Category Archives: elevators

A shop emerges/First Texas rivets

Last week, my daughter was home from college on Spring Break.  She spent one day with me out in the shop and we finally got the shop organized and the tools unpacked.  There’s a nice spot at the back of the T-hangar about 15’x20′ that makes a good build area.  With the -12 rolled out, I have plenty of room.  There’s another 10’x15′ area near the door that I can also do work in.  When the fuselage goes together, I’ll put it on a rotisserie back here and move the tables to the front “lounge” area where I have the beer fridge and the comfy chair.

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So this week, I was determined to actually get back to work.  I wanted to get the new canopy latch installed on the -12.  This required drilling out three rivets and then pop-riveting a new steel piece in to act as a catch.  I also wanted to do some of the rework (read as “salvageable mistakes”) that had piled up whilst building the other parts.  I have to re-rivet the trailing edge of one elevator (heads of the double flush rivets were not very flush), I have to dress the edge of one of the rudder skins that got banged, up, and I have to rebuild one of the ailerons that I messed up the skin with an errant rivet gun.

My new friend Carver stopped by the shop to help.  He’s an interesting character.  His dad was a no-shit Tuskegee Airman in WWII.  Carver was an F-4 driver and Air Force Academy graduate (and more interestingly, a Dodger’s ballboy!). He’s interested in building a plane, but had never so much as touched a cleco.  So I walked him through the tools and we started in on the backlog.  The first project was the RV-12 canopy latch fix.  It’s a small piece that will hold the canopy latch in place while taxiing.  I saw this video online in which a gust of wind blew a popped open canopy up and over into the prop.  The latch was cheap insurance to keep the canopy in place.  So I drilled out the three pop rivets.  Pretty easy since the mandril hole is there to guide it.  I used a pin to crack the head and paint around the rivets off.  Then Carver got to insert his first cleco’s!

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We soon had to pull the cleco’s out again because I had to do a quick ream out to clean up the rivet holes that were just a touch too small for the #4 rivets.  Then Carver became a real builder when he pulled those three rivets!  He was very excited to actually build something after watching so many videos.  It came out great with nice tight rivets.  It seems to hold the canopy handle quite nicely.

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Next up was the elevator.  When I built it, I tried back riveting the double flush rivets.  The results where not very good.  The flush heads were tipped out of their holes.  When I did the other elevator, I squeezed the rivets first and then drove the shop head flush after (that worked much better).  So, I have 50 rivets to pull and replace.  I drilled out every other rivet so that I could keep the trailing edge straight and tight.  Carver added cleco’s (he’s now an expert!) behind me as I got them out.  I did elongate three of the holes, so I reamed them for 1/8″ oops rivets (You can see the copper clecos if you look closely).

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I demonstrated how to squeeze a rivet with my nice geezer squeezer (but not the sense of the urban dictionary meanings!) and he did the last 24.  Next week. I’ll pull the remaining 25 rivets and then finish the 50 double flush heads on the bottom side.

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Still a lot of work to do before I can really get rolling again.  The plan is to catch up on my re-work while Carver does parts prep for the dreaded fuel tanks!


The wings arrive!

Notice the nice new background photo!  The wing kit arrived!


I finally got the elevators closed up and (nearly) finished.  I managed to get the dimples into the inspection plate.  I put a screw in the nut plate and slowly tightened it.  It created a sufficient dimple for the trim motor plate.  I had some problems with the trim tab electrical harness.  I didn’t have the right crimper for the Molex connectors, so I’m skipping until I do (and until I can replace the pin I mangled!).

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Bending the leading edges went really well this time.  I used some lengths of PVC pipe and Gorilla tape.  I got a good bend and it clecoed pretty easily.

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I pulled the pop rivets in no time!

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If you look carefully, the instructions tell you (in bold print) that

“The two holes are closer to the top edge of the E-614 Counterweight.”

I did not look carefully.  I ordered some new counterweights and Molex pins to replace!


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I’m going to re-rivet the trailing edge for the right elevator.  The heads are sitting too proud and I don’t think they will hold as well as they need to.  I had to order some replacement 3-4 rivets as I only have about 20 left.  Meanwhile, I’m declaring the elevators done for now (just in time for the wing kit to arrive on Monday!)  I cut some brackets that I screwed into the wall.  Added enough space for a carpet liner.  They hold the elevators nicely in place.

