Bottom geodetic and false spars

Yesterday I got the rest of the compression member gussets glued in, then cut and glued in all but two of the bottom geodetic braces. Those two I couldn’t get in because of a clamp holding a gusset in place. I also got about a quarter or so of the geodetic intersections glued and clamped before running out of epoxy.

Today I finished up the geodetic members, and had enough glue left to install the false spars on the front of the ribs. I think I may have actually used all of the spring clamps I had over there… in fact I know I did, because today I took over another dozen I’d gotten for Christmas a couple years back, that had been sitting in a gift bag in the basement. I think there were a couple left today, but certainly less than a dozen.

Top geodetic glued in

Yesterday I went over and cut all of the geodetic braces for the top of the wing. Unfortunately, I’d neglected to take over any epoxy – and I’d finished up the last pair of syringes earlier in the week. I remedied that today.

My strategy of using the geodetic braces to shim the rib cap to spar cap joint worked a treat, as the Brits say. It saved me time and trouble. Most were a close fit, and a couple pieces needed sanding to slip in snugly.

I thought I was going to use a record number of clamps, but then I remembered the wingtip bow laminations. Still, it looked like a lot of clamps.

Everything glued and clamped in place. Joints that aren’t clamped are a snug fit and don’t need it.

Compression members in (lower left wing)

Over the past few days, I have gotten the rest of the ribs glued to the rear spar. I’ve left them unattached to the top of the main spar, as I’m planning to just run the geodetic braces between the rib cap and spar rather than use a separate shim between the cap and spar.

Today I got all four of the compression member assembles cut, fitted, and glued in place, and glued plywood gussets on some of the joints. I ran out of time before I could get the remainder of the gussets cut and glued in.

Aileron progress

It’s been an on-and-off couple of weeks. I’ve had a persistent cold/bronchitis that has kept me away from the shop for days at a time. On days I do feel like working, I’ve got a house cleanup project that’s been sucking time as well.

This evening I got over to have a look at the aileron. I’m not thrilled with the plywood, to be perfectly honest, but I believe it will be OK. I re-glued a couple of the geodetic braces and glued down a couple of corners of the thin plywood that were loos and/or slightly de-laminating. I think the fabric would probably have been sufficient, but I want to make things as close to perfect as practical. I’ve got a list of things to do differently on the next three ailerons.

I got a few corner blocks installed to make sure the plywood stiffeners don’t flex or bow. The pans don’t call for them, but I’ll feel better knowing they’re there. I also got the ends of the aileron nose plywood trimmed and sanded flush with the ends of the aileron. There’s one more round of gluing to do, then I can use a router to put a radius on the lower front edge and it will be done. I did check the aileron travel; 22 degrees up and down will not be a problem.

Aileron and wingtip 12/2

Today we got the ends of the wingtip bows trimmed to length, and the wingtip supports trimmed to fit. I want to get the bows routed or sanded to their final shape before gluing them in, so that’s going g to need to wait a bit. I did cut the corner blocks for both ends.

The CW36 aileron bay end plates aren’t as bad as I thought, and the holes can be modified as needed, so I glued them in place. I also cut and glued in the remaining aileron spar stiffeners and the plywood piece that will hold the bracket for the aileron connecting rod. I think that’s everything I feel comfortable doing before getting the torque type in place. I also need to stop at Lowe’s Aviation Department to pick up a little chunk of 1” PVC pipe. The Celebrity uses 3/8” slices of plastic pipe to keep the ailerons centered in the aileron bays.

I was pretty chuffed. I estimated it would take about 8 cc of glue for everything I wanted to glue today… so I mixed up 8 cc, and ended up with almost nothing left over.

More left wing work

I’ve been over working on the wing a couple of times since the last post. Stu and I worked out what seems to be the best way to fit the wingtip bow. Yesterday we glued, stapled, and clamped the leading edge plywood to the top of the ribs and the top false spar, but left it at that stage. Wrapping the ply around the leading edge results in the upper edge pulling loose, so we decided to leave it as is and do the rest later on. I was planning on today, but may hold off on that until the wingtip bow is installed — I want to get the corner blocking glued in behind the LE ply, and that may be difficult with the plywood fully wrapped. Don’t know, I’ll need to look at that today.

We spent an hour or two yesterday trying to work out the aileron bits and pieces. The factory cut and drilled plywood bits (CW32, CW34, CW35, etc.) have been both a blessing and a curse. Most of the confusion seems to come from the fact that the CW36 pieces, which attach to the ribs just inboard and just outboard of the aileron bay, are apparently drilled WAY off. The pieces are too long for the wing to begin with — they seem to be sized for a rear spar built with the original 1/2″ thickness. non the current 3/4″. Then there’s a hole marked “more or less” on center, but the actual hole is drilled about 1/8″ or so low, or high, depending on how the piece is flipped. There is no orientation we could find that matches up with the holes drilled in the CW35 pieces that are used to attach the aileron to the torque tube. Fortunately, it really doesn’t matter. I’ll be cutting 1/2″ UHMW end bearings that will attach to those plywood pieces, so we can enlarge those holes as much as needed as long as there’s enough room left to attach the bearing pieces.

