Rudder 99 Percent Complete

April 5, 2010

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All I had left to do after rolling and riveting the leading edge was finish up a few rivets in hard-to-reach places and then finish screwing in the rod-end bearings.

The hard-to-reach rivets in this picture are the top two. For the other side, my squeezer actually fit in here when the opposite side rivets weren’t installed. The shop heads prevented me from cleanly setting these, though, so I had to use a thin steel plate as a bucking bar. Worked well.

Two hard to reach rivets bucked.

Here they are from the right lower side of the rudder skins. (I haven’t been using blue tape on the rudder as much and this is a mistake. I know it would have been a lot of blue tape, but it makes the skins look so much nicer. I will be using tape again after riveting to protect the skins.) I don’t think the rudder is going to end up polished, but I just hate the way those scratches look.

Nice and flush.

For the tip rivets (there were four that were hard to reach), I used a thin steel plate as a bucking bar for three of them, but then only had about 3/32″ clearance between the unset rivet and the shop head from the set rivet on the other side. I improvised by using a backriveting plate, the right rudder skin, then the already set shop head, then a screwdriver, then the unset rivet, then the left skin and finally a flush set. This worked out really well.

My setup for riveting the last (aft) rivets on the rudder top.

Here’s another shot with a flashlight assisting the digital macro setting on the camera. The point of the picture is the screwdriver, but it looks like I am going to have to replace that upper rivet on the right.

This worked well, but YIKES, look at that rivet on the right...also, the lower shop head doesn't look big enough. I'll get out the rivet set gage and test it.

Then, I turned the rod end bearings into the rudder by hand (I haven’t made the rod-end bearing tool yet), and with about 30 seconds of trouble, I figured out a great way to slip the AN3 bolts into the hinges of the vertical stabilizer with the rudder attached.

Sweet. This is an awesome step in the project. My first assembly. And it moves!

The bearings aren’t adjusted yet, and there are no fiberglass tips, but I’m so excited. More pictures!

A vertical picture. So nice...

I’m not sure if you can see it, but I have the internal rudder stop in there, too. (Although I don’t think it goes on the bottom hinge. I need to read up on it.)

And the requisite picture with Jack and Ginger.

Jack is a little skittish about being in the garage (where I usually shoo them back inside.) Ginger clearly didn’t like being out here either, so she was slowly scooting her butt up toward me trying to inch away from the airplane discreetly. Cute, Ginger. Cute.

Jittery dogs. They would rather be in on the couch watching TV.

Okay, dogs, you can go back inside.

Finally, I laid the assembly back down on the workbench for night night time. I'll take these apart and store them again in a few days.

And at the end of the night, I looked down and had spent an hour on the project. Look at that, I’m at exactly 100 hours! Two big accomplishments in one night. (Also, ten rivets. Don’t want to belittle them by being more excited about the hours.)

To do:

  • Clean up a few rivets
  • clean and re-prime some bucking bar scuffing of the ribs
  • Mount the fiberglass tips
  • Figure out how the internal rudder stop works.
  • Clean up some trailing edge dings.
  • Do a couple more once-overs to clean up any edge issues throughout the empannage.
  • Move on to the elevators.

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Stiffener Prep, Priming, and some Backriveting

February 25, 2010

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Tonight, I decided I wanted to get started on backriveting the stiffeners. First, I had to finish edge prepping them, and get them primed. Here are my edge prepping tools for these stiffeners.

Permagrit, scotchbrite, an edge deburring tool, and one of the stiffeners. Sorry about the dirty table, that's from me waxing my skis. See the big spot near the top of the picture. That's from me getting wax on the iron, and trying to scrape it off using the table. Maybe I'll turn my benchtop over tonight so I look like a clean builder again.

After getting a few of them prepped, I went ahead and started priming.

Stiffeners drying.

Here’s the right skin, ready to accept the stiffeners.

Right skin, with rivets ready to go.

At first, I tried this backriveting extra long double offset rivet set I got from Avery. I don’t really like this thing. With the pressure turned all the way up to 50 psig, the rivets weren’t really setting well, and the plastic sheath was marring the stiffeners.

Here's what I tried the for the first stiffener.

