SHOP, SUPPLIES and TOOLS
SHOP / HANGAR
I elected to use an attached garage (19.5' L x 16' W x 10' H) for my construction hangar and shop. This has proven to be extremely convenient as I can do quick items when time is available without having to save them up and make a trip to a remote hangar. I also find that sometimes when I'm doing other activities I have a question pop into my mind and I can zip out for a quick look. On the downside, we get extreme weather swings here and I no longer have an indoor parking spot for my vehicle in the winter ... brushing snow and ice off a vehicle in freezing temperatures with a wind is not my idea of a good time.
My garage is unheated even though it is attached. In cold weather (-40° take your pick C or F) it just starts to freeze on the floor near the main door. I looked at various heaters but really wasn't very impressed with either the safety or the cost. In the end I found I had an unnecessary hot air vent inside the house in the entranceway that I just ducted into the garage. I also taped over the various seams and edges of the main door. While this didn't make it really toasty in cold weather, the net effect was to very slightly pressurize it and probably raise the temperatures into the upper 40's (F) or 50's during the coldest weather with no freezing evident. I can't say that I noticed any difference on my total heating bill.
From a practical construction point of view, I have two problems with this arrangement:
Even if I didn't have the height issues, I'd seriously consider installing a caster system. Now that I'm in a hangar, I've still left the casters on since it makes it trivial for one person to move the craft around. If height was not an issue, I would make the caster system taller than mine since there is a lot of bending over required when working on the low version. If one is going for the minimal height approach, one limitation is to make them tall enough that clecos can be installed on the underside with some ground clearance. I was in a hurry to get my drawing to my welder before he went on holidays and made a mistake in my calculations ... I ended up have to make spacer pads between the casters and their mounting pads.
Like many things on a project like this, I under-estimated the time for shop preparation. First I had to clean out 15+ years of accumulation and find a new home for all the "good junk". Then it was time for a good cleaning; well at least getting the worst of the dust, dirt, gravel and other such stuff removed. I then chose to paint the floor that up until that time had still been bare concrete ... what a pain. I chose to use an epoxy type paint that needed both a cleaner, an etch step and a sealer before actual painting could begin. In hindsight, I now realize just how much dirt, oil etc. had been ground into the floor and obviously should have done several passes with the cleaner and various other chemicals. Oh well, two coats of paint later it was done ... well at least until it started peeling in several places. It's still a lot better than it was originally and not nearly as dusty.
Benches / Drawers / Shelves etc.
I think this is one area that if you talk to ten builders, you'll get fifteen answers ranging from "just the minimum" to "you can never get too many". What I ended up with is one small sturdy bench (2' x 4') with vises and electrical outlets plus an old chest of drawers (~2' x 5') with 6 drawers and top counter available. The drawers hold all the smaller kit parts. Since both had a long prior life, I re-surfaced the tops with a layer of 3/8" particle board screwed down.
I should probably have added another shelf somewhere, but I ended up with one shelf (~1' x 8') to which I added a lip so things wouldn't roll off. This is used for the various supplies such as oils and safety wire plus some tools like drill bits. A piece of pegboard keeps the common tools in one place within easy reach. Instead of a lot of shelving units, I chose to add hooks right into the wall to hold various awkward parts including the long lengths of steel and aluminum. The lower 4+ feet was kept clear so that sheets of aluminum could be off the floor and held flat against the wall using a couple of pieces of 1x2 strapping. So far this has all worked fairly well.
As I started construction, I realized I had one oversight ... how to support a 4' x 8' sheet of .032" or .063" aluminum for cutting. I thought I'd come up with a brilliant solution, but now I'm not quite so sure. I went to the lumber store and got some 2x3's and some melamine-like sheet and constructed a tabletop ~ 3' x 7'. The green streaks in the photos are actually pieces of sticky-backed felt to reduce some of the scratching. On the one end I added some pivoting legs and on the other end I clamped it in a shop-mate to supply stability. My idea was that I could easily knock the table down and rest it up against a wall like a card table. It actually works quite well, but I forgot two things:
As a direct result of all my homeowners insurance hassles (see Regulatory ), the project was moved out of the garage and to a hangar at the airport. This was definately my option of last resort as it has changed a 5 second commute to a 1 hour+ round-trip and has caused a delay while I went through the pain of moving and re-organizing everything. The garage was extremely convenient and I had all the required tools and layout such that it was easy to perform the required activities with a minimum of searching and shuffling. I still work on a few small parts at home and I'm forever finding that the tool I'm looking for is at the other location ... arghhh! Needless to say I was not a happy camper!
