Saturday, March 3, 2012

My head is spinning!

It's been quite a week. I mark the start of my week on Saturday mornings with my regularly scheduled trip to my favorite butcher shop where I hunt & gather enough carnivorous delights to provide meals for the rest of the week, usually getting there as early as possible to avoid the large crowds that form later in the day.

This in a nutshell is the prevailing theme that sets my entire schedule: beat the crowds. Up at 4:45 am to get a head start on the masses for my lengthy commute across town to the plutonium mines, return home commensurately early for the same reason; that's the way I roll.  It helps to be a naturally early riser, although that ingrained trait does seem to put me at odds with the majority of the rest of the world. In fact, I don't think there is any identity group more discriminated against than that of the early riser. Don't believe me? Then try hosting a noisy, rambunctious party at 6am on New Years Day.  You won't get nearly the same latitude from law enforcement that the midnight crowd enjoys.

All in all, though, it works out fine. Last Sunday I was able to convince my foreman at the mines, who had asked if I would care to join him and another coworker for some trap shooting at the classy Black Wing Shooting Center, that we would be best served by arriving promptly at their opening time of 10am.  There was a little push back initially, but I was able to sell the deal by suggesting that doing so would temporally position us nicely for a follow-on lunch at the famous Bun's Restaurant in downtown Delaware, home of the even more famous Little Brown Jug.

I had been hoping to try real trap shooting some day, having found the far more challenging sporting clays to be more of a source of frustration than enjoyment, and thought it would be fun to invite Professor Pete along. Pete also brought his son Lance A. Einstein along which made us a party of five - perfect for the five-station trap set up.  We arrived right on time and it was just a matter of getting the required paperwork out of the way before we were ready to shoot. We ran through a first round of 25 shots each, at the end of which I learned that we were expected to keep a count of our score. I, thinking that we were just plinking, had failed to do so. Which is just as well since I still seemed to be struggling to hit any birds with anything close to regularity.

At the start of the second round, an inspiration hit me: the problem with sporting clays is that you can't always see the trap, so you have to try to pick up sight of the clay as it emerges from behind trees, and the path of the clays is often acute or obtuse enough to the shooting position that you have to quickly establish a tracking motion that will keep your aiming point in front of the target. With trap shooting, you're standing right behind the little hut that houses the trap. I figured that maybe I ought to focus my attention, and not coincidentally the aim of my gun, right at the top of the hut - a point from which the bird must surely originate.  This worked out better than I could have hoped. I hit four out of four to start out the round.

Even more surprisingly, this streak of success continued more or less unabated throughout the round with only periodic misses. Oddly enough, as we got deeper into the round I could have sworn that right after each clay that exploded in front of me, I heard a softly whispered "Damn!"  That couldn't actually be the case, I figured, and must simply be the echo of my shot reflecting off of some distant surface in a manner that confused my hearing, which is not inconceivable when you consider that I was wearing ear plugs. At the end of the round, I shared my score (16 of 25) with the group.  I heard it pretty clearly that time: "Damn!!"  It seems that my mine foreman had been keeping count of my score as well as his own and was reacting to the timing of my hot streaks, which apparently were running a hit or two longer than his. He finished with 12 hits.

This is not a minor thing to me. I have lived my entire life in last place, or so it seems. Golf? The group averages a round of 80 or 90, and there I am, proudly sporting a card showing 110.  Bowling? Yeah, you don't win many games with an average of 72. Don't even get me started on sporting clays. Bad, bad, bad.  So... actually doing a guy thing and winning?  Completely foreign to me.

So, shooting done and me feeling pretty good about it, it was off to a very enjoyable lunch at Bun's. I was afraid that it might prove hard to find, but it seems that they solved that problem years ago.

That pretty much shot the weekend (so to speak) for working on the airplane, so it became a matter of finding an hour or so each evening upon my return from the back breaking labor of crafting elegant business logic out of a seemingly endless inventory of pixels at the mines.

As I left it in the last installment of this journal, I had started putting together the "gap fillers," which is an appropriately mundane name for a pair of relatively mundane parts. The backing plates need to be match drilled through the spinner, but I had a problem with that: the backing plates were too thin to press against with the drill, so I had to add another little clamp to hold them in place.

Then it was on to the spinner plates. They both needed to have nutplates mounted around their inner circumferences, a task made somewhat more difficult due to the nature of mounting a flat object to the inner circumference of an object shaped such that it even has a circumference. The nutplates would need to be bent to fit, a job I accomplished with a pair of pliers. Van's also warns that the drilling of the hole through the flanges of the nutplates and into the flanged circumference of the spinner has to be done from the inside out. I was worried that this might be difficult given the circumference of the nose of my drill, but the slant angle of the circumferential flange of the plate rendered that concern moot.

I suffer periodic interruptions to satisfy the demands of my addiction to Words With Friends.

Once all of the drilling is done, the rivet holes need to be countersunk for the flush rivets. This is risky business when dealing with fiberglass: it is oh so easy to get the countersinking too deep. For that reason, I prefer to do these by hand.

I am also not a big fan of riveting into fiberglass - I'm deathly afraid that I will crush the part. I do it very gently, and deliberately under-squeeze the rivets.

The installation of the nutplates and the permanent attachment of the gap fillers was the last step before re-installing the propeller. The back plate goes on first.

Then the back half of the prop hub gets torqued on. It only takes 20 foot-pounds which doesn't feel like nearly enough. It takes self-discipline to not over torque the bolts.

The white plastic plug that goes in next acts to tie the pitch of the two individual propeller blades together. In theory, changing the pitch of one blade causes an identical change of pitch in the other. I have my doubts as to the precision of that pairing, but we'll find out later if I'm right about that or not. I suspect that keeping the two pitch values as close to identical as needed will be a little more intricate than that.

Then the blades are positioned.

Without undue delay, the forward half of the prop hub, the spacers, and the forward spinner plate are installed before the blades can fall off. This job would be easier with two people.

These bolts also get tightened to 20 foot-pounds. It still doesn't seem like enough.

Then, at long last, the spinner!

As is often the case, the last hole is where the sum of all of the little micro-errors shows up:

And there are the gap fillers. I'm hoping that once everything is painted and the airplane is viewed as a whole, the enormous kerf-caused gaps won't be as apparent.

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