Model making
Information and books about model making including making scale model boats, cars, rockets, aeroplanes, dolls houses, plus airbrush techniques and more












A Beginner's Guide to Model Rockets as a Hobby
by Will Kalif

Making model rockets is an inexpensive and fun hobby that has two very different components. You get to make rockets, which is a great hands on craft, and you also get to launch them which makes for a great outdoor event for family and friends. Here is an overview of what it is all about and how to do it.

You don't need a whole lot of materials to start out in this hobby. There are many all-complete kits available that give you everything you need. This includes the parts to make a rocket, the launching pad, and the engines that power the rocket. You just have to spend the time to assemble the components and supply some basic tools and materials like glue and a small saw or hobby knife.

How does a model rocket work?

The typical path for this type of hobby is you first make a rocket out of a cardboard tube and add fins (either balsa wood or plastic) then attach a parachute and nosecone. Into this rocket tube you install a thing called an engine. It is what creates the propulsion for launch and it is a cylindrical object about the size and shape of a roll of pennies and it contains an ignitable dry propellant. You insert this engine into the bottom of the rocket and when it is fired it propels the rocket into sky. After a certain period of time (usually 4-6 seconds) the propulsion stops and a secondary charge goes off the other end of the engine. This causes the nose cone to blow off the rocket and the parachute to deploy -which safely carries your rocket back to the ground so you can use it again. The engine however, is spent and to launch the rocket again you would install another engine. These engines cost from 2 to 3 dollars each.

How do you fire off the rocket?

You fire off the rocket engine by installing a small metal igniter in it then connecting it to a battery source, which is inside something called a launch controller. This igniter is very similar to the filament inside a light bulb in that when you apply an electrical charge to it it will heat up and glow causing a small fire. This small fire ignites the engine and launches your rocket. When you purchase engines the igniters come with them and the launch controller comes with the launch pad.


I recommend, if you are just starting out in the hobby, you purchase an all-inclusive kit that has everything you need. You first assemble the launching pad, which has only a few parts and is easy to assemble. The parts all snap together and this launching pad is what you will launch the rocket off. It comes with a guide bar that your rocket will travel up and a metal plate that the rocket sits on. This plate keeps the rocket safe by deflecting the exhaust from the engine.

Next you will assemble your rocket and, depending on the kit, there will be variations in this procedure. Traditional rockets will have a cardboard tube body and balsa wood fins. You cut these fins out and glue them to the body tube. You then assemble the cardboard tube engine mount. This is a specially designed tube for holding the engine and it is the most challenging part of the process. A few more steps include building the parachute and nosecone assembly. When you have completed all of this you are ready to paint and apply stickers to your rocket. This whole process, depending on your hobby skills, will take between one and two hours. Some of the newer rocket kits do away with a lot of the balsa wood and replace it with plastic engine mounts and fins. This makes the assembly process much easier and all you need to complete it is some plastic cement. This type of rocket will take you less than an hour to assemble.

Once your rocket is completed you will be ready to launch it and to do this you should find a large open field that is free of any brown or dry grass (for fire safety). You install the igniter into your engine then put the engine into the rocket and place it on the launching pad. As a final step you hook up your launch controller and after standing back and doing a countdown you press a button to launch your rocket.

Making and launching model rockets is not hard and it is not expensive to start out. There are plenty of complete kits that have everything you need that typically cost less than thirty dollars. There are half a dozen companies that make excellent rockets and outstanding complete kits. The two companies I recommend for you as a beginner in the hobby would be Estes and Quest. They both have kits aimed directly at beginners. There are several variations of kits and when selecting a kit you should make sure it has a launch pad, a rocket, engines, and protective wadding (sheets of fireproof tissue). If your kit doesn't have all these things make sure you order some to go with it.

Some kit suggestions

Estes makes a great beginner kit called the Tandem-X launch set. It comes with two rockets and the launch pad but doesn't come with engines or wadding so you have to order them separately. Quest has several kits that have everything including the engines and wadding and two of these kits are the Astra III Quick Kit StarterHAZ and the Vertigo RTF HAZ. When you order kits with engines or engines separately you have to allow a longer delivery time. Engines, because they have a fire creating material in them, cannot be shipped by air. They can only be shipped by ground.

About Safety

Model Rocketry is a very safe hobby and there is no risk of injury as long as you follow the standard rules of safety as laid out by the National Association of Rocketry. They have a nice safety code that you should read and understand before you embark on your new hobby.

