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Fuselage is here!

Not a lot to post, but my fuselage kit was just delivered… Of course I thought the wings would be almost done by now.

I was supposed to get a call from the trucking company to give me an hour heads up before the delivery, but the call never came. I headed out to the hangar at 3:30 because the kit was supposed to arrive by 5pm and traffic was building.

Finally, after 3 calls to dispatch, they got a hold of the driver who had been delayed by an exploding pallet.

Got it off the truck and into the hangar. Then I had to run because the wife and I had tickets to "39 Steps." Made it with time to spare!

Tank attach brackets

I finished up countersinking the fuel cap brackets and moved on to the tank attach brackets. These have a bearing, some shims, and three different kinds of nutplates that need to be attached.

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As always, first I had to find everything.  I had put the shims by the brackets themselves when I was hunting up everything at the start of the chapter, but it took a while to dig out all the nutplates.  The MS21051-L08’s in particular were a bear to find.  They are in bag #3015.  They are the only nutplates in there.  The spreadsheet of parts was very helpful! I separated the shims on the bandsaw and carefully deburred the holes (the instructions note to do a good job with this, particularly on the #8 screw holes).

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The shims have to be trimmed to match the ends of the attache bracket.  The narrow shim in particular has a very slim edge clearance to the outer nutplate hole.  I carefully sanded them down on my sanding disk to get the a close clearance.

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I marked the “primer line” on the attach brackets and started clecoing the nutplates in as I found them.  I’m substituting K1100-08 for the K1100-08D because I’m going to use “oops” rivets instead of dimpling the tiny shims.  I’m afraid that the shims will warp badly in the dimpler.  The hole on the end, in particular, is way too close to the edge for my to think about dimpling.

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I filed the cut marks off of the brackets before running them through the Scotch  Brite wheel.  The initial edge was a little sharp.  So I donated a few more drops of “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to the project.

The RV-12 was feeling a bit neglected.  The early low clouds had finally risen.  My son Ryan came down for the afternoon, so we fired up 3EN and did some pattern work.  He is getting ready to start his flying lessons, so I let him do one of the takeoffs and one of the landings.  He did a great job!

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I primed up the external parts of the brackets and shims and countersunk the brackets.  The picture shows a test fit.  The bracket lays tight to the skin and the shims have sufficient clearance.

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The final step for the day was to rivet the flange bearings onto the brackets.  This is where I really like working both right and left together.  I’m able to make sure I’ve got everything set up correctly.  The nice mirror image gives me some assurance that dyslexia didn’t bite me here.  I don’t show the riveting, but it came out pretty nice.

I have a few more things to finish up before diving into the Proseal.  I have to rivet some nutplates to the shims and then the shims (with more nutplates) to the brackets. I’m using the NAS 1097 rivet trick here rather than dimpling to avoid warping the shims.  I got the light countersinks done, but then had to jet to meet my wife for BBQ at Killen’s.

Finally Flaps…

It took awhile, but the flaps are finally closed up and done.  I’ve been spending a lot of time on my job search.  I’ve got quite a few leads and have had a few interviews, but no offers yet.  I’m interviewing with a big California tech firm in early June.  That looks very promising!  I’m also looking at some finance and fintech jobs here in NYC.  Hopefully I’ll have a better idea of where I’m going when the ailerons are finished.

On the last post, I had finally gotten the flaps assembled for the first time.  I always like that part, as the skeleton gets put together and the real shape of the part emerges.  Alas, that is typically short lived as the next step is to take it all apart, deburr, prime, etc…

Normally, I use my DRDT-2 to do the dimpling work on the skins.  That tool is still in the hangar in Chicago, so I used my backup C-Frame for the first time.  I was extremely careful because I’ve seen all the pictures of the “extra” holes people have managed to poke into their skins.  It was a bit tough getting the inside of the nose skin even with the reduced profile dimple die, but I managed.

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Doing the top and bottom skins was a lot easier than the nose skin!