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The wing kit came early on Monday the week before Thanksgiving.  I have some Piper Arrow lessons set up for this weekend and then we’re traveling to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving.  It will be a couple weeks before I can even do inventory!  Sigh!

Meanwhile, I still have to construct the rear fuselage.

At least I know what I’m getting for Christmas!

Almost an elevator, but not quite!


This blog has been dark for a long time.  I’ve still been working on the plane, but at a reduced pace.  A lot of my time was spent on “honey-do” lists.  I patched and painted the living room (3 colors), the dining room (3 colors), and the garage (2 colors + primer work).  I managed to find time to cycle in the New York Century (I went for the 80 mile ride, not the 110 mile one this year). I also snuck in a 6 day trip to finish my instrument ticket (got it!).  Made it to family day to visit my daughter off at college. Then a quick weekend trip out to visit my Dad on the West Coast.  I also started a machine learning class online and have been working on a startup idea with my sister.

When I last posted, the elevator was still in a million pieces (well dozens anyway).  It is now much further along.  Here’s the journey.

6 September:

At last, the ribs start getting reattached to the spars. You need to take some care to get the orientation correct between the left and right elevators.  I had one set up on each of my two tables (left and right) and did a lot of double checking to make sure things lined up.

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Next, the counterbalance skins get riveted to the the tip ribs.  The fit is pretty tight.  You start at the tip and work backwards.  The instructions said to check for twist.  Mine seem to have come out pretty straight.  I’ll know for sure when these get mounted on the horizontal stabilizer.

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The hinge for the trim tab goes on the left elevator.  I used my longeron yoke to avoid deforming the hinge eyes.  The blue tape marks a few holes that get riveted later in the final close out.

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Then, it’s a bunch of back riveting.  The ribs and spars get riveted to the skins.  This is where the genius of the split ribs shows.  My 5 foot back rivet bar was really handy here.  I did, however, miss the bar on a rivet on each of the elevators. The dent isn’t too bad.

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The bracket for the trim motor also get’s riveted in.  5 of the nut plates were riveted in earlier, but two get riveted in now (the two golden pairs of rivets.  It came out pretty nice.2014-09-06 16.29.14

So I ended the day with some skins, ribs, and spars riveted together.  It still doesn’t look that much like an elevator though.

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4 October:

It’s finally time to to put the skins together.  The split ribs get joined with some pull rivets.  It’s a tight fit, but the gaps are clearly designed to be big enough to fit the squeezer.  The instructions have some hints if the puller can’t quite get enough leverage to make the final pull, but I didn’t have any problems.

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Here’s a shot looking back from the trim bracket on the left elevator:

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Next up is riveting the rear spar using the “special” bucking bar.  The instructions tell you how to fabricate one, but I bought mine a couple months ago when it became clear that I would need one (from reading other people’s empennage blogs).  I was really worried that it would be hard to use, but in fact it worked great!  Do remember to shim as indicated.  It took a little positioning to get the bar stable, but I found it pretty easy to make sure that the bar was pushing up the correct rivet.  I hit it with a short burst to get it partially set, then I could lean more aggressively on the bar.

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Not too shabby!

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I used my 4″ thin nose yoke to squeeze the rivets for the front spar.  It was just enough to reach around the leading edge and made quick work of this task.  My back rivet bar worked really well to hold everything in place (the instructions ask you to used a weighted bar to hold the work flat here).

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The shear clips and other final bits also get riveted here.  My tungsten bucking bar (with a lot of tape wrappings) fit in here perfectly.

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11 October:

The next steps are all part of the final close-out.  The root and tip ribs get riveted into place.  Here, I just hung the elevator over the end of the table and hit both sides with the squeezer.

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These two that bound the skins with the end of the counterbalance skin were a real pain.  I did not read the instructions closely here and I could have substituted pull rivets.  It would have been much easier.  I managed to drive these rivets by slipping my tungsten bucking bar into the unclosed end and holding it through a lightening hole.  Pull rivets (at least on the bottom) would have been a better call.  They came out OK though.

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Finally, we finish closing out the rest of the easy rivets.  There are still a few open ones getting ready for installing the trailing edges.

