Building, testing and operating an experimental aircraft

Right Elevator Construction

11 Aug 2010

After returning from Oshkosh, Dad and I were anxious to get back to work on the project, so we put in some serious shop time and knocked out most of the work on the elevators.

Right Elevator Stiffeners Right Elevator Stiffeners

The right and left elevator assemblies are very similar structures, the major difference being the trim tab and servo access panel on the left elevator. Since the left side is more complex, Van’s has you complete the right side first, although we found it more efficient to group some jobs together, such as prepping, priming and backriveting the stiffeners and skins for both the right and left sides at the same time.

The photo above shows the right elevator stiffeners riveted onto the skin – it’s also a good illustration of our interior priming philosophy. In the interest of saving weight, we’ve decided to prime only the areas of the skin interior that will come into contact with other surfaces (the stiffeners, spars, and ribs, in this case). The masking is easy: when removing the blue protective film from the Alclad sheets, we only take off those areas where there are rivet lines – using the old ruler-and-soldering-iron technique – and then we just scuff, clean, prep and prime right over the blue film.

Drilling the Understructure Drilling the Understructure

After fitting and drilling the understructure, we moved on to bending the trailing edge of the skin. Dad put together a really nice wooden press brake for the purpose, complete with a little handle for control.

Bending the Trailing Edge Bending the Trailing Edge

A thin wooden dowel taped into the bend helps ensure the proper bend radius and keeps the edge from getting crushed while it’s in the brake.

Trailing Edge After Bending Trailing Edge After Bending

After the bend, we primed and riveted the understructure, using our trusty bench-mounted squeezer for as much of the work as possible. We’re getting a little better at controlling the squeezer freehand, but the best results by far come from using the bench mount.

Bench-Mounted Squeezer Bench-Mounted Squeezer

It’s easy to be accurate with the tools and assembly in a stable position on the workbench.

Riveting the Nutplates Riveting the Nutplates

Cutting the notch out of the counterbalance weight takes patience and a lot of lubrication. If the lead starts to heat up, it’ll melt and the blade will start to bind.

Trimming the Counterweight Trimming the Counterweight

Dad’s nifty sanding tool made short work of the rounded corners.

Trimming the Counterweight Trimming the Counterweight

Riveting Riveting

We’re still shooting and bucking the rivets around the edges – we just don’t trust ourselves enough with the squeezer yet.

Riveting the Right Elevator Skin Riveting the Right Elevator Skin

Riveting Nearly Complete Riveting Nearly Complete

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