The good news is that I'm sharing hangar space with Innovative Wings who specialize in experimental builder assistance. Although I'm basically just renting space, there are additional tools available and more importantly there are personnel with extensive amateur-built experience. I should be able to complete construction here including the boom attachment; now all I have to do is get my space organized and get back to serious building activities. As an added bonus, this is the same airport where I did my training and I should be able to walk over to the flight school occasionally and take some currency flights.
I used some 2024-T3 alclad that came with the plastic coating on both sides. When cutting, drilling and general fitting, it is only necessary to remove a bit of this covering in order to retain maximum protection. From an RV builder, I learned a simple trick to use a soldering iron to melt the separation line, which leaves a clean edge before lifting the covering. I happen to use a temperature controlled iron with a 600° F tip and can drag it along at a reasonably quick pace.
Since I started building in a residential area, I'm conscious of the use of chemicals and the disposal of scrap materials. While I recycle as much as possible, there are a lot of little pieces of aluminum etc. that I actually have to treat as waste. I've found that by keeping a 1 Kg. (2+ pound) used coffee can (and lid) near the work bench, I can use it to dispose of the various sharp little pieces and not worry about them poking through garbage bags.
Since I assume most builders will choose the pre-welded frame option, I have chosen not to include any of the welding supplies or tools. A very small amount of welding will be required, but this is easily contracted out. I'm also not including any painting supplies in either list since this is directly related to the type of paint used and builders may choose to have their painting done by a professional shop. There is some information about paint supplies in the Novice Painting Thoughts section of this site. While many of the following items are redundant in a well-equipped shop, some of them are unique to aviation. I've included as many of these items as I can think of and leave it to the reader to evaluate their own requirements.
Sharpie Pens - These are great for writing/marking on aluminum, paper, etc. I keep both the fine and ultra fine available and have found that the blue ones are the easiest to see while being easily removed with isopropyl alcohol.
Shop Towels - Pretty obvious, but I had to include it and one goes through a lot more of them than I'd thought.
Tape - Masking, duct, etc. Again pretty obvious, but the not so obvious is some special riveting tape that I chose to get so I could easily do some back riveting.
Poster Board - Handy for making various templates.
Foam Board - If one is making their own instrument pod, this can be used to quickly make a mockup.
Sandpaper / Emery Cloth - I don't use too much of this, but some people do. Note that sandpaper is quite effective at removing material and burrs from aluminum.
Scotch-Brite Pads - A wonderful alternative to sandpaper (especially on aluminum) that once you've used them you wonder how you got along without it. Maroon takes a noticeable cut while the light grey gives almost a final polish type cut and finish.
Roloc pads - Basically quick-change scotch-brite pads on a mandrel for use in a drill or die grinder. I tend to use the maroon and blue/green ones the most, but the course tan ones are sometimes used to work on steel. You can also get sandpaper pads that fit the mandrel.
Isopropyl Alcohol - I tend to use this for as much of my general cleaning as possible since it's less toxic and flammable than most cleaners/solvents; my local pharmacy sells the 99% variety in sizes up to 1 gallon. It works well for most requirements, but I still keep a bit of acetone and MEK around for specialized use and final cleanup.
Contact Cement Thinner - This is the only stuff I know of that quickly and reliably removes the "sticky" residue from old tape and such. Since it leaves an oily residue, it needs to be followed by a cleaner or solvent.
Degreaser - I used this to remove the accumulation of preservative oils on steel before the final cleaning and paint preparation.
Cutting/Tapping fluid - I have a specialized type for steel and another for aluminum. It's relatively cheap and once you've used it you'll definitely avoid dry tapping and most dry drilling. The one place I don't use it is for drilling sheet metal.
Marvel Mystery Oil - I use this as an air tool oil, both directly in the inlets and in my pre-oiler.
WD-40 - The factory uses this to coat the frames for corrosion protection and it seems to do an okay job; however, it must be re-applied on a routine basis. Also works great as a penetrating oil etc.
Aviation - After completion, I can see that there will be a
few places in the gear legs that either won't be painted or are
subject to chafing. Unlike WD-40, this stuff has a 2-year
application life so it can be re-applied during the annual.