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18 October:


The first problem to deal with was a stuck die.  This flat die was impossibly stuck in my pneumatic squeezer.  I tried just about everything to get it out.  WD-40, a vice, pliers… I just could not get it to loosen.  Finally, I put a grinding wheel back into my bench grinder and polished off a couple of square ends.  Finally, I was able to get a grip on the thing and pull it out.  I probably spent an hour on this.  Sigh.

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With that done, I could finally get the last of the rivets on the front spar on the right elevator.  It almost looks done! (but still lots to go)

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Time to prep the trim tab.  If you remember, I left it incomplete so I could ProSeal all of the ribs in one batch.  The first step is to tape and rivet the trailing edge.  Unlike the elevators, you rivet the trailing edge first and then slip the foam ribs above the spar.

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I used the recommended super sticky tape this time instead of epoxy or ProSeal.  If I had read the instructions more carefully, I would have put the tape on the trailing edge instead of the skin.  This worked fine, but it was more of a hassle trying to pull the tape over the dimples.

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I clecoed the trailing edge into the aluminum angle that I used for the rudder trailing edge (same spacing) to get everything lined up and bonded.  Then I broke out the back rivet bar and did the double flush trick.  It came out very clean.  At this point, the tab is ready for the ribs, so I set it aside.  You need to do all the ribs and riveting in one go and then set it aside for a few days, so I wanted to have it all prepped for the next step.

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The last step before gluing the ribs in the elevators is to add the double sided tape to the trailing edges and cleco.  Then set everything aside for a couple of days to help the tape stick better.  My plan was to come back one night in a couple of days and do the nasty gluing step. So, with everything clecoed in place and with the small ProSeal containers out, I let the tape set up.

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20 October:

I came home from work and hurried over to the shop to glue in the ribs for a rare weeknight build session.  In retrospect, I should have eaten dinner.  I figured this would take a couple hours max and then I would have a late dinner with my wife and son.  This is not how it went.

I wanted to have everything as ready to go as I could.  I got all the ribs out and placed near where they were to go and the rivets for the trim tab (the trailing edge is riveted after the ProSeal sets).  I wore 3 pairs of gloves so I could pull off a set if they became fouled with ProSeal.

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I mixed up my first batch of ProSeal.  It was pretty nasty smelling.  This was the small 1oz package.  It sets up faster than the normal sealant, but the garage was cool, so it wasn’t a problem.  I had purchased two of them (good call) because I wasn’t sure how far an ounce would go.  You add the pre-measured catalyst packet to the base and mix until it is a uniform grey.  It smells pretty nasty and sticks to everything.  The trim tab ribs went in pretty easily.  You need to push hard enough to get them to seat, but the thin layer of sealant lubricates it enough to slide pretty easily.  Then rivet the hinge to the spar and pull some rivets on the sides and you’re done — right?  Not so fast.  I didn’t have the pressure set well in my squeezer and had a hard time getting the rivets set (I pulled off my first set of gloves to get this done).  Then I went to pull the rivets for the close out tabs.  I pulled the first side and then one in the second side when I noticed that I put the bottom tab on the outside instead of the inside!  At this point my wife calls to ask if I’m headed home for dinner.  I brusquely tell her to go without me as I’ll be fixing my screw-up!  I had to drill out a couple of rivets on the spar and all of the pull rivets.  One spun instead of drilled and it was pretty hard to drill out, but I got it (A couple weeks later, when I picked up the trim tab, I could hear the drilled out end of the rivet rattling around inside!  Luckily it fell out the small drain gap near the trailing edge.  I really didn’t want to open it again!).

Eventually, I got the whole thing open enough to reset the close out tabs and put it all back together.

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Then I just added a board and some barbells to hold it flat while the sealant cured.

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I hurried to get to the next step before the sealant hardened (remember, I was using the quick setting variant).  You peel off the tape backing and hold the trailing edge open (this is why you don’t rivet quite all of the rivets to the root and tip ribs).  I used some pieces of 2×4 and 2×3 to hold it open.

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You can see how the rib (in the picture to the left above) sort of floats in the middle.  You slide the rib into the rear spar with a satisfying crunch that lets you know that it is in place.  If you don’t push it in enough, then the tip will interfere with the trailing edge.  Once the ribs were in place, I pulled out the wood blocks and clecoed everything.  I weighted the connection as called for (I used my back rivet plate, my vice, some of the lead counterweights, some barbells, pretty much anything heavy that I had laying around the house and garage).

