Saturday, July 31, 2010

Forgot the videocamera

Phenolic cable-guides / doublers on the butt rib, pitot-static tubing run yesterday, secured today. Aileron cove is now fitted, ready to be attached.

Surprise birthday party successfully pulled off. Dinner cooked with J of Call to Wings - testing my whisperlite as she tested out her new cast iron.

Exhausted. Might sleep despite the rock band going on downstairs.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Picture Progress Post

A quick summary of the week to date follows.

Installed brace channel for the ribs at each end of the trailing edge, filed and cut the trailing edge with a hacksaw carefully until the rib ends could slide easily inside and be screwed down with #4 PK screws. Then, the control cable path to the aileron was checked with more surveyor's string to make sure the brace from the corner of trailing edge and rib would not interfere when installed. Discovered the brace channel doesn't interfere with the control cable path, but the rib does; file to fit, will add a brace later.

Some of the docs we were looking through, trying to find voltage, wattage, amperage, and the charts and graphs for appropriate wire gauges when running wiring to the lights. We neither wanted to work out the long and complicated formula, nor resort to a "well, this is what a similar plane has" guess.

Checking the cockpit to see how the lights were wired to switches and bus, as well as circuit breaker amperage.

Running first batch of wires.

Hot and ground run to lighting bracket and out to wingtip.

Still to go: removed the fuel bay drag / anti-drag tie rods, as the thickness of the anti-chafe tubing was causing clearance issues. Swapped out friction tape and thick tube for lighter, thinner tube and shrinkwrap. Still need to heat the shrinkwrap very carefully with a torch, well away from any combustible sources, to overcome the heat sink that is the wire. I want it to stop raining so I can do that outside - we're experiencing the 8th wettest July in recorded history up here, and I am thoroughly sick of low grey skies and rain.

Also to come, not pictured, cutting the phenolic (must find my respirator) for a non-chafing brace & cable guide to rivet into the butt rib, a doubler for the butt rib where I had to cut it for fuel line clearance, and pitot-static tubing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

frequency congestion

If you want to know just how busy airspace frequencies can get - the world's busiest airport, Oshkosh, is up and streaming on LiveAtc. It's so busy pilotsaren't allowed to transmit - you get told where to go by type and color, and acknowledge by rocking you wings!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gone West

F Atlee Dodge, the creator of most supercub improvements, founder and long-time boss of an awesome aircraft fabrication shop, has passed away. We're poorer for his loss.

May he have blue skies and tailwinds forever.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

a few notes

1. Wearing a watch on the left wrist. I always sorta wondered why right-handed people did this; I use my right side for all fine adjustments, and my left for gripping and power, so it made no sense to put the watch on the power side instead of the information / attention side. Now I finally get it - if I'm sticking my hand through an instrument panel to tighten nuts back by the firewall, the watch doesn't get hung up on wires or tubing if it's on the unused wrist. Chalk it up to me having thin forearms and small wrists that it took nearly a decade of working on planes before I found a position where this made clear sense to me.

2. Cutting oil makes cutting and cleaning up threads go from mildly annoying to pretty darned easy. It also extends the life of the die. Now, that's wonderful!

3. After cutting new threads, like on the tie rods, cut a small rectangle of the red scotch-brite that gets used for most minor abrasive around the shop, and run it over the threads like twisting a nut on and off. This will round off the edges of the fresh cuts sufficient to not leaving many parallel little cuts on your hand when you grab them.

4. Mental exhaustion is no different from physical exhaustion; when you're done, you're done. Pack up your tools and go find something else to do. Some things, not even chocolate can fix, and I need a day off.

Off to the Palmer Air Fair!

Friday, July 23, 2010

last ribs in left wing

Got the tip bow bolts out one at a time, applied varnish to the inside of the holes and the threads, to protect the wood against degredation and moisture. Started putting on the butt rib, one section at a time. Yes, it's a post-WWII butt rib on a pre-WWII wing. It's also an approved substitute (thank you, Civil Aeronautics Board), and a darned sight easier than building two new old-fashioned butt ribs which would still need to be modified to accommodate the Post-WWII addition of gas tanks in the wings.

I thought the plumbing from the gas tank fit. I was wrong.

Caffeine and chocolate: solution to impending tension headache and desire to thump one's head against the spars.

Can't hide out in the break room reading a gunsmithing catalog too long - not only will I find a tool I need for the plane, but the resident bundle of cheer with begging eyes and empty stomach will come see what I'm up to.

