Over the last couple of days I’ve been reassembling some of the bits and pieces I had to take off to paint the interior. The flap motor and brace is back in, the fuselage gussets are in and torqued, and the roll bar is finally in and torqued with the center channel riveted on. I also dimpled the firewall for the panel support ribs. That’s the good stuff.
Now for the fail. I tried to install the trim servo. I messed up drilling the bearing block, but that was OK, I was able to salvage it. The crap part is, I cut off the trim servo arm a little short. There’s not enough shaft left to drill the cotter pin hole. Ordered new part. Grr.
I have finally painted the cockpit. It’s not an award winner, and in some places it’s not even pretty, and in a few other places, it’s downright abhorrent. But it’s done, and that’s what counts. Yesterday, I did my raft of chores, then began creating the Dexter-scene in the shop that was to become my paint booth. Fortunately we had a roll of painter’s plastic left over from a drywall job that I was able to use.
Here’s the beginning of the tent. This stuff is mostly to protect the rest of the shop from overspray. HVLP guns are better with overspray, but if you suck at painting like me, you need all the help you can get.
Here’s the coccoon from the outside. Shelley thought it was creepy, and I sort of agree. Looks like something unsavory is going on under there, and that’s not far from the truth.
This is before I shot any paint, right before Hell on Earth was brought forth and the Great Old Ones erupted from the Stygian depths to unleash unspeakable horrors on my project. Everything’s taped up, using the packing paper left over from an A.E.R.O. shipment. I could care less about the control tunnel, but I definitely wanted to protect the bearings and control column hardware, as well as the spar. The spar’s the prettiest part of the plane so far, why shoot a coat of gray paint over it? Everything on the firewall was masked off too, but that’s where I got lazy: I masked off everything forward of the brake pedal mount holes and left the rest to fend for itself. With carpeting and everything else down there, it’s doubtful you’ll even see it, and trust me, I’m an expert in the field of visual triage.
I didn’t shoot a lot of photos between the last pic and here, because the process turned into an epic nightmare never too far from corkscrewing into the hardpan of abject failure. I followed the directions; I prepped the metal using EkoClean (which is great if you don’t put a big oily handprint on a major surface you’ve just done), then shot a light mist coat. While that was drying, I mixed up another batch of my Stewart Systems EkoKote interior paint, then went outside to shoot some other parts I didn’t do last time. This is when the fun started. I leaned over to examine something and the top popped off my gravity-feed reservoir, letting a significant amount of catalyzing paint loose on the concrete patio. The swearing brought Shelley over, and she started asking what she could do to help. Of course I had a respirator on, so she couldn’t understand a damn word I was saying, and that was before the compressor started up. She grabbed a rag and soaked up the spilled paint, then left me to my own devices. While I was shooting the second coat, my inline water/oil filter and regulator started leaking, maybe it wasn’t tight, maybe the teflon tape wasn’t good enough, something. So I started fiddling with it, gun in hand, gloves, resp and goggles on, trying to silence the annoying hiss. The compressor started up again, which for some reason, amplified the urgency of the catalyzing paint in the gun’s reservoir. But the universe wasn’t done messing with me, not even close. In my fumblings with the air stuff, I dropped my paint gun on the shop floor, indoors, on my nice plastic garage tiles. Before I could pick it up, ten bucks worth of paint had spilled out and I was now in trouble: Not enough hands, no place to hang up the paint gun, a major air leak, and catalyzing paint in the gun and all over the floor. Shelley soaked up the paint once again and brought me a hook, which I screwed into the workbench and hung up the gun long enough to get it together and fix the air leaks, clean up the mess, and get back to work. But now, half my batch was on the floor, so I didn’t have enough to finish the job.. I mixed up the rest of the paint and finished.
This picture is the end result of all that pain and suffering. Was it worth it? Sure, I guess. Does it look good? Well, no, not exactly, but I’m not about to sand it off and start over. And any future painting is going to be done with the tried and true method of the Rustoleum rattle can, unless I paint the exterior matte black, by myself, in the dead of night, in a lone hangar out in the desert, in the middle of a lightning storm.
The next day (today), I had to get my motivation back. The whole point of painting the interior was so I could go on to install systems over the paint. Like any comp, you get your background layers first, then start putting stuff over them. I peeled the tape and plastic off, then put a few of the previously painted parts in place. Much to my surprise, it’s not utterly horrific. There are some pretty big drips on the floor, but guess what, those’ll be covered by either seat cushions or carpeting. I may have to touch a few things up with a rattle can, but that’s no big deal, battleship gray is a pretty common color. Since the plan is to get the Classic Aero Aviator package for the interior, the paint really just has to cover up the parts the interior package doesn’t. Of course, if budget becomes a factor and I have to go for the cheap option (van’s foam, homemade upholstery), at least I have some semblance of a cabin.
Pilot’s side looking forward. You can see the splotches on the seat floor where my oily fat hand touched the metal after the prep job. I think I had used an oily rag to clean up some leaked oil from the engine, which sits on a stand aft, outboard, and to the port side of where you’re looking. For some reason, it decided to piddle a load of preservative oil on the floor prior to paint day, so I had to clean that up before I got started.
So yeah, it’s done. Cause for celebration, maybe not, but at least now the main obstacle to things like fuel lines, electrical runs, rudder rigging, and pitch servo installation is out of the way. I can even rivet the subpanel, which I was going to paint, but didn’t. Maybe I will, with rattle cans, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Apparently, one should keep up on one’s FAA registration number reservation. I didn’t, and I lost N808FX to an Aerospatiale helicopter owned by Wells Fargo. That was kind of a bummer. But I got a better one: N313TD. 313TD is cool in two ways, first and most importantly, it’s not a tongue-twister on the comm. “Three One Three Tango Delta” is linguistically less laborious than “Eight Zero Eight Foxtrot X-Ray.” The other cool thing is 313 is Detroit’s area code, and was Ann Arbor’s before the suburban explosion of the 90’s and the accompanying telco deregulation and infrastructure upgrades. “TD” is short for ‘technical director’ which is what I’ve been doing in the FX business for a long time, and I’ve got screen cred to prove it. So there it is. New N-number.