The right elevator went much the same as the first.  I needed to mix up the second 1 ounce sealant package as the first was (1) running out and (2) hardening too fast.  Same deal with clecos and weights.  Finally, at about 9:20pm, it was all done.  The instructions say to let it go at least 3 days to cure.  It worked out to be a couple of weeks before I actually got around to riveting the trailing edges (though now our home garage looks really nice with a new coat of paint!).

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1 November:

I didn’t get much done today.  I was ready to double flush rivet the two trailing edges on the elevators, but my back rivet set jammed.  The little sliding collar just stopped sliding.  I tried lubricating it and sliding it by hand to get it unstuck, but a metal chip or something is preventing it from sliding freely.  So I gave up for the weekend, went home and painted the garage to help with marital harmony (and placed an order with Cleaveland Tools!).

I actually needed some other tools as well.  I got a couple of new #30 and #40 reamers, some new pin punches (the old ones were cheap and bent a little), and some safety wire pliers (and safety wire!), and a new 1/8″ acrylic drill bit (plastic bits have a very sharp point.  Very nice for starting a centered hole for rivet removal.  I dropped my drill with the old one and bent it).

8 November:

I finally double-flush riveted the two trailing edges on the elevator.  The left side came out so-so.  I removed a couple of the worst offending rivets and tried again.  Now it’s OK.  The right side came out pretty bad.  The heads are not sitting very flush at all.  I’m nearly out of 3-4.5 rivets (I ordered some more), so I’ll give it another try later.  It’s probably acceptable, but I want to do better as it’s a very visible rivet line.

Proceeding for now anyway.  The next step is to bend the hinge pin for the trim tab.  You need to make two very square bends.  I noted that a number of people have trouble with this task. Pliers are notoriously bad for this sort of thing and can really bugger up the pin.  Luckily! I have an 18″ Little Giant Bending Brake (yet another aircraft construction tool I picked up from my Father-In-Law.  Thanks Dad!).  It took a bit of mental work to figure out how to orient everything, but it is, in fact, quite simple to use.

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I cut an 18″ piece of angle bracket to fit the brake (Dad left me a clamp piece with angled edges, but I wanted something square for this step).  I put a groove in the bottom perpendicular to the edge to hold the hinge pin straight.  I had a Sharpie mark where I wanted the bend to go, but I didn’t have a good feel for how much allowance to make so I left it a little long.  The bend was very easy.  The mechanical advantage of even a small break made it a snap to get a clean bend.  It sprung back a little, so I re-clamped and bent it using the angle piece my father-in-law provided (you can see it in the picture below).  It hit pretty close to a 90 degree bend.  Then I measured for the second bend and did it again.  It looks just like in the plans!  I used a grinding wheel to get the final length right to .8 inches.  I then cut the long length and ground it smoothed.  I made the tip into a bit of a bullet shape to help with the next step.

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Then I had to slide the hinge pin into the hinge.  It’s a 32″ push!  The bullet nose helped.  I ran the pin through each individual side to make sure the hinge eyes lined up.  I had two that I had to make a slight adjustment to.  It took a couple of tries to get it through the whole hinge.  I used some Boelube on the tip and some WD-40 along the pin shaft to help it along.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  For the final step, I had to add some safety wire to hold the pin in place.  You drill a small hole and then just wire it in place.  I watched a couple of You-tube videos to get a handle on how to use the pliers and went for it.  The pliers are really interesting.  They clamp on the wire and then spin freely when you pull a knob on the bottom.  This makes some very nice, tight turns.  I clipped the twisted wire off and bent it over to prevent snags.

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In the end, it came out really nice and looks just like the picture in the plans.

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The next step was to mount the trim tab motor to its bracket.  I got the final 3 aluminum parts out for the elevator and deburred and primed them.  I also had to dig out the right wiring harness and a molex connector.  It all went together really quickly.  Only a couple of hitches.

The trim tab push rod is too short.  This wasn’t anything I did, the actual part is too short!  I got a service bulletin saying that Vans would send me a new one.  It is coming with the wing kit in a couple of weeks.  I was planning on rebuilding it anyway because I didn’t think it provided enough clearance to swing freely on the trim arm.