The gas tank has been welded and pressure-tested; it's not a good idea to bend or twist it to straighten it, since any leaks that'd create would only show up after it's installed in the wing and full of gas. However, it'd be a bad thing to let those hard metal edges wobble against the spar. The graceful solution: shim it with very soft wood, so it is supported and immobile. This elegant solution brought to you by 5-gallon paint stirrers from Home Depot, and tongue depressors, assembled and attached to the spar with Elmer's wood glue. Except for the orange printing on one side, it's not only elegant, lightweight, structurally sound, and stable, it's also period-correct for the plane. The nice shiny led brick is being used to weight the tank and shims overnight as the glue cures.

Tomorrow: Fabricate & attach doubler to reinforce the rib. If nothing else gets in the way, will start on leading edge and trailing edge. Maybe. Hopefully. Possibly. I promise nothing; this is a discovery process for me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

tip bow day

There were very good notes yesterday: the round die turns out to be 13/16, not 3/4". (Never mind the packaging, mind the calipers.) This means that the manufacturer does actually make a die stock for it - and though there's none in town, the internet is a wonderful thing. Grizzly tool has one on the way.

Image Plastics turned out to have moved, so it took some hunting to find them - but once I did, it was more than worth it. The owner recognized the microVGs on the landing light lens with an enthusiastic "Hey! I've read about these!" and from there it was good times to purchase both plexiglass and lexan and very detailed instruction on how to form each into a lens given a hairdryer, a home oven, some masonite, a little wood, and "gloves just like these but brand new, and keep 'em in a ziplock bag when you're not using them." Although I had only intended to purchase one one-time replacement, he made a very persuasive argument - why sink all the time and trouble for a relatively inexpensive piece of plastic each time when I can do two to four for almost no more cost, and avoid having to do it again for years?

Then to work, and to wrestling with the tip bow and tip rib. Here was file to fit at its finest (or most frustrating.) A couple careful die grinder cuts, an lot of filing, and many times of putting both on, clamping the tip bow down, and muttering later, the tip bow is screwed into the tip rib at the trailing edge, the tip noserib at the leading edge, and bolted into holes fresh-drilled in the front and rear spar. Today, after being absolutely sure the rib is straight and square, I'll nail it and declare it done.

It wasn't as straightforward as it sounds - this included a trip out to Lake Hood to drive around and look at the two Taylorcraft that are close cousins to this one to see exactly at what height and angle relative to the spars their tip bows were set.

Then, I stopped for dinner at Taproot Cafe on the way back, and relaxed a little while under the influence of a bluegrass jam session, french onion soup, greek salad, and two donuts with a chocolate raspberry sauce poured on top. On days like this, a girl needs chocolate - and the bluegrass was great. Service was excellent, and with the spacious new kitchen, the food didn't take more than one song to appear. (Okay, two songs for the donuts, but I hadn't even finished my soup before they appeared!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

notches and die stock

Yesterday, went to thread the new tie rods - only to realize that the die stock [handle] is made for a 1" O.D. die, and I have a 3/4" die. Not even the manufacturer of this die appears to make a stock for this die - that's craziness, right there. I'll figure out where to find it or make a workaround yet!

Also, got the tip bows out, and realized that they look nigh-identical, but they're not. The angle of the half-moon piece on the end where it snugs into the tip of a noserib is specific to the right and left wings. Also, the little notches in the old spars are for wing bow support and clearance. Started to contemplate how best to make a template for said notches, when I picked up the little half-round file I'd been using to round corners on metal, and realized it fit perfectly in the notch at a 45 degree angle. Template, heck - this is file to fit.

Also, finally now know what the twisted tangle of aluminum tubing was for - it's to carry air pressure from the pitot tube on the jury strut to the airspeed indicator. I'm not sure I trust it enough to reinstall it; we'll deal with that today.

While it didn't feel like much progress, the butt ribs are now ready to go on the spars! A little more progress, every day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Picture Post

Some of these will be blurry - I don't have an actual camera, but my Calmer Half gave a flip video camera to me, so you get screen captures from short videos.

1. A brief shot of the lighting bracket, freshly painted and with new nutplates, prior to assembly. I then cleco'ed it onto the supporting ribs, so I could determine the distance they need to be and mark it on the spar, before removing it so I could nail the ribs.

2. The "which alignment marks are actually good?" dilemma was solved by putting the old spars on or next to the new ones, and aligning the ribs to where they used to be. Note the aileron was put on the wing, breifly, to determine that the aileron hinge brackets were aligned - but had to be taken back off for nailing the ribs.

3. A reference photo after disassembling the right aileron pushrod prior to bead-blasting the paint and hitting the rest with brakekleen to take off decades of oil and grime. The pushrods housings are mirror-images, and the right has a solid shaft while the left has a hollow shaft inside; this photo will be very helpful when reassembling and figuring out which one goes on which wing.

