Started Preparing the Right Wing Lower Skins

August 5, 2012

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Well, after a busy morning at the SCBC, I did get an hour in on the lower right inboard skin. I’ve decided to go ahead and close up the right wing before proceeding. A lot of people wait until much later in the project (which the instructions say you CAN do if you want), but everyone who waits says there is no real benefit to waiting, so I’m going to go ahead and get them closed up now.

First, I pulled the skin off the wing, and then got to work. I spent about 30 minutes edge finishing, then another 30 dimpling about half the skin with the c-frame. (No, I didn’t forget to drill or deburr, I had done those previously.

This picture is from after edge finishing, but before dimpling.

After I finish dimpling, I’ll prime the inside surface. Then, I’ll deburr and dimple the wing ribs, and rear spar, but I’ll need to remember to countersink the flap brace.

1.0 hour.

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Vertical Stabilizer Fiberglass Tip

July 24, 2012

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So the other day, one of the people in my household (I’ll let you guess if it was me or not) decided that we better clean out the guest closet before my cousin comes to visit for a little.

“What was in the closet?” you ask…

Well, a whole bunch of airplane parts, including some empennage tips.

So, we shuffled some things around, and cleaned up a little. BUT, I started thinking about where to store these things. It gets pretty hot in the garage, so I told myself that I really only wanted them out there if they were actually installed on the empennage.

Okay, that’s as good of an excuse to do some airplane work as any, so I got to it.

First step, get the VS down from the wall.


Next step: located VS-909.


There really isn’t any science to getting this thing drilled. It pretty much fits snugly in one orientation.

As a side note, the front edge of the VS isn’t perfectly aligned with the edge of the front of the tip, but I am a fiberglass master (by “master” I really mean “worked for a sailboat shop when I was a teenager, so I’m not afraid of a little shaping.”) I’d rather install the tip along the ridge meant for the top of the VS and adjust the front of the tip than the other way around.

After a few #40 holes:

It’s attached.

Then, I started digging back through my hardware bins (and this blog) to remember how I was going to attach these.

It all came flooding back. Yes, I’m going to attach them with #6 screws. (Insert long never-ending discussion about whether to make them removable.) I like the idea of eventually putting a camera in the VS tip, so here I go…)

I marked up a few .025″ strips of aluminum sheet, and cut them out.

This is from the “trim bundle.”

Then, clamped them in place.

Cleco clamps in action.

Some holes drilled, along with a #6 nutplate to help drill the attach holes.

I drilled the middle hole, clecoed in the nutplate, drilled one of the leg holes, stuck a rivet in there to hold its orientation, then drilled the other leg’s hole.

(Removed the cleco for the sake of the picture.)

After that was complete, I realized that I really wanted to sand off the gelcoat before priming etc, and that I better wait to rivet in the nutplates until that’s done as well.

For now, I turned my attention back to the VS, where I needed to enlarge the attach holes to make room for the #6 dimple die.

A quick search on the iphone…

Thanks Reiley.

I went searching through my hardware bins…

It feels good to have these open again.

…found a #28 drill, then drilled, deburred, and dimpled the four holes on each side of the VS top.

Without starting some sanding and countersinking, I think I’m stuck for a little.

Just some sanding and countersinking before I can screw these in temporarily and hang it back up on the wall.

Good night, and within a week of the previous entry. Sweet!

1.0 hour.

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Drilled Left Flap Hinge

October 9, 2011

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Today, I kind of accidentally worked on the airplane. I wasn’t really planning on it, but I was taking out the garbage (see lower left of first picture), and I just happened to drill the first hole.

Then, I kind of drilled half the holes, and had to go back inside to get the camera.

But wait, let’s back up. I spent a lot of time the other day and before starting to drill to really make sure everything was lined up really well.

Halfway done.

Here’s my technique. I had some c-clamps along the whole length of the hinge, and every few holes, I’d cleco the drilled holes, move my three sideclamps down, drill three more, then CHECK THE HINGE FOR FREE MOVEMENT.

I’m not sure what I could have done if it had gotten out of alignment, but I was paranoid about doing this right, and my paranoia turned out to be fore no reason.

Turned out great.

After drilling all the hinge holes, I took the clamps off and was rewarded with baby’s-butt smooth hinge movement.


There’s still a little on the end I need to trim, but I’ll figure that part out another day.

