More work on the Counterbalance Skin

July 20, 2010

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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!

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Bent Right Elevator Trailing Edge

April 28, 2010

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What a great night in the shop tonight. And, the airplane actually forced me to get something done on the house!

After work today, I needed to stop by the Aviation Depot to buy some hinges, wood, and an 1/8″ dowel rod for elevator trailing edge bending.

Since we’ve been wanting to upgrade the hardware in our house for awhile, I decided to buy the nice hinges, and used the replaced hinges for my bending brake.  Here’s a shot of our powder room door, mid-installation.

Top hinge is the new “oil-rubbed bronze” hinge. Bottom hinge is the old (builder standard) hinge. Looks a lot better.

Up close. I like the new one a lot better. (Later, I went around and made sure all of the crosses in the screw heads were straight up and down. It’s an anal retentive thing I do, especially with light switch plates.)

Anyway, after a ton of VAF research, Orndorff video watching, and builder website reading, I settled on the “other” method, which puts the hinges on the long face, and really only bends with the short side of the 2×4 (or 2×8 cut in half). You really only want that much bending the skin anyway, because the bend needs to occur locally at the radius, not away from the trailing edge. If the wood is imparting force in the middle of the skin, you will end up with the dreaded “bulge.”

Here’s my bending brake being assembled. I had six hinges, so why use them. I grabbed these 2×4, which were nice and straight, and just long enough for the trailing edge. I’ll need to replace these for the flaps and ailerons. I read somewhere they need to be more like 5 feet long for those.

Here it is after assembly. On the left, you can see my skin, that needs to be bent. In the middle, the three dowel rods I purchased. While I was standing in the store, 1/8″ seemed too small, so I bought a few different sizes at $0.50 each. Of course, everyone was right on, 1/8″ is perfect.

I’m going to put the trailing edge of the skin in the little opening at the bottom of the brake (as it is oriented in the picture).

First thing,  I screwed my bending brake to my 2nd workbench with one of the bending surfaces flush with the bench top.

Bending brake, installed.

Then, I put the 1/8″ dowel into the trailing edge of the skin and taped it in place. (Not shown in the following picture, because I was recreating the process for the camera. Look 2 pictures down for the dowel rod.) Then, you put the skin in the brake all the way against the hinges, and start bending.

This is not a fast process. It takes a surprising amount of force. I thought it was going to be a one shot deal, but it takes a lot of bending. You start with the skin against the hinges, then bend around the dowel. That took a whole bunch of times (I was stopping a lot to inspect). Then, you move the skin a little away from the hinge, and bend again. This allows you to really form the edge around the dowel.

If you pretend there is a dowel rod in there, this would be the first bend.

Here’s where I could get to with the dowel rod in place.

About halfway there.

Then, you remove the dowel rod and keep going, same deal, but a lot more gently, because I didn’t want to squeeze the trailing edge too much (now there is no dowel rod to prevent squash-age.

I thought this was good enough, but this is about 3/4 the way there.

Of course, because I thought that was good enough, I clecoed the skeleton into the skin.

It’s starting to look like something that could be considered an elevator.

But, after grabbing my straightedge, I’m getting some “fall-off” before the radius. This happens because the radius hasn’t been formed well, and then you pull the skin down to the skeleton, and it bends close to the trailing edge. It’s not terrible, but I know I can do better.

It’s not the dreaded bulge, but it is some pretty good “fall-off.”

Another shot.

No good here either.

Near the inboard edge.

Hmm. I unclecoed, and grabbed this shot. I’m about an inch from where I need to be, and the tension I am putting on the skin to pull it to the skeleton is causing that slight bend near the trailing edge.

About an inch.

I put that bad boy back in the brake and kept going. This time, I used two BFPs (the “p” stands for pliers. I’ll let you figure out the “b” and “f”) on either side of the brake and finished it up nicely.

More bending.

There we go. I made up that last inch, and now it rests right where the skeleton would go.

Much better. Perfect, in fact.

Here’s an end-on shot.

How great is this? A perfect bend.

Let’s get out the straightedge.

No fall-off before the radius.

Another place on the elevator.

And again, no fall-off. So happy!

After all that, I pulled the vinyl off of the outside of the elevator skins in preparation for deburring.

