Saturday, March 17, 2012

Scowling at the Cowling

Having reached the step in the engine installation process where the directions demand that I install the engine cowling, presumably in preparation for the fitting of the tunnel that will reside inside the cowling and direct air into the radiator, I thought maybe it might be time to go back to the section in which I was supposed to have fit the cowling in the first place. The large fiberglass cowling halves have been stored in the underground secure storage bunker at the Schetterling home office since the day they arrived with the rest of the finishing kit last year, where they have charitably provided ancestral housing for hundreds of generations of spiders.

Not all of whom were yet deceased, as it turns out.

They are now.

After wiping away the remains, the cowling halves were loaded into the trusty Hyundai-like-Sunday and hauled out to the shop. Figuring that there would inevitably be some trimming required, I also laid out the chopping and sanding tools.

Van's, who never has you do one step when two or more will do, instructs the builder to trim the fiberglass to within 1/8" of the "scribe line," then sand away that nominal 1/8" of fiberglass down to the scribe lines. I imagine that is intended to be a cautious way to increase the odds against accidentally cutting past the scribe line which, in a word, would be bad.

The problem is that the scribe lines are very hard to see. They would be next to impossible to see while obscured behind the cloud of fiberglass dust and chips thrown out by the Dremel cutting disk, so I made Sharpietm lines to help.

I don't trust the Dremel not to throw itself or a part of what its cutting right in my face, so I deck out in safety gear when using it. I also don't like the idea of lining my lungs with fiberglass dust, so I grab the filters as well.

Fiberglass is notoriously hostile to tools. I could actually see the cutting disk shrinking as I was cutting.

I went through three entire disks before it was done, which was fair because one of those disks tried to go through me. Through more than two years of building, I made it through almost all of the drilling work without once drilling into one of my fingers, which is good, only to slice into the tip of my left driving finger (used on occasion for non-verbal communications with inept and/or irritating drivers) with a Dremel cutting disk.

Which was bad.  In a word.

I applied first aid, as is my wont, with a shop rag and masking tape, which I thought to be more than sufficient for a tiny little flesh wound, but Pugnaciously Paternal Pete was having none of it. He sent me home for a real bandaid and a dab of Neosporin.

The conversion of the remaining 1/8" of fiberglass into a cloud of noxious and clinging dust was a job for the nifty little Harbor Freight belt sander that I bought for the canopy work. This job, being even more dependent on being able to see the nearly invisible scribe lines, was better suited for outdoor work.  If you can get the angle of the sun just right, you can get a fleeting glimpse of the hair-thin lines.

It was a nasty, thankless job, but with no more than a quick final sanding with a long sanding board left to do, we should be ready to move on to step 2 soon.

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