I'm taking the win while I can.

Time for football!

0.5 hours.

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Right Leading Edge Joint Plate Nutplates

July 13, 2011

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Wuhoo! Got my latest Van’s order. Below, you can see my two T-411 tank access plates, two tiedown rings, a tenth of a pound of AN470AD6-10 rivets, and the left inboard leading edge rib.

I love getting orders in.

First thing, I ran over and screwed in the tiedown ring.

Uh Oh.

It was way loose. Hmm. I know I did the 1/2 turn in, 1/4 turn out with the tap.

After some thought (and a trip to work), some of the guys were convinced that 1) I didn’t ruin the part, especially since I had only tapped the 1″ shown on the plans (and the rings are like 1 1/2″ long), and 2) it must be the tap quality.

They lent me a really nice tap (as opposed to the $7.99 tap and die set from Harbor Freight.)

I screwed in the nice new tap, and once I got past the first inch, I immediately felt a difference. When I turned 1/2″ in, the tap felt like it was cutting, instead of just pushing material out of the way. There was significant resistance at the end of the 1/2″ turn. Once you start the 1/4″ back out, there is some more resistance, then a “release.” I could tell immediately that the release was the cutting of little chips from the material.

It was like I heard angels. This is what tapping is supposed to feel like.

(The old one was just steady increase in resistance in, then decreasing resistance out.)

Just one more reason why I should have bought the $80 tap and die set, instead of the $8 tap and die set.

Lesson learned.

From the following picture, you should be able to tell that the thread cutters on the left are nice and sharp, and the apex of each blade comes to a point. The one on the right is not sharp, and the apex is kind of rounded.

The nice tap on the left, the crappy one on the right.

So now, I have about 1″ of loose threads, and 1/2″ of perfect threads. I am okay with at least four threads perfectly engaged, and 16 threads mostly engaged. If I’m worried about 10,000 lbs of holding power versus 5,000 lbs of holding power, I have more to worry about than my tiedowns pulling out.

Let’s build on.

Here's the tiedown installed.

It was subsequently removed, and will be stored in my storage box until, I don’t know, a few years from now.

Next up, I needed a nice little project.

How does the leading edge joint plate nutplates sound. Good?

Good. I’ll work on those.  A quick check on the plans showed some hardware needs.

Some #8 screws and nutplates.

First, let’s cleco some nutplates to the previously dimpled holes. This worked great, and perfectly centered the dimpled nutplates over the dimples.

#30 clecoes worked great.

I drilled one ear of each nutplate, then clecoed.

After drilling both ears, I deburred, then started countersinking for NAS flush rivets.


Here’s one of the oops rivets, just holding it in place.

This will work.

Oh man, I'm making a mess.

Then, some riveting.

All done.

1 hour,  including the tiedown re-tapping, and 28 rivets in the leading edge joint plate.

Not much more in the way of sealing up that right tank.

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Last of the Interior Right Tank Ribs

June 26, 2011

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Well, between a puppy run, mowing the lawn, and a run to Lowe’s to get some house-related stuff, I managed to fit in a good three hours on the right tank.

First up, I unfurled some of the -4 tubing that’s provided (the tape said the roll from Vans was 19’) and tried to bend it as straight as I could. I notice in other’s pictures, it looks perfectly straight, but I couldn’t get mine that good. When you actually see a picture of it, let me know if you think it’s straigh.

Anyway, slid it in the installed ribs (after putting in some snap bushings), and cut it about an inch too long. Right before I install the last rib for good, I’ll final cut this, and flare appropriately.

Today’s goal, though, was to get ribs #2 and #4 done.

Here is rib #4 after being lathered in proseal, clecoed in, rivets inserted and taped over.

I like this part, because it means I’m about to set some rivets.

Here’s a shot from the other side showing some fillets. On this rib, I did the fillets before I set any rivets. Hopefully, getting those done now will prevent some of the proseal from getting on my bucking bar.

Nice fillets.

After banging away for a little, here are the rivets on the top of the skin.

Oh man, I hope it’s easy to clean off that proseal later.

…and the bottom of rib #4.

Before starting in on rib #2, I need to fabricate a little trap door. Basically, it will all fuel to flow from outboard to inboard, but when I roll one way or the other, the door will close and not allow fuel back outboard. (Fuel will still trickle out through some of the smaller holes, but enough should stay in the first bay to prevent fuel starvation for the short time it will take me to roll back upright.

