Thursday, September 30, 2010

Roll me up to the bar, boys!

I started Section 24 last night. This is the section that was previously known as "The Section When I Have to Move to the Hangar," but lost that designation when I realized that there was no way I wanted to do all of that Section 23 riveting by hand. Section 24 initially held the title because it is the section in which the rollover bar/hoop gets installed. With the rollover bar/hoop on the fuselage, there would be no way to get the assembly out of the basement.

As I said, I started the building of the roll bar/hoop assembly last night. It comes in four parts: a front and a back, each comprised of a right and a left. The first step, not surprisingly, is to cleco the parts together. The left and right halves of front and back pieces are held together with a plate in the middle where the halves meet, and the front and back are then held together with two long aluminum strips. It's hard to describe, but easy to see. I started by joining the left and right halves of the front hoop.

The strip of aluminum sitting at the edge of the table is the strip that will get clecoed on the inner flange at the top of the hoop. I started by clecoing it at one of the corners of the hoop.

The arrow mark is there to ensure that I get the strip back in the same place after the inevitable disassembly that is assuredly coming in the near future.  There is a similar strip that gets clecoed inside the lower flange.

The upper strip gets slid in between a gap in the upper flange.

I was clever enough to figure that out on my own; the drawing of this in the manual leaves a loy to be desired when it comes to clarity of detail. What I wasn't clever enough to figure out was that the clecos would have to go in from the other side of the front hoop. Otherwise, the hoop halves couldn't be joined.

Do-over. Or mulligan, if you prefer.

As I started clecoing the front and rear halves together, I quickly realized that I didn't have nearly enough of the silver clecos on hand. The preponderance of my collection was safely at home, sitting on the abandoned workbench and not doing much of anything to help. I'd have to go get them. Or, as I finally decided, just call it quits for the night. The roll bar is made of a heavier grade of metal that the for more malleable aluminum I've become accustomed to and is by its very nature somewhat objectionable to work with. It had taken quite a bit of cleco coercion to get the front and rear halves to even come to the negotiating table; arriving at an agreeable alignment was going to be more of a task that I was willing to bite off.

I went back tonight armed with the bucket of silver clecos that had been unconscionably lounging in the basement while their copper colored brethren did all of the heavy lifting. Slackers. They remind me of puppy Cabot, who has recently discovered the Rag Doll Defense when faced with a command to remove himself from a piece of furniture when he has worn out his welcome.

"Cabot, down!"

"Down? Me?? Surely you can see that I have suddenly lost all of my bones and muscles and therefore could not possibly remove myself from this extremely comfortable bed. Without skeletal structure for support and  musculature to provide motive force, it should be clear as day to you that I simply have no choice in the matter."

"Cabot! DOWN!"

"No, seriously. Just look at me! I'm lying here like a mass of hairy Jello. Why, the only way that I could conceivably be moved would be for you to... HEY! PUT ME DOWN!!"

My prediction of the previous evening was almost immediately proven to be true: it took a lot of convincing to get those parts lined up. A lot of cleco wiggling, metal pounding, and swearing finally got the parts closely aligned.

Looking ahead in the manual, I saw that these holes are to be eventually filled with the ubiquitous LP4-3 rivets. Odd, that, since those size holes have always been filled with the copper guys. Hmmm. That could only mean one thing. And that one thing is, of course, a whole lot of match drilling.

Yep! Match drilling, and lot's of it! The metal ended up being more receptive to the bit than I had thought it would be given my first impression of its nature as being inherently obstreperous.  First impressions can be wrong, I suppose. The drilling went easily enough. I finished just as the 6:30 dinner bell started ringing. Tomorrow will find me disassembling the whole deal for deburring. I also caught sight of a couple of words in the next step that sent shivers down my spine: machine countersink. Uh-oh! That's gonna be a big job!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It was inevitable, given that the whole "things happen in threes" doctrine seems, more often than not, to be an actual metaphysical rule of the universe. Or not, I suppose. I'm still waiting for the third. There must be some kind of expiration date on that kind of thing or it would be surpassingly easy to always match events into a set of three. We'll see how it goes.

