More ribs

Rib #2 matches rib #1 to within plus or minus a millimeter or two everywhere.  I spent some time with an X-Acto knife and sanding block cleaning the excess epoxy off of the first rib, so it’s looking pretty good now.  Tonight I put #3 in the jig and glued it.

I was planning to make the second jig tonight also, but that’s going to just have to wait a little while.  The garage is getting too cluttered to work in.  I’ve got numerous tasks partially completed, and it’s a real mess.

  • I need to finish grooving the capstrips, first off, so I can use the table saw for other things. (done!)
  • I need to get the rest of the geodetic stock shaved down to final size.  I got my strip cutting jig from Rockler today, so we’ll see if the table saw can be used to help with that or not.
  • I need to cut more wood blocks for the jig.  With the spindle sander, I can make sure they are perfectly square. (done!)
  • There is some cleanup to be done, including two workbenches that are piled high with so much crap that I’m working with a rib building jig hanging over the sides on one end of the bench.  It’s an eight foot long bench and I’m using less than a foot of it.  Ridiculous.
  • I will need a place to store these ribs so they don’t get damaged.  And I definitely have to find a better solution for the geodetic braces.  The paper cups I have been using were a terrible idea.  They take up enough room that they’re a pain in the ass to use, and they tip over, fall off the bench and spill parts everywhere at the slightest bump or touch.
  • I have the table saw and spindle sander sitting halfway out in the middle of the floor, need to get a permanent location figured out.

That will at least get me to where I need to be to keep building ribs.  At some point I’m going to need another eight feet of workbench, but that can wait until I have the ribs and tail feathers built.  Pretty sure I can do all that on the 3 x 8 that I have now.

Shaving the geodetic pieces

Yesterday I tackled the problem of the rib geodetic pieces.  The thinnest I could order from anywhere was 1/8″, and the plans call for 3/32″ thick.  What I got from ACS was actually a bit oversized at .130 to .140.  So, I need to shave about .040 to ..045 or so off of 120 or so 6′ long strips of spruce.

I tried a small razor plane…  no joy there.  Maybe it was my technique, but the blade dug in and left a very rough, uneven surface.  It’s quite possible I could make this work with a “real” hand plane, but I’d have to go buy one, then learn to use it properly, and let’s be honest — right now I’m a little impatient to start building.  I tried spinning up an end mill in the CNC machine, but it was obviously over-taxed and would take several passes.  Probably the wrong tool for the job.  Maybe a router bit would have been better, but there was also a work space issue, and the small motor and flex shaft drive was not going to be up to the task.  I knew I was fighting a losing battle there.  My Harbor Freight belt/disk sander seemed promising, but the top roller on the belt is convex and was leaving a concave surface.  I was not too confident in trying to use the table saw to shave them down, given how quickly things can go wrong there.

I ended up buying an oscillating spindle sander at Menard’s.  With a guide board clamped to the table, it lets me feed the strips in and sand them down to a nice consistent .093″ thickness.  It’s really slow going to try to do it all in one pass, so I set up a second guide board on the other side to knock them down about half way.  One pass on one side, then a second pass on the other side of the drum and I have what I need.  It still takes quite a bit of time.  I installed the second largest drum, 2″ in diameter, but I think I’ll re-set it up with the larger 3″ drum instead.  The higher speed of the drum surface may help to make it go a little faster, and the larger surface area might keep the drum from loading up or wearing out longer.  With the shop vacuum sucking dust out around the spindle there’s virtually no sanding dust floating around, so that’s nice.

I got four strips done before I knocked off for the day.  Doesn’t sound like much, but there was also a few hours of Pinewood Derby axle and wheel work in there, as well as some play time with the grandkids.  Oh, and I did groove a couple dozen more rib capstrips too.

Bending wood and building stuff

This morning I went out to check the epoxy on the bending form.  It’s not warm in the garage (low 50s), not ideal for curing epoxy.  In addition, I was not too precise in mixing the epoxy.  I have a small scale that weighs in grams, ounces or even carats that I plan to use for epoxy to be used when measuring epoxy for actual airplane parts, but I didn’t use that last night.  Anyway, the glue was hard but still a little tacky on the surface – so not totally cured but “OK enough” to use.  I pulled the three capstrips out of the water soak and clamped them in the form.  A few hours later they had taken a fairly good set — but one of them cracked at the peak of the bend.  Looking at that one, it would have been OK if I’d either bent the other end, or cut the slot on the opposite side.  I just happened to try to bend it in a direction that didn’t work well with the grain slope of that piece of wood.   I’ll have to watch that on future pieces.

Knowing that I’ll want to rip some 1/8″ thick strips to make the wingtip bows and the frames for the tail feathers, I went looking for a way to do that easily.  I’ve been successful in ripping thin strips on the table saw, but as countless others have discovered doing it between the blade and rip fence is not the safest way.  The blade tends to launch the cut strip backwards off the saw table.  I found this thin strip rip jig at Rockler.com, which looks to be exactly the tool I need to rip pieces for laminating.  It’s not expensive, and I can think of a dozen other projects for which it would be very useful to be able to make strips for curved laminations.  I ordered it.

At lunch time I pulled the strips out of the bending jig and installed the rest of the forming blocks on the rib jig.  As I thought, the bottom capstrips won’t need to be pre-bent.  So, the first rib jig is ready to go.

