3.
Construction is pretty simple: glue the rings to the motor tube, glue the motor tube into the airframe, glue the recovery loop into the airframe, glue on the fins and lug, and voila!
The kit makes no provision for motor retention nor does it provide a motor block. The instructions explain that a mount with no motor block is very versatile allowing any motor to be used and describes how to provide a thrust ring using 1/2-inch masking tape. No arguments there! They also explain friction fitting the motor to prevent it kicking. I have some misgivings about friction fitting motor casings, especially expensive reloadables, so I added a pair of holes and blind nuts in the aft ring to provide positive motor retention. A couple of bucks at the local hardware store will buy a pair of blind nuts (or T-nuts), a pair of knurled-knob screws, and a pair of cast aluminum screen retainers, which combine nicely to make a tool-less motor retainer.
The body tube is pre-marked for fin and launch lug locations. All that is required then is gluing up! I deviated from the instructions slightly by gluing a fin onto the airframe tube while gluing the rings onto the motor tube. The tube was then turned over and fillets added to the other side of the rings; I added the second fin at the same time. The third fin was added and the blind nuts were glued into the aft ring. The mount was glued in at this stage and fillets added per the instructions. A dot of masking tape was used to keep the epoxy out of the nut threads. The shock cord mount and launch lugs were added next at the same time as one of set of fillets was added to the fin roots. The remaining fins were filleted to finish. This deviation in order is simply to save on time and limit epoxy waste.
From long experience with launch rods, I've learned that a single long launch lug can be problematic especially on much used rods. Any crud or even slight bends in the rod can cause the lug to bind producing all sorts of undesirable things including (but not limited to) rod whip. Because of that, I cut the 4-inch long lug down to 1-inch sections, extended the reference line, and placed one section at the bottom and another near the CG. The remainder was tossed into the scraps box and will no doubt find its way onto another project. I also added a set of rail buttons, carefully mounting the buttons over the centering rings.
The fins are surface mount and I was a little disappointed with that. This is a pretty stout kit with a heavy wall airframe and plywood centering rings and fins, and I feel that through the wall construction would make this rocket complete. I even considered cutting new fins with tabs. In the end, I decided that it wouldn't be seeing that much action and went with the kit's stock fins after rounding the leading and trailing edges with the belt sander. It would also have been a shame to waste the packaged ones anyway.
I was also a little disappointed with the shock cord mount. While sound in idea (a loop of nylon fixed to the inside of the airframe in a pool of epoxy), the material is short of expectation. Even the Quest kits come with a Kevlarcord and I would prefer that over nylon. I had a bit of trouble with the anchor, as the knots were a bit hard to get fully covered with epoxy to produce the smooth bump necessary to prevent the recovery system from snagging on it as it exits. I've heard some remarks about the elastic shock cord, but I can find no fault with it. This one is good quality and sufficient size that it should last a good while providing enough wadding is used. It's also easily replaceable by simply untying it from the anchor loop and nose and tying in another. One could also easily swap it for a more typical tubular nylon or Kevlarcord.
The parachute is very nice and made of nylon with heavy nylon cord for shrouds..
I also made a 24mm adapter from scratch parts. LOC indicates that a kit can be had from them if desired. A home rolled one is easy to do, a six inch section was cut from BT-50H from Totally Tubular stock, a six inch section of 29mm cut from stock (from the same source) and 3/8-inch ring also cut from 29mm stock. A 4mm slice was taken out lengthwise of the six inch long 29mm tube and was glued using yellow glue to the 24mm stock. The ring was then glued onto one end, allowing an 1/8-inch to hang over (to allow for the thrust ring on 24mm reloads), and finally a motor block was glued into the 24mm tube at the correct location for E9 and F21 motors. A 1-inch piece cut off a spent motor is used for a spacer when using short D and E motors.
The only thing in the kit that even suggests a color scheme is on the label.. There are no decals. The builder is left to his or her own devices and imagination for finishing.
The spirals are minimal, so I went directly to primer after sandpapering the nose cone with coarse sandpaper, the body with medium grit, and the fins with very fine sandpaper. The nose looked pretty bad after the first layer of primer with scratches and "hairs" sticking out everywhere. This was expected and is done on purpose to get the primer coat to stick to well to the plastic. It was sanded again, with a bit finer paper this time and primed again. The whole thing was sanded again, the imperfections and finger prints were worked on until smooth and then another layer of primer was applied. The whole rocket was sanded until very smooth with 400 grit paper. I wanted this to have a cool finish, so I popped for a kit of Duplicolor Mirage color changing paint. It goes on in three steps: several coats of primer, then a dozen or so thin coats of color coat (the more layers, the more effect), and finally three layers of clear protector coat. This is a lacquer and the coats are quite thin but there are many of them so it comes out fairly heavy as paint goes. It's also very shiny and has a deep looking finish due to the number of layers. I added some pinstriping on the sides and fins and my usual construction date, motor list, etc., on the side near the lug before the final coats of clear.
One could go a bit wild here, sand it with 800 or finer grit paper, wax, polish, etc. I stopped at gloss mode on this rocket...it won't be used to break any records or anything and it looks fast just laying there anyway!
Construction Rating: 4 out of 5
It was flown on February 21st at the club's launch on an AT E18-4. Fast, loud, straight, and cool flight! That pretty much says it all. All future flights will be made by my nephew.
Flight Rating: 5 out of 5
The flight performance makes up for everything I've been whining about!
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
The Lil' Nuke is a sleek, 3fnc rocket that is one of the more popular entry level rockets for mid-power rocketry. When I got back into the hobby in 2001, my brother-in-law bought me a Lil' Nuke so that I'd have something other than my Estes fleet to fly at NARAM 43. Tony and I had gotten back into the hobby in 1994, but he had spent the next seven years working his way up ...
The Lil' Nuke is a mid-power rocket part of LOC/Precision's Novice Kit series. It is single staged with a 29mm motor mount. The instructions of this kit were rather explicit. The assembly order was logical, but as far as I can remember, they did not have any illustrations. The kit came with all of the parts including an enormously thick paper body tube with lines pre-drawn to mark the fin ...