Archive for category Empennage

Horizontal Stabilizer Tips Finished and Riveted (5/13/10)

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After doing bits of work here and there on the HS tips, they are finally finished for the second time!  This time, I made sure to check the fit with the elevators after each step.  The pictures don’t really do them justice.  The flash makes the aft surface look uneven, but it is really just an effect of sand the surface smooth.  When sanding, primer is knocked off high spots, leaving the white micro to show through more than it does on the low spots.

Finally done with the HS tips after having to redo them. One more fit check before riveting.

The HS tips are riveted turning back!

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Redoing The HS Tips (5/9/10)

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Despite my lack of posts over the last week and a half, I’ve actually been working on the plane almost every day.  However, as I’ve stated before, with fiberglass, it is 15 minutes of work followed by hours of drying time.

On my last post, I had just finished filling and priming the HS tips.  They looked beautiful too.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), I checked the fit one last time before riveting them on.  To be sure the fit was OK, I also attached the elevators to make sure they had enough clearance.  Well, they didn’t!  The elevators could no longer swing because I built up the aft surface of the HS tips too much.  Come on…I only had two layers of micro, two layers of thinned epoxy on top of that, and two layers of filler primer on top of that!!!  The prime culprit really was the micro.  I had the tips cut down to the perfect length, then filled past that with micro.

So, my once beautiful HS tips had to be sanded all the way back down to the wood rib, leaving just a bit of micro in the low spots, then re-sealed and re-primed.  Now, they look just as good as before, but still have the necessary clearance for the elevators to swing.  At least I’m still waiting for my wings and have plenty of time to play with these tips!

Pinholes in the micro become obvious once primer is applied. Sand, seal, prime, repeat until the holes are gone.


The finished tip has no pinholes...hopefully it still fits the HS!

The picture makes the gap look bigger than it is. Too much micro, and the gap dissappears (ask me how I know).

In addition, I bought and assembled a new BBQ grill this weekend.  Assembly took about 2 hours.  If Van’s wrote the instruction manual, assembly probably would have taken an hour max!

My new grill. They could take a lesson from Van's about how to write an assembly manual!

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Primed Horizontal Stabilizer Tips (4/28/10)

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This evening, I spent a few minutes countersinking the HS tips and dimpling the HS skin.  Once this was done, I cleaned the HS tips with soap and water and then sprayed on two coats of primer.  It looks like I may still have some pinholes to deal with on the aft surface of the tips.  Once the primer is dry, and if pinholes are present, I will probably sand the primer and then add another layer of epoxy to try to seal these holes.

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Vertical Stabilizer Tip Finished (4/24/10)

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Good news and bad news today. 

The good news is that I sanded down the micro on my VS tip and put on a couple coats of primer.  The gap filled in nicely and the tip looks great now.

The VS tip looks great after a couple coats of filler primer.

The gap in the leading edge of the VS tip is nicely filled. I may come back at some point and file in a line to make it look the same all the way around the tip.

The bad news is that I received a letter from Van’s stating that my wing kit shipment will be delayed.  A poster on told me that there are shortages of raw material in the supply chain and some of the OEMs that Van’s contracts with are probably not able to get enough material to fill all orders.  In addition to this, kit orders are way up.  Looks like the economy is recovering!

So, my delivery date has been pushed back almost two months!  The wing kit is now scheduled to be shipped the week of July 12th.

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Still Working On The VS and HS Tips (4/23/10)

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Today, I was able to get another 45 minutes of work in on the HS and VS tips.  As usual, now they have to set overnight before I can do anything else.

After sanding down the layer of micro on the aft surface of the HS tips, there were a lot of pinholes present.  On the VS tip, I decided to layer on some more micro, but, this time, I decided just to put on two coats of straight epoxy and see if that seals the holes.

Many pinholes in my HS tip micro. Hopefully a layer or two of epoxy seals them nicely.

Once my epoxy was on the HS tips, I turned my attention back to the VS tip.  I had piled on some micro to see if I could fill the gap on the forward edge between the fiberglass tip and the metal skin.  I did a quick, rough sand on this micro, and it looks like the gap is nicely filled. I still need to do a bit more sanding, follow the sanding with a coat of primer, and the gap should be a distant memory!

