Build Log

  • First actual build day!

    After a early and long day at work, it felt good to come back home and relax a bit. I had been looking at the plans and drawings for a while, reading through trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to go about it. Eventually you have to jump in. No matter how much research I did, I probably would never have felt ready. Thanks to the girlfriend for giving me the push and encouragement to get started.

    Horizontal Stabilizer

    The instructions tell you to start with the rear spar assembly. Break the edges of the rear spar reinforcement bars, and shaving the edges so it lays flat inside the rear spar channel. After doing this, rounding the ends, and wet sanding with 400 then 600 grit to remove all milling marks and making it nice and smooth. I decided that maybe the large Horizontal Stabilizer isn’t what I should start with. This isn’t uncommon, after reading some advice on vansairforce a few builders recommend starting with the Vertical Stabilizer. That way if you screw something up it’s smaller and cheaper to replace.

    Vertical Stabilizer

    I put the Horizontal parts away and pulled out the Vertical ones needed. As far as structure there really isn’t much, so it’s coming together quickly! I forgot my phone in the house so all you get is one picture of the doubler and lower hinge.

    I spent 2.5 hours working on this, and logged it as Horizontal Stabilizer since that’s where most of my time went.

  • Moving and Building a Workbench

    After finishing the inventory of the wing kit I started bringing things from the apartment to the house I was starting to rent. Most of the parts are pretty small and easy to transport, but obviously the spars and longerons are a bit long. What better way to transport them than on top of the Subaru!

    Building of the workbench

    The EAA 1000 workbench is a standard shop item. They are easy to build, customize and fairly cheap. To help me decide the dimensions and how I wanted it all to look and work, I modeled it in CAD with onshape.

    My girlfriend wanted to have a date night, so I decided I’d have her help me build the workbench.

    I’m using the tabletop as a base to make sure everything is flat and level.
    Here the base is installed and electrical is ran.

    It turned out pretty good. About $100 in supplies and much of the plywood was reused from the shipping crates. I also added a half-shelf on one side of the bench. Below are the completed pictures as well as how the garage is laid out. Note how much of the crates I’ve reused for shelving and storage.

  • Wing Inventory

    Well I knew this would be a process! 8 pages of parts to go through. Of course it was delivered about two weeks before I moved from an apartment to a house. I managed to get it all inventoried and it only took me about 6 hours. Though to be fair that was wrapping the parts back up after inventory and packing for relocation. There were a handful of parts that didn’t arrive, all but one was listed as back ordered. I was only missing 4x VA-4908P Threaded Rod End. This took me about 8 hours.

  • Empennage Inventory

    Took one of my days off to do inventory and get familiar with the empennage parts and plans. All that I was missing was one stop-nut, AN365-1032.

    This took me 4 hours.

  • Site Bug Fixes

    I was having problems with displaying single and double quote marks in the purchase-order plugin. Two double espressos over ice, and saved these differently in the database and that resolved it.

  • Practice Kit #4 – Control Surface

    So far my riveting has gotten much better. I thought it was about time to try some of the more unique stuff, like back riveting, drilling countersinks, trailing edges, rolling and leading edges. One of my problems is I enjoy working too much, so I just breeze through it. This kit really forced me to slow down and read and understand the instructions, not just look at the pictures.

    First step was to pull apart the ribs, trim, and debur. Then get them lined up with the skins and match drill and debur. Next we dimple the ribs and skins. I’ve wondered if the C-Frame, pneumatic, Vise-Grip, all produce the same quality dimples so I thought I’d try it. Each of the 4 ribs got a different method of dimpling (2 ribs were both pneumatic but with an ATS die and Avery die). I then checked the dimples and I couldn’t tell any difference within tolerance of operator error. The only result that I noticed slightly different was the Vise-Grip dimple, it consistently needed two squeezes to get the proper dimple. The pictures are below, see if you can notice a difference.

    The next step was to add the end caps and dimple/countersink as necessary. Here you can also see how I’ve been doing the riveting in my apartment. I talked with my neighbors who live below me, and they said they didn’t notice anything really loud happening. So that’s good! But they also have a kid who does LOTS of screaming, so “loud” to them might be a little subjective. I got tired of doing a lot of dimpling with the pneumatic squeezer while trying to get everything level and lined up. So I made a little jig! Since some of the spar is a little thick to dimple, you dimple it the best you can then countersink the rest of the way. It took me a bit to get the depth set on the countersink cage, but once it’s set it’s set you can run through real quick.

    For a while now I’ve also been working on a 3D printer, I recently finished that and have been going through the tuning and testing process. Here’s a picture of that since I’m pretty proud of it. I’ve since added walls and cleaned up the wiring a bit. It can print almost all filaments and has a print area of 400x400x800mm.

