It’s official!

I received a quart of T-88 epoxy yesterday, so the first batch of glue is covered.  Today the mail carrier brought the plans, tightly rolled and somewhat bent from their trip from the nether regions of Canada.  I will be building Celebrity serial number CE164.  So now I have a number of jobs that need to be completed…

  • Get the plans unrolled to flatten out so they’re usable
  • Get an inventory of the drawings, figure out how and where to store them so that they’re protected.  I may add tabs or some sort of externally visible identification so I’ll be able to quickly locate a drawing.  One of the irritations encountered while working on the RV-7 was sorting through a pile of drawings to find the one I was looking for.   That was a time waster.  These drawings are in at least four or five different sizes, a few of them 16′ long.  Fortunately, it does not SEEN as though I’ll need to frequently switch between several drawings as I did while building the RV.
  • Replace the workbench top with fresh MDF.  It’s a good solid bench, but the old hardboard top is scrap.  As a bonus, a 4×8 sheet of MDF will be one foot wider than the bench, giving me a 1×8′ cut-off.  That will make two 1×4′ wing rib construction jigs.
  • Figure out where to begin construction.
  • Order up some wood!

I’ll start with the wing ribs.  They use only two sizes of stock, and construction is simple and repetitive.  I can build the first two or three out of locally sourced pine, just to get the jigs built and get my process sorted out.  I can scrap them or use them as wall decorations in my office.  The jigs do not need to occupy the entire work bench, so the bench can be used for other things while working on the ribs.

Sourcing wood

While waiting for the plans from Fisher, I asked for and received a PDF copy of the bill of materials for the airplane.  While I’m sure there may be some errors and omissions, it’s a good place to start in my efforts to obtain the materials I need to start building.

Much of the wood is aircraft grade Sitka spruce (naturally), and that I’ll be buying from expert and trusted sources like Wicks and/or Aircraft Spruce.  There are a few (very few) other sources for aircraft spruce in the country, but those two seem to be the biggest and most readily available.  There certainly aren’t any near here, so no running down to the local supplier with the truck to pick out my own bits and pieces.

There is, however, also quite a bit of pine used in areas where spruce is not required and there is some money to be saved.  A good little bit of money, in fact.  For instance, the outer frames of the fin, stabilizer, elevators and rudder are all laminated from 1/8″ x 3/4″ pine, as are the wingtip bows.  You could use spruce as well, of course, but spruce doesn’t come cheaply.  Just the pieces to make those laminations would cost over $155, plus truck freight, from ACS.  Wicks seems to be a little cheaper for those pieces, but still well over $125 plus freight.

Finding clear, straight- and tight-grained pine won’t be easy, nor the boards cheap – compared to the so-called “stud grade” garbage typically sold at big box stores.  That stuff is mostly more suited for a pulp mill than anywhere else.  I’ll have to re-saw any pine boards I do find down to size, probably recovering only a small fraction of the wood as usable stock.  Still, even if I could only get a few strips (these are 1/8″ x 3/4″, remember) from a typical select grade 1×6 from a local lumber yard, it could still cut the cost down by  a hundred bucks or so.  So, I think I’ll visit a couple of the local lumber yards to see what I can find.  I have the option of slicing pieces from millwork like baseboard and flooring too, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find something.  I printed a chart to help me quickly figure out acceptable grain slope on two axes.  That and my Incra ruler should help sort out any good boards I may find.

The worst case would be not finding anything usable at all.  That just means I would instead use aircraft grade spruce for all the parts called out as pine in the plans.  It would be somewhat more expensive, but certainly no compromise of quality, weight or difficulty.  I figure about an extra $700-750 added to the build cost if I have to go all spruce, maybe a bit more or less.  It’s not enough to derail the project, but it is enough to see what I can find and maybe make some sawdust.