Closing and Finishing the Horizontal Stabilizer

Since I have had my horizontal stabilizer inspected and approved, I am ready to close it up and finish it! I started tonights session by re-clecoing the front spar onto the horizontal stabilizer.  I had removed it so the inspector could get a good look inside and check my work.  Once I had it all clecoed on, I double checked the orientation to make sure it was all correct.

Once it was all clecoed into place, the rest was pretty easy! I dropped in AN4263-3.5 rivets and squeezed them with my pneumatic squeezer.  I skipped every other hole with clecos, so once I had the unclecod holes rivets squeezed, I went back and removed the clecos and riveted them.  Squeezing makes a very nice rivet and everything came out looking very nice.

Once the rivets were set along the spar and skin, there were a few that we had to get to on the ends that attached the HS-706 tip rib to the HS-603PP rear spar. Those are using AN470 rivets, but I was still able to get them with the squeezer.

Then, there are 4 blind rivets that we have to set using a pop-rivet tool.  These are what attach the HS-603PP rear spar to the HS-708 main rib, and we have to use BSPQ-5-4 blind rivets in these holes.  These are some pretty beefy blind rivets, and it took a good bit of force on the pop rivet tool to get them set, but they came out looking great.

Finally, there are a few more AN470 universal head rivets that attach the HS-00005 inboard aft rib to the HS-603PP rear spar, but I was able to use a squeezer to set these.  They are fairly long -7 rivets due to all the metal they tie together.

I did also cover my bolts with some torque seal, and made a hell of a mess with it!  As you can see in the photos, this stuff is like Pro-Seal, and gets everywhere!  I tried to clean it up the best I could and made sure the bolts were covered to make inspections easier.  That was it for closing up the horizontal stabilizer!  One of the suggestions that the Tech Counselor made was to make sure I included plenty of photos of me doing the work, which is a bit difficult given that I am building this plane all alone.  I decided to use my old Go Pro and do some timelapse videos.  I will include them in future posts.  Here is the obligatory selfie of me holding the finished stabilizer!

And here is the time lapse video of the construction.  I set the Go Pro to do a photo every 10 seconds, I may do it at 5 seconds on the next video.  Let me know what you think.


Link to Google Photos:

Hours Worked: 1.75

Assembling and Riveting the Vertical Stabilizer

Tonight I worked about 4 hours and completed the Vertical Stabilizer, except for the rear spar, which I am leaving off until the EAA Tech Counselor can come by and take a look at my work.  This will give them access to view and check my riveting and assemblies.  Once they sign off, I will rivet on the rear spar to both the Vertical and Horizontal stabilizers.

I started off tonight by assembling the skeleton for the vertical stab but clecoing VS-704, VS-705, VS-706 and VS-707 ribs to the front spar, and making sure everything still aligns correctly.  I temporarily attached the rear spar to double check, and then remove it to continue on. Then I riveted on VS-706 and VS-707 using AN470AD4-4 universal head rivets. I used my squeezer on them to set them perfectly.  BUT, VS-704 and VS-705 end ribs were a COMPLETE pain in the butt! The plans calls for a AN470AD4-5 rivet to hold these two ribs with the VS-703 front spar sandwiched between them.  The rivet was a little long, but I trusted the plans.  I could not get my squeezer in there so I had to buck them.  However, I could not use a standard AN470 rivet set, because the ribs did not have any clearance even if I flexed them out of the way.  I had to use an offset head, and ended up folding a couple rivets over.  After drilling out a couple of rivets, I FINALLY was able to get all three of these buggers set correctly.  After reading on Vans Airforce, a lot of builders have trouble with these suckers, so I’m not alone 🙂  Heres what the skeleton looks like after it was all riveted:

Once the skeleton was done, it was time to cleco on the skin and make sure it was lining up correctly.  This was about the time I realized I hadn’t dimpled the skin yet…whoops. heh.  So, I rolled the DRDT-2 over to the bench and spent the next 15 or 30 minutes dimpling the skin. Before dimpling, I made sure to tape up the holes along the root that are marked in the plans for nut plates to hold the fiberglass fairing in the future.

