Clecoed Together the Right Aileron

September 16, 2011

Prev | Next

Tonight, my main goal was to get the right aileron to a place where tomorrow I could start riveting on it. The last two paragraphs of the aileron section in the manual are pretty confusing, and you have to read them over and over to make sure you stick to the very specific order of riveting. I don’t want to get started on any of the confusing tonight, so I’m going to concentrate on prep work.

First up, get the right aileron skin deburred, dimpled, cleaned, and primed.

I wasn’t too good at taking pictures of the boring stuff up front, but here are the leading edge and aft aileron skins back inside (from the driveway) to dry after priming.

I had previously pulled the internal blue vinyl off the skins, so my priming lines weren't as neat as they usually are. That drove me nuts, but I resisted the urge to tape them off. Build on, Andrew!

While I waiting, I clecoed the right wing bottom skins. Now the right wing can be removed from the stand and moved to the cradle (once I decide how to build it/use it while I’m building the left wing).

I like how it looks like a wing.

After some drying time, I started following the instructions for assembly. First up, lay the counterbalance pipe and nose ribs inside the leading edge skin.


Then, rivet the nose ribs to the spar. (6x check, although no pictures, sorry.)

Then, cleco the nose skin to the aft skin to the spar.

I was very careful to remember to use my edge roller to put a little bend in the edge of the overlapping skins. See where the cleco is missing? I used this (and the clecoed section to the right) to illustrate how well everything will pull together  once rivets are set.

No gap there between skins to the right. Sweet. You can barely make out how I rolled the edge of the nose skin a little.

Once I got clecos in the top half of the aileron…

Whoa, clecos!

I flipped the aileron over and started clecoing the bottom. I know the first step when riveting tomorrow is to take all of these out so I can reach under and around for the top rivets, but I wanted to mock it up to confirm the bottom skin was going to lay together as nicely as the top skin.

I got to the last hole on the bottom skin, and reached in my #30 cleco bucket.


Worked out pretty well, I guess.

Okay. I'm going to leave off here.

The whole aileron is looking really good. All the skins are laying together nicely.

1 hour, 6 rivets.

Prev | Next


Deburred Right Upper Outboard Wing Skin, Right Leading Edge Rivets

July 29, 2011

Prev | Next

Tonight was only mildly more exciting than last night!

After taking the right upper outboard skin inside to deburr and scuff (AND VACUUM THE LITTLE ALUMINUM SHAVINGS OFF THE COUNTER, SORRY GIRLFRIEND!!!), I brought it back outside, and stored it (like the inboard skin), upside down (or inside out) on the left wing.

The two upper right wing skins, stored on the left wing for now.

For some reason I am paranoid about alignment, so I clecoed the right lower skins in place, although only 25%. I’ll come back with more clecos when I start riveting to make sure things are perfect.

The lower side of the right wing.

After looking at the clock, I figured I had about 30 more minutes.

Time to look at getting the right leading edge riveted to the spar (I had done the skin rivets, albeit out of order, a few days ago.)

From Brad Oliver’s site:

Oh boy, what a night. I riveted the left leading edge to the spar tonight. I used blind rivets to do this job, MSP-42, -43 and -44 rivets from Aircraft Spruce to be exact, but that isn’t the end of the controversy. I riveted (pulled) these rivets from inside the leading edge. Why use blind rivets? Why from the inside? Well, first of all, in my opinion certain blind rivets blind rivets are completely acceptable here. Van’s has said to many builders that the use of LP4-x rivets is acceptable here, and the LP4s are pretty soft as rivets go. I decided to step it up a bit and use MSP rivets here. They have a Monel (M) head, with a steel shaft (S), and a protruding head (P), and by my calculations are very similar in strength to solid rivets. I am likely to catch flack for that statement, but do your own calculations and see for yourself. Don’t take my word for it, and I am not recommending this method, only documenting what I did.

Why use blind rivets here in the first place? Because riveting the LE ribs to the spar involves grinding down a rivet set and you need two people for the job. These certainly aren’t big issues, but I wanted a easy method I could do myself.

Why from the inside? That one is easy, I wanted the factory head of the rivet to be on the thinner material (aft flange of rib). This was slightly painful, but I am proof that it can done. I also did this because even with the face of my cheap-o rivet puller ground down, I was having a hard time getting the puller on the shaft of the rivets due to their close proximity to the aft rib webs.

