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Home / Features / First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store Print E-mail PDF
Product Review by Darrell D. Mobley   
Sunday, July 24, 2011

ImageAt some point in every rocketeer's stint in the hobby, the urge to scratch build a rocket or upscale an existing kit or simply to make the kit they are building stronger arises. When that urge strikes, many hobbyists surf the Internet, their local hobby shop or even the nearby Home Depot or Lowes hardware stores looking for "mis-labeled" rocket components that often sit on shelves marked as fender washers, U-bolts and such.

A great place to start looking for better hardware that was designed with hobby rocketry in mind is already located at one shop, Giant Leap Rocketry. Giant Leap has been around a long time, starting out with full page ads in the various hobby magazines that reminded me of the ads J.C. Whitney used to run. It was obvious they had a plethora of goodies, even back then, and when their Internet site was launched in 1998, they were inundated with people seeking quality alternatives to the higher priced goods they were used to seeing elsewhere.

As Giant Leap's popularity rose, they went through the same market cycles other successful business went through. They sold lots of components, started releasing innovative originals—some of which were so good they were copied by competitors. But through it all, Giant Leap continued to add more and more high quality components to their repertoire, eventually adding a line of high quality, inexpensive high power rocket kits with unique designs and features, all the result of brainchild Kent Burnett and owner Ed Shihadeh.

Giant Leap products, particularly their kits, have been the subject of several of my product reviews and during the builds and sunsequent flights, I got to witness first-hand many of their innovative features, eventually utilizing some of them in my own scratch-built projects.

As an example, the 38mm versions of the How-To Classroom HJ-101 Estes Maxi-Brute Honest Johns benefitted from the use of Giant Leap's Groove-Lok fin attachment devices. The How-To Classroom DREG-101 Estes D-Region Tomahawk used replacement 29mm motor mount tubing and Kevlar® shock cord from Giant Leap. And, an upcoming second installation of this same How-To Classroom project, DREG-201, an outrageous upgrade slated for a 38mm motor mount, will receive a Giant Leap threaded Quik-Lok motor retainer, in keeping within the fine lines of the Estes kit while preserving the details of the molded styrene fin cannister.

The bottom line is that Giant Leap has many, many components in their catalog and on their website, and is adding more all the time. In this product review, I plan to illustrate four of their newer products that would be well received by any hobby rocketry enthusiast looking to ungrade the strength and reliability of their fleet.

Pinnacle Nose Cones

Giant Leap has a proprietary line of 5-to-1 ogive blow-molded plastic nose cones that are second to none. The Pinnacle nose cone I reviewed was a 3" version and was built like a tank.

The full line of Pinnacle nose cones includes a 1.52" (38mm) version, a 2.15" (54mm) version, a 3" (75mm) version, and a 3.9" (98mm) version. The way the nose cone shoulders are designed, they can fit a wide variety of tubing, from kraft cardboard to phenolic and fiberglass.

The 3" Pinnacle nose cone has a 5-to-1 length-to-diameter ratio with an exposed length of 15.25", the longest on the market. The nose cone also incorporates innovative features, such as wide, thick recovery attachment tabs on the nose cone shoulder's base to accept either quick links or allow you to screw in a 1/4" eyebolt.

The three shoulder ridges that encircle the entire circumference of the nose cone's shoulder at the top, middle and bottom allow you to attain the correct fit either by lightly sanding them down to fit perfectly or by adding a wrap or two of masking tape to snug up the fit. The extra-long shoulders on the Pinnacle nose cones are a added bonus that helps maximize stability.

With little-to-no parting line flashing, the Pinnacle nose cones are easy to prepare for paint. After removing the parting line ridge, a quick bath with hot, soapy water removes any residual mold release, followed by a once-over with lacquer thinner or acetone on a clean rag. After the nose cone has dried, all it needs is to be scuffed it up with 80-120 sandpaper. I have had excellent results by initially priming my nose cones with Rustoleum's Plastic Primer in the spray can followed by several coats of Duplicolor High Build Primer before the Rustoleum had fully dried. Using this method, I have yet to have a plastic nose cone's paint peel off.

You'll love the 5-to-1 ratio of the nose cones as it lends itself well to scale sounding rockets that use longer nose cones, and the price is in line with other nose cones in similar sizes without the Pinnacle line's features.

Groove-Lok Fin Alignment Guide

Everybody at one point or the other has labored with the art of getting their fins on straight. Fins that are aren't attached perpendicular to the airframe based on their equidistance location around the circumference just look bad, especially on rockets with four fins. And fins that aren't accurately attached in line with the axis of the airframe and motor mount tube can cause unwanted spin and corkscrew behavior during flight. Even after trying to create jigs to hold the fins in place until the glue dries sometimes produces less than satifactory results.

