13 August 2017 – 8 hrs
I began by dimpling the VS skin. After that I cleco’ed the skin to the skeleton. The rest of the day was trying to get into the small spaces in and around the skin with the bucking bar (once again I’m a HUGE fan of the tungsten bucking bar even more so now). End result is a fully completed VS. The first major subsection of the airplane is done!
12 August 2017 – 3 hrs
Today was a much better day for riveting. I clamped the VS rear spar to the table and got through the remaining rivets at a pretty good rate. I guess it’s kind of like riding a bike. I was VERY pleased with how the shop heads were formed as well, although I wasn’t thrilled with the marking on the front of the spar from the flush set. But you can’t win ’em all, right?
One thing I figured out was that if I set a rag (it was wrapped around the squeezer yoke, which is why it looks so dirty :-p ) on the lower flanges, I can rest the bucking bar on it giving me a perpendicular set with almost no effort.
By the way, the tungsten bucking bar, with the small size that can fit almost anywhere and good weight is definitely worth the investment. I was skeptical at first, but I’m a believer now! I also finished riveting the VS front spar (seen in the pic below). With those done, I started to cleco the VS skin on.
Notice anything? Yeah, those skins aren’t dimpled yet… Since I was skipping around dealing with the primer delay and trying to find something “interesting” for my buddy to help with, I totally skipped dimpling the skins. Soooo, I had to laugh. Then I called it a day and let myself be dragged around an outlet mall.
And one extra thing I learned. When attaching the VS skin, it helps to have a couple microfiber cloths to pad between the front ribs and the small diameter of the skin near the front fold. That way you avoid having the ribs scratch primer off of the skins. I’m going to borrow a phrase I see all the time on VAF (www.vansairforce.com). “Ask me how I know…”
11 August 2017 – 8 hrs
Today I put in a massive amount of time. But I feel like I didn’t get much done. I used the soldering iron to remove the blue vinyl from the rivet lines, then primed the inner skins of the VS & rudder.
Once I finished spraying and waited for those to dry, I dimpled the VS ribs and spars. That went at a good pace. However, once I got to what I thought would be the quick and fun part, riveting together the VS skeleton, things went south very quickly. I figured I’d be done in a couple of hours and ready to finish riveting on the skins early tomorrow… until I took over an hour to rivet the hinge brackets on. My first big mistake came less than 5 rivets in… Note I was using the rivet gun for these.
The rivet was drilled out successfully, although not very gracefully, with little interference with the original hole. But in this photo you can see I had a lot of trouble with the powder-coated steel and keeping the cupped set straight.
So I put some duct tape on top of the set. That helped a bit. I checked the plans and although some of the rivets are ugly, they don’t need to be replaced as they are cosmetic blemishes. I might drill them out and re-do them eventually, however. On the plus side, I could barely tell the difference in hole I drilled out and re-riveted. Actually, that was probably the best rivet of the day, which says a lot.
After that, I messed up another rivet and botched the drill-out, so it took me maybe 20 minutes or more to try to correct the off-center drill-out. I eventually took my Dremel and a cutting wheel and sliced the shop head off as close to the work as I could, angled the drill to try and work the hole toward the center, and finally just took a crap chisel and set it against the remaining shop head and hit it with a rubber mallet. That worked pretty well and the rivet turned out ok also. I was so frustrated I didn’t even take pics of that one. At that point I realized that I could probably get by with squeezing these rivets. That was even more awkward and slower than the bucking bar and rivet gun, so I went back to the gun.
All in all, a pretty frustrating day. I didn’t even finish half of the rivets on the spars and ribs building the VS skeleton. This was probably due to lost proficiency after not having riveted since finishing the practice kits a few weeks ago. I made some of the same beginner mistakes I made back when I was starting those. But on the bright side, the skins are ready to rivet on whenever I finish the skeleton, and I finished the build log the day I actually did the work. So there’s good that came out of the day!
4 August 2017
So the rattle can self-etching primer arrived today and I took the time to shoot an initial coat on the parts that have been waiting for primer. These parts were waiting for this batch since the store-bought cans were all sub-par from a durability/scratch test standpoint after dimpling (except one, which was ok but not confidence-inspiring and not self-etching which gave 2 strikes). Of note, all of them passed my immersion test, which consisted of sitting them in a tub of water for 24 hrs then rubbing them pretty briskly. After they dried, I gave another scratch test. Pretty similar results for all of them when compared to the pre-water scratch test. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of these guinea pig primers. I will say that the one that was “ok” was a wash primer from Montana Colors. If I absolutely HAD to use a store-bought one, it would be my choice, but since I have the U-Pol self-etching, I’ll use that.
But I digress… I shot an initial coat.
The shiny portions worried me a bit, as I felt like I may not have given them enough. I understand these are supposed to go on light, but didn’t quite know HOW light. To be fair, it was a pretty windy day, so there is that consideration. However, I felt like I had done the priming in a good location that blocked the wind (my back patio). The patio is enclosed by a waist-level solid wall, privacy picket-type fencing up to the 6-foot level, and the complex is a solid block of connected houses (condos?) with the patio side facing inward and protected from the outside. Not sure how much effect the wind had, but it’s worth noting. Anyway, I gave another dusting the next day.