The mounting plate is dimpled (for the screws of course), but the backing plate is not!  I went back through the instructions, but I did not see any mention of dimpling.  I may have to countersink the backing plate or just widen the holes enough to take the mounting plate.  None of my yokes fit into the holes.  The lore says to think ahead about how each hole is used and prep it accordingly because sometimes the instructions overlook something.  This is a case of that I suppose!


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So here’s the final view of the elevator.  Just need to roll the edges and take care of a few small tasks before it is on to the rear fuselage!

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The final steps for the elevators are:

  • figure out how to dimple the backing plate for the trim tab motor plate
  • roll the leading edges
  • wait for the new, longer trim tab pushrod to arrive (Vans Service Bulletin)
  • hang ’em on the trophy wall until it is time to attach them to the rear fuselage


It’s beginning to look like an elevator again…

Rivet count: 1833 + 71 new = 1904

I left off getting ready to assemble the trim tab.  Well, I’m still there!  Two issues: I wanted to mix just one batch of pro-seal to glue this up and I didn’t have a #33 bit to final drill the close out tabs and I didn’t have a dimple die to dimple for flush pull rivets.  Sigh.

I did get some work done however before putting the trim tab aside.  I riveted the bottom trim tab skin and the trim tab horns to the front spar.  I primed underneath the horns (a bit of overspray on the blue plastic will disappear when I do final prep).  I did cleco the trailing edge wedge into place to see how much play I had left to see if I can set the trailing edge and then dimple the close outs.  One builder suggested final drilling the close out tabs last to help eliminate twist.  I’m not sure how to do that (drilling is easy, but dimpling would be tough).

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With the trim tab on the bench, I started assembling the left and right elevators.  I had the parts sorted onto my left and right bench to help keep it straight in my head which parts went with which elevator.  I also cleco first the left side and then the right before I go crazy with the riveting in case I did a dyslexic number on the parts.

The first step is to rivet a small gusset onto the left root rib (where it intersects the rear spar).  I had the part and direction marked, so it was pretty easy to drop a couple of 1/8″ rivets in there.

Then the two pairs of tip ribs get riveted together.  Two rivets are 426 flush rivets to accommodate the lead counterweights, but the rest are domed.  I put the domes on the visible interior face since this will be more visible.  It was actually a bit of a tough squeeze to get the rivets there done.  There are two facing flanges (one for each part of the tip rib), so you can’t quite get the yoke over both with the rivet sets in place.  I solved it by sliding the squeezer over the flanges and then inserting the rivet set.  Kept it clecoed to keep the two parts aligned and tight.  Final product seems OK.

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The tip and root ribs then get riveted to the main spar.  The root ribs are a bit tough since they bend inward.  The left one wasn’t to hard (I used my longeron yoke), but I could not get the right one to set.  I switched to my 4″ thin nose yoke which fit in nicely.  You need to watch the rivet call outs in the plans.  The flange on the tip rib requires  a 3/32″, not a 1/8″ rivet.

The front spar gets four doubler plates each of which hold a big K1000-6 (not a K1000-06) nut plate.  I hadn’t prepped these parts, but they were very easy to prepare.  A couple quick passes with a file, a pass through the Scotchbrite wheel, and a quick coat of primer and it was done.  Not as easy was finding the K1000-6 nut plates.  I really bugged me as I could not find it in any of the bags of nut plates.  If you recall, I had the problem before…. With the same part!  That’s because the nut plates (really huge ones) are in the empennage hinge parts bag.  Sigh!

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I had foolishly promised my wife that I wouldn’t work too late tonight, so I just got the next step started.  The tip rib skins wrap around the counter balance and eventually fit under the skins.  I eased the edges beneath where the front spar and tip rib stack on top of each other so that the tip rib skin wouldn’t show a ding where it bend over the edge (and then added a quick shot of primer to cover the bare metal).  The top skin goes on top of this whole stack too!  So I used a file to ease these skins as well (and primed).  Hopefully, I’ll get a nice smooth transition when all is said and done.

