Category Archives: workshop

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.


Ready for the truck

Not much to write about… I went to the shop on Saturday to finish packing up. Last week, I concentrated on finished parts. This week, it was tools and tables.

I cleared out the three cabinets.  Everything got boxed up.  There was less left than I expected.  At this point, most of the parts are actually riveted onto the wing! I did pull out the flap and aileron parts earlier. Those are sitting in my basement ship.

Then I cleared off the tables. Most of the small tools ended up in a divided case.  That got moved to my basement as well. 

After lunch with my wife asks son, we unshipped the mounted tools and broke down the work tables and DRDT-2. 

The garage is much tidier than it has been for a long time! 

Everything looks like it will fit on the truck. The plan is to pack up this Friday, do some work around the house on Saturday, drive out Sunday, and unpack on Monday!. My son is going to do the road trip with me and help me unpack on the far end.  I have a couple of friends who may also come by and hep.

Next stop, Chicago! 

Starting to look like a real wing


So I had to finish the work on page 14-03 that I had skipped (needed a better socket wrench to get the bolts off the spar).  There was a lot to do there.  I clecoed the newly primed ribs back onto the spar and started drilling the #12’s and reaming the #30 and #40 holes.  I only had a few hours on Saturday morning to work before I headed out to work on some Arrow training.

I need to build some retractible time to get into our club Bonanzas and it will be nice to be able to fly something other than our dependable Archers.  I needed some work with the head instructor before I get my sign off. It was a very blustery day with 20kt+ winds from the west and big gusts.   We flew over to Bridgeport where the winds aligned nicely with runway 29.  After getting those aced, we flew over to New Haven where the crosswind runway was out of service.  We were landing on runway 2 with 90 degree crosswinds.  Lots of fun there too.  Huge corrections needed to keep on track.  One more day in our second Arrow, and I’ll have my sign off!

Anyway, I got the whole right wing match drilled and final drilled and took off the ribs and did the deburring work.  They’re ready to re-attach and rivet (and bolt).


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I set up the left wing to do the same, but realized that I was running out of work room.  So I decided to go ahead and build a wing cradle.

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I made a trip to the Home Depot Aviation department and picked up some 2×4’s and some castering wheels.  Just dropped them off at the shop that night.

So Sunday was awesome and beautiful.  What a great day to go flying!  Too bad the plane I needed was being used to ferry a pilot to pick up another club plane.  Sigh.  I’ll do the finish work next weekend if the weather holds.

So I got into the shop around 2pm and started working on the cradle (and cleaning out all the crap that accumulated in the shop over the winter).  My son was planning on dropping with a couple of his friends to help out.  The son showed up around 6pm with one friend, but the timing was great.  I had the cradle mostly built out, but I needed to flip it over.  It’s 10’x2’x3′ and hard to flip over solo.  My son’s friend had never worked on a plane before, so I put him to work reaming out the #30 holes in the spar and rib flanges.  My son moved clecos while the friend did the drilling before they swapped jobs.

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They did some good work (and I got my shop swept out for good measure!).

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The cradle isnt quite done, but it shouldn’t take long to put the top braces in place.  I’ll be able to use it for the rib riveting.

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Nice to have a sunny, warm, and clean shop!

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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.

A clean start… (and some more rudder work)

Rivet count: +25 bringing us to 328!

Shop temp: An awesome 63F!

I’d been aching to get back out to the shop and work on the rudder all week.  The vstab was pretty straightforward, but the rudder has some more challenging bits to get to….

However… that wasn’t the main focus of yesterday’s work 😦

There were several nagging bits of work to do in the shop.  There was the broken light, there was a nice cubby shelf sitting uselessly off on the canted section of the garage floor,  There was all the sawdust and aluminum dust and shavings and bits of blue plastic littering the overflowing trashcan, there was the pile of cardboard boxes shoved off onto one side, and there was my beautiful vertical stabilizer sitting on the one comfortable chair that really needed to be up on the wall somewhere.

Oh, and I had to move a car into one half of my shop!  A friend of mine moved to Seattle and I’m holding his car for a while until he can arrange to have it shipped.  This put a strain on the garage and driveway space at home for a while, but was manageable.  But on Monday, half of the home garage goes into a staging ground for our master bedroom remodel AND we are parking a dumpster on half of the driveway.  Clearly, my buddy’s car was gonna have to move!

It was a lovely day (weather-wise), so I hauled all the boxes out of the shop and started sweeping.  I filled a large contractor’s bag full of sweepings and bits of wood and packing plastic.  Then I rearranged the shop so that the left bay had all the EAA tables and the right side was empty.

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With that done, I finally replaced the broken light fixture

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Online, I saw lots of shots of airplane parts hung up on the walls to keep them out of harms way.  Not a lot of detail on how to actually do it though.  I wanted something to support the parts so they would not get distorted.  I ended up ripping a notch in a piece of 2×4 and making a shelf.

