Started vertical stabilizer, again

Now that I’m waiting for the rudder parts to finish curing I had some time to start the vertical stabilizer for the second time.  I went much more slowly while I was cutting the spar caps with the band saw this time, and when the blade started to wander away from where I wanted it to, I shut it down and cut off the excess metal and started the cut over from that point. I think I ended up stopping and starting the cut about five times on each spar cap. Then I used the scotchbrite wheel to clean up the edges. It’s still not perfect but much better than my first attempt and good enough for me. In the pictures below, the closer spar cap is my first attempt and the farther is my recent attempt. If you look closely you can see how much straighter the cut on the part in the back is.


I then finished up the night by clamping the spar caps to the spar and match drilling the VS spar holes into one of the spar caps.

Oh I also got my first build injury tonight. While I was deburring one of the spar caps it slipped off the scotchbrite wheel and my finger when right into it. It took off a pretty thick layer of skin right on my knuckle but surprisingly there was no bleeding. This was a good lesson though and I’ll be much aware of where my hands will end up a part slips in the future.


Rudder deburring and priming

Over the last two weeks I’ve spent about 13 hours working on the plane. It was mostly tedious work since I had to final drill all of the holes in the rudder skins and skeleton, and then I had to debur all of those holes. Deburring is the least exciting task I’ve had to do while building the rudder so far but it is important so I’ll continue to do it.

I actually had a couple things happen that gave me some stress over the last week so here they are:

First, I had some trouble deburring holes.  You want to debur the holes because the burs leftover from drilling can potentially prevent the parts from fitting together properly when it comes time to rivet (or prevent the rivet from fitting properly) and can create places where stress can concentrate which could lead to cracks in the metal. I have a couple different tools that I use to debur the holes but they both work the same way. Basically you stick them into the top of the hole and spin them once, or twice and they are supposed to remove all of the burs.  They way I am using them (I’m assuming it’s user error), neither one of them seem to completely remove the bur around the edges of the holes without risking removing too much material away from the holes. Almost every time I use either of them, I can still catch my finger nail on a bur around the edge. This leads to using the tools a little more, and then a little more, and before you know it you are starting to countersink the hole rather than debur it and that’s something you really want to avoid. If the aluminum is really thin, like the skins are, then you risk enlarging the rivet hole and that’s not good either.

Since I didn’t want to risk ruining the rudder skins I did one or two rotations with the deburring tool and left it at that. There were still burs that I could feel but I didn’t want to risk it so I went ahead and dimpled the skins anyway. This lead to even worse burs on the bottom of the dimple. I worried about this for a day or so and then tried to clean up the dimples by running a file along them which may have worked well if I was more patient but I was worried about taking away aluminum that wasn’t a bur. Then I tried sandpaper and that worked pretty well. Finally I tried a maroon scotchbrite pad. This actually worked really well! Since I plan to prime all of the parts, and scuffing them with a scotchbrite pad is part of the prep process for priming, I decided to just leave them alone and make sure I went over all of the holes really well with the pad before I primed them. This created nice smooth dimples and I feel a lot better about them now. I think I may start to use a scochbrite pad to do most of the hole deburring from now on. I just need to figure out if I should clean the aluminum before I use the pad because I seem to remembera post on the Van’s Airforce forums that mentioned that you could be embedding oils and dirt in the aluminum if you don’t clean it before you scuff it and maybe I’m just overthinking this and shouldn’t worry about it so much. I tend to do that.

The other big mistake I made was when I was putting the edge break in the rudder skins. It’s a very slight bend you put in the metal at the trailing edge so that the skin will lay flat against the other piece that it will be riveted to. Well I have this edge forming tool that does just that. It’s basically vice grip pliers with some rollers on the end that have a slight bend in the top one. You put it on the edge and pull towards you and you’re done. Unless you’re me. Then you screw it up even after you’ve practiced on some scrap parts. The thing is, while you pull it towards you, you’re supposed to push it towards the skin at the same time so that it doesn’t roll off the edge. Well I’m apparently too strong for my own good because I pushed it right up onto the skin, past the flange on the roller that’s supposed to keep you from doing just that. This put a much larger bend in the skin than should have been there. Now a proper edge break is almost imperceptible unless you are looking at the right angle or have a light reflecting off of it, but here’s what I ended up with:


