Sunday, September 11, 2011

Distraction Season

Do you remember the classic Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck vignette where they are each trying to convince Elmer Fudd that it is open hunting season for the type of animal each is not?

Bugs contends that it's duck season, and Daffy insists that it's rabbit season, up until Bugs switches up the order and tricks Daffy into convincing Mr. Fudd that it's duck season.

I'm here to tell you that they both had it wrong: it is, in fact, distraction season.

Fall is one of the best times of year, as far as I'm concerned, but it often offers up a veritable cornucopia of things that distract me from building the RV-12. Co-pilot Egg is back in school for her senior year, and that brought a school open house and the never-ending chore of trying to get her started on her college applications.

It's also football season, and that means Saturday afternoons either stressing through agonizing losses or yawning through complete blow-outs. I suspect that we're in for more of the former than the latter this year, although Saturday's game was set up to provide the type of exciting down-to-the-wire finish that makes it worth sitting through the game. With a minute and a half left and a five point lead, O$U had to stop the Toledo Rockets from scoring. It was beginning to look grim as Toledo continued to march down the field, but with 90 seconds to go the co-owner, who was sitting in front of a laptop computer, blurted out, "Don't worry; we win."

When you consider that I leave the room after a TV show finishes because I don't want to see or here the scenes from next week, well....

It's also shooting season. That means Sunday mornings are more often than not going to include either sporting clays or skeet shooting. It was sporting clays today. You may remember that my scoring trending as of the end of the season last year was horribly downward. I had one really good round of 21/50 when I bought my new shotgun, but the rounds after that were 9/50 and 8/50. It was obvious to me that the only strategy that worked was to buy a new shotgun every week, but the co-owner, not unreasonably, put the kabosh on that idea. No, I'd have to improve the old-fashioned way: practice. You may also remember that I did just that by buying and using my own trap. The last time I practiced, I was able to string together series of ten to fifteen hits before missing a clay. That practice paid off today with a respectable 16/50. There's obviously a lot of room for improvement, but I was happy with such a reasonably good start.

Squeezed into all of that activity was watching one of the best Formula 1 races of the year at the historic and incredible track in Monza, Italy, and doing some small jobs on the RV-12.

The next big step in the RV-12 process is the attachment of the canopy to the canopy frame, but there are some smaller jobs to be knocked out first. The first of those was the fabrication of the handle that will allow the latching and unlatching of the canopy from outside the airplane. Having not been to the hangar for a full week, I had to spend a few minutes working up mental acuity through the expedient of ingesting caffeine and perusing the plans.

It starts out easily enough. The first thing to be done was to measure and place a spot in the very middle of the handle. Finding and marking these spots is a common task in the RV-12 build, and the purpose of them is to make it graphically obvious how far off-center the hole you will eventually drill will be.

The handle was to be placed on the steel rod extending from the handle assembly that will be used to latch and unlatch the canopy from inside the airplane. As usual, the hole that Van's drilled into the handle is exactly the same size as the rod that's supposed to fit into it, which means.... it won't.

Fit, that is.

In order to make it fit, I resorted to using my Harbor Freight heat gun (Harbor Freight, The Home of Cheap Electric Tools That Are Hotter Than the Sun, Sometimes Deliberately) to expand the aluminum handle so that it could be tapped into place on the rod.

That allowed me to drill the requisite hole through the rod and further into the handle.

Then, the most dreaded of words: "Disassemble." That, in a word, sucked.

I had one heckuva time getting that handle back off of there, even with the assistance of the heating tool. Once I was able to finally get the handle back off, I followed the suggestion of Van's to optionally round off the corners.

With that done, the handle gets cast aside in preparation for ultimately losing it, while attention shifts to the painting of the canopy frame. I've been having trouble getting paint to stick to the material that is used in the roll bar and canopy frame, so this time I gave it a good scratching up with some 220 grit sandpaper.

Then it was back to the little jobs. There are a couple of plastic blocks that get mounted into the canopy frame that will act as centering guides when the canopy is being closed. They're held in with two 8-32 screws each, and the holes for those screws needed to be tapped. At long last, I have found a material that is softer than a Harbor Freight tap!

Here is the tab that will be mounted to the canopy frame, sitting down in the slot. Why is it sitting here and not on the canopy frame? Well, there was a step for that - the tab gets aligned and match-drilled to the canopy frame while it is still installed on the airplane; I thought that since I didn't want this tab to get painted, I would remove the canopy frame for painting first, then install the tab. In hindsight, this was stupid. It's not like I don't have any masking tape, after all. I removed the canopy frame and painted it, then realized that I needed Pete's help to put the frame back on the airplane in order to correctly position this tab. Once that's done, the canopy frame will then immediately get removed again to attach the canopy to it.

Rather than pout about it, I pressed on with the fabrication of the little tabs that will act as lift handles for opening and closing the canopy. They start out as 1 13/16" pieces of aluminum angle, but through a few steps become nice looking little handles.

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