Category Archives: rivets

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!


Backwards to move forward…

I have a bit of “build debt” to pay off now that the shop is done.  The trailing edge on the right elevator was not great, so I started working on it last week.  I also needed to mount the counterweights in the elevator horns.  I also need to pull a couple of rivets in the vertical stabilizer to smooth a rough edge.  Oh, and the left aileron I built is garbage.  I started removing a lot of rivets.  My neighbor (ex Air Force crew chief) suggested using a very sharp #40 bit.  It worked really well.  I started a lot of the holes by hand to be sure I had a well centered hole.

I pulled a few rivets and re-squeezed better ones.  My buddy Ernie stopped by later and suggested that I could sand down high rivet tops and then I showed him this picture to show why I was resetting them.


With a head that high, trimming the rivet head would leave nothing holding the sheets together.  I ended up with a big pile of removed rivets.  I think I need to re-redo a couple of the rivets still, but the elevator is much improved.

So, I started working on the counter-weights.  The last time, I mis-cut the slabs because I forgot to orient the holes correctly.  This time, I wouldn’t make that mistake again!  And indeed I didn’t.  I made a new mistake.  You need to trim part of the back side of two of the weights so that it fits in the narrow part of the horn.  I removed three back sides.  So, once more, I’ll be ordering some new parts from Van’s.

I started deconstructing the left aileron.  When I was assembling it in my basement last year, I forgot to rivet part of the nose skin to a nose rib.  I tried reaching through skins to rivet it late, but all I did was horribly bang up the nose.  So I started pulling it apart.

It looks like I can salvage the nose ribs and main ribs, but I’ll replace the spar and skins.

The battery in the RV-12 was run down during a failed Dynon Skyview update.  The device said not to interrupt the update, so I let it go for a while on the main battery and even more time on the backup battery.  When I tried to start the plane when I came out with some co-workers mid-week, there was no juice left, so I got a battery charger to top it off.  Ernie said that was a good idea in any case since the weak voltage regulator on the -12 tends to blow under heavy draw (like recharging the battery).  So I pulled the cowl and charged it up.  While the charger was providing current, I tried the update again  This time it finished in a couple minutes.  The charger I bought had a ring mounting adaptor cable, so, when the charging was complete, I mounted that and routed the plug over to the oil door.  Now, I’ll be able to charge up the battery without pulling the cowl.  That will also be good for playing around with or updating the Skyview.

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My wife and son came out in the late afternoon to visit.  Ryan wanted to fly (my wife just came out for some Texas BBQ).  We got a chance to test out the canopy latch I installed last week.  I really like it.  We did a trip around the pattern to a full stop and then headed out off airport for the first time.  I’m definitely feeling more comfortable in the plane and my landings are still going well.  I really need more practice with the Skyview though.  I couldn’t remember how to load up a Direct-To route. I was planning on testing it to get me back to the airport.  I knew I could return with pilotage, but wanted to practice the button mashing and knob twisting.  Clearly, I need some more time hangar flying it.  In any case, it was a pretty easy return flight.  I did like that the Skyview called out traffic and indicated towers along the route (lots of towers between Houston and Galveston!).  Ryan was smiling after the trip.

Next week, my buddy Carver returns and we’ll get started on the fuel tanks.  Once I get the replacement parts, I’ll rebuild the aileron and complete the elevators as well.


Rivet right leading edge…

Lots and lots of rivets! After all the setup work last week, it was finally time to get down to business and get riveting.  The right leading edge was sitting in the cradle, just begging to be riveted when I had to call it quits last week.  You start with the first two rivets on each rib and start working your way down.  The top two rivets were squeezed as were the rivets through the splice rib (though I banged some of them with the gun to get a smoother fit).

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I’m getting pickier about my rivets particularly since this is a very visible surface.  I ended up having to redo 7 or 8 rivets — clearly, my skills have atrophied.  At least I was still pretty good at getting rivets out!  This one came out very cleanly.

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I use a wide head on the rivet gun instead of the floating mushroom head I started with.  I got the idea from Carl and Rafael’s RV14 site.  They previously built other RV’s and so most of their advice is pretty good.  Here, I found that it is much easier to control the wide head and hold it flush.  The packing tape idea is a pretty good one too!  There is very little marring around the rivets and the heads are very flush to the touch.  It gets a little harder right on the nose, but even those came out great!

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On Saturday, I got the work about half done (in a half day — I’m trying to spend some time on the house getting it ready for the sale).

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I also did a test fit of the landing light bracket.  It definitely has a top side and a bottom side.  The plans do not spell this out very well, but if you look closely at the illustration, you can see which was is up (Hint, the wider side goes up toward the stiffener).

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As I got down to the last three or four rivets in the nose, I had to pull the leading edge out of the stand and reach in.  This was pretty awkward.  I found that my new round tungsten bucking bar was really handy.  It is a little shorter than my rectangular bar and about .25 pounds heavier.  It really sets the rivets nicely.

