Tools on a Budget

2-13-18.  2 hours spent.

Everyone talks about tools.  You need to have the right tools to do the job.  Luckily, I teach sheet metal classes at SIU, so I have access to a pretty complete set of tools.  This is a big help to the budget.  However, I realized I was going to need a sheet dimpler to finish the kit.  The cheap version was sold by Avery tools (no longer in business), and now costs $250 from Aircraft Spruce.  The expensive version is called the DRDT-2, and cost $450 from Aircraft Spruce.  I like the looks of the DRDT-2, but $450 is 8% of the cost of my project.

I started out to design my own dimpler, similar in principle to the DRDT-2.  I got all the drawings done, and the steel in my Speedy Metals (.com) shopping cart when I saw an ad on Barnstormers for a $500 tools set that included the Avery Tools dimpler and a lot of other very nice tools I don’t need.  I bought the lot, and paid $550 with shipping.  They arrived this evening, and I am pleased as punch!

Here are the tools I intend to keep:

  • The important sheet dimpler
  • About 200 copper clecos and 400 silver clecos.  You can NEVER have too many.
  • Dimple Die Sets
  • A bucking bar that I don’t already have.
  • An Avery Swivel Flush Rivet Set (looks interesting).
  • A sheet edger.
  • A lonely cleco pliers (there were 2 in the set – and I don’t have a pair with a blue handle).

The good news is that these tools are for sale.  I will be posting them on the Vans Air Force classified site as soon as my login is approved.  They seem to be moving there.  This is what I will post:

I have a pretty complete set of tools, and recently stumbled into a good condition Avery RV builder’s tool set.  I now have the following items for sale.

  • Avery Pneumatic Rivet Squeezer w/3″ yoke and #3, #4 dimple dies ($400)
  • Avery 3X rivet Gun w/straight #3 and Double Dogleg #4 rivet set ($150)
  • Sioux Palm Drill w/key, #21, #30, and #40 drill bits and stop spring set. ($200)
  • Microstop Countersink and 3-8? bits. ($40)
  • 100 silver Clecos ($30)
  • 100 copper Clecos ($30)
  • Pair of Bucking Bars ($25)
  • 4 Spring Cleco clamps, a few black, and a few gold clecos ($15)
  • Cleco Pliers ($5)
  • Misc small stuff. Sets, deburring tools, drill bits, etc. ($15)

All are guaranteed to work.  Instead of selling it all piece by piece at about $900, I would prefer to sell it all to one buyer for $620 (the exact amount I have in it) plus shipping.  If this is still here a week after listing, I will “part out” the individual pieces to whoever indicated interest in those items first. 

Note – the drill has “MORRIS” engraved on it.”

You will notice that I paid $550 with shipping for my set, and that I said I have $620 in it.  That is because the set didn’t come with the Sioux Palm drill.  I got that at a pawn shop four years ago after a wealthy SIU sheet metal student decided to pawn it.  I paid $70.  I like the drill a lot, BUT about 3 years ago, I won a Pan American Tool palm drill with reverse as a door prize at a aircraft mechanic competition.  It is almost identical in size and weight, except it has the thumb reverse.  It is also much quieter.  I like it better, and haven’t used my Sioux drill pretty much since.  I figure the kit will sell better with the Sioux drill in it, so I added it, a few drill bits, and a Harbor Freight spring loaded center punch that were also in my box.  If I sell it all at once, I will have the tools in the first picture for free.  If I sell it out piecemeal, I’ll have the tools and make money.  I will return here and let you know how this goes in a few days.

Fingers crossed!

Update as of 2-15-2018

After less than 3 hours online, the tools are SOLD.  My zero cost tools are truly zero cost!  Should I have asked for more?  Nah – lets just take the win and grin.

Back to the Ailerons…

2/6 and 2/7 – Hours spent 5

So with the new ribs in stock, its time to get back to the ailerons.  Speaking of the ailerons, here is the structure of the trim tab after removing the skin.

Now its time to begin the other aileron.  The only thing that KW has done on this aileron is riveting the stiffeners onto the skin.

KW didn’t drill the optional lightening holes on the aileron spar, so that is a beginning point.  I’m drilling the 15 holes – 2 inches diameter each – in the aileron spar.

Here is the fly cutter in the drill press.  The holes are going in nicely.