    Back to the control surface. So the main parts are done, now it’s mostly assembly. I got the top and bottom skins put on and dimpled them with the wedge in between, see the picture below. The trailing edge turned out OK. You can see some points where I over riveted and expanded the skin causing it bulge.

    Final step was to do the leading edge. This is done by rolling the front of the skins over a pipe. Others have said they had good results with 1.5″-2″ PVC. I thought I’d try a broom since it’s what I had on hand. I taped one to the broom and rolled it on the table to start the curve. I kept going slowing increasing the force on the broom tightening the curve. After getting a nice 90 degree bend I went on to the next one. I rolled it out until I got a little more than a 90 degree bend, like a 100. This is done so the two skins naturally press into each-other, relieving some of the tension on the rivet and strengthening the joint.
    Overall it actually turned out pretty well! A little asymmetric, but with a little massaging it worked out. My only complaint was the leading skin had a bit of tension diagonally. I’m not sure what caused this, and you can kind of tell in the last picture as there is a little remaining asymmetry. I started by drilling the two ends, then cleco’ing and doing the middle and so on. I would imagine doing the real control surface would be easier to square because of it’s length.

    I spent 5 hours working on this.

  • Practice Kit #3 – Lightbox

    For practice kit #3 I decided to switch it up from the toolbox and go to the Van’s Lightbox. I did this for a few reasons. First, it’s something I can display and look at to keep me motivated. Second, it uses different rivets and different techniques so more practice! Finally, it was something different. I really liked that this kit gave the option for which rivet type you wanted to use. There were enough rivets of each type to do all the main rivets of either flush, universal or pull type. For practice I decided to mix it up and use all 3 types.

    One thing I noticed about the kit, the rivets for the front were AN426AD-3-3. When I inserted them and checked the length, they were a bit short. From the toolbox kits I had some longer rivets (-4) so I used those instead. Thanks again Van’s for all the extra rivets!

    Dimpled nutplate

    Nutplates get flush mounted onto the back of a sheet. It allows the use of a bolt to fasten sheets together.

    The top and bottom have pull rivets, the front are flush and the side are universal. The rear is removable because of the nutplates.

    The inside of the Lightbox.
    I chose to mount the DC plug out of the side.

    Van’s includes the LED strips and power supply. Enough length for twice around the side.
    This is from behind with the back off.
    My first really ugly rivet

    On this rivet I tried back riveting. I couldn’t get the rivet set just right and you can see how it didn’t hit square and smashed the side. This rivet definitely needed drilling. I think my drilling was about as bad as the rivet. Mental note to practice this more.

    Woohoo! Looking good!

    I had a little help from my niece. She wasn’t strong enough to “pop” the rivet so I had to give her a little help.

    Here’s a good picture showing how the internal is wired. The plug comes in and goes to the strip on the top left, which comes back around on the top right, and is jumpered to the strip on the bottom right.
    Not bad in the dark!

    I’ll post another picture once I have the sign mounted in my small apartment.

    Well I’m pretty happy with the results. The sign has plenty of brightness, in fact I might put in a dimming circuit or even just fix it at a lower current. One complaint of my own doing, I dropped the front face plate on the driveway. It now has a few scuff and scratch marks which slightly detracts from the coolness factor. I might be able to buff some of it out. If I could do it again, I would try leaving on as much of the blue covering film as I could.

    It took me about 4 hours to do prep and riveting, and about 2 hours of getting the LED strips on and wired. Next step is for me to get to a rudder workshop and get some expert feedback into my skills. Right now no classes are scheduled due to COVID-19 so it may be a while.

    This took me 6 hours.

  • Second Practice Toolbox

    Practice Practice Practice! This one definitely went better. I didn’t paint or prime this one because I wanted to see how it would fair carrying tools compared to the previous toolbox.

    Dimpling the lid
    Right Side
    Left Side

    Overall it turned out pretty good! Definitely still need more practice. I’m feeling much more comfortable with the rivet gun and knowing where the air pressure should be set. Right now I’m using about 20-25psi for AN3 and 30psi for AN4.

    One complaint on the last toolbox was the lid overhang. I did get that corrected on this one but I couldn’t get a quality photo taken showing it.

    Next step for me will be doing the Sign Kit. It’s time to take my basic skills a little further and try something different.

    I spent 4 working on this.

  • First Practice Toolbox!

    After ordering all the tools and having them shipped to my parents, I dug my air compressor out of storage and waited for my shipments of tools over the next two days.

