Closing and Finishing the Vertical Stabilizer

After completing the horizontal stabilizer in a previous work session, I decided to continue on and finish the vertical stabilizer.  The Tech Counselor came out this morning and approved all my work so far, and that means its safe to close these guys up and mark them as done!  I started out by clecoing the rear spar back on to the vertical stabilizer skin, we had removed it this morning so the inspector could take a good look at the riveting done inside.

Once the VS-803PP rear spar was clecod on, I inserted an AN426AD3-3.5 rivet into every other hole and used the squeezer to set the rivets. Once they were all done on both sides, I removed the clecos and then riveted those holes. Since I was able to use my squeezer, these rivets came out perfect:

Next up was to attach the VS-707 rib to the VS-803PP rear spar assembly using LP4-3 blind rivets.  These were easily done using the pop rivet tool, making sure to keep them flush with the parts when setting.

Finally, the last step was to rivet on the VS-704 end rib to the VS-803PP rear spar assembly using AN470AD4-6 rivets and then attaching the VS-706 tip rib to the rear spar using AN470AD4-4 rivets.  I used the squeezer on these guys, and they set really nicely. Its still very nice to see just how rigid everything ends up being once it all riveted together. These skins are nice and tight and have zero oil canning.

Here is a nice time lapse video I took of this session:

Of course, the obligatory happy selfie of the finished vertical stabilizer:

And here is all of the photos I took of tonights build:

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Google photos Link: https://goo.gl/photos/SX4DAd6o8eWHGtPu7

Hours Worked: 1

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: https://goo.gl/photos/z48dTJShJuPsuRUQ6

Hours Worked: 4

Riveting the Vertical Stabilizer Rear Spar

I worked about 2 hours tonight on the vertical stabilizer rear spar. I also spent a few minutes coming up with a way to mount my horizontal stabilizer on the wall to keep it safe and out of the way.  For about 2 bucks in hardware, here’s what I came up with:

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And it actually looks pretty decent against the wall.  At the very least, I will have some nice looking aviation related wall art 🙂

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After that, I continued on to working on the Vertical stabilizer.  Vans has us start on the rear spar of the vertical stab by clecoing on the Vs-803PP spar to the VS-808PP doubler, as well as the hinges VS-410PP, VS-411PP and VS-412PP.  I also taped off the holes where the VS-704, VS-706 and VS-707 ribs would rivet on later, so I didn’t accidentally rivet those holes.  img_0843

Once I had everything clecoed in place, and taped up, I was ready to rivet.  The plans have a myriad of different rivet lengths due to the thickness of the doubler, and the hinge plates so I started out by riveting on the VS-412 hinges at the top of the spar.  Once I had those on, I moved to the shortest rivet size group and worked my way up to the longest.  Eventually I had all the universal head rivets squeezed with my squeezer, and I could finish up with the bottom section of the spar.  This section I previously dimpled and countersunk because we need to use flush rivets on the face so that the spar will sit flush on the fuselage when we mount it.  So, I put my flush set in my squeezer, set the depth and set all those flush rivets on the bottom, finishing up my vertical stabilizer rear spar.  It came out looking really nicely!

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Here are all the photos from tonights work:

And here is the Google photos link: https://goo.gl/photos/JJZC2YV1fNmMq3mVA

Hours Worked: 2

Priming Horizontal and Vertical Stabilizers

Today was priming day! The weekend is about the only time I have available where I can get priming done. I am spraying the parts outside to keep fumes out of the house, so I am at the mercy of good daylight. Yesterday I my Shriners unit had a parade, so I drove my little parade car in it, and didn’t get home in time to work so today was my work day.

