Organization and Habits

Every modeler will, over time, develop his own unique style, work habits, and methods of organizing the work flow on his rocket projects. For most, this tends to be something between "organize chaos" and "regulated panic" as the deadline of contest day approaches. For most rocket projects this seems to work for most modelers most of the time but when it comes to Scale projects, a bit more planning and order are desired in order to allow yourself to complete your project at the level of quality that you are capable of and in a period of time that does not force you to rush and compromise

Prototype Decision

Decide early and firmly what it is you want to build. Try not to fall into the trap of half-heartedly starting on one prototype and then change your mind. You will soon find yourself changing you mind frequently...and before you know it you're out of time to do ANYTHING worthy of the standards you set (or imagined) when you first set out on the project.

Pick a prototype for which you have data or can easily obtain data. It is best to model prototypes that you know. We all have favorites and I have discovered that with favorites there is that insatiable appetite to learn more and to collect all the information that you can on a particular subject. Don't worry if you have several "favorites." In fact, this is not, in my experience, a bad thing. Having multiple "favorite" prototype subjects is sort of like having a variety of favorite foods like your favorite vegetable, you favorite drink, or favorite'll have a variety options when that certain hunger strikes. Similarly, with a variety of scale prototype favorites, you'll have a variety to choose from to fit special project needs.

Keep a Notebook

For every scale project (or prototype subject) keep a notebook. I tend to prefer the time-honored spiral notebook and good old-fashioned writing utensil though the past few years this has evolved to a combination of keeping notes in a notebook and keeping a "journalized" computer file of my notes. A material notebook is good to have in your workshop or work area. Use it to perform calculations, jot reminders to yourself, make sketches, shopping lists of name it. As for a computer, I use it as a sort of "end of the day" method of summarizing what I have done whenever I perform any work on my projects. The important thing is, no matter how good your memory is, you will find it usefull to have something in writing (or on the computer) to go back to as a reference, either for your current project or when you are working on some future project and need to go back and review just what or how you did something.

I have a tendency to make my notes more like diary entries. Many times just making a "written discussion" of what I am doing or what I am planning to do as well as options and alternatives are helpful in firming up just how I really want to do something. Frequently, after I have jotted down the various methods of how to, say, fabricate a nosecone I discover that the mere fact that I have written things down will sometimes make me aware of something that I hadn't considered that may make a once-favored method impractical in this particular instance.

Set up a Calendar

I usually try to sit down in advance and decide just how long a particular project will take...and then I double the time. The amount of time you allocate will depend on whether you have built this kind of model before or not. Be conservative. Don't assume everything will go right the first time. Allow yourself from free time for other "non-model" work (such as when you just need to "get away from it" or when other unforeseen situations crop up that demand time you would have otherwise allocated to your project).

Since most scale projects present a variety of sub-assemblies or logical steps in the overall project, try to predict and reasonable schedule the amount of time each will take. Write down your schedules or create an actual calendar of target dates for the completion of various components. I have found it handy to keep a large calendar in my workshop as it serves as an incentive to keep pushing and it gives a visual representation of just how much time you are taking and, more importantly, how much time you have left. A dry-marker board is also handy for posting red-letter dates and notes.

SET YOUR DEADLINE AT LEAST A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE "REAL" will, without fail, discover that you will need the extra days.

Stick to a Regular Work Schedule

Try to work on your project on a regular basis. Allocate a set amount of time each day, evening or week. Even if you just "aren't in the mood" to work on your project on a particular day, force yourself to spend a minute or two in your work area just "looking over things." You'd be surprised at how frequently just seeing parts or components that you will suddenly find your self re-energized and enthused to get back to work on your project. Regularly refer to your calendar to make sure that you don't get behind.

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