More Trim Tab Work

August 17, 2010

Prev | Next

Well, before I can dive into the wing, I need to finish up the trim tab. All that’s left is to fabricate two riblets, get everything prepped and primed, and then rivet the tab together.

First, let’s get some riblets made up. Just like the elevator riblet, I started with some thick paper.

I used the packing list envelope from the wings, because it was literally right in front of me when I started.

I got the larger one cut out of 0.025″ aluminum sheet pretty easily, and the first try fit like a champ. I moved on to the smaller one, hoping for similar luck.Fast forward a couple minutes (many minutes!)…

Can you say "third time is a charm?"

Nope. Third one wasn’t good either.

Let's try again (fourth time). I just couldn't get the bends right.

That one worked. And of course I forgot to take a picture.

I drilled a couple holes in each riblet through the skin.

Finally, fourth time is a charm.

Wuhoo, let's get this tab finished.

But, it was getting late, and there were a couple of puppies somewhere that needed attention. (Turned out, they were asleep when I went inside, and I got growled at. Thanks, puppies.) Before I headed inside, I disassembled the tab and pulled out the wing spars to inspect.

Tab components, ready for cleaning and priming.

After looking the spars over, I found many places where the spars had been “polished” with a scotchbrite bad to work out small scratches. It seems that everyone has these, and is no cause for alarm.

On the other hand, I found some bad juju. This is a closeup of a couple dings that look like something bounced on the spar. Keep in mind, that hole is a #40 (3/32″), so these are really small.

Still, that's not good.

Whoa. What. Is. That!?

Holy frijoles, Batman! That is a huge dent in my spar flange!

Here's a closeup of the dent with a straightedge held over it.

Another angle.

I took a couple pictures of the underside of the flange. I tried to use the light to demonstrate the distortion.

That curved white streak is actually the light reflecting off of some spider cracks in the anodizing.

Here's another angle.

Not really related, I just snapped a picture of the spars laying on the table.

At least they look pretty.

1.5 hours on the trim tab today. I’ll email Van’s first thing in the morning about the spars and then post what they say.

I’m pretty disappointed though. Nothing could create that dent without making a big noise, maybe something being dropped or falling over. Which means someone probably knew it happened and didn’t say anything, or the inspection process didn’t catch it. Either way, I’m not super excited. I’m guessing it wasn’t Vans’ fault, but hopefully they will make it right.

Prev | Next

Started Drilling Out Rudder

August 14, 2010

Prev | Next

Well, after much hand-wrenching and a few sleepless nights, I’ve decided to dive into taking the rudder apart to assess the damage.

I’m guessing there are a few hundred rivets I need to drill out, which is going to ruin my drilling out average, but that’s okay. I want the rudder to be perfect. The pictures aren’t really that exciting, but here they are anyway.

About the first 25 after they've been drilled out.

I started drilling out the leading edge blind rivets. They ended up not being that bad, but not something I ever really want to do in the future.

Started drilling out leading edge rivets.

I ended up using a #40 drill bit for the blind rivets, even though they are really #30 sized holes. #40 allowed me to pry the heads off really easily. (You can see the heads of the blind rivets on the table.)

67 rivets drilled out, and I'm now dripping sweat on the rudder. Time to go inside.

But just for kicks, I took a picture of the rudder skin after pulling off one of the blue vinyl sections.

It's going to look really good when I take the vinyl off of the whole airplane. (You can see the outline, though, which means I'll still need to do a little polishing before first flight.)

It was about 30 minutes in the garage for just this part. I’m trying to figure out if I want to keep going on this or start in on the wing kit. For sure, I’ll need to finish the elevator trim tab before moving on to the wing. Maybe I’ll put the rudder away for awhile and move on.

Prev | Next

Made a Decision on the Rudder

August 12, 2010

Prev | Next

Disclaimer: My favorite tag for today’s post is “Boo Boo boom boom airplane go fly.” Read on.

Well, after much soul searching, and some really helpful advice from VAF (thread here), I’m going to drill out the skins, inspect for any internal damage and rebuild the larger rudder.

