Final Prep on Right Elevator

Its almost time to rivet the left elevator together, but first I have to take care of a few last tid bits. I disassembled the right elevator and deburred all of the parts, including the skin. The next step was to dimple the skin using the DRDT-2 and then dimple the skeleton parts using my squeezer, since some of these ribs have limited access.  On the trailing edge of the ribs, I had to break out the pop rivet dimple dies to get in those tight spaces, which takes a little time and patience.  The parts came out looking great and a test fit of a AN426 rivet seemed to agree:


Then I beveled the edges of the E-713 counter balance skin so that it would have an easy transition from the E-701 skin laying over the top of it. I started out getting it roughed out with a file, and then finished it off on the scotchbrite wheel to get a nice smooth bevel.  I also rolled the edges of the skin so that it will lay nice and flush against the E-713 when it comes time to rivet.  These little time sinks are things that take patience but are what creates a superb quality product in the end, so its time well spent.

Even though it doesn’t seem like a lot got done tonight, I had a solid 2.5 hours of work getting these parts prepped for final riveting.  Since I had to replace the E-713 counterbalance skin, I will need to do another small priming session to prime the inside of the skin, and I am going to also prime a few of the doublers for the nut plates as well.  I will probably setup for the priming session tomorrow and maybe start riveting the skeleton together.  Here are the photos from tonights session:

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Hours Worked: 2.5

Riveting the Elevator Stiffeners

Stiffeners.  I swear this plane has more stiffeners in it than skin. Since I am holding off on bonding the trailing edge of the rudder for a few more days, I decided to move on to the elevators and start riveting the stiffeners on.  This will help get me to the point of bending their trailing edge and bonding the trailing edge stiffeners, which is what I am waiting on for the rudder.  This way I can mix up one batch of ProSeal and do them at the same time.  I already have my skins and stiffeners primed and ready, I just need to deburr and dimple them before riveting.

Thats where tonights work started.  I deburred the stiffener holes in the both the E-701 left and right skins.  Then I fired up the DRDT-2 dimpler and dimpled both skins, as well as all the stiffeners for both sides.  This went pretty quickly, since they were all AN4263-3.5 rivets. The dimples always turn out nice:

Next up was to back rivet all of the stiffeners to the skins, so i started on the right being that its the easiest.  Back riveting is one of my favorite ways to rivet, and I’d gamble probably most of the other builders out there as well! The rivets set so nice and perfect, and its pretty easy to do so long as you keep an eye on where your back rivet plate is.  I picked up a longer 16″ plate to have more room to work and its been awesome.  Here’s some quick shots of the end result on the right skin.

After I had the right skin all completed, I put it on the shelf and started on the left.  The left is slightly more complicated because it has the elevator trim system, so we have a few more pieces to work with.  I started out by marking where the E-615PP support plate went on the inside of the skin, and then deburred and dimple those holes on the skin and the plate.  This plate will get some nut plates around the inside opening, so I need to dimple the nut plate mounting holes and screw hole.  Here’s where I had a head-scratcher.  I have in my dimple die collection a 5/32 and a #6 dimple die….The plans call for a #6 screw to be used with the nut plate, so that means I need to use a #6 dimple die, but I cannot figure out which is the 5/32 and which is the #6!!! The markings are no longer on the side of my dies and they are VERY close in size.  I also took some time fitting the plate and pondering if I should dimple the AN4263-3.5 holes that the plans calls for, or if I should use some NAS1097 rivets and countersink them.  If I dimple, I will have to fiddle with dimple the nutplate ears, and that gets messy.  I am thinking about using some NAS1097, AKA “oops rivets”, instead.  They have a smaller countersink on the head, but since these are just holding the nut plate in place there isn’t much load on them.  Using NAS1097’s will let me machine countersink the plate and get a very close fitting rivet set and not have to worry about the nut plate ears.  I figured I would just call it a night here, and put some thought to this overnight and ask some folks on the Vans Airforce forums.  Maybe they can help me sort out which is a 5/32 and which is a #6 die as well! 🙂  Here’s the work I did get done one the E-615PP:

In the next session, I will back rivet on the stiffeners to the left skin, and figure out this E-615PP support plate conundrum, and probably make up the trailing edge bending jig.  Here’s the photos from tonights work:

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And heres the Google Photos link:

Hours Worked: 3.25

Rudder Final Assembly Continued

Tonight I continued working on the rudder final assembly.  I stopped by Home Depot and picked up some 1.5″ aluminum angle so that I could use it when I bond the trailing edge. It came in an 8 foot length, so I trimmed to be just a few inches longer than the trailing edge, finished out the rough edge on that cut and then marked the center of one side of the angle to help align my drill holes. I laid one of the rudder skins on flat against the angle and the lined up the mark I made with the pre-drilled holes in the skin.  Then I match drilled a hole to start and clecoed the skin and angle right into my work table.  Then, to keep from over-drilling the skin, I just drilled every two holes all the way through and clecoed.  For the remaining holes, I simply ran the bit for a few seconds to start a hole using the clecoed skin as a guide, and then pulled the skin off and finished drilling the holes through the angle.  I then laid the skin back over my holes and clecoed it in a few spots to make sure it was still lining up, and it was.

Then I set the angle aside and kept on working on the rudder itself.  I decided to fit the bottom R-710 rudder horn brace to make sure I could rivet everything in place with the brace installed, and luckily my squeezer will fit in the tight space of the horn brace and set the rivets easily.  I decided to use the AN470 rivets instead of the blind rivets that is optional for this part.  I used my squeezer to set the rivets and left the ones that the skin rivets too for later.  You can see in the photo below that the access hole in the R-710 horn brace gives just enough clearance for the squeezer to get in and set the rivets along the bottom rib.

After that, I decided to get the trailing edge ready for assembly before I cleco on the skins.  First I used the DRDT-2 to dimple the trailing edge of the skins, and the I used a new jig from Cleaveland Tools that makes countersinking the trailing edge wedge a breeze!  This thing is dead simple, its shaped to fit the angle of the trailing edge wedge, so that the working surface sits flush and allows all of the countersink cage to sit flush while countersinking.  This is something a lot of builders have a hard time with, and struggle to make a good jig, so Cleaveland made one from a solid piece of billet.  Here’s how it looks:

You can see how the trailing edge wedge sits perfectly in the groove, and the holes in the jig allow the nib on the countersink cutter to travel completely through.  This little $36 tool made this job so simple I was glad to have it.  I had both sides of my wedge done in about 30 minutes, counting the time I took to adjust the depth.


With the trailing edge wedge done, I was ready to cleco on the skins and make sure everything still aligned right before riveting them on.  I clecoed on both sides and then inserted the trailing edge wedge and clecoed it together.  My rudder is still in alignment and its looking great.  However, while I was sitting down admiring my work, I started questioning when I should insert the rod end bearings for the rudder mounts.  They thread into the plate nuts I installed into the spar, but the plans has some specific lengths they need to be, and it looks like its measured from the inside of the spar to the center of the hole in the rod end bearing.   Heres what I am talking about:

Of course, with the skins on, I wont be able to measure from the inside of the spar, and it looks like its calling for a distance of 51/64 in this particular instance.  So, I am going to ask in the forums if I should go ahead and install those rod end bearings before I rivet on the skins.  So, with that little dilema, I decided to call it a night and wait until I get some advice on how to proceed before I make it harder on myself down the road.  This is a good stopping point anyways!

Here’s an album of all the photos from tonights work:

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Hours Worked: 3.75

Final Assembly of the Rudder

Well, I had some downtime, and didn’t get much done on the plane since I sprayed the primer.  I wanted to let the parts sit and the primer cure for a few days, but I wasn’t planning on this long 🙂  None the less, I got back on the ball today, and got some work done.  I want to finish up the rudder to the point of riveting the trailing edge, and then I will hold off on the Proseal until I need it for the elevator stiffeners as well.  So, lets build a rudder skeleton!

The work started off by gathering up and marking all the parts for the rudder.  Some of the marks were covered up with the primer, so I needed to find all the parts again.  I also took a little time to read the plans and get re-familiar with the rudder.  I had already deburred the parts before priming, so I needed to dimple the skins, spar and ribs. This went pretty quick with the DRDT-2, and using the pop-rivet dimple die tool to get the very end of the ribs.  I am still not sure how the heck I am going to rivet those things.

With all the parts deburred, dimpled, primed and ready to assemble, I began the work of final assembly on the rudder skeleton.  We start out  by riveting all of the reinforcement plates, R606PP, R607PP, and R608PP to the rudder spar R902. I also riveted on the K1000-6 nut plates to the proper sides of the rear spar.  I decided to leave these unpainted, since they have corrosion protection already applied.