Tip: I have watched one AME who chooses to first dip all of his bolts into Corrosion-X before inserting them. While this surely coats the bolts and by inference the insides of the hole, I'm not sure how this would effect the settings on a torque wrench.
TubeSeal - A pint of this is provided as part of the kit and is used to corrosion protect the inside of the frame and boom tubes.
Bakerseal - The Construction Manual repeatedly calls for the use of teflon tape on pipe threads. I personally do not like the tape since it cuts & shreds on installation/removal. AC43.13-1B is somewhat ambiguous with respect to hose fittings, but 8-38f states: "DO NOT USE TEFLON TAPE on any fuel lines to avoid getting the tape between the flare and the fitting, which can cause fuel leaks." I chose to use Bakerseal since it's recommended for oil & gas and safe to 600° F. Now that I have Loctite 592, I've switched to it.
Loctite® PST Pipe Sealant 592 - I couldn't locate it on my first couple of tries. Now that its available to me at the hangar (and in my toolbox), I've switched to using it since it's a thicker paste and I feel it gives a better sealing action. I've also noticed that this is now in the Wick's catalog as part number PST, but it's just the very small tube. The larger tubes should be available from various industrial suppliers and cost just a bit extra.
Gasket Maker/Sealer - There are a few places on the engine, oil tank cover, etc. that require this. I'm using Permatex Ultra-Blue for these.
RTV - I've used this primarily in two places: to seal out moisture such as around the position lamps and to seal the shroud. I keep some clear GE Silicone II around for general purpose useage and used Permatex Ultra-Copper for the shroud. Note that one should use special non-acetic RTV on electrical items.
Torque Seal (tattle-tale, witness paint) - This has a dual purpose for me, both to indicate a bolt has had its final torqueing and also to indicate movement. Highly recommended!!!
Thread locker (red & blue) - There are a few places that I used both the blue (removeable) and red (permanent) lockers. I consider this to be the secondary fastner where one can't install something like a locknut on a bolt in a tapped hole.
Weatherstrip Adhesive - My Bubble Kit incled some rubber-like weatherstripping and I also obtained some more to use around the instrument pod. I've tried Permatex® Super Weatherstrip Adhesive (yellow), 3M 8001 (yellow) and 3M 8011 (black). While the yellow adhesive worked okay on some material, the 3M 8011 worked well on all materials that I tried it on. My preference is for the 3M 8001 but it needs to be tested first on the material.
Shop bolts - I chose to get a variety of 1/4" bolts (just the silver grade 5's) to use during construction. These are a lot cheaper than AN bolts and prevent the nicking of the final assembly AN bolts ... just remember to swap them for the real bolts during final assembly and there's no excuse since they're easy to spot!
Rivet Assortment - My kit came with only two sizes of rivets; AN470-AD-4-4 and AN426-AD-3-3. I chose to get a small quantity of both types and sizes of these rivets in 1/2" lengths to use where more than two sheets join. By getting long rivets, I can then cut them down to the appropriate length without having to stock all sizes.
Alumiprep 33 - This is an etchant that is used on bare aluminum to roughen the surface prior to alodine and/or primer.
Alodine 1201 - This is the stuff that gives the goldish/greenish tones to bare aluminum and creates a corrosion barrier either as-is or as a preparation step for painting. Note that unlike anodizing it is a very thin film that can be scratched off.
Metalprep - There are various different types of this product but I believe most of them are phosphoric acid based. I happened to use DuPont Metal Conditioner 5717S.
Dow Corning DC4 - This is the recommended lubricant for the seal when installing aviation oil filters. I'm sure I'll also find a few more uses for it since its real purpose is as an electrical insulating compound and I've heard of it being used when assembling coax connectors etc.
Stabilant 22A - This is an electrical contact enhancer that's extremely pricey but is designed to prevent intermittent operation of electrical connectors which can be nearly impossible to isolate. Thanks are due to the Rotorway owner who reminded me about this product which I'd used years ago in the early days of computers and then forgotten about.
Champion Spark Plug Lubricant & Anti-Seize P/N 2612 - What's more to say other than I dread the thought of stripping a tight plug and having to replace a heli-coil. One may also consider using some anti-seize on the exhaust studs and possibly the CHT probes.
