Category Archives: prime

Tank time!

I headed down to the shop a little early this Saturday.  There was a front coming through in the afternoon and I wanted to get some more flying time in with the -12.  My neighbor was in his hangar banging away at his Rans, so I invited him along for the ride.  Just up for 45 minutes or so.  There was a scattered, low cloud deck at 1700′, so I didn’t go very far.  Some practice with the navigation system and playing around with turns.

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I still had a little deconstruction work to do on the bad aileron.  I got the thing pretty much apart and salvaged the nose ribs and end ribs.  After breaking off the manufactured heads, I still had to remove some of the shop heads.  I didn’t want to drive them through (which might bend the flanges here), so I just used a pair of pliers to rotate them out. The replacement parts will be here Thursday, so I can start the rebuild then.

When I packed up the shop, I roughly clecoed the ribs into the fuel tanks.  This kept the pieces together and kept the skins from getting banged up.  I wrapped the whole thing in moving blankets and slipped it into the spar crate.  Worked wonders for two moves!

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I had skipped the fuel tank section because I wanted to do the work when the weather was better. Not fun using fuel tank sealant, and really not fun using it in very cold weather!  So, first I started looking for parts.  The tanks have a surprisingly large number of parts!


I quickly found and sorted the main ribs.  The inner ribs have a large hole in the bottom so that fuel can run between the ribs.  I’ll probably put in a flapper door that helps keep the fuel inboard when maneuvering.  The outside ribs, of course, don’t have the holes. I quickly found the brackets and the stiffeners, but it took a while to dig out the flanges and fittings (hidden in a small brown paper bag labeled “Fuel Fittings”).  There was one part, though, that eluded me for almost an hour.  I couldn’t find the T1005A stiffener and clips.  I checked all over the hangar.  Finally, just as I was about to give up, I found it in the parts cabinet.  It’s an bent L, only about 1 foot long.  It had slipped to the back of the shelf and was mostly hidden.  I think I have all the parts now!

My buddy Carver is coming over next week to help (He’s at Sun ‘n Fun this week looking at planes!).  It will be nice to have more hands to do the parts prep.  Just gotta remember not to prime anything!


Just the right leading edge…

Some blog posts just aren’t vey exciting.  This is one of them.  Having set up the left side leading edge (with exciting stall warning vane hole and access panel!), it was time to do it all again on the right.

The right side was all cleco’d and match drilled, so it was time to disassemble, deburr, and prime.  I also pulled off the blue plastic while the skins were stiff in the jig.  This is still very time consuming, but I’m getting faster and cleaner with my soldering iron.

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I started by deburring the J-stiffener and then got to work on the ribs.  My friend the dentist dropped by to help, so while I was scrubbing the ribs with Comet, he was rinsing and drying them.  We got them all clean, dry, and primed pretty quickly.  I had a bit of a time getting the splice strips in place.  I found that by clecoing from the outside in (see below), I was able to stretch and wrap the splice strip tightly to the rib.  Then I inserted clecos from the inside out so I could gently push the splice rib into the leading edge skin.  I could then extend the clecos to grab the skin.  Then I could go from the outside (this time with the skin) back to the inside.

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Voila!  The right side is ready for rivets!

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Next up… I’ll rivet both left and right leading edges.  I’ll also get the stall warning installed.  I won’t do the final install to the spar since it will be easier to deal with the wings as parts whilst trucking them to Chicago. I’ve read several posts on riveting these sections.  Some suggest laying the leading edges flat while others suggest going in from the top (as positioned now).  I’ll figure out what works best for me when I actually get started.  I do want to make sure that I protect against dropping the bucking bar.  I would be very easy to put a massive dent in the leading edge.

I did get a new tungsten bucking bar.  This one is actually a surplus rotor balance weight from a Cobra helicopter.  It’s about a pound and a half and sits nicely in my hand.  We’ll give it a try soon!

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Sneaking out at night to work on the plane…

Tuesday night is Choir night for my wife…  It used to be my volunteer fire department but the move to Chicago forced me to resign.  So, with the wife out of the house, there was time to sneak out to visit the aluminum girlfriend!