Once the reinforcement plates are riveted on, I moved towards the bottom of the rudder and worked on the lower rib and rudder horn.  The R-904 has several different pieces that all fit together on the spar to form the lower assembly.  I attached the R-904 to the R-902 rear spar, fitted the R-917 shim, and finally fitted the R-405PD rudder horn with clecos.  Then I attached the K1000-6 plate nut to the assembly and riveted everything together.  There are several different lengths of rivets in this section, so I had to pay close attention and double check each rivet before setting it.

Now that the bottom of the skelton was done, I moved on to finish the top. Vans has us rivet the R-912 counterbalance rib to the rear spar, and then fit the R-913 counterbalance skin over the rib.  I attached the skin with clecos due to its thickness and the complex curve it has.  Then once I was happy the counterbalance skin was fitted nicely, I removed one cleco at a time and riveted it in place. It came out looking great!

The last step on this skeleton was to install the lead counterbalance weight.  I had pre-drilled and countersunk it a few weeks ago, but I still needed to do a little trimming to get the counterweight to fit around the rivet tails that were now sticking inside the skeleton.  I didn’t have to remove much material, so the balance shouldn’t be affected.  Then I secured the weight with the AN509 screws and torqued them down to 30 inch/lbs.  This is the 25 inch/lbs that is called for, plus the drag of the nylon lock nut, which I measured at about 5 inch/lbs.  I followed that up with a little torque seal to mark that I had them torqued, and also to show in case the screws start to work loose.

I called it a night at this point. I have a full rudder skeleton, and the next step is to cleco on the skins and start getting them ready to rivet, and then place the end rib on the top.  In the next session, I will cleco on the skins and make sure every thing is still lined up, and then use one of the skins as a guide to drill some aluminum angle for the trailing edge.

Heres all the photos from tonights work:

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And the Google Photos link:

Hours Worked: 4.5

Assembling and Drilling the Rudder

Tammy and Acacia were out of the house for the night, so I made the executive decision to go ahead and rivet on the stiffeners to the skins without priming them now.  I will prime them with the rest of the parts later on, so that means there will be a small section of metal that is not primed, between the stiffener and skin, but it is alclad so I am not too worried about it.

I started out by dimpling both the stiffeners and the skins using the DRDT-2. The thin .016 skin dimples incredibly easy, so I was ginger with the force. Then I back riveted the stiffeners onto the skins, being sure I kept the work on the back rivet plate.  I wished I could back rivet the whole plane! The rivets came out looking perfect.


I had previously built the rudder skeleton, so the next step was to cleco on the skins to the skeleton and then match drill all the remaining holes, including the trailing edge wedge.  I cleco’ed every other hole so I could drill perfectly aligned, and then moved the clecos to their neighbor hole and drilled where they were.

Now that the rudder is assembled, the plans has us fit the R-710 rudder brace and then back drill it to the skins lower holes.  First we have to trim away a little excess on the part, as noted in the plans. There are notches and holes that can be used as a reference to trim, but after reading from several other builders, I opted to trim on the outside of these lines to give myself some extra metal in case I have edge clearance issues.  Other builders noted that if you cut along the notches, you an run into edge clearance issues after you drill the holes.  

The above photo gives a better idea of what I am talking about.  The bottom line in the line Van’s has you trim, where I opted to give a little extra as you can see from the top line I drew.  Thats the line I trimmed along and it worked out really nicely.

I have plenty of edge distance for all the holes, and I will just file down the edges to make them smooth and get rid of that notches when I deburr and edge dress all the parts.  I then clecoed this part to the skeleton so I could complete the next small bit of fabrication.  Next up is to fabricate the R-918 rudder bottom attachment strips.  These are strips of .032 that gets riveted onto the bottom of the skeleton to provide a flange for the fiberglass bottom cap to attach to.  Van’s ships about 40″ of .032 that is already cut to the 1 1/8″ width, so all I had to do was cut them to 18″ long and then trim out the little notch as noted in the plans, which as easy enough to do.

Once you have both sides fabricated, we use cleco side clamps to hold them flush along the bottom of the rudder, onto R-904 rib.  Then, back drill each one using the holes in the skin as a guide.

