Fitting The Elevators to the Horizontal Stabilizer

The empennage kit is wrapping up, and almost complete at this point.  All the major assembly is done, and now its just fitting the parts together and lining up the hinges to drill the elevator horns.  The first thing to do is make sure the eye bolts on the elevators are threaded in to the proper starting depth.  Van’s gives this dimensions in the plans, and I used a dial caliper to get the correct measurements.  After setting and adjusting the eye bolts to the proper thread depth on each elevator, it was time to re-arrange some furniture in the shop to mate the elevators to the horizontal stab.  Here’s how it ended up:

I moved my work benches so that I could drop the elevator horns between them, and then I could slide them back to the table edge to get full movement of the elevators to test their angles. Next up, I fit the elevators in their mounts, and marked the skin so that it could be trimmed to provide the 1/8″ clearance around the elevator horn.

Once I had my marks made, I used a #40 drill to drill the corner so it wouldn’t crack.

Then I snipped away the excess using the tin snips.

Now that I had both the top and bottom done, it was time to knock the rough edges down, and file the corners smooth.  A plain old bastard file made quick work of this, and I am pretty happy with the way it came out.

Once the left side was done, I moved over and did the same exact thing for the right side with equally satisfying results. I think at this point, I am getting the hang of sheet metal work! I am doing work that I’d be proud to show at Osh Kosh 🙂  Then, I decided to go ahead and re-fit the elevators to make sure all the clearances looked good, and that the elevator would move through its entire Max deflection as prescribed by vans.

I made a cheap little tool to help get the bolts inserted into the hinges.  This is a super tight area to work in, and there is hardly any room to get fingers in there to hold the bolts and insert them.  So, here is what I came up with:

Yep… that is a piece of Gorilla tape on the boxed end of a wrench! It worked pretty damn good!  I was able to snake the bolt down into the access hole, wiggle it into the hinge and fully insert it while holding the elevator in position.  Once I had the bolt in place, I could just twist the wrench and tape off the head and the bolt stayed right in place. I didn’t use any washers or nuts, since I am just test fitting everything together for now.  I want to make sure I have the eye bolts set correctly, and that the elevators can move their full range with no binding.

After checking both sides for binding, I used a simple little protractor to verify that the elevators each could move through their max deflection of 30 degrees up and 25 degrees down as instructed by the plans.  Being happy that they moved great, I decided to call it a night for now.  I still need to double verify using my digital angle finder and micrometer to make sure everything is perfect and then I will drill the elevator horns.  Thats work for another session! Here’s all of tonights photos:

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Google Photos Link:

Hours Worked: 2

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

Finishing the Horizontal Stabilizer Skin

I was able to finish up riveting on the skins of both sides of the horizontal stabilizer.  I had only planned to rivet on the right side skin to HS-702 front spar and HS-708 rib, but that only took about a half hour to complete.  So, I decided I should continue on!  Here is how the riveting turned out on the spar and rib:

I was relieved to have finished off all the rivets that needed to be set using a rivet gun and bucking bar.  I am very happy that the skins turned out looking perfect and I didn’t dish or dent the skins.  These are going to paint up really nicely, and hopefully be show quality!

After getting the skins done, I continued on to riveting on the HS-706 end ribs and HS-00005 and HS-00006 end ribs on both sides.  These pieces are all done using a squeezer, so I wasn’t worried about them getting messed up or taking a long time to do.  Once you get the squeezer set to the right depth, every single rivet turns out the same, making for very pretty work.   I started out on the HS-706 end ribs, since they were easy to access. I worked them from the leading edge to the trailing edge to prevent oil-canning.  They turned out great, without needing any re-work:

img_0829 img_0830

Then I turned to the inner HS-00005 and HS-0005 ribs.  Like I did with the HS-706, I started from the leading edge and worked my way back to the trailing edge.  They also turned out really nice.  Once I had both sides done, on top and bottom, I decided to call it a night. I will leave the rear spar off until I can get the EAA Tech Counselor to come out and take a look.  With the rear spar off, they can peak down into the horizontal stabilizer and verify all my rivets look OK.  Once they have signed off on my work, I will rivet on the rear spar using the squeezer.

