Deburred Right Upper Outboard Wing Skin, Right Leading Edge Rivets

July 29, 2011

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Tonight was only mildly more exciting than last night!

After taking the right upper outboard skin inside to deburr and scuff (AND VACUUM THE LITTLE ALUMINUM SHAVINGS OFF THE COUNTER, SORRY GIRLFRIEND!!!), I brought it back outside, and stored it (like the inboard skin), upside down (or inside out) on the left wing.

The two upper right wing skins, stored on the left wing for now.

For some reason I am paranoid about alignment, so I clecoed the right lower skins in place, although only 25%. I’ll come back with more clecos when I start riveting to make sure things are perfect.

The lower side of the right wing.

After looking at the clock, I figured I had about 30 more minutes.

Time to look at getting the right leading edge riveted to the spar (I had done the skin rivets, albeit out of order, a few days ago.)

From Brad Oliver’s site:

Oh boy, what a night. I riveted the left leading edge to the spar tonight. I used blind rivets to do this job, MSP-42, -43 and -44 rivets from Aircraft Spruce to be exact, but that isn’t the end of the controversy. I riveted (pulled) these rivets from inside the leading edge. Why use blind rivets? Why from the inside? Well, first of all, in my opinion certain blind rivets blind rivets are completely acceptable here. Van’s has said to many builders that the use of LP4-x rivets is acceptable here, and the LP4s are pretty soft as rivets go. I decided to step it up a bit and use MSP rivets here. They have a Monel (M) head, with a steel shaft (S), and a protruding head (P), and by my calculations are very similar in strength to solid rivets. I am likely to catch flack for that statement, but do your own calculations and see for yourself. Don’t take my word for it, and I am not recommending this method, only documenting what I did.

Why use blind rivets here in the first place? Because riveting the LE ribs to the spar involves grinding down a rivet set and you need two people for the job. These certainly aren’t big issues, but I wanted a easy method I could do myself.

Why from the inside? That one is easy, I wanted the factory head of the rivet to be on the thinner material (aft flange of rib). This was slightly painful, but I am proof that it can done. I also did this because even with the face of my cheap-o rivet puller ground down, I was having a hard time getting the puller on the shaft of the rivets due to their close proximity to the aft rib webs.

From Mike Bullock’s site:

No way to squeeze them. You could buck and shoot them, but you have basically no room to get a rivet set onto these rivets with the rib interference. The only purpose for these rivets are to keep the spar from bluckling. The way I see it, the chance of that is NIL, and there is a main rib set right next to each leading edge rib with the proper rivets in it. It doesn’t say it in the instructions, but builders have been told by Van’s to use LP4-3 blind rivets here. I did one better and used Cherry MSP-4? rivets. I bought a bunch of them from Spruce in the MSP-42, 43 and 44 sizes. They are very comperable to solid rivets.

I had some MSP-42 rivets in stock, so I grabbed 5 of them to try it out.

Once I got the ribs pulled into alignment, it worked great.

See? Great.

And any day you weren’t planning on contributing to your rivet total but you do…it’s a good day.

1.0 hour. 5 rivets. I’ll do the rest of the leading edge tomorrow. Also, someone PLEASE remind me to buy a balloon and a bicycle tire pump to test this darn right tank. It’s been two weeks, so the pro-seal better be dry.

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Started Drilling Out Rudder

August 14, 2010

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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.

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Left Elevator Skin Riveting

July 23, 2010

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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.)

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Bent Left Elevator Trailing Edge

June 2, 2010

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Sick again today, but I did get a little work done.

First, I spent a considerable amount of time looking at the 4 horizonal holes below. The plans show them as blind rivets, but there has to be a way to get solid rivets in there.

After much deliberation, I think if I drill them to #40 now (gasp, without matchrilling!?) Then I can deburr, scuff, and dimple the area now. I’ll do the same to the equivalent holes in the trim spar, and then attach (at a minimum) the top skin to trim spar holes with solid rivets. I think I will be able to get both sides, as I am planning on cutting off the “bent tabs” from both the elevator and trim tab.

First, drill to #40.

Then, deburr interior and exterior, and scuff the interior only.

I got the c-frame out again and dimpled the holes.

I should be able to make that work out for me, but more on the bent tab cutting later on.