Hey! There’s shiny aluminum under there. Let’s start putting this bad boy together.

Total, it was two hours tonight, including bending brake construction. It was a great 2 hours though. I am extremely happy with the results. I have a perfectly bent trailing edge.


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Right Elevator Stiffeners and Priming

April 12, 2010

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Today was pretty boring. All I did was trim the aft end of right elevator’s stiffeners and prime the two spar reinforcement plates.

Here's half of my right elevator stiffeners.

Of course, I finished deburring, edge finishing, and cleaning the two right elevator spar reinforcements. I even got the girlfriend involved. She took the parts inside and scrubbed them down with dawn. Now it really is “our” airplane.

Two spar reinforcements, primed on one side.

While that one side was drying, I finished up with the stiffener trimming. Here’s a shot of my weapon of choice.

Stiffeners and snips.

After I finished my first 7 stiffeners, I laid them into the skin, just for kicks.

Stiffener work is boring, but it means that there is backriveting coming soon, and I love backriveting.

Drink of choice tonight (only during piddly stuff, never during “real” construction): Rum and Coke. Mmm. Rum.

Rum. Coke. Stiffeners. Sharpie. And a damn dirty workbench. (Those splotches are ski-wax drippings.)

Anyway, I think it was an hour tonight, including the 5 minutes of double duty with the girlfriend’s help. I’m gonna get her to help more.

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More Trailing Edge Work

March 28, 2010

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After last night’s bad fitting trailing edge, I decided to mark where the dimples weren’t sitting properly, and enlarge the countersink ever so slightly.

The problem is that if you make the countersink large enough to accept the dimple perfectly, you create a knife-edge on the wedge. I guess that is why they have you use the aluminum as a drill guide for the countersink bit. After deburring the few knife edges that I got, it ended up working pretty well, but some of the holes are enlarged a little. With the pro-seal and the double-flush rivets, I am not too worried, but it still bugged me a little. It appears other builders have run into this issue as well.

Another shot of the not so good trailing edge before enlarging the countersinks.

Before I thought I would be able to tackle the rest of the trailing edge today, I got some of the “not-reachable-with-the-squeezer” rivets. here’s a shot of some shop heads for the counterbalance skin to skin rivets.

Decent shop heads.

I also finished up the rivets for the counterbalance rib.

More shop heads.

Then, I installed and removed the counterbalance enough to be able to file away some weight so the lead cleared the shop heads of the interfering rivets.

Nice tight fit today.

Here's the counterbalance. The best file for this left big cutouts, so don't judge me for these.

I also finished dimpling the tip rib and got it edge-finished, cleaned, and primed.

Waiting for primer to dry is like watching a pot of water boil. I can't complain though. It's dry to the touch in about 15 minutes.

Even though that was plenty of work for the day, I decided to tackle the trailing edge. I had everything I needed (Lowe’s didn’t have any RTV, but then I remembered I had some at home from my motorcycle habit, so I was in luck).

Here's me attempting to design a way to keep the trailing edges apart. This sucked, and I ended up using scrap 2x4 in between the stiffeners.

Here’s my tools. RTV, MEK, gloves (I used about 8 pairs) and the tank sealant.


Don the gloves, and get ready to mix. I had to read the directions about 15 times before I understood. The hardener (I think) is in the tube part of the plunger. You stick the black piece (behind the big tube) into the hole in the plunger, and as you push the plunger from the bottom to the top, you push the black part so the hardener in the plunger is expelled into the larger tube. Confused yet?

Ready to mix. (I've already cleaned all of the parts.

After pushing the black piece (back on the table now) up to start the mixing process, you twist the plunger head while moving up and down, which starts to mix.

This is after about 75 strokes, which is what the directions say you have to do. I had to keep going. (I may have been doing something wrong, I don't know.) I kept going after this to get a more uniform "black death" color.

Then you unscrew the plunger shaft and screw in the nozzle. Okay, where is my caulking gun? I don’t have a caulking gun. OH MY GOD I FORGOT A CAULKING GUN.

Here it is fully mixed.

That’s okay, I just stuck the handle of a large screwdriver down the tube and it worked great.

