Empennage - Horizontal Stabilizer     93.25 Hours
Timeline sort: Forward Reverse
0.0 hrs
It's here! The empennage kit showed up. I would have taken the traditional picture of just the boxes, but I had to open them as one was partly damaged. Mainly it had just gotten wet. Turns out the only the lead counter weights got wet, I think they can handle it.

No work this weekend, promised myself and Kim and we would get some work done around the house before it got neglected for the airplane.

NOTE: Whoever at Van's thinks using duck tape to hold the skins down should be lashed a dozen times. Maybe it's ok in colder climates, but it was royal PITA to get it off without tearing up all the blue plastic.

4.0 hrs
Ok so we got some work in after all. The main order of business was to inventory the kit, thankfully it was all there. Now it was a matter of where to stash it all. A while ago I built platforms over our garage door. Need to move some items before things can be put away.

2.0 hrs
Well today was the start of the project. First up is to build the HS-908-R/L brackets that will ultimately attach the HS to the fuselage. Admittedly this went poorly. First lesson learned, experiment with your tools first and understand how they are going to behave. After working with my new bandsaw the results were less than satisfactory. Order new aluminum angle and try again. It would be nice if Van's gave you 7" rather than 6". Then you could screw up one and get another out of the left overs.

3.5 hrs
Very productive today, took the day off to work on the cars and in general catch up with house stuff. I have more time than I can use before I lose it so why not. I took down all the RV-7 parts that I'm going to sell. Yes, I already have a 80% complete empennage of a -7, but I decided that a -9 would be better suited for us.

I tucked that away, then seperated out all the parts into groups for the HS, VS, elevator and rudder. This way I'll use up each group and have a place for the final product. I can already see organization is going to be key here.

4.25 hrs
Van's shipping is great, I already got my replacement angle in. I laid out the brackets again, and proceeded to cut one. After talking with my friend Jon, he works with aluminum every day fabricating parts, he sorted me out with my band saw. Results were much better today. One is very close and I think would be acceptable. It got late so I had to finished the other later.

Since I ordered 2 pieces of angle, Jon offered to use his CNC machine to fab the parts for me. Well I think I made 2 acceptable parts, but let's be honest here, a CAD file and computer will produce a much better part. By the time I'm done I may have a CNC program for all the parts I need to fab.

I completed my brackets on Sunday, but will just include them here. I still need to get my Scotchbrite wheel arbor. I'll truly finish these then, but aside from buffing, I think I'm ready to go.

Haven't I already said organization is key here? It's bloody hot here in Florida during the day, so I sat inside and labeled the parts containers for all the little bits, pieces and rivets in the kit. I got these Viewtainers from Sears, I love them. They are more expensive, but I've already seen that those segmented parts cases will let parts mix. These work great for the rivets and don't spill when you drop them. (Don't lie, you will drop them.)

2.0 hrs
Spent time assembling the HS. Too bad that I have to take is apart again. I really should read a bit more ahead. I'll go ahead and scotchbrite the ribs first then reinstall. It was fun, and a quiet thing to do at 5am. I'll put a picture in when it's ready to be drilled. Kim's at Disney with the camera.

0.25 hrs
Really just dorked around in the garage tonight. Built my own mandrel for my Scotchbrite Wheel(tm). Basically the wheel was a gift, and rather than order and pay shipping for the mandrel a 1/2" x 5" carriage bolt with the head lopped off works great.

Obviously I had to test the rig after I made it. I polished up a few of the ribs for the HS. It works like a champ, just need to get some fine sand paper to finish off some of the tight inner corners.

2.0 hrs
Got to see my brackets made on a CNC today. I'd really like to thank my buddy Jon and Henry for taking the time to show me how it's professionaly done. I'm pretty sure my brackets would work fine, but it was really cool to see a CNC up close and in ask how it all works. One thing, you think Van's plans are detailed, not by a long shot for a machinist. They asked about the radius, how many 0.001's tollerance I had. I reminded them that these were to be made by some dork in his garage with some hand tools.

10.0 hrs
Took the day off of work. It's turning into really nice weather here so if I can't be out flying I'll be in the garage working. Got a lot done today. First was to cleco up the front and rear spars and doublers. I then match drilled all the holes. As the first picture shows I used my level to pin the attach angles in the same plane and then drilled all the holes. Don't try to make the hole #30 to start, it will take forever.

On the rear spar you need to attach the elevator hinges and drill them out. You also need to match the parts for later assembly. I marked the back side of the bracket with the corresponding number.

