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Vertical Stabilizer Fiberglass Tip

July 24, 2012

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So the other day, one of the people in my household (I’ll let you guess if it was me or not) decided that we better clean out the guest closet before my cousin comes to visit for a little.

“What was in the closet?” you ask…

Well, a whole bunch of airplane parts, including some empennage tips.

So, we shuffled some things around, and cleaned up a little. BUT, I started thinking about where to store these things. It gets pretty hot in the garage, so I told myself that I really only wanted them out there if they were actually installed on the empennage.

Okay, that’s as good of an excuse to do some airplane work as any, so I got to it.

First step, get the VS down from the wall.

Check.

Next step: located VS-909.

Check.

There really isn’t any science to getting this thing drilled. It pretty much fits snugly in one orientation.

As a side note, the front edge of the VS isn’t perfectly aligned with the edge of the front of the tip, but I am a fiberglass master (by “master” I really mean “worked for a sailboat shop when I was a teenager, so I’m not afraid of a little shaping.”) I’d rather install the tip along the ridge meant for the top of the VS and adjust the front of the tip than the other way around.

After a few #40 holes:

It’s attached.

Then, I started digging back through my hardware bins (and this blog) to remember how I was going to attach these.

It all came flooding back. Yes, I’m going to attach them with #6 screws. (Insert long never-ending discussion about whether to make them removable.) I like the idea of eventually putting a camera in the VS tip, so here I go…)

I marked up a few .025″ strips of aluminum sheet, and cut them out.

This is from the “trim bundle.”

Then, clamped them in place.

Cleco clamps in action.

Some holes drilled, along with a #6 nutplate to help drill the attach holes.

I drilled the middle hole, clecoed in the nutplate, drilled one of the leg holes, stuck a rivet in there to hold its orientation, then drilled the other leg’s hole.

(Removed the cleco for the sake of the picture.)

After that was complete, I realized that I really wanted to sand off the gelcoat before priming etc, and that I better wait to rivet in the nutplates until that’s done as well.

For now, I turned my attention back to the VS, where I needed to enlarge the attach holes to make room for the #6 dimple die.

A quick search on the iphone…

Thanks Reiley.

I went searching through my hardware bins…

It feels good to have these open again.

…found a #28 drill, then drilled, deburred, and dimpled the four holes on each side of the VS top.

Without starting some sanding and countersinking, I think I’m stuck for a little.

Just some sanding and countersinking before I can screw these in temporarily and hang it back up on the wall.

Good night, and within a week of the previous entry. Sweet!

1.0 hour.

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Bought Cleveland Main Squeeze

August 21, 2010

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Recently, I’ve been kind of unhappy with my economy squeezer that I bought from the Yard. (I think Avery sells the same squeezer).

The squeezer is great for the majority of tasks on the empennage, but it only has one yoke, and I really need a no-hole yoke for some of the tighter-access areas at the end of ribs and such.

So, to buy a no-hole yoke, it looks like I’m going to have to buy a new hand squeezer (insert long back and forth about pneumatic squeezers here. I’m okay with hand-squeezing for the whole airplane, but I want one that can exchange yokes with a pneumatic squeezer if I decide to get one in the future).
So, for no small chunk of change (thanks, savings!) I got Cleveland’s Main Squeeze model 22 and the 4″ Thin-Nose Pneu. Yoke. I won’t be able to use this yoke for dimpling (still have the economy squeezer for that), but this will be great for squeezing rivets.

Aug 27, 2010 Update:

My new squeezer showed up. The actual squeezer is unbelievably light, and the yoke is unbelievably heavy. Even before installing the yoke, I can tell this is a much higher quality tool than my “economy” squeezer.

Here are the two separate purchases from Cleveland.

Ready for ACTION!

This should give you an idea of the difference in quality between the two.

In addition to being easier to squeeze, I am most impressed with the yoke. While I was squeezing rivets with the smaller 3″ yoke, sometimes the yoke would “give” a little. I can only describe this as the “c” part of the yoke opening ever so slightly. This had the result of pulling the top of the yoke back just a little, sometimes shifting the shop head a little to one side, or in some cases, sliding the flush set along the manufactured head side during squeezing. Most of the rivets turned out okay, but I no longer have this problem with the new yoke.

Here’s a picture of SRS (shifting rivet syndrome).

Big difference in quality (pronounced "price reflects this") and operation.

Bravo, Cleveland.

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Final Prep for Right Elevator

May 20, 2010

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Well, after deciding not to work out tonight (in favor of wine), I made it out to the garage pretty late for some final prep work before riveting the right elevator.