Favorite quotes from the thread:

  1. I did the SAME EXACT THING as you did
  2. I dropped a completed fuel tank while moving it from one storage location to another.
  3. My two year old daughter says “Boo Boo boom boom airplane go fly” while looking at your rudder. I am so proud!
  4. I forgot the fiberglass tips were on and unsecured. He picked up one end and –crash!
  5. I banged up my rudder too.
  6. Don’t feel bad – I had to build a whole second set of ailerons when I built them both backwards, at the same time (DOH!)
  7. Your new rudder will be better than the old one.

Although I got my hands on a set of RV-8  rudder preview plans, and a lot of the parts are common, I just don’t want to mess with doing a large flight test spin program just for aesthetics. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.

While I could probably say I’m not going to intentionally spin the airplane, I probably will want to at some point, and I’m really worried about having a botched aerobatic maneuver (too slow during a hammerhead turn), and falling off into a spin from which I’ll have a hard time recovering. In that case,  I’ll want the bigger rudder.

Also, I would feel guilty ever selling the airplane, especially if (god-forbid) anything ever happened to a later owner.

So, rebuilding the larger rudder it is. And besides, my trailing edge is going to be perfect this time.

But, in the meantime, I want to set the new standard in “finished empennage pictures.” Maybe this new standard will keep someone else from damaging their airplane for the sake of a stupid picture.

Done with the empennage!

Now where is that wing kit?

Prev | Next

Low point of the build

August 10, 2010

Prev | Next

Well, today was the low point in the build so far.

I was fiddling around with the empennage, trying to set it up to look like a tail for the “completed empennage” picture everyone posts, and I dropped the rudder.

[horrified silence]

It hit on the bottom aft edge, bounced a little, and then hit in the top rear edge.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

I was (am) devastated.

First bounce.

Second, and worse bounce.

Top of the rudder, aft, looking forward. Yikes.

After staring at it for a good ten minutes, and flashing through all of the days and hours I put in on the rudder, I finally figured out o could probably drill out all the skin rivets and replace just the skins.


I’ve also always wanted to put the smaller RV-8 rudder back on the airplane, which should save weight and bring the CG a little further forward. I’m going to find a copy of the RV-8 preview plans tomorrow and see how hard it will be to build the RV-8 rudder from what I have.

Here’s the thing that really stings. While I was messing around with the vertical stabilizer and rudder, I was even thinking about how much effort this was for a stupid picture, and that a second pair of hands would be helpful.

The good news I that the wing arrives this week and I can busy myself with the inventory while i think about what to do.

In the mean time, I need a happy picture. How does this one do?

Ginger (some call her "princess"...I wonder why) and Jack, taking over the bed.

Prev | Next

Rolled Right Elevator Leading Edge

July 31, 2010

Prev | Next

How exciting! I get to roll the right elevator leading edge today!

Okay, if you couldn’t sense the sarcasm there, I’ll lay it out for you. I hate rolling leading edges.

This first section actually turned out nice after the roll. It was pretty easy to squeeze these together and rivet.

See? EasY!

Then, I took a picture of how I tape, which I have since ammended.

Now, I put tape along the entire edge, overlapping once piece with another.

Of course, since things started going badly, I forgot to take more pictures, but rest assured, I have some unintentional puckering between rivets on one of my rolled sections. The crappy thing is that once you roll and remove the pipe and tape, it is really hard to go back and re-roll.

Anyway, I moved on to installing the rod-end bearings.

Here is my rod-end bearing tool.

You can see how the rod-end just fits right in there. (The purpose of the tool is to help turn the rod-end in the nutplate without putting any pressure on the actual round bearing in the center.)


They want you to install the elevator rod-ends to 13/16″.

That's 13/16".

Right on the money.

After getting those in, I set the elevators aside and moved back to the trim tab. Here, I’m using wood backing (so the pilot of the countersink cutter has a good guide) and countersinking the holes on the top of the spar only (you can’t dimple the top, because the hinge sits just underneath the spar flange).

I'mi using a scrap piece of wood flooring here.

Then, it was time to dimple the skin. I only got the tab to a place where I can cleco it back together. I still have to fabricate some trim tab riblets.

Dimpled tab skin.

Then, I dragged the horizontal stabilizer out of the storage room and installed the elevators. Once I realized I had to drill out the hinge brackets to #12, the bolts went right in.

