Vertical Stabilizer Complete

It took a while to complete. Starting a new job didn’t help. But the first section is now done!



Getting ready to attack the Rudder Assembly!



I recently started a new job at Xilinx and got too busy to go flying or continue building (or post to this blog).

But I made good use of my last week of freedom to get a taildragger refresher at AeroDynamic Aviation (KRHV). We started with the good ol’ Citabrias.

However, I couldn’t help but long for the quasi-new Husky on the ramp.   

   Fun airplane! 

The following weekend, I took my youngest for her first flight in a taildragger. She was looking at the stick, puzzled and asked: “Is this to move my seat?” 🙂   She got the real taste of it later in the flight.   

 Another cherished moment…  



Jason Beaver graciously paid me a visit to check on my early stage work. He pointed to the insufficient deburring of the CNC cut edges on the spar doubler. It’s thick and requires a bit more filing and sanding than I had invested. I thus re-ordered a few parts and re-did it. It feels so smooth now.  

And, since in the meantime I’ve become better at using the squeezer, the final work looks much better.   

 For those AN470 rivets that still  needed to be bucked, I followed Jason’s advice and got rivet set caps on eBay. A small investment for much cleaner results.  

Tools, tools, tools…

I was already getting tired of squeezing all those clecos. Thus I decided to invest in a Cleco Installation Tool found at Pan American Tools. They have two models. I picked this one. I love it!

I was also struggling to rivet parts of the tail ribs and spar with my light and somewhat clunky iron bucking bar. Picking up a tungsten one from reddottool on eBay solved this problem.  

It’s so much denser…   

 I now find myself almost exclusively using the tungsten one. Especially to buck the tail skin rivets to the ribs. It’s tight in there…

I fought my fear of countersinking

I did my first dimples on the tail kit this morning. To help, I bought some aluminum stock at Home-Depot to fine-tune my microstop cage. 

Usually one can just pop in a rivet into the practice hole to see if it’s of the right depth. However, countersunk holes need to be a little deeper when the piece attaches to a dimpled skin. I thus made myself a dimple template to verify the size of my holes as I go.

Going along, I was always confusing which direction to rotate the cage. I printed it on the cage itself. 

Finally, the piece being countersunk needs room under it to allow for the pilot pin to go through. Thus, the piece of wood shown below. 

Here’s my countersinking tool kit:

The results were not bad at all… 


Back in the saddle 

After an overly long hiatus getting tools, caused by a shipping snafu, and some turmoil in my professional life, I’m back in the shop.

I finished match-drilling the skin for the tail (vertical stabilizer). It’s quite impressive to see it all clecoed together.

As many builders do, I’ve decided to put masking tape on holes that will be worked on later. It prevents drilling/dimpling them in a moment of routine work.

My wife was quite puzzled when she came back the next day and the tail had vanished. I was then deburring everything using an electric screwdriver and deburring bit. In some cases, I’ve had to rely on the time-tested manual tool too.

And, to remove the plastic protective covering, I just use my soldering iron with a fairly wide and dull point.


Finally everything is primed (I decided to only do the mating surfaces on the skin interior) and  ready for dimpling/riveting. This self-etching primer, as I said in an earlier post, works very quickly. Just wipe the parts with their solved and shoot from the can. But it smells very, very strong. I do it in the morning when I can leave the garage door open for a few hours. Needless to say, I use a high quality respirator when applying this stuff. Note that Sharpie markings can still conveniently be seen through the primer. The holes that are circled are the ones to leave untouched at this stage. I’ll put tape back on them, just to be sure, before engaging in the dimpling routine. 



Visit to Van’s

I took the opportunity of a business trip to Spokane to play hooky and ‘spend’ a long eight-hour layover in Portland.  Thirty minutes south, at the Aurora airport (KUAO), is Van’s Aircraft factory.

What I saw there is a very tidy,  well organized and modernly equipped fabrication plant.

In addition to the object of my lust…   

 An unexpected problem with the aircraft, a dead battery, lent itself to a quick inspection under the cowling.


I couldn’t help and took pictures of the avionics and its installation. This airplane is very similar to how I’d like to equip mine (although fully IFR).

 And, finally, the icing on the cake, a test flight! What a fantastic machine. As my guide pilot said: “It just wants to fly!” 

I can’t wait to fly mine! :)) <- “RV Grin”

First lesson learned

I finished page 1!! The tail spar doubler is in place. 

I used the squeezer for the flat rivets. That works so well (vs bucking).

The next rivets are AN470 and too far for the squeezer. I thus had to buck them. I went slowly and got very good results. Which makes me wonder if a 2x rivet gun wouldn’t have been easier to handle (than a 3x)? We’ll see as the build evolves…


Note the ‘smiley’ scratch on the leftmost rivet. The metal is not really bent but the primer is scratched.
I already had an AN470 rivet set in my gun when I pulled it out of the drawer. I last used it to fix our pop-up camper. I put a rivet head in the set and, erroneously concluded it was a 3-sized cup. Afterwards, I double-checked and it was a 4-sized cup. Duh! Here’s where the little smiley scuff is from. 🙂

Lesson learned!

Don’t forget to go flying…

I try to remind myself not to forget to go flying. A little someone’s eagerness gave me the motivation to drive to the flight club, Magnum Aviation at E16, to refresh my 90-day currency. 

Two engineer parents. Three kids. At least there’s one of them showing interest in flying and building airplanes. She was really involved in the pre/post-flight too!

We did a few traffic patterns to get my three landings and decided to go see the ocean in the Monterey Bay. It was completely overcast. I gave her the yoke for a while. Few things warm the heart more than hearing a seven-year old say: “Papa! I can’t believe I’m driving! Wait until I tell my friends I drove the plane.” :)))

We had done a bunch of roller coaster rides at Great America the day before. I showed her we could mimick the effect in the plane too.

What a nice way to start the weekend!