Tonight's build partner, 2004 Manyana (play on words) Crianza. A delicious tempranillo from Spain.

On with the building, you say? Fine.

One of the last real fabrication items I have left on the right elevator was enlarging the counterbalance skin dimples. To make a long story short, I don’t have #10 dimple dies, so I dimpled with #8, and then planned on using the AN507 screw head and a nut tightened down to enlarge the dimple enough for the screw to sit flush.

This did not work.

Okay, instead of waiting for a week for a $40 dimple die to arrive, let’s be creative.

Plan: matchdrill two holes in a block of wood, countersink the holes, then use a flush set to enlarge the dimples.

Here's my block of wood, later to be countersunk.

Well, I don’t really have any good pictures of my attempt, because that didn’t work either, and I was getting frustrated.

Finally, I told the girlfriend to come out and listen to me explain the problem. (I knew this would help me come up with a solution.)

Without even flinching. “Why don’t you use a bigger screw to make your dimple?”

my face = <deer in the headlights>

Of course! (Except I didn’t have a bigger countersunk crew, but it set me down the right path.)

This should work. (It's my punch set that came with my rivet gun.)

Setup recreated (I had a piece of tape on the skin to prevent marring.)

The hole on the left has been "enlarged." This worked great!

Okay, let’s move on. Next up, I needed to locally bevel the edges where the spar and tip rib are underneath the counterbalance rib (so the top skin doesn’t show the transition bulges. So I marked those, and also started thinking about how to attach these empennage tips. See the two undimpled holes to the right? Those are two (well, 4, two on top and two on bottom) tip attach points that will eventually be drilled, deburred, and dimpled. Might as well do it now so I don’t have to worry about deburring between riveted sheets.

Lining things up to wrap my head around this interface.

I flipped the pieces over and drilled them to #30.

The top two holes have been drilled and deburred, ready for dimpling.

After dimpling…this #6 screw fits pretty well. (Editorial note: I’m pretty locked in to attaching the elevator tips with screws. I know there is really no reason to take the tips off, but right now, I don’t want to commit to blind rivets.)

That #6 screw looks like it will fit pretty well.

Once the other side was done, I primed the interior (and taped off exterior) side of the counterbalance skin.

Priming. You can see the two #6 dimples at the top of the left side of the skin. (I'll do the rest later...the rest are all accessible in the future.)

While that dries…let’s devinyl!

Hooray for devinyling!

All done. (After using compressed air to blow the flaked primer off.)

Back to emp tip attachment, here are the #6 holes in the skin, dimpled the same way as the counterbalance skin.

Nice big dimples. (Whoa, I forgot to deburr that relief hole on the left there. Fixed after picture taken.)

Let’s get this thing clecoed together.

Those big dimples sit nicely in each other. Here you can see those two holes are the only holes that overlap.

Next, the manual has you rivet the following two holes (not accessible once the spar and tip ribs are in place).

Protected with tape, this rivets were set beautifully.

Without clecos, it's starting to look like an elevator.

Next, “loosely place” the counterbalance in the counterbalance skin and “partially” insert the screws.

The untrimmed (on purpose) counterweight in the counterbalance skin.

last, but not least, they have you insert the skeleton in the skin and cleco together.

Wuhoo! It really does look like an elevator!

Those screw heads are pretty flush. (They are not tight yet, so they'll sit a little better once I get them tightened down.)

A couple pictures of some of the interfaces.

Just behind the counterweight.

Trailing edge of the tip.

Inside corner of the counterbalance rib. (What's that stuff hanging from the top edge? I'll have to investigate later.)

Finally, the trailing edge of the inboard rib.

Ready to rivet!

One more shot.

1.5 hours, 4 flush rivets set.

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Fixed Right Elevator Trailing Edge

April 24, 2010

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I’ve been lacking in motivation recently due to some badly dimpled holes along the trailing edge of the right elevator. All last week, my error had been hanging over my head, and I was having trouble even motivating myself to fix them.

Saturday afternoon (writing this later) I mustered up some courage and drilled out 13 of the 14 trailing edge rivets on the right elevator. They are really not trailing edge rivets, but the aft-most rivets of each of the 14 stiffeners (7 on the upper skin, and 7 on the lower skin).

You can't even really see the damage in this picture...

Here’s a couple pictures of the damage.

You can see how the dimple kind of tweaked the skin. Boo damaged skin.

The above pictures was the worst one. This one was more typical.

A small ridge below the hole (in the picture) and a small dent above the hole (in the picture).