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The 2×4 supports the base of the vstab. The 5/8″ notch is deep enough to allow the skin edge bottom to hang freely without putting any pressure on it.  It is wide enough (2 table saw blades wide) to provide clearance for the rivets.  A strap (with some carpet bits for padding) completes the system.

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With all that done, my lovely wife came by for lunch.  We got my friend’s car manuevered through the narrow driveway and past the rental tenant’s dead panel van and into the garage. Then we had a nice lunch at the Silver Lake Cafe.

After a quick trip back home and a few chores to make a small deposit into the bank of marital bliss, it was back to the shop to pick up the rudder work.

First, I re-cleco’d the main spar, doubler plates, horn and counterbalance rib back into place.

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Then it was back to riveting.  It was easy to get a squeezer on most of the rivets, but the horn was a bit tighter.  So I swapped out the standard yoke for the longeron yoke

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The only hitch was finding some K1000-6 nutplates.  Parts sleuthing takes a much larger part of my time than I would like.  Many of the parts bags are simply labeled with cryptic “misc parts and rivets.”  There was a rough picture on the plans page, but it wasn’t clear exactly what I was looking for.  I dug around online and found a picture before remembering that there was a hardware guide in the infamous “Section 5.”

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I added a tab to make it easier to find.  It has full size diagrams of all the nut plates used in the build  After digging around some more, I found the K1000-6’s in a bag labeled “Empennage Bearings.”  In retrospect, that makes sense because I will eventually screw the bearings into these very same nut plates.

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I had a bit of time left to start doing final deburring on the many stiffeners and shear plates before calling it quits to go play bridge with some friends.

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Next up… more rudder stiffeners, some primer work, and back riveting!

The first rivet

I finally got into the workshop to build in earnest…  But before I could dig in, I had a few nagging tasks left over to finish.  Here’s my dimpling station.  It’s at a convenient standing height and I can do large sheets with it.  I kept the 45 degree angle so I can do the bent sheets like the vertical stabilizer more easily.  The carpet should keep the skins in good shape.

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With the side show out of the way (I still have to fix one of the overhead lights, but I’ll wait for a warmer day (20F today) when I can open the garage door and not freeze to do that), it was time to actually think about building!

The first step was to dig out all the parts for the vertical stabilizer.  I pulled some of the parts out during inventory, but had trouble locating some of the other parts.  The VS-0401 was hiding in a bag labeled “miscellaneous parts.”  That one I found quickly enough because I read about someone else’s travails in finding the part.  I had more trouble with the hinges, parts VS-410PP, VS-411PP, and VS-412PP.  I combed through the 10 pages of inventory sheets, but couldn’t find them.  They were in bag 1901 labeled “empennage hinges”.  Duh!2014-02-08 10.42.05

The instructions start innocently enough.  Cleco on a doubler plate, do some match drilling.  The next step though, is to trim the VS-702 front spar.  I bought a Ryobi band saw at Home Depot last week in preparation for the aluminum cutting.  The experienced builders at the workshop last month said that a bandsaw made it all so much easier.  So, I had to take a break and set that up.  I used one the “Hints for Homebuilders” tips to cut through the spar with a wood backing piece (the wood cleans the blade of aluminum chips after making the cut).  It worked like a charm.

I deburred and  smoothed the spar and plate.  The last step on the first page is to rivet the plate on.  Time for my first rivet!  I had to prime the mating surfaces before doing that, so I sprayed on some green self etching primer.  It was a rough go with the cold.  I’ll have to bring a warming box of some sort in the future.  I set up the squeezer, and voila!  The first rivet went in.

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It was nearing the end of the day, but I wanted to push on and get the rest of the plate riveted.  Five of the six flush rivets went in fine.  I bungled the last one.  Alas, when I drilled it out, I made a figure-8 hole.

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Not sure what the best course of action is.  I’ll post on VansAirForce and ask Vans directly.  It’s either no big deal, or I’ll have to make and replace the double plate.



It’s here!

It’s here!

The empennage kit was delayed by the horrible weather of the “polar vortex.”  It had been scheduled for Friday (which would have given me the weekend to inventory it!), but I had to settle for a Monday afternoon drop off.

The driver was great helping me load the crate up on a couple of furniture dollies and roll it up to the garage.  I had just a little time, so I popped the top just to see if there was any damage.  Everything looks fine.

Alas, I’m going to a SportAir workshop this weekend and then heading off to finish off my IFR rating, so I won’t be able to do anything for two long weeks.


The workshop is pretty much ready.  I have three EAA Chapter 1000 tables.  Two at 5′ long, one at 4′ long.  This is enough to hold the main spars.  When the time comes, the garage is big enough to build some wing stands and so I should be in good shape.

Here’s my trio of tables 🙂

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