It looks like an airplane. And it's huge.

I’ll take more pictures of it for you sometime, but for now, I’m just going to leave this assembly on the workbench for a few days and admire it.

3 hours today.  22 more rivets.

Prev | Next

Rolled Left Elevator Leading Edge

July 24, 2010

Prev | Next

Well, today was just a barrel of rainbows and puppy dogs. Lucky me, I got to mangle the project per the directions.

It’s funny. The directions say “roll and rivet the leading edges.”


Sounds easy.

If I were writing the directions, it would go something more like this:

“1. After spending 50 man-hours carefully protecting all of the aircraft-grade aluminum from dents, scratches, and general mistreatment, duct-tape a steel rod to the inside of the leading edges and use ALL OF YOUR MIGHT to roll that sucker around. You won’t be able to make the roll anywhere close to acceptable the first time around, so be prepared to curse and fight your way by hand squeezing the two edges together to get clecos into the holes that have been so generously provided for you.  Then, rivet the two surfaces together, but only after realizing that the clamping force of the clecoes was helping everything line up, so pray that as you set the blind rivet, it will pull everything back to alignment.

2. After riveting, stand back and realize that on one of the sections, you forgot to edge-roll one edge, so there is a slight puckering between two of the rivets, but don’t worry yourself about it too much, because although it will keep you up at night, no one else will see it once the elevators are mounted to the horizontal stabilizer.

3. Stab yourself in the eye with a cleco, and then try not to bleed into the adult beverage of choice that you have now earned.”

There. Wasn’t that fun?

The outboard-most section, rolled and clecoed.

Middle section rolled. You can see how bad my roll is on the rightmost edge. (You can also see how I tape the skin to the steel bar.)

3 of 4 sections clecoed.

I took a break from rolling and installed my rod-end bearings. This tool works great. (I could have made it a lot shorter, though.)

Finally, all the leading edge rivets installed. Time for a drink.

2 stinking hours for this? 22 rivets, one (actually painless) blind rivet needed to be drilled out.

Prev | Next

Left Elevator Skin Riveting

July 23, 2010

Prev | Next

I wasn’t very good with the pictures today, but I did get a significant amount of work done today. I basically did a lot of skin riveting, and all went well, with a few exceptions.

First up, try to use solid rivets on the outboard part of the trim spar where they instructions say you can use blind rivets.

"Blind rivets? We don't need no stinking blind rivets."

The top row (actually the bottom of the elevator) turned out well.

These aren't the prettiest or most perfect shop heads, but they are within spec, and will do the job.

Then, I flipped the elevator over and did the top (which was harder, but actually turned out better than the bottom). I forgot to take pictures though.

I moved on to the counterbalance skin and set have the rivets, then removed the clecos and set the other half.

Here's every other one set.

Wait a minute! I’m going to need that trim tab hinge (forward half) primed so I can rivet it on the elevator.

Up on the priming table for some self-etching primer.

Moving on to the rest of the skin, here are half of the rivets set in the leading edge and inboard edge.

Halfway done with one side.

Then I removed the clecoes and finished up the first side (except for the trim tab area).

After the hinge dried, I clecoed that in place and got to it.

Clecoed in place...

Half the rivets set, clecoes removed...

All done, with the tab half of the hinge installed to make sure I don't have any binding.

Then, I flipped that bad boy over and finished the other side.


Wow, big day today. 172 rivets, four of them drilled out. (Notice how I just glossed over the riveting of my trim riblet? That’s because it was about an hour of my two hours outside. What a pain in my aft.)

Prev | Next

Preparation for Left Elevator Skin Riveting

July 21, 2010

Prev | Next

Now that my #10 dies are here, I can proceed with the counterbalance skin and preparation for riveting.

This is how #10 dimples are supposed to look.

No cracks!

After beveling the exterior of the counterbalance skin, drilling the two fairing attach holes (that will be doubled up with the elevator skin) to #28 and dimpling to #6, I threw the counterbalance skin and the little trim riblet up on the priming table, opened the garage door, got the respirator out, and shot these two with primer.


After that was done, I clecoed the counterbalance skin in place and riveted the two rivets on each side that can’t be reached after the skeleton is inserted.

