Monthly Archives: March 2014

A clean start… (and some more rudder work)

Rivet count: +25 bringing us to 328!

Shop temp: An awesome 63F!

I’d been aching to get back out to the shop and work on the rudder all week. ¬†The vstab was pretty straightforward, but the rudder has some more challenging bits to get to….

However… that wasn’t the main focus of yesterday’s work ūüė¶

There were several nagging bits of work to do in the shop.  There was the broken light, there was a nice cubby shelf sitting uselessly off on the canted section of the garage floor,  There was all the sawdust and aluminum dust and shavings and bits of blue plastic littering the overflowing trashcan, there was the pile of cardboard boxes shoved off onto one side, and there was my beautiful vertical stabilizer sitting on the one comfortable chair that really needed to be up on the wall somewhere.

Oh, and I had to move a car into one half of my shop! ¬†A friend of mine moved to Seattle and I’m holding his car for a while until he can arrange to have it shipped. ¬†This put a strain on the garage and driveway space at home for a while, but was manageable. ¬†But on Monday, half of the home garage goes into a staging ground for our master bedroom remodel¬†AND we are parking a dumpster on half of the driveway. ¬†Clearly, my buddy’s car was gonna have to move!

It was a lovely day (weather-wise), so I hauled all the boxes out of the shop and started sweeping. ¬†I filled a large contractor’s bag full of sweepings and bits of wood and packing plastic. ¬†Then I rearranged the shop so that the left bay had all the EAA tables and the right side was empty.

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With that done, I finally replaced the broken light fixture

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Online, I saw lots of shots of airplane parts hung up on the walls to keep them out of harms way. ¬†Not a lot of detail on how to actually do it though. ¬†I wanted something to support the parts so they would not get distorted. ¬†I ended up ripping a notch in a piece of 2×4 and making a shelf.

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The 2×4 supports the base of the vstab. The 5/8″ notch is deep enough to allow the skin edge bottom to hang freely without putting any pressure on it. ¬†It is wide enough (2 table saw blades wide) to provide clearance for the rivets. ¬†A strap (with some carpet bits for padding) completes the system.

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With all that done, my lovely wife came by for lunch. ¬†We got my friend’s car manuevered through the narrow driveway and past the rental tenant’s dead panel van and into the garage. Then we had a nice lunch at the Silver Lake Cafe.

After a quick trip back home and a few chores to make a small deposit into the bank of marital bliss, it was back to the shop to pick up the rudder work.

First, I re-cleco’d the main spar, doubler plates, horn and counterbalance rib back into place.

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Then it was back to riveting.  It was easy to get a squeezer on most of the rivets, but the horn was a bit tighter.  So I swapped out the standard yoke for the longeron yoke

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The only hitch was finding some K1000-6 nutplates. ¬†Parts sleuthing takes a much larger part of my time than I would like. ¬†Many of the parts bags are simply labeled with cryptic “misc parts and rivets.” ¬†There was a rough picture on the plans page, but it wasn’t clear exactly what I was looking for. ¬†I dug around online and found a picture before remembering that there was a hardware guide in the infamous “Section 5.”

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I added a tab to make it easier to find. ¬†It has full size diagrams of all the nut plates used in the build ¬†After digging around some more, I found the K1000-6’s in a bag labeled “Empennage Bearings.” ¬†In retrospect, that makes sense because I will eventually screw the bearings into these very same nut plates.

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I had a bit of time left to start doing final deburring on the many stiffeners and shear plates before calling it quits to go play bridge with some friends.

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Next up… more rudder stiffeners, some primer work, and back riveting!


It’s a project! (the rudder continued)

One of my family sayings is that “It isn’t a project until you’ve cut yourself.” ¬†Well, today, the rudder is officially a project! ¬†I caught my knuckle on a burr and got an small cut. ¬†At least blood doesn’t effect aluminum as much as it does wood!

Today was another bifurcated day. ¬†We’ve picked our contractor and we’ll start ripping up the master bedroom nine days from now. ¬†But I had to rush home to meet the contractor to sign the final documents. ¬†I got a lot done none-the-less!