I have the entirety of my horizontal and vertical stabilizers to prime today, and I got started around noon. I first scuffed down all my parts using a maroon scotchbrite pad. My goal was to only remove ay aluminum oxide that may have formed, while also giving the AKZO some tooth to bite into. I did not want to remove the alclad, as I have decided to leave it on the aluminum as an additional layer of corrision protection. The AKZO will be my primary barrier, while the Alclad will serve as a secondary. I also realized that the dimples tend to eat up a scotchbrite pad, so I may start leaving my dimpling duties until after I have primed, this might make scuffing easier and less abusive on the pads.

After I had all my parts scuffed up, it was time to clean them off. My chosen method is to use acetone. This will get rid of any chemicals and oils on the parts and give the primer a good clean surface. I first started by wiping the parts down with a dry micro-fiber cloth, the goal here is to remove any of the dust left from the scuffing.

Then I used paper towels and acetone to clean the parts completely, until nothing was being left on the paper towel. The skins were a little tricky because they had the red ink from the aluminum company, so I wiped it off with acetone first to keep it from smearing across the parts This made it a little easier to clean.
Here’s a glimpse of a skin scuffed, cleaned and ready for primer:

Next step was to mix up my AKZO and give it the 30 minute induction time. I took a rough guess and figured a total of 8 ounces should be plenty for these parts. I shook the **** out of each of the AKZO cans, mixed them up with a paint stir, and poured 4 equal parts of “Part A” and “Part B” into my PPS cup. I learned that pouring the clear hardener (part b) first makes it much easier to see the ratio lines on the PPS cups. Here’s my primer chilling out in the cup, inducting:

While the AKZO was inducting, I moved my parts outside and onto my spray table. Unfortunately, I had more parts than I had table so I used some old cardboard boxes for the others. I figured I would start flange up on the boxes, so when I flipped them over the flanges would hold my freshly painted surface off the cardboard and not smear it. It worked out pretty good.


Eventually I had all of my parts sprayed, and looking great. This stuff goes on really easily, and dries fast. I am also happy that you don’t have to hussle to spray whats in your cup because you have a pretty long working time in your cup. Now, I will admit, my skins have some uneven spots where some areas was sprayed heavier than others, but my main concern was to make sure my skins had adequate coverage. I am not trying to get a show-room quality paint job since the only people seeing this will be me and the inspector. As long as there is good coverage, the AKZO will do its job preventing corrosion. I also had a few small runs on some of the parts, but again, I am not going to worry about them unless the run causes some assembly interference.

I had a few small places on some of my parts that I had to spray again to get good coverage, but I had plenty of AKZO in my gun so I didn’t have to mix any up. The 8 ounces (I think the PPS cups are measured in ounces) ending up being just about the right amount, I had good coverage on my skins and parts, and had a little left over to touch up the areas that I missed. After it was all done, I had probably .25 ounce in the bottom of my cup, very very little. I ran some acetone through the gun’s gravity feed and then moved the parts from outside onto my work tables to they can finish drying. They turned out really nicely!

I’ll let these things harden overnight, and probably start assembling them all together tomorrow or Tuesday night. This green color will look nice against the white/grey hinge brackets and gold colored rivets.

And always, here is a complete album of tonights photos: https://goo.gl/photos/X5mgorU1X4jzY4tE9

Hours Worked: 5.25

Vertical Stabilizer deburring and metal finishing

Tonight I simply finished up all the metal prep work on the vertical stabilizer. I deburred all the holes, and then finished all the edges on the ribs, spars and skins. The spar doubler I spent a good bit of time on getting it smooth since its a heavy piece of aluminum. I started on my bench grinder to break the edges, and then finished them off on the scotchbrite wheel. I used a deburring tool to round off the edges of the lightening holes and then use a scotchbrite pad to smooth those down. It came out smooth:

Then I finished up the night by dimpling all of the holes, while skipping the ones destined to have nutplates for the fiberglass fairing. I used the DRDT2 for most of them, and the squeezer for a few, and finally the pop rivet dimple die set for those last two in the nose rib.