There's a nice lap joint there that could have used some edge-rolling, except I FORGOT TO EDGE-ROLL, EVEN THOUGH I JUST BOUGHT AN EDGE-ROLLING TOOL!

The two rivets in question on the top.

Nice shop heads.

And two more on the bottom.

Then, before inserting the skeleton, you loosely place the counterweight in position and partly insert the two screws.


Then, I riveted the little riblet I made to the trim spar.

Skeleton, ready to be inserted into the skin.

Closer look.

Of course, I then realized that I needed that area open so I could attempt to buck the four rivets outboard of that point. Drilled out that rivet.

At least I remembered to put some RTV along the back edge of the stiffeners.

After that, I got the skin clecoed on.

It's looking like something that slight resembles an airplane!

Another angle.

I’m kicking myself for not edge-rolling that one lap joint. I only remembered that I didn’t when I woke up in the middle of the night. My two options are to leave it, or drill out 4 rivets and edge roll. Maybe I’ll rivet the rest of the joint (two more rivets), then decide whether it is bad enough if the edge picks up at all. I don’t think it will, but I’ll start there so if I have to take it apart, it will only be a few rivets.

1 hour. 4 rivets, one drilled out.

Prev | Next

More work on the Counterbalance Skin

July 20, 2010

Prev | Next

Things have been slow with the airplane recently, right? Well, after a few weeks of letting the garage slowly spiral into a mess of hall closet items (while I’m redoing the floors), saw dust (while I’m redoing the floors), and aluminum dust/shavings (I am working on the plane a little), I decided it was time to get things cleaned up. After an hour of cleaning and organization, I snapped this picture of a nice clean workbench and floor area. Doesn’t really do it justice, but something about a clean workbench makes me happy (notice how I am not showing you a picture of my second workbench!)

(Don't tell the girlfriend I had the vacuum cleaner up on the table going back and forth. It works pretty well, but I accept no blame if you try this at home.)

Okay, finally on to the project. My replacement E-713 came the other day. instead of trying to cleco it on to the already-dimpled skeleton and matchdrill, I am going to trust Vans’ pre-punches and just run a #40 bit through the appropriate holes before deburring and dimpling.

After that was complete, I taped the outside of the skin that I want to protect from primer and scuffed everything up.

Ready to prime...almost. I'm still waiting on a #10 dimple die from Avery. Should be here any day.

Because this part of the exterior side is under the main left elevator skin, I'm going to prime it. Those two smaller holes need to be drilled to #28 before dimpled for #6 screws.

After that, I grabbed my two trim tab horns, and deburred, scuffed, and dimpled the flange holes.

I still need to trim these down per the plans for the electric elevator trim, but I also haven't ordered my electric elevator trim kit yet.

Finally, I disassembled the trim tab to get a little start on that. Here’s the spar, deburred, scuffed, and dimpled on the bottom flange.

The top flange (on the left side of the picture) needs to be countersunk for the upper trim tab skin, because the hinge sits just below the flange, and can't accept a dimpled flange.

2 hours in the shop today, but only 1 hour counts as build time. Hooray clean shop!

Prev | Next

Riveted E-703 and E-704 to E-702

July 18, 2010

Prev | Next

Even though I haven’t been feeling all that well in the last few days, I did sneak out in the garage for 30 minutes. I was mostly motivated by the arrival of my replacement E-713. Here she is, in all her beauty. (Let’s not mess this one up, too, Andrew.)

Ah, a non-mangled part for a change.

After admiring E-713 for awhile, I moved on to riveting E-704 and E-703 together. Here are 8 lovely shop heads.

Looks good on this side.

And then I riveted my extra credit one leg nutplate in the tooling hole for further control surface balancing. Because I’ll want to balance the control surfaces pretty well while they are polished, if I ever decide to paint, I’ll have to add weight back in. This will be the best way to do this.

Thinking even further ahead, if I put a screw in here, I'll make it short enough that it falls out before binding. Or, I'll safety wire it. I'll have to think more about that.

And the other side. This was fun to rivet because I had to do both rivets at once.

That was it for today. 14 rivets, one of them had to be drilled out and replaced. Now, I’m just waiting for my latest Avery order so I can finish up the replaced counterbalance skin.

Prev | Next