So, what am I rambling on about? Well, it was one of those days when things that looked like they should be easy ended up not being so. It started at the paying job. I was putting the finishing touches on a new enhancement to a piece of software that we use to track a specific customer service process. The process in question has always been reactionary in nature, by which I mean we waited until a customer complained about a specific instance before taking action. These types of complaints are easily predicted, though, through a relatively simple analysis of data that we already have on hand. The reactionary approach worked fine for awhile, but the volume of cases has increased exponentially over time and is now threatening to overwhelm the lone person we have that works these cases.

Enter the IT dude. "Hey," said I, "let's shift our focus to a proactive approach. As part of my normal Wednesday morning data aggregation, I'll start tagging these potential cases and we can get busy on researching these issues before they get reported to us." Well, I didn't really vocalize that - I pretty much just jump in and do it. It turned out to be, as I had expected, a pretty straight forward process. There was the data, all lined up in a nice columned list on the screen. I put the data in the type of list that can be sorted just by clicking on the column header that the user would want to sort on. It was working great, mostly because it was re-used code that did the sorting.

It was tricky code early on - it struggled with correctly sorting values like $1.23 or 12/25/2010 because the computer (which I liken to a poorly trained monkey, with me playing the role of trainer) thought those values where words, not numbers. The most recent fix that I had applied fixed the "sort by date" problem by testing each value before sorting it to see if the DateTime object in my programming language could successfully convert the value to a date. If it could successfully convert to a date, well, I'd sort the values as dates. If not, they were numbers. Brilliant!

The new problem was with percentage values, more specifically percentage values of less than 10.0000%. Everything would sort just fine, except I'd see things like 2.2343%, 8.3423%, 4.3214%.  Clearly not correct.

Two hours of debugging later, I was mortified to find the offending line of code sitting directly under a comment that I had left in the sorting routine last time I had fixed it:

// I just want it known that I AM A GENIUS!!

I put that comment in there after (supposedly) fixing the date problem.  Who knew that the DateTime test was looser than Paris Hilton's overly hormonal chihuahua?

Thank goodness I'm the only one that ever sees this stuff!

All in all, it was a small-ish frustration tagged onto the end of what had been a fairly productive day. I thought I'd top the day off with a quick hour of work in the hangar. I scored a replacement for the lost headset jack nut for the RV-6 from the local mechanic and wanted to install that before I lost it, and I wanted to knock out the last page of Section 23. My hope is that the successful completion of Section 23, clearly one of the more demanding of the entire build, will help out when I get those 3:00 am anxiety attacks. You know, the ones where I wake up in a sweat wondering what ever made me think I could actually build an entire airplane! With my new response of "Hey, I got through Section 23, didn't I?" in hand, I can hopefully convince my middle-of-the-night critic to shut up and let me sleep.

The last page of Section 23 is where the first of the cowl hinges get installed. These cowl hinges have been the bane of my five years with the RV-6. I hate, hate, HATE these things. If you care to, you can find out why over at the Papa Golf Chronicles by clicking here. Or you can just take my word for it: the manner in which the typical Van's RV attaches its cowls is an unmitigated pain in the, uh, rear end. The RV-12 is no different.

It seemed a simple job. Cut off a couple of 10" lengths of the hinge material. Clamp a couple of the pieces onto the forward flange of the lower firewall. Match drill #30. Rivet in with the ubiquitous LP4-3 rivets.

I should know by now, and I suppose I do at some repressed subliminal level, that jobs that look easy most often aren't. It was a rather odd set of problems that I ran into. The first problem arose when I tried to clamp the right side hinge piece to the firewall flange. The firewall seems to be under some sort of compression force that makes it "oil can" (for want of a better term) in and out. In other words, the flange would either be pushed into the fuselage, or popped out of it. It wanted to be anyplace but aligned with the holes in the fuselage side skins. I couldn't cleco it or clamp it in place because the hinge strip wouldn't be able to sit flat against the flange with the cleco stems or the clamps in the way. I tried all kinds of things to keep that firewall from popping in and out; none worked. I eventually resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to start at the top of the hinge strip and clamp it down over the cleco stems in the middle set of holes. Doing that put a bend in the hinge strip, but I decided that the bend would be okay once I get the hinge fully riveted in place.

