We always knew that the decision to build a plane would affect every aspect of our lives.

Initially we had this crazy idea that the plane building work would happen in the workshop (in this case our landlord’s garage) and that the house would be for living in when we weren’t building a plane.

That stance probably lasted a couple of days. Like a persistent dog that gives you a folorn look every time you tell it it’s not allowed on the sofa, the plane’s domain gradually grew and expanded. It only took a few iterations of “oh OK, I suppose we could keep that there for a while,” and before long there were kit parts, tools and half-finished tail surfaces dotted almost everywhere around the house.

The spare room was the first to go – “it’s not like someone lives there permanently”, we reasoned with ourselves. The larger bits of sheet metal that came with the kit were too delicate to store on the garage floor whilst we focused on the smaller elements. Periodic flooding made it inadvisable to keep them there anyway (we live at the bottom of a sloping green so we tend to get a couple of inches of water in the garage every few months…). We have since built some reasonably effective flood defences, but I think we would still avoid keeping anything on the floor just in case.

Once you’ve let one part into the house, though, they all want a turn – so what started as a small pile in the corner quickly takes up half the room, and at times the balance has shifted even further than that. We do rearrange the pile in the guest room when people come to stay – as much to protect the parts as the guests, if we’re being honest! Some more recent visitors have noted that they weren’t expecting to share a room with part of a plane tail (we should probably issue a standard disclaimer), and have asked us semi-seriously if they’re expected to build something in exchange for their breakfast. For any future guests, this isn’t an arrangement we’ve formalised, but we’d be happy to discuss 🙂

Then there was the living room. The cold winter months dampened our enthusiasm for spending any longer than necessary in the single-glazed workshop, which often took longer to warm up than the air outside! We would pile on our skiing gear and go out for the tasks that absolutely had to be done in the garage – those using the compressor and larger tools, and those creating lots of shards of metal and dust/paint fumes – but for anything that could possibly be done in the warm, we started bringing the parts and smaller tools inside. Since November 2015, the living room has contained at least one small pile of plane parts (usually ribs or similar) plus a box of tools and a pack of sandpaper.

I had never understood how or why anyone felt the need for a utility room. We liked our house so we decided to rent it, and the utility room came as part of the package – I didn’t have a particular view on it, other than being a bit miffed that it was so incredibly cold and taking steps to avoid it in winter! I certainly didn’t think of it as a necessary or even useful part of the house. That is, until we started priming plane parts. Now the sink out the back has a permanent collection of paint gun paraphernalia, partially made-up primer and curing agent, scales and various pots and measuring syringes. The room has been taken over and is unusable for anything that doesn’t involve a plane, but I am so incredibly grateful for it now and I don’t know how we would manage without it (at least not whilst continuing to use our kitchen to cook or wash up…).

Things came to a head recently, when we found ourselves in the following situation:

  • Four almost-complete tail surfaces on the living room floor (vertical stabilizer, rudder and two elevators). These needed to be kept clean and dry, but were taking up too much space in the workshop for us to progress with some of the larger parts, so they gradually moved inside.
  • Kit parts for the horizontal stabiliser in the guest room – again no space in the garage, and they’re quite delicate before they get riveted together so we were trying to keep them somewhere with limited people traffic.
  • Various partially-deburred ribs scattered around the living room, kitchen and (inexplicably!) bathroom along with the associated tools and sandpaper – reminders of the many moments when we were both too busy to go out to the workshop but felt guilty for not doing any work at all on the plane
  • Most of a pre-assembled back fuselage including bulkheads and bottom skins in the living room. This one I can’t take any credit for – I went away for a week and J decided to “have a play”…
Waving goodbye to the living room...
Waving goodbye to the living room…

I arrived back from my trip and parked up outside the house. Before I went in, I had a text from J telling me to “brace” myself and sending me the above picture!

This weekend we decided to try and do something about the long-term storage of the parts we’ve completed – apart from the fact that it’s annoying not to have full use of any of the rooms in the house, having parts sitting on the floor is not the ideal way of storing them, as it places stress on their flat surfaces and could make them warp over time. Additionally, the lack of floor space meant we were both getting more and more creative about our strategies for crossing the room – at times leaping between spare areas of carpet – which presented us with the constant and very real risk of landing on a part and having to re-do the whole thing!

J had the idea of rearranging some of our bookshelves and hanging the completed parts between them. We bought some cheap 2×2 timber and measured out some hooks to coincide with the bolts on the back of the various pieces. Then we strung up the pieces so they now hang from the attachments that will eventually secure them to the final structure of the plane. Simple and quick, but not only has it given us most of our floor back, it’s made us a lot happier about storing the pieces over a long period of time without damaging them. We’ve even repurposed an existing beanbag to sit underneath and cushion the blow if one of the hooks gives up or the string comes undone!

Vertical stabiliser, rudder and 2 x elevators hanging
Vertical stabiliser, rudder and 2 x elevators hanging

Reclaiming the living room 2

Good result! And oh my gosh there’s FLOOR in the living room…I almost forgot what that looked like 🙂

RV-14 build: Reclaiming the house (a bit)

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