I spent a lot of the time fluting and deburring the ribs. I wish I had the small scotch brite wheel for the inside of the lightening holes. Some sandpaper and manual labor will get it done too.

In the evening Kim came out and helped. We adjusted 2 of the main and nose ribs as called in the plan. She's in charge of quality control at Niblett Aviation. We also started to make the shims for the main ribs and she wanted to use the scotch brite wheel.

Lastly we assembled the skeleton in preperation for drilling.

So far I have a few things I'll impart to others.

  1. Get the scotch brite wheel, so SO much easier.
  2. Why would anyone not want to use Van's prepunched method? This is simply the best way to make sure everything is lined up.
  3. Fluting pliers will shrink the metal a lot, start out small!
  4. Read the plans, then read them again, one more time and you'll still get some stuff wrong. IT CAN BE FIXED!

3.75 hrs
This morning I drilled out all the #30 holes in the ribs and spars. I also match labeled all the parts so they should to back together in the same order. Afterwards I disassembled the whole thing and began to debur the holes. I had about as much of that as I could stand and headed in for lunch.

Later I started back up for awhile, but just couldn't get motivated to keep on deburring the edges, so I moved on to making the VB10 cradle assembly. It was getting a bit warm so I decided to head in. It's been a good few days, but I need to order the small scotch brite wheel and figure out how I'm going to prime these items. I'll start working on the skins later this week.

1.0 hrs
Spent today working more on deburring the spar doubler plates. I had to order a smaller scotch brite wheel which helped a lot. I also got some emery cloth to help as well. Still need to do the spars, but I can only take so much deburring at a time. Rest assured it will be done before prime and riveting.

3.50 hrs
Kim worked on removing the plastic coating from the rivet lines on the right hand skin. I generally got in the way. Afterwards I fluted the nose ribs some and attached the nose ribs and the forward spar. It's starting to look like something. I'm a bit concerned about how I'll get at the middle nose rib to rivet, but I think that may be a pop rivet piece.

3.75 hrs
Pretty easy night, just enlarged the holes in the right side HS structure to #40. I cannot stress how easy the pre-punched kit makes this. After drilling out all the holes everything was disassembled. Next we will deburr all the holes, dimple and countersink where required.

Later we came back out and I worked on deburring the skin and Kim started to prep the left side skin by removing the plastic around the holes.

0.5 hrs
Kim spent some time in the garage finishing removing the blue covering on the left hand skin. So later this week we can assemble and final drill the left side before dimpling everything.

2.5 hrs
Spent tonight assembling the left HS. This is mainly just a repeat of the other side. We then drilled it out and did some deburring. Earlier in the evening I used my new mini-scotchbrite wheels in my die grinder to work on the spar lightening holes. It worked like a champ. I also kicked my drill press into high gear and now the scotch-brite wheel really makes short work of the deburring.

7.0 hrs
Excellent progress tonight, though it doesn't look like much. Mainly Kim deburred the left skin and ribs, while I worked on the spars with the die grinder and drill press scotch-brite wheels.

I did find that the pre-formed spars had these small, sharp points every so often. These were probably part of the extrusion process when they are made. The dremel with a sanding drum makes these go away quickly. This made for a lot less work on the scotch-brite wheel.

We have just a bit more deburring to do then it's time to dimple and counter-sink. After that I think all the metal work will be done. I'll wait to prime until I'm ready to go with the VS just to save time with the priming.

2.75 hrs
Spent the evening reviewing the plans to get an idea of what we have left. Turns out not much. I used the pneumatic squeezer to put dimples into the ribs, it was so much fun Kim wanted to do some. This is the tool of choice if there is anything you are going to splurge on. I got mine used from someone else, but even if you get it new, you can probably sell it when you are done for the same price. This will be awsome when time to rivet.

I also set up and started machine counter sinking the #40 holes in the spar edges. As per the instructions I got it flush and went a couple clicks past since there will be a skin over the holes. Be careful with this because the spar edges aren't completely flat, so if you favor the curved side you will go a bit deeper than you want. Same with the end holes, it's hard to get the foot to line up flush on the edge.

6.5 hrs
Today I finished machine counter sinking the #40 holes on the spar edges. After all of those were done, I reset and counter sinked the few #30 holes that are required on the trailing edge side of the spars and the doubler plate.

Meanwhile, Kim used the C-frame tool to dimple the skins. She got most of the way through them, but I had to help bend back the skins so she could get to the tips of the nose ribs. Those were a real bear to get to.

2.50 hrs
Didn't do much today, but proud to say that all the parts for the HS are complete. I just used the die grinder and small scotch-brite wheel to finish up the edges of the skins. Be careful that you don't go all the way through the wheel.