After getting them all drilled out (13 of them, one of them was good enough to leave alone), I set up the skin with a long backriveting plate underneath the offending holes and used a 2×4 laid spanwise on the stiffeners with some clamps to keep the skin surface flat. Then, I used 4 or 5 long pieces of tape to pull the upper skin back to allow plenty of room to work.

You can still see where the very trailing edge is starting to bend down. This is why I had the problem in the first place.

With no rivets in the holes, I used a small flush set (about 3/8″ diameter) and my rivet gun turned way down to flatten the dents (I’ll call them dents for dramatic purposes, but they were really just small impressions) and ridges (again, really just small high spots) flat. I put the flush set on either side of the existing dimple (which was okay, it was the area just outside of the dimple, where the edges of the dimple die set had tweaked the skin a little, where I was having my problem) and gave it a few taps.

After finishing one side, I took off the protective tape I was using and inspected. It ended up okay. I think if I were going to polish the empennage, it would bug me, but my latest paint scheme idea has me painting the elevators.

I did the other side, and then cleaned everything up, put some rivets back in the holes, and set up each side again with my fancy setup to actually backrivet the last hole of the stiffeners in place. It went perfectly, and I was really careful to hold everything very flat against the backriveting plate.

(By “perfectly,” I really mean “I messed up one of the holes, had to drill it out to #30 and use an oops rivet.” ) I’ll point it out.

Here are some examples of the replaced finished rivets.

This one looks great!

Pretty good. You can still kind of see where the damage was.

Holy crap, how did I do that to the rivet? This is the one that got drilled out again and replaced.

Here's the shop head for the oops rivet. This was my first real oops rivet. Not bad.

This one is okay.

Another very nice one.

It's not blurry in real life, I promise.

Whoa, who scratched my skin? It was probably the male part of the dimple die. That will hopefully polish out, (or it will get cleaned up and painted).

Another good one. In all of these, you can kind of see the larger diameter area that was dimpled.

This one is on the very end, as you can see the devinyling lines.

It looks the same as all the rest, of course, so you’ll never know, and I’ve already forgotten which side (top or bottom) it’s on.

Anyway, I drilled out 13 of the 14 original rivets, then had to redo one of those, so 14 rivets drilled out and reset successfully in an hour today. Not bad. I’ll add pictures when I can get them uploaded. Sorry for the lack of work recently.

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Right Elevator Stiffener Riveting

April 18, 2010

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A few days ago I got a little time in on the project. I’ll see if I can remember what happened. 3 hours, 116 rivets…2 of them drilled out and reset. Here we go. First thing, in preparation for stiffener riveting was to get the skin devinyled. Here’s my devinyling table, wooden stick (won’t dissapate heat) and permanent marker.

Ready to use the soldering iron to devinyl.

After devinyling the inside of the right elevator skin.

For some reason I like devinyling. Don't ask me why.

Here’s the outside of the skin after devinyling. This actually takes a long time to do.

I just devinyled the stiffener holes. I'll devinyl the rest after drilling to the skeleton.

At some point last weekend (can’t remember which day), I was sent to Home Depot (maybe Lowe’s…it was a busy day) to grab some gardening supplies. I took the opportunity to grab some indoor/outdoor carpet for the workbenches.

Here's what I call my toolbench with a new carpet surface.

You should be able to see the “workbench”‘ with carpet on it in future pictures. Anyway, I grabbed the skin and did some deburring (interior and exterior) and some scuffing (interior only, for priming).

Scuffed strip on the left, non-scuffed on the right.

After a few more minutes, I dimpled the skin (no pictures, sorry), and then decided they were ready for priming.

Where is that self-etching primer?

i got the picture order backwards, so you’ll see the skin primed later, but here I am getting ready (or just finishing) stiffener edge prep. I usually use my Permagit block to knock down any ridges, edge deburring tool (pictured below)  to chamfer both edges, and then a scotchbrite pad to smooth everything out.

Right elevator stiffeners and my edge deburring tool.

Here’s the picture of my primed skin.

It looks sloppy now, but wait until I get the vinyl off. Then the primed lines will look nice.

After the stiffener edge prep, the stiffeners got taken inside to be washed with dawn detergent.

Here are half of the stiffeners, being cleansed of their oily fingerprints and aluminum dust.

I decided to take a picture of how much detergent I use. Nothing really important, just camera-happy, I guess.

Dirty stiffeners need to be cleansed of their aluminum dust and fingerprints.

After cleaning, they go back outside for priming.

Boo-yeah, primed stiffeners.

While those were drying (and then flipped and sprayed on the other side), I placed rivets in the dimpled holes and taped them in place.