4-5. Tying strings such that they lay from the 2nd main rib to the 14th main rib, tensioned tight enough to twang slightly and not sag in the middle. I used these to align the ribs vertically, so the leading edge should be straight and level. The blue tape on the compression strut in the second photo is a refenece tag to note which of the almost but not quite identical compression struts go to the butt, the tip, the strut attach point, and Everywhere Else.

6. Making sure the ribs are straight prior to nailing - not pictured, the tape measure used to make sure both ends were the proper distance from butt of spar.

7. When I'd nailed the outsides of the spars, I flipped it on each end and carefully clamped the spars in a sandwich of protective wood to nail the inside of the spar. In the background, behind the CH-701 Fuselage hanging from the rafters, you can see my right wing hanging from the rafters. It needs to be retrammeled and some work before those ribs are nailed, but I'm getting close enough I can start to cautiously talk about hauling the fuselage over soon to start the annual. I think. I hope.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nailed it.

Today, I finally put the first nails in the left wing - I tacked the second main rib in, and the last main rib before the tip rib (#2 and #14 out of 15 main ribs). Then I ran a bright pink string from one to the other, tensioned tight so I have a level line to make all the ribs stand at the same height on the spars.

It's looking more and more like an airplane every day!

Friday, July 16, 2010

noserib dilemna

Most noseribs go in the exact middle of the space between the main ribs. Some are off-center to accommodate other hardware in the way - like the jury strut.

Does this noserib go inboard or outboard of the jury strut? According to the reproduction of the original parts manual, showing the built-up ribs, it goes inboard.

If I look at the post-WWII BC-12D owner's manual with the stamped ribs, it goes outboard of the jury strut, though snugged up to it.

That's not really an authoritative source, though, given this is a pre-WWII plane with the built-up ribs. On the other hand, take a look at that first picture, with the patterns of where the ribs used to be in the varnish. Those are the original spars from the factory, with a stamped serial number plate nailed into one spar. So the rib was actually outboard when it came out of the factory - despite the parts manual's indication - and the post-war planes kept that rib placement and made it official.

Do I restore to the documentation, or to the original condition?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Monday night, I had to drop the car off as the car window wouldn't roll up, so Tuesday I biked across town to work. Of course, it was raining! It was good exercise, and reminded me so vividly of why, after years commuting by bike, I didn't look back when I got my driver's license. Drivers never see, even when they're looking right at you. You do not have the right of way to turn right on red through the pedestrian with the walk light, especially if they are walking their bike across the street! Despite exhaustion, I got the lighting bracket nutplates riveted in place, looking fairly sharp against the nice new paint job.

Today, I disassembled the right aileron bellcrank (the cables were still attached), and the pushrod assembly. After getting both bellcranks, and the pushrods (including spares) cleaned and degreased (brakekleen rocks!), I bead-blasted all the old layers of paint and primer off, cleaned them again, primed, and got the first two light layers of yellow pant on. They still look hideously yucky yellow-green as the zinc chromate primer shows through the paint, so they'll get a few coats tomorrow. Meanwhile, the rest of the lighting assembly was sanded, primed, and has its first coat of black paint drying overnight. It may be overkill, but I'd rather do even the little overlookable things beautifully right.

I also started bending and trimming tabs for the butt ribs - it feels so exhilarating to actually be moving forward on those with a plan, after a year and a half!

Tomorrow, the 6-40 thread nylocks for the tie rods should be here, and I can start trammelling as well as continuing to paint. Not a moment too soon - Blogorado is barely a month away, and I really want to make it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

busy weekend

Saturday, total forward progress on the plane seemed to stop, as I had to redo priming and painting three times to get it right - but anything worth doing is worth doing well. Corollary: stop when you're tired and making mistakes.

Saturday night, sorted brass.

Sunday: breakfast with friends, helped bottle 120 gallons of mead at Celestial Meads (a orange-blossom honey & pear melomel), traded that labor and a little money for two bottles of mead. Went to a friend's birthday party, gave him one bottle, and then immediately got busy with the group birthday present - a blitzkrieg cleaning of his place. Crashed kind of hard as my body decided that this was a whole lot of work on not much food, ate, limped home, sat down for a few hours, sorted brass, washed up, did laundry. Slept like a log.

I'm rather stiff and sore this morning - clearly, I need to do this much exercise more often! For now, I'm off to trade sorted brass for shop time, and work on the plane!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

been busy

Right aileron bellcrank at Atlee Dodge, getting hole moved over 1/2 diameter, as the spar was slightly misdrilled - and it's easier to match the steel to the wood than to deal with making more or bigger holes in the wood.

Jury strut attach bracket - installed.

Butt rib - whimper. Realize I can trammel the rest of the wing first, leaving the gas tank and first bay wires for last. Feel better, without resolution.