NOW, I can finally cleco the skin to the skeleton and get it ready for final riveting. I clecoed every hole on both sides because this is a large surface with some complex curves around the leading edge.  I figure a little extra work of clecoing will pay off when the results are smooth and oil-can free. After the skin was clecoed fully on both sides I begin to rivet it down. The plans has us start out at the intersection of rib VS-707 and work towards the top along VS-702 front spar.  This first rivet is a little longer due to the converging ribs, but thats the only one.  All the others were a AN426AD3-3.5.  After working up the spar to the top, I came back and worked toward the root along the front spar, alternating to the VS-707 center rib.  This is to get the skin down flush and prevent pillowing or oil-canning.  Once all the rivets were driven along the ribs, it was time to squeeze the ones along the end ribs.  I started on VS-706 and the leading edge and worked toward the trailing edge, and did the same thing with the VS-704 and VS-705 root ribs.  Once I had the left side done, I flipped it over and did the same to the right side. I am happy with the results! There’s no dents, dimpling, smiley’s or oil canning. This thing will paint up nicely along with the horizontal stabilizer.  If I can keep this quality of work up, I might end up with a decent looking airplane!

After I got it all riveted up, I temporarily clecoed on the rear spar so I can hang it on the wall to keep it out of the way and safe.  I am going to round up an EAA Tech Counselor tomorrow and see if they can come out and inspect them.  Here’s all the photos from tonights work:

And of course the Google Photos album link:

Hours Worked: 4

Riveting the Horizontal Stabilizer

I spent about 3.5 hours on riveting the horizontal stabilizer, and ended up getting the left side completed, and ready for the rear spar.  I also got a start on the right side and have it ready for final riveting.

First off I riveted the HS-706 to the front spar HS702 using universal head rivets.  These were quick and easy:


The skin riveting work started out by riveting the ret of the skin to the skeleton, on both sides.  George Orndorf suggests riveting from where the HS-707 and HS-708 meet at the front spar (HS-702), and then working your way outward from that center point.  This helps to reduce any oil-canning that may occur and its also a lot easier to do. So, I started out at that junction but using an AN4263-4 rivet.  The -4 length is needed here because the ribs, spar and skin are all riveted together.  The plans calls for an AN4263-3.5 rivet everywhere else on the skin. Here is where I first started riveting:


These came out pretty great and I checked each one using a rivet gauge to make sure I was setting correctly.  Then I just continued radiating outward from that center point, working left-right-center in order until I reached the edges.  I am happy with the results, there was no denting, dishing or smiles! Looks smooth and flush:

And here are a few shots of the completed left horizontal stabilizer, inside and out:

After I finished up the left stabilizer, I had some time left so I moved on to starting the right horizontal stabilizer.  Its done exactly the same as the left, so I followed the plans like I did last time.  I cleco’d HS-707 nose rib to the skin and then riveted it to the top skin.  Then I used HS-708 and HS-706 to hold the skin in place with clecos while I riveted HS-707 to the bottom skin.  Then I pulled HS-708 out and inserted the HS-702 front spar assembly.  Now this thing is starting to look like an empennage!


After getting both sides of the right stabilizer clecoed in place to keep any undue stress from the skeleton, I called it a night.  I will rivet this skin to the skeleton as well as HS-706 to HS-702 in the next work session.

Here is all the photos from tonights work:

Link to the Google Photos for tonights work:

Hours Worked: 3.5

Riveting the Left Horizontal Stabilizer

Tonight started off by riveting the HS-00005 and HS-00006 ribs to the HS-702 front spar.  I was able to use my squeezer to set these rivets, but only just barely! I had to do some finagling around the front spar support bars, especially the larger HS-714 to get the squeezer to line up on the rivet heads.  I did have to insert two rivets in the opposite direction in order to set them, but other than being cosmetic it won’t hurt anything.


After completing the front spar, I moved on to the left HS-601PP skin. The plans have a unique way of final assembly, and after reading over the plans, and visualizing what would take place, I dived in.  This method is a bit different than the George Orndorf method I watched in his videos, but I am not using a RV-6 jig.

It starts off my clecoing HS-707 nose rib to the skin and then riveting it. After making sure everything looked good and flush, I riveted the rib to the skin.  This was the first official piece of work that I riveted that would be seen from the outside, so I went slow and took my time.  I was happy with the results!


And this was the first ever flush rivet to be set!


After riveting on the HS-707 nose rib to the top skin, the plans have me cleco the end rib, HS-706, to the skin, as well as HS-708 to help hold everything tight.  This makes riveting HS-707 to the bottom of the skin much easier.  HS-707 nose rib was a tricky part to rivet! I messed up two rivets so I had to drill them out and replace them after I got all the other rivets done.  I have practiced this on scrap material a bunch of times, so it was no biggie.