I was curious how much I weight I saved, so I weighed the 15 circles.  2.8 ounces.  Not a lot of savings, but between the two ailerons, that should be almost 5 ounces.

Clamping the ribs in place on the spar.

Going back over the other aileron, and cutting the lightening holes in.  I had to use the small fly cutter and the hand drill instead of the drill press, because the structure was already riveted together.

I could not get the last three holes cut in do to the additional structure of the trim tab area.  That’s why I figured 5 ounces instead of a little more than 6!

The ends of the spars have 2 3/4″ by 2 1/2″ plates made from 0.040 aluminum.  These took quite a bit of planning, as the holes have to fit a variety of different parts.

Clamping the pieces in place before drilling.

And all the parts that go on the outboard end of the aileron.

My 13 year old son Jason looking over our evening’s work.  We drilled and clecoed the skin over the top part of the aileron.


Ordering from Vans – Wow!

So I just got my first parts order in the mail from Vans.  As detailed in my aileron post, I had to get a couple of aileron nose ribs.  I was pleasantly surprised to note that Vans had them in stock, and wanted only $13.25 each for them.  Now I see folks who complain about the prices of Vans parts, and I probably will later on, too.  However, let me say that this is a totally amazing price compared to Ce$$na.  $certified airplane parts are made of pure unobtainium and expensivium, so it is nice to order 2024 aluminum.

Here are the parts – received less than a week after my order.  I was nervous about the shipping price, which they would not quote on the web site – but I bit the bullet and ordered.  How bad could shipping be, right?  Right!

As it was, they charged $3.01 to ship my ribs.  I think I’m in love!  I got a full aileron worth of nose ribs shipped to me for about what a rack of baby back ribs would cost at Chili’s.

Now let me talk about *other* sources of parts.  eBay.  Right now (2/1/2018), I can find several Vans RV6 parts on eBay.   Its hard to read the pic, so I’ll copy and paste.

  • Vans RV-6 Rudder Spar (NEW) P/N R802PP – Asking $110.
  • Vans RV-6 Rudder Skin C’Bal 016 (NEW) P/N R-601-1 – Asking $240.

Granted, both of these do come with free shipping, but this guy thinks these are Ce$$na parts.  What does Van’s ask for these parts?

  • Rudder Spar:  Not $110, but $21.75.  You save $88.25, but do pay for shipping.
  • Rudder Skin:  Not $240, but $118.10.  You save $121.90, but do have to pay for shipping.

Of course you also get technical support and can return the part if it is defective if you order from Vans.

Moral of the story – find out what a part costs from Vans.

Finishing the Flap Actuator. One Flap Drilled, One to Go

2/1 – 2.5 hours.

So last time I was pondering what material to use for the final piece of the flap actuator – and I had persuaded myself to use a scrap of 1/8″ 6061 angle instead of the 1/16″ called for in the plans.  It would add an ounce.

This morning, I remembered an entire drawer of surplus aircraft mounting brackets.  I couldn’t bring myself to recycle these a few years ago when I was cleaning out the shop, and I forgot them in a cabinet I seldom open.  They are all shapes and sizes, and a huge quantity.  This pair is 2024-T4 and 1/16th inch thick!

Brackets before shaping into the part shown below on the plans.  Just a few minutes with the band saw and sander, and I have a left and right set – ready to go to work – and better than the plans call for.

All the actuator parts set in position on the flap.  I extended the angle about 3/4 inch past what is called for in the plans in order to catch the next rivet.  The entire actuator assembly is built in 3 pieces so that it can be EXACTLY fitted to the flap – but order is very important.

Here is another view of the 3 parts.  Thus far the only joint is clecoed between the angle and the plate.

Clamping the angle and plate in position against the spar.  The plate now is held in position, not touching any parts.  The angle is carefully drilled and clecoed to the spar, as the 3 outermost holes also go through the front of the inboard rib.

Here is the angle set in position as well.  It transfers the movement of the flap handle to the spar and the inboard flap rib.  Notice how the three layers (skin, rib, and angle) tend to separate when there are no clecos in position.

I clamped the angle against the plate to ensure a firm fit.  Now, the bottom skin/rib flange holes can be extended onto the bottom of the angle.  I loosened the clamp and reclamped between adding clecos to ensure that alignment is true as the aforementioned gap is closed.

