How to Finish a Rocket

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note: This is my approach however there are many variations to this that work well.

One of the questions I get asked most often is “How do you paint your rockets to get such a fine finish?” I have tried many different approaches in the past but the process I have found that works the best for me is the following:
Elmers Fill-n-Finish:
I water down the Fill-n-Finish until it is the consistency of acrylic paint (this doesn’t take much water).
I then ‘paint’ the F-N-F over the fins,nosecone and along all the body tube seams.
Let Dry.
Sand Fill-N-Finish down until it is almost gone.
Apply second coating of Fill-n-Finish
Let Dry
Sand down again until everything is smooth.
KILZ (original spray only)
Spray the entire rocket with KILZ
Let Dry. KILZ dries very quickly but give it as much time as possible.
Sand with progressively higher grain Sandpaper. I usually go up to 600.
Wipe rocket clean.
Spray the entire rocket again.
Sand (as above).
Wet Sand the rocket (dip your high grain wet sandpaper in water and shaking off the excess)
Wipe the rocket down as you wet sand. I have found that wet sanding gives the rocket the most beautiful smooth glossy finish.

Spray Paint
Painting is an art that comes from much practice. A couple of hints that I will give are:
Don’t mix paint brands. Use the same brand if painting different colors/layers on the rocket.
Keep the paint nozzle clean.
Apply light coats keeping the spray can moving up and down the length of the rocket.
Give each coat plenty of time to dry. This will avoid cracking because the top coat dries before the undercoat has a chance to dry.

* I currently airbrush my rockets using Createx paints. This is a wonderful alternative to spray cans for those of you that have an airbrush.
Future for the Clear Top Coat
Because many clear coats are not compatible with the spray paints and after many disasters trying different clear coat sprays, I have totally switched to Future Floor Polish.
It’s always compatible and it works great.

*******Found this info about using Future with Simple Green

****** Future and Simple Green
Future is great for creating a good medium gloss finish and with repeat layers and light sanding at 800 grit between layers can generate a fairly high gloss but if you want something truly outstanding then you need some Simple Green. Simple Green is a household and industrial cleaner found throughout the United States. It can be purchased in concentrated form or premixed. Most grocery stores carry the pre-mixed variety. In a small cup mix three parts Future with one part pre-mix Simple Green. Apply to your model with an airbrush using 15 to 18 psi pressure and about four to six inches of distance. Apply an even slightly wet coat then immediately cover the model with a large bowl or clean box because this will be a major dust magnet. Allow to cure overnight. When you remove the cover your model may appear to be wet still but no, this is the finish that is achieved – a STILL WET LOOK! You can apply a second coat if needed but be sure to cover the model again during the cure process. The Future seems to dry with the same hard finish as when used normally. Due to the high gloss aspect fingerprints will show up very easily so keep a lint free polishing cloth handy for when you cannot resist touching it.

—-From “Swanny’s Models – The Complete Future

Here are further references on finishing:

InfoCentral Finishing Guide


or simply do a search at the Rocketry Forum

6 Responses to How to Finish a Rocket

  1. Dan Eastwood says:

    Over time, have you found that Future Floor wax yellows with age? (or have they solved that problem?)

    I used to use it to give my model car paint jobs a beautiful shine, but two years later, any white cars looked yellowed, and other colors went to a yellower hue.

    Have you experienced this? If not, I may try using Futire again on my BAR rockets

  2. rocketry says:

    I have some rockets that I put Future on 3 years ago. They have not yellowed. That would be the only examples I have that would be a good test of this.

  3. Tony Probst says:

    Now all I see in Southern Califonia stores is Pledge “with Future Shine”, made by S.C. Johnson. Is it the same stuff?

    Because I left my notebook at home when I shopped, I ended up with a tub of Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler Interior/Exterior. Is it the same as Fill ‘n Finish, or should I exchange it?

  4. rocketry says:

    Pledge with Future Shine is the same product. Johnson&Johnson/Pledge purchased the Future line and changed the label.

    Hmmm…where to start…first it was called Fill’n’Finish, then it was
    called Finishing Wood Filler, then it reverted back to FNF, and now it
    has yet another name. Carpenter’s WF sounds right.

  5. Johnnie says:

    Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year !

  6. Forrest says:

    As of this date, in June 2012, Elmer’s no longer uses name “Fill ‘N Finish” name and has gone to simply Carpenters Wood Filler.

    Sometimes the yellowing mentioned in the model car paint mentioned comes as a result of the base solvent in model enamel paints. And sometimes not.

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