The anti-hangup strips can be added later, but the trap door would be hard to do later.

I’m making the door from the bottom of the picture.

So, I found some extra hinge stock laying around, and cut it to make it look like the plans.

Hinge stock.

Then, I bent the hinge pin and triangle piece (which stops the door from opening all the way).

After some drilling, deburring, and dimpling, I set some flush rivets (so the door would close) in the bottom half.

3 rivets here.

Since I didn’t want to up the rivet size just so I could use a universal head rivet, I drilled the upper half of the hinge along with the rib to #40, then deburred and dimpled both.

3 more here. Trap door closed…

…trap door open.

Then, after having a HECK of a time getting the inboard rib clecoed in place (because you want to have the rib on either side of the one you are working on installed to firm everything up while you are riveting), I realized I was trying to cleco a dimpled skin into an undimpled rib.


So, deburred, dimpled, then tried again.

Much better. Here’s a shot after getting rib #2 cleaned, lathered up, clecoed, rivets inserted, and ready to rivet.

It actually wasn’t too hot out today. Having the garage door open was nice, although I’m pretty sure the neighbors think I’m crazy with the hearing protection, respirator, and gloves.

Speaking of gloves. This is the last one.

Don’t mess up, you only get one shot at this one.

Okay, half the rivets set, insert new (cleaned) rivets, move the tape…

The grass on the other side of the driveway is nice healthy grass, I promise.

All done on the top of #2.

Bottom is done, too.

After taking a short break (to breathe fresh, instead of respirated, air), I pulled off the blue vinyl from inside the tank. This worked perfectly for me, even though some guys on VAF were skeptical and insisted everyone use electrical tape.

Baloney! (Is that how you spell that? I’m not talking about the meat “bologna,” I’m talking about the “you’re full of it” exclamation.)

Well, I didn’t pull the first bay’s vinyl off yet. I’ll wait till the inboard rib is attached.

3.0 hours. 34 rivets on each of the ribs, plus 6 rivets for the trap door. None drilled out. I am a riveting all-star. (Only one rivet drilled out in the last 8 building sessions. Nice.)

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Outboard Right Tank Rib Sealed

June 21, 2011

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Me: “Alright, baby. I’m going to go try to build us a good airplane.”

(a few minutes pass…the the girlfriend peeks her head out the door.)

GF: “What do you mean you’re going to TRY to build us a good airplane. You’re going to take me thousands of feet in the air…”

Me: “MILES into the air!” (I interjected, just being a smartass.)

GF: “…and you’re going to TRY!?”

Me: “Okay, okay. I’ll build you a good airplane.”

Well, I guess I better concentrate then, shouldn’t I. First thing tonight, I wanted to work a little on the inboard rib assembly.

Because I don’t have a 9/16″ drill bit (and neither does Northern Tool and Equipment, Lowe’s, or Home Depot), I broke out the Unibit and taped off the 9/16″ level.

I know I can’t punch all the way through the three pieces near the nose of the inboard rib, but if I at least start the three, I can disassemble, then get the last layer by itself.

I love this unibit. I need to use it more.

After chucking it into the drill press and working a little magic, I ended up with this.

This hole was 1/2", and you can see that I was able to get through the first two layers and start into the third with the 9/16."

Apparently I didn’t take a picture of the finished product, so this will have to do.

I quickly mocked up the flop tube just to see where I stand.

This is upright.

This is inverted. Looks like I'll have good fuel flow while upside down.

$10 says my mom reads this and adds a comment: “INVERTED!?”

Here's the other side, and my amazing edge distances. Booyeah.

Okay, I was planning on sealing rib #4 tonight, but I think I heard snoring from upstairs, so I better stick with something less noisy.

How about the end rib? Well. Van’s says to do all the interior ribs, then the inboard rib, then…well, they don’t really say when to do the outboard rib. The only reason I wouldn’t be able to do this now would be something about the vent line, but I can feed that in from the inboard side and then bend the tip up while it’s in place.

Let’s get to it!

First thing, since the outboard side screws into the joint plate on the leading edge, I carefully applied electrical tape where I didn’t want any sealant.

Hard to see here, I know.