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I still have a couple of rows to do on the other side (and the landing light bracket), but I had to cut Sunday’s session short because I was taking my daughter out to practice for her driving test.  I also got a call to pick up a picture at Michaels.  A massive squall line moved through while I was in the store, inundating the parking lot.  As the line moved north, we got blue skies and a nice double rainbow.

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I also got a package in the mail… I saw a classified ad for a Nomex flight suit for only $30.  This is a used Air Force one.  It has velcro for subdued patches and the like.  I’m still a couple of years away from first flight, but this was a bargain.

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Hmmm…. perhaps I can dust off my old Space Command patches from my time in the 1000 Satellite Operations Group!  Or maybe StarFleet Command 🙂



Right wing skinned!

Not a lot to report, just lots of riveting done!  As usual, after a big hiatus, I go back through the instructions and check my prior work.  Here, I noticed that I used 4 too short rivets where the aileron bracket connects to the top skin.  I was reading the plans upside down (to match the orientation of the wing whilst riveting) but it was also mirrored (plans show left wing, I was riveting right wing).  So, I didn’t notice that the brackets used 3-4 rivets instead of 3-3.5 rivets.  Luckily, I’ve had sufficient practice drilling out rivets.  So, my son and I started the day with 4 rivet replacements.  Then I went and marked all the non-obvious places where I needed 3-4 rivets (should’a done that the first time!).

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So we just kept riveting!  We had a break for lunch and then came back and did the last few ribs and then suddenly, there were no more clecos!  One fully skinned wing!

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I still have the left wing to do.  I decided to remake the longer J-stiffener.  When I replaced the shorter one (because it was a mirror image of what it was supposed to be), I used a different piece of stiffener stock.  I didn’t like the way the two pieces nested and worried that vibration in the wing would wear at the joint.  It only took me 20 minutes to fully fabricate, match drill, deburr, dimple, and prime a new one.  Then, my son and I swapped the wings.  We put the right wing back in the cradle, and moved the left wing to the bench.  Then we put in the 100’s of clecos to prepare for riveting.  Ready for the rest of the riveting when I’m home in a couple of weeks

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A wing emerges

It’s been a while since I posted an update.  I’ve still been working on the plane, just at a reduced rate.  I lost some build time to honey-do items, a couple of day long bicycle tours (80 miles around NYC and 105 miles from Chicago to Kenosha Wisconsin and back), and a flying review day (working on pattern speed and short field landings).

I left off with the right wing pretty much ready to rivet.  I didn’t expect that there would be much to report about preparing the left wing, but I was wrong!  I went to put the J-stiffeners in and I could not get the holes to line up.  Somehow, I drilled two stiffeners for the right wing and instead of one for the left and one for the right.  The one I have fits perfectly — on the outside of the wing.

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These were done in the very first step in the wing preparation.  No idea how it happened, but I had to fix it.  Vans sent me a couple of new J-stiffener blanks (neatly shipped in a piece of PVC pipe).  Because the holes line up perfectly (in reflection) and because I had not yet dimpled the stiffeners, I was able to use the bad one as a template.

I cut the new one to length (those little cleco clamps come in handy, thanks Dad!)…

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…and then match drilled through the old one into the new one.  I cleco’d right to the bench to keep a close alignment.

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A bit of deburring, finishing, and paint; and it was ready to go!

There are two J-stiffeners in the wing and they overlap where the wing panels come together.  There is a bit of ambiguity in the plans about which goes on top of which.  I was checking the forums and one of the Van’s engineers noted that the long one abuts the wing skin joint and acts as a shim, so clearly, the long one is closest to the skin and the shorter one laps over from the inboard skin.  Mine stiffener was about 1/32″ long, so I trimmed it to fit better.

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The son came out that afternoon to help, so we got to work dimpling the left top skins.  It is possible to do this solo, but it is much easier with some help.  Lots and lots of dimples!

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Then we primed the skins.  A shot of primer down the joints of the ribs and a light fill coat in between seems to work.

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The next week was a flying week, but I had the morning to do some riveting work.  My son was my riveting partner.  The plans suggest back riveting the skins with an extended length back rivet set.

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We shot a few this way (using a smooth faced back rivet bucking bar), but I wasn’t that pleased with how the rivets set on the outside flush side, so we switched to the large mushroom head on the rivet gun and the normal tungsten bucking bar on the inside.  The quality seemed to improve rather dramatically. We only got a couple of ribs worth done before it was time to go flying!  It was a good day, we ran a bunch of landings at KPOU and then gassed up at Sky Acres with it’s narrow, uphill runway.  Nice flying!

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My daughter came out the next weekend to help me set some more rivets in the morning.  They came out quite nice.  We got enough done together so that I was able to reach around and finish the last three ribs solo.  It worked pretty well even with the rivet gun shooting left handed.

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After I got the nutplates on the inboard rib, my son dropped by after work.  We managed to shoot about half of the outboard skin.  The clecos keep disappearing and the container of rivets keeps getting emptier!



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Slowly, ever so slowly, a wing emerges!