Rivets just asking to be beaten into submission.

I started to backrivet, and everything was going very smoothly.

Beautiful shop heads.

More beautiful shop heads.

God, I love backriveting.

But anyway, I got through all 116 rivets, then flipped everything over and saw these!

Ahh! Worst rivet ever!

This one is not so bad...

I figured out why this happened, and it falls squarely on me.

While I was dimpling, I didn’t pull the other half of the skin back well enough, so the skin side that was being dimpled was not sitting parallel to the faces of the dimple dies. One side of the die dented each of the last stiffener rivet holes on one side. The rivet in the second to last picture was flush against the backriveting plate, but the skin was dented, or above the backriveting plate.

I’m going to drill out all of the bad rivets on the trailing edge (of course, the worse of the bunch is on the top of the elevator, right where all of you are going to come look at my elevators), and then  try to smooth out the skin by backriveting it with a flush set from the inside out.

It might ruin the skins, which will be expensive. I’ll be sure to take some pictures of the process. Maybe it will save one of you some time and frustration…

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Rudder 99 Percent Complete

April 5, 2010

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All I had left to do after rolling and riveting the leading edge was finish up a few rivets in hard-to-reach places and then finish screwing in the rod-end bearings.

The hard-to-reach rivets in this picture are the top two. For the other side, my squeezer actually fit in here when the opposite side rivets weren’t installed. The shop heads prevented me from cleanly setting these, though, so I had to use a thin steel plate as a bucking bar. Worked well.

Two hard to reach rivets bucked.

Here they are from the right lower side of the rudder skins. (I haven’t been using blue tape on the rudder as much and this is a mistake. I know it would have been a lot of blue tape, but it makes the skins look so much nicer. I will be using tape again after riveting to protect the skins.) I don’t think the rudder is going to end up polished, but I just hate the way those scratches look.

Nice and flush.

For the tip rivets (there were four that were hard to reach), I used a thin steel plate as a bucking bar for three of them, but then only had about 3/32″ clearance between the unset rivet and the shop head from the set rivet on the other side. I improvised by using a backriveting plate, the right rudder skin, then the already set shop head, then a screwdriver, then the unset rivet, then the left skin and finally a flush set. This worked out really well.

My setup for riveting the last (aft) rivets on the rudder top.

Here’s another shot with a flashlight assisting the digital macro setting on the camera. The point of the picture is the screwdriver, but it looks like I am going to have to replace that upper rivet on the right.

This worked well, but YIKES, look at that rivet on the right...also, the lower shop head doesn't look big enough. I'll get out the rivet set gage and test it.

Then, I turned the rod end bearings into the rudder by hand (I haven’t made the rod-end bearing tool yet), and with about 30 seconds of trouble, I figured out a great way to slip the AN3 bolts into the hinges of the vertical stabilizer with the rudder attached.

Sweet. This is an awesome step in the project. My first assembly. And it moves!

The bearings aren’t adjusted yet, and there are no fiberglass tips, but I’m so excited. More pictures!

A vertical picture. So nice...

I’m not sure if you can see it, but I have the internal rudder stop in there, too. (Although I don’t think it goes on the bottom hinge. I need to read up on it.)

And the requisite picture with Jack and Ginger.

Jack is a little skittish about being in the garage (where I usually shoo them back inside.) Ginger clearly didn’t like being out here either, so she was slowly scooting her butt up toward me trying to inch away from the airplane discreetly. Cute, Ginger. Cute.

Jittery dogs. They would rather be in on the couch watching TV.

Okay, dogs, you can go back inside.

Finally, I laid the assembly back down on the workbench for night night time. I'll take these apart and store them again in a few days.

And at the end of the night, I looked down and had spent an hour on the project. Look at that, I’m at exactly 100 hours! Two big accomplishments in one night. (Also, ten rivets. Don’t want to belittle them by being more excited about the hours.)

To do:

  • Clean up a few rivets
  • clean and re-prime some bucking bar scuffing of the ribs
  • Mount the fiberglass tips
  • Figure out how the internal rudder stop works.
  • Clean up some trailing edge dings.
  • Do a couple more once-overs to clean up any edge issues throughout the empannage.
  • Move on to the elevators.

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Riveted Rudder Trailing Edge

March 31, 2010

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Well, it’s been 3 days since I prosealed the trailing edge, so I mentally prepared myself for the dreaded riveting of the trailing edge.

Here's the trailing edge. Hopefully, the pro-seal is dry.

Next, I pulled out all of the clecos and admired how straight it looks.

Looks straight. Let's take a closer look.