So, now at last, the elevators are re-emerging from the pile of parts:

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Next up:  The elevator horns get added to the front spar, the rib halves get riveted to the rear spar, and then the skins start getting back riveted to the rib halves.  The trim tab will wait until I do the pro-seal on the main elevator bodies.  I did some research online and a couple people found that a #40 dimple works well for the #33 pop-rivets (though I still need a 25mm drill bit).


Disassemble both elevators…

Rivet count: 1819 + 14 new = 1833

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Those two little instructions… disassemble and deburr…. It seems like I’ve been doing nothing but that the last couple of build days.  In reality, I’m was also scanning ahead to do the dimpling and priming specified on the next couple of pages, but it seems like my entire routine was to uncleco a part, finish the deburring, dimple, and prime.

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I had pretty much finished the left elevator (except the trim tab) except for the skins and countersinking the trailing edge.  How much work could it be to finish it all up?

The answer, of course, is more than I thought.  As I started to go through the parts more closely, I realized that I hadn’t dimpled the ribs yet.  So I got those done.  The skins had to be smoothed and dimpled, but they also had to be scuffed and masked before priming to leave an area for bonding the foam ribs.  Just lots of details!

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Getting the trailing edges countersunk was a chore because you couldn’t use a standard countersink bit because the cut had to be perpendicular to the face.  Vans suggests grinding down the standard pilot on a countersink.  Instead, I put my 5-bladed deburring bit in a cage and carefully cut each countersink.  The cage kept it perpendicular, but with no pilot I had to watch each cut carefully.

Finally, by mid-day, I had both elevators done.  Yay!

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With all that done, I flew through the next few pages making sure that I had appropriately dimpled and countersunk all the pieces during my look ahead.

At last it was time to do a bit of assembly!  You start with the nut plates in the trim tab motor bracket.  The instructions call for dimpling the skin and countersinking the plates, but the conventional internet wisdom is to use NAS 1097 “oops” rivets.  The rationale is that the only purpose of the rivets is to keep the plate from rotating.  Since they aren’t required for structural strength, anything will do.  The  3/32″ rivets have a tiny head, almost no bigger than the shaft.  I used my deburring bit in a handheld deburring tool to cut the very small countersinks.  The interwebs said “a few turns” would cut it sufficiently.  I found it took some effort to get the cut deep enough (though I was checking depth often with a rivet).  The AD3-3.5’s seemed the right length (confirmed with my rivet gauge).  I found that these were much easier to hand squeeze than to pneumatically squeeze.  The part is very light and a bit awkward to clamp and the rivets are so lightweight that it just worked easier that way.

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The next step is to assemble the trim tab motor arm.  You rivet this using the “double flush” back riveting technique.  The instructions call out a AN426AD3-3.5 rivet, but that was very much too short, so I used 3-4 rivets instead.  The flush look was very easy to achieve on my back rivet bar.

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Looking ahead to how it is actually used, though, it is supposed to have two small bends in the attachment arm (they are marked in the plans).  On my part, they are not bends, but rather a gentle spreading.  I will contact Vans to see what they think.  I can either make the bends myself on my brake (my father-in-law just gave me his old mini-brake.  Thanks Dad!) or get Vans to send me a new one.  Cutting and re-doing is a trivial task.

Then, just when you get back into the swing of assembly, you have to go back and prep the parts for the trim tab.  I pulled out the skins and spars and trailing edge and did the finish work.  Not much to do, actually, just measure and cut the trailing edge and deburr/mask/prime/dimple the other parts as before.

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At this point, the trim tab is mostly ready to go.  Next up, I will continue the assembly up to the point where I need to use the Pro-seal bounding to hold the foam ribs and trailing edge in place.  I would like to do that in one messy batch if possible.


Dis-assemble, deburr, dimple, and prime (rinse lather repeat)


Rivet count: 1819 + 0 new = 1819

I had a half day to work on the plane, so I jumped back into the elevator.  After finishing the initial assembly and match drilling, it was time to take it all apart to prep for final assembly.  I finished getting the blue plastic off the left top skin.  I finished some of the holes and polished the edges.  I also “broke” the trailing edge and the rolled leading edge so that they would sit flatter after riveting.