Then, I buttered up the rib and 50% clecoed it in place. There are far more holes in the inboard and outboard ribs than the interior ribs.

Also, I drilled, deburred, cleaned, and sealed the T-410(?) reinforcement plate to the outboard rib. You can see the three #30 clecos here.

After some squeezing (no rivets drilled out, but one sitting a little proud…not going to mess with it), I pulled off the electrical tape and snapped this pic.

Uh oh.

I didn’t realize that I’d have to shoot and buck the three #30 rivets for the reinforcement plate. I’ll have to do that tomorrow.

Anyway, here is a gratuitous fillet shot of the interior side of the outboard rib.

I’m not happy with the fillet at the very front, but instead of mixing another batch of sealant tonight, I’ll redo it when I shoot those three remaining rivets tomorrow.

Other that the fillet up front, I am happy with the rest of it.

The lower skin. (I really hope this “no-MEK” thing pays off with no leaks.)

No leaks! (I think the not-100%-perfect rivet is like the tenth one down.) No one will ever notice.

And the upper skin. NO LEAKS!


43 squeezed rivets.

I think tonight was about 30 minutes on the inboard rib, then 1 hour to seal the outboard rib.

I thought I was getting faster at these ribs. I guess not.

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Right Leading Edge Inboard Rib Redux

June 17, 2011

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Since I’m out of MEK and I didn’t get a chance to stop by the store on the way home, I decided to work on the new inboard leading edge rib I ordered for the right side. If you remember back on May 13, 2011, I discovered that by having the inboard face of the rib lined up with the edge of the leading edge skin, the drilled holes ended up being too close to the web of the rib. (See this picture specifically.)

Anyway, let’s see if we can’t get a better alignment.

First thing, I kinda-sorta set the rib in place and just made some small marks where the holes would be. This is so I could pull the rib back out and flute it appropriately before drilling.

Marks made.

After edge-finishing and fluting, I stuck the rib back in place where I wanted it, then started matchdrilling.

A few notes:

  1. Since the leading edge skin was dimpled, I didn’t include the W-423 (I just made that part number up) join plate. The rib and skin fit was secure enough that it’ll work out.
  2. I ended up lining up the outboard face of the rib web with the skin edge (make sense?). Said another way, the rib sticks out a little further than the skin.
  3. If it happens to be May 13, 2011 and you discover that your rib drilling on one wing didn’t work out, AND you did both wings the same way, you should probably order both inboard ribs again, instead of waiting until June 17, 2011 (TODAY!) to check the left wing. Doh! I messed that one up too. Now I’ll have another one of these.


Finally, I clecoed the leading edge on the wing (I don’t know why you can’t see any clecos here), made sure my x’s from earlier still lined up over the tiedown hole, and drilled a 3/8″ hole for the tiedown ring.


I still need to tidy it up a little, and probably go to 7/16″ instead of 3/8″ (the tiedown ring is 3/8″), but I’ll leave that for another day.

0.5 hour.

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Matchdrilled Right Tank Z-brackets

February 20, 2011

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Well, it’s been a little while since I was out in the garage banging away on the airplane.

I have a few things piling up on my list of things to do. Among others, I could have finished up the landing light install, moved on to the left wing rib preparation, etc., but I kind of felt like continuing on with the right wing.

Van’s says that you should do both of the (insert noun here) if you want to save time.

Well, I have time, and don’t need to rush through this.

That means, on to the fuel tanks. The first step is to start removing metal on the Z brackets that hold the tank to the front of the main spar.

Let’s see, here they are.

Labelled appropriately. I wonder why Van's underlined the label in blue...

Oh, I almost forgot! The ceremonial plans change!

(Triumphant music...)

Okay, so there is lot’s of talk about the Checkoway method and what that is, but no one really does a good job of explaining it. I’ll give it a shot, and try to give credit where credit is due.

Basically, Van’s wants you to:

  1. Install the z-brackets (after some steps to get both sides of them drilled)
  2. Cleco on the baffle (“back wall” of the tanks) to the z-brackets.
  3. Cleco the skin to the baffle, then adjust fit as necessary by elongating holes in the baffle.
  4. Remove the skin and cleco in the ribs.
  5. Cleco the skin back on.
  6. Remove the whole thing for matchdrilling off the wing.

