Tag Archives: vans

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.




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.

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.

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!

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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Slow cooked ribs…

I needed to finish prepping the remaining 18 wing ribs.

The weather was much improved from a couple weeks ago.  The shop was a whole 45 degrees F when I opened it up with no snow outside.  It really improved the ventilation for the priming.

20 or so minutes per rib to

  1. Uncleco from the spar where I had them sorted
  2. Mark and remove the spar bolts
  3. Check the sizes and locations of the snap bushings
  4. Mark the location of the bushing hole that wasn’t pre-drilled
  5. Drill a pilot hole for the snap bushing
  6. Step drill the 1 to 3 bushing holes
  7. Deburr the holes
  8. Deburr the rear-most lightening hole (too big to get with the Scotch-brite sanding wheel)
  9. Hand deburr the little slots in the flanges
  10. File the rough flange edges to something smoother
  11. Run the flanges through the big Scotch-brite wheel
  12. Shoot it with primer in the paint booth
  13. Mark the rib with it’s location
  14. Hang it up

That’s all I did… all day long.

I caught my knuckles on the spar a couple times trying to break the spar bolts loose.  There’s a sharp edge from the big double plate that just wants to grab you.  My father-in-law expressed no sympathy and simply suggested that I paint the whole thing blood red.  I was actually thinking about that as a color scheme.  Here’s a very nice paint job that I like!

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But in the end… All the ribs are ready for the next steps where I’ll install some snap bushings, rivet the flap attach and torque tube assemblies, match drill the bolt holes for the ribs, and install the ribs (rivets and blots).  The instructions call for doing the match drill step earlier, but I didn’t have the right sized socket to pull the bolts.  Easy enough to do in this step.  I should finish section 14 in the next build session and my wings will start to look like real wings!

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