And to add insult to injury, I did the exact same thing a little farther along on the skin. I did the best I could do to bend it back and smooth out the skin but there was only so much I was able to do. Here is the worst section of it:


I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to replace it. I keep thinking well it’s probably just a cosmetic issue and I may be the only one who notices it so it’s not worth it. It’s a $45 part and will put me back a week or two while I wait for it to arrive, not to mention the work I will have to redo. But then I worry that it will affect the feel of the airplane (the plans do mention how important a straight trailing edge is after all), and heck $45 isn’t that much to fix a cosmetic issue since I just started building. To help me decide I went ahead and started a post on the forums asking if it will be more than a cosmetic issue and if there is anything I can do to clean the edge up.

I also got a bunch of priming done. I did everything except for the skin with the bad edge since I may end up replacing it, and I’m waiting on a new stiffener for that side that I will have to match drill anyway. It got countersunk while it was being deburred. I plan to add a post or a page sometime that will go more in depth in my decision to prime and what I am using but for now I am using Stewart Systems EkoPoxy. It’s water based, non-toxic, and easy to clean up. The problem is that it takes several days to fully cure so I’m not going to start riveting the rudder until it has had some time to harden.

Rudder clecoed together

Today my wife and I got the rudder fully clecoed together for the first time. We had some concern while we were putting the second skin on and the skin was kind of bulging away from the skeleton.


I sent a text message to a fellow builder, Justin, who already has his RV-10 flying. He offered a suggestion on a different order of putting the clecos in so we tried that but it didn’t appear to be much better. We decided to just keep going and see how it turned out with all of the holes clecoed and it actually seems to have worked itself out. The next thing we have to do is to final drill all of the holes in the skin and then take everything apart and debur all of the holes that we’ve drilled.

I also intend to prime everything inside the airplane.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a good job spraying the primer that I’m going to use for a week or two now and I’m still not satisfied so I think I’ll spend the next couple days getting it figured out.  I also need to build the table for my DRDT-2 since I’m going going to need to dimple the rudder skins soon and I don’t want to do it without the table so that the skins will lay flat while I am dimpling it. So basically with all of these things to do it may be a week or more before I actually get back to working on the rudder.

Half a Rudder

Today was the first day I was able to get back out to the workshop in several days thanks to a cold I was fighting and a snowstorm that brought single digit temperatures. The workshop is mostly insulated and I have a baseboard heater installed but it can’t really compete with temps that low, but mostly my wife wouldn’t allow it while I was sick. I guess she cares about me or something.

Anyway, I started the day by spending an hour and a half deburring a couple parts, countersinking some holes, and then final drilling the holes for the shear plates and a couple reinforcement plates into the rudder spar. Two of the holes I countersunk were a little scary. Normally when countersinking I will use a countersink cage but the problem with these holes is that the cage is too big to fit in the right position because the part curves up right next to the hole and gets in the way. Some people get around this by grinding down a side of their cage so that it will fit into tight spots but I decided not to do that. This meant that my only option was to drill the countersink without a cage. I did this by countersinking a very little bit at a time and inserting a rivet to see how close I was. This took a while because I was so worried about over countersinking the holes and tested the rivet a LOT. I actually surprised myself with how well the countersinks turned out which was a huge relief.

The next two holes I needed to debur were the parts that I messed up last weekend. I started by trying to clamp the old parts around them so that I could have a level surface all around the part to place the cage on.

This worked ok but I couldn’t get a consistent countersink because I couldn’t get the parts perfectly level with each other. I think something like this could work in the future but I gave up and just countersunk the holes with nothing else around the parts. One hole ended up countersunk just a tiny bit too far but I’m confident that it is ok to use because you have to look really closely to even notice.

After a break for a friend’s child’s 1st birthday party I got to spend about 2.8 more hours working. Almost all of this time was spent preparing one of the rudder skins. First I had to remove the vinyl that most of the parts are shipped in. I’ve seen other people talk about how much of a pain it is to remove the vinyl from the parts in their blog and until now I didn’t really see what the big deal was. I actually thought it was kind of fun removing the blue plastic from the parts and exposing the shiny aluminum underneath. Well, it turns out that when the part is a large skin the vinyl is REALLY stuck on there and it takes a lot of effort to get it all off. I’m sure the rudder skin won’t be the worst experience I have with the vinyl either.