Although the results are good, I ended up switching to another set.

Very pretty. I'm sure some of that marring will come out during polish. Very nice surface, though.

Then I switched sets to a large7/16″ cupped set, which worked well to keep the set (with no plastic sheath) on the rivet as it was being driven, but left some of them with a little bit of a rounded edge. I’m sure this is okay, but need to have someone come look at it.

Still, they look pretty good.

Here’s a better shot. They are okay, but not perfect.

See the slight rounded edge to them? I'm sure that is okay.

I managed to get through 4 stiffeners before I started getting tired and went to bed.

4 of 8 stiffeners done on the right skin.

I pulled the tape off of the exterior side…these look really good. I am excited to maybe polish the rudder so you can all admire my work.

1 hour today, 50 rivets. Wuhoo!

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Skin Dimpling and Priming

February 22, 2010

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I snuck home over lunch today to get a couple things done, one of which was work on the airplane loudly. First, I set up my c-frame and spent some time verifying, re-verifying, and trip verifying that I was going to dimple in the correct direction. These rudder skins are thin, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes here. I set the skins on the table with the exterior side up, and the c-frame with the male die above, pointing down, and then dimpled all the holes in the skin. Jack and Ginger (who were inside), clearly don’t like me dimpling with the c-frame and told me so with a pair of barks, each. We did get into a nice rhythm, though. [whack]  Bark, bark…bark, bark.  [whack] Bark, bark…bark, bark. It helped pass the time, but I hope I didn’t cause them too much stress.

My dimpling setup for the rudder skins.

After that, I flipped them over and cleaned the scuffed lines.

Skins cleaned and drying.

After drying, I shot them with some self-etching primer. I was at the end of one of the cans, and some of the stuff came out kind of splotchy, but I think it will look good after it dries. I can always lay down another coat.

The left skin after priming.

Another thing. I’ve been putting blue tape on the exterior side, then laying the skins down flat and shooting them with primer. When I do this, some primer gets into the dimple (from the underside I am priming), and kind of bounces off the sticky side of the blue tape and settles in the dimple on the finish side. Today, I made sure none of the holes were obscured; hopefully that will prevent any primer from getting on the exterior surface. I thought about taping the final rivets in the dimples, since that is the next step with the skins anyway, but I am not sure about using self-etching primer on unset rivets, then setting them. I have never seen that done before, and I don’t want to be the first guy to try. I’m sure I would have been okay, but the other way seemed to work fine.

And the right skin after priming.

After work, I put rivets in all of the dimples, taped them up, and flipped the skins over to lay the stiffeners in. One note, since I am using the tank dies, the rivet sizes must be lengthened in some places. All of the stiffener rivets were too short before setting, so I am going to substitute AN426AD3-3.5 rivets for the AN426AD3-3s called out in the plans. Except for the aft-most rivet in each row. The construction manual tells you to make sure you set this rivet fully, so I’m going to leave the shorter one in there.

See these rivets? They look okay, until you put the stiffener in

Once you get the stiffener in, you can see they aren’t the recommended 1.5 times diameter. I’m also a little concerned that the dimpled holes are a little big for the rivets. I didn’t notice this on the other components using the tank dies. Hmm. I’m going to look around and see if anyone else has encountered this.

Not long enough. (TWSS)

I was moving along merrily until I got to this hole. Doh!

Forgot to dimple this hole. I had to break out the c-frame just for this one lonely hole.

After I got all the rivets in and taped, I flipped the skin over.

These rivets will be long enough.

Then, one by one, I final trimmed the stiffeners (snipped the 90° corners off with the snips) and laid them in to see what it would look like.


A solid hour and a half. After edge prepping and priming the stiffeners, I should be ready to install the stiffeners permanently.

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Skin Devinyling, Stiffener Dimpling

February 21, 2010

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We got a ton of work done on the house this weekend (paint, patio furniture), and a little work done on the airplane.

Yesterday morning over coffee, I brought the right rudder skin into the kitchen and started devinyling. After giving it a lot of thought, I am only going to remove the vinyl (and then scuff and prime) the rudder stiffener locations right now. Later, after matchrilling the skins to the skeletons, I’ll devinyl, scuff, and prime those mating surfaces.