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The next step was to prime all of the internal ribs and doublers and hinge plates.  Everything was carefully marked so I could reassemble it.  The blue tape is there because I only wanted to prime the internal area of the hinge plates.  I’m using Comet cleanser and a scotchbrite pad.  It really cleans nicely, leaving a dulled finish ready for paint.

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I also scuffed and washed the skins and spars.  They were a lot more awkward to do in our kitchen sink!  The blue tape covers the part of where the trailing edge wedge goes.  It is cleaned and scuffed right before installing the wedge.  Primer would effect the adhesive, so it remains bare aluminum. After cleaning and drying the parts, I lay down some paper in the garage and primed them (with a blockade in place so that my wife would not return and drive over the parts!).

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Some of the nose ribs get doubles and nut plates (not shown, but they are installed!)

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The hinge brackets are similarly riveted to some nose ribs.  Then the matching pairs are riveted together.


Then the flap skeleton is riveted together and the top skins are put back into place so they can be riveted (and back riveted) onto the ribs.

But… there was a small problem!  Apparently, I missed a couple of dimples in the nose skin of one flap.  So I had to take it all apart again.  This is why I like to do one last scan before putting that first rivet in place.

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With the top skin in place, you first rivet the top skin, nose skin, and spar together.  Pretty easy since you just need to reach over the top of the skin to get a bucking bar in place.  All but the last two rivets in each rib are driven (or squeezed on the ends).  For the last two, the gap is too small for a bucking bar, so they are back riveted.  My 5 foot back rivet plate was very handy here.  You also pull and squeeze the rivets for the top of the nose ribs here.


The next step is a bit tricky.  It is easy to introduce a twist into the spar when closing up the D-cell that makes up the nose.  The instructions recommend using a digital level to check the hinge brackets.  When the angles match, the box is squared up.   I had to play around with each flap for a while to get them lined up.  In the end, they were only .2 degrees off.  It will have to do.

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With that done, you can reach in through the (tight!) opening and rivet the bottom skin, nose skin, and spar together.

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Next, you get the back sides of the nose ribs and the two rivets that are close to the hinge brackets.  These are blind rivets because either they are so close to the bracket that there is no room to get the rivet gun in place or (for the nose ribs), you have no access to buck them.  The plans noted that using the pull rivets is optional for the spar rivets.  I figure that these are on the bottom, so they really aren’t a “beauty” item and also, they form a nice line with the nose rib rivets that have to be pulled.  It looks fine.  I do have some dings from squeezing the bracket rivets to buff out though 😦

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The trailing edge wedge is done in the normal way.  After pulling the tape that masked out the primer, I just had to scuff and clean the edge with some scotchbrite and acetone before adding the adhesive tape to the wedges.  The wedges were washed with Comet cleanser and scuffed as well.

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Once the wedges were clecoed in place, I let them sit a couple of days so the adhesive set would set.  Then it’s the normal double sided rivet thing.  Here, I first squeezed the rivets part way and then finished the back side with my mushroom head set.  They came in pretty flush as you can see in the picture below.  Finally, you pop rivet the bottom skins in place.

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Next I’ll start in on Section 22 — Ailerons!   Their construction is similar to the flaps except it uses stiffeners instead of ribs, so everything is back riveted.  Hopefully I  have all the pieces here in NY.  Otherwise, it will all have to wait until I can get out to Chicago in a couple of weeks.


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.

Working on the leading edges


With the top skins on the wings, it’s time to get down to working on the leading edges.  These seem likely to be the last parts I’ll finish before moving the project to Illinois.  Then, the whole thing will likely sit on the shelf until we move out in July.

Section 17 starts with a lot of part prep.  I built the cradle pieces and trimmed the nose ribs while I was waiting for bucking help on the wing skins, so it was time to do some initial fitting and match drilling.  I first sorted the ribs to make sure I had the correct ones for each side (and to make sure I had trimmed the right ones earlier).  I also had to trim the J-channel pieces.  I finally figured out how I had the reversed J-channel pieces for the wing top skin… it wasn’t reversed, it was a piece for the bottom skin!  Sigh.  Alas, I also discovered that I had cut my short W-00009B pieces (first page of the wing instructions) from the wrong piece of stock.  So, I realized that I needed to order two new pieces of J-channel (luckily I won’t need them until I get started on the tanks this July).