Once all the vinyl was off I started to debur the edges. Small parts seem to have fairly clean edges and don’t need a lot of deburring but larger pieces like the rudder spar and the rudder skin have little notches from the machines that manufactured the parts. These all have to be smoothed out to prevent areas where stress can focus and eventually lead to cracks in the aluminum. I typically wear these spots down using a file and then give the whole edge a quick pass or two with a hand-held pneumatic grinder with a cut and polish wheel. It’s not a difficult job, but the way the rudder skin is shaped one side of it has several short edges with 90 degree angles  that all have to be worked on.

After I was finally finished I got the skin clecoed to the rudder skeleton and got to see the rudder for the very first time! I still need to debur the skin for the other side, and even after that there is still a lot of work left before I can start riveting things together, but it is a great feeling seeing the rudder coming together.


Starting the Rudder

Today went much better than yesterday!  I ordered the replacement parts I needed for the vertical stabilizer and moved on to building the rudder. I was a little hesitant because the first steps involved trimming multiple pieces down to size to make several stiffeners and ribs. This time when I used the band saw I was even more careful than yesterday and went slower to make sure the blade stayed on the correct side of the lines I marked.


Each of the 7 pieces of aluminum in the picture above had to be trimmed down to make the stiffeners that are used in the rudder. Each piece made 2 stiffeners (one for each side of the rudder) and the stiffeners are attached to each other using what the plans call a ‘shear clip’. All of this combined with the rib pieces, the rudder spar, and a couple others meant that I deburred 29 different pieces today. I’m so glad I have a cut and polish wheel attached to my buffer to speed up the deburring process otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten anything else done today.

Unfortunately I didn’t get through the day without any mistakes. Two small reinforcement plates needed to be countersunk for flush rivets. The pieces are so small that the countersink cage (which is a tool that you set for a specific countersink depth that stops you from countersinking too far into the metal) I have could not properly fit on the piece. I had a bright idea to try to use my drill press thinking it would help me keep the cage level so that the part of it that would fit on the piece would stop the countersink cutter when the proper depth was reached. Well that didn’t work. For some reason the countersink went way too deep. I’m not sure yet if I need to replace the part but on the bright side it’s small enough that it should be pretty cheap.


It’s not too obvious in the picture above, but the top left hole is the bad one. I decided to attempt to do the rest with a hand held drill so I could try to figure out a good technique for when I have to countersink a small piece in the future. I put other pieces of the same thickness around the part so that the countersink gauge could lay flat and then held everything together hoping nothing would move. This worked fairly well except I think I will find a way to clamp down the parts next time I need to do it.

I may ask some other builders if I need to replace the part but in the meantime I was able to continue on with assembling and final drilling other parts.  After building for 6.5 hours I was able to end the day with something that looks like it might be a rudder some day!


It has begun!

After nearly a year and a half of research, planning, preparing, and dreaming, I can finally say that I have started to build our RV-10. The first step was to cut a couple pieces of aluminum angle and then debur them to make the rear spar caps for the vertical stabilizer. I made the measurements, checked them 3 or 4 times and took them to the band saw where I proceeded to make cuts that no one would ever believe were supposed to be straight lines. I’m not sure if it was 100% user error or if I need to replace the blade on the band saw. In a desperate attempt to save the pieces I got a file out and a hand held pneumatic grinder and did my best to clean up the cuts. I was able to make them look a little better but in some places I cut off a little too much material. I’m sure these pieces are completely safe to use and I should just move on to the next step in the plans but I hate the idea of having parts in the plane that I am unsure about from day 1 of the build.

It will take several days for the parts to arrive so the only other thing I could do today was debur the rest of the parts that are used in step 6-1 of the plans. While I’m waiting for the replacement parts to arrive I may move on to building the rudder. Unfortunately, step one of the rudder will also require the band saw…


Empennage Inventory

It took a couple week nights working on it, but my wife and I completed the inventory today. Out of 7 pages of inventory the only thing missing is a single bag of rivets. I’ll give Van’s a call this week to see about getting that replaced but from what I’ve seen on other builder logs it won’t be a problem.

Now I just have to figure out where to put all these parts and how to organize them so that I can easily find them when I need them.