After a quick rough sand on the VS tip micro, the gap looks like it will be covered up.

Another angle on the now fixed VS tip gap. A little finish sanding and a coat of primer should make it look good.

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More Work On The Horizontal Stabilizer Tips (4/21/10)

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Since this is more fiberglass work, as with the last few posts, this entry covers work that occurred over multiple days.  I’m combining some of these because I can’t justify writing one post for something that took 15 minutes to do and then had to set overnight before I could do more work.

The other night, I reinforced my wood HS tip ribs by adding a layer of fiberglass to the inside of the joint over the flox filet. Once the epoxy was set, I returned to the tips today and put a layer of micro over the aft face of the wood ribs. This was done in the same manner as with the vertical stabilizer tip.  However, I tried to make the micro a bit thicker in order to prevent it from running down the side of the tips (it took a lot of sanding to fix that on the VS tip).  This time, my micro was the consistency of thick frosting rather than a runny glaze. This thicker micro had to be spread on instead of poured, and it seems to have fewer air bubbles than my previous, runnier micro.

This time, I used a much thicker mixture of micro. Hopefully, no runs!

Once I coated both HS tip ribs, I still had some micro left over.  With the extra, I decided to slather some on the gap that is present on the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer where the aluminum and tip meet.  I’m hoping the micro will fill the gap and be easy to sand back to the contour of the vertical stabilizer.  If it doesn’t work, I may have to glass the seam on the VS and I’m trying to avoid this. 

With luck, the micro will fill the gap on the VS tip.

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Horizontal Stabilizer Tip Rib Work (4/18/10)

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Today, I was able to fit the left HS tip, construct the wood rib for it, and bond both the ribs to both tips.  This time, I decided to bond the ribs in place while the tips were clecoed on the HS.  Since the tips deform quite a bit when not clecoed in place, I was worried that the fit may not be quite right if I removed the tips and bonded the ribs outside the HS.  Once the flox set, I removed the tips and laid a fillet of flox around the inside joint of each tip/rib combo.  Tomorrow, I’ll reinforce them with some glass.

On a more positive note, about one more month until my wings arrive.  Hopefully, when it comes time to order the fuselage, I’ll be able to save the money earlier and not have a construction gap after the wings are completed.

As with the VS tip, I have to fabricate wood ribs for the HS tips.

My flox fillets on the HS ribs look much better than the one I made on the VS tip.

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Started Right Horizontal Stabilizer Tip (4/16/10)

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The HS tips require the most work of all the empennage tips.  Since some metal is cut from the end of the stabilizer to accommodate the elevators, an equal amount of the HS tip also has to be removed.  In addition, the horizontal stabilizer is not pre-punched for the tip attachment locations.  This is the only part of the empennage where an entire row of rivet holes is missing.  Like the VS tip, the HS tips are also open ended and I will need to make some wood ribs to close them off.

I started by trimming the tip.  Using my Dremel, I cut about 0.2” from the flange, and removed over an inch from the aft end to allow the elevator to swing.  Being cautious, I made sure to remove less than required from the aft end.  It’s much easier to sand it down the rest of the way than to rebuild it with fiberglass.

Next, I needed to measure and mark the horizontal stabilizer for the tip attachment holes.  Since the flange on the tip is 0.5” wide, I decided that my rivet holes should be 0.25” from the edge of the HS.  Drawing this line was the easy part.  Now, how do I decide on the number of rivets to use to attach the tip and how far apart do they need to be spaced?

Unlike the other empennage components, the horizontal stabilizer is not prepunched for the tips. Here, I measured for drilling.

After looking at the other empennage tips (all of which have different rivet spacing), I decided to place the first rivet 1” from the leading edge and then place three more rivets at 1.25” intervals for a total of four rivets per side.  Once I marked this pattern, I used a center punch and then drilled the holes to #40.

Another difficulty with the HS tips is that they are not quite wide enough.  If I clamp one side to the HS, the other side is almost a half inch from the flange.  However, they do easily stretch to fit the HS.  With this in mind, I clamped both sides of the tip in place and started match drilling the tip to the holes I had just made in the HS.  As with the other tips, I drilled my first hole, then carefully re-checked the fit before moving on to the next hole.