The intent was not to “paint” them but the coverage seems good now. Not overly thick (please comment if I’m wrong) but completely covered. I’ll wait a couple days to dimple to give the primer some extra time to set.
1 August 2017 – 2 hrs
I started back on the VS and countersunk the front of the VS rear stiffener. Not terribly difficult, but it took me a long time to set up the threaded countersink through trial and error, not to mention that I destroyed my Van’s Practice Skin in the process. Call it a sacrifice… I needed aluminum thick enough to countersink and the only thing within reach that wasn’t actual airplane parts was that. I must have put about 10-12 countersunk holes in it. And after all that, I didn’t even take a picture of it before I tossed it out. I’ll give it a moment of silence…
The plans said to prime, if desired. I didn’t realize I would have to tackle decision so early in the build process. But I am concerned about corrosion, as some of the places I could be in the near future are in humid areas close to the coast. So I got some good advice on the VAF forums (thanks Mike and Bill!) and ordered a rattle can self-etching primer to start.
These are supposed to be easy to apply and lightweight, which I want for the tail section, but I wanted to know the real skinny on corrosion protection. These won’t hold up to a lot of traffic, such as in the baggage area or the cockpit. This launched a 4-5 day hiatus in building as I scoured the local home improvement stores here, as well as Spain’s version of Amazon and eBay. There’s a big difference when compared to the US, I must tell you. After a few days, I finally found some aviation grade primers (in a paint shop of all places, who would’ve known… I’m an idiot). I settled on one without chromates due to the safety concerns. I also settled on epoxy due to its high durability and proven corrosion protection, although not as good without the chromates; but I can live with that). The downside is that epoxy is heavy; so I’ll use it closer to the CoG point in the plane when I get to the fuselage and wings and stick to the rattle cans for the places that will never be seen again in the tail where weight is a bigger concern.
I write the date completed and how long I worked that day in the physical plans binder for the plane, but I need to start doing a daily log here so I don’t have to remember what I did, thought, and what happened a few days removed… Goals.
28 July 2017 – 2 hrs
Inventoried the parts and setup some organization schemes for the tiny hardware pieces.
29 July 2017 – 4 hrs
This marked the beginning of the actual construction of the airplane. This part was pretty underwhelming, since it was just fitting some small pieces together and then finishing (sanding) the edges. There was also something about “fluting”. No idea what that’s about, but I read the instructions and gave it a go…
30 July 2017 – 3 hrs
This day was pretty exciting since I actually got to see something that looked like a plane section semi-complete. And I finally figured out what “fluting” was all about. When I put the skin on, the holes didn’t line up with the ribs. I could see the ribs were still curved. So I fluted between the rib holes, then laid the skin over it to see if the holes lined up. That took the majority of the 3 hours, but I’m pretty sure this fluting thing will never be an issue again! I drilled everything to final size. Then I got a dose of reality when the plans called for taking out the temporary holders, and realizing the piece wouldn’t look like that again for probably another 20 hours or so… Oh well. So I let it sit overnight.
31 July 2017 – 5 hrs
I disassembled everything, then deburred the holes and skins. I had a buddy come over who wanted to see the construction and help a little bit (thanks, JD!) so we trimmed the stiffeners for the rudder since I wasn’t sure what other two-person work I could do with the VS at that point. I cut them out with the snips and he used the drill and Scotchbrite wheel in the electric drill to edge finish them. I didn’t realize until a few days later that I had to cut those stiffeners to different lengths (sorry, JD!). Good thing is that there wasn’t much left to edge finish after I figured out I had to cut them, but that’s another day and another post.
Finally finished building the workbench, got all the tools, and finished the practice kits. The empennage kit is waiting to be started.
Practice Kits were completed in the order shown with problems/lessons learned noted. Pics to follow.
- Cleaveland Cell Phone Holder
- Had the pressure set too high (90 psi for drilling) on the air compressor for 3 of the rivets
- Slight misalignment of the skins after drilling
- Edge bend for lap joints was a little excessive
- Otherwise turned out ok
- Van’s Toolbox
- Not too many notable problems
- Slightly off on the leveling of the latch
- Van’s Practice Skin
- Slightly out of alignment rivet holes in the skins due to bit “walking”
- Riveted the second skin on top of the sheet attached to the angle and didn’t notice until I had 2 rivets left. Chose not to drill out rivets, but use it as a reminder to DOUBLE CHECK THE PLANS!
- Van’s Practice Control Surface
- Had trouble using the bucking bar in the corner of the skins. The scuff marks can be seen, but I finally figured out to put a microfiber cloth underneath the bucking bar to rest it on and that alleviated some of the scuffs.
- Leading edge was slightly out of alignment once finished.
- REALLY had trouble with the trailing edge piece and wedge construction. You can see where the mushroom set hit and bruised the skins.
Overall, I made a lot of the common riveting and sheet metal mistakes that I told myself I wouldn’t make. At least they were on these practice kits and not the actual plane itself. Next up, beginning construction of the actual plane!