And voila! You can’t even tell it was fixed:


Once I had both sides of HS-707 nose rib riveted and done, the next step was to insert the front spar assembly so I can be riveted in place.  So I got it all situated, and made sure everything was lined up and clecoed every hole to hold it in position.  Once the front spar was fastened, the plans have you use a blind rivet (pop rivet) to hold HS-707 nose rib to HS-702 front spar and HS-708 middle rib. These rivets were a little tricky because the space is pretty tight and I have big ole gorilla hands.  Not to mention the head of my pop rivet squeezer barely fit between the rib and the rivet mandrel.  But, after some patience and a little wiggling, I was able to fully seat the three blind rivets that holds those two ribs to the front spart assembly.


As a side note, I learned from the Vans Airforce Forums that a good trick to protect your skins during riveting is to wrap your bucking bar in athletic tape, except for the tiny bit you are using against the rivet tail.  This is a really good suggestion, because it helps you hold on to the heavy bucking bar, AND protects the primed surfaces from getting scratched up from the sharp edges.  Since the athletic tape doesnt stick to anything but itself, it leaves no residue on the bucking bar!


Thats all for tonight.  A little over 3 hours of work and I have my left horizontal stabilizer partially riveted and ready to finish up.  I will leave the other work for another session when I am a bit more refreshed and ready. Here is an album of all the photos, some showing better detail of the work.

And here is a link to the Google Photos album:

Hours Worked: 3.25

Front Spar Riveting

My torque wrench hasn’t shown up yet, so I wasn’t able to finish up the last steps on the rear spar.  I decided to continue on to the front spar and return to the rear once I get my wrench and can torque those 4 last bolts to the proper specs.  The next step in the plans is to rivet the front spar assembly.

I started out by clecoing HS-710, HS-714, and HS-00001 onto the HS-702 front spar, so I could make sure everything lines up correctly before riveting. img_0735

The plans call for a AN470AD4-7 rivet where the HS-710 and HS-714 go together with the HS-702 front spar and the HS-00001 doubler plate.  There are also a few location where you do not want to rivet, because the HS-000005 and HS-00006 ribs will attach later, as well as the holes that will be drilled later when the tail is attached to the fuselage.   To keep myself from sticking a rivet in those holes, I covered them with masking tape. The only photo I have of my masking tape is from AFTER driving the rivet.


I used my squeezer to drive all these rivets which made it super easy to get them correct.  Once I drove all the longer -7 rivets, I moved on to drive the shorter AN470AD4-5 rivets where the HS-00001 doubler plate attaches to the HS-702 spar.  These are shorter because they don’t have to go through the thick spar reinforcement bars.  You can see the two rows of these rivets in the middle of the spar in the photo above.

The next step was to rivet the 4 flush head rivets into the HS-702 to HS-710 / HS-714 reinforcement bars.  I had previously countersunk the bars, and dimpled the spar, so these 4 were easy to set with the squeezer.


After squeezing those last 4 flush head rivets, my front spar assembly was completed.  I am pretty happy with the way it came out. I didn’t have to drill out any rivets, and I made sure they were all set correctly by measuring each and every one with the rivet gauge.  This is how it looked once it was all done and completed.  I removed the masking tape since it’s not going to be needed anymore.



Here is a link to all the photos I took for this work session:

Hours Worked: 2.5

Drilling the Horizontal Stabilizer

Today was a good day on the project, with lots of progress being made, and ultimately a flying surface assembled. Tonights work began with going back a few steps in the plans to assemble the HS-00001 doubler plate to the front spar. I measured out where the edges should be per the plans, and clamped them in place to drill their rivet holes. Once I had both sides done, I marked that step done in the plans and moved on.

I started the section in the plans called “Drilling the Horizontal Stabilizer”. I spent a good bit of the time today just looking over the plans and laying out the parts to get an idea of how it all should look and how I should drill out the front spar and spar doublers. Over the short break from the last session I read up SB for the front spar to learn how it should be assembled and drilled. It wasn’t as bad as I thought.

I picked out which ribs would be left and right, and marked them. Then I marked the centerlines using the dimensions from the plans for HS-00005 and HS-00006. I finally got to use the Noxon center punch to mark my drill location for HS-00006 and drilled the holes in the front flange.