From Mike Bullock’s site:

No way to squeeze them. You could buck and shoot them, but you have basically no room to get a rivet set onto these rivets with the rib interference. The only purpose for these rivets are to keep the spar from bluckling. The way I see it, the chance of that is NIL, and there is a main rib set right next to each leading edge rib with the proper rivets in it. It doesn’t say it in the instructions, but builders have been told by Van’s to use LP4-3 blind rivets here. I did one better and used Cherry MSP-4? rivets. I bought a bunch of them from Spruce in the MSP-42, 43 and 44 sizes. They are very comperable to solid rivets.

I had some MSP-42 rivets in stock, so I grabbed 5 of them to try it out.

Once I got the ribs pulled into alignment, it worked great.

See? Great.

And any day you weren’t planning on contributing to your rivet total but you do…it’s a good day.

1.0 hour. 5 rivets. I’ll do the rest of the leading edge tomorrow. Also, someone PLEASE remind me to buy a balloon and a bicycle tire pump to test this darn right tank. It’s been two weeks, so the pro-seal better be dry.

Prev | Next

50% Clecoed Right Wing Skins

February 7, 2011

Prev | Next

Well, my order of clecos showed up. It was in a pretty small box on the front step, but that little tiny box was deceptively heavy.

After unpacking the box, I noticed that this bag is a bag of 500 clecos.

They actually opened the bag and removed 100 clecos to get to my order of 400. I wish I had known, I would have ordered another 100 just to save them the trouble of counting them all out.

Bag o' clecos!

Anyway, I emptied them into my (now empty) silver cleco bin (an old tupperware container).

I even left the automatic flash on so they would shine a little extra for you.

These things are brand-spanking new. And made in the USA.


Some people on the forums were pointinng out that I got a heck of a good deal at $0.35 each, and they suspected they were not going to be the new, USA-made clecos.

Well, these are new.

This next picture shows a few of my different kinds of clecos. From left to right:

1) Clekolok USA, new today (from Innovative Tool Supply)
2) Kwik lok USA, purchased about a year ago (from the Yard)
3) Kwik lok USA, purchased about a year ago (from the Yard’s used bulk area)
4) Unknown, purchased about a year ago (from the Yard’s used bulk area)

New to old, they all work the same. I haven't noticed any degradation of holding power.

Anyway, I then spent the next half hour sticking these new clecos into my right wing.

Based on a conversation with Bill Repucci, I’ve decided to mitigate all of my alignment concerns by just 50% clecoing the wing. (50% meaning every other hole, as opposed to 25%, which would be the Van’s suggested everth fourth hole.)

I have to admit, that thing is rock solid now.

The right top skins with a cleco in every other hole.

I looked at my new cleco stash and realized I was about halfway through them already.

Crap... those went fast.

After another half hour of every other hole clecoing the right bottom skins, I reached in my cleco bucket and only had two clecoes left.

Uh oh.


I almost made it with 600 clecos.

There are a few missing clecos along the rear spar (towards the bottom of the picture).

When I get to that area during matchdrilling. I’ll just move some of my clecos from other areas.

1 hour of clecoing fun.

Contrary to what other builders have to say, my hand isn’t that tired, and I therefore don’t intend on spending $200 for a pneumatic cleco runner. Take that!
Prev | Next

Clecoed Bottom Skins and Leading Edge on Right Wing

January 31, 2011

Prev | Next

Oh man, what a great day!!

After some good advice to stop worrying about the wing twist too much (“you’ve got a pre-punched kit, it’ll work out”), I got started on some of the next tasks on the right wing. First, I clecoed on the right top skins, and then grabbed the right leading edge and sat it on the main spar.

Looks like a wing!

Oh wait. One of the next steps is to trace some lines on the lower skins (forgot those) that intersect at the tiedown hole so I can transfer those lines to the leading edge so I can verify that the leading edge prepunched hole for the tiedown is correct. I haven’t attached the tiedowns yet, so I went searching for the hardware.

Apparently you need an AN3-7A bolt, a couple AN960-10 (and L) washers, and an AN365-1032 nut.

I couldn’t figure out which washer (skinny or fat) goes on which side of the spar, so I looked at the tiedown area of one of the drawings (can’t remember which one.)

