First day of all hands on deck

Today we had our full work crew for the summer on their first day at work. Spork is back from camp and Cody is here to visit. Just for a few days this week, then a few days off, then we’ll be onto our full summer work schedule of building nearly every day, all day.

Spork had a kid hangover from camp, sleepy and tired, with aches and pains all over. Cody was bright eyed and bushy tailed having been home for a few days with little to do but relax. I was somewhere in between, having not gotten a lot of sleep the night before. I was actually stressed about keeping the work moving and not being the hold up for these guys. They are giving up their summer to work on this plane with me, and I don’t want us standing around because I’m stuck and don’t know what to do.

The boys working on the window frame template
The boys working on the window frame template

After some organizing and quick work on the shop for things like taking out the trash and putting together our new fan we had a sit down briefing on the plans for the day, the week, and the month. With everyone on the same page, we got to work on our to do list.

The boys started on the window template that Crystal had already roughed out. I think they were ready to bash things with hammers and do some real building but arts and crafts came first.

While they were working on the template, I set about removing the tail wheel assembly to finally get it drilled and installed permanently. I’d been warned that it could be tricky to get it all drilled straight so rather than do it when we were at Robby’s with hand drills, I said I’d do it when I got home with my Bridgeport mill. That is about as straight as I can do something.

Truing up the stinger for the tailwheel assembly in a lathe
Truing up the stinger for the tailwheel assembly

When I took the tailwheel apart, I noted that the stinger, the piece that goes from the yoke to the actual tail wheel, was pretty rough. It worked fine but the ends were rough cut and they had a little flare to them which meant they wouldn’t seat properly. Normally it would be a five minute job to true these up on the lathe, but we’ve had a huge painting project ongoing in the shop the past month and there is paint dust and overspray EVERYWHERE. Including all over my lathe. So before I could do anything, I had to set about cleaning up my lathe. It only took about 30 minutes to get the ways clean enough to use the thing. This wasn’t an actual cleaning, just clean enough to use (real machinists are cringing).

With the lathe clean, I chucked up the stinger and quickly trued up the ends and center drilled the ends to hold my barrel spinner so I could polish the stinger as well. However I promptly forgot to polish the stinger when it was time to move over to the mill. Oh well, something for tomorrow.

Boys removing the tail feathers in preparation for covering
Boys removing the tail feathers in preparation for covering

The boys finished the window template and it looked pretty good. Good enough we decided that we are going to make window frames out of aluminum to try to make the lexan less prone to cracking. I don’t think we’ll give up very much visibility and they will look good to boot. Need to add that to do to the list.

Drilling the first holes in the milling machine
Drilling the first holes in the milling machine

With the stinger placed back in the tail wheel yoke I moved over to the mill, which also needed to be cleaned. However the mill was much quicker work, maybe 10 minutes to clean. I setup with a simple V block setup to hold the yoke. I left everything loose and then used the drill bit itself as a guide. With the yoke riding on the drill bit, I clamped everything in place with the vise. Voila! We now have perfect alignment with the existing holes already drilled in the yoke. This was handy because if you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that they are nowhere close to drilled straight, showing a significant angle vs. the vise. Fortunately it was easy to replicate the angle and it won’t matter anyway once everything is bolted up.

Drilling the tailwheel assembly onto the stinger
Drilling the tailwheel assembly onto the stinger

With the stinger temporarily bolted to the yoke, it was time to drill the tailwheel assembly onto the other end of the stinger. No problem, I already had a good setup so it was just a matter of wash, rinse, repeat. Or so I thought.

I mounted the tail wheel in using the same V block, and locked the tailwheel via it’s locking pin. Then I set about finding a way to mark it as straight and level. Then all I’d need to do it level the yoke off of the shock attachment bushing, or better yet, plumb off of the bushing at the swivel point (left most of picture closest to you). After 15 minutes of looking and head scratching, I determined that there was not a single flat plane anywhere on the entire assembly that I could work with.

Eventually, I gave up and went with the tried and true TLAR method (That Looks About Right). I had the Princess and Spork both come and look over my setup, trying to sight down and see if it was straight. After much time and several conversations, everyone concluded that:

  • You can’t see past the vise to see if it is straight or not
  • If you take it out of the vise so you can see, it won’t matter because everything will move while you are putting it back in the vise
  • You indeed cannot find a flat surface to level anything from
  • And sure dad, that looks about right. I guess.

I closed my eyes and drilled the holes. I consoled myself with the fact that I was drilling a $5 piece of aluminum bar that I could probably pick up at the metal store easily. The expensive bits already had their holes drilled.

Once all the chips had flown, I pulled the whole assembly off the mill and sighted down the now visible sightline. Perfect! Whew!

Cody and I reinstalled the tail wheel and the locking cable onto the fuselage while Spork was giving a tour to some customers.

To do list, day one
To do list, day one

With the tail wheel reinstalled on the airplane, we then made up a stiff knee to go in place of the shock that would normally be on the plane. This holds the wheel in place and should we actually get it covered soon, will allow us to sit the plane on its gear.

With the tail wheel done, we set about getting the plan for the next day. Crossed off the list today was:

  • Take out the trash
  • Pick the final paint colors for the airplane and communicate them to Robby
  • Screw in the floor panels and rear bulkhead
  • Finish template for window and make sure it fits the window on the other side (it does)
  • Remove the tail feathers in prep for covering
  • Install ELT antennae
  • Tail wheel, drilled and mounted
  • Drip guard for baggage door drilled and cut for final assembly
  • Read through build manual and make sure there is no more prep needed for the wings prior to covering
  • We also made a supply run to Lowes picking up some needed items

Tomorrow, should things go well, should be a big day. We are going test fit the wings to the airplane. We won’t be running any controls or doing anything like that, just putting the wings in place to make sure that everything fits prior to taking them back off and starting on covering. But it should make for some nice pictures should we succeed. While the wings are in place, we’ll also install the butt ribs, aligning them with the slats which will be taped in place.

We also need to polish the stinger and add making the window frames to the to do list.

Also Rick is hopefully going to stop by to give me a quick lesson on wiring so I can get the ELT cable terminated and then installed. That is all after we feed and take care of the farm work and before knocking off early to go to Grandmas. Should be fun.



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