A couple strips done.

After finishing up the exterior side of the skin, I flipped that bad boy over and started on the interior side. I was more careful about tracing lines here, because this is where the primer will go. (Although no one will ever see the inside of the rudder skin once I have it assembled.)

Here's my wooden stick I use to devinyl in a straight line.

After finishing the right skin, I brought in the left.

Here we go. Hmm. Dog bowls are empty, I think the pups must be hungry.

Here is the interior side of the left rudder skin.

Pretty devinyled strips. I think the exterior of the skin is done, too.

Then it was off to do some errands, one of which was a stop by Harbor Freight. I got a mailing the other day, and they had some fantastic deals on some things I wanted.

7-Piece Body Repair Kit. First, the “body repair kit” was $19.99. Look at the 4 bucking bars in there! I don’t really care about the hammers, but my small bucking bar was not really cutting it for some of the rivets I needed to buck. The best improvement with these new bars…hand holds. They have little cutouts in the side for your fingers so you can get a great hold on the bar. I’m happy.

11″ Locking C-clamp. These come in handy for clamping things around flanges. I needed one of these, and ended up walking away from Harbor Freight for about $6.

3-piece locking pliers. I have a small set of needle-nose locking pliers and love them, I figured for $4.99 for 3, I couldn’t go wrong. The quality isn’t the best (the screw mechanism is a little sticky), but they should work.

6-piece presicion pliers. I have a couple of these from various places and I love them. 4 pliers, and 2 cutters. I’m most looking forward to the extra long pliers second from the top. Those will help me overcome my huge sausage fingers.

Hooray shopping.

Also, I grabbed this $19.99 air filter/regulator. I wanted a better regulator/filter/oiler, and this one looks like it will fit the bill. I hope the quality is high enough to not disappoint me.

Air filer/regulator. Should work well, and will relieve me from having to oil my tools every day.

Next, I spent a ton of time deburring the skins. I think it is something like 119 holes per skin, times two sides, times two skins. Yes, my fingers hurt. Here I am scuffing the inside of the skins after deburring.

Deburring and scuffing.

I was getting fancy with the camera, so here’s a closeup of one of the strips after deburring and scuffing.

Deburred and scuffed strip on the interior side of the skin.

And another picture of a strip before scuffing. This hole has been deburred, though. i should have taken a picture of an un-deburred hole for you. Sorry.

Deburred, but not scuffed.

While Mike Bullock has his Natty Boh, I have my Blue Moon (well, Rising Moon, their seasonal).

The moon!

Scuffing the left skin.

More scuffing.

All done!Finally, I finished scuffing the interior of the skins. After I get these all cleaned up (it will be harder to clean after dimpling) , I can get these dimpled and primed.

All done!

Here’s a nice closeup of me deburring the stiffeners.

Deburring the stiffeners.

After finishing deburring all of the stiffeners (which is two more deburr operations for each of the holes from the skins), I pulled out the squeezer and tank dies (for the skeletons, which I’m considering understructure).

I like playing with these.

I decided to go ahead and scuff and dimple the stiffeners now, while I can’t make any loud noises (post 10pm). I should have edge finished the stiffeners first, but I’ll still be able to use the scotchbrite wheel on them after they are dimpled. To save time, I’ll edge finish these while I am priming the interior of the skins later this week. Anyway, here are some dimpling shots.

Getting ready to dimple.


The end result.

A few minutes of this, and the right stiffeners are done (still not edge finished, though).

Right side stiffeners done.

Wash, rinse, repeat for the left side.

Both sets of stiffeners done. Time for bed.

2.5 hours today. Boring, tedious work, but still the most fun a man can have with his clothes on.

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Started Rudder – Stiffeners

February 16, 2010

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Well, with the vertical stabilizer safely in the airplane storage room, it’s time to get started on another part. Next up, the (infamous) rudder. There are a lot of steps on the rudder that give a lot of builders a lot of trouble. I am confident, but will continue to use other sites on a daily basis before doing any work that evening. That’s worked out well for me so far, so I’m going to keep at it.

First thing’s first, the ceremonial plans change. I still keep the plans on my second workbench. Maybe someday I’ll find a place to actually hang them up.