First, though, I have to finally sort out which washer …-10 or …-10L is the skinny one. Turns out, I should remember that “L” means “lean” (not really, but that’s how I’ll remember it.

AN960 Flat Washers
Bolt Size OD Thickness Part No.
#10 0.438″ 0.063″ AN960-10
#10 0.437″ 0.032″ AN960-10L

Anyway, I hope that having looked that up now, I’ll remember which is which.

Okay. Looks like the -10L washers go on the bolt head side of the AN3-7A bolts.

Then, I realized that I don’t really need to tighten these things up. I’ve got some work to do in the future on the bellcrank brackets and bushings, etc., so I really just need to set these in place.

After putting the four bolts through the tiedown and clecoing on the bottom skins, I've got this.

Next, they want you to draw a few lines on the bottom skin that intersect at the tiedown hole.

You can just barely see my lines on either side of the access hole.

Next, I slapped the leading edge into place (but first had to notch my angles…bummer).

I only had to notch very slightly. Still very annoying to me.

After starting (pronounced “attempting”) to cleco on the leading edge, I realized I am going to need some mechanical advantage to snug everything up so I don’t have to use the clecos to pry things into place (a big no-no).

I got out a few 2x4 scraps and placed them against the rear spar. (This is so the straps don't put any pressure on the aft end of the skins.)

Strapped! (Not very much, just enough to act as a third hand while clecoing.)

After a good  30 minutes of the most difficult clecoing on the project, I had the leading edge nice and secured to the right wing.

Notice the amount (lots) of clecos on the aft part of the leading edge.

I think this is just a picture of the bottom side of the right wing.

Then, I extended my lines back onto the leading edge.

The intersection of the lines is sooooooo close.

I didn’t really believe I was off a little (although this is normal), so I grabbed this picture from the inside. (Depending on how precisely you place the tiedowns when you measure and drill them to the spars, you’re hole may be off here.)

That little tiny light is so close to the center of the tiedown hole, I'm going to start there, and file a little bit in one direction if I have to adjust.

Anyway, I decided I don’t want to start on drilling the skins to the skeleton until I do some more clecoing. I’m going to break down and just order like 400 more clecos before drilling. It can’t hurt to cleco every other hole (Van’s suggests every 4th hole before drilling)…things will only be lined up better, and since I’m already worried about twist, this will help me sleep at night.

A quick survey of tool joints yields the following for 3/32″ spring cleco prices.

3/32″ Spring Cleco Prices
Source Price per Cleco
Aircraft Spruce $0.43, plus shipping
Avery Tools $0.42, free shipping >$95
Brown Tools $0.44, 0.42 if >100, free shipping >$95
Cleveland Tools Website is not working…
Vans Aircraft $0.40, plus shipping
The Yard Store $0.40, free shipping >$100. $0.79…WHAT?!!
Aircraft Tool Supply $0.49, plus shipping.
Innovative Tooling Services $0.35, free shipping >$100

UPDATE: Just found Innovative Tooling. The picture on the page for 3/32″ doesn’t show a silver cleco, but I’m assuming they just used the same picture. Just placed my order, we’ll see how they are when they arrive.

OLD: Looks like the yard store wins…they used to have bulk used clecos in 3/32″ size, but I called today and they are out. I’ll have to order new clecos, but bummer they are still $0.40 each. (By the way, who gets off selling clecos for $0.79 each?)

Anyway, I”ll order some tomorrow. One last picture of the WING! that’s in my garage tonight.

This makes me happy.

1.5 GLORIOUS, PRODUCTIVE hours. Night’s like tonight make all the other crappy nights worth it.

Prev | Next

Continuing to Level Right Wing Skeleton

January 30, 2011

Prev | Next

Well, I keep chugging along on this right wing skeleton.

Except by “chugging,” I really mean “don’t seem to be making any progress.”

First thing, I wanted to free up one of my clamps, so I drilled and bolted the outboard rib’s special angle to the support of my wing stands.

Here’s my first mistake. I was really careful to line everything up the first time so I wouldn’t have to notch the support angle to accomodate the skins (which overhang the spar end). I didn’t remember this on this go around, so now that they are bolted in, I’m going to have to notch the supports.

No big deal, but just annoying that I forgot.