I picked up trimming the rudder stiffeners.  The first three cuts went great.  Then, a small sliver of aluminum slipped down into the saw and cut the timing belt!

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It did not cut all the way through, but now the belt slips off and so I’ll need to order a replacement. ¬†That meant that I had to finish with my straight cut snips. ¬†That worked just fine. ¬†I left a small allowance and then used my belt sander to finish. ¬†One of the stiffeners ended up a little over sanded, but it fits just fine.

The skins were next. ¬†There are a couple of quick modifications called out in the instructions. ¬†You need to cut off a small tab on the counterweight cover on both skins and trim 3/32″ from just the right skin.

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I had an edge gauge that I had brought from my home shop to help make my daughter’s triangle loom (I needed an accurate line 1/4″ in from the edge). ¬†This was perfect. ¬†Now normally, one doesn’t want to scratch through the aluminum, but here I was planning on filing down below the scratch mark anyhow. ¬†I almost made a big mistake when I set the gauge on 3/16″ instead of 3/32″, but it was clear that that would make the edge allowance for the rivet holes much too small. ¬†So, I backed off the gauge to the proper depth and it make a really nice line — much easier to cut to than a wide Sharpie line.

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I cut to within a 1/16″ with my straight cutters and used the bastard file to take it to the line and then the fine file and scotchbrite to finish it off.

There’s a lot of other little fixes to apply to the skins. ¬†Several of the edges need to be bent over just a little bit to help them sit flush. ¬†Thin skins have a tendency to curl up when riveted near their edges. ¬†This little turned edge helps it stay flat. ¬†On the rudder; the front rolled edge, the trailing edge, and the counterweight cover all need this edge done. ¬†If I was a big metal shop, I could do it in a brake, but I don’t have one. ¬†You can do it with a small hardwood block with a groove in it, but it’s hard to get a consistent edge. ¬†Or some shops sell a small pair of rollers on a block to try to bend over just a 1/4″ of the sheet. Or you can buy a small specialty tool to help you do it. ¬†I did the later. ¬†Cleaveland Aircraft Tools (Iowa, not Ohio!) has a nice little edge former tool built up from a pair of vice grip pliers. ¬†There are enough places that I need to do it that it seemed worthwhile to get the proper tool to do it.

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The roller on the top forms a small bend. ¬†If the grip is set right, it works like a charm. ¬†If it is too tight it can stretch the skin (or just get stuck). ¬†I was very pleased with how this small edge formed. ¬†I had more trouble with wandering on the longer edges, but the edge seems fine. ¬†You also have to drill one hole in each skin out to #30 and dimple. ¬†I haven’t looked far enough ahead to see what that is for. ¬†It must be hard to reach later. ¬†With all that done, I smoothed and deburred both rudder skins. ¬†I did the work on my dimpling table which is about 8 inches higher than my work tables. ¬†It really put the skins at a nice height and simplified the fine file, deburr, sand, scotchbrite steps. ¬†The edges came out really nice! ¬†One interesting thing to note is that when you look closely, you can definitely see how the CNC cuts the skins. ¬†There is a clear case of the “jaggies” where the cutter moves over one unit of space to try to keep the line straight. ¬†This requires a lot of careful filing to fix. ¬†I also primed the insides of the skins (and the counterweight cover edge). ¬†I taped off where the trailing edge goes (I do read ahead!) so that I can scuff that to glue in the wedge later on.

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The next big step is to assemble the spar. ¬†This means that I need the parts finished and primed. ¬†I could skip ahead and finish the riblets now, but I think I’ll get the spar together first so I can stay in order. ¬†I finally got an adapter for my bench grinder so now both fine and medium ScotchBrite wheels are spinning. ¬†The wheel made quick work of the spar, all the doubler plates, the top/bottom/counterweight ribs, the shim, and the rudder horn.

Oh!  Nice surprise.  I noticed that the tip rib has the forward third of its holes pre-dimpled!  This area is really tight.  No room for a squeezer and probably a tight fit for the pop-rivet dimpler.  Vans just went ahead and did a couple for you.

The rudder horn needs a lot of attention because it fits into a very small slot in the bottom of the skin. ¬†At least one builder didn’t taper it enough and put a nasty small crack in his skin. ¬†See this thread for details.