The next job will be to shave the 1/8″ x 3/8″ strips received from ACS down to 3/32″ thick.  They’re actually a little thicker than spec, around .135 or so.  I thought about setting up something to jig up my low end belt/disc sander to do the job, but I don’t see a lot of success there.  I have a razor plane, but it doesn’t seem to work well on the wide side of the spruce strips.  I will have to figure out a good way to shave or sand or plane these down to the right thickness.  I did cut out all of the geodetic braces for the first rib, and marked them according to their placement.  I’ll use them as patterns to cut the remainder — just as soon as I figure out how to get those strips pared down to the right thickness.  Sanding just the ends down is going to be too time consuming and the results would probably not be consistent enough to suit me.  I need to figure out the best way to shave about .040 to .045 off of those strips.

Finally — the first shipment of spruce!

The UPS man just delivered a 30# package of spruce capstrip from Aircraft Spruce.  I can now — finally — start building.

The first step was to set up the table saw to groove the top and bottom rib capstrips for the geodetic braces.  They need a 3/32 x 3/32 groove cut on one side.  Getting the saw set up to cut a perfectly centered groove was trivially easy, and it gave me a reason to install the zero clearance throat plate on the saw for the first time.  Not wanting to experiment on the expensive spruce, I cut a couple of strips of pine the exact size of the capstrip and used one to set up the saw for the right depth and spacing.  The strips are small enough that rather than trying to use a push stick to feed it all the way through, it works out best to feed most of it through in one direction and then flip the piece around and feed the other end in.  The saw is set up precisely enough that you can’t see where the transition is between the grooves cut from the two ends.  It’s perfect.  With that done I grooved a dozen pieces of capstrip and decided that would be good for a limited test run.

I’ll also need a bending jig for the capstrip, since the top piece needs a pretty good curve toward the leading edge.  I could really probably do it dry, but I’ll feel better knowing that the wood is less stressed during assembly.  Better to put the curve in beforehand, I think.  The spruce is flexible enough that I don’t think there will be a problem with the bottom pieces, but we’ll see how it works out.  I cut a bending fixture from a chunk of scrap 2×4 — it split on the end as I was finishing up the cut, so I figured what better time to mix up a spoonful of T-88 and epoxy it back together?  After all, the glue joint should be stronger than the wood itself.  We’ll test that out.  Once that glue cures and I get some capstrip soaked in water and bent, I will finally be able to finish blocking in the rib jig and start cutting the geodetics.  I’ll need to also set up some sort of rig to sand or plane the ends of those down to 3/32″.

The grandkids are coming over Saturday to get some help with their Pinewood Derby cars.  Looks like a full-on woodworking weekend.

Tooling up (part 2)

I spent some time today going through the table saw setup and adjustment.  As it turns out, my saw (a Ryobi BT3100) has a pretty decent following.  I did figure out why I’d never been happy with the rip fence.  I’d always used the grooves in the casting to align it.  As it turns out, this saw is not like others.  You don’t align the blade to the table.  You align everything off the blade.  I got the miter slot (an optional part), sliding miter table, and front scale all adjusted to the blade, lubed the jack screw that raises and lowers the blade, and checked the rip fence.  Turns out, it’s pretty close to dead nuts on and always locks itself in place perfectly aligned…  you just have to ignore the grooves in the table.  Who knew?  Anyway, I cleaned it up and gave the table a coat of wax, and cut a feather board and some trim strips for a remodeling project.  It’s awesome.  One down.

Tooling up (part 1)

If I’m going to be building something big out of wood, I’ll need to tool up for it.  Right now I have some basic tools that will work, but what I have in the garage is more geared toward building an RV (and even a lot of those tools are now gone).

My bandsaw is a very inexpensive, small Harbor Freight model.  I have tuned it up a little and adjusted it so that it works much better than it did out of the box, but it’s a very light duty saw.  It’s also WAY too fast for cutting 4130 steel.  I’ll need to at least get some good quality wood cutting blades for it, since it’s mostly been used for aluminum.  I was looking for a better bandsaw, like a 14″ Delta or Rockwell, but I may hold off on that.  This one might work, if I can come up with a solution for any steel parts that need to be cut.

The table saw I have is a fairly decent Ryobi.  Not as solid or as precise as I’d like, but if I can figure out how to get the rip fence parallel to the blade it should be serviceable.  But, for most things the radial arm should work anyway.

Belt sanders — I have two.  One is a small bench-top Harbor Freight unit that is fine for very small jobs.  The other is a 1950s vintage Craftsman that weighs well over 100# with its cast iron base and stand.  I need to get it moved back home, cleaned, lubed and a new drive V-belt installed.

Drill press — The one I have is a complete piece of crap, and I don’t think there is a way to make it any better.  I’m watching for a better one, preferably old and solid.

Chop saw — I have a De Walt 12″ compound miter saw.  It works fine, but takes up a lot of space.  In a shop environment I’d rather use a radial arm saw.

Radial arm saw — This could possibly be the secret weapon.  I need to retrieve it from my sister’s place, but there is a Magna Sawsmith radial arm saw.  My Dad used this to make a lot of furniture and other stuff, and it will do just about anything.  My brother in law (ex, actually, but still a pretty damn good guy) told me the motor had burned out — I’m hoping it’s something more like a bad motor start capacitor, since those are easy to replace and the original motors are long out of production and nearly impossible (and expensive) to find.  We’ll see how this one shakes out.  Honestly, I can see myself taking on a lot more non-airplane woodworking projects if this saw can be returned to service.

Dust collection — I have none, other than a shop vacuum.  The table saw, small belt sander and band saw all have dust collection fittings on them; the old (large) belt sander doesn’t.  Not sure about the Sawsmith.  I want to rig up something to suck up as much dust as possible, and I’ll for sure want to build a dust separator to keep from clogging up the shop vac.

Jointer/planer — I have none.  I may need to fix that.  This is an entirely new area for me, I’ve never used either tool and don’t know much about them.  But, I may need to plane down wood for cap strips.  We’ll see what the BOM that comes with the plans will reveal.