Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ready for the Layup

I spent the whole Saturday preparing the layup work. And as usual, it took me much longer than I thought. This time it was due to the ever moving and changing glass cloth weave. I h*te glasswork!
It started pretty benign with some more masking.

Aligning these pieces was not exactly easy but I think I did a fairly good job after a while and I decided to let it be good.
Unfortunately, all the electric tape I had was black and as I intend to dye the resin black as well, this wouldn't really allow me to do a good fine adjustment of the cloth when laying it down. So off I went to the home improvement store of my choice to pick up some red electric tape.

I found it pretty hard to bridge a straight line from one template to the other. I tried to use a string but that did not create the line I was looking for. I ended up doing it manually by trying to keep an equal distance to the forward bow as seen through the canopy.

I drew the outline of the templates onto the duct tape to help with the alignment of the pieces of cloth during the layup and removed the templates. On went the second the layer of electric tape.

And then it all came apart when starting to cut out the pieces of glass cloth.

Here it's still looking good. See how I tried to be effective and avoid a lot of waste. Well, that wasn't exactly the problem. The problem showed up when I had cut these pieces out. Thanks to Dave's post about his experience when he did this, I knew that there was a chance to introduce some distortion to layout while you are cutting it. I used a pizza cutter as well as scissors and I would have probably not verified that the cloth was matching the template if it wasn't for Dave's post.
So I did check the cutout piece and it was in no way close to the template's shape. I later used it to cut the next smaller size.
I took me a few experiments to find out that it works much better when you first cut out the rough shape of the template from the large piece of cloth. The take the piece and put it on the table where you want to later cut it. Stretch it out and see that the weave looks even. Put the template on and draw the outline on the cloth. Start cutting and try to disturb the cloth as little as possible during cutting. Cut the critical edges first (the one facing the canopy and the skirt). Put the template back on and verify that with a little tweaking you can still get a good fit with the outline you had drawn before. If not, use a different color pen and draw the correction on. Make sure the critical edge is ok and then cut the rest. I left quite a bit extra on on the non-critical edges, to make sure I could adjust the cloth on the fuselage once it's drenched in resin.
This worked ok for me and I had no more pieces that were a throw-out. It took me significant time though to finish the 10 pieces. Here's the last one on the cutting table.

I sorted the pieces into layup stacks for left and right side in the correct order (1 is on the top and 5 is down below).

I also started scuffing the canopy but it got dark and I didn't take a picture, so you'll have to wait till tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, it is supposed to only get to 77 F after a high of 90 today. I think this will actually be helpful for the layup as it will give me a bit more time adjust everything before the resin will get gummy. I'll start in the morning finishing the scuffing job and I also have to lay down the mylar tape but other than that I am ready to go.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Layup Delayed

I had great intentions for this weekend, as I wanted to get the layup of the canopy skirt at least started,but then was reminded of the old #1 rule of aircraft building. Rule #1: "It always takes much longer than you anticipated".
Before gluing on the filler foam blocks on the canopy frame arms, I noticed that I had a small problem on the right side of the canopy. One that could become a major drag during the upcoming fiberglass work. The problem was that the aluminum side skirt was not closely following the curve of the canopy glass where it was supposed to smoothly flow into the curvature of the forward fuselage. Instead, it was gaping away quite a bit.
During the layup, epoxy would flow into that gap as well as the fibergass cloth would sag into the opening. This would create an area that would have to get filled up to smoothen it - followed by a lot of sanding.
It looked much easier to fix the problem now by attaching the aluminum more closely to the canopy. I did just that by pulling the skirt away a bit, roughing up the glass with a Scotchbrite pad and injecting some fast curing, thick epoxy and clamping it down.

This resulted in a very nice curve and will hopefully save me a lot of work later.
Next were the foam blocks. Besides the tapering to adjust for the angle in the arms of the canopy, they also had to get trimmed to follow the outer shape of the arms. Tipping up the canopy allowed the Sharpie to mark the outlines.