After getting the parts all nice and smooth, I scuffed the faces (lightly) with ScotchBrite and cleaned them off with acetone. ¬†I was careful to remember which side faced the spar (the instructions remind you to mark that side). ¬†But the acetone removes the marker! ¬†So, as soon as I finished, I marked the side with blue Sharpie again. ¬†The “lore” says that you will be able to see the mark through the primer….. And you can!

With these parts all primed…

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…I can assemble the spar. ¬†Then the riblets get set for a test fitting and match drilling. ¬†Then the rudder starts going together! ¬†That is, if I can find two missing screws… I looked through all the bags, but I cannot find the counterweight screws. ¬†They are .9″ long, 5/16″ Phillips head screws, but I cannot seem to find them anywhere! ¬†Oh well! ¬†Another email to builder support!

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I’m flying my daughter back to college tomorrow, so no extra build time this weekend (sad face), but I will be flying (so happy face!).

Vertical stabilizer done! (for now) and the many, many small parts in the rudder

Rivet count: 303

Garage Temp: 28-40F

I just got back from a business trip, my daugher is back from college for Spring break. and we’re having a contractor in to look at some house upgrades, so it was a busy weekend. ¬†I had to make some deposits in the bank of family harmony rather than spend the weekend in the shop. ¬†I did manage to get two half days in however (thanks Honey!)/

This weekend was all about assembling the vstab. ¬†Everything was pretty much ready last week except some countersinking and dimpling on the rear spar doubler. ¬†On Saturday, I dove right in. ¬†First step, countersink the big spar doubler…

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I used one of my countersink cages.  It took a few tries to get the depth right.  I started with a test hole in a piece of angle left over from the EAA workshop.  Even with the cage, you still have to be careful.  You have to keep the cage perpendicular to the surface and take care not to push too hard or you end up with an oversized countersink.

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The picture is a little blurry, but it shows the countersinks on the forward side of the doubler.  The orange tape is to remind me not to countersink that hole (it is used later when the vstab is attached to the fuselage).  I countersunk a little deeper than normal because this is a sub-structure, so a dimple in the spar sits in the countersink rather than an rivet head.

With that done, I dimpled the spar and put the pieces back together:

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I was able to squeeze all of these with my hand squeezer. ¬†The 1/8″ rivets are a bit of work to get going, but they came out rather nice. ¬†You have to take care to watch the plans. ¬†Most of the rivets are placed with their manufactured heads on the aft side of the spar, but the flush rivets on the bottom of the spar have their manufactured heads forward. ¬†The aft ones are done that way so that there is less interference when the skin is riveted on a few steps later.

With that out of the way, it was time to put the framework back together. ¬†The plans note (in bold) to be careful with the order. ¬†At least one RV14 builder didn’t pay attention and then had to work a lot harder to get his assembled. ¬†The idea is to assemble the forward spar and ribs first. ¬†Then the skin is added on. ¬†Then, the rear spar is added. ¬†This can be done with just three pop rivets (for the center rib). ¬†Everything else is reachable. ¬†Here’s the forward spar and ribs… time to squeeze 8 whole rivets!

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Next, the skin goes back on. ¬†I was worried that it might be a tight fit after dimpling everything. ¬†I needn’t have worried. ¬†It all went back together without any real fiddling. ¬†I started at the nose with a cleco on each side, then worked my way back along the ribs one side at a time. ¬†Take note of the Sanka coffee can. ¬†I don’t drink coffee (and most doesn’t come in cans anymore either!). ¬†My father-in-law gave me all of his old clecos and the can came along for the ride. ¬†I think of him (and the BD-5 he never quite finished) whenever I reach for a cleco!

