Building, testing and operating an experimental aircraft

Shop Setup and Practice Kit

25 Nov 2009

The airplane factory is officially up and running – thanks to a lot of nice prep work by Dad – so after some last-minute acquisitions from Home Depot, we began to hone our sheet metal skills with Van’s practice kit.

Tools of the Trade Tools of the Trade

Several weeks ago, we finally found a decent used compressor on Craigslist, a shiny Craftsman 30-gallon oil-less 120V portable, complete with a regulator and 50 feet of hose. Everything you’ve read about oil-less compressors is true: this thing is excruciatingly loud, deafening, almost maddening.

Craftsman Compressor Craftsman Compressor

There is simply no way I could tolerate standing next to this thing in the shop. That’s why we keep it in the garage, and feed the air hose through the wall and down into the basement shop, where you hardly notice the sound at all. A very impressive solution on Dad’s part. On the plus side, however, 30 gallons is just about the right tank size to keep the pump motor from running constantly, and only a long bout of drilling or riveting will cause it to start again. The tank fills to about 120psi from empty in under ten minutes.

Aeropunk DIY Rivet Set and Dimple Die Organizer Aeropunk DIY Rivet Set and Dimple Die Organizer

Practice Kit Match Drilled Practice Kit Match Drilled

Dad and I picked up an air line filter and a few 1/4” fittings from Home Depot, and we were ready to fire up the Sioux air tools. The drill and rivet gun roared to life. For a while we tried using them with an inline oiler, but this tended to get messy and over-oil the tools, especially the drill, which started spitting atomized oil from its air outlet port. I still haven’t decided whether or not to keep this in the system or just put a drop or two in the tools each day.

Dad Dimpling Dad Dimpling

Once the air system was plumbed and operating, we began work on Van’s RV Training Project practice kit. I’d already built one of these things at the SportAir Workshop I attended in early May, but I thought it would be worthwhile to work on another one with my own tools, both to refresh my memory and to get Dad up to speed on the basics.

Brian on the C-frame Brian on the C-frame

The big hit during construction of the practice kit was the Cleaveland C-frame dimpler. We used this for both dimpling and backriveting whenever possible. The C-frame backriveting technique is simply foolproof, and we really felt like we knew what we were doing from the very beginning.

C-frame Backriveting C-frame Backriveting

We did run into a few snags while working out the kinks of the practice kit, but overall I felt our skills had improved and the finished product, while maybe not completely airworthy, was definitely a step in the right direction. On to the empennage!

Practice Kit Complete Practice Kit Complete

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