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.
Well, the work bench is cleared off — well, at least enough to get both jigs on it. I’ve got a couple dozen sticks of geodetic brace stock shaved down. The epoxy syringes are filled. All I need now is a razor saw and a steam setup.
Yes, I have a razor saw. Somewhere. I pulled it out during the kitchen remodel, and I remember seeing it in a box of tools we were using, but now I can’t find it. It’s a Zona, good quality but inexpensive. A new one is on the way. Two, in fact; one medium and one fine tooth. I also have a steam box that I built for the capstrips, but I’m unsure whether I’ll use it in the basement. It takes bench space (which I now don’t have down there), and drips water out the end by design. I’m thinking about ways I can use it vertically. I had looked at rigging up a piece of pipe or something with a heating element for hot water, but it looked like an awful lot of extra work considering I’m over halfway through the ribs. I’ll probably need it for the tail and wingtip bows as well, but I’m not entirely sure yet how I’m going to steam 6 to 9 foot long strips of wood. Tonight I tried soaking half a dozen capstrips in a bucket of hot water for an hour — we’ll see how well that worked.
Well, I thought it had been a lot longer since I did any construction, but I see it was only back in February. I really wouldn’t have been surprised to find that I’d gone an entire year without building anything. But, I’m getting ready for winter and more building. To be honest, I’d had second thoughts recently about even continuing with this project. Sometimes it seems like such a massive undertaking, especially when I see pictures of guys attaching the wings and getting flying wires made and rigging done… only to tear it all apart again and then start covering. Covering!! How the hell an I ever going to cover this beast? But then I decide that maybe I’ll keep at it after all. Hey, it’s relatively cheap… so far… as hobbies go. It keeps me occupied for as long as I care to work on it, and nothing bad happens if I let it sit idle for a while. Even a long while.
Over the past few days I’ve been working on getting my absolute pit of a basement workshop cleaned up at least enough to be able to move around and use the workbench. A new water softener installation, a kitchen remodel and a few other household projects meant there was a lot of mess left over, and a whole lot lot of crap got just piled everywhere. Most of it’s cleaned up. Not enough, really, but at least enough for me to be able to take stock of where I am. In hindsight, I suppose I could have, you know, looked at my blog posts, but where’s the fun in that?
I need 26 normal wing ribs, and they are all done. I need 16 aileron ribs — the same as the normal ribs, but just missing a couple of cross pieces. Of those, I have built ten, so there are six left to build. Then there are 34 false ribs — just stubs from teh leading edge back to just behind the main spar. I’ve built one of them, so 33 left to build. Those should be quicker to build, since there are only about a quarter of the geodetic braces to cut and glue. Unfortunately, each will still occupy a full rib jig — so two at a time is still the limit. Unless… maybe after the aileron ribs are done, I can tear down one of the rib jigs and rebuild it to do several false ribs at a time. I think keeping one rib jig intact would be good, just in case I should ever need to build more ribs for a repair or whatever.
I’ve got a bunch of geodetic brace stock sanded down to the correct thickness. Enough for sure to do the rest of the aileron ribs and get a good start on the false ribs. I’ll probably do half a dozen more, then put the oscillating sander away and maybe knock out a few ribs. I’m starting to get a little fired up again.
It’s only late August, but I’m trying to get started on cleaning up the garage / workshop for the winter. I can’t build in its current state. Too many other projects, too much clutter. I’ve got to get stuff put away, thrown away, stowed, etc. Then I want to get the rest of the geodetic strips shaved down for assembly, so I’m not out there all winter miserable as I run them through the sander.
I’ve been away from building for a while dealing with a remodeling project, the annual condition inspection on the RV-12, Oshkosh and few other odds & ends. At Oshkosh I discovered that the wood shop guys had actually saved my miniature wing rib from last year (2016). I brought it home with me, of course. Last night I pulled the staples, cleaned it up and sanded it, and gave it a coat of clear polyurethane. I figure it will make a nice wall decoration for my office.
Last night I also started cleaning up some of the enormous mess in the garage so I can get back to building. I’m not quite there yet, but tools are slowly making their way back into drawers and onto pegs. It may take a few more days, but it will be nice to get back out to a garage that’s not a complete disaster. There are 14 wing ribs hanging on the wall, and the guy on the Biplane Forum is catching up with 11 finished. He can work faster, since he can pull his ribs out of the jigs as soon as they are stapled. I need to step up my game!
I did pick up a good idea from that discussion — using cut down acid brushes to mix & apply the epoxy. They’re cheap, and it looks like I might be able to get more precise application of the glue where it’s needed, in the amount needed, with good penetration into the wood grain. I’m anxious to try that, I have a handful of brushes here. And, I got some of the epoxy into 60 cc syringes so I can dispense exactly the same amount of each component. I know it’s not terribly critical with T-88, but I still want to be as accurate as I can.
Last night I tested out the upgraded steam box door with an hour of steam. While that was going on I grabbed a chunk of scrap 2×4 and cut a second bending form. I wasn’t happy with only being about to bend three lengths per run of the steam box. I really need a better blade for that band saw… this one is cheap, and while it will claw its way through a 2×4 it’s not something I would want to do regularly.
But — I have two bending forms, which means I can now do six lengths of capstrip at a time, so I won’t run out as often. The steamer seems to work pretty well. It’s not quite as perfect as if I had attacked it with a planer, jointer and an attitude of complete professionalism… but I don’t have a jointer or planer, and even if I did what that steam would do to cheap flat sawn boards would be a real downer. It works.