That turned out to be correct. Unfortunately, I was so focused on keeping the firewall flange in alignment that I let the hinge strip drift away from its intended position of being flush with the front edge of the flange. Down towards the bottom, the hinge strip angled in towards the firewall. That would never do; I know enough about these cowl hinges to know that they have to be pretty well aligned. I'd have to start over with a new piece of hinge strip. But I'd defer that until I had the left strip clecoed in. That's when I discovered (and I still can't figure out how this is even possible) that I had cut four right side pieces and no left side pieces. 

Normally this is when I would have started worrying about not having enough of the hinge material to correct those two mistakes, but I have plenty of the stuff left over from the repair to the RV-6 cowl. I cut a left side piece from the remaining supply. I had hoped that the left side of the firewall wouldn't do the same oil can thing that had plagued me on the right side, but to no avail. Still, having figured out how to address the problem helped get the left side done fairly easily. Going back to the right side, it too went as well as could be expected. All of this effort ended up taking more than two hours.  So much for an easy night at the shop!

But... I slept through the night without so much as a pang of anxiety.  Goodbye, Section 23!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Installing the airsickness detectors

It never fails. There we are cruising along at speeds normally reserved for Ferraris, which, as you can imagine, provides a fairly healthy amount of fresh air through the vents, when my passenger du jour starts fiddling around with the vents "trying to get more air." It almost always means one thing: he or she is starting to feel nauseous. It's not uncommon in any airplane, but the RV-6 seems to bring it on more often than more sedate rides. Those vents have prevented more than one smelly mess in the airplane since the warning is always taken seriously and pains are taken to return to the airport as quickly and smoothly as possible.

I don't know if the RV-12 will also induce nausea in inexperienced passengers, but just in case I installed the airsickness detectors today. Well, it wasn't actually just me; I had assistance today from Co-pilot Egg. I had prepared the pieces/parts a couple of nights ago and probably would have had everything installed by this morning if it hadn't been such a cruddy day at work that day. I was tired and irritable, and when it came time to countersink the outer doors for rivets I decided that I just wasn't in the mood. Bad things happen when I try to press through a black-cloud mood, so I deemed it to be a good idea to just forgo the pleasures of countersinking for the night.

Here are the parts that awaited us this morning:

It was a simple matter to cleco them together.

I demonstrated the countersinking operation for Egg, but she wisely demurred when offered the opportunity to try it herself.

The way these little doors will work is that a fixed screw will slide in the slot as the door is opened and closed. To enable smooth operation, the slots needed to be filed to remove some rough spots left over from the machining. Egg is comfortable with filing, what with having spend a hot, sweaty hour at Oshkosh filing a block of wood into a rough approximation of a propeller.

She already knows how to cleco, so after showing her the proper orientation of the parts (sadly, that was accomplished via trial and error - I got it in backwards on my first try, but Van's method of making it difficult to install things incorrectly caught my error) she clecoed them into place.

This is the fixed framework that will support the door as it slides open and closed:

The holes needed to be final drilled, a task that I found to be somewhat difficult. Because the slides only have two holes, removing one of the clecos for drilling allows the slide to move around. I didn't want the slide to move off center from the hole as I was drilling through the side of the fuselage, so I pushed it out of the way, drilled through the fuselage and frame holes, then moved the slide back into place and drilled through it into the newly drilled holes in the fuselage.

While I was drilling, Egg was reading ahead in the plans. "Ooh, you're not going to like what comes next," she said ominously, "We have to take it all back apart again." That came as no surprise; it was obvious that we'd need to deburr the holes. I let her take it apart and put it all back together after the deburring, and then it was time for some fun! She loves the pneumatic rivet puller.

