Vertical Stabilizer work

Between yesterday and today I have deburred my replacement spar doubler and the rest of the parts that make up the vertical stabilizer. I clecoed the spar doubler to the VS spar and got all of its holes final drilled and then it was time to counter sink the holes again.

I didn’t want to make mistakes again so I started by practicing on the scrap spar doubler. I clamped the part to a 2×4 (I drilled holes in the 2×4 so that the CS cage pilot wouldn’t run into the wood) so that it was completely flat and then clamped the hole thing to the workbench. I then countersunk some holes using both my electric drill and the pneumatic drill to see which worked better. For some reason the countersink cage wobbles in the electric drill, even though nothing else does, so I stuck with the pneumatic drill. All of the holes turned out much better this time so I moved on to the real part. Luckily there isn’t much more to write about it this time because everything went well. The only real difference between this time and what I did last time, was that I clamped the part down instead of holding it in my hand. I thought I was doing a good job holding the part at the time but I think I’ve learned my lesson. In hindsight, I could have just left the part clecoed to the VS spar and had the same result, and after looking at some other builder blogs this is exactly what they did. Oh well…here’s a picture of the part after I finished countersinking it.

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Next I stared to cleco the rest of the VS together. One thing that isn’t called out in the plans at this step, but is mentioned in section 5 where they explain a bunch of techniques and things you need to know, is that you need to shape the front of the ribs where the skin is bent around them so that they don’t put little dents in the skin. I spent a lot of time at the scotchbrite wheel trying to do this and still ended up seeing some small dents as I was putting the skin on. This freaked me out so I pulled it all apart again and spent some more time at the wheel. Then I emailed a group of local RV builders and sent them pictures to see if I was on the right track and it sounded like I needed to do even more work to prevent the dents. This at least made me feel better knowing that I wasn’t ruining the parts so I went back to the wheel and tried to shape them even more. This is what I ended up with when I finally called it good.

Unfortunately the dents I first noticed when I was putting the skin on the first time are still there but they are really small and probably won’t be noticed by anyone unless they really look closely for them. The rest of the skin looks like it went on well though. By the way, getting the skin clecoed on can be kind of difficult because even though the skin is pre-bent it still has a long way to match the final shape of the VS. I read on another persons blog that they started at the middle, which is a good idea because I think once the top and bottom ribs are clecoed it could be impossible to get to the middle rib to cleco it. Maybe there is an easier way (I’m sure having a second person would help, but my wife is recovering from a cold so I didn’t want to bother her) but I had to put the cleco through the front hole of the skin at the middle rib position, the get myself on the other side of the skin to push the rib towards the cleco, and then once I could get the cleco in the hole a little bit I used the cleco as a lever to pull it all the way in. This flexed the flange in a really awkward way that I didn’t like so I got several more clecoes in quickly and it all went back to the normal shape.

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