Starting with the left horizontal stabilizer, I clecoed all the ribs and spars together to form the skeleton. Then I match drilled to #30 all of the holes attaching the ribs to the spars, except for where it attaches to HS-609pp. I left that hole untouched for now per the plans, until later on then drilled it to size#21. The un-clecod everything to clean out the drill chips. The pneumatic cleco tool make this work easy.

After re-assembling the left skeleton, I had my wife help me get the HS-601PP skin clecod to the skeleton. This took some finesse. Due to the gradual taper on the leading edge, we had to very gently flex the skin to fit around the nose ribs without bending them. After a few attempts, we managed to get the skin clecod down and looking like an airplane part!

Then it was time to fit, clamp and drill the HS-00005 and HS-00006 ribs. This took me a good bit of fiddling around. This started with fitting the HS-00001 doubler, and the HS-710 and HS-714 support bars to the front spar. Then I inserted the ribs and worked to get them lined up perfectly with the edge of the skins. These parts are not pre-punched so I marked a centerline across all the flanges just to make sure I lined them up to maintain edge distance on the skins holes. I used the front rib holes to back drill the front spar after I had it lined up with the skin, and then removed it so I could insert the rear rib (HS-00005) and line up the centerline mark through the holes I just drilled, then back drill it. After all the aligning and clamping and measuring, I ended up with the front and rear ribs completely flush against the edge of the skin, with the centerlines lined up on the skins holes. After everything was clamped and held securely in place, I began back drilling the HS-00005 rib using the holes in the skin, and then followed up with the HS-00006 rib in the same manner.

The last step was match and back drilling the skin to the spars and ribs using a #30. I clecoed every hole along the curves of the ribs and just removed the cleco to drill its hole then reinserted it to prevent the rib from shifting. After it was all done, I came out with a fully assembled left horizontal stabilizer! This was a good stopping point for the night, and I will work on the right one the next session. I predict it won’t take as long since I am familiar with the process now.

Photos from todays work:

Hours Worked: 6

Front Spar Complete

After reading over the plans and instructions last night I decided to get to work today with a clear mind. I completed the Front Spar Assembly section of the empennage section with the exception of deburring, dimpling and priming. I am going to combine as many of the parts as I can and complete these together to save setup time in my priming booth. There is no riveting to be done at this point anyways, so it will work out perfectly.

I cleco’d HS-710 and HS714 to the HS-702 spar channels and marked the lines for center line and the bend lines per the plans. Then it was time to do a little fabricating on the spar channel. I cut off the flanges of the spar channel inboard of the bend lines and smoothed the edges. Then I drilled the relief holes and enlarged it to 1/4 on the channels. I only trimmed the angle back just a bit for now until I could measure and cut after the bend was made.

Then I bent the HS-702 spar channels to the exact 6 degrees using my hand seamer and a protractor. They turned out nicely. From there, I re-clecod the HS-710 and HS-714 so I could match drill everything inboard of the bend lines and rib attachment holes.

Next I tapered the ends of HS-710 and HS-714 per the detail section of the plans. I used my bench grinder on this part to make it easier. I marked the lines a bit large so I didn’t over-grind anything. Once I got a taper that I liked, I polished the edges off with the scotchbrite wheel so I wouldn’t scratch the spars or my hands. I will finish them off better once I get ready to prime everything. I left some notes in my plans to do this. After the taper was set for them, I measured for my bend lines and then bent them using a vise to the 6 degree angle per my protractor. While the tapers may not be as beautifully done as the pros, I hope they will be OK. They meet the edge distance requirements with some meat left, and they taper nicely along the spar channels and the edges are broken clean. I think thats the only requirements for this to be a safe part. I may ask the folks in the RV-7 sub just to make sure, since I can always trim them down more if I need to before priming.

I am still a bit confused as to how the HS-00001 doublers go into place, but I will read the SB some more and try cleco’ing everything together and lining them up before final prep and assembly. I left a note in my plans to come back to this.

Then I moved on to the last step and that was to countersink the holes needed on the front spar HS-702, HS-710 and HS-714. The plans state that the inner 4 holes must be countersunk from with the flush head facing aft. So, I setup my countersink cage using some scrap and a AN4264-4 rivet to get it at the perfect depth. Then I drilled the 2 center holes on each the HS-710 and HS-714 angle support bars. I used my DRDT-2 dimpler to dimple the light metal of the spar channel then test fit everything back together with clecos. They dimpled parts nestle together very nicely with no gaps. I was happy to close out the front spar assembly section with these results!