I was careful that I didn’t run into edge edge distance issues and used a Sharpie to mark the holes and check they were not to close to the edge.  Once I was happy, I drilled them.  I completed both sides of the R-918 and decided that after 6 hours of working on the rudder today, I’d call it a night.

Heres all the photos from tonights work:

Google Photos link:

Hours Worked: 6

Dimpling the Left Horizontal Stabilizer

After riveting the front spar, I was still wanting something to do, but nothing very involved.  I realized I hadn’t dimpled my skins yet, since I was waiting to do that until after the primer had cured.   Since the next step in the plans call for me to rivet on a few ribs to the left skin, I figured this was just a good a time as any to start!

I used the DRDT-2 dimpling tool to dimple all my skins.  I used a piece of scrap aluminum to set the dimple dies and the compression on the dimpler to form a perfect skin dimple.  A lot of folks don’t do this step since, and just go right to dimpling.  There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but there is an issue of under-dimpling which causes the skin to look like it has a “dished in” surface around the dimple.  You end up with this weird wavy looking skin surface.  Again, theres probably nothing wrong with have an under dimpled skin, so long as the part fit together snug, but I am wanting to build a quality airplane that looks excellent, so I take the extra time to set these things.  After a few test dimples in my test coupons of aluminum, I started on my left horizontal stabilizer.


The DRDT-2 makes this work a breeze!  I still need to get some carpet or moving blankets so that I don’t have to worry about my work surface scratching my skins.  Right now I am using the plans manual under the skin to keep it off the rough work bench.  It works, but not ideal.  It takes a good bit of pressure to get a solid, clean dimple.  I am also using spring-back dimple dies from Cleaveland tool and they need a good bit of pressure to form a good dimple. I spent about an hour going around the skin bottom.  Then I marked off the top side of the skin using masking tape.  There are a few rivet holes that will be used later on to install the tail fairing, and we use nutplates for that.  So, Van’s has you not dimple a few holes in the top skin.  I covered them with masking tape so I wouldn’t accidently dimple them.


This process went pretty quickly because of the dimpler.  I did have a few tricky holes towards the leading edge of the skin (where it curves/wraps around).  I had to take the skin off the table, and hold it with the opposite hanging down in front of the dimpler so I could reach them.  All in all, I think the dimples came out great.  I test fit them with a spare AN426AD-3-4 rivet, and the rivet fits in perfectly and there is no wavy-ness or under dimpled holes.


Since I won’t be working on the right skin for a few more work sessions, I figured it was time to stop.  It was also close to 1:15 AM, and I was a little tired by this point.  I’ve always heard its good to stop before you get tired, because you will make a mistake.

Heres all the photos from tonights work session:

Hours Worked: 1.0

Dimpling the Right Horizontal Stabilizer

I didn’t have much time tonight, I was working on my parade car most of the day. But, I did find a little over an hour to get some work done on the airplane.  My beam torque wrench was delivered today, so I also torqued the bolts that hold the HS-411 hinge bracket to the rear spar.  Referring to the chart in the Van’s manual, I am supposed to torque the AN3 bolts down to 20-25 inch pounds, adding in the torque required to turn the nylon lock nuts.  My beam wrench was showing 5-8 inch pounds required to turn the nylon nut on the AN3 bolt, so I figured I would torque the bolts down to a total of 28-30 inch pounds.  After torquing the nuts down, I marked them with an “X” using a sharpie.  I will apply some torque seal once it gets here. This way I know which bolts have been torqued.


Having completed that, I figured I should go ahead and dimple the right horizontal stabilizer skin, since I had a little bit of time left for the night. I used my DRDT-2 dimpler to do the work, and it went smoothly. I already had the dimpler set up from last nights work, so I just popped in the sets, and went at it.  I also remembered to mask off the holes in the skin that do not need dimpling, since they will be getting nut plates. The skin turned out well.


And for some reason, my camera decided to make a little video.  I must have flipped a switch somewhere, so for fun, here is the video my camera made for us:

I spent a few minutes tinkering around with the pressure settings on my rivet gun.  I will be riveting the ribs to the skins in a few sessions, so I want to make sure I have everything set right.  I think I might spend some more time on the practice kits doing flush rivets over again.  This will give me some more practice, as well as let me fine tune my rivet gun for the -3 flush rivets.

Here is a full photo album of tonights work:

Hours Worked: 1.25