The Monarch features a unique fin configuration and parachute recovery.
This kit comes with a plastic nose cone, one body tube, three die-cut balsa fins, cardboard motor mount tube with two centering rings and a metal retainer clip, an 18-inch flat elastic shock cord, and a 12-inch parachute. The nose cone has minimal flash and mold lines. The fin balsa is good quality, but the fin shape is inherently delicate.
This was the second rocket I ever built (essentially the first, because the previous one was an Estes RTF Tidal Wave), and I found construction fairly simply.
The instructions are clear, easy-to-follow, and well illustrated. I fell, however, into what I suspect is a first-timer trap during construction that I could have avoided had the instructions warned of it.
Specifically, the Monarch's double-triangle shaped fins are delicate because they are made from single pieces of balsa. They have a thin neck where the triangles meet, and this neck is fairly fragile. I successfully removed the fins from the die cut sheet without damage, but subsequently snapped one at the neck while sanding the flat surfaces smooth. A warning in the instructions about the fragility of these pieces may have saved me from this mishap.
Otherwise, construction was easy. Using Elmer's yellow carpenters glue, assembling the motor mount was straightforward. The rings and clip fit smoothly and easily. The finished mount slid snugly into the BT and I secured it with yellow glue.
I repaired the snapped fin with yellow carpenters glue in the joint, and let it dry overnight. The joint seemed weak, so I covered both sides of the damaged fin (and the other two as well) with typing paper. After diluting yellow glue with water to the consistency of cream, I painted the thinned glue onto each flat fin surface and placed a piece of paper onto the glue. The wetted fins began to warp, so I placed them between two boards, put books on top, and let them dry overnight. The next day, I trimmed the paper flush with the balsa fin edges, then sanded the leading edges round as per the instructions.
I attached the fins with yellow glue guided by lines on the BT made with the supplied paper-ring fin placement template. After an overnight drying, I added yellow glue fin fillets.
I attached the tubular launch lug in a similar manner.
I attached the too-short (more on this below) shock cord about one inch inside the end of the BT using the cut-out paper mount per the instructions. I cleaned the flash out of the nose cone ring using an Exact knife and small circular file.
After painting the rocket, I attached the shock cord and pre-assembled chute to the NC ring.
I didn't follow the kit painting pattern. Instead I came up with my own black, red, and yellow scheme. The glossy Krylon spray paint adhered well to the kit parts, although I laid on too thick of a first coat with the red and black.
I had trouble getting a glossy finish on the fins with the yellow paint (although the black fin finish came out alright). The typing paper covering seemed to absorb the yellow paint so that it dried to an almost flat finish. The yellow paint gave a pretty good gloss near the fillets, however, where the fin paper was overcoated with yellow glue.
The decals are too sparse. One big pressure-stick Monarch decal for a fin and two smaller Monarch decals for the BT are all that are supplied. The rocket looks kind of bare. They adhered well. I finished the entire rocket with a glossy coat of Future floor polish, applied by hand with a camel hair water-colors brush.
Construction Rating: 3 out of 5
Overall, the Monarch is easy to flight prep, and it flew straight and high. The motor slides easily into the motor tube with slight friction and the metal clip helps hold it in place.
The first flight on B6-4 with three wadding squares was near perfect. Straight up with good height, ejection just past apogee, and a nice recovery.
The second flight on a B6-4 was similar. After recovery, however, I noticed an Estes' dent that traveled about an inch down the end of the BT, where the NC had apparently snapped back into the BT after ejection. I pushed the dent out with my finger. Fortunately, the shoulder of the NC extends farther down the BT than the dent and pushes it out and into round shape, so everything looks fine with the NC inserted.
The third flight on a B6-4 with three squares of wadding was not quite as good. At ejection, the parachute did not open fully because the shroud lines were tangle together for about 1/3 of their length. Upon recovery, I noticed three holes melted through the parachute, and one spot where a fold in the plastic was fused together.
As mentioned above, the shock cord is too short and caused an Estes' dent. Three squares of wadding did not protect the chute fully. I'm going to use four from now on.
The above flights were on a gusty day. The touchdown when the shrouds tangled was about 75 yards down wind of the launch pad. Another was about 100 yards downwind. The third was about 250 yards down wind. The Monarch was undamaged on all landings (onto grass), so a spill hole in the chute may be the thing to keep it from drifting so far in a breeze.
Flight Rating: 4 out of 5
The Monarch flies great, has an unusual and interesting look, and is fairly easy to build. The fins, however, are very fragile during construction and the supplied shock cord needs to be replaced with a longer one.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5