Category Archives: hangar

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.

2017-03-11 13.00.54

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!

2017-03-18 14.44.32

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.

2017-03-18 15.23.56

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).

2017-03-18 19.03.04

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.

2017-03-18 19.08.06

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!


More flying/working on the -12, shop getting close for the -14!

The shop is getting closer to being ready to build again.  Most importantly, I got my Dad’s old pencil sharpener mounted on the shop wall.  I really loved this one as a kid and I got my Dad to give it to me “pre-inheritance,” as it were.  My siblings are jealous 🙂  This is apparently now a vintage sharpener with a couple on sale on EBay.


I’m still organizing the shop.  It was easier when I first set things up because I didn’t have all the parts and tools.  I haven’t gotten into the boxes yet, but at least now I have the cabinets and shelves set up.  The compressor is now online and the air hose reel is mounted.

The tail feathers are now all up and hanging securely.  The rudder and vstab are along this wall because the hangar had a small leak in the corner and I didn’t want rain dripping on my nice parts!

I would have gotten more work done, but (1) I went flying in the RV-12 and (2) my next door neighbor and the CFI-S I’m working with both stopped by and chatted for a couple of hours 🙂   The flying went really well.  I’m getting a better feel for the plane.  I still haven’t left the airport pattern, just working on landings.


I did actually work on one part.  My son had deburred the new cockpit handle latch last week.  I finished it up (it was steel, so it needed some touch-up after the humid week we had) and primed it.  I’ll dig out some gray Rustoleum to match the cockpit color so I can install it next week.  I have to drill out three rivets and pop-rivet the bracket in place.  It took a bit to dig out the new page for the instructions to make sure I orient the part correctly (and to drill out the correct rivets!).

Next week, I’m out cycling with my brother, but I’ll be flying and building again in a couple of weeks.

A new state – a new addition -still the same old project!

It’s been a long while since I worked on my project.

Last February, I moved the whole thing out to Illinois.  Six weeks later, I lost my job there.

I’ve since moved to Texas (Howdy!) where I have a great new job!  One of the first things I did was try to find a hangar  It took a while, but I signed up for some new hangars that were being constructed at Pearland Regional (KLVJ).  I was told that they would be done in August.  Alas, that was way too optimistic.  I got an email saying that the project was delayed a bit because of rain, but that, for sure, they would be ready by Labor Day.  I booked a flight to Chicago and reserved a rental truck.  Then I cancelled it all because when I visited the hangar site, there was no sign of the concrete work, the doors and power were not installed, and my hangar was missing a back wall.


I got another email saying, “just 10 more days!”  But this too was, ahem, optimistic.  In October, I just flew up to Chicago anyway and moved the project down to my garage.  “It’s just temporary,” I assured my wife.  She replied, “Yeah.  Right!”

Well October came and went.  November came and an email just before Thanksgiving said, “10 more days!”  (I laughed).  I was hoping for a Christmas present, but alas, Santa didn’t leave a hangar under the tree.  Finally, I got an email saying that “Martin Luther King Day — For realzies this time.”  So last month, I moved into my hangar!  Yay!

There’s another side to this story.  Since I was now going to be based at the airport, and I had a huge hangar, I figured that I would buy a little “for now” airplane.  I started shopping around and found some that might have worked.  At first, I was looking at Piper Archers and Cherokees since I was pretty familiar with them.  I actually test flew one owned by the Sheriff of the neighboring county.  In the end, though, I couldn’t pull the trigger on an airplane that was built in the 1960’s.  It might be a bargain or it might be an awful cesspool of expensive fixes to an unsafe airframe.  So then I got a brilliant idea!  I would buy a Vans RV-12!  Not crazy expensive to buy.  Super cheap to operate.  The wings come off if needed (when the hangar gets full). And my son could afford to learn to fly in it.  So I found one here in Texas.  The owner flew it down to Conroe and took me up for a flight.

2016-07-30 10.45.22.jpg

I was hooked and put down some earnest money and started preparing to buy it.  I arranged for a mechanic to look it over, started working on insurance, and got the dollars lined up.

It failed the pre-buy.  Not horribly, but there was too much weirdness, so I got cold feet and pulled out of the sale (some sunk costs, but better that than a bad plane!).  About that time, I got contacted on by a local guy selling another RV-12.  This one was built by local high school students as a project.  I went down to Ellington to look it over and it was beautiful!  Nice workmanship, it was an E-LSA so I could get my inspector’s certificate, it had a better glass panel (the kind I’m planning on putting in 4PJ), and the current owner said that he would help me do the maintenance work on it until I got the hang of it.  He sold it to me at a nice price because he wanted to sell it to a real builder who would do the maintenance and take care of it.  I got it for pretty much the cost of its parts (with free paint, interior, and upgrades).

So, I bought it in October — but I had nowhere to put it (See above).  Luckily, the owner was able to store it for me until the hangar was done (3 and a half months!).  He still stops by to see it.

Once I finally had the hangar and the plane, I still had to get transition training for insurance purposes.  I went up for a bit over an hour with an instructor to get the hang of the plane.  11kt crosswinds that day made it tricky.  I shook it out pretty well.  Did some stalls (a bit more movement than the Archer I used to fly).  Did some landings.  Had to get used to the new glass display.  My son went up for his very first flying lesson that day as well!


I’ve slowly been getting all the tools and parts from 4PJ unpacked, but it is slower going with a cool little airplane to fly.  Apparently my new “girlfriend” will be very demanding of my time!  There is a bit of maintenance to do, but I love owning the plane!

I did manage to get a new “trophy wall” started today and get some tools sorted into the new tool chest. You can see the wiring diagram for the RV12 on the wall.  There’s some feedback in the headsets caused by signals getting picked up by the aux music input.  I had to run down where the connectors for that come from and where they go to.  The diagram was impossible to read until it got blown up to 36″x48″!

So I’ve got a couple of maintenance tasks to do on the 12 (fixing the intercom, adding a larger bushing to prevent the cockpit bubble from rubbing, and adding a safety latch to keep the canopy in place).  I’m heading out to a maintenance class in June so I can fill out my airframe logbook correctly and legally.

Meanwhile, the shop is looking more like a shop.  I’m meeting a lot of people out at the airport and generally having fun.  I even get to see great sunsets 🙂  I am very much looking forward to pounding some fresh rivets though!