I only had 2 or 3 hours to work, and luckily I had a task that wasn’t too loud for working at night.  The leading edge ribs and splice strips needed priming and painting.  I’ve been trying a new method of prepping surfaces for priming.  I’ve been scrubbing with red scotchbrite and Comet cleanser.  This really leaves a nice, grease free surface.  It is a bit more of a hassle since I don’t have running water in the shop.  I have a 5 gallon Jerry can of water and some tubs.  I also got a simple sprayer from the Home Depot aviation department that I fill with water for rinsing.   I got some really nice, clean surfaces.  I had to blow off some rinse water with a heat gun and finish with a lint free cloth though.  They came out pretty nice!

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One of the nice things about the RV14 kit is that Vans put a lot of work into thinking about the bits and pieces outside the airframe that need to go in.  Wiring harnesses, antenna mount points, standard panels, etc…  Here, they’ve pre-cut the holes for a landing light lens and provide a standard mounting bracket (but no light!).  They suggest painting the cove matte black or gloss white.  It’s easy to do now.  So I painted the bay….

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and the two ribs that line the bay.  They look shiny here, but the paint hasn’t flashed yet.  I did the priming and painting in my new “low end” paint booth.  The fan provided a gentle suction that kept the overspray in the booth (trapped in the air filter I wired in).

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The backing plates and mount brackets also need to be black, but I’m going to try powder coating those.  I’ll of course try it on scrap first, but I’m hopeful that it comes out well.  I’ll likely powder coat the access hatch double as well.

Turn the page…

Apologies to Bob Seger, but sometimes I feel that I get stuck on a single page for days at a time.  I can hardly wait to turn the page, as it were.

This time, the page is 10-14.



It took some work to get to the page, but then it seemed like I was just stuck there.

As of the last writing, I was working on the bulkheads and looking ahead to this page.  It seemed so easy!  It turned out to be a lot of work!

The parts are getting very large.  This means it takes proportionately longer to deburr, dimple, and prime things.

First up was the bottom skin.

I pulled the blue plastic off (very hard with the cold temps).  I had to wipe off some adhesive like crud from where I pulled riveting strips off the bottom with acetone.

I deburred the edges (the inner edge is a kind of built in j-channel) with file and sandpaper and scotchbrite. Then I started dimpling… and dimpling… and dimpling!

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I got a “selfie” while I was at it so the FAA will know that it was me freezing my ass off building this thing.

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I primed and then painted the inside skin pan Rustoleum Granite grey.  My thinking is that the interior is “public” space.  It will be viewable, stuff will knock around in it.  The primer isn’t super durable (and not really a final finish), so I topped it with a nice neutral grey.  It looks nice!

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Van’s recommends using two sawhorses, but I found it easier to work with one sawhorse and one table end.  I could clamp the bellcrank rib box to the sawhorse and make it very stable.

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I decided to back rivet the bottom skin.  I had a two pound back rivet bucking bar that I was planning on using for the wing skins.  It worked really great here.

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You can get nearly every rivet this way except for a few that are right up against the bulkheads.  I only had to buck four rivets.

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The riveting went really fast when my son stopped by the shop to give me a hand  He would pull a cleco, drop in a rivet, and place the bucking bar.  Then I would give the rivet a tap.  Super-easy.

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I came back the next morning, bucked the four missing rivets and started on page 10-14….

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There are SO many rivet holes everywhere!  Four stiffenners, two longerons, and matching holes in the left and right skins!

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The side skins have a lot of detail bits to get to.  Here, I’m going at the rudder cable pass through opening with a small file.

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Finally, the right skin get’s a coat of granite grey to finish it.

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After this skin dried, I hung it on the bottom skin. Then I had to start all over again with the left skin!  I was much faster the second time around though.

Over the weekend, I was going through the plans errata at VansAirForce and noticed that the instructions forget to mention to rivet the bellcrank ribs to the F-01407 bulkhead.  Sure enough, I hadn’t done it.  I flipped the rear fuselage over and was able to squeeze four of the six rivets, but had to use my offset set to drive the last two.  The shop towel helped protect the finish from the bucking bar and the blue painters tape did the same for the rivet set.

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The stiffeners and longerons go on in this step.  The spar is too heavy a gauge to dimple, so it has to be countersunk.  There are 176 holes or so.  I had a lot of magic pixie dust!

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The stiffeners and longerons are supposed to “slide” in… ha ha ha. I ended up having to put them on before clecoing the skin in place.