Rear spar finally done… Wing skins on for the first time

I had 192 rivets left in the rear wing spar…. I finally got them all!  I did most of them while the spar was still loosely attached to the ribs.  This gave me a nice clamping surface to hold the spar steady for the riveting.  Most of the double plates were easy to get at with my longeron yoke (switching sides as needed).  My pneumatic squeezer is pretty wimpy on the 1/8″ rivets, so all of these were hand squeezed.  I picked one rivet size and got all the rivets that matched that size.  Here, I get the AN470AD-4.5 rivets to hold the aileron bracket in place.

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The inner doubler plate is really thick.  It uses AN470-AD-6’s on the fork part…

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… and massively long AN470-AD-8’s on the second doubler plate.  I switched to my basic yoke for those to get more reach.

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That finished the spar riveting.   Here it is with the orange tape I used to keep from riveting the rib attached points still in place.

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There is one more step left before attaching the spar to the ribs.  There is a rather dire looking note in step 6 that warns that the spar attach hole must be reamed on a drill press.

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I moved my tabletop drill press over on to my work bench and propped the spar up to make it level.  The hole was already at 11/32″, so reaming it to 3/8″ did not remove a lot of meta. (NOTE: a reamer would work better here than a bit.  I thought I ordered a new reamer but, in fact got a bit…. You should order a .311 and .375 reamer. You’ll need then for the fuselage anyway)

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I still had to rivet the spars to the ribs.  Since I could not push individual ribs out of the way anymore, it was harder to get the yoke into the tight corners.  I ended up bucking two of the AD426 rivets here.  Not a big deal.  It settled down very flush.

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I was able to reach the rest of the ribs with my 4″ flat nose yoke.2015-08-01 13.09.47 2015-08-01 15.18.32

Just like that!  I had some wing skeletons!  Section 15 done!.  They were a lot less floppy once I got everything riveted, but they didn’t seem very strong.  That was about to change.

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Time to start section 16.  The Top Wing Skins! I dug down to the very bottom of the crate and pulled out the inboard and outboard top skins.  My son and a couple of his friends stopped by.  They had a lot of fun clecoing the right wing!  Once the skins went on, the wings tightened up right away.  They feel very solid (and are getting heavy!).  I’m sure they will really pull it tight once I rivet.

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My son and his friends got bored and left after a while.  I did the left wing on my own.  I used a pin punch to help me line up the ribs (or used a step ladder to reach down inside and move the rib into position).

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The prepunched holes are amazing.  Every hole in the skin lined right up with a rib flange. My father-in-law told me horrifying tales of rivet fan spacing lines on skins and carefully blue lining the rib flanges.  Then, the ribs where nudged into place until the blue showed through the hole and drilled.  It was quite tedious!

The whole cleco action on this kit took me about an hour, tops.  Most of the holes are already final drilled to size.  I just need to dimple.  Very happy to be doing it this way.

Well, most of the holes are final.  You need to final drill through the doubler plates.  I snuck over to the workshop early Sunday morning and reamed them out before church!

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You also need to match drill and final drill some of the nut plate holes.  That went pretty fast as well.  The blue mark is to remind me where the #19 holes for the nut plate go.  My wings were upside down relative to the plans, so I was extra careful

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Where the skin hangs out past the rear spar (out where the gap farings go), you need to dimple one hole for a #8 screw head.  Again, the plans have dire warnings urging caution.

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I carefully smoothed the hole with a deburring bit, a hole deburring tool, and a rolled up piece of sandpaper.  They were very smooth by that point.  I carefully squeezed the dimple.  They both came out very clean.

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The next step is to gently countersink the wing skin over the doubler skins.  The skins are pretty thin for countersinking, but with the doubler plate underneath and the undimpled rib flanges below, that’s what the plans call for.  There is yet another dire note telling you it is better to be shallow than to be deep on the countersinks (up to 0.005″ shallow).  I wanted to start on that task fresh next week, so I just stripped off some of the blue plastic to get good access to the holes I need to countersink.

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Next week, I’ll countersink the wing walk holes, do some skin fitting (the corner where the inboard and outboard skins meet the tank skins gets shaped to make a smooth edge), and get some dimpling done.  I’ll probably get to riveting in two weeks.   There are a lot of rivets!  I’ll do it with my back rivet bucking bar and a 12″ back rivet tool.  This should give me a very clean top surface.

At the tail end…

I finally got started on the top-most skin on the rear fuselage.  This looked really hard to do solo.  So I talked my son into helping (it only cost a trip to the hockey skate shop and a lunch at the local Chinese restaurant).  I thought about just bucking the rivets with the fuselage on it’s side, but with two people I worried that it would be hard to co-ordinate.  I know one other builder (working with a helper) did it with a back riveter, so we tried that.  I padded the ground, and we lifted the fuselage down.  I padded the inside with moving blankets so I wouldn’t bend or crush anything.


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I was on the inside with the back rivet gun.  My son was on the outside with the back rivet bucking bar.

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It only took a couple hours and we were done!  I’m skipping sections 11 & 12 for now.  I think it will make the eventual move to the hangar (and Chicago!) easier.  So for now, it is the biggest item on the trophy wall.

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Next up!  The main spar and the wings 🙂