While she was busy riveting, it was my turn to read ahead a few steps. I was somewhat taken aback by the way the screw gets installed in the slide/slot combo. Usually a screw in an airplane is installed from top to bottom. This one is not.

There must be a reason for that, but I can't figure out what it might be. Still, we do as we're told in the land of E-LSA. Once the frame was riveted in, we went back to assembling the doors. They too needed to be riveted together, but they use squeezed solid rivets instead of the blind rivets the frame used. I held the parts together while Egg squeezed the rivets. She doesn't like the rivet squeezer nearly as much as she likes the pneumatic puller.

I bolted the doors in place in the frames.

Here are the finished airsickness detectors, shown in both I'm-feeling-fine and I-ain't-feeling-so-good position:

Team photo:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My 1st Anniversary

October 14th was the one year anniversary of my first actual work on the building of N284DG. And I missed it.

Typical man.

I made up for it tonight by finally finishing page 23-06. It took eighteen days, and note that page 23-06 does not include the bending of the longerons, but did include the painting of the interior. And, truth be told, a whole lot of those eighteen days were days when I didn't even go out to the hangar, much less work on the airplane. And yes, a few of them were spent correcting mistakes. Still... eighteen days, one page.

As I mentioned, those eighteen days of off and on labor culminated in finally having both fuselage side skins riveted on. The right side skin went on a couple of nights ago when I was able to farm out some of the work to the effervescent and ever-vacillating Jack the Sailor, a prospective RV-12 builder that is currently in the "can I really do this" and "do I really want to" phases and has been for weeks. Been there, done that. I figured pulling a few rivets would help convince him that anyone can build one of these things, but he's sharper than that. He quickly realized that the riveting is the east part; the hard part is getting all of the pieces prepared and assemble prior to riveting. Still, he got some good experience and that can only help with his decision making.

I started him out by having him install ten nutplates. Sure, I know what you're thinking, and you're right. I am sick and tired of installing nutplates and I was more than happy to foist off that job, but pragmatism rises to make my defense: if you can't install nutplates, you ain't building an RV. It was a good exercise. It helped that I had everything pre-dimpled and all Jack had to do was cleco and rivet, but those are fundamental skills and you have to start somewhere.

He only decapitated two out of twenty of those daggone irritating mandrels, which beats my best record of three out of twenty. Those don't bother me as much as they used to now that I know I can just tap them through with a hammer rather than cut them off and file down the stub.

While Jack was doing that, I busied myself with hanging the other side skin on and prepping it with don't-rivet-here clecos.

This was the second try with these three. I originally had the line of clecos starting in the set of three holes further forward. I was doing the right side skin, but the left side is the one shown in the drawing. I think from now on I will work on the side that is depicted in the manual and then transpose to the other side. Less mistakes that way, I would imagine.

As we all know, I am by my very nature a supremely generous individual, so it should come as no surprise that I let Jack do the majority of the riveting. I like to think that anyone would have been as charitable in this situation, but probably not. I'm a saint among men, I am.

While Jack was riveting, I happened to notice this little tab under the longeron. That's the one on the left - I checked it because I felt springy resistance when clecoing that hole on the right side. I recognize that feeling as a tab that is being pushed down by a cleco. It was. I fixed the alignment on the right side and checked to make sure the left was okay too. It was.

Jack's out of town now so I had to was lucky enough to be able to rivet on the left side skin by myself tonight. It sure takes a lot longer to do alone!

And that's the end of page 23-06!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Okay, I'm over it

After a few days of pouting over my dyslexic painting/dimpling/edge-breaking incident (and a day of flying) I finally was able to stomach the idea of getting back to working on the side skins. Today's plan was to strip the offending paint off of the skin, drill out the twenty rivets holding in the nutplates, reverse the direction of the dimples and the edge-breaking, paint the correct side of the skin, replace the nutplates, and watch football if there was any time left in the day. 9:00 am found me standing in the spray paint aisle at Lowe's forcing myself to buy another can of the Rust-Oleum that I hate so much. I know, I know, but I have no choice. I'm committed now. And hey, what are the odds that I'd get another stuttering can? Surely that was just a fluke.