Then it was on to dimpling.  The DRDT-2 is really nice for this.  The table is big enough to hold most of the skin and then I can pull the lever one handed to set the dimple.2014-08-03 13.45.09

This worked fine until I got the the trailing edge.  The instructions warn that normal dimple dies will compress the slight bend.  So they ask you to grind down an old/cheap dimple to fit.  As luck would have it, I had a dimple die that was sticking, so I bought a nice new one from Cleaveland Tools.  I took the old one, cleaned up the pilot, and used a belt sander to grind down one edge.  This went into the DRDT-2.  Then I just had to watch the die orientation so that the ground down part was facing forward.  Hard to see in the photo, but the ground down part stays inside the crease.

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I also had to countersink (part of) the rear spar.  The trim tab hinge needs to lay flat under the spar flange.  So, you cleco it in place and countersink the top.  I think you cleco the hinge in so that you countersink into the hinge piece if you go too deep.  I found that even with a deep countersink (enough to hold a rivet just below the surface), the top of the hinge was unmarred.  Clecoing the hinge piece does insure that you don’t countersink more of the spar though!  The other holes are just dimpled.  The instructions indicate that you should grind out/modify one of your squeezer yokes just to get it to fit inside the small, slanted spar.  I think that was total overkill.  You could use a pop-rivet dimple die or use a different squeezer.  I used the vice-grip dimpler I used to dimple rib flanges.  It fit fine and made short work of the holes.2014-08-03 16.38.04

There are many more small parts to get here.  I finished the top skin, the root and tip rib assemblies, all of the ribs, the mounting plate for the trim motor, the sheer clips, the gussets and the rear spar.  I still have to countersink the trailing edge piece and the larger front spar.  I also haven’t even touched the bottom skin!  Sigh.

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So I probably have another day’s work to finish the left elevator and do the right one.  The right one is a little easier (one fewer sheer clip, no trim tab, no trim tab mounting bracket), so hopefully I’ll get all those done soon.  Then it’s off to the rivet races again for the 1154 rivets in the elevators and trim tab.


Going up! The elevator comes together

Rivet count: 1819 + 0 new = 1819

(Updated counts shamelessly lifted from E’s RV14A)

I started working on the elevators this week.  I actually got a couple of hours out in the shop on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.  It was slow going to start with.  I spent pretty much all of that time doing the initial prep work.  I managed to get the E-1008B ribs cut, smoothed, and primed; then I got the E-00924 and E-01408 foam ribs cut and smoothed; and the two tip rib assemblies put together.  It was a bit demoralizing since I managed to get through about a page and a half of the 30 pages in this section.  Very slow going.

Well, on Saturday, I really got a good head of steam going.  It’s clear that the instructions are getting denser (Van’s assumes you pretty much know what to do now, so it is no longer so specific about deburring and other instructions) and also that I’m getting a bit better at this.

The first thing up was to cut some excess aluminum off the trim tab skins.Screenshot 2014-08-02 23.10.46

With the tabs already bent (yay!), it was hard to use the bandsaw, so I just used my snips.  The aluminum is quite thin, so it was an easy cut for both.  Just had to pay attention as to which way the scrap was bent off with the cuts.  Smoothed out the edges using a combination of a bastard file, my belt sander, and the ScotchBrite wheel.

The next steps looked a little more daunting.  I had to make the bends for the close out tabs in the left elevator skin.  I was a bit nervous as I just read a post about someone who bent theirs pretty badly.  Somebody else made a little custom bending brake to do theirs.  I decided to follow the method specified in the instructions and bend the tabs along the side of my EAA table.

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This is pretty much lifted right out of the instructions.  I used a Sharpie along the bend line and carefully set it up along the edge of the table.  I clamped down a piece of particle board to hold everything in place.   I was nervous about using my rivet gun to make the bend.  I had the pressure turned way down.  In fact, there was only about 10 pounds pressure in the compressor (left over from the night before).  This worked out perfectly.   The gun hit very lightly and slowly made a bend with a very nice radius on it.

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When it got closer to 90 degrees, I finished it off by using a 2×4 and a hammer to make a nice clean bend (still with a nice radius).   Later on, when I assembled the skins these fit together perfectly.

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The left rear spar is a little shorter than the right because it stops short at the root rib.  So, the instructions ask to cut off 11/16″ parallel to the beveled end.  Luckily, I had a measuring gauge to do this.  The awl point made a light scratch (OK since I was about to cut this off) which I enhanced with a Sharpie to make the bandsaw cut. The gauge kept the mark nice and parallel to the original end.  Another perfect fit.

