It was quite exciting unpacking the fuselage kit and seeing so many new materials and shapes we hadn’t encountered in the empennage.
It was also slightly scary – having completed the tail surfaces and convinced ourselves that they vaguely resembled parts of an aircraft, we were now faced with piles of random metal pieces again!
Things are definitely easier now that we’ve moved on to the second kit – our confidence is higher and we’re happier just giving things a go and seeing what happens. That also means that our rate of reordering bits we’ve messed up has risen slightly, but overall we are definitely progressing faster. We have a better idea of the required standard so we are not wasting time second-guessing ourselves – if we see a bad rivet, it’s drilled out and replaced straight away without needing to check with the inspector.
We’ve found we aren’t afraid to challenge the instructions as we now know more about what ‘good’ looks like. If that rivet called out in the plans looks too short, it probably is – there have been several occasions where that’s been the case. The instructions are excellent but not infallible. We also have to bear in mind that we have been adding a few fractions of a millimetre to the thickness of every piece due to the priming, so it’s possible a rivet that’s narrowly within spec on the plans will be out by the time we put several painted pieces together.
We have got better at thinking a few steps ahead, skipping forward in the instructions and thinking about the next set of parts that’s needed rather than sticking religiously to the prescribed order. That has definitely meant we get more done in a single session and have better awareness of the big picture.
There is an awful lot of deburring in the fuselage kit to start with, which can get wearing as it’s fiddly and repetitive. The floor of the forward fuselage is a single skin and the internal structure comes from a large number of ribs of varying shapes and sizes, which are riveted and bolted to a series of bulkheads.
So far we have had several weeks of non-stop deburring in every scrap of free time, followed by two weekend days of washing the pieces and blitzing the priming. There is a lot of green stuff around at the moment!
Many of the ribs have doublers or other attachments that are riveted onto them, so there’s a fair bit to keep track of as you go along. Lots of labelling things ‘L’ and ‘R’ and checking and re-checking to be 100% sure you’re riveting the right pieces to each other!
The fuselage instructions assume more knowledge and common sense than those in the empennage. For example, often one side of the assembly will be covered step by step, and you’ll then have to complete the same steps for the other side (a mirror image) yourself. It can take a bit of thought but we are managing OK and so far haven’t done anything backwards…we think.
There are two very solid central bulkheads in the forward fuselage, which look impressive when they arrive and are partially drilled and riveted already. Given the size of some of the rivets, I think that’s done simply because they couldn’t expect an amateur builder to have a tool that would be capable of setting them! These pieces are especially heavy-duty because they’ll be taking most of the stress where the wings attach. Heavy-duty is good.
Once again we’ve found it reassuring to see how well the structure comes together – when the initial rivets go in, the ribs can seem flimsy and delicate, but as soon as you add a piece connecting them, you can instantly see the difference in rigidity. The individual pieces are not especially strong, but their strength comes from the way they are combined. Engineering is cool 🙂
The fuselage kit contains a fair bit of stainless steel – especially around the firewall – whereas in the empennage pretty much everything was aluminium. We are pros at deburring alclad now, but we will have to refine our technique and probably get some different grades of sandpaper as we are finding the stainless steel much harder work. Any builders with tips on this?
…and of course we’ve lost the house again under a pile of metal. It was bound to happen and visitors are now used to it!