Vertical Stabilizer – Update

Vertical Stabilizer – Update
Hours: 1.5
VS total: 44.4

I drilled out the other short rivet mentioned last time without much difficulty.  I did have to drill out for an AN5 rivet and then cut a long one down to size … And AGAIN completely mangled setting the replacement rivet and banged up the metal.  Forget it!  I drilled out the bad rivet, sanded down the new scratches in the aluminum doubler and expanded the hole for an AN3 bolt just like the other side.  Sad, but this is what I feel I have to do at this point.  Not ideal, but I just can’t get these two rivets in properly and every time I try to fix it, I make it worse.  And honestly, the symmetry of having the bolt on both sides actually makes it look better.  And because I know the rivets I did have in these spots were way too short, I believe the bolts are safer than leaving it the way it was right after the doubler was originally installed.

Vertical Stabilizer – Update

Hours: 2.0
VS total: 42.9

Bad night for riveting.  Drilling out one of those rivets mentioned yesterday which turned out to be too small resulted in enough damage to the hole that I decided I had to put in a bolt and nut.  Looks really bad.  The other rivet which was too small I’m going to leave as is for now.  In a day or two I may decide to attempt drilling it out and replacing it with a longer rivet – or maybe for the sake of symmetry I’ll put a nut and bolt in that one too.  I don’t know yet.  It’s safe and strong.  I have no doubt about that.  But boy does it look bad.

Also gathering parts together for the rudder.

Vertical Stabilizer – Update

Hours: 2.9
VS total: 40.9
Before moving on to the rudder, I decided to fix a potential problem in the bottom inspar rib where it attaches to the rear spar.  I drifted originally when riveting and dented the flange which makes it look ugly as it jumps upward.  I fabricated a doubler out of scrap aluminum and fixed it.  Now however, I realized that two of the three rivets are too short and will have to be replaced.  I’m sure it’s stronger now and it definitely looks better.

Vertical Stabilizer – Completed

Hours: 8.1

VS total: 38.0

Finished Vertical Stabilizer!  … On to the rudder.

Scott learns to shoot rivets on some scrap metal.  I needed his help doing the skin.  He did a fantastic job of it!
 Scott drilling some holes in the scrap metal, preparing for the rivets.
Front portion of the VS (depicted on top in the picture) complete with rivets installed.
The completed VS !!  Just imagine an airplane in front of this.
Another shot of the completed VS.
The completed VS from the back.  This is where the rudder will attach.

Vertical Stabilizer


Hours: 3.1
VS total: 29.9

Got skeleton riveted together and we’re ready to rivet the skin.

My little helper squeezed rivets for me, held things in place and handed me clecos when needed.

View of the doubler riveted to the the front spar.  Not bad … Only one out of ten had to be drilled out and replaced.


Skeleton riveted together.  Rivets were bucked and after figuring out the technique turned out pretty good.  I was originally pulling the trigger full blast immediately and the thing jumped all over the place.  Once I realized that I could start with a light squeeze of the trigger and gradually increase, I got really good and consistent rivets.  I also got a chart (from Todd Stoval) showing what pressure to set for best results given the rivet size and length.  Compared to the practice kit, there is a huge improvement here.  I’m very pleased with the quality I’m starting to see.

The VS skin all cleco’ed to the skeleton.  It’s ready to be riveted and then we’ll be on to the rudder.

Vertical Stabilizer

Hours: 2.4
VS total: 26.8

Not much today by way of tangible progress.  Fixed the questionable rivet mentioned yesterday and got the top rudder hinge riveted in place.  Spent an hour with Todd Stovall and got some hands-on lessons in replacing bad rivets.  Thanks again, Todd.

Questionable rivet before

Questionable rivet after.  Just needs some primer touch-up.
View like the one from yesterday.  Fixed, bigger rivet is visible.

Doubler for the top rudder hinge.  After putting in the wrong size rivets over the hinges, I had to drill out eight of them and replace.  I followed some advice I read on VAF about drilling out and had no problems.  No hole enlargement at all!  I drilled ever so gingerly with a #40 bit into the center of the rivet (these are 470AN4 rivets), but only just past the head and into the shank.  Then I got the #30 and very slowly drilled into the hole made with the #40 bit.  The action of the slowly moving bit broke the head right off.  Then a gentle tap with a punch finished the job.

Vertical Stabilizer

Hours: 5.9
VS total: 24.4

Primed all the parts of the VS then began riveting it all together.

A small enclosure for the parts to warm up in for priming.  Outside temperature was in the low 30’s.  Inside this enclosure, a balmy 75.

Parts primed and drying in the warm shelter.  Looks like a couple of pieces are touching in there.  That shouldn’t be.  Next time, I’ll do a better job keeping them apart.

Zinc Chromate.  Nasty stuff, but supposedly really good for corrosion protection.  And this stuff is self-etching.  I just cleaned the parts and sprayed.  We’ll see how it all turns out.  I’ll admit some look better than others.  It took a few parts before I got a nice smooth coat down.  But these are all interior parts so pretty isn’t my concern.
That’s me.  Safety first.
Finally!  The first rivets.  This is part of a rudder hinge and the parts riveted to it are the rudder stops.
Oh no!  It didn’t take long.  This is the first rivet I had to drill out.  Before the night was through, there would be two more.

Two of the three rivets I drilled out, I was able to get another in without too much issue.  But this one I had to drill out twice.  What you see is the third rivet I put in and I’m a little concerned about it.  I don’t want to drill it out a third time if I don’t have to.  But it just doesn’t look great to me.  The top side (manufactured head) dips in just a touch on one side and causes me to worry that it might be a spot where a crack can form in the metal.  But If I have to drill it out, I’ll almost certainly have to put in a bolt rather than another rivet because the hole will be too big.
A look at the top side.  The shiny part isn’t a crack, it’s just bare metal where the primer was worn away from all the drilling and re-riveting.  But that is the spot where the rivet head goes into the metal more than it should.
Here’s another look at it.  The first rivet on the bottom this side of the spar doubler.  See how it sinks in just a smidge compared to the others around it?

Vertical Stabilizer

Hours: 5.3
VS total: 14.2

Cleco’ed VS skin to skeleton.  Match drilled and then removed skin and took apart skeleton.  Deburred everything.  Marked some holes to remain un-dimpled. Dimpled ribs (except marked holes).  Began dimpling skin – about half-way there.  Accidentally dimpled a few holes in a rib that shouldn’t have been and was relieved to learn they could be un-dimpled (searched VAF before and found I could squeeze with flat sets to un-dimple, but only once).  Had lots of help from Scott today.  He did much of the deburring of the skin and also served as a second pair of hands when cleco’ing the skin to the skeleton.  Our daughter Audra came out to help for a while, too.

Audra pointing out what the airplane is supposed to look like.

VS skin cleco’ed to the skeleton.  Some pain was avoided
thanks to those who warned about grinding down a small part of the front ribs.

Finally, we have something that resembles a part of an airplane.

Neat look into the Vertical Stabilizer.

Dimpling the VS skin.  Notice the blue strips that have been removed.

All taken apart again.