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The trim tab is attached with a piece of piano hinge.  This is not predrilled, so first you add a couple of pilot holes.  Later, you have to carefully keep it parallel to the skin edges to install.  This part was easy though.  I used the edge gauge to make the 1/4″ and 3/16″ measures and lightly scratched at the intersection.  I used my pin punch to start the holes and the drill bit didn’t wander at all.  The hole eliminated the tiny scratch marks.

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The spar on the trim tab side of the elevator (left) is modified to let the trim arm connect to the motor.  I needed to use my step drill (first use!) to make a couple of large holes.  The 3/8″ bit shaft didn’t fit in my pneumatic drill which was good since it is  a much better idea to use a drill press here.

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It had been pretty rainy the night before.  While cutting the spar holes, I noticed that the bench near the drill press was wet.  I looked up and saw:

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Yep.  The roof is leaking.  Right over my work bench (and my recently completed horizontal stabilizer). One of the rafters has a little rot in it too! Because I’m renting the garage, I don’t have a huge new roofing bill to pay, but my landlord isn’t going to be nearly so happy.  For the moment, I just hung some plastic between the rafters to drive the drip (as that is all it is) over to the wall.

The next page has you cleco the bottom skins to the 26 internal bits of the elevators.  All those internal ribs, and corner brackets, and sheer clips!  Suddenly, the former pile of parts looks suspiciously like a pair of elevators!

Things line up beautifully.  Time for some match drilling and part fitting.  We start with fitting the trim hinge.  The illustrations did not quite match my hinge (since my 3 foot section was cut on the next tooth), but it seems to work fine.  The positioning instructions are a little dense.

    “…cleco the forward half of the trim tab hinge to the bottom side of the top flange of the rear spar…”

You first cleco the hinge half through that pilot hole you made earlier and then clamp the thing to the spar whilst keeping it parallel to the skin.  I realized that this was the first real set of measurements that would effect the flying trim of the plane.  I was able to keep the hinge parallel within a 64th or so.  I made a mark on my steel ruler for the depth I wanted to maintain and adjusted as I went.  I had a clamp at the end to hold the whole thing roughly parallel and then clamped and adjusted as I went.   The red handled spring clamps were perfect for this part (I abandoned the gun style clamps after the first photo).

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Then you do the same on the front spar for the actual trim tab (the one part I hadn’t dug out of the shipping box — but it was easy to find).

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After match drilling, you trim the ends to fit.  It looks really nice.

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Then I had to do a little more match drilling.  The E-921 gussets sit on the inboard corners holding the spar to the root ribs.  The left one is easy to get at.  The right one is too tight to get my drill into with the long 8″ bits I normally use.  I just used my right angle drill (another first for the project) to get into the tight corner.

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The tip rib assemblies get clecoed in place (and labeled!) for some more match drilling.

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The top skins and trailing edges are next.  It seemed weird to put the thick edge of the trailing edge wedge aft, but it seems to work.  It provides a much beefier trailing edge than the thin wedge used in the rudder.  Pretty much your standard cleco, mark with a sharpie, trim to fit deal except you have to add a taper to the outboard edges.  Eventually, the elevators get fiberglass tips installed.  Those taper to a smooth point instead of the unmodified trailing edge size.  So you thin out the edges to improve the final fit.  I used my calipers to get matching size.  The fiberglass tip is next to the trailing edge for comparison.

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I match drilled the close out and sheer clip on the left elevator.  I was very pleased with the bends I got earlier.  The fit was very nice.  You use one of the foam ribs to help hold the shape when you drill. (no pictures).

The elevator horns are the next thing to install.  The fit is very tight.  I’m glad that I didn’t have to fab these.  Lots of precision cuts, welding, and powder coating too.  I needed to push pretty hard to get these to seat.  But once clecoed in, everything lined up great for the final drilling.

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Then the instructions blithely ask you to mark all the parts for proper reassembly, to disassemble everything, and to deburr/finish all edges and holes before dimpling and reassembly.  That’s going to take a while!

With no time to finish all that, I used my soldering iron to start stripping blue plastic before calling it a day.  I promised the wife I would make lasagna for dinner!

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Hopefully I’ll get some time on Sunday to finish the part prep and do some assembly.