Monday, September 28, 2009

Rites of Passage

A rite of passage is a ritual that marks a change in a person's social status. They are prevalent in all aspects of life, and in aviation it is no different. Your first solo? A rite of passage. The first time you give yourself a third eye located front and center on your forehead for all to see by carelessly walking into the pitot tube under a Cessna's wing? A rite of passage. Bounce a landing in front of a thousand pilots at a fly-in? Yep, that too. The task of building an airplane also offers up a copious collection of such moments, all hopefully culminating in a First Flight. Many people think that the requisite "I ordered a tail kit" posting on a web forum is the initial rite of passage for homebuilders, but it isn't. No, there are two that come first. The very first rite of passage is....

....building a work bench. Yes, it seems mundane, but it is the first instance of picking up a tool with the intent to build and fly an airplane. It doesn't matter that the workbench will never fly (caveat: no such guarantee applies to those living in coastal or tornado-prone areas), the point is that effort is being applied against the overall goal.

Yesterday, I built my first work bench. It will ultimately end up being the easiest part of the entire project, I suppose, but that does not mean it was easy. I have a transportation limitation: my largest, most capable load hauler is a Subraru Forester. It's a great all-around utility runner, but it cannot carry large pieces of wood. That's a good thing when applied to the job of limiting large impulse purchases at Sam's Club, but not so much when you need to haul significantly sized pieces of lumber. I have to buy pieces/parts 6' or less in length, and only a couple feet in width. That rules out the nice, flat, huge piece of 3/4" plywood. It also places constraints on the length of 2x4's, those normally being sold in 8' lengths.

In what ended up being a Sunday afternoon Easter Egg hunt at Lowe's (which was a picnic compared to the previous stop: taking Co-pilot Egg shopping for a Homecoming dress - very, very emasculating), I pieced together shelving boards, short 2x4's, and 4' long 4x4 posts to build my table. If nothing else, it's stout! That will come in handy the next time we find ourselves cowering in the basement during a tornado watch.

There was a second, less laudatory rite of passage fulfilled, too. I'm sure this happens to everyone eventually...

This was the first time that I built something so heavy that I couldn't get it down off of the sawhorses by myself and had to enlist the help of a family member. Let the emasculation continue apace!

So, there it is, waiting patiently for the tail kit to arrive. Which, by the way, I have not yet ordered. If I had, you'd have read about it on the web forums.  Making that posting is a rite of passage, after all.

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