Drawing 7. The Rudder. (Cue dramatic music.)

I spent a little time trying to figure out whether I will do the stiffener-to-skin dance on both sides at once, or just one side. You can see below that if I had another longer piece of MDF and maybe took my vise off the bench, I could set the skins on opposite corners and maybe do them at once, but I think I’ll just do one at a time, making sure I can reuse the holes I plan to drill into the table. (Drilling, and then clecoing, the stiffeners to the skins all the way into the table will allow me to keep everything very steady. Sounds like a good plan to me, and is pretty much standard given that Van’s suggests doing so in the construction manual.)

I'll have to do one skin at a time. I don't want to get too crowded, and I am not overly concerned with building efficiency.

First step in the manual is to start on the stiffeners. I fished out the bundle of stiffeners (there are two bundles, one set for the rudder, and one set for the elevator) and studied the plans.  For the back side of the stiffeners (with the shallow angle on the right side of the picture below), these are the final cuts, so I need to be careful. For the front side (you can see a little of the front of a stiffener on the left in this picture), only 2 of the 16 stiffeners will be to full length, so the other 14 can be rough cut until I can mark them to final size per the note at the tot of this picture.

Stiffener Trim detail, drawing 7.

Next, I headed inside to sit myself down at the table so I could watch the UNC vs. GT game. I know some of you are panicking right now, but please calm yourselves. While it appears that my winerack is empty (OH MY GOD, NOOOOO!), that is really our third winerack. Rest assured that our two primary wineracks are stocked satisfactorily.

Is that an empty winerack? Don't worry, the hooch is stored in another rack.

Anyway, here’s the stiffener bundle I’m about to break open.

R-915. (I can't think of a funny caption this morning, so all you get is the part number.)

I broke open the bundle and started snipping from center hole to center hole. After a few stiffeners, I started biasing the cuts to the sides of the holes, but only where I was sure that I was going to have to remove more metal later.  Here you can see that on the top part of the cut, I’m lined up with the left side of the slot.

Snip snip.

I included another picture of the angle cut for the front end of the stiffener. Remember, only two of these cuts are for real, as the next step is to chop off varying lengths of stiffener from the front to match up with the pre-drilled holes in the skin.

Snippity Snip snip.

Here’s a rough cut for the front end. See how I am going to have to remove more metal because of the notches. Might as well get closer on the first cut. That’s why I started biasing the cuts to one side after the first few.

The front end of the first stiffener.

First 8 front ends done.

Yikes, those are going to need some edge finishing.

All 16 stiffeners’ front ends done.

That's a spicy stiffener.

Next, I used an admittedly fat sharpie to draw the required cut lines on the aft ends of each of the stiffeners.

Lines drawn, back to snipping.

And here I am using the snips to cut that longer line. Snips aren’t perfect for this task, since they bend the metal, but if you work them correctly, they will only bend the piece you are cutting off. There is kind of a rocking motion you have to feel with each cut. You’ll get it when you try.

Snipping the aft end.

Here’s the first one, done.

I'm a little camera happy today, don't you think?

Then, I finished up the other 15, and was left with these scraps. If I had even the slightest hint of an artistic bone in my body, I would make some comment about how these resulting spirals are king of cool. But I don’t, so I won’t.

Scrap from the latest cuts.

All 16, ready to be devinyled.

Done with those cuts.

Starting to devinyl…

This is going to take forever.

I’m glad I did the devinyling inside. When the vinyl is warm, it comes right off.

Holy crap that's a lot of blue v-......WHOSE TOES ARE THOSE AND HOW DID THEY GET IN THE PICTURE!?

Next, I headed outside to put everything away, but couldn’t resist setting the stiffeners out on the skins.

I'll need to trim some of these, don't you think?

For now, I just drew a thick marker line along the front spar holes. If I cut along these lines, they will still be too long, but at least now I can figure out which hole will be the most forward hole and then use the plans-suggested 1/4″ measurement to draw a nicer cut line.

8 of the 16 stiffeners, ready for final cutting.

One hour of camera-happy warm environment work tonight. Sorry about your bandwidth.