Enter the Groove-Lok. The Groove-Lok is the latest in high-tech fin attachment technology and takes the guesswork out. A very precise aluminum fixture that epoxies onto a 38mm motor mount tube, the Groove-Lok makes attaching fins much more efficient and accurate. Made of high-strength extruded aluminium, Groove-Lok holds the fins in perfect alignment, whether you are attaching three fins or four fins. In essence, it's a fin alignment guide built right into your rocket.

Let's face it, attaching perfectly aligned fins the old fashioned way is a real pain in the rump. You have to carefully aim and then drip epoxy down into an impossibly small slot in the airframe while keeping the fins straight and aligned using all sorts of makeshift templates, guides, even masking tape, while making sure the epoxy and fin material are making full contact with the motor mount tube. All the while you are doing this, the epoxy drips out of the motor tube onto the airframe—or worse, your work bench—making a mess. Or off the airframe or workbench and onto your shoes. Fun, huh?

Groove-Lok solves all these problems while adding incredible strength to your fin cannister area in exchange for a very small gain in weight. By design, it interlocks all of the fin cannister components together and helps transfer the forces of launch loads.

The use of the Groove-Lok aligns your fins perfectly, simplifying your rocket's construction, offering superior load transfer—while strengthing the fin cannister—and is stronger than standard layups as well. Giant Leap's Groove-Lok comes in either 4" or 6" lengths and can handle either three or four fin configuration using fins of 0.062" or 0.093" thick G-10 fiberglass. And, the unit fits completely inside a 54mm or larger airframe. What's not to love?

The only complaint I had about using the Groove-Lok was that since it's construction is so precise, and the angles are so accurate for the various fin combinations, you better make sure the slots in your airframe as just as accurate. No need to have a three fin rocket with the fins located precisely at 120 degrees intervals in the Groove-Lok if your airframe's slots are not on a true 120 degree plane as well. And it will really be noticable on a four fin rocket, with the fins precisely located at 90 degree intervals in the Groove-Lok and your airframe's slots aren't on true 90 degree intervals as well. The fin misalignment will be evident immediately, but you can't blame the Groove-Lok because the airframe slots aren't cut in the right places.

I hope at some point in the future, Giant Leap will see the need to create other sizes of the Groove-Lok, as a 54mm version would be welcomed right away. Even a 29mm version would probably be received equally as well.

Hardpoint Anchor and Adapter

Another Giant Leap innovation that should be enjoying a lot of use is their new Hardpoint Anchor shock cord attachment point. This innovative little device makes it easy to put a hard attachment point into rockets where there isn't enough room on the upper centering ring for a eyebolt or u-bolt, while still allowing the recovery ejection gases to pass through the device for those who still use motor ejection charges. Many people like to use motor ejection as backup to their electronics to get their rocket separated if the electronics fail.

The Hardpoint Anchor shock cord attachment point glues into the top of a regular 38mm motor mount tube. Giant Leap designed the toughest, strongest attachment device possible, made it from extruded aluminum and brought it to market. It has three thick intersecting longitudinal ribs spread every 120 degrees around an extruded core that sports a central 1/4" diameter hole to hold a 1/4" eyebolt.

Each Hardpoint Anchor kit comes with the Hardpoint Anchor, a 1/4" eyebolt, a flat washer and a nylock retaining nut. The intersecting longitudinal rib design allows motor ejection gases to easily pass right through the anchor, up into the recovery compartment. It is so strong, Giant Leap dares anyone to break it.

While that works out great for 38mm rockets or those that used 38mm motor mounts, what about people with larger rockets? No problem, Giant Leap to the rescue, with their Hardpoint Anchor Adapter kits. The kits allow you to use a 38mm Hardpoint Anchor in the upper end of 54mm motor mount tubes, 75mm motor mount tubes and 98mm motor mount tubes. Note: the Hardpoint Adapter must be purchased in addition to the Hardpoint Anchor.

By taking various thicknesses of birch aircraft plywood and cutting centering rings to fit the outside of the 38mm Hardpoint Anchor along with an upper centering ring with a slightly smaller hole to keep the Hardpoint Anchor from pulling through, Giant Leap was able to allow the eyebolt and ejection gases to still pass through, bringing the Hardpoint Anchor technology to larger airframe sizes. And, all for less than $10 bucks.

Some people might have an issue with permanently gluing in any type of recovery attachment point into the front of their motor mount tube due to it potentially limiting the length of the motors they may want to use at some point in the future. Not to worry. The Hardpoint Adapters are so beefy, you could always slip them down into your airframe and secure them with three or four screws through the airframe into the adapter at a point high enough where you can still fit your largest motor.