Now with the angle clecoed in place along the rib bottom, I can draw in and drill the holes that mount the angle to the plate.  The fit is perfect because it was match drilled in position.

Here is the right flap, completely drilled and clecoed.  All that remains is to dissemble, debur, dimple, prime, and rivet.  And now I get to start over again on the left flap.  I expect it to go quicker, however.  THis is because I have already grappled with the order and because I already built the actuator bracket.

This brings me almost to the place I would be if I had bought a modern pre-drilled kit.  If you count your time as worth anything, don’t buy an old kit that wasn’t pre-drilled.  I am about 10 hours into the flap.  If I charged myself the $50 per hour for A&P work that I charge other people, I’d have another $500 in just this flap.  And don’t forget – KW did the flap spars!  However, I am not upset.  I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this job – and I am actually having A blast.  Right now, I can’t wait to get at it each day.  I am sure that will wear off, however.

Here we go again!  Spar, ribs, and bottom skin drilled and clecoed before the end of today’s work.  I probably will not be adding many more photos until I come to something new.


It isn’t a Flaw – its a Feature!

1/30 to 1/31 – 4 hours.

Laying out the flap actuation brackets (left and right) on a plate of 1/8″ 2024-T3 provided with the kit.  Notice that these are mirror images of each other.  Also, notice my crossed out lines.  This was due to an error in the plans.  Laying them out, the error was apparent.  The plans called for dropping 1 1/16 from the red line to the bottom of the bracket, but the angle so formed was visibly off.  The next crossed out set of lines were made by assuming the 1 1/16″ was meant to be measured from the upper black line, not the the red line.  Again, noticeable visual error.  Closer, but definitely no cigar!  Luckily, the plans are full size, so I just had to ignore the erroneous 1 1/16″ dimension on the drawing and draw what was shown in the plans.  Luckily, this also lines up perfectly with the flap where it is supposed to.

Cutting out the plate on the bandsaw.  There is no way the shear will go through this stock.

VERY rough band-sawed parts.  The cuts are to larger than needed dimensions, and so I’ll sand up to the lines.  Sanding aircraft aluminum is OK if you use aluminum oxide paper.  Many other abrasives are not OK, and can set up corrosion issues later on.

Here are the final rough parts.  Next, the angle gets cut into two separate spar mounts as seen below.  This is a complex cut, as there is a slight bevel across the face.

Here are the parts clamped together.

Match drilling the parts.  This is thick enough that a drill press is very wise.

Zinc Chromate (actually this is zinc phosphate – my zinc chromate is still on the way).  Now its time to drill up the hinge to fit the spar.

OOPS!  The plans call for cutting the hinges to 55 1/2″ long.  I cut them (BOTH) to 55.”  I drilled the hinge into place, and it ends 1/2″ too far outboard.  Since the inboard side of the flap is where the actuator is, this is the highest stress point of the hinge.  I don’t want to terminate it at the wrong spot.  I can choose to buy new hinges, piece in additional hinge material, shift the hinge inboard 1/2″, OR …

Note the plans that call for a AN257-P3 hinge.  They supplied an MS20257-3 hinge (which cost $2 a foot).  The MS part number superseded the AN, so no problem there.  I have more of the MS20257-3 hinge, but only 36″ lengths.  But I also have a short (24″) piece of MS20001-3 hinge ($11 a foot) on hand.  Check out the difference.  Dimensionally, they are the same.  However, the MS20001 hinge is extruded, and the MS20257-3 hinge is rolled.  Under load, the MS20257 hinge can unroll and separate.  The MS20001 hinge cannot.  I wasn’t thrilled that the flap was attached with the MS20257 hinge, but the safety track record demonstrated that it is good enough.  Except I screwed up and trimmed my weak flap hinge too short at the highest stress point.

Solution – I trimmed 3 more inches off the 1/2″ short MS20257 hinge, and add 3.5 inches or high quality MS20001 hinge.  I slid the pin out before I cut, so my pin is only 1/2 inch shorter than both pieces of hinge, and runs continuous through them.  I now have the better quality hinge at the high stress point (where the actuator works) and this will keep the flap hinge from peeling in the event of a slight overspeed.

The two hinge sections on the common pin.

