Another year draws quickly to a close, with what feels like not a lot of progress on this project. I have a tall stack of ribs, but really nothing else. I had hoped to have a good start on the tail surfaces by now, but haven’t even started on them. We’ll need the basement for a family Christmas party, so no laying a 4×8 sheet of MDF over the island down there to start laminating pine. No worries, though. I have located some nice clear pine boards at Menard’s that will rip down nicely into 10′ long lamination strips. I have an order of Finnish birch ply queued up on Aircraft Spruce’s web site, ready to place the order once I’m sure I have all the stuff on there that’s going to be expensive to ship. As soon as we’re finished with the post-party cleanup, I’ll have the basement available to work in through the rest of the winter since the garage will just be a bit too cold for epoxy.
I also got a great idea from one of the guys on the Biplane Forum. I’ve been pondering how to store the wing ribs. I think I’ll build short pieces of main and rear spars out of pine and non-certified plywood, just to assemble all the ribs and clamp them together. That way I can surface sand them all together, and maybe if I’m lucky use that assembly to run them through the table saw for trimming as well. Maybe.
Haven’t done much in the past few days, mostly because I’ve had the workbench cleared off to fix a recalcitrant robot vacuum. I did unroll some of the plans and take a good long look at the tail surface sheet. Sixteen feet or so of paper, mind you… not the easiest thing to manage on a 6′ countertop! I wish that had been split into two sheets.
It looks like I can build the entire fin and rudder out of pine and plywood, so that’s my next project, I think. I’ll go look for a suitable 10′ length of pine at Menard’s that can be ripped down into decent quality lamination strips. Once the saw is set up for that I’ll make as many as I can, since I’ll have a bunch of other laminations to do as well for the wingtips and fuelage. Then I’ll look at what to do for the elevator and stabilizer spars.
I’ve knocked out a few more aileron ribs, two at a time. I’m about halfway through them and trying to speed things up a little, so I don’t die of old age with a half finished airplane.
Yesterday I decided to use up a piece of obviously bad capstrip Aircraft Spruce saw fit to ship me. This piece has a large chunk missing out of one edge, part of a knothole or pitch pocket or something. Part of it is in no way suitable for aircraft use or much else for that matter. But – there’s enough good wood there to use it for false ribs, so I made one of those. That went OK, but it’s apparent that I will need to soak the top capstrip in HOT water for the false ribs.
I’m looking forward to starting work on the tail surfaces. I’m planning to get out to the garage and clear off the workbench this week, lay out the plans and see exactly what I will need to get started. The wood called out is white pine, so I’ll start checking the local places for suitable pieces of white pine or Douglas fir… a little heavier, but I know Menard’s sells some good boards from which I can cut suitable pieces for the laminations.
It’s a little early for this debate, but given the long lead times for ordering wood… not too early. I could possibly be done building the wing ribs in a month or two, if I get on it with a purpose. If I’m going to need a bunch of spruce, I probably need to get the order in now. So the question becomes — what next?
- I could build the wings. It looks like the wood for the spars will cost me around $8-900, plus substantial shipping. I’d also need to extend my workbench by at least 4 feet, so that’s another project in itself. But I’d have wings, man, which would look bitchin’ cool hanging in the garage or hangar.
- I could start on the fuselage. It’s a big piece that would be a huge leap forward. I haven’t calculated the wood cost yet, but it’s a significant amount of birch ply and spruce. Again, I’d have to build another workbench to extend what I have by 8 feet or so (and rearrange the garage).
- I could start on the tail feathers. I could do all the work on my existing workbench. After looking at the parts list, most of the wood specified is pine; I’d need some aircraft ply as well. The elevator & stab. spars are specified as spruce, but I could source suitable quality Douglas fir locally and substitute that. I’ve seen boards at Menard’s with growth rings and grain slope that meet specs, with enough defect-free wood to be usable. That means all I would need to ship from Aircraft Spruce or Wick’s would be a couple sheets of plywood. Plus, building the tail would give me some valuable experience with large/long glue-ups that I’ll need to do for the wing spars, and if I screw it up it’s relatively cheap pine instead of very expensive spruce.
So… tail feathers it is. Now I just need to consult the plans and see what size sheets of plywood I will need to order.