Rocket construction: PET fins
Building fins is the most time consuming process for the average water rocketeer.
So, since long I am searching for an easier way of building them.
Here is how to build a rocket with PET fins. From Russell McMahon.
"While the overall result obtained with the fin skirt and foldable fins is different from any that I have seen so far elsewhere, I don't claim any originality for the various parts of this design. As in most things, one gleans an idea here and a concept there. If you are the originator of any of these ideas that I have picked up along the way let me know and we'll give you due credit. I personally find that the folded PET fins are indeed very nearly ideal. I take about a 1/3 of a cylinder cut from a PET bottle (you now have a curved sheet).
x x x x x x x
Bend in the middle and fold flat so the two ends meet. I have tried bending against and with the curve and both work. Arguably against the curve is better. You now have a double thickness plastic sheet that is trying to spring apart.
xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx
Squash it flat and on the open ends fold out a small tab which will sit against the bottle.
x <- tab folded out x xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx\ <-- fold xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx/ x x <- tab folded out
Cut a fin of appropriate shape. x = tab y = fin
xy x y x y x y x y x y xyyyyyyy
Attach to fins skirt with tape or glue (Cyanoacrylate works). Note that as this is NOT attached to the pressure vessel the glue does not affect pressure vessel integrity. To stop the two parts springing apart either tape the leading and trailing edges (I use thin flexible horticultural plant tape) or, if very keen, place a few drops of super-glue between the two halves and squash in a press (a few heavy books?) for a few minutes. You get a very thin fairly stiff but flexible fin.
Side cross section s fin skirt (Pepsi smooth cylinder) b bottle n nozzle x fin flap attaching to skirt y fin proper c is an added Pepsi neck as a nose cone
cc cc c c c bbbb c cb bc b b b b b b b b b b b b xsb bs yxsb bsxy y xsb bsx y y xsb bsx y y xs b b sx y y xs b b sx y y xs nn sx y yyyyyyyxs nn sxyyyyyyy
In my case it is a vertical cylindrical fin skirt of the exact same diameter as the bottle. The smooth cylindrical skirt helps extend the centre of pressure well back, mounts the fins so their bottom is in line with the nozzle exit and looks good. Nose cone is sacrificial and really needs to be the way these things dive (70 kph odd impact from 100 metres up). Fin skirt is lightly taped in place and can be transferred to another bottle in seconds. The fins are by far the most time consuming part of this design. Fin cylinder is just a smooth cylinder. Nose cone is just a bottle end. If you mount these squarely they perform superbly. They are very thin (2 x PET bottle thickness, very light and NEVER break (although you can tear them off of you try hard enough). On my much mentioned Pepsi Rocket, on a vertical launch they produce a beautifully straight vertical flight without twitch or deviation - not even any rotation if you mount them squarely. The rocket goes to apogee, hangs stationary in the air then flips over immediately and dives straight down. Once having tried them I would be surprised if most people did not adopt them for all except the most pretty of models."
Thank you, Russell, for this article !
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