One of the best things about model rocketry is the fact that you can take it to new heights of creativity in many different ways. You can design your own rockets, make bigger rockets that climb to even higher heights. You can even design and build multistage rockets or gliders. There are also many additional kits and options like an on-board altimeter that will display how high your rocket went and on-board cameras and video cameras that will take snapshots of the ground or even take a video from right on the rocket.

Model Rocketry is an inexpensive hobby that you can get into quickly and have a lot of fun doing. But it is also a hobby that has the potential to go in many different fun and creative directions. It is a pursuit that can give you a lot of fun and satisfaction for many years to come. Have some fun and take your hobby to new heights.

To learn about model rockets visit the author's website at: Model Rockets - Launch yourself into fun

modelmaking books

Find books about model making

Small-scale Modelling by Caroline Osborn
Handy book for the small scale modeler

Modeling with Polymer Clay by David Kracov
Learn the Art of Creating Unique Polymer Clay Sculptures from a Master Modeler

Robot Warrior Kit by David Eckold
"Construct your own ferocious remote-controlled Robot Warrior and pit it against others in a game of strategy and skill.."

Making Robot Warriors from Junk by Stephen Munzer
"Robot building has never been so fun.."

Basic Military Vehicle Modelling Edited by Jerry Scutts
"gives the beginner all the basic information he needs about how to make nicely built, painted and weathered AFV kits, besides offering a few useful tips to make life easier for more advanced modellers.."

Terrain Modelling Masterclass by Richard Windrow
Make great looking model terrains

Model Real Tanks and Artillery by Mike Ashey
"Excellent.. tips on painting techniques and on how to make the model look more realistic.."

Supermarionation Cross-sections by Graham Bleathman
Cross sections of many of the fabulous creations featured in the Gerry Anderson TV shows

Making Dolls Houses by Brian Nickolls, Venus A. Dodge
"Excellent book both for the novice and expert dolls house builder.."

Dolls House Soft Furnishings in 1/12 Scale by Nick Forder, Esther Forder
"provides over 150 soft-furnishing projects for the 1/12th scale dolls' house.."

Airbrush Painting Techniques by Marc Lessard
"The book has beautiful photographs of models that have been expertly painted.."

Building and Flying Radio Controlled Model Aircraft by David Bodington
"guides the enthusiast through the stages of selecting models and equipment, construction and flying the aircraft.."

How to Build and Detail Model Cars by Terry Jessee
Build and detail model cars like a pro

The Basics Of...Radio Control Model Cars by Alan Harman
"gives you a great knowledge for starting off, what to buy & how to modify, and how to build your first car.."

The Cut-out Lost Temple I. Ashman, et al
"activity book which shows children how to make cut-out models, in this case, a lost temple"

Military Vehicle Modelling by Phil Greenwood
"This book is a really useful introduction to Military modelling, covering all the scales, injection and Resin Models, plus conversions.."

Making 1/12 Scale Wicker Furniture for the Dolls House Sheila Smith
Delicate stuff but Ideal if you like making dolls house furniture

Make money from your hobby
“Using your present hobby or favorite pastime as your business base has many benefits. Why? Because any business you decide to become involved in should be doing something you LOVE something you believe in, something that you would work at NO MATTER what income it would generate...” read more

More articles about model mking

Making model trees

Landscape modelling

The art of soldering

How to build a model aeroplane

Websites related to model making
Secrets of expert mold making and resin casting, aviation photo galleries, model galleries, digital galleries, modeling tips, mold making and casting.
The Comprehensive British Directory for Modellers.
Internet Modeler is a monthly magazine devoted to scale modeling of all sorts, including aviation, armor, ships, cars, and more. Also includes modeling articles and new reviews of the latest scale models.

Model making supplies
Retailers of model goods by direct shop sale, national and international mail order and secure on line trading. Specialists in Model Railways, Scalextric, Plastic Kits and Diecast Cars.
Langleys toys toy Shop of Norwich sells toys games models from hornby and scalextric to lego and playmobil plus lots more.
Model Mart Online - For Sci-Fi, Cars, Comics, Role Playing, Military, Aircraft and Boats.

World of Hobbies - the quick reference site for hobby books hobby videos and hobby related information
Find model making books and information on military modelling, making dolls houses, scale modelling and radio control models


Are you a hobbyist?
Hobby tools, equipment and materials suppliers directory

Hobby listings