The Checkoway method (from what I can tell, because I never actually made it to his site before he took it down…):

  1. Drill only the aft side of the z-brackets, then bolt them in place.
  2. Attach a clecoed tank into position
  3. Drill the inboard baffle-to-z-bracket holes (doing this now, instead of before, ensures the tank is perfectly aligned.)
  4. Remove the leading edge to drill the outboard baffle-to-z-bracket holes
  5. Remove skin and ribs, leaving baffle in place.
  6. Now finish baffle-to-z-bracket holes.

The Checkoway method basically has you wait until you ensure propoer tank alignment before starting to drill holes in the front flanges of the z-brackets. If you do it Vans’ way, you might misdrill a z-bracket, and it will throw off the whole tank alignment.

Anyway, many sites have kind of hinted at this stuff, but Ethan really spelled it out nicely, and I have to give him some credit.

Of course, I’m out in the garage, so iPhone saves the day.

Ooh, remind me to charge up tonight, looks like I'm a little low on electrons.

Okay, as part of this whole Checkoway method, one of the suggestions is to move the “centerline” (future drilling reference) of the z-bracket flanges  to favor the type of fastener you’ll use later.

On the inboard-most bracket, you primarily use a socket to tighten or loosen bolts from the wing root. Hence, you should move the centerline (and resulting holes) AWAY from the web for better socket access.

On the other 6 brackets, the spar attachment is from the rear spar, so there are no access issues, but the front flange needs a blind rivet, so if you move the holes CLOSER to the web (allowing for enough room for the nutplate), then the whole thing slides over and there is more room for your blind rivet puller during final tank construction steps.

(I spent an hour in the garage tonight, and most of that time was just trying to wrap my head around this idea.)

Once I had it all sorted out, I laid (layed? Emily, which one is it?) the z-brackets out and started marking them with really obvious arrows.

Right wing inboard one gets moved AWAY from the web, second one is moved CLOSER to the web.

After some really precise (HA!) line drawing. I finally used my center punch to mark a good starting point for my #12 drill. (#12, because that’s the holes size for AN3 bolts.)


Inboard bracket drilled.

Second one drilled.

After drilling the second one (actually, I checked before drilling, but didn’t snap a picture till after), I held a nutplate over the hole to make sure I didn’t get too close.

Looks good.

Then, I needed to bolt these in position to drill the other 2 (of 3) holes. I spent a few minutes removing the lower inboard right wing skin and laid (Emily!!) the brackets in position.

I love working on the airplane. Therapy for the soul.

Okay, I have my centerline and a hole. Let’s bolt them up. (I added tape and a washer for spar-protection.)

Centerline through both holes...

Everything was going fine until I got to the inboard bracket. This doubler prevented me from getting it snugged up.


So, I just moved it to the top side, knowing I’ll have to backdrill from underneath. No biggie.

See, worked great. (You can see I used sacrificial nutplates, instead of regular nuts...easier to tighten since once you get it started you don't have to hold the nut.)

Back to the outboard brackets…

I’d drill the top hole, stick an AN3 bolt in, then drill the bottom hole.

Wuhoo! I love making aluminum shavings.

After all 7 were matchdrilled. I headed inside.

Good progress today.

1 hour. It was basically 45 minutes of staring at the plans, the instructions, and other builders’ sites, then 15 minutes of marking and drilling.

With the start of the tanks, I need to start thinking about ordering some Black Death (Proseal (tank sealant). I used this stuff on the rudder, and it really wasn’t that bad. I’m just calling it Black Death to be funny…or at least conformist.)

I can’t decide if I’m going to order the quart, or a whole bunch of the smaller tubes, which are easier to work with, but more expensive.

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Finished Left Rear Spar

December 12, 2010

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Well, I know I’ve been bombarding you with new posts lately (not!), but I did get a fair amount done today. As you can tell from the title of the post, I finished the left rear spar.

More importantly, I made an investment to my health this week.

I present to you…(triumphant music)…a heater.


This is a pretty sweet heater. It’s small, only cost $20, and by no means will it heat the garage, BUT, the garage is no longer (literally) freezing, and I can work in front of the workbench comfortably for a whole day. It will provide me with two heat settings and has a little fan in it. I set it in the corner of the workbench (as pictured above), and after about 5 minutes, I have to turn it down to the low setting. After about ten minutes, it is pretty comfortable where I’m standing in front of my workbench. And, now that I think about it, it does take the chill off the rest of the garage. Even for the one day I’ve really used it while I was finishing the floors, it has totally earned its cost back.