    Once my tools arrived I unboxed them and started fiddling with them. I had previously watched some youtube videos to learn about the tools and how to use them, but I learn much better by being able to have them in my hands and see how they work.

    These tools should be enough to get me started and be able to do all the practice kits. When I start the airplane, I’ll need a few more tools and a lot more Clecos. You’ll see the clecos better in later pictures.

    The toolbox kit and instructions.
    The base of the toolbox clecod together for match drilling.

    Cleco and Match Drilling

    The sheet metal comes from the factory laser cut and bent. The rivet holes are intentionally cut too small so they can be drilled later to a higher degree of accuracy. This is what the Clecos are for. You Cleco every other hole or every third, and these provide a temporary way to hold all the parts together and get them properly aligned before drilling to final size and location. A Cleco works very similar to a drywall anchor. It goes through all the holes to the back of the sheet metal, expands, then pulls forward, compressing the sheets together. In the photo above the silver Clecos are holding the base to the side wall and the copper Clecos are holding the base to the front re-enforcement piece, referred to as a doubler.

    The next step is match drilling the holes. That’s just a fancy way of saying drilling the holes to final size. This ensures that during final assembly the pieces will fit together with very minimal error. After drilling the non-Cleco holes, the Clecos get relocated to the drilled holes and the remaining holes get drilled. A pretty simple process once you get the hang of it.

    Primer Wars

    There is a ton of discussion and debate on priming. Should you prime? If so, what should you prime with? Does the whole aircraft need to be primed or just certain sections? How long will the aircraft last without priming? For a longer blurb and links to other discussions about the issue, click here. Otherwise here’s the short version. Aluminum is a very soft, light and naturally corrosion resistant metal. In order to give it some strength they mix is with other elements that unfortunately now makes it susceptible to corrosion. So they coat the alloy with a very thin layer of pure aluminum to return it’s corrosion resistance. Again aluminum is soft and prone to scratching so some people further this protection by adding a layer of primer. I thought I’d try priming for this first toolbox, so I scuffed all sheet metal with Scotch-Brite to clean and promote primer adhesion. The primer I used was Rust-Oleum Self Etching Primer (pictured below).


    The purpose of dimpling is two-fold. One, it creates really nice looking and aerodynamic flush rivets. Two, it adds strength as shear forces are now applied to not only the rivet but the metal itself.

    This is the dimple die on the C-Clamp.

    This is the side plate after dimpling. 2 hits on each hole does the trick.


    All the parts primed.
    The primer and paints used. The Plastidip will be for the inside floor of the toolbox.

    First Rivets Bucked

    For the first time every trying riveting, it really wasn’t too bad. The toolbox held together just fine, and the rivets look mostly normal. One thing I really like about this kit is they include a LOT of extra rivets. This is really handy for when you botch a few and need to drill them out.

    I riveted the latch on and if there is one thing I should redo it’d be this. I started by drilling and riveting the bottom of the latch, the clasp mechanism, to the toolbox. Having this located I held the top in place and used a Sharpie to mark the locations. To help keep the toolbox closed tightly, I thought it’d be a good idea to move the top of the latch up about .5 mm. This would help pull the top down and hold the latch under tension.
    Well it didn’t work out too well. In fact I probably didn’t need to move the top part of the latch at all. It ended up pulling the top down so much it pushes the base inwards. You can see the overlap in the picture below. I left it and marked it as “learning experience” since this won’t be the last toolbox.

    Here you can see the overlap. The bottom and top should sit flush. The toolbox still closes and latches fine. So oh well, I’ll fix it on the next one.


    The last thing this toolbox needs is paint! I think it turned out pretty good!

    Today I spent 8 hours working, and pounded 55 rivets.

  • This Website


    It all starts with a website! The website serves a few purposes. 1. Keep records of all my time spent for proof to the FAA I built more than 50%. 2. Make my work, efforts, experiences and opinions available for others. 3. As a place to keep all my ideas and plans.

    I started out building the website from scratch, since sometimes it’s just easier to write things myself that try to learn someone else’s code. Well, after about 40 hours I had a decent template and it looked good. But the more I wrote and posted the more I didn’t like the expandability of it. It was hard to make additions and changes. I broke down and started playing with wordpress, trying styles, plugins, writing some code… Now I’ve got two plugins wrote and I think it’s getting there. One plugin is the post that logs purchase records, and the other reads the post meta data and does some math with it (displaying total time and money on the front page).

    Time Spent on Website: 195 hours

    Just out of curiosity, I’ll be tracking how long I spend on actual development and maintenance on the website. This does not include time researching RV relating things. Small specific issues I’ll probably create a separate post.
    2020: 150 hours
    2021: 40 hours.