Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cap Down!

In the neighborhood where I grew up, we had an expression we used whenever we slammed another kid with a really good insult: Cap Down! I hadn't thought of that in decades; it came to me just now as I was trying to think of a pithy title for this post. I kind of miss the concept, though, and wish I could use it in my day-to-day life as an adult. Why? Well, through necessity (read: overly timid HR departments) my cap downs have become extraordinarily subtle and surgically precise. The problem there is that the people that most need to know that they've been the target of one of my oh-so-subtle zings are more often than not completely oblivious to it.

Oh well, at least I know. And every now and then I see the secret eye shift from some of the witnesses that passes for a silent Cap Down!

So what's the deal with caps? I'll get to that shortly. First allow me to set the stage for yesterday's efforts. I'm at a bit of a crossroads now and faced with a few decisions as to how and where to proceed. The next step in the plans if I want to proceed in a linear fashion is to drill the flaperon torque tubes. Doing so required installing the wings. All well and good since Cadillac Pete and I got that done just a few days ago. Soon after that will come the installation of the rudder and stabilator control cables. To do that, the rudder and stabilator need to be installed. Since the plane looked so incredible with the wings attached, I was leaning towards installing the tail feathers to get some more of that "Wow, does that ever look like an airplane!" feeling in my belly.

Each of those activities requires a trip back to the deep past to find the place in the plans where I was supposed to do those things in the first place. Having decided that the emotional lift of installing the tail feathers was a desirable goal, I decided to start there. But wait! The parts bags for the tail kit were nowhere to be found in the hangar, even though I was sure that I had gathered everything up when I brought the rest of the finish kit parts out to the hangar from the basement shop. I must have missed bringing the box full of brown paper bags with the tail kit hardware in them. I didn't want to go home to get it.

Pete suggested that we install the flaperons instead. While they would not be as visually striking as having the tail feathers on, they would still meet the soft and recently imposed requirement to install at least one control surface per day. Unfortunately, two of the AN3-10A bolts required have gone missing. An exhaustive search (I assume it to have been exhausting - I let Pete do it so I don't really know) didn't find them, so I'll have to order new ones. I'm going to order a handful of various sizes while I'm at it because 1) it's nice to have spares for the years of maintenance that lie ahead, and 2) it mitigates the pain of the shipping charges. Then I will take bets as to how long it will take to find the original two bolts after the replacements arrive.

Which reminds me: I found the bag of cotter pins.

Stymied on the flaperons, there was no choice but to run home and get the box of tail kit hardware. It was easy to find; it was sitting on the corner of the workbench where I put it so I wouldn't forget to take it out to the hangar. Funny how that works.

Once back at the hangar, I followed the bread crumbs back through the plans to see which part of the tail should be installed first. That turned out to be a good way to do it because it unearthed all of the "install this, remove it to do this, re-install it, remove it to do this" frustrations that are liberally sprinkled throughout the process. For example, had I started at "install vertical stabilizer" I would have been frustrated by having to remove it just a few pages later to install the fiberglass caps (Ah, there it is! We get to the caps at last!) that go on top of the VStab and rudder.

So where are the caps? I remembered very clearly that I threw them into the car so I'd be sure to drop them off at the hangar. What I didn't remember was ever having actually dropped them off. Surely, then, they are still in the car. Just not the car that I happened to have with me.

Another trip back home.

The caps come nicely formed and almost ready to go right out of the box, but they do require some trimming. They have a recessed edge that slips down into the open top if the VStab and rudder, and the molded corner of that recess needs to be squared up with a razor knife. Pete picked that job.

That left the trimming jobs to me. There are scribe lines around the edges of each part that show an approximation of the final fit. Van's asks that we approach the scribe line tentatively so as not to take off more material than needed. As I've said many times before, the great thing about working with fiberglass is how easy it is to remove material, while the horrible thing about working with fiberglass is how easy it is to remove material. I marked the suggested 1/8" buffer zone with a Sharpie(tm) marker.

Van's also suggests that a good way to remove the material is 80 grit sandpaper wrapper around a cylindrical object. I thought that was a terrific suggestion, but I had no 80 grit sandpaper. Not to worry, though, because I did have some sandpaper of undefined grittiness wrapped around a cylindrical object, and I figured the coarseness of 80 grit paper could be very suitably simulated with a high number of revolutions per minute. In other words, I grabbed the Dremel(tm) and a little sanding drum.

The Dremel(tm) was absolutely the right tool for the job. It removed the stuff I needed to trim away so easily that I commented to Pete that I had on a few occasions had an Anne Frank moment. I was met with a quizzical look that indicated to me that I might need to clarify what I meant by that.

"Well, I was only one sneeze away from tragedy."

Yeah, I know. I blame the fiberglass dust. Apparently it suppresses politically correct thoughts.

The trimming worked, though, and it was a simple matter to match drill to the tail parts and cleco the caps in for riveting.

The caps had been the only thing preventing us from bolting on the VStab, so that was next. A dozen AN3 bolts hold the VStab on and each was tightened up according to the torque values provided in the handbook provided by Van's with the kit.

I think the VStab was the right choice for a good emotional boost. Look how tall the plane has gotten!

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