I'm finding that working at the airport has its distractions. One of those is the fact that there are airplanes there. Another is that different airplanes come in and out. As I was driving down the entry road, I saw what looked like a brand new RV-7 taxiing in. There was also a pretty RV-8A parked out on the ramp. I figured I could spare a few minutes (okay, the full truth: I was in no hurry to get the hangar and slog through hours of stripping off paint) to stop and say hi. The RV-7 pilot was there to meet and pick up another guy, after which the both of them would fly to a fly-in down south in Vinton County. I've been to that fly-in; it was one of the reasons I stopped going to fly-ins, as it turns out. I went in 2006 and 2007 and both times had something happen with the crowded landing pattern that just turned me off of fly-ins at uncontrolled airports.

Anyway, I walked up and introduced myself to the RV-7 pilot, whose name turns out to be Joe. And, oddly enough, it was another one of those cases when I introduce myself and the reply is "Oh, I've heard of you." Quick, what's the first thing you think when that happens? Right: good or bad. It reminds me of a time soon after the company that pays me to work was acquired by a Fortune 15 mega-corporation. I was at a business dinner with some folks from corporate headquarters when one of them made the comment that I already "had a reputation at corporate."

Great! Good or bad?

She refused to answer.

Read into that what you will - I sure did!

It also turns out that the passenger is the father-in-law of the CFI that did my tail wheel transition five years ago when I bought the RV-6. I showed him a picture of the plane and he told me that he thought he had repaired a wheel pant from that plane. He had, in fact. I broke one of them on the runway at Bolton when I was still struggling to learn how to land it. Funny how people came out of the woodwork after that incident to tell me that they had thought about suggesting that I remove the pants until I get better at the landings, but for some reason didn't. I remember struggling to keep the tone of sarcasm out of my "well, thanks anyway."

The big news here, though, is that he paints airplanes. He painted an RV-6 that's also based at Bolton and I've always thought it to be a very pretty airplane. He offered to do my -12 when it's ready and I think I'm going to pursue that path next year.

Having put it off for as long as my conscience would allow, I finally made my way to the hangar to start paying penance for my carelessness. While it was the paint stripping that I was the most reluctant to start, there were a couple of other not-very-fun things to get through first. Chief of which was the drilling out of twenty blind rivets. It's normally not very hard to drill out blind rivets, but these are the little tiny ones that I hate so very much. They seem like they ought to be easy to work with, but they're the ones that have the irritating proclivity to break off in the rivet puller and leave a piece of the mandrel sticking out of the hole. I figured it was going to be tough to deal with the piece of mandrel that was still stuck in three of the rivets.

That actually turned out to be easy. I just used my modified Harbor Freight center punch to knock the mandrels out through the other side.

No good can come without an offsetting bad, though. It's a law of metaphysics or something. The bad in this case came when I tried to drill out the rivets. Instead of the drill bit cutting into the rivet, it just caused them to spin in the hole. After a few enjoyable minutes of pouting, I figured out that I could hold the other side of the rivet in place with vise grips.

That seemed to be working fine.

I got about three of them done before the battery quit in the drill. I hunted around for the other battery, found it, plugged it in, and found out that it too was dead. Figures. I'd have to press on with the air drill.

I finally got all of the nutplates out, but was confronted with a whole new reason to hate those little buggers. They wouldn't come out of the nutplates! Sigh. Back to the vise grips and the drill.

None of this had done much to improve my mood, so I had to dig deep into my ever-waning pool of self discipline to force myself to get on with stripping off the paint. The first third went very slowly as I'd pour on some MEK on the skin and then rub like blazes to get the paint to come off.