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Vertical Stabilizer 99 Percent Complete

February 15, 2010

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Jack and Ginger were a little neglected this weekend while the girlfriend and I painted the master bedroom. I’m sorry, guys.

Anyway, tonight was all about them, so in the middle of playing, napping by the fire, and running in circles around the house, I managed to calm them down enough to help with the airplane a little.

With the few minutes I had, I managed to set the 22 rivets that were hard to reach with the squeezer last Friday night. A few of them, especially near the elevator hinge brackets, were still hard, but I managed to get them all set, even if it was after drilling a few out. I also set the three AN470AD4-6 rivets that hold the rear spar to the root rib and also install the three LP4-3 rivets that hold the rear spar to the middle rib.  Here are the dogs, once I got the vertical up into the ski equipment room, umm, I mean airplane parts storage room, umm, I mean burnt orange room.

The dogs flew again. This time with directional stability!

They aren’t really happy about being in the orange room in general (it is off limits, so they are very good about not crossing the threshold), but especially not when they have to pose in the airplane. I know for a fact, though, that they will love flying in it when it’s done.

Jack's not very happy about posing. He's ready to go.Jack's slightly less uncomfortable the further he is away from the "shiny blue thing that makes loud noises." Seriously, I heard him describe it that way.

Ginger’s okay, though. Especially when there is a bone on which she could be chewing.

Jack's slightly less uncomfortable the further he is away from the "shiny blue thing that makes loud noises." Seriously, I heard him describe it that way.

Finally, one without the dogs.


All in all, a good night. 1 hour, 28 rivets set, 5 drilled out.

There are still a few more things I would like to do to the vertical, like drill out a couple of rivets and reset them, and clean up some of the skin edges, but for the most part, it can sit inside while I press on. I can’t believe it took me 16.5 hours for the vertical versus 44.5 for the horizontal. I think I would recommend to other newbies to start on the vertical. It seemed to be a lot easier, but I don’t know if that was because I had done everything once already on the horizontal, or because it really was easier. Whatever you do, don’t take my advice, though. You’ll die if you do.

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VS Skin Riveting

February 10, 2010

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After 9 days of not working on the airplane, I finally made it out to the garage. In all fairness, though, I spent all last week working out hard, and preparing for a bachelor party at Snowshoe. West Virginia, right? Yup. It was actually pretty cool there. It was in the midst of the big blizzard that bent the east coast over last week, so Showshoe got somewhere around 20 inches of snow. Legend…wait for it…dary.

Anyway, I had previously drilled out the front spar(VS-702) to tip rib (VS-706) rivets, so here are the replacements. The one on the left doesn’t look all that good, but this is my third try, and I think I am going to leave good enough alone.

Front spar to tip rib rivets. Left one sucks, but I'm not going to make it any worse.

Then, I reset the VS-704 root rib to front spar rivets. I set the middle one fine, then messed up the outer two. Drill out, and reset them just fine on the second try.

Looking good from this side.

Here’s a shot of the shop heads for those three rivets.

Here are the shop heads for those three. Not too bad.

Next, the instructions tell you to cleco on the skin and start riveting. Here’s a shot of me getting ready to rivet.

Start from the middle of the front spar and work outboard, then back to the start and work inboard. Then, rivet along the middle rib aft.

Here’s a shot of some shop heads. You’ll have to click on the picture to see them.

Nice looking shop heads. You can also see my interior skin masking practice. Looks good, doesn't it?

More shop heads.

Another shot of the shop heads for VS-702 front spar and VS-707 middle rib.

And one more…

Once I get the other side of the skin riveted, I can take off the blue vinyl from the inside of the skins.

After riveting one side of the skin, I had to head inside to watch UNC play Dook. (Yes, that is how you spell Dook.)

Starting to look like something that could fly.

One hour today. I drilled out 3 rivets , set 5 rivets on the skeleton and 39 on the left VS skin. 44 total. Booyah.

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VS skin Deburring and Dimpling

January 29, 2010

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Today, I didn’t make it outside until late, so I didn’t get a lot of work done. Here’s me starting on deburring the skin. Yes, I am using the Van’s recommended “spin a drill bit in your fingers” method. It works for me.

Action shot of me deburring.