On the last several ribs I’ve been taking a different approach to gluing. Early on I found that trying to glue up two ribs in one night meant working with epoxy that was starting to get a little stiffer than I would have liked. I was using a popsicle stick to carefully spread glue in the groove, then on the braces, and assembling. I was also having to fit each brace piece as I went along. Each rib seemed to want about 10cc of glue, but I was getting a fair amount of it running down onto the plastic on the jig.
Now I pre-fit all the braces and mark them with their location. I mix up the glue, dip the ends in the glue and put them in place. I can work a lot faster and make less mess. I’ve been seeing more left-over glue than I would like, as much as half what I mixed up. I think about 7.5cc of glue per rib is more than enough. I mixed 15cc for one pair of ribs and only had a little left over. I’ve also been more careful about the glue mixing. I had the ratios close enough to work well, since T-88 is not too critical. Still, the darker B component was getting used faster than the A, and that tells me I’m not getting it completely right. The stuff is pretty viscous, B much more so than A, and it takes a while to level out in the mixing cup. Now I’ve been squeezing the B part into the mixing cup and walking away for a few minutes while it levels out. Then I add the A component, walk away again, check back in a couple of minutes. I can get it dead on 50/50 that way. I may see about building a 100:83 balance scale to get it even closer.
I haven’t posted any updates to speak of this month. I did get out to the garage and spend a couple of hours sanding down rib geodetic stock.. What a pain in the ass. I really wish I’d gone a different route than I did on this stuff. I just don’t know what that route would have been. Anyway, today I started taping stacks of geodetic strips together and cutting braces. I’ll do as many as I can before starting to build ribs again, so hopefully when I can return to building I can get some momentum going.
I have to be honest… I look at some of the single-seat parasols and think, “Hey, I could be building half as many wings…” But I just need to stick t this. It will be worth it in the end. I’m working on an idea to semi-automate the sanding of the geodetic stock, I just need to fabricate a couple of guides and use a stepper motor to feed the stock through my sanding rig. That could increase throughput and give more consistent results, while I get other things done.
Well, 24 days after placing my order Aircraft Spruce finally shows a tracking number for my capstrip stock. We’ll see if it actually shows up this week. For a while there I was afraid this would just be a blog about how difficult it is to obtain spruce… maybe eventually I will get to actually build some airplane bits.
So, note to self: Lesson learned. Always order wood at least a month ahead of needs, preferably two or three months. Looks like it’s time to start on the spar stock and the stuff I’ll need for the tail surfaces. That order might be here by the time I finish the ribs. There’s a time scale that obviously applies to wood construction that is quite different than what I’m used to. And it’s not like I can just run down to the lumber yard and pick out some suitable spruce or Douglas fir.
While waiting (still) for my spruce to be shipped, I did some figuring…
Building from plans means not getting the wood factory cut and grooved. There are just some pieces that you can’t buy off the shelf. The Celebrity plans call for rib geodetic braces made of 3/32″ x 3/8″ Sitka spruce. ACS and Wicks sell spruce capstrip down to 1/8″ thickness, but not 3/32″. So the choices are to plane or sand down the entire length of the 1/8″ x 3/8″ strips, or use them as is and just sand the ends to fit the grooves in the top and bottom capstrips. So how much extra weight will we end up with if we just use 1/8″ thick pieces? It’s 1/32″ thicker, so we’ll do the math…
1/32″ x 3/8″ wide x 1464″ of capstrip = 17.25 in3 of extra spruce. Sitka spruce weighs about 28 pounds per cubic foot (or 1728 cubic inches), so 17.25 / 1728 = .009928 ft3 x 28 lb gives us a little over a quarter of a pound, less whatever gets sanded off on the ends and scrap, etc. So… around four ounces or less; I can live with that. Still, I’m thinking I may set up a spindle sander with a 3/32 gap to do the ends. If it works well enough I could run the entire lengths of the strips through it, then so much the better. Of course that would probably mean having to buy a new power tool. Oh, no! 🙂
I spent some time yesterday working on the first wing rib jig. The workbench needed a new top surface, so I picked up a sheet of 3/4″ MDF at Lowe’s. They were nice enough to cut it for me. I ended up with one piece 3′ x 8′ for the bench, and two 1′ x 4′ chunks for rib jigs. Nice how that worked out.
I marked a center line on the MDF and laid out the rib setup from Sheet #1 of the plans over it, then trimmed the paper to fit the jig. I hate cutting up plans, but there’s an extra copy of that page for this reason. I made all of the little chunks of plywood for the locating blocks, and cut a few small pieces of pine stock as needed. Then I cut out the places where I would need holes to accommodate clothespins, marked those on the MDF and cut them out with a scroll saw. I used some spray adhesive to stick the plans down to the MDF. So far so good.
Next I had to find some clear poly to cover the plans sheet. I finally remembered the nearly 4′ long bag in which the plans were shipped; it fit just fine. With that in place I started nailing the locating blocks in place over the plan sheet. I got most of them done before knocking off for the night. I still need to make one more plywood block for the main spar locator, and make the blocks for the top and bottom capstrips. I haven’t decided for sure how to do those. I had thought about using a couple pieces of pine bent to fit, but that seems like a great way to mess up the jig trying to get them perfectly in place, and the jig needs to be as close to perfect as I can make it. I’ll probably go with closely spaced pine blocks, nailed in place.