Here's one side, ready to be spread out. I put a dab between each hole, and then used a scrap piece of aluminum to spread it out nice and evenly.

Another shot. This seemed to be an appropriate amount of sealer.

After that step, things started getting messy, and I had to change gloves a lot (it gets everywhere), so I stopped taking pictures. After I got both sides covered, I laid it into the scuffed and cleaned trailing edge area of the skin.

Look how good that looks. (Also, you can see my 2x4 spacers.)

Another shot.

Of course, I did a marvelous job putting a perfectly penny sized glob of RTV on the last (aft rivet) of the stiffeners before I removed the wood spacers and closed up. (The wood spacer near the bottom of the rudder was a pain in my ass. I lifted up the trailing edge a little with the top skin, so it stopped squeezing the block, and of course the block slid down toward the front of the rudder. Of course now I can’t let go, but I’m too far away from the other workbench to reach all of my long-reach tools. Ever see one of those situations where a guy has one foot in a boat and one foot on the dock, and he’s stretching and stretching? That was me. Except I finally reached a BFS (big freaking screwdriver) and managed to get the block out without contaminating any tank sealant or RTV.

Here's a blurry shot of the bottom RTV glob. Glob is a technical term.

Then, I got the rudder clecoed to the angle, wiped off any excess sealant, and moved the hole thing to the top shelf of my workbench.

Storage, kind of. I'm going to leave this for a whole week while I start on the elevators.

I think it was 11 rivets.  2 hours before the trailing edge, one hour for the trailing edge. The next post is still from today, but I am tracking it in another section and in another column for total time, so it’s getting its own post.

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More Small Rudder Parts Priming and Devinyling

March 15, 2010

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First thing after today’s realization that I had forgotten to dimple before priming, I rushed home and grabbed the tank dies to prime the #40 holes.

Let's get ready to dimple...

No problem to dimple after priming. (There was a little bit of twist after dimpling, but no big deal, the rivets will hold this thing together.)

Slight twisting after dimpling.

The only way you can tell I dimpled after priming is that the dreaded dimple circle is visible, because the outer edge of the dies mars, (maybe polishes?) the primer a little. You can see it in the pictures.

Dimpling after priming worked fine. See the circle marks?

Here’s the other side.

Looks good to me.

After I finished both, here they are on the table. Crisis averted. (Not really, I would have just re-primed them.)

These will do.

Then, inside to grill some dinner, then back out to do more edge finishing, cleaning, and priming. I grabbed R-606PP and R-607PP  (lower and middle spar reinforcements) along with R-617 (shim) and finished the edges with the scotchbrite wheel.  Once complete. I took them inside, cleaned them with dawn detergent, and brought them back out to dry and prime. Here’s a priming shot.

From left to right: R-606PP, R-607PP, and R-617.

Next, I looked around and grabbed the R-912 counterbalance rib and did some edge finishing and dimpling. Here’s a dimpling shot.


Same deal with with the R-903 tip rib and the R-710 horn brace. Here’s the horn brace.

More dimples.

After the primer dried on the three pieces I primed tonight, I put them back on the table and examined my progress. Still a long way to go.

A shot of the "table of small rudder parts."

Enough work outside for the night. I grabbed the soldering gun, my wooden straightedge, and the R-913 counterbalance skin and headed inside to devinyl.

Pretty, but maybe overkill.

I decided to leave some of the vinyl on here to save on primer on the inside and protect the finish on the outside. I think the amount of primer weight I am going to save by masking with the vinyl is minuscule compared to the parts I will inevitably need to re-prime. But, if I pulled off all the vinyl, and primed the entire interior surface, I would always know I was carrying around more primer than I needed to be. (It’s all about figuring out what you can sleep with at night.) While I am sure I will add more than plenty of unnecessary weight in other areas (all of the nutplates I am going to add), not doing this would make me feel lazy.

R-913 Counterbalance skin interior.

Next, I grabbed the R-901-R (right rudder skin)0 and pulled it inside to devinyl. Notice on the left that I made the cuts on the trailing edge (rudder is upside down in this picture) but haven’t pulled off the vinyl? I am going to leave the vinyl on while I prime the rest of the bare metal areas, then remove the trailing edge vinyl. This area doesn’t need to be primed, as it will get scuffed up with a scotchbrite before using Pro-seal to glue the two skin trailing edges and trailing edge wedge together.