The bandsaw made this a very short task. The hole for the bolt was a different story though. I just had a 3/4" step drill but I doubt there would have been enough room to actually use the 7/8" drill they asked for. The hole gets really close to the surrounding material and the foam is not very strong. After drilling the 3/4" hole I used a fine half-round file to enlarge the opening just enough to allow for the clearance of the bolt and the washer.

Due to another builder's blog I had trimmed the canopy front much more than the required 1/8" clearance to the panel. Actually it looks more like 1/4" now and the gap would allow resin to possibly stick to the front side of the forward bow. So I covered that bow with duct tape.

I also filled other holes and cavities were resin could get into the cockpit and cause ugly runs.

Then I glued the foam pieces in place, using the thick floxed epoxy that was asked for in this task.

I used the fast hardener with the West Systems 105 resin. While the epoxy was curing I worked on a previous task that I had to delay as I was waiting for the raw material to arrive from Van's - the guide blocks.
At first I was a bit at a loss as to how to shape this gummy material but then found the belt sander to work quite ok.

Installing them per plans caused some interference between the rearmost screw and nut on the canopy skirts.

A bit more of a problem on the passenger side than on the pilot's side. So, off they came again and yet another session at the belt sander relieved the guide blocks of their forward lower outer edge as to clear the screw and nut.

The epoxy had cured in the meanwhile and I manufactured a sanding tool for shaping them in the next step. I used an 18" long piece of a 2x4 and used the slow curing epoxy to attach some 60 grit sandpaper to it. Because of the slow curing epoxy (to fully soak into paper and wood, I had to let it sit over night. Oh, and some of my reloading equipment helped with this task too ( about 4000 rounds of 180gr. bullets are a nice weight to press the wood against the sandpaper).

Not too many words for the next pictures. It took quite a while to sand this to shape. Mainly because there is just so much material to be removed.

Done! On the pilot side I remembered that I had a cute little tool to shape balsa wood just as I had to shape the foam right now. It's a small planer that uses a common razor blade. After a short search I found it. It made this task much much quicker.

Just be careful not to remove too much with the planer, then sand down the rest.

You can't see it in the picture but I also used a layer of packaging tape (the slickest you can find) over the existing duct tape around the foam block. This prevented the duct tape from getting roughed up and the resin later sticking to it. I removed the packaging tape after the sanding.

The result of this weekend was that I have perfectly shaped foam blocks glued to the fore arms of the canopy frame. The gaps of the canopy are all filled to keep epoxy from running into the cockpit area excessively and the cloth should also not sag too much into low areas around the forward canopy support bow (a photo, I have not taken yet).
I hope to continue the prep work for the layup during the week, so to be ready for the actual fiberglassing on the weekend. I have yet to cut the fiberglass cloth, and the template and mask the canopy layup line with electric tape.
Some might call this stalling but I remember from my RC model days that the magic of fiberglassing is in the preparation. The job is much less tedious when properly prepared and planned for.
And, it's not that I would have much else to do either. I am still waiting for the SkyView, although some Van's people are at least talking to me about it now, so there's hope. Dave in Ohio made a good decision to delay his SV adventure until the summer. By then this might all have turned into a boring cookie-cutter package holiday, which - in the case of avionics - is a very desirable way of spending your (building) time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Prepping the Skirt

I got home early on Friday and immediately went to work at the canopy. I had lots of masking to do! At first I put the two missing panels in, as to stabilize the whole instrument deck area. I don't think it was necessary but I wanted to make sure that the fiberglass would follow the line exactly and not create a gap or some interference when I put the instrument panels in later.

However, I forgot to take a photo before I covered everything up with plastic to avoid messing up the interior with drops of epoxy.
Then I masked everything on the outside. Canopy decks, side skins, top skin and also the areas behind the front of the canopy frame. I don't like the idea of using paper for masking when it comes to epoxy as that stuff easily penetrates paper and loves sticking to whatever is underneath, That's why I used thin plastic trash bags.

During that whole endeavor I was cautiously eyed by a professional pilot who happened to have a nest in der corner under the patio where he's raising the next generation of aviators. I hope he didn't see anything incorrect I was doing.

I fitted the foam blocks on the canopy arms and just like Dave, I found the first step pretty easy to do with the bandsaw.