Both hinges drilled and clecoed in place.  I like this better than the original, and I will do the same thing on the other side.  (I have to.  I cut them both short).

Remember the 1/2″ too short pin?  This, too, is a feature.  I centered the pin in the hinge, and drilled a tiny hole for a cotter pin – 1/4″ from each side.  This is about halfway across the end segment on each side.  I am drilling with a #55 bit.

Here is the (test) cotter pin neatly terminating my piano hinge pin.  This isn’t going to fall out.  All my piano hinge pins will be terminated similarly.  My flight instructor drilled it in to me to check these cotter pins on my Cessna Ailerons during preflight.  I have seen several flying airplanes without them.

Still more work to go on the flaps.  Now I need some 3/4″ by 3/4″ angle 1/16″ thick to finish the mounting brackets.  There are many lengths of this material in the kit box, but I am nervous about using the wrong length – one that is intended for the fuselage.  If I do that, I’ll have to replace an entire angle.  Since I have a piece of 1/8″ by 1″ 6061 T6 C-channel, I think I’ll just trim a 3/4″ by 3/4″ by 1/8″ angle out of that and use it instead.  This will add about 1 ounce to the airplane – I checked!

An extra ounce?  I know:  “take care of the ounces and the pounds will take care of themselves.”  However, this is budget building, and will require some compromise.  I also have to take care of the dollars, and the thousands will take care of themselves.


Flapping my Wings…

1/29/2018 – Right Wing Flap Construction – 4.5 hours

Here are the parts before beginning.  KW drilled the lower holes on the spar the flange, as well as the lightening holes and rib mounting holes.

Here are the spar and ribs set in place on the lower skin.  Note the upward fold at the rear of the lower skin.  I will be referring to this as the rear spar area.  The main spar is held in place with c-clamps.

A closeup view of rear spar area on the flap.  It has to be trimmed on both sides.  Here, I am drilling the relief hole to trim the 1 3/4″ off the inboard side.  The cuts are then made to the relief hole, and there is much less stress concentration on the finished part.

Once the rear spar are has been trimmed to length, all the ribs can be clamped into position.  The rib holes through the main spar are then transferred through the ribs, and these are clecoed into place.

Now the rib tails are drilled and clecoed to the rear spar extension.  The structure is starting to take shape, but it is very floppy at this stage.  The skin will lock it in position.

After the structure is set, the skin holes on the spar flange are match drilled through the skin.  The extra long drill bit is a big help here.

The positions of the ribs are drawn on the outside of the bottom skin, and skin holes are drilled into the skin and lower rib flanges.  Lots of clecos needed.  Did I mention that I love rivet fans?

Here you can see all the lower holes drilled through the skin into the ribs and spar.

Now the top skin is clamped into position.  Note that this wraps around the back of the spar and forms the trailing edge.

Not shown, I drilled the rear holes on each rib through the bottom skin, locking the skin in position on the flap.

Drawing the position of the spar flange onto the outside of the top skin.

Now, the top skin is drilled to the top spar flange.  At this point, the flap must be perfectly flat, because this is the point where it stops feeling like a dishrag, and starts feeling like a solid flap.  Notice that I still have not drilled the end of the inboard flap rib.  This area must be match drilled with the actuator hardware.

Apparently, I stopped tacking pictures at this point – but there isn’t much else that I did today except to draw the positions of the ribs on the top, and drill the rivet pattern into the top skin.  I am very impressed with the simplicity and solidity of the flap.

*All* I have left to do on the flap is to drill the skin to the top rivet flanges, drill the joint between the top and bottom skins on the bottom of the flap,  find and build the flap mounting hardware, drill the flap hinge, and then dissasemble, debur, dimple, countersink the hinge, zinc chromate the parts, and then rivet it all together again.  And then I have to build the second flap.

Happy with today’s progress.  Having a lot of fun, and hope it stays this way.  I think the secret is to build each part as a separate project – not to think of it as building an airplane, but as building airplane parts.  That way, there are many small completions.


Keeping Track of Cost

One of the reasons for tracking all of this is so that I can know what this project really costs.  I intend to keep a running total of expenditures here.

