Tag Archives: rv14

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.



Flap Therapy


I’m looking for a new job.  The old one in Chicago just didn’t work out, so my employer and I have parted ways. For now, the majority of the project will stay in Illinois until I figure out where I’ll be working next. I did keep some parts to work on at my NY home, so at least I can make a little progress!

So, I got started on the flaps.  I figured that they would be pretty easy to build in my basement shop.

I made the brackets earlier.  They were pretty easy to make using my table saw and band saw.

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Like most sections, this one starts with lots of parts preparation.  There’s a little fluting to do on the nose ribs (made harder by the fact that my fluting pliers are still in Illinois) and some burnishing of gaps to prevent faceting, but the annoying part is cutting a bunch of tabs off the flap ribs.  They’re easy to identify (no problem with Left and Right parts) since the tab has no hole.   I cut these off using metal snips and then used a file to carefully trim the edge down.  The snips did cause the edge to bend a bit, so I had to carefully straighten them with some smooth nosed pliers.

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Similarly, each of these rounded cuts caused the ends to “pucker” out a little bit.  It’s not noticeable until you look carefully.  But as I applied the same smooth pliers to each, I could feel the pucker straighten out.  Then, there’s lots of deburring.  The edges and holes on all these ribs were a little rough.  Lots of hand work with sandpaper and files to get the edges prepped.   I don’t have pictures here of the hinge plates and doublers, but they too required a lot of hand work to smooth out cut marks.

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Then, you assemble the flap skeletons.  This is one of my favorite parts of building… when a “real” airplane part suddenly starts to emerge from the pile of small parts!

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Here’s a close up of the inboard and outboard rib assemblies.  At first, I though that the inboard one was for the inboard most position, and the outboard one was for the outboard most rib.  No….  They work together to hold a rod that will eventually connect to the flap control system.  A bit of squinting at the diagram made this all clear.

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The joggled hinge brackets line up very nicely.  There are holes in just one of the joggled parts.  Later, when everything is lined up, I’ll match drill and rivet them together.

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I’m working on both flaps at the same time to help make sure that I get the right parts in the right assembly!  The two are mirror images, so it helps to see both at the same time.

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Next, you cleco together the skeleton with the skins.  It takes a bit of finesse to get the nose skin in place.  It has to be fitted over the flap hinge brackets and then worked around the nose ribs.  Two of the nose rib holes are not pre-drilled.  We’ll get them in the next step.  I just kept working the clecos around the edge and eventually got the whole thing put together.

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I match drilled the “missing” holes in the nose ribs pretty quickly.  The only real problem I have is that I only have a small compressor at home.  The air drill quickly runs through all my air, so I have to wait occasionally for the compressor to catch up.

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You need to be careful drilling the trailing edge.  The instructions make it quite clear that you must drill perpendicular to the cord line not perpendicular to the edge.  It’s a 84 degree angle.  I used to have a block cut to that angle (from previous trailing edge work), but it is lost somewhere either in Illinois or in the scrap heap.  So, I just downloaded a paper protractor and taped it to a square.  This provided enough guidance to final drill without enlarging any of the holes.

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So, here’s two flaps!  Of course, now the real work begins.  I have to deburr, dimple, and prime all the parts (and match drill the hinge brackets) before putting this all back together.

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Lots of work upcoming.  The big one, of course, is to get a new job!  I have some leads and have done some interviews.  I’m hoping to hear soon what’s up with that.

I have enough parts to work on for the next month or so (flaps and ailerons) and may bring back the tanks when I go back out to Chicago to move out of my apartment.

I’m hoping the next couple weeks will bring some better direction.


I was getting ready to start riveting the last bits of the right leading edge when my wife called.  She’s out of town, and I always feel a bit naughty when I’m out visiting my aluminum girlfriend instead of working around the house.

I had to rivet the bottom 3 rows of rib rivets, the J-stiffener, and the landing light bracket.  It went pretty quickly and came out nicely.

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I’m getting ready for a move next month.  The whole shop is moving to a hangar outside Chicago.  I wrapped the leading edge in a Harbor Freight moving blanket and set it aside so I could work on the left leading edge.

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For the leading edges, its really important to cleco the whole rib line.  It makes the assembly look like a porcupine. The fit is very tight.  I could feel the rib inching into position as I set each rivet (or finagled it into place with a punch pin).  The bottom 3 rivets on the top are on separate tabs that want to float around and are really hard to get into place.  I managed it by using a cleco to get it roughly centered and then the punch pin to get it close enough to slide in a rivet.

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The left side went much faster than the right side.  Maybe only 4.5 hours to rivet the whole thing.  I did have to drill out 3 rivets (and two of those ended up being NAS1097 oops rivets).

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This is the last piece I’ll build here at the factory.  I’m skipping the stall warning sensor and landing light lenses for now (it will be better to do those when the plexiglass isn’t frozen!).  I’ll spend the next couple weeks packing everything up.  I’m thinking of pulling out the flap and aileron assemblies.  I should be able to work on those in the basement shop.  It’s not large, but the pieces are only about 5′ long, so I’ll be able to continue work until we finish the household move this summer.

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 🙂



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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Powder coating and nutplates, nutplates, nutplates

Well, I tried some powder coating.  The experiment was a qualified success.  I was able to get reasonable and smooth coats on some pieces.  I think that I will be able to use this process for visible pieces in the fuselage and cockpit.  Here’s my first test on a piece of scrap.  This is the matte black powder.  My coverage wasn’t quite perfect, but it was clear that the electrostatic attraction thing really works.  The lighting in my booth wasn’t the best, which I think was a bigger problem.

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Then I tried the W-00018 backing plates.  The coverage was again a little thin.  I think that I can make it better (or if I used a second coat).  The powder coat ground was clipped to the crossbar and I was using our old toaster over as a curing oven.

In any case, I ended up giving them a light coat for matte black Rustoleum to make them match the lighting bay color.

I also sprayed the landing light brackets and the inspection hatch doubler while I was at it.   Then I was finally ready to tackle all the nutplates called out on page 17-04!

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For the backing plates, light brackets, and hatch doublers, I used NAS1097 rivets with the small head and 3/32″ body.  These are not structural, and only keep the nutplates from rotating, so the very thin countersink is not a problem.  This is much easier than dimpling the nutplates themselves and it keeps from wildly distorting the aluminum pieces with so many dimples so close together.  I bolted my squeezer to my work table so that I could concentrate on holding the parts steady.

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The splice plates had 18 nutplates each!

I reassembled the left leading edge.  It was a little tougher to get everything to fit with the skins dimpled.  I had to use a punch pin to align one of the top holes and then cleco away.

I didn’t get much else done (heading out for an evening date with the wife.. gotta keep her happy after spending all day with my aluminum girlfriend!).  I did manage to get the access hatch done.  I think I like the flat black paint on the doubler instead of the primer.  I’ll likely do the other access hatches this way.

Next up, I’ll prep and prime the ribs for the right side leading edge (a bit less work since there is no access hatch nor stall warning vane).  Also have to do all the dimpling for the right skin and J-stiffener.  After that, it will be a flurry of riveting.

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.