And, just like Dave, I found the aft part of the block to need some adjustment for fitting in.

It's quite easy to mark the two spots on the bottom and on the top of the foam blocks and connecting them with a line does the job. The bandsaw took care of the rest.

Now it fit and quite nicely so. I later found that I might have a bit too little material in the front part and so I might just epoxy a thin strip of foam on there. It's not structural, so that wouldn't be a problem.

I will try to get everything ready for the layup in the morning when I epoxy the block on. Shaping them shouldn't take too long and that's also true for scuffing up the aluminum and plexiglass. I'll try to get it done on Saturday as Sunday has some windy weather forecast which might just be annoying when dealing with thin sheets of glass cloth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SkyView on the Horizon

No work has been done on the plane over the weekend. The reason for this is twofold. On Saturday, my friend Denny wanted to come by with his flying -12 from Deer Valley to take a look at my project. To avoid embarrassment about a really messy workshop, I cleaned up a bit and made everything look a little bit more professional as a lot of clutter had collected over the last few weeks. However, the weather did not agree and strong winds and gusts were moving in a day early and canceled Denny's flight - leaving me with a clean workshop.
I couldn't really use this opportunity though as all I had to do was happening outside the shop and would have also required to tip up the canopy which I refused to do during these heavy winds rolling though the backyard.
The following day was characterized by a severe temperature drop (last night was close to freezing) and I couldn't convince myself to even leave the cozy warmth of the house for more than just a minute or two at a time.

There's one big improvement though. I contacted Van's after waiting for additional information about my SkyView order. Initially they had emailed me that they'd tell me more about my order status within 2-3 weeks and by now I was waiting for 6 weeks without a notice and so I thought it was time to show some initiative.
Barb and Diane from Van's were very helpful and I am supposed to among the next 10 orders to get shipped out. They mailed me my balance (I hadn't paid in full when ordering as I wasn't sure how many months they'd be sitting on my money) and I'll send them the rest this week so remove any financial obstacles that could prevent them from filling that order.
Hopefully I'll see my SV package in the weeks and even more so I am hoping that there are no wiring harnesses on backorder. As a matter of fact, I could live without the SV display and other hardware for a while if I only get all the wiring done for now. THIS is the real reason why I was and am held up.
Once the rest of the wiring went in, I can put the bird on its feet and continue with all the other tasks that I held off until I don't have to turn the fuselage on its side anymore.
Let's cross fingers, that the SV package get here by the end of March (of THIS year)!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crossing The Line

This post describes the little bit of work done over two days, just in case you notice some odd lighting or such in the photos.

On my way back from the paying job, I picked up some more cans of primer from the National Aerospace Parts Association or short NAPA. So when I got home I scrubbed the modified angles that will help lifting the canopy out of its closed position. After some sun drying I applied two coats of primer (on the back only, where it touches the bare metal of the skirts) and let them sit to dry out.
Then I could finally rivet them on and finish the skirt riveting by doing so.

I also had received a package from Van's that contained those desperately needed parts. Well, the desperately needed part I should because only one part in the package was dearly needed. More about that a bit later.

Some additional parts that I will later for finishing my SkyView panel I had ordered with this shipment as I thought I might be able to bridge some more days with this work while still waiting for my SV. Bill Hollifield had filled me in on those needed parts.
I heard that Van's had changed the design of the map box cover which would be a heck of a lot easier to install. I read how much trouble others had and so I chose to get that cover, along with a new right side panel that goes with it. The new right panel also has no cut out for the ELT and the Intercom. I might put them back in as I'd like to have my PCAS in the left panel where the SV now has the ELT and Intercom. It might be easier to track it in that spot right above the SV screen.

Here are the parts you need for the new style map box cover.

If you don't want to zoom in, The right panel is F-00035 and the cover is F-00021. The manual update you can see, is 29A. You still need the rest of the map box parts that you have put aside when receiving your kit.

So the following day I took a closer look at the other parts I had received from Van's. Among them I was hoping to find the desperately needed guide block part that mysteriously couldn't be located by its name C-1212. Neither in the web store nor in my work shop. Well, the mystery finally got resolved.