Gas tank - needs to be shimmed when it finally is installed. Gas caps found, put away again until time to work on it. Tubing to protect tank and drag / anti-drag wires from chafing found, cut to length, wrapped on tube for left wing. (Right is hanging up, will get it when it comes down. have material, life is good.)

tie rod tube - installed. Rear spacer between sides of read spar attach bracket also installed.

Aileron cove FINALLY DONE! Now I just need to figure out the gas tank installation, fabricate the front spar strut attach bracket spacers, tie rod, and butt rib, get the aileron bellcrank back from Atlee Dodge, and I can finally effin' trammel the wing and start nailing ribs.

Landing / taxi light bracket - adjacent ribs uninstalled, swapped, and reinstalled in correct configuration (I'd wonder how I missed this, but it's not obvious). Bracket parts and pieces and old wire bundle located, assembled almost correctly, all parts accounted for or noted as missing. Bracket cleaned up, new bolts, nutplates, and replacement springs found. Rivets drilled out, parts cleaned up, main bracket pieces hammered lightly back into shape, sanded, cleaned, primed, painted. Plexiglas-support pieces in tank to get the layers of varnish, primer, dope, corrosion, and grime off tomorrow. Plexiglas past saving- will deal with that later. Wiring harness for left wing measured, puzzled over, set aside until bracket is reassembled and ribs are nailed in place. Absolutely no way in heck that harness is being reused. No sign of actual landing/taxi lights; will figure that out when I get to the harness.

So not thinking about the right wing, which was trammeled - but that'll be off as it still needs the front & rear spar attach bracket spacers, the tie rod, the butt rib, and the first bay drag wires to be removed, the chafing-protection tubing installed, and then the right gas tank and all it plumbing... then trammeled again. No, not thinking about that. much.

Incoming parts - die to cut tie rod threads, nylock nuts for the tie rod (there's a story there), another helping of love and patience from my near-saintly supportive husband, who keeps me from losing patience and metaphorically torching this whole damn plane sometimes.

Why is it that I can do all this in less than a week, and still feel no closer, and like I didn't get anything done? 80% done, 80% to go...

Friday, July 2, 2010


There's a weed in the backyard with serious taproots that the friends I'm staying with have been trying to dig out and eradicate. Yesterday as She Who Rocks and I were planting the slightly sunburned bleeding heart in the front yard, He Who Rocks On was in the backyard with the shovel, getting the weeds and the rotten tree roots he came across dug out of the ground.

SWR mentioned regretfully as we carried the weeds to the compost pile that it was too bad these weren't edible, but the online forum so questioned had tagged them as the incredibly useless Canada Thistle. That didn't seem right to me, because the immature flowers were completely wrong for a 'thistle' of any stripe. So I started digging, and digging, and came up with a positive ID - Curly Dock. Which is indeed edible.

On the other hand, I have no urge to cook it right now - I'm not that fond of dark bitter greens like kale and collard greens. Besides, given the ongoing eradication effort is not getting all the taproot, if I wait a week or two, I'll have plenty of fresh young leaves to pull and use - and revenge against these plants is a dish best served hot with a delicious vinegar-based sauce, and a pulled pork entree.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

food for the body and soul

Earlier this week, the apprentice mechanic gave me some of her cilantro plants of riotous growth - so I brought in salsa with cilantro for her in thanks. Turns out one of the mechanics doesn't like cilantro (of course it was in the salsa! That was the point of making it!) so I'll make a spicier non-cilantro version later.

Yesterday, I sanded the end of the spar until the bracket just fit, reamed a couple holes that were so tight they'd take threads but not the shanks of the AN4 bolts, and varnished all the raw wood thoroughly. Waiting for varnish to dry is a perfect time for a parts run! Of course, that means I still have to wait for the next coats to dry, but with bolts in hand, I got the rear spar attach bracket on, and the last compression strut attached to the rear spar - then the same for the front spar. She looks like a wing now - it's making me excited an starting to dream of the places we'll go!

Today, I need to hit the drag wires with some WD40, as the jam nuts have frozen on them - and they won't be good jam nuts if they're not jamming against the barrel nut!

Before I go do that, though, I took the lamb's quarters I harvested in front of the house yesterday, washed them, and made two batches of pesto - 1-1/2 cups lambs quarters leaves, 1/2 cup pecans, 1/4 cup parmesan, and 1/4 cup olive oil. (Recipe here) The second batch had the last bit of parmesan and 1/4 cup feta instead. Delicious!

Tonight, we'll make pizza dough from scratch, add the pesto as the sauce instead of a tomato base, and add chunks of halibut as the meat - and it will be tasty, tasty goodness. For now, I've thrown a little spaghetti on the stove as I type this, so I can have a little snack of the pesto before I go wrench (and rivet) on my plane.