The right HS tip has been drilled and clecoed. The fit looks good.

Once all the holes were drilled and the tip was clecoed on, I attached the elevator to check how much more of the tip would need to be removed.  Fortunately, not much!  The aft end of the tip will require a bit more sanding in order to make a nice, even gap the entire length.  The elevator tip also sticks out a bit more than the HS tip.  To fix this, I’ll probably put a layer of micro on and then sand it to shape so that it is even with the elevator’s tip.  On one builder’s site, I saw that they actually closed the entire HS/elevator tip gap with micro, sand the final shape, then re-cut the gap with a saw.  I may try this as well.

I'll need to do a little work on the HS tip to even out the gap between it and the elevator.

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Vertical Stabilizer Tip Done…For Now (4/16/10)

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The vertical stabilizer tip is now complete.  Well, it is attached to the vertical stabilizer, but it still needs some work before I’ll be happy with it.

Once the micro/fiberglass was set on my new forward flange, I removed the peel-ply and gave the entire tip another light sanding with fine grit paper.  I wanted to seal the micro layer on the aft surface and decided to try a technique I read about on another builders site.  I simply mixed a batch of epoxy, used a brush to paint the epoxy onto the micro, then used a squeegee to scrape off as much of the epoxy as possible leaving a very thin layer than, hopefully, will fill any pinholes.  Once this layer became tacky (about 45 minutes) I repeated the process and then left the tip to dry overnight.

My rebuilt forward flange. Hopefully it will take care of the gap.

The next day, I had a smooth, hard surface on the micro.  I final sanded it to smooth the epoxy and then riveted the tip to the vertical stabilizer.  There is still a significant gap on the leading edge between the metal and fiberglass, but I’ve sat the vertical stabilizer aside for now as I decide how to handle the gap.  I can either fill it with some micro and sand it smooth, or I can fill it and then tape the entire seam and rivets with glass.  If I go the glass route, I’ll do it on all the empennage tips for consistency.  However, since the vertical stabilizer tip is the only one I’m really not happy with so far, I’m leaning towards just filling the gap and calling it good.  On to the horizontal stabilizer tips.

The VS tip has been riveted on.

The gap on the forward edge is still present. I'll either fill this with some micro or fill it and then tape the seem with some fiberglass.

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Vertical Stabilizer Tip Part 3 (4/14/10)

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After my first layer of micro set, it had a few large bubbles in it and many small ones too.  In an attempt to get rid of them, I started to sand down the micro.  However, I sanded as far as I could and the bubbles were still barely visible.  While I could have left it as is, I decided to mix another batch of micro and place another layer on the tip.

Unfortunately, I’m still trying to figure out the right consistency for the micro mixture and I made this batch too thin.  I spread it on the tip and carefully watched for bubbles to rise to the top so that I could pop them.  When I thought it was good to go, I went back inside and left the epoxy/micro mixture to set overnight.  When I checked it the next morning, the surface with the micro looked good, with no bubbles, but the micro mixture had also run down the side of the tip in several long, thick drips.  Looks like I’m in for some sanding! (I should have taken a photo of this for a before and after, but didn’t think about it at the time.)

The micro sands fairly easy.  I started with some fairly coarse grit sandpaper and ended with finer grit.  In the end, I was very happy with the tip. 

Not the best picture, but I added a second layer of micro (due to bubbles) and sanded it back down. Not too bad for my first fiberglass work.

When I initially fit the tip, the forward part of the flange was too wide and would not easily fit inside the VS.  To fix this, I did like on the rudder top tip and cut off some of the forward flange.  However, when I re-fit the tip, there was a small gap between the VS and the tip.  To fix this, I decided to place one, small piece of fiberglass inside the forward end of the VS tip and then fill the outside with some micro.  Once this dries, I should be able to sand it down so that the original gap is eliminated.

I originally cut this section of flange because it was too tight in the VS. Now, I'm going to fill it a bit so that there isn't a gap after final assembly.

To reconstruct the flange, I placed one layer of glass on the inside of the tip and then filled the outer part with micro. The visible cloth sticking out is peel-ply.

Maybe this fiberglass stuff isn’t so bad after all.  At least you can fix your mistakes!

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