Spark Plug Gaskets - All of the maintenance manuals I've read recommend using new copper crush gaskets when [re]installing plugs. Most of the aviation suppliers offer these in a box of 100 (remember it's 8 per change).
Safety Wire - My kit came with some .024" stainless safety wire and I chose to get some more ... I don't believe that enough was provided. I found that the .032" stainless variety was probably the best all round, but I also used a bit of .020". The .040" wire is too heavy for most needs but it does make great hanging wire for painting.
Grease - I originally thought I'd probably use one of the Aeroshell products just for availability and repeatability i.e. Shell 17. After various readings, I ended up using Royal (Royco) 11MS manufactured by Anderol. I still need to find out what CHR has used at the factory for the mast as its best not to mix greases.
Engine Oil - Again for availability I'll probably be using Aeroshell oils; mineral for break-in and then I'll probably go with the straight weight variety and avoid the controversial (and more expensive) multi-weight type. Having done some more reading about Exxon Elite, I might have to re-think my choices.
Oil Filters - While I've heard some interesting information on alternatives, for now I'll probably just plan to use the short Champion CH48-110 as supplied with the engine. Once the engine is installed, I'll also check to see what the impact would be of using the longer filter.
Transmission Oil - The instructions call for the use of 75-90W
gear oil. I haven't selected an actual brand get, but I have
discovered there's some really interesting ones that come out of
the auto-racing crowd.
Update: I got a case of Amsoil Severe Gear 75W-90 which I'll be using.
Various Electrical Supplies such as solder, heatshrink tubing and lacing cord. These are discussed in more detail in the Wiring 101 section of this site.
I found the tool list in the construction manual to be woefully short, so I've chosen to create my own list. Like the supplies above, some of these may be too obvious, but others are unique to metal aircraft construction. Personally, I get frustrated when I'm doing a task and realize that it could be done in much less time or more accurately with the proper tools; thus I tend towards the "tool junkie" side. The reader should also remember that some of the specialized tools might be able to be borrowed from another builder or the local EAA/RAA chapter and even if they're bought, they have a good resale value. If one has to acquire new aircraft tools, one of the ideal places is at the major airshows such as Air Venture, Sun-n-Fun or Arlington. In addition to flea markets, most of the major vendors are there with "show specials", one can see the tools first-hand and can save the shipping charges on heavy items.
Tools are one area where it's really easy to become a collector so I have tried to group these into categories that rate their necessity.
Air Compressor and Hoses - This depends on which tools one intends to use and also whether it will be used for painting. I have a 5HP, 15 gallon, 6 CFM @90 PSI oil-less model and although it's relatively compact and fine for drilling, shearing, riveting and painting, it's too small for continuous use with a die grinder. I also built a header so I have both clean and pre-oiled filtered air.
Ear Protectors - These are required because my compressor is located in the shop.
Clecos and Cleco Pliers - It seems one never has enough of these. I have ~225 in 1/8" size, along with about four dozen of 3/32" and a half dozen 5/32". I also have four of the clamps that come in extremely handy when fabricating sheet metal parts.
Basic hand tools as may be found on a home workbench / shop including:
Drill - Air or variable-speed electric, but preferably both. The air drill works great on aluminum sheet, but I find the electric drill better at thicker stock or for use on steel when I can't use the drill press. There a few places (especially some of the nutplates) where a close quarter right-angle drill comes in extremely handy; given their price, its best to try borrow one unless its already in the toolbox.
Drill Bits - A basic set of cobalt bits in 1/16" - 1/4" plus additional larger ones if required, #19, and about a half-dozen each of #30 and #40 along with a drill stop for each of these two sizes. After working with the cobalt drills, especially on steel, I won't allow any of the standard types, such as HSS or titanium, in my aircraft toolbox. There is also a need for special plexiglass drills if one is building the optional doors.
Taps and Handles - 1/4-28NF (#3 drill), 3/8-24NF, 1/8NPT (5/16" drill), 1/4NPT (7/16" drill), 3/8NPT (37/64" drill), 1/2NPT (45/64" drill), 3/4NPT (59/64" drill). Since the larger NPT taps and drills are expensive and only used for a very few holes, a builder may want to either borrow these if they can or it's probably cheaper to just contract out these jobs rather than buy the drills and taps. If the builder is trying to cold tap 4130 steel, they will probably want to get taper taps of the appropriate size since I've found that standard taps are much harder to use for this type of application, especially starting the process.