Here are all the photos from tonights work:

And here is a link to the Google Photos page for tonight:

Hours Worked: 1.75

Riveting the right horizontal stabilizer

Tonight I spent about 1.5 hours on riveting the right horizontal stabilizer.  I am very close to getting these skins riveted on, and almost to the point of attaching the rear spar.  I have decided to wait on attaching the rear spar until I can get an EAA Tech Counselor out to take a look at my work to see if I am on the right track, and that my rivets are looking OK.

I started this work session off my attaching HS-708 center rib, to HS-702 front spar and HS-707 nose rib using LP4-3 blind rivets.  From doing this on the left side, I knew it was going to be tight, so I took my time and got them set.  My hands were almost to large to work the pop rivet gun in that little space!


Next up was to rivet in the AN470AD4-4 rivets that attach the HS-706 end rib to the HS-702 front spar.  These rivets set OK, but I did let the rivet gun jump a little and scratch my primer.  Luckily it didn’t do any damage to the end rib other than cosmetic primer.


Then it was time to do the bulk of the work: Riveting HS-601pp to HS-702 and HS-708. Like on the left stab, I worked from the center outward to eliminate any oil-canning, and made sure to insert the single AN426AD3-4 rivet into the hole where HS-601pp (skin),  HS-702 and Hs-708 meet. Once that guy was set, the rest of the rivets were AN426AD3-3.5.  This turned out pretty well, and I didn’t have any dishing or denting.  I also checked the rivets with a rivet gauge to make sure they were set correctly.  I am finding that my “ear” is getting used to the sound of a correctly set rivet, and I am getting them at the perfect depth almost every time.  Here is how the skin turned out:


I completed the whole bottom side of the right stab skin tonight. After setting those rivets, my left arm was pretty beat from holding that bucking bar, so I decided it best to quite for the night before I messed up that pretty skin.  I will finish up the top side tomorrow, and that will have the skins riveted, save for the HS-00005, HS-00006 ribs and rear spar, which I will hold off on so that the Tech Counselor will be able to look inside the stab’s to inspect.  Here’s all the photos from tonights work:

Here is the Google photos album link:

Hours Worked: 1.5

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

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

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

Fixing the Bad Rivet in the Rear Spar

After reading some of the replies on what I should do about my messed up rivet, I decided to drill it out. I had some time to work on this before we head out to my parents house for thanksgiving, so I figured I would try to drill it out.

First I used a my noxon punch to dimple a point in the head of the rivet. The little center dimple from the factory was barely visible, so I used it to center my punch. Then I took a fresh #40 bit and slathered it in boelube and chucked it up. I put it in the center punched dimple, and turned it by hand a few times to get the bit started. Then I slowly drilled the head down deep enough I could break the head off with the butt end of an old drill bit.

Then I got a bit creative…. I didn’t have a receiving bar to drive the rivet into, so I ended up using a pair of vice grips. I stuck the jaws into a pair of leather gloves to keep from scratching the parts, and opened the jaws just enough so the rivet would fall into it. Then I used a punch and a small hammer to gently drive the old rivet out. My vise grips/glove worked pretty good as it received the rivet, and didn’t scratch my skins!

I checked the rivet and noticed that I had drilled perfectly center, and then checked the parts and the hole was undisturbed, so a regular rivet should work OK.

I stuck in a replacement normal rivet (AN470AD4-7) and squeezed it making sure I had my squeezer lined up and centered. It turned out great, and took about 30 minutes total time, since I was being cautious. I did end up scratching the nice paint on my bracket, I dropped the stupid punch as I pulled it away and the tip dug into the paint a little. Doesn’t appear to be anything than just paint, so I will hit it with some rattle can primer to seal it up against corrosion, and let it ride. Here is the end result, with a fresh rivet:

I also learned that the washer should go on the nut side of my HS-411PP and that I should torque it to roughly 25 inch/lbs. I ended up buying this torque wrench so that I can read what the torque is from the nylon lock nut, and then add that to my final torque value:

Once the wrench gets here, I will torque down the AN3 bolts and apply some torque seal (also on the way). Here is the photos from what little work I did today:

Hours Worked: .5