What we did get done was to cut and glue in the aileron spar web, and some of the 1/4″ stiffeners before the glue left over from the leading edge ply got too thick to work with. I glued up a test piece with that; the epoxy is a bit thicker than I would normally use, but I may have just been too conservative on that. I can’t think of any reason it wouldn’t give a full strength joint; the test piece will tell me for sure.

For the most part, I’m waiting for my aluminum for the torque tubes to arrive at Millard Metals, and sheets of 1/16 and 1/8 ply to arrive from Spruce. I need the ply to cut gussets for the compression struts, and we don’t want to get much farther into the ailerons without full length torque tubes to keep everything perfectly aligned.

Building the Wingtip Bows – and more

It’s really nice working in Stu’s shop with lots of room and plenty of work surfaces. One of those work surfaces is a 48″ square low table, with a 3/4″ melamine laminate top. It’s just the size needed for laying out thew wingtip bows. I started out by laying a large piece of cardboard out and taping the plans page over it. Then I used a sharp punch to poke through each of the nail locations on the plans to mark on the cardboard where they should be. Since I wanted to get two bows done at a time, I then rotated the plans page and marked a second set of nail locations.

Rather than hammer nails into the tabletop, we taped some poly sheet and then the cardboard down onto the surface and drilled 1/16 pilot holes. Stu has a bunch of trim head screws, so we sunk those using a block of wood as a depth gauge so that the heads are just above the 3/4″ mark – since we’re laying down 3/4″ lamination strips. With all the screws in place we pulled off the cardboard, leaving the poly sheet and screws.

Knowing that I’d need to spread a lot of epoxy in a short amount of time, I bought a small silicone glue roller and tray. The tray is about 6″ long by 3″ wide, and the roller is a bit under 2″ wide and is grooved to hold more glue. Since it’s all silicone rubber, the cured epoxy just pops right off after use.

After getting all the screws in place, I wanted to see whether I would need to soak the wood laminating strips to get around the form. I had no trouble whatsoever getting the strips bent around the forms without any soaking, so that was good news. With that bit done, we trimmed 20 of the laminating strips (4 wingtip bows, 5 layers each) down to the right length to clamp down to the forms with a few extra inches on each end. With that done I went home for the night.

Friday morning I was back at it. Mixed up some epoxy in the silicone tray and used the roller to evenly coat 4 of the 5 laminating strips with glue. It worked wonderfully well, I’m glad I bought it. I then just stacked the strips and clamped them to the first form, then repeated the process with the second set of strips. The entire process was so much less complicated than I anticipated — I’m not the least bit worried about repeating it for the other two bows, or for the tail. Of course we’ll see how those bows come off the forms tomorrow…

With the bows curing, Stu and I drilled the holes for the bolts and bushings that will attach all of the fittings to the wing spars. Stu’s got a set of Forstner bits, which cut nice clean holes. I’ve got to get a set of those… been meaning to anyway, but that really drove the point home, so to speak. One big advantage is that with the drill press running, you can clearly see the point on the bit to precisely put it right on the mark. Then we cut the 3 degree angle on the lower wing main spar root ends. No pressure at all, just taking a chop saw to a nearly irreplaceable bit of very expensive spruce and aircraft plywood…

Now it’s time to start actually assembling the wings. We started by attaching a steel rail to the side of the bench to support the leading edge of the ribs. The idea is, rather than supporting the trailing edge material with an angled block to let the ribs sit on the bench tom, we’ll clamp the TE flat to one bar, then use the other to support the leading edge at the proper height to match the angle of the TE. If you’re building one of these, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do it this way without a similar setup. Stu’s got a pair of 12′ long square steel tube rails that bolt to the edges of the bench and can move up or down from slightly above the level of the bench top to about 5-6 inches high. It’s pretty unique. The method outlined in the plans is a solid alternative, though personally if I had to do it without this setup I’d bevel the edge of a long block and use pocket screws to attach it to the bench.

We got the first half dozen ribs in place but were unable to go further, since I had taken all of the aileron ribs back home — I just grabbed the stack of ribs that needed modification, and it didn’t occur to me that the aileron ribs could stay.

So that was today — a lot of progress. By the end of the day tomorrow we should have something that starts to look like an airplane wing, and two more laminated wingtip bows.