A couple of 1/4" bolts will do just fine here.

Unlike everyone’s very pretty lower outboard support, I made an ugly one.

See? More ugly. (Functional, though).

After getting it clamped to the rear spar, I used my air drill and a 3/8″ bit to drill a hole for a 3/8″ bolt.

I'm not sure why I took this picture.

Here’s the inboard rear spar support.

Inboard rear spar support.

And the outboard rear spar support.

I'm using the clever clamping trick that many builders before me have used.

Then I spent some time leveling the spar to 0.0°. After that, I dropped some plumb bob’s and carefully measured from the plumb bob string to the top of the rear spar. The outboard side showed 2 1/4″, and the inboard side showed 2 3/4″. A half inch of twist doesn’t sound like a lot, but of course I wanted this to be perfect.

I chose to split the difference. I pulled the outboard edge of the rear spar down (aircraft axes) and clamped, then pushed the inboard side up and clamped.

Here’s my problem. It seemed like I really had to push the spar to get it exactly where I wanted it, and there was plenty of (what I’ll call) springback force.

After clamping the rear spar in place, I remeasured the spar, and it was now no longer square. (Of course, moving the spar edges moves the ribs, which twists the main spar.)

I releveled the main spar and really tightened up the clamps. I’m now level with the main spar and within 1/32″ on the rear spar.

I’m sure I can get it even closer, but I’m worried about how much force I’m holding with the clamps.

Here's a picture of just the skeleton, squared up within 1/32" (I want to improve this).

To see if I was close with the skins, I clecoed them on. They fit great.

Another picture with the skins clecoed on.

Anyone have any thoughts? Have any other builders seen a lot of force required to straighten the wings?

Jan 31st update:

Oh man, I love the forums. bkthomps had the following to say:

did you put skins on yet? you’re on the prepunched kit like i am, the twist thing is a null issue- once you cleco both sets of skins on, it will be dead on, other than the slant of your stands/garage floor.


I followed jamie painter’s blog and decided not to spend countless hours with the lasers/bobs/etc that I had and I just built the wings doing only the basic level checks and a string down the spar length to get rid of the droop, after finishing them, they are dead level in every dimension, if that helps w/ encouragement.

1.5 frustrating hours. (After talking with bkthomps, I am much happier. I’ll push on now and verify straightness after clecoing both sets of skins on. Wuhoo!)

Prev | Next

Right Wing Top Skins Clecoed to Skeleton

January 23, 2011

Prev | Next

Alright, I was having a bad day with the rear spar, so after I got most of it riveted on, I moved on to the skins.

I jumped the gun a little and clecoed on the top outboard skin (jumped the gun because the spar wasn’t re-leveled and the inboard skin outboard edge actually underlaps the outboard top skin.

Anyway, with just two clecos in the skin, I was able to thread some string around a cleco on either end of the spar to jack up the center of the rear spar.

The string is supposed to line up with the top of the smaller holes on the right.

After some jacking, the spar is now perfectly straight.

Nice and straight.

Next,  I pulled out the top outboard skin. This is the right version (they are actually the same from Van’s, but I had pulled off the vinyl on the side I intended to be the interior side for the wing walk doubler.

The devinyled part in the foreground is where the wingwalk doubler will sit.

Many builders before me have complained that Van’s wants you to trim the provided doubler from 10″ to 9 3/8″.

Many builders have left it at 10″, then matchdrilled to the skin, then found out there is a matchdrilled hole that violates edge distance.

It would probably be okay, but why include that extra 5/8″ strip of 26″ long aluminum if you don’t have to?


Anyway, my snips do a great job with this aluminum, so I got to it and started edge finishing.

”]Then, you line up the forward edge of the doubler 9/16″ from the forward edge of the top skin.


See my little sharpie mark?

Then, tape that bad boy up, assuring that the inboard edges are flush.


Then, you flip the skin over and start matchdrilling. I used clecos every so often to hold everything together nicely.

About halfway through, I lifted up the assembly to check on progress.

Looking good.

After more drilling…


I pulled apart the skins to clean everything up. Lot’s of aluminum shavings everywhere.

Sorry for the blurry picture.

Then, I spent a few minutes getting the top skins clecoed on.

Wuhoo! it's starting to look like a wing!

This is the less exciting under side.

