February 2009 Archives

Getting Started

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It took me a little longer to finish the kitchen work than I thought (and I'm still not totally done), but I don't need the garage any more to finish that, so I can get started on the kit finally!  I started by smoothing down one of the two spar reinforcing bars for the horizontal stabilizer's rear spar.  I probably spent 1.5 hours on this, but most of that time was spent experimenting with different tools and techniques.  The second spar reinforcing bar only took me about 30 minutes.

Rear Spar

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I finished smoothing out the second spar reinforcing bar and clecoed them in place in preparation for drilling all the holes to full size.

My friend Andre stopped by tonight after our EAA 338 meeting at KRHV and got this shot of me drilling the holes out to full size.

The first completed component.  This is the center bearing for the elevator horns.  This has to get match drilled, primed, and riveted together before it can be match drilled to the spar.

Front Spar

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Here are the two front spar reinforcing bars.  The ends of these needed to be tapered and rounded, and then bent to 6º which matches the sweep of the front spar.  The outer portion of the flanges came pre-cut which is a nice improvement over the kits that were shipped just a few years ago.

Here is the front spar clecoed together.

This looks just like the last shot except the difference is that the spar has been dimpled and the spar reinforcing bars have been countersunk for the four center rivets.  I believe the vertical stabilizer's front spar mounting bracket attaches here which is why these need to be flush.

I've clecoed the horizontal stabilizer skeleton together for the first time and match drilled all rib to spar holes except the holes that attach the middle pair of rivets to the rear spar.  These will get drilled out to #21 later since those are attached with blind rivets.

Another shot so that you can see the rest of my messy garage.  I really need to finish moving the rest of the crap from when this was a wood shop around to our new shed.

The skin has been clecoed on to fit the inner ribs (HS-404 and HS-405).  I'm pretty impressed with how quickly this structure has taken shape.  I only started working on this 3 days ago, and it's already starting to resemble a real airplane part.  This is pretty misleading though since all of the skin holes have to be drilled, everything has be be completely taken apart and deburred, skin and spar holes need to be dimpled, parts have to be primed and then clecoed back together and then finally riveted.  I might be 10-15% of the way through the horizontal stabilizer at this point.

By the way, the air powered cleco tool in the foreground is awesome.  I found some guy selling several hundred of these surplus on eBay and I was able to pick this up for $25.  I highly recommend getting one even if you have to pay several times that price.  You're going to be putting a lot of clecos in and out during the course of the project, and I've heard enough other people complain that it's brutal on your hands.  With this tool, it's as easy as squeezing a trigger.

After fluting and straightening HS-405, I match drilled it to the rear spar in preparation for drilling it in conjunction with the skin.

Here are the two HS-405 ribs drilled to the skin (the ribs in the center with the lightening holes).

If you haven't seen these LockJaw vise clamps, you should really check them out.  Instead of the typical vice grips that have an adjusting screw that adjusts the jaw separation when closed, these have an adjusting screw that adjusts the clamping pressure.  Once you set the clamping pressure you want, you can clamp material of various thicknesses with no further adjustment.  I really dig it when somebody creates a clever tool like this.

Here is the HS-404 nose rib drilled to the skin.  Getting this matched drilled to HS-405 was kind of a bitch.  Vans recommends using an angle drill, but because of the tight fit, I couldn't get it remotely perpendicular to the front flange of HS-405.  I ended up using a 12" #30 drill bit from below and flexed the drill bit enough to get perpendicular to the flange.

This looks a lot like the picture above, but here, the skins have all been match drilled to the internal structure.  The skins are ready to come off and get deburred and dimpled, but I'm beat.  I built these benches a couple of inches taller than the plans since I'm 6' 4", but I now wish I had gone up a few more inches.  I spent a lot of the night hunched over and my back is killing me.

Got My Registration Number

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I wrote a little script last week that searched the FAA website for available 3 character N numbers.  Most of the available ones were awkward to pronounce, but there were a few that I liked.  I just got notice today that my first choice (N4VR) has been reserved.

Andre stopped by today and we put in about 11 hours of work each deburring, edge finishing, cleaning, etching and priming all of the internal structure of the horizontal stabilizer.  Here I'm using the DRDT-2 to dimple the rear spar.

Here all of the parts have been cleaned with Stewart Systems EkoClean.

Andre drying the parts in preparation for etching with Stewart Systems EkoEtch.

Here I'm priming the parts with the Stewart Systems two-part EkoPoxy primer.  I did a bunch of research on primers and really wanted to avoid alodine and the standard epoxy primers because of the toxicity of the chemicals.  The water based chemicals have really advanced in the past 10 years or so, and tests have shown that this EkoPoxy primer is as durable and chemical resistant as other non water based epoxy primers.  We'll see how it holds up, but I expect that it will work out great.

All of the parts, primed and ready for assembly.  It's only 11:30 pm, but I'm beat, so this can wait until tomorrow.

I squeezed all of the rivets on the horizontal stabilizer rear spar with a pneumatic squeezer.  Ignore the hand squeezer there.  That was just to coax some of the more snug rivet's manufactured heads tight against the spar before squeezing.  I was really surprised how easy it is to get the holes not to line up with match drilled parts.  The clecos definitely don't align the holes perfectly, and if you get off a bit, it's really hard to get the rivets in.  What worked a bit better for me was to put every other rivet in place (with no clecos in the part), then cleco between them.  Everything lined up quite nicely when I did this.

Here is the front spar riveted together with the HS-405 ribs.