  • Used RV6 Kit, including Empenage, Wing, and Fuselage subkits.  – $6000.
  • Trip to go and get kit.  Includes fuel, motel, and supplies to load kit on trailer.  $353.78.
  • #40 drill bits for 1/4-20 angle drill.  qty 3.  $5.25.
  • 6 Rattle cans of Zinc Chromate Priner.  $50.61 including shipping.  Ordered 1/30/2018.
  • Inboard and Outboard Aileron Nose Ribs.  $29.51 for the pair with shipping.
  • 1/2 inch galvanized pipe 48 inch long. (Aileron balance weight.)  $9.87.
  • Tube of Silicone Caulk – $2.18.
  • Quart Kit of Wing Tank Sealant from Vans – $57.95
  • 2 new fuel tank cap o-rings – $6
  • Sold MAC servo to offset expenses- $-125 net

Running Total – $6380.15.

Free Stuff (Bought in a lot, and sold enough to cover)

  • Bought used tools – $550 with shipping.  Not included in the total, because I sold the ones I didn’t need for the same amount.  WIN!
  • Hope to put other stuff in this category soon.



Near Future expenses.

  • Qty 3 linear servos.

Big Future Expenses

  • Finishing kit – About 8K.  Hope to find cheaper.
  • Lycoming O-320 – Hope to get a mid-time one for around 7K
  • Prop – hope to get a controllable pitch one, but I have to find it cheap.
  • Radio
  • Other Avionics.  Lots of options.  I hope to build a lot of these on my own.  One of the big reasons for this project is that I hope to experiment with making my own glass cockpit stuff.  I have spent the last few years teaching aviation digital electronics, so this isn’t as far out as it sounds – but it is still pretty far out.

Framing an Aileron Trim Tab

First real day of work – 5.5 hours.  ($5.25 spent on drill bits)

These are the ailerons as I got them.  As you can see from the one on the left, it is missing the nose ribs.  I started looking everywhere for them, and finally found them mounted inside the other aileron, along with 2 extra tail ribs on the outboard section.  I really mulled over why this happened and what to do about it until I remembered that KW had told me he was going to add aileron trim (just like me!)  He was beefing up the aileron to accept a servo and be strong enough to separate a trim tab.

While I was figuring out what became of the nose ribs, I looked up the cost to buy new ones from Vans.  In stock, $13 each.  Wow!  I’m used to Cessna prices – and I like this!  I am also missing the aileron counterbalance weight for the left aileron.  It cost $10 from Lowes – its a piece of 1/2 inch galvanized water pipe.

Anyhow, the aileron trim tab KW began is on the outboars side of the right aileron.  I was thinking inboard, but since he began on the outboard, I’ll go that route.  I want to frame up a trim tab not unlike the rudder trim tab as per the plans.

Rudder Trim tab as per Vans Plans

Existing framing.  The two inside nose ribs and tail ribs are extras added by KW.  He already drilled the skins to match the ribs, so I was committed.  Luckily, I already had a length of MS20257 hinge – the same hinge Vans calls out in the plans for the elevator trim.

Frame with hinge.

Fabricating a trim tab spar of 0.032 2024 T3.  Luckily, I had some scrap to do the job.

Folded end of spar clamped on inboard rib.  Outboard rib trimmed, folded, and temporarily clamped in place.  The spar is clecoed to the inboard rib, but the outboard can’t be drilled until the skins are fitted up.

Trimming up the middle rib.  This will also be drilled after the skin is clecoed back on.

Spar clamped in place with skin installed and clecoed.

Cutting off the skin aft of the spar.

Trim tab cutout.  Now I can drill and cleco the joints between the ribs and spar, as the final position of the ribs is set by the skin clecos.

Laying out rivet pattern for spar/hinge/skin joint.  Rivet fans are a great tool.  You can see stools in the background.  I am working in the SIU Aviation Technologies Sheet Metal lab, where I teach aviation sheet metal fabrication and repair.  This is how I just “happen” to have so much good stuff and access to so many nice tools.

Hinge clecoed in position.  Trimmed portions of ribs clecoed back onto the cut out portion which becomes the trim tab skin.

Using one of the rib ends to make a pattern for a new rib.  Don’t try a job like this without a caliper.  I’m old fashioned enough to like my dial version over the more modern (and less reliable) digital versions.

Rib form block cut out of scrap pine and radiused.