Some last few steps: After letting VS-146 dry, I noticed I was a bit light on my primer and missed the bearing housing a little. So I gave it a second light coat with the part on an angle to cover the sides of the bearing housing. I’ll let it dry overnight before assembling it.

The next section of the plans was “preparing the ribs” which was really only two easy little steps, so I figured I would go ahead and knock it out while I was in the mood. I fired up some Blackberry Smoke to listen to, and prepped some metal!

I trimmed both HS-00006 parts making sure to take note of left / right orientation and then marking accordingly. If you are reading this and are on this step, make sure you double check the orientation on the plans!!! After smoothing out the edges I moved on to the others.

I picked parts (2 each) HS-00005, HS-706, HS-707, and HS-708 from their shelves and removed the blue plastic from them. I have read leaving the blue plastic on parts that will be mated together is not a good thing because it affects your measurements. These are all internal parts that I am going to be scuffing and priming anyways so it wasnt needed anymore. I used a 90 degree straight edge combination square to make sure all the flanges of each part were at a true 90 degrees. Some were pretty good, others needed a little tweaking with my edge seamer. Then I moved on to fluting the parts. These parts are fairly complex punched parts and due to the nature of press punched parts sometimes they are “warped” as slight degree. I laid them on my bench (both sides of them) to check their flatness. If any were not flat, I would make a couple of flutes and re-check, repeating the process until they were laying flat and true. Once I had a part trued and flat I marked its part number in sharpie and laid it back on the shelf. Some parts only needed 1 or 2 flutes, others needed more. I was happy with how they turned out. I will leave the deburring, edge finishing and scuffing until I get ready to bundle all the parts together and prime them.

Here are the photos from tonights work:


Hours Worked: 4.5

Front Spar Assembly

Today I started the “Front Spar Assembly” of the tail kit. After feeling good about the rear spar, I figured this would be just as easy. That wasn’t the case.

I spent much of my time just looking at the planes and holding parts together to visualize what was needing to happen. 3.5 hours of work later and I didn’t really have much accomplished on my bench. I separated the doubler plates and cleaned their edges. This was required by Vans Service Bulletin 14-01-31. My kit came with these parts already which was nice.

I also measured and marked the bend lines for the spar itself, but will wait until the next session before bending. I want to make sure all is correct before I proceed, and I have fresh clear mind. Thats all for today, 3.5 hours of fiddling around.

Here are the photos from the nights work:


The Journey begins!

Like every journey starting with the first footstep, I started my journey on the rear spar, like so many others who have gone this way before me.

I worked a solid 2.5 hours tonight. I didn’t want to push myself to do to much in my first session, and really wanted to just dig in and start cleco-ing stuff together to help motivate me.

Tonight I completed all the steps for the “Rear Spar” section of the first page on the plans. I found that using my bench grinder with a course wheel made quick work of the thick HS-609PP reinforcement bars. I had to break the edges and then taper the ends off. I rough outlines my shape with a sharpie and used the course wheel to work the metal down to the marks. Once i was happy with the rough shape, I used my file and the scotchbrite wheel to smooth the edges. I really like that scotchbrite wheel, its a great tool.

I am leaving the flat surfaces unfinished for right now, so I highlighted that step in my plans so i don’t miss it. I am going to prime the interior sections with AKZO, and I am going to try to consolidate all my priming so I will leave the surface as is, until priming day.

I made sure to mark that 8th hole on each side where HS-708 will attach so as to not rivet it by accident.

Then I moved on to building the HS-411PP bearing assembly. I actually picked up a good trick from George Ordorffs videos of drilling the VA-146 bearing assembly. I clamped HS-411APP and HS-411-BPP together u

sing cleco clamps. The I clecod those two down to a 2×4 block. I used BPP as a drill guide for APP and clecod to stabilize as I worked my way round. Once it was done, I test fit VA-146 between them and it fit beautifully. Deburr’ed the holes, and then sprayed VA-146 with some rattle can self-etching primer after I gave it a good roughing and cleaning. I will let it sit overnight to dry before riveting this assembly together.


Here is a link to the photos from tonights work:

Hours Worked: 2.5