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You need to separate this splice strip from the tank skins.  It get riveted to the leading edge and then we use nutplates to screw the tank skin down.  The instructions suggest using a cutoff wheel to do this.  I had visions of cutting off my fingers and of gouging the tank skins, so I opted for something simpler.  This mini-hack worked great.

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Lots of dimpling on the ribs.  There is one more hole that gets match drilled later that will also need to be dimpled.  These dimpling pliers were a great investment.  I use them all the time for dimpling ribs and the edges of skins.  A lot easier to use than my squeezer or my DRDT-2.2015-12-05 11.55.27

On the left leading edge, you have to cut out a slot for the stall warning vane.  I considered just skipping it because I’m adding an angle of attack pitot tube.  I decided to leave it in because (1) it would be a real pain to add after closing up the skins and (2) the A-O-A has to be calibrated before it gives you good feedback.  Since my very first flight is all about calibration, it will be a good idea to have a dirt simple stall warning.  So, I cut the hole out.  Note the big holes on the ends.  Those are a #10 hole.  I didn’t have a #10 bit.  So I ordered a whole set of cheap Chinese bits from size #1 to size #60.  I’m sure they’re not real great quality, but there are a lot of these “drill one hole” parts of the instructions.  I have quality bits for the common sizes, but now I won’t have to wait a week each time I fail to notice yet another weird size bit.

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The clippers did a reasonable job clearing out the hole.  Then a lot of careful filing finished it off.

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Not too bad!

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You need to fabricate the J-stiffeners.  Lots (and lots) of holes to drill.  This is a traditional “blue-lining” job.  You drill one end hole, draw a blue sharpie line down the middle of the flange and then carefully drill and cleco your way across the stiffener.  Then you have to deburr everything….

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…. and dimple everything.  Luckily, this fit on to the DRDT-2.

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Then you need to dimple the skins… There are approximately 3 bazillion holes to dimple (and a dozen or so to skip).   Got the left skin done.  The right skin is waiting in the wings still partially assembled to avoid intermixing the parts.

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There are still more parts to prep.  Here are the brackets for the landing lights.  They were pretty rough and needed a file to smooth them out.  They get dimpled (they are deep enough to countersink, but I’m not going to try to second guess the instructions). They need to be painted flat black to help hide the landing light.  I was going to spray paint them, but then I saw a presentation on powder coating.  I’m going to try that next week.

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In preparation of powder coating the brackets (and in painting the ribs), I decided to make a mini painting booth.  This one is built out of a Home Depot wardrobe box.  It has a 20″x20″ filter wired in the back to help keep overspray under control.  The metal arm will work great for adding the ground wire for powder coating.

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The video I watch on surface prep and powder coating suggested that you wash the surface with Ajax or Comet.  The scotchbrite pad scuffs it up, but the Comet helps remove any grease and also removes any light oxide build up.  When you start, water beads on the surface so you know there is nothing for the primer to grip.

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After a bit of scrubbing, the surface is very lightly scuffed, but still Al-clad for maximum corrosion protection.  And it will really hold the primer (and black paint for the light bay).

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So now, I’ve got one leading edge ready for black paint and reassembly!

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Next up, I’ll paint the bay, prime the ribs (and paint the two in the light bay black), try powder coating the light brackets, and start the reassembly.


Top wing skins done (finally)

I’ve written in the past about “death pages” where you get stuck seemingly forever.  Well, page 16-03 was one of those pages!

I’ve been doing a lot of the work on my own, and only occasionally need a bucking partner.  The wings, however, really need one (Yes, some people did it all on their own, but they are long armed, ambidextrous, over achievers).  So, I was really beholden to having someone help me through this part.  Plus, I’ve been doing work around the house (and sometimes, stuck in Chicago for the week ends)… Oh, and a few days I went flying 🙂    In any case,  progress has been slow.

