Thursday, April 30, 2009

Primer Wars

Last night my dad brought over a compressor which is great news because there's not much I can do without one. Before I begin my empennage kit I need to decide which priming technique I'm going to use. I wanted to compare the 3-step process of Alumiprep, Alodine, and AZKO with an off the shelf self etching primer. So after work I stopped by the closest Auto Zone and picked up a couple of cans of Rustoleum self etching primer.

When I got home I resumed work on the practice project and completed everything I could do before I needed to start riveting. I brought the spar, ribs, siffeners, and trailing edge up to the garage to prime. I Aumiprepped and Alodined all of the parts. I've heard that some people skip that step with self etching primer, but I wanted to give the Rustoleum the best shot possible. I used the Rustoleum on two of the stiffeners, and I used AZKO on everything else. It took me a little while to get used to the sprayer (dialing in the right pressure and liquid flow) but by the last few parts I was getting a nice thin coat. I can already see a difference between the two products, but I will reserve my verdict until I've let them cure overnight.

Tomorrow I have Josh all day so I probably won't have any time for the project. My next task will be to complete the practice project so I'm warmed up for riveting, then it's on to the real thing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another Practice Project

Way back when I first became enthusiastic about RV assembly, I ordered a practice kit from Van's. I had none of the tools I needed to complete the project, but I wanted to get a feel for what the materials are like. Since then I've taken the SportAir RV Assembly workshop (which I highly recommend to anyone thinking about building an RV). At the workshop we were each provided with a kit to build during that weekend (which is the same exact kit I ordered from Van's). So long story short, I have one practice kit that I completed at the SportAir workshop, and one that's still in pieces. I thought it would be a good idea to get myself warmed up for the real thing while trying out some of the new procedures I've learned using the practice kit. You can see that this time I used a solidering iron and a straightedge to score the plastic coating of the skins. This is a common technique that allows some of the protective plastic to remain on the skins while still exposing the rivet holes. Van's recommends removing all of the plastic as soon as possible because the glue strengthens over time and can be a real pain in the arse to remove. I'd rather deal with super sticky glue if it means fewer scratches. This time around I am also going to really smooth out all of the rough edges (I took some liberties with the SportAir project) and I will prime the spar, ribs, and stiffeners.

Here you can see the project in progress along with the completed project in the background:

My dad is coming over with a compressor just as soon as he's finished watching the Celtics kick the snot out of the Bulls. Hopefully tomorrow I can try my hand at spraying some AZKO primer.

Alumiprep and Alodine

My primer shipment arrived from Aircraft Spruce this afternoon, so I thought I'd play with the Alumiprep and Alodine process during my lunch break. I finished deburring one of the stiffeners from the practice kit and headed up to the garage. Looking back, I should have dimpled it too. Oh well... it's just a practice part. I poured a 5:1 ratio of the Alumiprep into a Dixie cup and applied with a foam brush, then rinsed with water. Once that was almost dry, I poured a little Alodine into another Dixie cup and applied with another foam brush. The aluminum takes on a gold hue. I rinsed the part once more and set it out to dry. It seems simple enough. We'll see how I do with mixing and spraying the AZKO. I just need to pick up a compressor from my dad's house and I'll be ready to rock.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cleaned the Basement

Not exactly the most exciting task for a new builder, but a necessary one. Over the two years we've lived here we have somehow amassed a treasure trove of junk - junk that has sprawled across the once spacious basement that will now serve as my workshop. Oh well, I'm sure this is just the first of many cleanup sessions over the coming years.

One thing I noticed tonight is that my basement stairs walk straight up to our back door. I had always expected to complete my empennage kit in the basement, and then I thought I would have to move up to the garage. However, I might just get away with building the wings in the basement too. I'd like to hold off on moving to the garage as long as I can for two reasons. First reason is we park our vehicles in there, and I am not anxious to go back to clearing eighteen inches of snow off of our cars. Second, though it's an attached garage, it gets mighty cold in the winter, and awfully hot in the summer.

Before I order the wing kit, I'll have to build a mock wing out of cardboard to see how easily I could extract it from the basement. Note to self: wings are not perfectly flat. I know a fellow who tried this same exercise and mistakenly concluded that his wings would fit through his bulkhead. Unfortunately his cardboard cutout was just flat cardboard and the thickness of the wing was enough to give him trouble. My mock wing should be shaped like a wing not only in length and width, but it should also have the right thickness.

After reading and rereading the plans, it looks like I neglected to pick up a couple of small tools. Unless I can find them at a local shop, I may have to wait for another order from Avery before I can get too far. Hopefully I'll be able to start some assembly this week.

It looks like my primer from Aircraft Spruce will be here tomorrow. Maybe I'll spend tomorrow evening getting familiar with the etching/priming process. In that area I'm as green as they come - I've never even used a sprayer. Luckily I still have a half-assembled practice project I can practice with.

Inventorying the Empennage Kit

After a wonderful time in Portsmouth, NH and Southern Maine, I'm home and it's time to get unpacking!

Here's a shot of the smaller box after removing all of the packing paper:

And a shot of the bigger box containing the skins and stiffeners:

There's not much shelf space available in my basement, so I laid out parts on pieces of wood on the floor. Here you can see the skins all separated and sitting upright:

I unpacked every part and checked each off on the packing slip. Vans gives you thirty days to notify them of any missing parts, so they recommend a thorough inventory as soon as possible. As I unpacked and checked each part, I laid them out according to subassembly. Top-left is elevator parts, top-right is rudder, bottom-left is horizontal stabilizer, and bottom-right is vertical stabilizer.

Here are all of the rivet and fastener bags that come with the empennage kit:

This should give you some idea of how big this project is. To give you some perspective, the skins are laid out on two full-size closet doors. And this is just the empennage??? Oh man, I must be crazy.

Time spent: 3 hours

Friday, April 24, 2009

Empennage Kit Arrives

Today my empennage kit arrived via FedEx. In fact, the FedEx guy attempted delivery on the first box yesterday, but nobody was home to sign. I had the first box containing the skins and stiffeners held at the FedEx facility and picked them up myself. I figure the longer it's in the delivery guy's hands, the more chance there is for it to be damaged. The second box containing the preview plans and smaller parts arrived later in the afternoon. I have no idea why the packages were on two different delivery schedules, but who cares! I have my first real parts!

Here is the first box:

And here is the 2nd:

I'd love nothing more than to rip into these boxes and inventory and organize the parts, but Sunday is my wife's birthday and we're going to Portsmouth for the weekend. Patience..... I will start digging in on Sunday evening after we get back.