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I eventually managed to get everything in place and flipped it right side up on my tables!

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It looks practically ready to rivet!  It’s not… still a couple of pages to go before that happens, but at least I can finally turn the page on 10-14!

So page 10-15 just has you cut some tabs off of the aft bottom skin.  It is actually a lot of work because you have to rebuild a smooth edge from the rough saw cut.  I ended up clamping it loosely to my bench and filing the edge down to a smooth finish (and then doing a final pass on the scotchbrite wheel).  I gave it a quick coat of primer and granite grey and re-clamped it to the bench to rivet the rearmost bulkhead.

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The most exciting news was that I took the last few items out of the empennage case.  I needed the space to walk around the table and wanted to tip it out of the way.  So I took out the top skins  and a couple miscellaneous parts and tipped the box on it’s side.  I must really be getting to the end of this kit!

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I had a hard time getting the aft rear skin and bulkheads in clecoed in place.  I ended up pulling the skins off and rejiggering the hole mess.  Eventually though everything was square and then the clecos slid right in the way they’re supposed to.  My son stopped by to help rivet, but we spend about an hour just getting the clecos ready.

We were able to squeeze the top row.  It went really fast because we could squeeze most of the rivets away from the bulkheads.  My son would pull the clecos and set up a rivet for the easy ones. I got the reset with my tungsten bucking bar and mushroom set.

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It was getting late, so I didn’t have much time (my son had gone home to sit down and warm up since it was back to a one person riveting operation).  I got the top half of bulkhead rivets done down to the A stiffener.  I’ll get the bottom half tomorrow… I’ll probably need some help to get the curved bottom parts though.  The skins there do not lay very flat.  I broken them as Van’s suggests, but they really need a lot more bend than I gave them (particularly  in the aft section).  I’ll probably try to soft tap them with my rivet gun to set a curve.


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Got a few hundred rivets in today.  Should get about three hundred more tomorrow!  Then the top skins go on with a dozen nut plates and the wiring harnesses get routed (the harnesses are already in place to get them to run through the stiffener channels but have to be finalized in a couple of pages).

Closing in on a new trophy if I can just get off page 10-19 🙂

Bulkheads everywhere….

Even with mass this morning and fixing the Christmas lights, I got to the shop by 1:30 for about 5 hours of work on the bulkheads.

There are five bulkheads.  I riveted the aft-most one yesterday and deburred and primed the next two  Those came together pretty quickly.  With lots of cold 1/8″ rivets, it was easier to hand squeeze than to use the pneumatic squeezer (better control and more oomph by hand!).



I clamped my hand squeezer to the table which made the riveting much easier than holding an unweildy bulkhead and a rivet and a squeezer all at once.  It also made it a lot easier to get a good push on the arm and make best use of its mechanical advantage.


The rear three bulkheads take up only 20″ of the fuselage!  They have bulky straps to hold the vertical and horizontal stabilizers in place.


The next steps seemed so simple…  The 2 forward bulkheads only have a few rivets and no thick aluminum straps to mount.  However, they are very large (compared to the other bulkheads), are made in two pieces, and have many, many nooks and crannies to deburr.  I filed the worst parts of the outside with a fine file, hit the many lightening and system holes with sandpaper and scotchbrite, and sanded around each of the approximately 10,000 flange tabs.  Then I finished the accessible edges on the scotchbrite wheel.  I used almost (but not quite) all my remaining primer priming the bulkhead parts.  Not too many rivets to do and the squeezer was still set up, so I thought I would bang together the last two bulkheads.  The first one went together very quickly (only 5 rivets as you leave the top 3 open for later riveting).  The second one has ten rivets (an extra two hold the rudder cable bracket to the bulkhead).   On my very last rivet, the squeezer apparently shifted so I got a smile rivet to drill out next time.

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So, the bulkheads are done for now.

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The next steps are to deburr and prime the bellcrank ribs and one more, thankfully small, bulkhead.  Then the bottom skin goes on and it starts to look like a real airplane body.