Straight as an arrow. (Before riveting.)

The clecos were easy to pull out, not a lot of pro-seal on them, and there was very little remaining in the holes. The usual step here, however, is to clean them up. Here’s a before picture.

There's a little goop in there, but not much.

Here I am using a #40 in my fingers to scrape some of the pro-seal out.

This was tedious, but I want the rivets to sit nice and flush.

Here about how much came out of most of the holes.

Next up, put the rivets in the holes to prepare for backriveting.

Rivet in, ready to go.

Then tape to protect the skins.

And here’s my new backriveting plate. I wanted a nice long piece. It’s not quite as long as the trailing edge, but I didn’t have to move it around very much.

New 36" backriveting plate.

And my setup. The power tools are holding the skin flat against the table and backriveting plate.

Ready to go.

Let’s re-read the directions. HOly crap, the pro-seal gets everywhere.

I thought it was funny how I got sealant on the sealant step.

Alright, let’s start riveting. First thing, set every tenth rivet about halfway.

Okay... every tenth rivet.

Everything was going smoothly until I got to this rivet. Can you see what I missed here?

How come there is no dimple for the rivet on the right. Uh oh.

I pulled the rivet out, put my male dimple die in the hole, and gave it a good whack with the hammer.

Rivet is out, where is my #40 male dimple die?

There it is. Not bad for forgetting to dimple.

With the rivet back in. This is the shop head side, so you won't even notice. In fact, I dare you to try to find this hole when the plane is done.

Back to riveting. I followed the directions and kept riveting every tenth, then fifth, then third, etc., until they were all halfway set.

A nice halfway set shop head.

Down the line...

Verifying that things are still straight.

Yup. Straight. Although I know why the picture is blurry. Apparently I left the cap off of the MEK. Oops.

So then I flipped the rudder over, and finished up, per the directions. Except a few things started going wrong (which is why I don’t have any pictures.)

First, I must not have had the rudder down perfectly against the backriveting plate. A few of the manufactured heads were protruding from the skins. Luckily, they rivets were only half set, so most of them were able to be pushed back into their dimples and set further after flipping the rudder back to the original side and backriveting a little more.

Next, my rivet gun pressure was set too low (I thought this meant I was being careful). The gun wasn’t getting the job done before it jumped around a little and cause a couple very minute dings. A lot of my other dings have been pretty small, and these are even smaller. I doubt you would notice if I didn’t mention it, but I’m trying to capture my experiences here, so I offer it up as a lesson learned.

Finally, when they tell you to flip the rudder over to finish the half-set backriveted shop heads, I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. With the long backriveting plate, the rudder is being supported by all of the proud shop heads, so if you rivet the manufactured head side, you’ll be adding a local bow to the trailing edge. I didn’t buy this, so I stuck with the first side and got the shop heads pretty well flush. Once that was done, I finally flipped it over to make sure they were backriveted flush.

I have some pictures of the trailing edge at the end, but after I finished, I drilled out and reset the four rivets I had previously marked.

A nicely reset flush rivet. The skin got a little scuffed here. I hope this polishes out. (Although I am now thinking paint for the rudder.)

Here’s me drilling out  the lower nutplate mounting rivets. Notice the missing nutplate.

First, a #40 through the middle.

Then pop the heads off with the back of the drill bit.

Then, use a #30 to finish drilling out.

AH! I broke a drill bit. At least I was wearing safety glasses.

I must have been adding a little force of my own.

Okay, now I can install the nutplate.

Here it is clecoed from the outside.

I had read people say “the -7 rivets were too short here, I had to move up to a -8.” The warning bells were going off when I originally set these; I was thinking, “these -7s fit just fine, I don’t know what all the fuss was about.”

Of course, I tried the -7 with the nutplates installed, and yes, they were too short. I had to move to a -8, too.

These are long rivets.

A very bad picture of the nutplate installed.

Nutplate installed.

Okay, back to the trailing edge. I really didn’t get a great picture of how straight it was, but it is straight. There are a couple local areas where there is some slight  back and forth, but it is within a 1/32″ and it’s over the course of 4 or 5 inches. You won’t see it unless you scope down the edge, which I’m probably not going to let you do if you come near my plane. Just kidding.

Trailing edge picture.

All in all, an hour and a half today. 56 rivets on the trailing edge. 4 rivets drilled out elsewhere (but already counted in the final rivet count, so I won’t recount those). I’ll try to get a better picture of the trailing edge later and post it here. (The trailing edge picture at the beginning of this post is a good angle and focal length, I’ll try that one again.)

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