Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taking the longeron way around

I'll skip to the punchline: I got the second longeron opened, bent, and twisted. Me being me, though, I took the longeron way around,.And me still being me, I'm going to share every gory detail. It's been awhile since I've worked on the plane, what with various and sundry distractions having conspired to set my goals adrift, but I was determined to get the second longeron completed this weekend. Having the longerons done should, in theory, allow me to get back to the little penny-ante jobs that are so much easier to fit into my daily routine.

Having struggled with the first longeron and thinking that a second pair of hands, and experienced hands at that, might be beneficial when I faced the second longeron, I invited Co-pilot Rick to come by on Saturday afternoon to relive the joy that is longeron bending. I thought I'd get out to the hangar before him to get everything ready to go. Having learned my lesson about how easy it is to bend in the wrong direction, I very carefully and thoroughly marked the aluminum stock to make sure everything would go in the correct direction.

I also went ahead and got the longeron teed up in the vise so we'd be ready to jump right into getting the 5.4 degree opening made on the end.

I had forgotten what a sub-optimal method that is. While it's much better than the Van's suggested "pound it with a sledge hammer" approach (primarily because that method is completely dysfunctional and makes absolutely no sense at all), using the steel pipe coupler has its own issues. For example, there are only two spots on the coupling that make contact with the longeron. Can you see the two "bands" around the circumference of the pipe coupling? What happens in the best case is that the bands create dimples in the edges of the longeron. In the worst, and sadly most common, case only one of the bands works against the longeron. That causes the dimple, but also causes the longeron to bend.

Rick and I talked it over and I decided to follow his suggestion: go to Lowe's and get a longer, smoother length of pipe. He also advocated getting rid of the wooden 2x4 pieces that I was using to protect the longeron material from the sharp edges on the vise pads. We could use the scrap left over from cutting the longerons down to the correct length. Excellent ideas, both. Off to Lowe's we went, which ended up being surprisingly painless. We had no trouble finding a suitable pipe and I took the opportunity to buy a replacement set of lights for the boat trailer. ("What boat trailer?" you ask? Well, follow the 'distractions' and 'adrift' links in the first paragraph - that's what they're there for).  Once back it was just a matter of minutes before the whole contraption was set up and ready to go.

The down side of this approach was immediately apparent: now that I was not only trying to open the whole length at once but was also opening a whole 'nuther chunk of angle. It took even more pressure than it had before to get anything to move. And it had taken a lot of pressure before.

You think that shirt is loud? You should have heard the screeching and snapping of my back!

It looked like we were making good progress, though. Just as I got to the point where it seemed that the JOMT* methodology had gone as far as it could, it seemed to start getting easier. Figuring that I was simply growing measurably stronger in a matter of mere seconds, I did exactly what the JOMT methodology dictates: I gave it another turn. It was at that point that only one of two things could be true: I was either suddenly and shockingly a strong candidate for a spot on the Olympic weightlifting team, or something had gone horrilby awry in the vise. Not surprisingly, the latter was the case.

Huh, it seems that vises are for holding things, not pressing things. Who knew?

Again not surprisingly, we called it quits for the day.

Sunday morning found me at Lowe's again, this time buying a new vise. I was in a bit of a rush and managed to waste a perfectly good chance to pick up a couple of more things for the boat trailer (What? You still haven't looked at those links??) before Lowe's got to its normal Sunday afternoon condition which, in a handful of words, is best described as a pain the rump.  Having recently discovered that I have the upper body strength required to rip the guts out of a 4" vise (yeah, well, whacking it with a 4 lb. sledge hadn't helped, had it?) I went ahead and bought the 6" vise. I thought briefly about buying the 5" but they were the same price, so...

I had to mount the thing to the workbench, but that didn't take long. In no time at all I was ready to start putting the bend in the longeron. Thankfully the former vise had used its last breath on this earth to finish the 5.4 degree opening. As with the first longeron, the bending of the curve is somewhat anti-climatic, assuming that you do it in the right direction. I did, this time.

With that done, I put in the 4 degree twist (made easy with the electronic angle measuring thingy I picked up at Harbor Freight for $23) and called it quits. Well, I did one more thing: I set both of the longerons in their presumptive locations on the fuselage just to see how they looked.

Then it was on to the boat trailer. I figured there was no reason to spend any time troubleshooting the existing lights since I already had a replacement set in hand, so the first order of business was to get the old lights out of the way.

It turns out that troubleshooting wouldn't have taken very long at all.

I was clever enough to not just yank the old wiring out before using it to pull the new wiring through the center pipe of the trailer.

Wiring in the lights was easy enough, but it was kind of like working on the RV-12, too. Put on a light. Notice that I forgot to put on the license plate bracket. Take off the light. Put on the license plate bracket. Put on the light. Put the light on the other side. Realize that there's no way to get the wires to the back of the lights while they're on the trailer. Remove the lights. It goes on like that... you get the picture.

I finally got them installed and went to get the car to hook them up and test them.

Wrong car.

I'd have to go home for the other. I'd have to stop at Lowe's on the way because in my morning haste I had forgotten to buy a new length of rope and a functional quick release clasp for the rope in the trailer winch. It was the broken clasp that had let the boat fall off of the trailer. (Just go read about it, won't you??) The rope was also looking pretty worn out so I figured I'd just replace both.

The trip to Lowe's went just about like you'd expect for a Sunday afternoon visit. There was a long line at checkout waiting behind an old oblivious guy who was so busy chatting on his new-fangled portable telephony device that he was blind to the fact that the cashier was trying to get him to sign the Visa receipt. I bought a $9-ish 50' length of rope and a $2-something clasp and was so surprised to be charged $21 for it that I checked the receipt on the way out. It showed two $9-ish ropes and nothing about the clasp. I turned right around and went back.

"Oh, I don't know why I did that. You'll have to go to Customer Service to get that fixed."

Customer Service had two people working, and both of them were working on the same thing: another old couple trying to figure out how to fill out the application for a Lowe's credit card. They couldn't decide on which name to use. It seemed obvious to me: just use whichever name will stick your estate with the unpaid balance. Duh. I'd like to be able to say I was pleasant and cheerful when I finally received my $7-odd refund.

I can't.

Trading cars turned out to take a little longer than expected too. I still had another project to take care of: we're almost out of bread & butter pickles, so I needed to get another batch made.

With the pickles in the fridge, well... pickling, I ran back to the hangar to test the trailer lights (they worked!) and replace the winch rope and clasp. As I was finishing up, the guy that hangars his Cardinal across from me came over for a visit.

"So, how's your project going?" he asked.

I replied, "Which one, precisely?"

It's been that kind of weekend.

* Just One More Turn

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