On Halloween, my son had to work, but an enthusiastic friend said he would stop by and help.  Alas, he’s a dentist and got called to the office, so the morning was a bust as far as riveting was concerned, so I decided to get a head start on section 17.  The first thing you do in this section is to cut out some leading edge cradle parts (they were sketched on the plywood lid of the shipping crate).

I went to put on my trusty, 20 year old ear protectors and they snapped in half, whacking the top of my skull in the process.  Luckily, I have some backup pairs in the shop for helpers and guests.

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I found that the sketch line wasn’t very accurate.  When I test fit a nose rib, the fit was horrible.  I trimmed it up for a better fit.  Used Gorilla Tape as a liner.  It really smooths the edge and should make it easy to get the leading edge in and out.

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Two of the W-1009’s get modified for each leading edge.  These parts have to be notched to fit of the spar reinforcement.  I used a marking gauge (and double checked with a ruler afterwards).  A couple of quick runs on the band saw and I was set.  I put the nose ribs on a small chunk of 2×4 before cutting.  The wood helps keep the saw blade clear of chips and it makes it easier to move the piece around.  The cuts came out great.  A little file work to clean them up (and to make a round inner corner instead of a square).

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With a little more time kill, I used sandpaper and a ScotchBrite wheel in my drill press to smooth the lightening holes.

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My friend the dentist showed up, but it was too late to do any riveting since I had a plane reserved for he afternoon.  Nice day for flying!  I ran some nice landings at KPOU working on stabilized approaches and airspeed control.  Then  it was over to 44N for some cheap gas.  There was a Stearman filling up at the same time!


OK, flash forward another two weeks.  I missed a build weekend as I stayed in Chicago for my company party.  I work for a big finance firm and we had a blow out 25th anniversary party.  It was a bit surreal with amazing food, flying violinists playing “Radioactive”, trapeze work overhead, and Katy Perry in concert.

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So, finally, last Saturday, I get back to work.  My son is able to come out in the morning and we banged out a couple hundred rivets.

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I also managed to “fix” the broken ear protector by overlapping the broken head band and clecoing the thing together.  My friend the dentist was stopping by for a second shot at riveting and I didn’t want him to go deaf.  The fix really amused my son!

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So my #1 bucking partner showed the dentist the ropes and pretty soon we were banging out rivets.  He’s very precise and checked every single rivet with the gauge.  We got some really beautiful ones.

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With the ribs and J-stiffener done, we just had a few rivets to put in on the wing root.  We squeezed all but a couple (it’s kind of tight for the squeezer on the last trailing rivet because of interference with the spar double and there’s one just in front of the j-stiffener that’s hard to get to).  I’ve never seen someone so happy to be squeezing rivets.

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The last page of secion 16 has you match drill and rivet in the aileron brackets.  With the wings on the stand, it was a lot easier to climb up the step ladder and drill down.

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I was able to squeeze 5 of the 9 rivets on each bracket and just bucked the innermost 4.  Tada!  Wings!

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So… On to section 17 — The Leading edge.

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I went back and started the fluting and flange straightening.  The dentist took a while to grasp the whole idea of fluting.  When we ran across a flute on one of the wing ribs, he asked if we should straighten out the “dent” in the wing.  I explained how we had to “shrink” the turned up flange or it would not lay flat.  Lot’s of hands waving and pieces of paper bent before he got it.  I got to work straightening while the dentist dressed the flange edges.  I also buffed the leading edge flanges to reduce faceting on the wing skin.

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It was getting late, but we still had time to drill out the #30 and #40 holes on the nose ribs.

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I won’t be back in the shop for almost 3 weeks!  Heading out to visit my Dad and his lovely wife (and new puppy!) for Thanksgiving.  When I do get back, I’ll start with fabbing the j-stiffener and prepping the splice strip.  Hopefully, I can get at least one of the leading edges mocked up in the cradle.