Reamers - There are two places I can see wanting to use reamed holes; the pylon struts and the boom attachment holes. Normally these would all be 1/4" holes, but it looks like I'll need a 5/16" reamer for the boom. When used by hand, reamers also works well to remove any paint from a hole without actually enlarging it.
Deburring Tools - I have both one of the universal style and one of the speed style in addition to just an old 3/8" drill bit. Each of them seems to have a situation where they're the best tool for the job but in general I tend to use the old drill bit. I didn't get an edge deburring tool as I prefer to just use a file for this.
Sheet Metal Brake - I mostly used one of the cheap C-clamp and angle iron styles (plus I had limited access to a sheet metal shop with a large brake), but if I was to do this again, I would get (and possibly later sell) one of the fancier adjustable ones (~24"+) that are available for ~$300US+. Note that the edge of the shoes on many of these are too sharp and would need a radius cut into the nose pieces. Alternatively, if the brake has an offset adjustment then one can just use a scrap piece of material to build up the bend radius. There are a couple of longer bends (approximately 4') on the seat front sheet, belly pan and shroud that may have to be contracted out and the bends in .063" 6061-T6 can be difficult to do with basic brakes.
Metal Snips - I have a pair of Prosnip® left and right offset snips that worked extremely well for me.
Air Shear - Although one can cut .032" aluminum with hand snips, I can't cut .063" this way. While a saber saw or band saw sometimes work, after using an air shear I now consider this a must-have tool rather than optional. For the limited amount of useage required, even a cheap unit should more than survive for this project.
Edge Rolling Tool - I found the circular one from Avery Tools to be extremely easy to use. Once they understood how to use it, my hangar mates were also very impressed with how easy and effective it is.
Nibbler - An air nibbler would have been handy in a few places, but I just used a hand nibbler.
Hand Seamer - Most of the locally available ones were of the sharp-edge style that are not suitable unless the edges are radiused.
Rivet Gun - The choice of a 2X or 3X is an individual
preference; I got an "ATS Aircraft Rivet Gun" that's
essentially a low-cost 3X gun with a teasing throttle. If one is
planning to do much work, then it's probably worthwhile to not go
with just the cheapest gun. One should also get an inline
regulator and swivel at the base of the gun.
Sidenote: Some of the factory documentation refers to using an air hammer. While I have seen builders who can use these properly, they lack a teasing trigger and can cause a variety of problems. ALL of the factory installed rivets on my kit exhibited various riveting problems and I ended up drilling them all out.
Rivet Sets - As a minimum, one will need both flush and 1/8" sets. I chose to get one of the mixed standard sets plus a back rivet set. A swivel flush set would be an ideal choice for a novice builder using flush rivets on the exterior .
Bucking Bars - These come in a wide variety of weights and sizes. I chose to just get a couple of basic ones (#142 and #148) and custom made a few for awkward areas.
Microstop Countersink - This isn't used extensively, but I chose to get one of the basic ones along with #40 and #30 pilot cutters. If one chooses to use #8 flush head (i.e. countersunk) screws on the floor then a #19 pilot will also be required. Note that if one is using pulled flush rivets, most of them require a different cutter (120°) than solid rivets (100°).
Blind Rivet Puller - There are only a very few of these used and a hand operated puller should be fine. Although I did most of my blind rivets with a hand puller, I used a pneumatic blind riveter on the horizontal stab and I think it gives a more consistent result since it pulls much quicker and there is no movement from when the rivet is started to when it is complete.
Die Grinder - Unless one contracts out the skid feet enlargement, a die grinder and flapper wheel will be required. Various burrs and stones also assist in certain tasks as do roloc discs and sanding drums. I used this tool more than I thought and in hindsight would also consider getting a second one with a 90° head. Even the very cheap ones should be able to last for this project.
Safety Wire Twister - I got a 9" pair of these but in hindsight I wish I'd gotten the 6" version which is handier to get into tighter places.
Safety Wire Drill Guide - I found a few fittings where I wanted to add a safety wire to them but they didn't have a hole for the wire. Perhaps not required, but this Nut Safblock makes it very easy to drill the corners of hexagonal fittings.