I eventually realized that I was doing it wrong. I learned that it's better to let the stripper do the work and just sit back and watch the show. Oddly enough, this lesson seemed reminiscent of a very similar lesson that I had learned years ago, back in my young, more unruly years. I can't quite seem to put my finger on what that old lesson pertained to, precisely.... but I'm sure it will come to me. In any event, the secret was to pour on some MEK and wait a minute or two for it to really dig in and wrinkle up the paint. Once that had happened, it wiped right off with very little effort at all.

With the paint finally gone, I did the reversing of the dimples and the re-breaking of the edges. I hung the skin back on to see how it looked.

Much better! I had to put it on and take it back off a few times to do some more adjustments to the longeron (another half dozen trips to the vise, thank you very much) before painting it. Once I was as satisfied with the fit of the longeron as I'm likely to get, the skin was finally ready to have the new paint applied, this time on the correct side. I grabbed my brand new can from Lowe's and started to paint.

Pfft. Pffffft. Pfft. Pffft.

Great. Another stutterer.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dropping the Toast

I don't know if it's true or not, but conventional wisdom has it that a slice of buttered toast, if dropped, will invariably land butter-side down. I can see the appeal of such a belief to the pessimistic crowd - the planets are aligned against me, anything bad that can happen will happen, and it's just the way of our universe and has nothing to do with any kind of personal curse that may have earned by flipping off a witch-like old hag puttering along in the fast lane at 42 mph. You know, as in "it could happen to anybody."

So, it must have been right around 3:00 am last night when I popped awake with an idea. Now sometimes this happens and it's actually a good idea, but more often than not it's a realization that something I thought was bad actually might be even worse. In this case it had to do with the mispainted fuselage side skin. My belief was that I had mislabeled the side skin as the right side instead of the left and simply failed to not trust myself. That belief was helpful because it meant that I wouldn't have to drill out the 20 rivets that I had just used to install 10 nutplates on the supposed "real" right skin. Why, if it turned out that the labeling had been correct in the first place, that meant that those rivets would have to be drilled out. That's not a real big deal, although it would mean ordering 20 replacement rivets from Van's, which would be yet another of those $2.25 for a few ounces of rivets shipped for $12.95. That would certainly be a butter-side down eventuality.

I didn't sleep well after that. The inexorably slow clock finally worked its way around to 5:00 am, the earliest time I will allow myself to get up and go to work. There would be a stop at the hangar on the way, but I already knew exactly what I would find when I got there.

I'll be ordering rivets today.

On the bright side, such as it is, at least I didn't spend a lot of time removing all of the paint from the skin that now turns out to be the one correctly oriented.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Douglas Corrigan

Apropos of nothing in particular, I had occasion to look up the details regarding one Mr. Douglas Corrigan today. My memory had it that he was famous for having flown out of New York and ending up in Ireland accidentally, having intended instead to fly to California. To his dying day he maintained that he had simply flown the wrong way, earning him the immortal sobriquet Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan. Here's what Wiki has to say in the introductory synopsis:

Douglas Corrigan (January 22, 1907 – December 9, 1995) was an American aviator born in Galveston, Texas. He was nicknamed "Wrong Way" in 1938. After a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, though his flight plan was filed to return to Long Beach. He claimed his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. However, he was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis) and had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for his transatlantic flight. He had been denied permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and his "navigational error" was seen as deliberate. Nevertheless, he never publicly admitted to having flown to Ireland intentionally.
Reading that, it sounds as if there was no accident involved and the truth of the matter was that Mr. Wrong Way was well aware of his direction. Interesting story, though.

I've been lazing about the house the last few nights and haven't gotten much done on the airplane. I've noticed that my interest in working at the hangar waxes and wains depending on what I've been doing at the paying job. On those days when I have to wear my business-side hat and participate in seemingly interminable meetings during which I participate in scintillating debates such as what something should be named, I can't wait to get out to the shop to do some tangible work. It's not that those meetings aren't important, it's just that my nominations for names are never chosen. I suppose it could have something to do with the uncanny propensity I have for suggesting names that acronymize poorly (Claims Reconciliation Accounting Process and Bidirectional Asynchronous Load Leveling System come to mind), or it could just be bad luck. You be the judge.