An example of a deburred hole. The hole on the right is deburred. There is a very small chamfer on it from the oversized drill bit. It’s easier to see because it’s catching the light from above.

Deburred hole there on the right.

After deburring, I scuffed up the interior of the skin with a maroon scotchbrite pad.

Scuffed, ready to dimple.

Because it was so late, I didn’t want to break out the c-frame. I grabbed the hand squeezer and finished what I could reach.

These are regular (not "tank") dimples. No circles when you use the blue tape trick.

And here’s the vertical stabilizer skin, deburred and dimpled around the perimeter. When sound level permits, I’ll get the c-frame out and dimple the remaining holes.

Almost done with the skin.

I counted 104 holes per side for deburring. That’s 208 holes, 416 deburring operations needed. I usually spin the bit 4 times, which makes 1664 spins of the drill bit. Oww…

1.0 hour closer to being done.

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More VS work

January 26, 2010

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Last night I spent a little bit of time rearrange (cleaning) out the workshop. Now, I’ve got a little more room to maneuver. (Mostly, I just moved my second workbench a little left, and moved the shop vac over by the compressor, now the walkway to get into my workshop area is a little more open.)

Slightly different layout for the workshop. I like this.

Tonight, I started by disassembling the vertical to start the deburring, dimpling, countersinking, cleaning, priming, and then reassembly dance. Here I am set up in front of the UNC game for some deburring.

Ready to deburr some holes. Don't judge me for drinking white. We had red snapper for dinner.

After what seemed like a thousand holes to deburr, I broke out the 3/32″ tank dimple dies and the 1/8″ regular dimple dies (for the rear spar) and got ready to dimple. Dimpling is much easier than deburring, and fun, too. I know deburring is important, but I feel like I’ve made progress after dimpling.

Ready to dimple.

Then, I started dimpling the ribs and spars. Here are the 3/32″ tank dies in action.

3/32" tank dies in action.

Here I am using the 1/8″ regular (shallower) dimple dies on the rear spar. I had to triple check both the holes and the direction before proceeding. This is correct, I think. (Flush rivets on the forward side of the spar.)

1/8" dimples on the rear spar. These are my first 1/8" dimples.

After finishing dimpling, I grabbed the skin and brought it inside to devinyl. Devinyling is a lot easier indoors, where the vinyl is room temperature. I tried pulling off the horizontal stabilizer vinyl in the garage when it was near freezing, and it kept tearing and was very stiff.

Waiting for the soldering iron to heat up.

After using the soldering iron and a wooden straight edge (the metal straight edge carries heat away too quickly, and you don’t get a melt line), I got to pull off the vinyl. For some odd reason, I find devinyling very cathartic. I love pulling off the blue to see the shiny aluminum underneath.

Pulling off the vinyl on the inside of the skin.

Ready to pull off the blue vinyl on the exterior of the skin.

Ready to devinyl the outside of the skin.

And finally, the vertical stabilizer skin devinyled (and everything carried back out into the garage).

Pretty skin. Also, that's me in the reflection.

Here are the ribs and spars all deburred and dimpled. (I still have to countersink the front side of the VS-803PP.)

Ribs and spars deburred and dimpled.

Next up, countersinking the rear spar reinforcement then deburring, dimpling, and scuffing the skin. Then priming, then I get to put this sucker together.

I can’t believe how much faster the vertical is than the horizontal. Part of it is the learning curve, but I think they should have you start with the vertical. Much easier, in my opinion.

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Matchdrilled Right Side of Vertical

January 25, 2010

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No pictures tonight.

I broke out the cordless drill (quieter than the air drill) and finished matchdrilling the right side of the vertical stabilizer.

Same routine. Drill every other hole, mark with a dry-erase marker, move clecos, drill remaining holes. Because the root forward rib gave me a little trouble when clecoing during initial assembly, I had 100% clecoed it. For this area, I removed one cleco, matchdrilled, then replaced the cleco. I just didn’t want it to move around on me at all.

Since I forgot to take a picture, here’s another picture of Jack and Ginger.

Ginger all up in your business, Jack in the background.

Half an hour. Not bad for a night I wasn’t planning on working on the airplane.

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