Enterprising individuals have been known to take a Hardpoint Anchor and machined off enough of the outer diameter to allow it to snuggly slip-fit inside a CTI Pro-38 motor casing spacer, and then used the spacer to fly smaller reloads in longer CTI casings. They ended up with a positive forward recovery attachment point yet didn't lose the motor's ejection charge, using it as a backup ejection source for their electronics.

Slimline Ogive Tailcone Motor Retainers

Giant Leap has produced a large line of 6061-T6 motor retainers over the years, from their standard Slimline retainers that use snap-rings for motor retention to threaded Quik-Lok and Slimline retainers. They have even recently revealed new bell-shaped motor retainers that look like real rocket motor nozzles. No matter which one you choose, there is no substitute for positive motor retention as reloadable motor hardware is just too expensive to lose.

Giant Leap's simple snap-ring retainers work on a principle similar to other retainers on the market, but features an easy-to-use circular snap-ring that snaps into a groove on the inside of the base or sleeve. This creates several advantages, including reducing machining costs—drastically lowering Giant Leap's cost—which is passed on to the customer. All Slimline retainers work with AeroTech and Cesaroni motors, and come with a spacer ring to accommodate Kosdon, AMW, Gorilla, Ellis Mountain and hybrid motors as well.

A recent release that has a lot of people talking are the new Giant Leap Slimline Ogive Tailcone Retainers, which act as both an airframe reducing transition as well as serving as a positive motor retention device, attaching to the airframe and motor mount tube and then uses standard circular snap-rings to retain the motor.

The Giant Leap Slimline Ogive Tailcone retainers come in sizes to adapt a 29mm motor mount to a 38mm airframe (overall length: 1.1"), a 38mm motor mount to a 54mm airframe (overall length: 1.5"), a 38mm motor mount to a 75mm airframe (overall length: 2.6"), a 54mm motor mount to a 75mm airframe (overall length: 1.5") and a 54mm motor mount to a 98mm airframe (overall length: 3.0"). There is a .125" outer shoulder that goes inside the airframe for each retainer so the exposed length is the overall length minus .125".

These beautiful tailcone retainers are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and come with a matte black anodized finish that can be left as is or sanded and painted to match your rocket. Their versatility should really add a new dimension to your fleet.

When you get ready to upgrade your next kit or delve off into a scratch built project of your own design, stop by Giant Leap Rocketry and check out their expansive lineup of existing components that will make all of your projects stand out. If you need it, they have it.


KEVLAR® is a registered trademark of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in the United States.

Reader comments:
#1 Re: Article: First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
When I became a BAR in 2002, I started to use Giant Leap products. Later I became a motor dealer for them. I got to know both Kent and Ed well. As a dealer they treated me right. I am not in motors anymore, but I still use the product line. Ed has always worked to find that new product, parts or kits, that work for the most people. Ed knows that will sell, that is why he has been around so long, and will continue to be around. Kent is a trip. A wonderful shop, he puts his heart and soul into his work. That is why his work is first rate. If you can think it, he can make it. (Hell, you should see his bird houses) What a team. They have a great product line, and are good folks. Tim Thomas - Lawndartman
Lawndartman on 07-24-2011 09:03 PM
#2 Re: Article: First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
i have used giantleap as a source for quite a few years. always great service. Ed and Kent are always there to answer my questions when i need it. i currently have more than a few of their high quality kits in my fleet.

atxcple on 07-25-2011 02:03 PM
#3 Re: Article: First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
I have spent a good deal of rocket portion of my paycheck with them. Great service.
cwbullet on 07-25-2011 06:27 PM
#4 Re: Article: First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
Giant Leap is one of the best! They stand behind there products. Been using there stuff for years.
Bayourat on 07-25-2011 11:41 PM
#5 Re: Article: First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
My first 4 inch nose cone was a Pinacle. They are nice - however it does have a very long shoulder which needsto be accommodated in your design.
UncleVanya on 07-26-2011 08:34 AM
#6 Re: Article: First Look: Giant Leap, the ultimate rocket hardware store
There are two major reasons to do business with Giant Leap.

1) A full line of excellent products

2) Kent Burnett

I can't thank Kent enough for his help and kindness as I undertook my TRA certifications. I used a GLR Liberty 4 for my successful L2 flight and Kent customed designed a Liberty 6 which will eventually be used for my L3.

Marc Schlesinger
NAR 21632 L2
Broward Area Rocketry Society
Secretary, Tripoli South Florida #111
TRA 12176 L2
Amateur Call Sign KA2GIW
MarcFTL on 08-12-2011 02:52 PM
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