Building Vertical Stabilizer

This was a nice break from doing the HS, which seemed to be a lot more cumbersome. The VS was much more straight forward and less stressful, perhaps due to having at least some experience now.

Step 1, go find the VS parts. With the first set of parts found, I went through the now-routine steps of clecoing, match drilling and countersinking. I matched drilled the holes with the steel brackets using my mini drill press, having learned previously that trying to do that by hand and NOT elongate holes is tough to do. I also made use of the drill press for machine countersinking the VS-808 holes that will be receiving the flush-head rivets.

After the rear spar, I moved onto the skeleton parts, including four ribs and a front spar. The only tricky thing here was getting the flange angles set correctly where the ribs met the front/rear spars. I wanted to minimize any gaps, which helps a lot when it comes time to rivet.

Also, you will see a perfectly dimpled skin. After having learned some lessons doing the HS skins, I played more with the setting on the DRDT2 dimpler. I found that with this thicker .032 skin, it really needed some more pre-load. I ended up putting nearly a full turn on it past the initial set point. At least I know from know on. The quarter turn mentioned in the instructions is probably fine for thinner material, but this thicker stuff really takes some pressure to dimple properly with the DRDT2.

Next, I prepped all parts for priming. I’m continuing to use Tempo Zinc Phosphate primer, even though the stuff really doesn’t stick super well, I have great confidence in it for corrosion prevention, on top of what the al-clad will provide. A single thin layer is all I’m doing, which is what tested well in my salt spray test.

Time to rivet! This unfortunately is the point where I had to take a brief brake. My Main Squeeze was temporarily out of action after having completed the HS. While working on the HS, I noticed the Main Squeeze making a clicking sound after setting each rivet as I released pressure on the handles. I discovered all cover screws had come loose, allowing some internal components to misaligned themselves. One visible problem was the brass bushing shown below that was coming unpressed. I talked with Cleaveland, they were SUPER helpful and were able to get this remedied and back to me right away. I couldn’t ask for better customer service!

I’ve since put Torque Seal on the cover screws, just in case! At least that way I’ll be able to see issues arising before it gets too bad.

So yes, time to rivet!

With rear spar parts clecoed in place, I went to work. I did run into several rivet sizes that the plans called for were on the long side. As you can see, one rivet looked to be nearly twice as long as diameter. Shooting for 1.5x diameter, that was just a bit long for me. I went down one size. The rivets all came out just fine and within spec.

I did run into some issues trying to rivet the lower two ribs to front spar. It was just a tricky place to get to. My squeeze couldn’t fit unfortunately, so I had to manage bucking them. I had a gap issue shown below, but was able to cleanly drill it out and replace with much better results. The primer got nicked a bit (I did say not the most durable primer!). I’ll touch it up and move on.

With the skeleton now done, the skin was next. This is where a new tool comes in! After riveting the HS skin using my BB-7 bucking bar, which is a fairly skinny 4″ long bar, I found that I just couldn’t get enough mass under the shop head as I’d like, which meant I was having to hit the rivet more than desired. The fix, a new tungsten bar! I got a BB-5, which is more compact, hence will place more mass under the rivet.

This did indeed work very well! I feel like I’m finally getting into a riveting groove. The skin surface looks amazing, better than the HS.

And…. it’s done!

I wasn’t very successful in *not* priming the exterior areas that will eventually be painted. I found trying to mask the areas around the rear spar that I didn’t want to prime to be far more cumbersome than just cleaning the primer off later. Oh well, next time!

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