That wrapped it up for the night. I don’t have any work backlogged on my bench because I am waiting on this weekend so I can scuff, clean and prime the horizontal and vertical stabilizer parts/skins. I am spraying outside, so I need a day with plenty of daylight.

Only a few photos from tonights work, since it was mainly metal prep. Heres what I took: https://goo.gl/photos/kEVxThYQk7GBvHFf6

Hours Worked: 3

Vertical Stabilizer metal prep

Tonight I mainly focused on metal prep on the vertical stabilizer. I disassembled the stab, and then deburred all the holes. Then I marked which holes on the VS-808PP doubler and VS-803PP rear spar that needed to be countersunk / dimpled. I used my DRDT-2 dimpler to set the dimples in the VS-803PP, and then used a micro-stop countersink cage to machine countersink the holes for in the spar doubler. After a few test fits to make sure those two parts fit flush with each other, I moved on. It came out pretty good:

I then removed some strips from the rivet lines on the skins so I could deburr the skin, as well as removing all the remaining plastic from the other parts. I also finished the edges of all the lightening holes in the ribs and doublers. Tomorrow I will work on finishing the edges of all the pieces and then dimpling the skeleton, then it will be ready for cleaning and priming this weekend.

Not a lot of photos, since there really wasn’t much to take photos of, but here’s the photos from tonight work: https://goo.gl/photos/Ah54BATLQMPghYVg7

Hours Worked: 3

Vertical Stabilizer assembly

Tonight I figured I would start on the vertical stabilizer. I have both my horizontal stabilizers ready for scuffing/cleaning and priming, but I don’t want to do that until a few hours before I am ready to prime. With my work schedule running until 5pm, and getting dark at 5:30, I just don’t have the time to setup for priming during the week. So, I am planning on doing that this weekend.

In the meantime, I figured I might as well start the vertical stabilizer, so I can have it ready for priming at the same time I do the horizontal stabilizers and save some time and mixing, and do them all at once.

The vertical stabilizer was actually really easy to assembly and get ready for metal prep. I don’t know why Van’s doesn’t start the kit with this piece since its so easy to do.

I first started out by assembling the VS-808PP and VS-803PP. Then I clecoed on the hinges VS-410PP, VS-411PP and VS-412PP to the rear spar assembly. Once assembled I match drilled everything to a #30 except the very bottom holes in the bottom hinge, which will be drilled during the fuselage assembly.
After that, I fluted and prepped the VS-404, VS-405, VS-406, and VS-407 ribs and assembled them to the rear spar. Oddly enough, the instructions didn’t say exactly to also assemble the VS-702 front spar but I took it as a given since Van’s called for the skeleton to be assembled. Once I had everything assembled, I ended up with a nice looking skeleton for a Vertical Stabilizer! I then match and final drilled all the assembly’s as called for with a #30. This is what it looks like:

Next, Van’s called to cleco on the VS-801PP skin to the skeleton. This skin went on much more easily than the horizontal stabilizer skins! I double checked everything was in alignment and clecoed both sides together, skipping a hole between clecos. I decided to only remove the blue protective plastic from the inside of the skin so I get a good fit and proper alignment against the spars and ribs (which I had also removed the plastic from). It will be scuffed and primed in the future anyways.

Once the skin was cleco’d down, I matched drilled everything using the smaller #40 drill bit in all the skin punched holes. I had previously marked all my parts with a sharpie, and noted their orientation so I would be good to go when I disassemble the stab for priming. Here is how it turned out:

That’s about all I could get done tonight. In 2.5 hours I completed the drilling and assembly of the entire vertical stabilizer! This is a good place to stop, and tomorrow I will pick up by disassembling everything, making sure its all marked, and then deburring, edge finishing, and dimpling all the parts to prepare them for priming. I will get the vertical stab primed up with the other parts this weekend.

Here’s a link to the full album of tonights work: https://goo.gl/photos/1BmasXXJaBHai3Ko7

Hours Worked: 2.5