Socket Set and Box Wrenches - Although a few other sizes will be used on the engine, primarily a 3/8" (AN3) and 7/16" (AN4) ones are used. I prefer to use 6-point sockets rather than 12-points since they're less likely to round the shoulders of bolts or nuts. Note that the plug wires within the shroud require a 3/4" crowfoot to [un]tighten them through the access holes. Also, the oil filter requires a 1" socket (usually 1/2" drive) and quite possibly adapters to match the torque wrench.
1/8" Allen key for installing the taper lock coupler on the tail rotor driveshaft and also the setscrews on the pillow blocks. Ideally one should also have a socketed version in order to use the torque wrench on it.
Torque Wrench - While others may claim to have calibrated fingers, I prefer to use a reliable and repeatable method to install hardware. I have both a 1/4" drive 20-200 in-pound model and a 3/8" drive 120-960 in-pound model.
Spark Plug Socket - Spark plugs are expensive and supposed to be thrown out if dropped ... I chose to get a Champion CT907 magnetic socket to try avoid this.
Spark Plug Gapping Tools - I got both a Champion Gap Gauge and a simple gapping tool.
Tube Flaring Tool - If one is making hard fuel lines or installing a primer system with flared fittings then they'll require a flaring tool. If only 1/8" primer lines are being done then the cheap flaring block can be used with acceptable results. However, the more expensive fancy tools are very easy to use and do an excellent job ... for the few flares that are going to be formed it's probably best to just borrow the tool rather than spending a lot of money on it. Note that these tools have a 37° flare which is a different angle than many automotive flares.
Engine Hoist - Some mechanism will be required to lift the engine into the frame and possibly out of a crate. One thing to watch out for with automotive style hoists is that their feet may interfere with a crate.
Wire Stripper - PTFE insulation is easy to remove once it's been nicked, but I'd highly recommend that one use proper wire strippers to retain the integrity of the underlying wire.
Connector Crimpers - For installing wire terminals one should use the proper dual crimp ratcheting style crimpers rather than the cheaper single crimp style. For avionics use there is an unbelievable variety of crimpers required and this is best left to an avionics shop, some of whom are willing to just make the basic harness for homebuilders.
Soldering Iron - A small soldering iron (not a gun) along with rosin core solder will be required for certain electrical connections such as the indicator lamps. If one is using AN800 primer fittings and copper tubing, these should soldered using a high temperature silver solder.
If the builder chooses not to purchase the pre-fabricated cabin option, there are a few other tools that will be required.
Slip Roller - The lower parts of the rear side sheets should be put through a slip roller to form the basic curve. It doesn't need to be a perfect fit as it's mostly to reduce stress. The front "chin" sheeting will also need to be put through it as will the eyebrow panels. Considering the price of this tool and the fact that it's only used for six pieces, unless one already has one it's best to just take the pieces to a sheet metal shop along with some posterboard templates and borrow/contract to use their roller.
Shrinker - The edges of the eyebrow panels and the chin panels require about a 1/2" lip to be formed on pieces that are already curved. Although they can be formed by hand, these are the most difficult shapes that need to be fabricated and a shrinker is the ideal tool for the job. Since it's only used for these four pieces, it would be ideal if the builder could just find a source to borrow or rent it from.
Ratchet Straps - The upper area of the cabin near the eyebrow panels and the area at the top of the chin panels will try to spring and move a lot when initially fabricating the cabin. Ratchet straps can be carefully used to act as a third, fourth, fifth etc. hand during this phase.
OPTIONAL BUT HANDY
Neotex Protective Mesh Matting - This is a protective matting for workbenches that inhibits scratching and prevents things from rolling around. I'm really impressed and it has to be at the top of my list after using it for awhile. I got a two foot square piece from Avery Tools, part # 63063.
Nut Plate Jig - The illustrated method of drilling the screw/bolt hole, clamping a nutplate, drilling one rivet hole, cleco, then drilling the second rivet hole will work fairly well if one uses a non-floating nutplate as a guide. After using a jig, this is a much easier way as all one needs to do is drill the screw/bolt hole, insert the jig and drill the first rivet hole, then flip the jig and drill the second rivet hole. They're not cheap, but the ones from ATS work great. Note that if one is drilling steel or thicker aluminum then it's probably best to start the hole with the jig and then swing it out of the way since it's possible to start ovalling the holes in the jig if the drill is at an angle.
Band Saw with metal blade - I have an old cheap one of these and I found several places where it made much quicker work of certain tasks than the alternatives would have.