Next up is bending the trailing edge. After inserting and taping a 1/8" dowel in the trailing edge, I bent it in my bending brake. This picture is about halfway bent.

Then, I removed the dowel, bent it the rest of the way, and did the same with the trim tab since I was in the bending mood. (Side note, the trailing edge on the elevator looked great, but was not constant radius…it was larger radius toward the tip. I grabbed the hand seamers and gently squeezed the areas so they were all the nice crisp radius that the inboard trailing edge was.)

Trim tab bent.

Also, I way overbent the trim tab. There are no stiffeners in there to stop you, so you can basically flatten the thing, even with the dowel rod in there. I opened it back up a little by hand, but it’s not perfect. If I can’t get it back to perfect, I’m going to order another one. I think I can work with this one, though.

This is a radius shot of both the elevator only.

Here's one with the tab held in place. Looks good to me.

Another sickly hour today. Can’t complain.

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Rolled Rudder Leading Edge

April 1, 2010

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All I came out to the shop today for was to roll the leading edge and set the 25 measly little blind rivets. This should be simple, right?


This was by far my worst building night so far in the project (although any night building is better than a night not building). So frustrating. There was a point where I thought I had mangled the skins so badly that I was going to have to build a new rudder.  Read on.

First thing, I’ve read to go ahead and drill all of the holes to #30 and deburr now, because if you wait until after rolling, you may enlarge the holes and/or have a very hard time deburring the holes you’ve matchdrilled.

An example of the original holes on the left, and the #30 drilled hole on the right.

More holes after drilling.

I had to play with the angle a little here to capture the edge rolling. You can see the bright section of the skin just right of the hole. The reflection is catching the overhead light above me and to the right. I used hand-seamers here with great success.

Then, I decided to try a method I found somewhere (although I can’t find it again today) to bend the skins. Here, I’ve got my steel rod ready to be taped to the left skin’s lower leading.You basically clamp around the steel pole to the table so that as you roll, the whole rudder slides toward you, but the steel rod stays close to the table and you don’t end up with a crease.

This would have worked, but my clamps were too big, and I only got to roll a half inch or so before they caught on the skin and prevented further rolling.

My setup. Later, I added longer pieces of tape along the whole length of the spar to minimize different tensions on the very edge of the leading edge.

Then, I put my camera down for almost an hour. I was so frustrated. Apparently, the 3/4″ pipe works great for the areas where the spar flanges is closer together, but not down here.

OMG OMG OMG OMG. I thought at this point that I was going to be building a new rudder. The bends aren’t really that good, and there is no way I’m going to be able to salvage this. You can see the skin rolled nicely near the tip, and then not as much near the spar. It should be the other way around.

After extensive (read: time consuming, careful, dirty-sailor-mouth-filled) working with my hand and duct tape, I finally got it clecoed together.

With the duct tape, I had a piece from the right to left side in between each hole. I would squeeze the skins together, and then use the other hand to go down the line and tighten all of the duct tape straps. back and forth about 10 times, and it finally started to look okay. Phew.

Okay, it’s not so bad now.

Here’s the first rivet (AD-41-ABS) going in. Once you set the rivet, you can see that it squeezed the area around it a little. I’m  okay with that. notice, though, that the edge rolling made the seam look really good. I am happy with that part.

After more blind riveting, I temporarily stuck the lower rod-end bearing in the lower hole. It’s starting to look like a rudder.

Lower rod-end bearing.

Then I finished up the other two sections of the rudder (with equal frustration) and got the rod end bearing in the middle hole.

Middle rod-end bearing.

Finally, I got the whole leading edge rolled and riveted.

Upper rod-end bearing temporarily installed.

It actually doesn’t look that bad.

Not too bad. There is some slight creasing just forward of the spar rivets in a couple places, but it’s nothing I can’t live with. 

Be warned about this part. It sucks, and I don’t want to have to do it again. (Can’t wait for the elevators!)

1.5 hours. 25 of the most difficult rivets I’ve set on the project. I’m looking forward to finishing off the last few missing rivets on the rudder and moving on to the elevators. Not before I bring down the VS and mock them up together. I’m thinking of even upgrading the site to accept videos and putting videos of the mock-up on here. We’ll see.

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