Who Am I and How Did I Get Into Making Molds and Castings?
Hi. I'm Mike Schmidt. Like many of you, I'm a BAR, having been active in rocketry in the late 60's and early 70's. I found the perfect excuse to re-enter the hobby when our daughter was old enough to be fascinated with model rockets without breaking every one of them.
By day, I'm an engineer at Boeing. As soon as my workday ends, I become a "ballet dad" and take our daughter to her dance lessons. It may not sound so tough, but she dances almost every day. If I'm lucky, I can squeeze some hobby time into a weekday evening, but for the most part rocketry is a weekend hobby for me.
I have an ever growing fleet of model rockets. If you'd like to view my rocket fleet and various projects, please feel free to visit my model rocket page.
When I first got back into rocketry, I was perfectly happy purchasing kits from a hobby shop. From time to time, I'd win an Ebay auction for an older kit - provided it wasn't too expensive. Part of me always longed to be able to make some of those cool, old rockets. Auctions for those kits were well beyond what I was willing to pay. The idea of cloning some of those rockets was quite appealing.
In 2001, I timidly purchased a silicone RTV mold and polyurethane resin casting "trial pack". I thought that the structure at the very tip of my Saturn V just begged to be replaced with a stronger one-piece casting. I quickly discovered that I REALLY enjoyed making molds and castings. My next project was to cast the Saturn V fin and fairing assembly, since the original vacuum-formed parts were pretty wimpy. Next, I tried the plastic parts from an old, built Interceptor that a co-worker had sold me.
Then the idea of reproducing one or two other plastic parts came up between myself and a few other members of the rocketry community. Before I knew what we'd started, we had accumulated several of the original parts and I was deep in RTV and polyurethane. Precious time spent on my rocket fleet had been almost entirely displaced with this new activity.
For those of you who don't know much about making a casting, it is a fairly slow process - at least for me. I make the parts one at a time. Many of the parts can take about 1/2 an hour (or longer) each to make. A few parts require additional work even after they're cast. I'm mentioning this for a reason. I'm very excited about helping the rocketry community with parts that were nearly impossible to find in the past. I'm also very limited in time to provide that support. In a nutshell, I'm asking in advance for your patience if I do get behind in filling requests for parts.
Finally, the effort to produce the molds for these parts took a tremendous amount of time and energy. But it would have never happened without the generous contributions of the following people.
LaVerle Orme Doug Holverson
Mack Yocum John Brohm
Buzz McDermott Jay Goemmer
Bill Eichelberger J. Steven York
Bill Spadafora Jack Mohney
SLC Dennis Bishop Leo Nutz
If you're ever in contact with any of them, please pass along your appreciation for their contribution to this effort and the hobby.
A note about my polyurethane castings.....
While quite strong, these castings are just a bit "softer" than plastic parts. If sanding is necessary, they sand beautifully. They should be finished with enamel based primers and paints. (We found out that lacquers don't work too well and should probably be avoided.) These parts are also resistant to solvents so typical plastic cement or plastic welder will not work on them. Epoxy is ideal for these parts.
These parts have all of the detail of the originals but they may not have all of the strength. You may want to consider alternate methods of attaching shock chords and parachutes, just to be safe.