In contrast, on the days when I wear my technical genius hat and spend hours that fly by like minutes building new capabilities into my suite of software applications, I come home tired and drained, wanting nothing more than to slouch through the remainder of the day. This week I've been in full-on invent mode, cranking out amazing new features such as the ability to generate a catalog report and automatically fax a copy to 2,724 individual fax numbers at the press of a single button on the screen. Pretty slick, that, and well received by my co-workers, but when all is said and done it leaves me as an empty husk driving home on autopilot in hopes of a relaxing evening spent vegging in a chair.

It wears on me, though, this laying about. I feel guilty about it. I have a lot of things needing done, and one of the biggest is finishing this airplane in less that a decade. I thought that tonight I'd go out and do some simple work in preparation for riveting the side skins on. Each skin has ten nutplates that needed to be dimpled and riveted in. That seemed an easy task and it would be just gratifying enough to alleviate the creeping guilt I've felt washing over me for the last few days.

I had forgotten that the nut plates used the #3 size blind rivets that I hate so much. They seem like they should be incredibly simple to put in, and in most ways they are. It's just that they have a very irritating habit of breaking off in the rivet puller now and again. Tonight it was three out of twenty.

As usual, I cut them off with a pair of wire cutters and ground the remaining stub of mandrel off with the ScotchBrite wheel. With that done, I could hang the longeron and skin back on the fuselage to see how it looked. Having done that, I thought I'd also test the fit of the forward upper firewall section again to see if my adjustments had worked.

It looked good on the left side and I thought I'd go ahead and put the right side on just long enough to see if there would be more longeron work to do before installing its nutplates and clecoing it in position for riveting.

Ah, now you see why I wanted to look up the biography of one Mr. Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan.


I blame Rust-Oleum. I remember being pretty torqued off at them at the time. It'll be just my luck that the one thing they got right was to formulate a paint that can't be removed.

Amazing, isn't it? As careful as I was to mark the skins to avoid exactly this kind of mistake, I had gone ahead and done it anyway. I swear, I'd be better off just flipping a coin rather than trying to keep track of things with a Sharpie marker. Still, how could I have messed this up? Well, there's your answer. I marked it wrong, and then trusted myself.

I started the sure-to-be-lengthy-and-infuriating process of stripping off the paint, but I very quickly realized that I must have cut my finger when moving the side skins around. The burn of paint thinner getting in my cut was the last straw. I'm back in vegetative mode for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interior paint done

The thinking, such as it was, behind using off-the-shelf rattle can spray paint for the interior painting was as follows:

  - easy to buy in precise quantity needed
  - easy to match color if/when touch up is required
  - no need for advanced painting equipment
  - if a "textured" paint is used, insects and travelling dust motes that get caught in the wet paint only serve to add to the effect

So, how did it work out? Well, okay as far as it goes, but I have to confess that I am beyond disappointed and well into irritated with Rust-Oleum.

Issue 1: easy to buy in precise quantity needed. I suppose it would have met that criteria if there was any degree of quality control on the actual spraying part of the term "spray paint." One can was a complete dud and refused to expel any paint whatsoever. A second can would only spray for moments at a time before sputtering, stopping, starting, sputtering, etc. I finally realized that someone at Rust-Oleum had cleverly modified the can to send a message in morse code. I carefully transcribed the dots and dashes formed by the sputtering spray can:

- .... .. ... /  .--. .- .. -. - /  .. ... /  -.-. .-. .- .--. 

(Here, let me help: Morse Code Translator here)

Issue 2: easy to match the color later. Not likely. The colors didn't match from can to can now, so I can't see them doing any better in the future.

All I have to say is this:

It's time to rewrite the promise at the top of the can. "Trusted Quality Until 2010" would be more accurate.