This was a nice positive finish to counteract my riveting blunders earlier. I’ll talk to Van’s about the rear spar.

I hope I don’t have to replace it.

0.5 hours of clecoing fun.

Prev | Next

Mucho Leading Edge Work

January 3, 2011

Prev | Next

Warning: This is a long post with lots of pictures. I’ll try to keep commentary to a minimum. (Oh, and I just took the pups for a run outside, and it was cold, so please excuse the typos…my fingers are still a little frozen.)

Well, today was a day off for me (New Year’s Day observed) where everyone else had to go to work, so I got a ton of work (on the airplane!) done. It was really cold last night (and today on our run…brrr), so as soon as I was ready to get out into the garage to work, I turned on my portable heater and turned right back around to go inside.

Hmm. I guess I can devinyl some leading edge skins while the garage heats up and I keep warm with coffee.

Here's the right leading edge.

Right leading edge upside down.

More right leading edge

Left leading edge, upside down. (That hole is the stall warning vane access panel. More about that later.)

Left leading edge again. (That small strip of devinyled leading edge on the left side of the picture is the stall warning vane rib attachment. Again...more later.)

That was about an hour of devinyling, so when I took my leading edge skins outside, it was not too bad temperature-wise. Thanks portable heater!

Note: I am working a little out of order. Technically, I should be prepping the main ribs for priming, then riveting those ribs to the spars, then setting the wing stand up, and then adding the leading edge. Since I’m waiting on some scotchbrite wheels for the rib prep part, I’m jumping ahead to the leading edge stuff.

Here, I’ve got all of the right leading edge ribs (except the inboard, undrilled rib) clecoed into the leading edge skin. Many people have trouble here, but if you follow the directions (which I kind of did), you start from the front end of the rib, top and bottom, and then you are okay from there. The biggest trick I found was to push the rib forward (towards the nose) as you are maneuvering the rib into place. I have long arms, so I could see the holes line up from the back, then reach around and stick a cleco in.

I like my modular leading edge/tank cradle. (No comments about my split triangular piece of MDF, please.)

Anyway, then I put the leading edge on the spar, and stood back in amazement. (Amazement at the size of the assembly, and that all the holes freakin’ line up! I know this is a prepunched kit, but still, everything just always lines up. Thank you Vans!)


The dogs must have sensed my excitement…they came out to see what was happening.

Ginger: "Shouldn't you have prepped and primed all of these ribs first?"

Jack (tentatively): "Whoa, that leading edge looks good, but I'm going to stay here...the concrete is cold on my paws."

After playing for a few minutes, they went back inside (it turns out they came out to ask me to turn on the gas fireplace….okay, okay, I will).

On to the left leading edge.

This is an awesome sight. It finally looks like I'm building an airplane in here.

After setting both leading edges on the spar (and securing them from beneath with some #30 clecos through the main spar), I noticed that the spar really needs to be straight and level to proceed, even though it’s not fully assembled yet.

So, even though I know I’m going to take this all down soon, I went ahead and leveled the spar using the trusty (and calibrate-able) iPhone app from Stanley.

I couldn't decide whether negative or positive 0.0 was better, so I left it with negative. My wing stand mechanism sure made this easy. Every 1/4 turn of my adjustment nuts was about 0.1° change. Easy to dial in.

Then, I needed to address the spar bowing in the middle from the weight of all the components. (Once the skins are on the wings, they provide that support, but until they are, there is no (what I’ll call) lateral rigidity.

A variation on a (wing stand) theme. a threaded rod between two 2"x4" blocks.

I thought about this a long time ago, and I didn't know if it would work. It worked great. I know it's not permanent right now, but still, very elegant setup, if I do say so myself.

Oh yeah, I snagged this picture to elaborate on the reason for the larger angle off the outboard rib from the other day. See how the skin overlaps the edge of the rib and spar? I won’t have to notch my support angle to accommodate the skin now.

With the larger angle, there is plenty of room for the skin overhangs.

Okay, time to remove the spar sag.

I tied a piece of string between the top edge of two clecos (actually, it didn’t need a knot…the cleco clamped the string enough).

It's about 1-hole-diameter distance above the hole.

Same on the other side.

Before removing the sag, you can see how much bow there is (look at the row of primed countersinks).

There's about a 1/2-3/4" of bow in the middle of the spar.

