Boy Scout Troop 21 

Johnny Astro Replication Project

In 2004, Robert (Bob) Lansing led a project to build several Johnny Astros from scratch.  Bob presented the idea at a meeting with the people who operate his sonsí Boy Scout group.  Initially, the scope would involve molding some replica Johnny Astro parts and making the rest out of wood.  However, as things progressed, it became evident that the Scouts were up for a much larger project.  In the end, what they accomplished was quite remarkable; 18 replica Johnny Astros!

The Scouts who participated in the development and construction of the new Johnny Astros included (from left to right) 

 - Ryan Kell
 - David Lansing
 - Matt Robidoux
 - Jamal Lundy
 - Anthony DeSantis
 - Patrick Colby
Mat Klos
 - Donal Granese (not shown)
 - Tim Keene

Hundreds of parts needed to be cast or machined.  Accurate cast parts were made by first pouring a mold using silicon mold making materials from Smooth-On before casting the final product using casting resins.   Shown on the left is the mold that was made to produce the main control base. Below are other pictures showing the poured mold and some of the cast bases in different colours.

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The Scouts were involved in every part of the project, hand producing most of the parts themselves.   In these pictures, the Scouts are shown working on the main control base mold.  The other pictures show the Scouts making the launch pads from prints that they laminated to foam board, before trimming them.

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    Shown on the left and below are just a few of the molds.  Several molds needed to be discarded and reproduced because of flaws caused by things such as air bubbles, voids and indexing problems.  Once a good mold is made, it can be used hundreds of times if taken care of.  Part of this involves using proper release agents and careful handling and storage of the molds. 

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Several other parts and accessories needed to be manufactured using one of a kind manufacturing techniques developed by the group.  For example, the balloon template was made by laminating printed paper and thin cardboard before cutting out the hole using a scroll saw.  The cut is so fine and so accurate, it is hard to tell these reproductions from an original.  The launch pads were printed on a color printer, laminated to foam board then cut by hand.

The metal linkages that attach the joy stick to the fan unit may very well be better than the originals thanks to Norm Hamel, of Hamel Machine Works - Kingston, NH who built a complex series of jigs and other apparatus before manufacturing each part flawlessly.

The speed controller required several precision mechanical and electrical parts.  Nearly all of of them were manufactured by Norm Hamel who proved to be invaluable to the project.

The rheostat was very challenging component requiring the machining of a ceramic core and hand winding each one using tungsten resistance wire.   Each rheostat were wound to net a resistance of 16 ohms as per the original.

Shown on the right are perfect speed controller parts, perhaps better than the originals.


With hundreds of parts completed, the parts were sorted and prepared for the assembly process.

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After several months of manufacturing parts, each unit was assembled by the Scouts over a few weekends.  All of the hours learning and developing the many manufacturing techniques and putting those new skills to work, finally paid off.  For the first time in over 30 years, several new Johnny Astros emerged.

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Each of the scouts successfully tested  their one-of-a -kind Johnny Astro.  Performance exceeded that of the original, likely due to a slightly better propeller.  Original new-old-stock Johnny Astro motors were used so that the performance, sound and electrical characteristics were as close to the original as possible.  As an added bonus, each Johnny Astro was equipped with a DC jack so that they could be powered from a DC adapter.

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Here are some pictures of the completed units in every colour imaginable. Some units were spray painted in metallic colours.  Each units was given a serial number and signed by the Scouts.

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Test Flights



Available Material Upon Request
  • Rubber Feet

  • Vortex Cones

  • Propulsion Unit Motor Mounting Plates

  • Battery Retainers

  • Linkage Mounting Block Assemblies

  • Throttle Handles

  • Throttle Encap

  • Top Cowling Sections

  • Bottom Cowling Sections

  • Boy Scout Replication Project CD

Please contact Bob Lansing at (replace "AT" with "@".)

Inventor Sol Friedman

Sol Friedman was a prolific inventor of several well known toys including Operation Orbit.  Mr. Friedman got the idea for Johnny Astro from his two sons. They always wanted something that they could fly around indoors.  One day his son "Miles" was trying to stick balloons to a wall using static electricity.  Miles was sitting on a heating unit and the air would blow the balloons off the wall.  Seeing this, Mr. Friedman built a model using a controlled column of air from a fan to fly a balloon.  Ultimately, Miles helped with the design of Johnny Astro.  Topper Toys bought the idea from Sol and the rest is history.  Sol Friedman died in 1997.  

In honor of Mr. Sol Friedman,  The Scouts constructed a gold Johnny Astro which was signed by all of the scouts.  This one of a kind Johnny Astro was sent to Miles in July 2005.  Miles was thrilled with the gift.

About Bob Lansing

Bob Lansing is an Optics Test Engineer in Newburyport, Massachusetts and an avid hobbyist.  He is also a fan of classic toys such as Johnny Express, Switch "n" Go and of course Johnny Astro.  Bob never had a Johnny Astro, but as a kid he seen one, and like most Johnny Astro fans, he never forgot it.  

Congratulations to Bob, the Scouts and all of the other people who participated in this project!

For comments or questions, please contact Bob Lansing at (replace "AT" with "@".)



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