Okay, back to the airplane. I finally found my stepdrill, and made a couple holes in my W-707E.

Step-drill to the rescue. Had I planned this a little better, I would have done three smaller holes.

I clecoed W-707E back onto the rear spar and flipped it over to use the dremel to clean out the rest of the aileron pushrod hole.

I'm about to flip the spar over and use the dremel to clean up the hole.

I'm not totally done here, but you get the idea.

After that, I moved on to dimpling the reinforcement plates where I won’t be able to dimple them later.

4 #30 dimples along the left (outboard) edge, and #40 dimples along the top flange.

I also dimpled the flange of the rear spar where the reinforcement plates will go.

Then, after a little more scuffing and cleaning, I shot primer on the spar.

I love this color. Makes me happy.

And the left W-707E and W-707F.

After a couple hours inside while the primer dried, I came back out and studied the rivet callouts.

Looks like I can set 7 rivets here right now. All size "square," which is AN470AD4-8.

5 of the 7 set. Nice shop heads, huh?

I moved along the reinforcement fork, using clecos as indicators not to rivet certain holes yet.

I chose to put the shop heads on the aft side of the rivet (these are manufactured heads). I like shop heads, and it makes inspection easier.

Moving outboard, I studied the same callout for the middle reinforcement plate, or W-707E.

Looks like I can set five here, of size "upside down triangle," which are AN470AD4-4.

Manufactured heads

Shop heads.

And repeat with the outboard reinforcement plate.

6 here, I think. More upside-down triangles.

Manufactured heads.

Shop heads.

Then, I couldn’t help but grab the right spar and put them both up on the workbench.

It feels good to have both rear spars done.

Look at the difference in paint color. Left spar (just finished) is on the right.

More difference in paint color.

Anyway, all the rivets were symmetrical from right side to left side, which doesn’t mean I’m correct, it just means that if I did make any mistakes, I made them twice!

Now, all that’s left on the spars is to finish up the left tiedown. Then, I really need to make some wing stands and finish up some rib deburring.

Tonight was a good night. 56 rivets, and it feels really good to get something big put together.

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Onward and upward!

Drilled E-701 (Left Elevator Skin) to Skeleton

June 17, 2010

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Wow, it’s been a week since I’ve worked on the airplane.

I have an excuse, though. I’ve been installing wood floors. Here’s the living room, almost done.

Anyway, if you remember from the last post, I had the left elevator skin clecoed to the skeleton. I went ahead and match-drilled the skin to the skeleton. Instead of using my cordless drill (because it’s quieter), I broke out the air drill and went to town. I love the way that thing sounds.

Forgot to charge the camera battery, so it charged while I drilled.

After matchdrilling both sides, this picture is me in the middle of removing all of the clecos.

Then, because I felt like I would be short-changing you if I didn’t have two pictures for you, here’s another one.

After disassembly.

Here’s the catch, though. I have a lot of thinking and pondering to do about some things.

First of all, I am planning on cutting off the elevator tab (and elevator) bent ears and just making a rib out of them. Jason Beaver did it pretty successfully here and here, so I’m basically going to copy him.

The question is whether to prep and rivet the left elevator now, the cut off the “ears” after riveting, then try to fabricate a rib, matchdrill, dimple, prep again, etc., or should I re-cleco everything together and do all of that fabrication now.

Many people use blind rivets for the extra tab fabrication, but I think I am going to try to use solid rivets. I have had some success in the past with solid rivets in tight spaces using a special bucking bar (namely, the end of a BFS (“big-freakin-screwdriver”). The question will be about dimpling.

Also, I can probably cut the ears off, but leave a little extra material. I need to make sure I line up the cuts on the elevator and tab to minimize the gab between the two, and I don’t want to cut to much off of either side. Maybe I’ll mock them up, cut one side to where I think it should be, and make sure the other side can be cut more precisely to match the first cut.

Also, many people use blind rivets for the four trim spar rivets on both sides (per the plans), but I think I can assemble in an order that allows me to use solid rivets, especially since I’m going to cut the elevator bent tab ears off; I should be able to reach in there with a bucking bar.

See how much thinking I have to do?

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