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With the preliminaries done, it was time to get down to business. ¬†No more squeezing a couple rivets around a flange or two. ¬†No, it was time to break out the tungsten bucking bar and the rivet gun! ¬†The bar is very dense and very hard. ¬†It makes a really nice surface to set the rivets against. ¬†I wrapped the bar in some tape so that it wouldn’t mar the inside rib surface so much. 2014-03-08 13.00.13

I put a towel down inside the assembly in case I dropped the bar (as it was sure to leave a mark!). ¬†You start at the center rib intersection and then work to the top, then back to the bottom, then to the aft surface. ¬†It was a little unnerving. ¬†I hadn’t driven any rivets since the class (the back riveting on the forward spar hardly counts!). ¬†These were all going to be visible¬†forever! ¬†It was a bit hard to see whether they shop head was the right size, but they seemed OK when I got the gauge on them. ¬†On Saturday, I finished all the interior rivets and most of the edge rivets (I squeezed most of those). ¬†I messed up a rivet in the nose and decided to call it quits for the day (and to get back in time for the contractor who was visiting).

I picked up again Sunday afternoon. ¬†First order of business was drilling out the bad rivet. ¬†I read a hint about using drill bits meant for plastic. ¬†These have really sharp 60 degree tips. ¬†It makes it a lot easier to get started with out the drill wandering around. ¬†I also used a punch to have a really sure starting point. ¬†You can see how nicely it starts! ¬†It is a 1/8″ bit so I just use it to get the hole going and then switch to a #40 bit to finish drilling through the head.¬†2014-03-09 12.31.36

Next, you put a pin punch into the hole and break off the rivet head.

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Then just punch the rest of the rivet through and you’re done! ¬†The blue here is from the Sharpie mark I left on Saturday so I would remember to drill this one out.

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The rest of the riveting was time consuming, but mostly uneventful. ¬† With the whole assembly riveted together, it felt very strong and it is is extremely light. ¬†The rear spar went on pretty quickly. ¬†Right after driving the first couple of rivets, I had a terrible thought! ¬†Remember the towel I was using inside the skins to keep the skin from denting… ¬† I remembered it then too! ¬†I peeked through the lightening holes to see if I could spy it, terrified about leaving it rattling around inside there. ¬†Then, I noticed that I had put the shop towel off to the side with some other tools. ¬†Sigh! ¬†Of course it wasn’t in there! ¬†I had carefully shaken everything out because I didn’t want any chips or extra dust in there. ¬†With that, the vertical stabilizer is done! ¬†(Well, until I add the fiberglass tip and farings later on).

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To celebrate, I updated the background image to show the vstab in green (done) and the rudder in red (in progress!).


There wasn’t a lot of time left in the day as I needed to head home and cook dinner (turkey legs, mashed potatoes and gravy, zucchini, and strawberries), but I wanted to at least get started. ¬†The rudder parts are spread through a number of the part “sub-kits.” ¬†The ribs were pretty easy to spot as were the rudder horn and the stiffeners. ¬†The trailing edge is manufactured (by you!) from a longer edge (actually a longer part from an RV-10) so it has a label in the initial part diagram, but is not in the inventory. ¬†No, the hard parts to find are the small doubler plates (R-606PP, R-608PP, R-609PP). ¬†They are not listed in the inventory. ¬†They are not in the “miscellaneous” clear plastic bag (where the VS-01401 was hiding). ¬†Noooo… the three plates are hiding in a small brown bag labeled “small empennage parts.” ¬† One is labeled, the other two have no label (but match the part layout).

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The rudder has a surprising number of small parts. ¬†Most of them need to be cut apart from larger partially CNC’c parts and then trimmed or smoothed to fine angles to fit inside the trailing edge. I got most of the parts cut out and rough smoothed on my belt sander. ¬†It did a great job in quickly grinding off the little tabs left over from the cutting. ¬†I did most of the bandsaw cutting by hand, but the stiffeners were a bit intimidating. ¬†They need to be cut to a rather fine point. ¬†My plan was to run them through the bandsaw to get them close and then use the belt sander to get them properly sized. ¬†I remember another builder cleco’d his to a piece of wood and then ran it through the saw. ¬†This worked well. ¬†All the stiffeners have the same geometry at their point, so I only need two pairs of holes (left and right stiffeners). ¬†Then I can work through the block of wood with my fingers safely away from the blade. ¬†“We don’t have time for a trip to the emergency room,” my Mom always said!

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So, the parts are all found and roughly hewn from their blocks.  I still have a lot of deburring and smoothing to do before I get going next time, but at least I have a good start!

