History and Use of Recovery Wadding and Alternatives

Wadding definition:
A non-flammable filler material placed in a model rocket airframe to protect the parachute or streamer from the hot ejection gases of the ejection charge. They can also act as a piston.

Recovery wadding has been around since the birth of Model Rocketry. Parachutes needed protection from the ejection charges of the rocket motors. In the original patent drawings from Orville Carlisle we see a paper wrap used to protect the chute. The paper wrap can be seen here labeled as #50

In an early MMI video, J. Delano Hitch, is shown placing the protective paper wrapper onto the chute. Here is a snapshot from that video.
J.Delano Hitch places wrapper on chute

In the very first Estes catalog the following quote can be found
“RECOVERY SYSTEM WRAPPERS AND PROTECTORS: Since many missiles designs do not require wrappers for parachutes and streamers, they are not included herein. They are easy to make by cutting out a piece of typing or similar quality paper adequate to completely cover on all sides and ends the plastic parachute or streamer. Completely wrap the plastic in the wrapper and insert in the missile before attaching the nose cone.”

The first mention of Wadding for sale is in the 1964 Estes catalog. It is listed as the RP-1 Pack of Flameproof Recovery Wadding.

The Centuri 65 catalog shows chute protector wadding as a product.

Carlisle sued Vern Estes over including a “parachute wrapper” with certain rocket kits in the 65 timeframe. Estes was printing the wrapper on the motor instruction sheets. Carlisle lost the suit.

A good wadding must be both flameproof and biodegradable.

Types of common wadding:

Flameproof Tissue wadding: from Estes since 1963-64. This is the common toilet paper like tissue. The original flameproof tissue was made from toilet paper. Vern once said he wondered what all those truck drivers thought when they pulled up to Estes Industries with truckloads of toilet paper. I’m sure there were a great many jokes about that.

estes wadding

Quest tissue wadding – thinner than Estes, more like tissue paper


Cellulose fiber– commonly known as Dog Barf. Probably the most widely used wadding. Used in both LPR and HPR. Sold as Cellulose insulation and readily available at your local hardware store. A $7 bail will last you a lifetime of rocketry.Cellulose is composed of 75-85% recycled paper fiber, usually post-consumer waste newsprint. The other 15% is a fire retardant such as boric acid or ammonium sulphate. Cellulose has the highest recycled content of any insulation available.

Dog Barf

image credit:Charles and Hudson - http://www.charlesandhudson.com/

Common alternatives to Wadding:

Plugs – the is the most common wadding replacement in FAI competition style rockets. Foam plugs are made from the pink/blue closed cell construction foam. This can be done by making a cutter from a piece of body tube of the size plug you need. Take the tube piece and CA around the circumference of one end. This will be the cutting side. Take the tube and put it on top of the foam and slowly spin the tube while applying pressure. This will cut the plug from the foam. Plugs act like many piston and effectively help “push” out the chute in competition models.

Pistons– Pistons are like plugs but usually created with a solid sliding bulkhead that is connected to motor mount tube by means of a shock cord/nylon tubing etc. Pistons effectively eject the parachute.

Baffles– Baffles are means of taming the hot ejections gases of the ejection charge. They can be made of steel wool, a mesh material or a series of mis-aligned tubes. The devices trap the hot gases while allowing the ejection pressure to continue throught the containment. Click the links to see common LPR baffle kits from Semroc and Fliskits

This entry was posted in Rocketry Education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to History and Use of Recovery Wadding and Alternatives

  1. R2K says:

    You know I use the insulation and the sheets… but for a while I was concerned that the insulation type wadding has some toxic fire retardant. From your info I gather it isnt really that bad. I am happy to see this 🙂

    Anyway can I link to your page from mine?

  2. Sam says:

    help! how do you adjust the nose cone correctly and how do you know when is correcty adjusted?

  3. rocketry says:

    I need more info Sam. Adjust nose cone on what? What are you referring to? What rocket – model-description? Are you adding nose weight to increase stability?

  4. bob says:

    i launched a rocket 600 ft in the air yesterday!!! 🙂

  5. 5st*r chick says:

    i launched a rocket before it landed in a tree im sad 😦

  6. beecroft says:

    I used turlet paper and it worked except the turlet paper caught on fire and rained down upon us 😦

  7. Billy Bob says:

    Fer goodness sakes, NEVER USE A FLAMABLE TISSUE OF ANY SORT. The best bet is either to buy recovery wadding and to use a couple of sheets per racket OR, to try the dog barf if you can borrow a baggie full of it from an insulator or construction site. PS: NEVER leave a baggie of dog barf in plain sight in your car. The cops will bust you for pot and wait on the lab test to confirm that you are innocent! Experience here!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s