11/5/23 updates

Went over this morning to see what remaining tasks I could knock out before starting the first wing assembly, and to do some planning and figuring stuff out — like, how I was going to jig up the trailing edge and other stuff for the wings. Stu came in and had a fantastic idea for using the existing steel rails on his workbench to hold the TE flat and perfectly straight, then supporting the front of the ribs with the other rail. It’s a 10′ bench with 12′ rails, so plenty big enough. It’s a significantly different method than that suggested in the plans, but it’s a pretty unique setup. I’m sure a 2×4 shimmed for the correct angle is a lot easier solution for most people than adjustable 12′ long steel square tube rails. I’m just glad he had them built out of square tube and not round.

Next I gave the main and rear spars a once-over to make sure everything was right. It wasn’t. One of the upper wing main spar tip bow supports was off by 1/2″, the result of not having the two spars oriented the same way when I installed those parts. Or, maybe it was something else. Those supports have been a real pain in the rump, and I have a sneaking feeling I’ll run into issues there again. Anyway, the easiest fix was to cut the offending tip support off with a razor saw, put a slight angle cut on the root end, and re-attach it with appropriate splices. Right now part of the re-assembly is drying; I’m hoping to complete the assembly tonight after the epoxy cures.

I got the ten ribs that I have over there trimmed fore and aft, so they’re ready for assembly. I’m planning to start with the lower left wing, just for the sake of simplicity. The lower right wing gets the wing walk. The two upper wings may or may not get fuel tanks, so I’ll do the lower wings first while I work that out. Therefore the lower left is the simplest and a good place to start, I think.

Stu and I discussed building the wingtip bows. He’s got a 48″ square table with a melamine top. It’s big enough to lay our two bows. I’ll wax it thoroughly and use a glue roller for gluing up the lamination strips. This will be good practice for the tail surfaces, which will need to wait until after the wings are done as they’ll need a 4 x 8 work surface. Now I just need to order a glue roller and about 40 or 50 more spring clamps. Given the size of the stabilizer & elevator assembly, more is better… I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as too many clamps.

The easy way to manage T-88 epoxy

I’ve seen all kinds of methods people use to mix up their T-88 epoxy. The manufacturer says to mix the resin and hardener (Part A and Part B) 1:1 by volume, or 100:83 by weight – which are the same thing. Plenty of videos on YouTube and EAA Hints for Homebuilders show various methods, and I’ve read some pretty involved threads on various homebuilding message boards. Some squeeze out equal lines of the two parts. Some cut the bottle tips to different sizes and squeeze out for a measured amount of time. Some have built scales to measure out by weight. Some do it in graduated mixing cups, like the little medicine cups that are easy to find. Some just use “TLAR” – or, “That looks about right”. You can buy T-88 in twin dispensing cartridges that automatically dispense and mix the glue — but it’s something like six times the cost of buying it in bottles, and of course you’re going to waste some each time when you throw out the mixing tube.

I have a bit of an aversion to not measuring epoxy accurately, and estimating and hoping for the best didn’t seem to me like a good plan when building an airplane. I know the precise ratio isn’t super critical; even System Three says that. Still, though, why guesstimate or get “close enough” when it’s so easy to get an exact amount?

I bought some 60cc catheter tip syringes through Amazon. They’re cheap and disposable, though I’ve reused mine a number of times. I fill one with Part A and one with Part B, and usually use a permanent marker to mark the cap for the Part B (darker) syringe, just so I don’t accidentally mix the caps up and ruin some epoxy. I’ll fill them just past the 60CC mark, then stand them tips-up overnight to let all the trapped air bubble up to the top, then squeeze a little back into the bottle or jug until the plunger is exactly on the 60cc mark. Pull the plunger back just a bit to get a little air in the tip, and cap it.

By doing this you can very accurately measure both parts to mix up any desired quantity of glue, from 2 cc up to 120 cc. Gluing plywood spar webs to spar caps? I’ll mix up 20 cc at a time, 10cc from each syringe. Building ribs? About 8 or 10 cc of glue will do two wing ribs, so 4 or 5 cc from each syringe. When the syringes are empty, you can either be a cheapskate like me and refill them, or just toss them in the trash if they’re too grungy to re-use or if you’re Daddy Warbucks and don’t care about the cost. I’ve got two pair of syringes that I use, and each has been refilled probably six or eight times. I just ordered some more syringes, since these are getting a little sticky and I want to keep fresh ones on hand. I use them for other things as well, so it’s never a bad idea to have some around. You also don’t want to run out of glue before you’re done building for the day, so I try to always have at least two sets filled.

Note: Pay attention to the quality of the syringes you buy. The first few I bought were made by B-D (Beckton-Dickinson) or Brandzig, are nice heavy duty plastic, are marked with 1 cc graduations, have good caps, and are generally high quality. The next batch I bought are thin, lightweight, shorter, marked with 2 cc lines, and are generally cheap Chinese crap. I’ll toss these after the first use and chalk it up to a lesson learned. As is almost always the case, it’s better to spend a little extra for good quality.