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.

First spar, continued

It’s been a bit of a learning experience building this spar. The amount of glue required, of course, is one thing – about 45 ml or so, I think, for the whole thing. There are still a few pieces of plywood that need to be glued, most of them for the flying wire and N-strut attachment brackets. Yesterday Stu showed me his pneumatic pin nailer, which I plan to use. It’s not unusual to use staples or small brads to hold wood together while glue cures. This thing shoots ridiculously small wire pins — 22 or 24 gauge, I think — with no heads. They’re just enough to hold the wood in place, and won’t need to be removed.

I also found that the spar has about 1/8″ of gradual taper toward the tip end. That was a builder error; it’s supposed to be a constant 5-3/4″ across the entire length. When I assemble the other three they will be correct. It’s not a critical error; I can fix it with shims when the wing is assembled. It’s even noted in the plans that ribs may be shimmed where they attach to the spar. It’s just been an inconvenience. Before I found that taper we’d cut some reinforcing blocks that fit between the spar stiffeners to a constant length. Some needed to be sanded, some needed to be re-cut because they were too long. That’s when I measured the spar height more carefully. I had just measured one end and a spot partway down the spar before — I guess it didn’t occur to me that it would have a taper to it. Everything else is good, there’s no bend, twist, or warping, so it’s good to go.

Other minor things — the plans call out 120-1/4″ for the spar length, but the main caps are 120″. Obviously the quarter inch at the tip isn’t going to make a difference, I’ll just make sure both spars are exactly the same length.

I’ll go over tonight and finish the assembly of this spar, and hopefully get started on the next. I also need to find my box of 4130 steel tubing and see if I’ve got the stock I need to make the bushings for the wings. There are bolts through the wing that hold the attach brackets for the fuselage, struts, and flying & landing wires. All of the holes need steel bushings through them. Simple enough to cut and file to size; I just need the right size tubing. I bought a “grab bag” assortment of random tubing cut-offs from ACS a while back to see if I could learn to weld. If I’ve got a couple feet of the sizes I need, I can use them for this.

Gluing up a wing spar

Yesterday I headed over to Stu’s to glue up all of the pieces to the aft face of the upper right wing spar. There are two full length spruce spar stiffeners, four pieces of plywood at the wing root, spruce blocks placed at each rib location, and four plywood pieces for the flying wire attachment brackets. Then I’ll get to flip it over and do the same on the other side.

When I was building wing ribs, I found that a total of 8 ml or so was about right to make two ribs. Since I did that a lot, I got used to mixing up small batches of T-88 epoxy. Yesterday was the first time I have had to mix relatively large quantities — I went through two 20 ml batches, which is about the most I can do in the little medicine cups I bought for this. Even that left me slightly short. There are a couple of plywood attachment pieces that I didn’t get installed yesterday. System Three makes auto-mixing dispensing cartridges, but they’re substantially more expensive to use. As in, over six times the cost. I think I’ll be sticking to mixing cups. I may need to get some larger ones, though — mixing up 20 ml at a time isn’t going to work for a lot of this stuff.

Spar web update

For anyone else who might be in the same predicament, the fine folks at Homebuilt Airplanes came up with a couple more sources. B&D International carries 5′ x 5′ sheets of Finnish birch aircraft plywood, and will cut and ship UPS. Boulter doesn’t carry as wide a variety, but might be good if you’re closer to the east coast than the west.

The price at B&D is higher than Aircraft Spruce. If you price it by the square foot, it’s not terribly higher. 13%, on the 1/8″ sheet I need. Not terrible.

Spar webs

The plans and BOM call for plywood spar webs, cross-cut, 60″ long. The webs are butt-spliced mid-wing, with what seem to me to be fairly narrow blocks of spruce on either side.

Problem is, you can’t buy 60″ wide sheets of aircraft plywood in the US. Aircraft Spruce has ONE size, and not a size I need. Everything else I’ve found is in 48″ wide sheets. And since the web needs to be crosscut, it’s not as simple as just buying a 4′ x 8′ sheet. I’ve contacted Fisher Flying Products as well as another supplier in Canada. Fisher’s tab will be roughly $340, the other place was pretty reasonable for the plywood but wanted over $500 for crating and shipping. To put that in perspective, ACS will sell me the plywood I need for about $100, delivered.

The question is, can I make 48″ long spar webs work in a way that is at least as good, or preferably stonger and better, than the original design? I am no engineer. Especially a mechanical engineer. I’m certainly not qualified to make such a call. Fortunately, I have someone local who is an engineer, and is qualified to help make that decision and recommend another way to do it — if there is one. I’ll be taking the wing plans to the February EAA chapter meeting to go over them with him and see what we can figure out.

If that doesn’t work out, Spruce does sell 5/32 ply in 61″ x 61″ sheets. The spar webs are specified as 1/8″ for the main spar, and 1/16″ for the rear spar. I could just make both webs 5/32 with a slight weight penalty. The plywood would weigh 3 to 5 pounds more, but I’d probably also need to trim 1/32 to 3/32 from the spruce stiffeners, so that might make up for some of it. Again, I’ll need to consult with a real engineer to see if that wold work or not. Ending up with a plane that’s a couple pounds heavier but significantly stronger is OK. Ending up with a plane that is in any way less strong or less safe is absolutely not. And if the ribs need to be modified a little to clear a beefier spar — I’m OK with that.


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.