Drawing the rib blank.  I used 0.030 aluminum instead of the 0.025 of the other ribs.  That will add a couple grams.  We’ll have to check the balance before we fly!

Hand forming the flanges with a rubber hammer.  This will be followed up with a more precise sheet metal hammer.

My new rib alongside the outboard rib and the pine bending block.

Clamping the trim tab to a straight edge before drilling the new rib to the skin.

Not shown – forming the trim tab spar.

Trimming and folding up the rib to fit the spar.  I’ve cut the triangle forming block to length, and I’ll hammer the flange down.  Notice the relief holes in the corners.  This was done on the 2 outside ribs.  The center rib will not be riveted in to the spar, forming a stiffener instead of a rib.  The full aileron had stiffeners only in the center, not ribs.  My trim tab is fine with a stiffener instead of a rib.

Trim tab set in position.

Drilling the skin/spar/hinge joint.

Tim tab clecoed in place, shown slightly raised.  Raising the trim tab will push the aileron down, pushing the wing up – so the trim tab moves the same direction as the wing travels.

Bottom clecos removed to fit in the bending brake.  Lower skin bent as per elevator instructions.

Completed end view of formed trim tab.  Compare to end view of elevator tab below.  I need to get the servo before I finish the tab.  I have decided to use the Actuonix digital servos because they are light, low cost, and I can hook them to an autopilot as well as a simple trim system.  They are specifically intended to be controlled by Arduino, and that will probably be the brains on my trim computer and my autopilot system.

I’m very happy with the trim tab – it easily moves up and down through an appropriate range – about 15 degrees down, and as far up as I want.  I can control the precise stops when I add the servo.

Reminder of the elevator trim for comparison.

About me and my project

To the very rare person who stumbles on my RV6 Documentation Site:

I was fortunate enough to take over a partially complete RV6 project early this year (January 20th, 2018).  As a *competent* sheet metal mechanic, this seems like a good way for me to get the aircraft I want – something sleek and fast that is also  safe.  The RV6 seems to be a good candidate – and this kit that was partially built by KW is a great starting point.

The kit I bought was originally purchased in 1998 or thereabouts.  It was built before Vans began prepunching the kits.  It is for an straight RV6, which means it has *conventional* landing gear – or in other words it has a tailwheel.  The original buyer/builder largely completed the empenage kit, was about 1/2 to 2/3rds done with the wing, and did not begin on the fuselage.  Unfortunately for me and my budget, he did not purchase the finishing kit yet – so that will be an expense I will have to prepare for along with an engine, prop, and avionics and instruments.  He did, however, give me a fuselage jig that he and some friends constructed.  This jig has already produced a flying RV6 – so that is reassuring.  Hauling that jig 750 miles on the roof of the suburban made my fuel economy go from 14.8 mpg to 11.5 mpg.

Thus far, the build quality on the kit looks to be excellent.  KW is an A&P IA with incredible amounts of experience, and it shows.  I am an A&P IA with a little less experience, so I consider myself qualified to make this judgement.

Since I am not a competent tailwheel pilot and since I like to let other people land my airplane, I will have to convert this kit to an RV6A with a nose wheel.  I really don’t intend to deviate much from the aircraft kit, but I do want three axes of trim so that I can add full autopilot.   This means adding trim tabs to the rudder and ailerons – something that is not included in the plans.

For the purpose of documenting my 51%, this kit is far less complete than a modern quick-build kit.  The spars are complete, and the leading edges have been riveted together and partially riveted to the spars.  The fuel tanks are partially complete.  The rear ribs are riveted to the spars, and the rear spar is clecoed in place.  The other skins are clecoed in place as well.  Many of the holes have been dimpled.

The empenage is largely completed, although I will be making the aforementioned mods to the rudder.  There is still a good deal of trimming and fitting to be done around the edges and endcaps of the pieces.

The ailerons are partially drilled, but can be regarded as unstarted when compared to a modern pre-punched kit.  The flaps are completely unstarted.

And now I am ready to begin building.

Ailerons and Fiberglass Tips

Elevators, Vertical Stab, and Rudder.

Unstarted Fuselage Kit

Plans and Paperwork (a critical part of a kit.  Don’t buy a kit without the right documentation!)

Wings and Horizontal in a lovely rolling stand.  Thanks, Ken!

End view of Wings.