I was planning to deviate from the plans and not rivet HS-404 (the inner nose ribs) on at this point so that I could get solid rivets on the bottom of HS-707 (the nose ribs at about mid span on each side), but looking ahead, I see that Van's changed their building instructions and have you rivet the upper and lower sides of HS-707 before attaching the skin to the front spar, so I'm going to go ahead and attach HS-404 now.  This picture shows the two holes in HS-404 where HS-405 will attach

With the spars prepped, I deburred and began dimpling the holes in the skin.  I'm really glad I got this DRDT-2 dimpler.  It lets you dimple completely quietly.  Many builders opt for the cheaper c-frame dimpling tool, but with two young kids in the house who go to bed early, that would seriously slow down construction since it's quite loud and most of the time I spend on this project is after 10 pm.

Skin Prep

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No pictures tonight.  I've been working on deburring, dimpling, and edge finishing the horizontal stabilizer skins.  I've made it through one and I'm part way through the other.
I went ahead and riveted the HS-404 inner nose ribs on to the front spar since the instructions have changed and you now rivet both the upper and lower sides of HS-707 (middle nose ribs) before attaching the skin to the spar.  The instructions apparently used to specify a different order and the only way to put solid rivets on the bottom of HS-707 was to leave this rib off and reach through here to buck them.

Both left and right skins have been deburred, dimpled, and edge prepped.  Here, I've clecoed HS-707 and HS708 on in preparation for riveting HS-707.  The front spar will eventually go between these two ribs (where the copper clecos are), but I've clecoed it on here now to help the skin stay flush against HS-707.  It's too late to start riveting this now since the kids are asleep.  Besides, I wouldn't want to attempt this alone until I have a bit more experience.  This is going to have to wait until tomorrow night or Saturday when I can get a riveting partner.

Began Vertical Stabilizer

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Since I need a riveting partner to begin riveting on the horizontal stabilizer skin, I went ahead and started on the vertical stabilizer.  Here is the structure clecoed together.

And here it is will all holes drilled out to final size.  I didn't get a picture of it, but I also clecoed on the skin and drilled all skin holes out to final size.  I then disassembled and began deburring all of the components.  I didn't even make it completely through VS-808PP (rear spar doubler, shown below with all the lightening holes).  Just like the horizontal stabilizer rear spar doublers, I really want to get this part as close to perfect as possible since it carries a significant percentage of the load of the vertical stabilizer.

My buddies Dan and Andre stopped by today to help me begin riveting the skin on the horizontal stabilizer.  Here, we've just finished riveting HS-707 (middle nose rib) to the top of the skin and are clecoing on HS-708 (middle main rib) and HS-706 (tip rib) in preparation for riveting the bottom of HS-707.  We managed to get all solid rivets in the nose rib, though It took all three of us to get the front most rivet into place since the rib wanted to pull away from the skin slightly.

We went ahead and clecoed the entire horizontal stabilizer together and put rivets along one side of the front spar in preparation for my first tech counselor visit tomorrow.  Hopefully, I'll get the thumbs up and can finish riveting this together sometime this week.

My tech counselor, Dan Checkoway, stopped by this morning to check out my progress.  He said everything looks excellent.  Now that I was good to go, my buddy Andre stopped by again to help me finish the riveting.  Here, we're putting the last rivet in one side of the front spar.

To save time, I borrowed Andre's squeezer and was able to squeeze two rivets at a time.  This really sped things up.

We only had to drill out a few rivets where the squeezer slipped, but I was able to drill them out without enlarging the hole, so we could just drop another rivet in.

Here, I'm squeezing the very last rivet in the horizontal stabilizer.

In about one 4 hour session, we were able to finish the horizontal stabilizer.  It looks so cool to finally see this finished.

I worked a little bit yesterday getting the vertical stabilizer structure smoothed out in preparation for priming.

I also got the horizontal stabilizer tied up to the rafters so that it's out of the way.

I need to finish a couple of things on the kitchen remodel, so I won't be able to make too much progress on the RV for a few days.
I dimpled and countersunk all of the ribs and spars for the vertical stabilizer tonight and got everything primed.  Unfortunately, the digital scale I bought for mixing the primer and other chemicals came with a really crappy 9 volt battery that basically only worked for about 30 minutes when I mixed the primer for the horizontal stabilizer.  Tonight, after midnight and right in the middle of mixing the primer, the battery died and I couldn't find another 9 volt anywhere in the house.  Fortunately, we live fairly close to a 7-Eleven, so I was able to run out and get a new battery before the epoxy primer started to cure and finish the priming.

I'm really liking the Stewart System EkoPoxy primer.  It's trivial to cleanup and I'm very impressed with the durability on the horizontal stabilizer structure.  It's very hard to scratch, and it's impervious to basically all chemicals.  I really like the fact that it isn't highly toxic like other epoxy primers, so a simple particle respirator is all you need to spray it.

My buddy Andre was going to stop by later today to help me shoot the skin rivets on the vertical stabilizer, so I got started today riveting the rear spar together.

The lower part of the rear spar uses flush rivets because this section mounts against the rear fuselage bulkhead.  The areas near the left and right sides of the picture which don't have holes drilled yet will get holes drilled in conjunction with that bulkhead and will be bolted together.

The interior structure has been riveted together here.  Getting those rivets that hold the lower nose and main ribs to the front spar were a real bitch.  I had to use a double offset rivet set to reach them (I suppose I could have bent both ribs out of the way and squeezed them, but I would have had to bend them a lot).

Andre and I shot and bucked the vertical stabilizer rivets that can't be reached with a squeezer.

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