John Devlin's RV6A Shop Experiences








... this... is a summary of some lessons learned by a newbie builder with good shop skills but no prior sheet metal experience.  It is primarily presented for first time builders. 

Carpenter screws.  Harbor Freight sells low cost wood carpenter screws (clamps).  These clamps are very versatile and I prefer them over steel clamps because they won't mar if used without shims.  They also have a deep depth of reach and can be opened easily.  They are easily adjusted to fit over rib and bulkhead flanges.  The two sizes I use are two 12 inch and four 10 inch.  The larger ones also make excellent holding jigs while riveting light but unwieldy components like HS spars, wing rear spars, etc....   Just clamp two to the spar  and set them vertically on the workbench while drilling or riveting.  A couple of wraps of duct tape around the center threads is a good idea to prevent chaffing.  They're like a second set of hands. 

Swivel flush riveter  
Avery sells a swivel flush riveter that is IMHO indispensable for a newbie riveter.  My HS skins were dinged in several places because the alignment of the rivet gun to surface was off slightly. The swivel rivet tool would have prevented this.  It is very forgiving and a bargain. 

Paint guns  
Harbor Freight sells a touch up gun for $20 that works great on  priming small parts.  If  the cup is Teflon coated, I recommend soaking it in MEK and removing the coating with steel wool or another abrasive. The Teflon tends to flake off and clog the paint gun.  The HVLP gun sold by Harbor Freight was discussed several months ago.  I bought one and believe it lives up to all expectations.  The paint savings is dramatic to someone used to conventional sprayers. 

Pneumatic cleco gun 
This item was purchased from Avery as sort of a nice-to-have tool half  way through drilling my wing skins.  I now consider it an essential part of my tool bag.  It saves lots of time and helps prevent 
fatigue from repetitive motion.  In fact, I keep it in a holster, designed for drill motors.  With a my nail apron on to hold clecoes and the cleco gun in my belt clecoing goes fast.  I look a little foolish though;  but who cares? 

Scotchbrite wheels 
Avery sells a 1 inch wheel and mandrel that is outstanding for fast finishing of aluminum edges.  If there was ever a tool that minimizes metal fatigue cracks; this is it.  These tools work well in drill presses and on high speed die grinders; however, they don't last as long on the die grinder but work twice as fast.  After shaping the part on a belt sander, it is passed through the scotchbrite wheel for a smooth 
satin finish.   I usually keep about five wheels on hand and two mandrels, one for narrow edges like skins and the other for structural edges 1/8 inch or better.  I can't comment on the other wheel sizes but it seems other builders are satisfied with them too. 

Homemade tools 
Bucking bars.  There is nothing special about bucking bars.  They are simply a smooth and heavy surface to form the finished rivet.  The manufactured bars are great and several should be purchased but I recommend buying small pieces of scrap steel from a scrap metal yard or welding shop.  Expect to pay about $0.35 per pound for this metal.  Anything more, is a rip-off.  These pieces can be shaped and smoothed for the one or two rivets that can't be reached with a manufactured bucking bar. 

Priming frame 
The task of priming small parts can be a pain because they stick to flat surfaces after painting.  This became a non-problem by using a painting surface made from chicken wire attached to a 2x2 wood frame. The chicken wire mesh size is 1 inch.  The frame can be any size.  I use  one  approximately 3 ft x 7 ft laid across two sawhorses.  Really small parts can be impaled in the mesh while painting.  Because so little surface area actually touches the primed part, it dries fast and completely without 
leaving adhesion marks.. 

Workbench surface 
The manual recommends a plywood or similar surface while drilling  stiffeners to  skins.  I used aluminum backed insulation board on top of my workbench.  This insulation board is used in home construction.  This IMHO is a superior surface.  It doesn't scratch.  The drills easily penetrate it and the clecoed skins can be lifted free when finished.  The material is cheap too.  Of course, the underlying surface must be flat.  None of my skins have any oil canning.  I highly recommend 
it over plywood or particle board. 

Scratch protection 
Carpet remnants are excellent for preventing scratches on bare skins.  The handiest size has been about 2ft x 3ft.  They are particularly beneficial when running the skins through the C frame while dimpling or while back riveting stiffeners to skins.  Use them to cover anything that could produce a scratch.  I keep about 6-8 pieces on hand. They're also good to cover sawhorses when you lay large finished pieces like wings across them.  Involve your spouse or significant other.  Have them help you pick out an appropriate color/texture for your shop decor! 

Wood dowels 
I like to use wood dowels in place of  steel machine screws wherever possible.  For instance, while building the HS on the jig, I used golf tees to hold it to the jig rather than the recommended machine screws. They are easy to insert and remove and they won't enlarge the hole diameter from chaffing.  They'll break before the piece bends.   They're cheap and easy to replace.  The supply is plentiful around my house.  Recently I used a tapered dowel for a temporary pin to mount the gear leg to the mount.  The taper was made on a belt sander in about two minutes. This long tapered pin was easily inserted, found center, and easily removed. 

When inventorying parts, I like to mark on the plastic coating the part number in magic marker in three inch letters.  This is so I can't miss it when searching for it during building.  It gives easy identification. I hate to waste precious building time searching for parts that I've already found once. 

Labeling parts 
Early in the building process I was sensitized to possible metal fatigue due to metal etching stemming from construction labeling.  I don't know where this came from but the first month of building both wings simultaneously nearly drove me crazy keeping track of left - right, top -bottom, tip - root,  leading edge - trailing edge, etc... in my head.  Then I started labeling everything with a laundry marker.  I now mark the jig and parts.  And prime over labels.  Can't label too much in my opinion. 

Parts bags 
When inventorying the bag parts, I transfer them into plastic zip lock freezer bags.  Each bag is marked with the bag number and parts contained in it.  This gives me good visual and documentary identification. The  bag parts are placed in one of three boxes marked rivets, fasteners, or miscellaneous.  The rivet box is further organized by diameter, length and type (AN470 , AN426 or pop rivet). This technique really helps to find parts while building.  While building the wings, the AN3-XX bolts were stored according to length.  Baby food jars worked well for this but 
freezer bags would work too!. 

Red tags 
I like to hang red shipping tags on or in the vicinity of components that I haven't finished or have skipped construction steps. These tags are the fluorescent red 1 inch shipping tags available at office supply stores or Walmart. This is just a visual reminder to go back and complete the step.  It eases the memory load during construction. 

John Devlin

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