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Ready to assemble the vertical stabilizer (almost)

Rivet count: 10

Garage Temp: 18F – 37F

My father-in-law keeps asking how many rivets left to go… Since the last parts of the kit aren’t ready yet, I don’t have the actual count of what’s left to go. ¬†The online estimates I’ve found so far are 14,000 to 16,000 rivets. ¬†So I’ve got a ways to go!

When last we met, the vertical stabilizer was assembled with clecos and match drilled.  It kinda looked like it belonged on an airplane.

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Then I had to take it all apart!  I got as far as taking the skin off last week (and deburred it as well).

Today, I started working on all those parts that hold it together, the ribs and two main spars. ¬†As I took each piece off the main skeleton, I first did a quick deburr of the holes so I wouldn’t forget. ¬†Then I did a rough smoothing of the edges. ¬†The “standard” test is to run your finger along the edge. ¬†If it draws blood, it is too rough! ¬†I tried to avoid the blood sacrifice, but there were clearly parts along the edge that could cut me if I wasn’t careful (we don’t have any time for a trip to the emergency room!). ¬†As with the vstab skin, I used the bastard file to take out the worst snags (typically tags that held the part in place during CNC cutting that were roughly cut out). ¬†Then a couple swipes with a fine file so that my scotchbrite wheel didn’t have to work too hard, then a trip to the bench grinder with the polishing wheel. ¬†Whatever was left I got with a set of needle files and some scotchbrite pads.

The edges polished up quite nicely!  The rear spar doubler started with a particularly rough cut.  It looked like perhaps it was cut with a water jet.  It took a bit of filing to get pits and tool marks out, but it ended up with a fine shiny surface.

Then it was time for priming. ¬†I’m using green¬†Dupli-Color self etching primer. ¬†I’ve seen lots of different colors used. ¬†Jack Dueck likes grey. ¬†One guy is using a bright white. ¬†I’m using green because that’s the color the auto shop next to the pizza place stocks. It’s pretty nasty, so I made sure to have the big garage door open. ¬†The paint lightly etches the surface coat of pure aluminum and gives better corrosion protection (and the parts are easier to handle with less scratching). ¬†I used Jack Dueck’s technique. ¬†I lightly roughed the surface with a scotchbrite pad and then cleaned with acetone (my rags go into a sealed paint can to prevent spontaneous combustion). ¬†Then you hit the wet primer with a heat gun to get it to flash over. The idea is that you can then work with the pieces in minutes rather than waiting an hour for a hard coat to form. You only need a light coat of primer, so it looks a little like I did the parts up with camo paint.

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With the parts primed, it was finally time to go back and re-rivet the part I messed up. ¬†The front spar and doubler went together very easily this time. ¬†I ended up back riveting the flush rivets on my tungsten bucking bar. ¬†I saw this technique on another builders site. ¬†The hardest part was getting the compressor warm enough to start (it was down to single digits overnight). ¬†I squeezed the four universal rivets in the top row. ¬†The plans called for 3-3.5 rivets. ¬†I could not for the life of me find any in the kit, so I shortened four 3-4 rivets on my belt sander. ¬†Worked great. ¬†One shop head is a little overdriven and one is a little under driven, but they’re in spec, so I won’t mess with them.

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The next step is dimpling to get ready for all those flush rivets!  The skin was the hardest part.  I got to fire up my DRDT-2 dimpler table.  It does a nice job, but the interior of this pre-folded skin is really hard to work on.

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The other dimples weren’t hard at all. ¬†I used my hand squeezer to knock them out. ¬†I found it a lot easier to clamp the pieces to the table before running the squeezer. ¬†I was hoping to do more, but I had a question about the countersinks needed to hold the doubler to the rear spar. ¬†I’ll send an email off to Van’s to see how to proceed.

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(update: I found this note in the “Plan Gotcha’s” page on Vans Air Force: “page 10-05 figure 1 shows two locator holes. Having built the VS previously I had to drill out a rivet in the VS in the bottom location shown on page 10-05. No biggy but if you think of it omit this rivet while building the VS. Even though page 06-04 figure 2 shows to skip that hole, it’s easy to miss.”)