Bulking up… working on the rear fuselage bulkheads

I only had the afternoon to work on the plane today.  The contractor’s minions were working trying to get our 8 week project (now in it’s 9th month) done.  I got to the shop around 1pm and in the first five minutes managed to blow the breaker.  The garage is very power challenged; it has barely enough juice to power my compressor.  Today I tripped it with a heat gun (pre-warming the oil in the compressor), a microwave oven (heating water to pre-warm the rattle can primer), and my propane heater (to pre-warm me!).  Unfortunately, the breakers are in the locked basement of the rental house, so I had to call the landlord’s son to pop it back on.  He couldn’t get there until 3pm!  So I worked by the light of the garage windows.

First up, I riveted the small rear bulkhead and tie down together with my hand squeezer.  I probably would have gone for the manual squeezer anyway, but with the power out, I had no choice.  The longeron yoke was perfect for getting these.

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Everything fit nicely and it was good to get the first piece of the fuselage actually done.  So here is page 10-08!

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With no power I couldn’t do a lot on the next bulkhead, so I instead hunted up all the parts for the remaining four bulkheads.  The first three bulkheads all have some extra bits attached and some holes to drill, so I set those up.  I actually got the second bulkhead clecoed together and fitted to the rear skin.  A couple of the flanges needed some finagling to get right, but it mostly lined up well.

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With the power back on, it was back on the pre-drill, deburr, dimple, smooth, prep for priming, priming train.  I had already primed some of the attach straps in the previous step, so they just needed touch ups (because the final drilling left some raw aluminum exposed).

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These are now all primed and ready to assemble.  I’ll get the final two bulkheads tomorrow.  These parts are the biggest I’ve worked on yet.  It’s kind of exciting to go from the small rear bulkhead to the back of the baggage compartment.  Still lots of pages to go on the rear fuselage.  The wing kit is just sitting there, taunting me!  I’ll be started on it soon enough, I hope.

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Prime time — Getting a serious start on the rear fuselage

When I left off on Wednesday, I had basically finished priming the small parts of the rear fuselage.

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The next step is to deburr and prime (yes more priming) the j-stiffeners, the longerons, the rear bulkhead, and the tiedown block.

The longerons are about 8 feet long and very roughly cut.  In the first steps of the section, I had to cut two small tabs off with the bandsaw (very thick stock).  I cut them a bit long and decided to file them down to smooth.  I also smoothed all the small tags left from the CNC cutting process.  The longerons are a bit longer than one of my work tables, but I just ran it across both and clamped it down.  Making more magic pixie dust before heading over to the scotchbrite wheel.  The only downside was that due to the position of the table with the wheel, I had to open the garage door and let in the 36 degree air!

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I similarly filed and deburred the j-stiffeners while I was at it.

I looked ahead at the next step and figured that I could prime the first rear bulkhead at the same time as the longerons and stiffeners.  To do that, I had to do some match and final drilling through the bulkheads, the vertical stabilizer, and the steel rudder hinges.  The instructions note that you need to drill these holes carefully and keep them perpendicular to the surface.  It seemed hard to get the whole stabilizer into my drill press, so I made some drilling blocks with #30 and #40 holes as needed.   I didn’t even have to pull the vertical stabilizer down from the wall!

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I had to modify the block as I went along to reach around some clecos and to twist down to get at the tiedown attachment, but it worked pretty well.

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I added some Boelube to the drill bit for the cutting and had to turn up the air pressure in the drill.  The holes came out nicely.  The picture below is the tiedown block.  You pull the clecos, drill a #12 hole, and slide in a AN3 bolt to keep the alignment straight.

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I dimpled and countersunk the parts to get ready for riveting tomorrow.  Then I deburred and prepped the parts for priming.

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There was a lot of stock to scuff.  The j-stiffeners were a pain because all the curves made it hard to reach the surface for cleaning.  In the end my hands were pretty blue-grey from the aluminum dust (at least it is better than argyria which turns you blue permanently!).

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I had some long pieces of paper left from uncrating the wings, so I used that to keep my tables clean.  Its a lot of priming work.

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It was pretty cold in the garage, so I warmed the primer with a hot water bottle before spraying it.  I also used a heat gun to warm the parts before spraying.  The propane heater is working pretty well.  I ran the temperature from sub 40 degrees up to almost 70 degrees.  It took about two hours to cool back down to 50 degrees.

In the end, I  had a huge pile of primed parts.


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Tomorrow, I’ll rivet the rear bulkhead and tiedown and start prepping the rest of the bulkheads.

This goes a lot faster when you work on it every day!