Today I was able to repaint the roll bar (still looks like ass close up, I suck at filler), but it’s better than it was, and is at least now a uniform gray. While that was drying, I mixed up a batch of the Devil’s Peanut Butter (Pro Seal) and put in the SafeAir1 static ports. Of course, I didn’t put the elbows fittings on first, so here’s hoping the fittings will wind up more or less vertically oriented when I do. Since I had a batch of the gray ooze mixed up, I decided to put on the cabin vents, the ones that fit up on the NACA scoops just behind the firewall. I’ve heard of it being done this way, so I’m going to give it a shot. If they don’t stick, I’ll rivet them on.
After the paint dried, I got the aft canopy section on. I’m missing 4 AN509C stainless steel screws, so I have to get those to do the last 3 holes. There’s a slight bit of pillowing on the left side, but it’s not bad, and honestly, I don’t care. It won’t be enough to be drafty or spoil the airflow, and until you’re right up on it, you won’t see it. Like Commander Adama says, “I need my planes to fly, Chief.” One bit of bastardry though: the backing strips I made for the aft canopy didn’t line up because when I drilled the pilot holes, I drilled them by clamping the strips to the top skin. With the thickness of the plexiglass between the top skin and the strips, the holes are out of position. Good thing those things are optional.
the last thing I did was a fiddly bit, two fiddly bits, actually. I installed the Adel clamps securing the rudder cable egress tubing to the aft fuselage. I think I’m going to make the rudder cable fairings that seem to be so popular out there these days. It’s easy and they look cool.
Next step is to prep for glassing the canopy fairing. And while I’m in glass mode, I should probably do the stabilizer tips. More foam. More fiberglass. Mmmm, tasty.
Finally sacked up and drilled the aft plexi to the roll bar and aft top skin. I still can’t install it permanently because I have to repaint the roll bar and fill a couple of slight dents in the F631 channel where I clamped it a little hard during assembly. That does actually need to happen first, since I’ve only got 1 pair of sawhorses and I need them to do the fiberglassing of the canopy bubble. But there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel, and I don’t think it’s a train.
I’m also currently in the process of match-drilling the backing strips for the aft canopy, which are optional, but since I spent the effort to make them, I might as well use them.
I also sunk 3 cherrymax rivets in on the 3 forwardmost rivets of the aft top skin. Remember those holes? They were the ones that interfered with the big honking angle holding the roll bar to the rest of the fuselage. Support at Van’s Aircraft said to go ahead and put blind rivets in there, so I did.
Big day, and somewhat of a milestone. Dave came over and we riveted the aft top skin on to the airframe. I promised Dave there would be no plastic dust, strictly metalwork: lots of riveting. He bucked, I shot. I put a couple of pieces of plywood and a couple of bamboo floor planks down in the Jeffries Tube (Star Trek reference, look it up) so a human can lie down back there and get work done. Dave had never bucked a rivet before, but he picked it up really quickly and we only had 4 rivets out of all the ones on the top skin that we had to redo. But everything came together, and Dave noted that it was cool to see the flanges and the skin tighten up as the rivets got squeezed. For the record, those little tabs connecting the bulkheads to 3 layers of skin? They suck. We were able to do exactly 1 of them successfully. One broke off as we tried to bend it into proper position. Grr. There are two in the back that didn’t make it either. Something tells me I’ll be OK without them. Of note though, are the rivets that interfere with the giant angles on either side of the baggage compartment/roll bar crossmember: How the F do those go in? I have some CherryMax rivets left over from my adventures on the tailwheel bulkhead, maybe it’s time to bring those to bear.
So here’s one large, flat expanse of metal that won’t be kicking around the shop anymore, waiting for catastrophe to befall it. Now there are only 3 skins left: the forward top skin and the two bottom wing skins. For now, though, I have to go back to plasticland and install the aft canopy section.
The goal here is to have more parts on the airplane than on the shelf, so I decided to tackle the master and starter relays, to install them so they don’t grow legs and wander off. It’s also healthy session of plane-kata: measure, figure out assembly sequence, measure again, drill, deburr, rivet. This kind of activity centers, focuses, and calms.
The little dangly thing is an aluminum mockup of the copper bar that will go between the terminals. The battery box isn’t on there permanently; I have to take it off to rivet and seal the firewall recess in, but that comes later.
Another thing I did was oval out the holes in the canopy latches so the fingers can engage properly. Like I said, bits and pieces. What I’m trying to get to is a natural break point where I can commit to fiberglassing the canopy fairing. This will involve shoving the fuselage aside to make room for the inevitable mess the fiberglassng process is going to take. But this time, i’m prepared. I’ve got gloves, mixing sticks, mixing cups, a pump system, the whole shebang. The mess should be minimal. But part of getting to that point is finishing the aft canopy, and therein lies a Matroshka doll of things to do. For instance, to install the aft canopy section, the aft top skin needs to be on, but before the aft top skin goes on, I should probabably install the static ports. Actually, bollocks to the static ports, I have to crawl back there anyway to run the lines, might as well do it afterwards. I did finish cutting the aft canopy section, and it sure is cool to see it in place:
So now, the top skin needs to be riveted on, then I can drill the canopy to it and the roll bar.
A good amount of time today was spent cleaning. Cutting plexiglass makes a huge mess, and the shop wasn’t pristine when I started.
There are always loose ends, mostly consisting of fiddly bits that didn’t get finished during major ops. These are things started while waiting for parts or when there isn’t enough time for a big job, like fiberglassing the canopy. On the canopy, I ran out of SS screws a while back, leaving 3 holes unfilled in the plexi-to-metal connection of the frame. Whilst waiting for the Spruce order to show up, I started on the battery box. The batt box was a good way to ease into FWF tasks, and I’ve now got it done, except for the painting the retaining bar and standoffs. I made the master and starter relay doubler and that’s waiting to go in as well. I painted the canopy latches and put them on, and my screws came in from Spruce so the tipup’s all done too, except for the latch fingers not being able to close the canopy all the way because the latches are maybe 1 or 2 mm too high (yes I said millimeters instead of 1/16ths) and even though the latch handle closes, the fingers aren’t all the way engaged with the latches in the detents. So do I file the fingers and detents to the point where the mechanism works or do I elongate the latch holes in the canopy frame to drop the latches by the required distance?
I hate the canopy. It’s running neck-and-neck with paint as far as hated tasks, but I have to tell you, paint has gotten a lot easier since I stopped worrying and learned to love the rattle can. I might do the whole ship in rattle-can matte black. Just because.