Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas standing rib roast

Well, standing ribs, anyway. No roast.  As my annual Winter Sabbatical (also known as "practice retirement") proceeds apace, I'm falling into a nice day-to-day rhythm. No more am I getting up at 5:00 am; today I managed to sleep in until a positively scandalous 6:30 before getting up to start the day. Coffee, first, to savor while getting surfing the web and getting caught up on the news. A little later I make myself a breakfast, usually something just for me and my eclectic tastes. For the last two days it has been Cincinnati Goetta, a tasty German breakfast meat that is one of those things that are better served without looking too deeply into how they're made.

Never heard of it? Here's a tantalizing description shamelessly purloined from a web site:
The patties begin to sizzle. The pin oats swell and pop. The spices throughout the gloriously married pork and beef infuse the atmosphere. And the corners of your brain turn up to a grin. While the crumbles dance in the hot pan, the rounds color to a golden brown, and your tongue puddles with anticipation. The final patty is flipped unveiling a brilliant batch of toasted treasures. The belly roars.

Your fork breaks the delicate crisp and moves carefully through the creamy middle of the morning circle. Every bite sends you deeper into total sensory engagement, and allows the mind to skip through the collection of stories that decorate your family’s history and your own. In a moment you are at your grandma’s counter enveloped in tales of her grandma’s kitchen. Your heart sings.

The pure enjoyment you draw from each tender-crisp forkful testifies to the power of passion. Your delight drives that passion. And the contribution of your experience makes richer the fabric that forms the heritage and legend. This is the end of boring breakfast. This is the return to what matters. The return to what inspires. The return to what is right and good and real and delicious.

Nearly poetic, but very telling in its lack of detail as to the precise ingredients.

"What're the German words for lips and testicles?" he asks, apropos of nothing.

With my luck? Probably "goet" and "ta."

Once fed, I start to think about getting ready to go out to the hangar. By "starting to think," I really mean "starting to watch the thermometer." It's been pretty brisk in the early hours these week and I've found that if I can keep myself occupied with an old B&W movie on TCM for a few hours the temps will catch up with my internal thermostat. Today it was The Devil and Daniel Webster that carried me through the unappealing morning weather.

Once it gets up to about 25F I'm ready to go.

I'm still working my way through preparing the wing ribs. As we've seen before with the parts of this airplane, Van's prefers to make a single part and have us modify ("whittle down" would also be an apt description) sets of parts as necessary. For example, there is only one (well, two if you could "left" and "right" as different parts) type of forward rib, and one type (also with a "left" and a "right" variant) of main rib. Various numbers of each are customized to the demands of their relative location on the wing by means of amputation of various appendages.

I started with the left nose ribs. Some number of them have no need for the back flange, so it is cut off. This is easily accomplished with the band saw, and is yet another argument in favor of not attempting to build an RV-12 without one. I started by placing a straight edge against the top and bottom flanges and using a Sharpie marker to draw a line for me to follow with the saw blade.

The blade cuts straight and true through the thin aluminum quite easily.

A smaller number of the ribs also required the excision of two of the little flanges in the nose area.

After customizing a few dozen ribs, I had a flashback to the fuselage kit: install nutplates! These were a little odd in that they go on the outside of the rib; I had to be careful not to put them on the inside where they would appear to be more normally placed.

The majority of the main ribs also lose their large flange. I think out of twenty-six ribs, something like seven actually got to keep that flange.

A couple of the main ribs, one a lefty and one a righty, get a doubler added to them. Doing so requires a temporary clecoing to the rib and the match drilling of ten holes on each rib.

Four ribs get the longeron hinge brackets installed. The plans only have a drawing to show the orientation of the parts for the "right" ribs.

It took me awhile to mentally transpose the drawing to find the correct placement on the "left" ribs.

In one of those weird non-linear progression moments so prevalent in the order of operations, we then returned to the braces that had been match drilled a few steps prior to finish the job with LP4-3 rivets.

Finally, after hours of preparation it was time to start standing the ribs on the spine spar. In another of those odd dichotomies we're getting used to, the preponderance of main ribs used to attach to the left spar are "right" ribs. Only one "left" rib us used. The first "right" rib goes way out on the very outside end of the spar. I spent a lot of time making sure that I was putting the rib on the correct side of the flange mounted to the spar. It would be a royal pain to fix if I got this wrong!

The next rib is one of those that hosts a flaperon hinge brace. Being all top heavy like that, it wasn't keen on standing up straight with just a few clecos holding it in place.

There's plenty of room between ribs to fit the riveter in there. The rivet holes are far enough away from the spar that the little cheater wedge isn't required. The new riveter worked great!

I had to leave a gap because I'm still missing the loaned out rib. Figures it would be one that I need early in what is sure to be a lengthy process. I hope to retrieve it tomorrow.

The most inboard rib is the one that had a doubler riveted to it. It mounts on the opposite side of its respective spar flange than the rest of the ribs. I won't be able to rivet it in until the missing spar is in place because the gap between these ribs is much tighter than it is on the outboard ribs.

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