Estes Sizzler

Estes - Sizzler {Kit} (2171) [2001-?]

Contributed by G. A. Dean

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Manufacturer: Estes


Estes has used the name "Sizzler" on several rockets down through the years. The latest to carry the name (Kit #2171) is a minimum-diameter screamer with swept fins like one of the earlier Sizzler's, but a new smaller size that gives it hot performance to match it's fast styling. Construction of this kit is simple and straightforward, but some careful attention to fin strength and finish will give you the best result. A "C" motor will push this bird well out-of-sight at top speeds over 350 mph, so you'll want to use your best technique to build this kit strong and sleek but light.

This is a simple kit with few parts. As a minimum-diameter rocket the BT-20 body tube doubles as the engine tube, so there is no need to build a separate engine mount. The kit does include a motor retention hook, which is mounted to the outside of the body tube and held in place with a paper sleeve. If you find this objectionable, either from an aerodynamic or an aesthetic concern, I imagine you could leave out the hook and friction fit the motor, as similar Estes rockets like the "Wizard" have always done. I used the hook.

The three fins are die-cut balsa from very thin stock; a bit soft and very light weight. A standard plastic nose cone, paper thrust ring, 12 in plastic parachute, and typically too-short elastic shock-cord complete the kit. There is a single peel-off decal with the rocket name. All parts and the instructions are very typical of Estes kits.

Construction of the Sizzler is also very typical of Estes kits of this type. The body tube is marked using a paper guide cut from the instructions. The tube is slotted to hold the engine hook and the hook sleeve is glued over it to hold the hook in place. The thrust ring goes in the tube. I used yellow 'wood glue' through-out.

The fins must be removed from the balsa sheet with some care, as they are thin and delicate. The Sizzler gets it's good looks (in my eyes) from the raked fins, but the long 'toe' on these fins can be easily broken if you handle them roughly. The fins also have a small inset into the root edge to clear the paper sleeve that supports the engine hook. Use your hobby knife to clear these out. I recommend that you sand the fins for shape and smoothness before they are glued to the tube. I have built this kit twice (more on that later). The first time I sanded a nice airfoil into each fin, which takes some care as they are delicate. The second time I opted to just round/taper the leading edge only. These fins need strength more than an inconsequential improvement in drag. I also 'painted' the fins with thin CA for stiffness on the second kit. If you have never tried this technique this is a good kit to learn on. Just place each fin on a flat surface (protected) and apply a small amount of thin CA to the surface. Then quickly spread the glue with a bit of balsa scrap or a Popsicle stick. I actually use wooden coffee stirrers, which are perfect for this or many other jobs around the shop. Just be careful with the thin CA as it can run and cause mayhem. The glue will set quickly and can be sanded smooth.

You will have trouble getting these fins on the tube straight and strong if you rush things, so take your time and get it right. Use whatever technique works for you to get a good tacky glue for setting the fin, and to support the fin as the glue dries. I put them on one at a time and use a thin strip of tape to brace the fin in place while it dries. The fin is light and the tube has a small diameter, so everything has to be done with a light touch. Yellow glue should give you plenty of time to make adjustments and get it positioned just right, so this shouldn't be too hard. Also make sure you sand the body tube where the fins will attach to slightly roughen the surface. I was also careful to keep root edge and about 1/8'' up from the root clear when I stiffened the fin with CA and filled it with sealer. You want to have a good surface for the glue fillet to bind to.

Installation of the recovery system is pretty simple. You start by setting aside the shock-cord and 12in. chute that came with the kit. The cord is too short, as is typical with many kits, but more importantly, a 12 in. chute is really big for a rocket this light. I think someone in the Estes marketing dept. has determined that customers believe "real rockets use parachutes." Perhaps they're right, but we all know better. A streamer is a better choice for this rocket. I went all out on my second Sizzler and attached some lightweight Kevlar string to the body tube using the standard Estes three-fold mount, and then tied that string to the elastic cord provided by Estes. The whole thing is about three times as long as the elastic cord alone, and will last much longer. I tied a streamer to the elastic and put a small Pratt Hobbies heat shield on the Kevlar® cord to complete construction.

I put a bit of effort into a smooth finish for this model, and I imagine you will too. The real reasons to build this kit, instead of some other inexpensive Estes kit, are its sleek looks or its fast, high flights (or both!). In either case, a good, smooth finish in important. I applied a single coat of sanding sealer to the fins (after the CA) to fill the last of the balsa grain. The other 'issue' one has to deal with is the engine hook, the sleeve that restrains it, and the notch in the root edge of the fins over the sleeve. You could probably leave them entirely alone and not notice the difference, but I wanted a good look, so I mixed up a batch of thinned Elmers wood filler and created a smooth 'fairing' in front and behind the sleeve, and I filled the notches in the fins. There is not much you can do about the engine hook.

Once all that was sanded smooth I applied a couple of light coats of grey primer, with a little bit of sanding with #400 grit, and a couple of coats of gloss black. Then comes the fun. The cool looking design you saw on the kit card is not a decal, its drawn free-hand with paint-pens or small brushes. I was a bit nervous about this on the first Sizzler I built, but I do have some of the paint pens and gave it a try. It's not as easy to get the paint to flow onto a smooth, gloss finish as I had hoped, but it can be done. Some colors work better than others. Once you relax a bit and just paint on your design it turns out to be kind'a fun, and I'm quite happy with the look. The rocket gets a lot of "ooh, look at that one!" comments, so I guess others agree.