Look at me, I've thought ahead!

Another shot of the right rudder skin, this time right-side-up. (Also, my fancy-pants wooden straight edge and a glass of 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel.)

Next, I flipped that bad boy over and did the exterior. Here’s a shot before I’ve pulled some of the vinyl off.

I probably should have pulled more of the vinyl off of the leading edge, but it was just two more lines, and now I have a little protection on the leading edge while I am rolling and assembling.

Repeat for the left skin, and then I took both back outside and stored the left skin on the top shelf of my second toolbench.

I'm embarrassed that I don't have a one-piece shelf for the top shelf of my workbench. Don't judge me.

And a finished shot of the right skin, back out on the workbench.

I like these devinyled pieces. Can't explain it, but I like them.

I was using the clock in the kitchen to mark my progress, and decided I was going to stop at 9:30pm to head to bead…except (yeah, you know where this is going)…I forgot to reset that clock after the time change. It was actually 10:30pm and I had put in 2.5 hours. Great for airplane progress, bad for my sleep debt. I’m not going to put in any time tomorrow, need to catch up on sleep. See you in a couple days.

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Picked up empennage, inventoried

December 29, 2009

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Well, I’m officially a homebuilder.

After checking FedEx’s tracking website, I saw that they tried to deliver the boxes on Christmas Eve, then again on the 28th and today, the 29th. I arrived home yesterday from the Keys around 5pm, so while enroute, I called fedex to have hen hold the packages at the local facility.

When I got to FedEx, they found the smaller package, but insisted it was the only one. “Hmm, usually they ship them together. Guy said, “if there were two, there would be a ‘1 of 2’ on the label.”

“You sure? Van’s charged me for shipping both packages.” (Although, you may remember that the tracking number online indicated only one package.)



When I got home, I checked the fedex exception slip on the door and sure enough, the driver indicated there were two packages. I drove back out to the FedEx place and pointed this out.

“Oh yeah, we saw another (bigger) package with ‘high dollar aircraft parts” on it, is that yours?”


He continued. “You should have said something when you were here before.”


I can’t complain too much, they tried to get me my tail kit on Christmas eve, so thank you to FedEx. Also, I’ll give Van’s some credit for beating their estimate.

Anyway, I got them home. Because I was gone for the last week, we did Christmas tonight. (Girlfriend, Jack (black lab/Italian greyhound), and Ginger (German shephard/American staffordshire terrier) all exchanged gifts.)

I slapped a bow on each kit, and Jack gave me one, and Ginger gave me the other. Thanks, pups, for the gifts. (How did you guys wrap those boxes without any thumbs? “It was ruff,” Jack said. Ha. Dog joke.) I managed to get away with this because the girlfriend got a trip to a Central American country from Ginger, so the airplane was not a big deal.

Here are the two boxes on my workbench.

Boxes on the workbench.

Starting to unwrap everything. Not surprisingly, (from other builders sites), everyhing was well wrapped and packaged. Van’s delivers the tail kit in subkits, so you have to take out the subkits, unwrap those, then inventory.

Here are the first few subkits.

First few subkits

Here’s the stuff from the 1st subkit.

1st subkit unpacked

And the second subkit.

Second subkit

Here are the fiberglass tips (I can’t remember if this is the third subkit or not.)

Fiberglass empennage tips.

And all the paper from the small box alone…

Paper from just the small box.

Then my iphone died, so I kept unpacking and inventorying (verb?) until I could snap this picture of everything in the kit except the hardware.

Everything upacked, except hardware.

Here’s a picture of the hardware.

Here are the hardware bags.

And then all the paper from the whole kit. (I left the boxes out of the picture.)

That's a lot of paper.

Then I put everything away user my second workbench. Top shelf was horizontal parts on front, vertical parts on back. Middle shelf is elevator parts on front and rudder parts in back. Bottom shelf is skins. I left the hardware in bags for now, I need to stop by harbor freight tomorrow and pick up another storage bin.

Here’s my empty workbench, ready for the real start tomorrow. And here’s a picture of my second bench, with all the airplane parts in it.

Ready to go for tomorrow. Sorry about the weird angle.

