The Spolette Rocket
Having Fun with the Kiddos - Quick & Dirty Spolette Rockets
Most of us are familiar with that small thick walled convolute tube used as the timing element in traditional canister shells. Well, I had a lot of fun with those little tubes this holiday season and I'll tell why. During the two fireworks seasons my daughters, nephew and a couple of their friends run one of my fireworks stands in Dad's front yard. As in all years past, I have been subjected to all manner of con games to shoot up my product. No matter how hard I try to prevent it, there always seems to be a large pool of "dead soldiers" in the yard. The cons run from "Dad, this is a new product so we really need to try it out so we can tell the customers what it does." Then the famous, "Uncle Bubba, we need to see if this product is as good as it was last season."
This year while loading product to take to the stand I was struck with an idea. If I teach them to make a rocket maybe I can occupy their time and keep them out of my profit margin. One-pounders were out of the question, so what could I do? I saw a bag of spolette tubes in the corner and the light bulb went off. I grabbed the hand rammer I used for making spolettes and rammed in a little clay. Then I rammed in some meal, took a drill bit and hand drilled a nozzle, threw in a little flash on top for a report, stuck it on a stick, shoved in a piece of medium thermolite and lit it up. Damn, it flew! It didn't fly great, but it flew. So I grabbed all the stuff I needed, put it in a box and took it with me to the stand.
NOTE: You can pretty much use any tube for this project, not just spolette tubes.
Across the street from Dad's house was a nice stand of bamboo (rocket sticks). With various revisions in nozzle size, it didn't take long to get them flying real good. I called the kids around and told them Rockets 101 was in session. I showed them how to do it and turned them loose. It was a fantastically slow process. In turn they each built their rocket and fired it. This is great. I thought it could keep them occupied for hours, maybe days. Then the worst happened.
A friend who builds granolas showed up. He showed them how to modify the nozzle size to get more height, then to add titanium to get a silver tail, and worse yet, how to speed up production. So while I saved some of my product, created some junior rocketmen (women), I'm now about out of spolette tubes and thermolite. Oh well, it was a blast to watch them. Now here's how we did it:
- Dead blow hammer or leather mallet
- A non-sparking rammer to fit spolette tubes
- Masking tape
- Spolette tubes
- Measuring device (kitchen spoon set)
- Light stick material (we used split bamboo)
- Drill bit set
- Funnel (we made ours from cut up soda cans)
- Black powder (we used homemade willow meal 75/15/10)
- Fuse (thermolite or something that will fit in the nozzle)
- Clay (we used bentonite)
- Ramming table (a concrete block with 2x4 on top)
- Ram in one increment of clay. All increments for this rocket were 1/2 tsp.
- Alternate ramming increments of black powder. We rammed four increments.
- Hand drill nozzle hole through clay to black power. We used from 3/32 to 1/8. This will need some experimentation.
- Place a wrap of tape around tube at nozzle end.
- Insert fuse into nozzle and with a twisting motion, seal tape around fuse.
- Attach suitable stick and tape with masking tape.
- Go shoot it!
I made my group wear safety glasses while ramming, and kept reminding them not to put their head over the rammer.