I'll rate it a 4. It's just fine, but you will need to deal with the external hook mount and the short cord-big chute situation.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

Its time to explain why I have built two. I was real pleased with the first one and eager to fly it. The wind was blowing at the next club launch, and I was "downgrading" most of the family rockets from "C" motors to "B" impulse motors, to keep them on the field. I got into the habit of grabbing a B6 and thinking of it as my "windy-day" load. The end of the launch approached and I really wanted to see the Sizzler fly, so I grabbed another B6, I remembered to use a long, 6 second delay, but I forgot to pull off the chute and replace it with a streamer. Not until the LCO was counting down the launch did I remember that I had intended to use an A engine on this rocket, but it was too late. On launch the Sizzler ripped off the pad and laid down a thin line of smoke that angled slightly into the wind. necks snapped up and there was an audible "oooh" from the crowd. There was a funny looking twist in the smoke trail and a sound from the rocket that made me think! , "fin flutter", but everything held together and the ejection occurred *way* up there where the 12 inch chute was a small dot. The LCO turned around and said, "start running", and I did. An our later we gave up on the search; a little rocket on a big chute in a stiff wind, I oughta know better.

On the second one I stiffened the fins with CA as described above, in case what we saw really was fin flutter, and used a streamer. I have only flown the rocket on A8-5's but it gives great flights on that motor and the recovery is close by. The last flight was a drag race with my son's Estes Wizard and it was a great, neck-and-neck race. Lot's of fun and the two rockets came down on streamers within 30 feet of each other.

RockSim predicts 1400 feet and 360mph on a C6-7, but I'm not ready to try it. I like the way this bird flies and recovers on the A8-5 and streamer combination, and I recommend it.

I'll rate the flight and recovery at a 4 1/2. The kit may have some trouble at C impulse, fin flutter is a real risk with these thin fins; it certainly will be difficult to find if you send it that high. If you change to a streamer and stick to A and B motors I think this would rate a 5.

Flight Rating: 4 out of 5

I like this rocket and expect I'll always to have one in my fleet. I'm sure that a beginner could get this kit together and get a decent flight out of it, but there are really better kits for that purpose. If you have built a few rockets and want to try something small, but fast, look into the new Sizzler. If you want some good fun on launch day, build a fleet of minimum diameter TFNC rockets like the Sizzler, Wizard, Star-Dart and Yankee, and drag race 'em on identical engines. We have already purchased two more Sizzlers that we will bash into a two-stage "Super Sizzler".

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5



B.E. (July 2, 2002)
Great review. I bought one of these for my son last summer and found your comments pretty much right on the mark. This is another in a long line of the minimum diameter rockets that Estes does so well. The only problem we've had with my son's Sizzler has been it's durability. Those thin fins, while good looking, have nothing going for them when it comes to strength. We've had some amount of damage on almost every flight, the worst being last fall when one fin literally shattered on an asphalt landing. It'll fly again. It just won't look quite as good. This would be a good candidate for using basswood for the fins in place of the stock balsa. When Sam first opened his Sizzler I wasn't too thrilled with the decal Estes had included, but this turned out to be a good idea after all. I think he had more fun painting his like the one on the card.
D.M. (March 6, 2004)
The reviewer's comments are accurate, however, I flew my son's Sizzler on a C6-7 at Hearne, TX on 2/21/04 for a very perfect, out-of-sight flight that was recovered ok. You need to make sure you have a very large recovery area (Hearne, for those who don't know, is a seldom used airport with plenty of flying/recovery area, suitable for HPR). Also, the weather conditions is important (little wind, clear blue skies, etc.). Flew the rocket again on 2/28/04 here in Katy, TX on a Quest A6-4; didn't put tape around the engine (which I should have, due to the Quest engine's diameter being slightly smaller that the Estes engines). The rocket flew amazingly high on the A6-4, but pranged when the recovery system failed to even eject. Come to find out that the ejection gases simply escaped through the tiny space between the engine casing and bodytube, hence no real pressurization to the forward section. Repairs were simple, just cut the damaged bodytube just forward of the launch lug and spliced on another body- tube. It will fly again!
J.M.C. (August 18, 2004)
Great review, just a note on my own personal experience with this rocket: I too decided streamer recovery would be better for such a small lightweight rocket. I have a Star Dart which is essentially the same rocket with different fin shape. Both rockets don't seem to accomodate 12" parachutes in the body tube with the rubber shock cords. (I have thought often to remedy those as well.) So I placed a lengthy streamer in the Sizzler hoping to alleviate spotting and recovery efforts. First flight on an A8-3 was perfect, rocket was recovered. Second flight was only on a B6-4 with moderate winds. The rocket launched and was out of sight, I regained sight of the rocket after ejection, and momentarily turned away to remove the safety key, and turned back and no rocket in sight. At all. The Sizzler was never recovered, though I still have the Star Dart and am quite afraid to fly it.

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