A few cranks of my adjustable homemade jack, and the middle of the spar shows the same distance with the string. This was equally as easy to dial in.

Nice and level. (Ooh, that "flush" rivet on that nutplate isn't so flush. I might need a rivet shaver...)

Then, with everything level, I clecoed the leading edge skins to the spar.

Leading edge skins now clecoed to the spar.

Now I can move on to the inboard leading edge rib. It comes undrilled, so first thing, I kind of held it in place and made little marks where the holes were going to go.

You can see my very faint marks.

Then, back to the workbench for fluting (between the hole locations) and flange bending (to 90°).

I had to pretty aggressively flute in some places. Some of these ribs are better than others.

Okay now I need the…what is it?

W-423 Joint Plate.

Okay where is it. I’m sure there are two of them, one for each wing…

[searching shop storage …hmmm…and the airplane room upstairs…hmm…]

Grrr. Where did they go?

Upon closer inspection of the plans…


That was easy.

I marked my half inch line and then pondered how I was going to fit this round (straight) peg into the square (rounded) hole.

This goes in there.

[Many loud, frustrated grunting noises…]

Ahh, there we go.

Then, after careful measuring, checking, drilling, remeasuring, and rechecking, I had the right joint plate and inboard rib drilled.

That was annoying. There was no good way to clamp everything, so everytime I drilled a hole, the rib shifted on the other side.

This one turned out pretty good. 11/16″ all around. I repeated that exercise on the left wing.

I don't have the perscribed 11/16" flange that I am supposed to on the left wing for the tank nutplates because everything moved around a little.

It’s only 1/16″ short in some places. I’m assuming I can make it work with 10/16″, but if I can’t, I’ll just redrill a new joint plate.

Anyway, I was staring at the opening for the stall warning vane, so I got curious and fished out the (separately packed…not really part of the original wing kit) stall warning components. They have this doubler that fits in this hole, with a couple locator tabs (in case you are modifying an existing leading edge that was not prepunched with this access hole). Since mine already has the hole, I snipped off the tabs.

These directions are crazy complicated, but they ended up being mainly for retrofit into an existing wing. For new construction, it's pretty straightforward.

I definitely need the access plate doubler and cover no matter what, but I did give some thought to whether I am going to install the stall warning vane.

I am planning on using the Dynon AOA vane, which will give me good stall warning (I believe it is calibrated during some demonstrated stalls for the highest AOA seen during stall for any flap configuration). For awhile, I kept thinking that I won’t need the Van’s vane (and I was a little miffed that they cut a big hole in my leading edge!), but then the CFI in me woke up and thought of a few things.

Every once in awhile during a rotation or flare, I might get a little chirp of the stall warning. Everyone does, and it can’t hurt to have a small reminder, separate and therefore redundant from the Dynon Air Data Computers (ADCs…wait, I think dynon calls them ADAHRS…or air data, attitude and heading reference system) during slow speed maneuvering. The Dynon is based on pressure differential (between the front and the angled top of the pitot probe), and the other is based on direction of relative wind (the vane just lifts up and compresses a microswitch when the relative wind pushes up on it).

I’m going to go ahead and install all of the provisions for both. It will be pretty easy to get everything installed, and just leave the little vane out if I don’t want it in the end, but I have to fill all the rivet holes anyway, might as well not rule out any future decision changes.

I’ll probably install both; you can’t be too aware of low speeds, and frankly, it will probably help resale to have the more traditional stall warning.

Anyway, I drilled the doubler plate to the leading edge.

Then, I found the leading edge vane support rib. They come as a pair of two; one for the RV-9, and one for the RV-7,8. It was obviously while holding it up to one of the leading edge ribs that the one with the sticker on it is the correct one.

So I wouldn’t forget, I tossed the other one in my scrap pile.

The one on the right is the one for the RV-7 (and -8).

Whew. Good day. I’ve made good progress in the last few days. Tomorrow, back to work, but hopefully I can keep this up.

Oh, and for the record, I hardly had enough 3/32″ (silver) clecos to do both leading edges at the same time. I just ordered 100 more, but I am going to need way more that that to keep working on both wings at the same time. This might be a good time to work on one wing at a time…or break down and order the 500 or so that Vans suggests.

3.5 hours.

Prev | Next