The part in the top was what I had ordered, a C-1207, in the assumption that this must have been it what was missing from the Canopy parts bag. Well, as you can see this is a part I had just installed a few posts back and this was certainly not what I was missing. So I started digging a bit deeper into that bag and into two items cryptically described as PS UHMW-750X1/2X2 and PS UHMW-150X1/2X2.
To cut this short, the part called 750 is in the photo on the left side and the 150's are the two thin parts in the middle and on the right. Problem is, that I needed TWO of the 750 part and only ONE of the 150. The manual did nowhere note that the mysterious part C-1212 is supposed to be manufactured from the PS UHMW-750X1/2X2 raw material. That's why I wasn't able to find a hint of it.
Result is that I put another order in for TWO PS UHMW-750X1/2X2 (just in case i mess one up, as I have been known to do such things) but there is no way they could arrive here before the weekend and I certainly wasn't going to pay for overnight shipping for two parts that cost $3.10 each (still, $3.10 for 2 inches of plastic?).
I guess, I'll just have to work around it until it gets here next week.

So, on I went to install the latch handle assembly. First a shot of the cured and partially cleaned up filler that is supposed to keep water out of the cockpit.

Finally I could install the upper part of the latch handle and continue installing the rest of the assembly. I was precisely following Van's measurements on these parts. And I also followed precisely that somewhat convoluted description of installing the latch block in step 2 on page 34-10. It worked out perfectly and so maybe it's worth breaking it up in so many steps.

I didn't have to do any trimming or fine adjustment, everything turned out just as Van's wanted it. I continued with the next step which I still don't fully understand what it's for... Installing that little plastic support at the back of that metal hook just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Anyway, I put the raw piece in place and match-drilled it as I was asked to do and then shaped it to match the shape of the metal hook.

To give it a little bit of meaning I made sure that it was extending just a tad above the level of the hook so to not scrape the paint off the latch handle when it locks the canopy.

And in closed position.

With all this done I just jumped across the line of 800 hours worked on the plane. When I had ordered the first subkit and estimating how long it would take me, I thought that I should be done by now. I guess the decision to prime easily cost me 250 - 300 hours. Not that I would be much farther to First Flight, as I had just likely waited longer for SkyView, but at least I could have done something else with that time :-).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Canopy Installed

So after a not very eventful evening shift, I got up quite early and went back to where I had left of the day before. Finishing the screws on the skirts of the canopy.

The first half is easy to get at on each side but then you'll have to tip the canopy open to get to the rest of them.

On both sides I didn't rivet the handles onto the skirts yet. The reason is that I am out of spray can primer and as these are mounted outside and could get exposed to rain, I definitely want to put a coat of primer on the backside of these handles that face the skirts' surface.
Then I ran into a problem that needed time to fix. When installing the latch handle I saw that the eccentric hole created such a large gap on one side that I didn't want to leave it like this.

The solution came in form of a tube of Dynaflex 230 (clear) which is an indoor/outdoor sealant. I tried it on a piece of scrap plexiglass and it doesn't seem to affect it at all.

So I applied it into the gap and smoothened it out before letting it sit. Unfortunately, it takes about 24h to fully cure and I did want to clean up before installing the handle.

This stuff will stay flexible when cured, so I am not worried that it could separate or keep the canopy from expanding in heat. The handle installation will have to wait until this stuff is all cured, That's when it will lose its white color and turn clear. Cool stuff.
Looking ahead in the manual I found the next road block. I either lost a part from the bags or never inventoried it. Either way, I do have only one guide block. This part is referred to in the manual as C-1212 which must be a mistake as there is no such part in the whole kit. The only bag that contains canopy parts lists a C-1207 as guide block and there should be two but I can find only one. I ordered this part and I had to gasp when I saw the price. This 2"x.5"x.75" piece of plastic goes for $7.40 - plus shipping. Wow! What kind of a hitech polymer is this??
Anyway, I ordered it along with the parts for the fuel tank service bulletin although I am still not sure if I will install those brackets.

Look at step 1 in the upper left corner. It clearly says C-1212 and does so repeatedly throughout the instructions. Change it to C-1207 and you'll be able to find the part in the bags.