I’m counting the inventory hours as build hours, because of the organization and learning part. Some people don’t count them, but I think it is an important part of the process. 1.5 hours.

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Built Another Workbench

September 20, 2009

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I was bored this weekend, and thinking more about shop layout. I am very happy so far with the first EAA workbench I built, but I want another one against the wall in my garage, to have some space for a bench grinder, bandsaw, and drill press.  As you can see from the pictures, I added 2 additional shelves (for a total of three). The top two are spaced at 6 inches (5.25 after adding 3/4″ plywood/MDF) and the bottom one was fitted so the 2×4 crossbrace is on the floor (even with the bottom of the main support leg, a couple inches off the floor after adding casters.)

See the nice workbench in the background? That's the new one.

See the nice workbench in the background? That's the new one.

Here's a closeup. Notice the two extra shelves? That should be nice to store some airplane parts. Also, take note of the $20 swivel stool purchased from Northern Tool. I couldn't resist. Sorry. Also, please forgive the top shelf. I ran out of MDF, so I had to put the scrap pieces there for the sake of the picture. Again, please accept my apologies.

Here's a closeup. Notice the two extra shelves? That should be nice to store some airplane parts. Also, take note of the $20 swivel stool purchased from Northern Tool. I couldn't resist. Sorry. Also, please forgive the top shelf. I ran out of MDF, so I had to put the scrap pieces there for the sake of the picture. Again, please accept my apologies.

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EAA Workbench Completed

August 30, 2009

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After some planning about space and layout in the garage, I decided to dive into the construction of a workbench. I’ve heard (and seen on some builder’s sites) some of the EAA 1000 Workbenches, and I thought that would be a good first workbench. I’ll use that one for awhile before building a second one, hopefully with some improvements.

UPDATE: I built a second one. See the other post for pictures of the second one.

EAA Chapter 1000 Standard workbench plans.
EAA Chapter 1000 Standard workbench instructions.

Here’s a couple before pictures of my garage.

Workbench Construction 008

I love the lighting. There was a single incandescent bulb in the gargage before. Also, I lined the garage doors with some double sided bubble foil I bought off eBay. I would say adding that decreased the temperature in my garage in the middle of the summer by 10 degrees. Good investment.

Workbench Construction 009

I also installed pegboard along the entire NW wall and on the half of the SE wall that wasn't finished. The tools are just thrown up on the wall for now; I promise to get organized before I purchase the empennage kit.

Workbench Construction 010

Some shelves I built early after moving in for more space. Look closely, and you can see my cornhole boards supporting some old laptop speakers. When hooked up to my iPhone, they are loud enough to hear through my hearing protection (which I use religiously with power tools).

Workbench Construction 011

Smaller shelves on the SE wall (and more pegboard). Good for tools.

Workbench Construction 013

Here's the top of the workbench (you build from the top down). Instead of 5 feet (60"), I decided to do 6 feet (72"). I added another rib (airplane talk!) which makes the spacing 14.1" on center (Instead of the ~15" mentioned in the EAA plans).

Workbench Construction 015

The legs and leg doublers got cut and mocked up. And no, I am not working barefoot.

Workbench Construction 016

Then I built the lower shelf unit (using scrap wood for spacing).

Workbench Construction 017

It's actually starting to look like a workbench.

Workbench Construction 018

After adding the other leg doublers, I fastened some 200 lb locking casters on the bottom. I stuck to the plans on height (33") because I knew the casters would add a few inches. My sawhorses were built to 36", and I am happy with that height. The finished work bench is pretty close to 36".

Workbench Construction 021

Flipped and looking like a workbench.

Then I cut some Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) for the benchtop, overhanging each side by about 3". I've been told to do this so I can clamp airplane parts to the bench more easily. Figuring I'd be replacing the top a few times during the project, I secured it down with some countersunk screws. Hopefully I'll get the vise bolted down in the next few days.

Then I cut some Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) for the benchtop, overhanging each side by about 3". I've been told to do this so I can clamp airplane parts to the bench more easily. Figuring I'd be replacing the top a few times during the project, I secured it down with some countersunk screws. Hopefully I'll get the vise bolted down in the next few days.

Is this where I say, “Ta Daaaa…”?

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