We then stored the parts away and got down the VS and read the plans some. As mentioned before, I'm going to get the VS ready to go before I prime so I can just do both at the same time. So continue to the VS page, and I'll pick back up when it comes time to prime and rivet.

NOTE: Sorry for the blurry pictures, we need to figure out the setting on our digital camera. Without the flash it seems to blur, with the flash it over exposes.

3.5 hrs
Today was time to start priming parts. I've reached the point that I realy need to complete something so that I can say progress is being made. So I broke out with the 2 part primer that Van's suggests. It was supplied by my Father-in-Law since he works for Sherwin Williams and gets a discount!

I can't say my first attempt was great, but it wasn't bad. The test piece even where I thought I was light really etched in. Some sanding with the scotch-bite pad didn't take it off. As you can see I ended up light in some areas and heavy in others. Probably pretty typical for your first time I suspect. Near the end I was getting a pretty even coat. I may rethink painting the plane myself.

This stuff is really light weight, it's like spraying water. I noticed on the QB parts that you can hardly tell it's there. So I tried my best to resist the temptation to spray more on.

I hope to spray some more items after lunch and then be able to actually set my first rivet!

4.0 hrs
Finally we are riveting! The squeezer is completely the best tool. Once you get it set you can just squash all the rivets and each time they are perfect. My first mistake, is the -6 gauge is NOT for a -6 length rivet! Luckily I caught myself after I made one rivet a little extra flat. Over all on the HS-902 spar most everything went pretty smoothly. I got a couple divets when I didn't have the squeezer perfectly straight, and I had to buck the brackets. Seems the squeezer couldn't do a -9 length rivet. As you can see on the back the bar slipped and I dinged up the spar. I sanded the gouge out and later I'll touch it with some primer.

The HS-903 spar was a dream. Once I had the hang of the squeezer I hit nearly every single one perfectly. I ended up with the bucktails facing outwards. I didn't intend to do that, but other pictures seemed to show it this way. Also, I couldn't figure out how to get the squeezer around the rivet without scraping the spar flange. However, using the squeezer produced perfect shop heads and I'm just fine with that. I'm not after a "Grand Champion" plane, I want good, solid, reliable, FINISHED airplane. If you obsess over every imperfect rivet you'll take 10 years. Great if that's what you want, but I'm pretty sure the plane with fly the same no matter which way the rivets face.

Tonight I completed the front and rear spars. Next comes the scary part, riveting the first skin. I'm mentally prepared for the cusing that will likely ensue.

4.5 hrs
Lots of things for done today. I removed the blue plastic from the inside of the skin and then Kim and I installed the nose ribs to the skin. We next started instaling the skin to the spar.

3.75 hrs
Continued working on riveting the skin to the spar. I have a couple of spar to rib rivets that I'll have to get with an offset rivet set. Hopefully I can borrow one from Joe. Shouldn't be a problem to come back and hit these later.

Kim and I were making excellent progress, but it seems to wear her arm out pretty fast. Since I'm not about to upset my wife who is on board with the project, I'll go at her pace.

2.25 hrs
More riveting on the spar. Got most of it done, just leaving the ends open until I can borrow an offset rivet set.

1.0 hrs
Had some spare time this morning so I got the offset rivet set from my friend Joe and I banged in the inboard rib to shim to spar rivets. These things are a pain. I managed to slip with the rivet set and bogger up one of the rivets, but it squashed down. I'm happy to leave it because drilling it out will be near impossible with the head messed up. I'll radius the deep cuts and I think it should be fine.

4.0 hrs
Kim and I finished the right side of the HS tonight! The next half should go pretty quickly now that we know what we are doing.

0.0 hrs
Today we had the local EAA chapter over to visit the project. Everyone seemed to have a good time and had lots of questions.

2.75 hrs
Tonight we learn the lesson of using the right tool. Kim tried the "hammer" looking bucking bar versus the "wedge". It made all the difference in the world. In about 45 minutes we banged in all the skin to spar rivets.

5.75 hrs
Today we made excellent progress. Kim helped me bang in the main spar rivets in the morning. Later in the evening, I used the pneumatic squeezer to do all the rear spar rivets and blind rivet the rear spar to the ribs. I cannot stress enough how much easier the squeezer makes life. I consider it a MUST have for the toolbox.

I also created the bracket and just loosely installed it. I will torque it down properly once all the parts are fitted. I've marked this part complete, but technically I still have the tips to do. I'll probably do all the fiberglass at one time much later.