Saber Saw - These work well on thicker material where the band saw either doesn't have the throat clearance or when cutting captive shapes such as holes or squares. I prefer to use fine bi-metal blades and use duct tape on the saw's shoes to reduce the scratching effect.
Scroll Saw - I built a few small pieces with interior holes, such as dust boot rings, where the scroll saw was invaluable since I didn't have an power nibbler.
Drill Press - Even the cheap ones make it a LOT easier and more accurate in performing certain tasks. One accessory that I've really liked is the "Center It" V-block which allows one to easily drill centered holes in round tubes.
Unibit #1 and #3 - These are an extremely simple way to cleanly drill larger holes in thin sheet metal. Note that they can slightly wander if not held firmly and square at 90°.
Chatterless 100° Countersink - I picked one of these up from Avery Tools and I was amazed. Normally, using a countersink freehand in a drill without attachments results in a rippled surface and possibly an off-center hole due to the chatter. These countersinks completely eliminate the problems and work perfectly ... definitely a good investment as far as I'm concerned.
1-3/8" Hole saw - This will make short work of cutting the two holes in the side sheeting for the position lamps. Even though I used a cheap "wood" version in combination with a scrap piece of 2x4 as a backing block, it worked extremely well on .032" aluminum ... certainly worth the $2.50 that I paid for it.
3-1/8" Hole saw - This is used for drilling the
instrument cutouts and should be used with a drill press if
possible. When the time comes, I'll probably also try a fly
cutter and decide which works the best for me.
Update: The fly cutter worked the best for me, but the work MUST be well clamped in a drill press with lots of torque for good results.
3-1/8" Instrument hole punch - While the hole saw will
work, as will a fly cutter, I have not been very impressed with
the results I've obtained testing them on my light duty drill
press. While one could have their instrument panel laser or water
cut, I think the hole punch is a better solution that allows one
to personally double check their alignment. In the event one
decides to re-make the panel, then the only additional cost is
for material and not the cutting.
Update: Having now gone through this laborious process, I would have the panel laser cut if I were to do it again.
3-1/8" Instrument hole jig - This provides a simple way for marking and/or drilling of the four mounting holes for instruments. The holes are only as accurate as the jig and mine wasn't perfect. For countersunk holes, I would definitely double check their position before drilling.
Fluting Pliers - Although all the required fluting was done on the ribs that I received, I found that I had to adjust several of them and this is the tool for the job. Fluting is also required on the large shroud panel.
Rivet Gauges - These can be used to both determine the correct rivet length and whether they have been set enough. Although not required, I used them initially to get a solid feel of how to work with bucked rivets.
Rivet Cutter - This isn't required, but I got a deal on one of these and it allowed me to just get an assortment of long rivets and cut them to size as required.
Rivet Removal Tool - This is a relatively expensive tool (~$50US+) but makes it very easy to drill out universal-head rivets for removal. Hopefully one doesn't require it but it does work extremely well.
Hand Rivet Squeezer - Although one could choose to use a rivet
gun exclusively, I find it much easier to use this whenever
possible as I find it much more controllable. I got a set of flat
and cupped sets along with 3/32 and 1/8 dimple dies. In my opinion, the spring-back dies are
worth the extra cost and make a cleaner and more accurate dimple.
Note: If one is using pulled flush rivets, most of them require a different dimple die set (120°) than solid rivets (100°).
Tip: When working with smaller pieces, it's often handy to mount the C-frame in a vise and use one hand to carefully align/hold the work pieces and the other hand to squeeze the handles.
Pop Dimple Die - If one is using flush rivets then there are a few areas that are very difficult to dimple. I found that the pop dimple die set was the only way to do this and although the dimples weren't quite as crisp as regular dies, they were more than useable.
Sander; Belt and Disc combination - There aren't too many places where one needs to work with heavier aluminum, but this definitely makes short and easy work of these tasks. Aluminum can be easily shaped with a sander and this is often a very effective alternative to cutting and filing.
Dremel Tools - Because I have these, I used them in a few places just because I'm used to them.
Heat Gun - I use this to install clear heat shrink tubing that has paper labels placed inside it for marking individual wires. I also use regular heat shrink tubing in various places to protect wires and joints.
Inspection Mirror - One of these with an extendable handle comes in very handy to double check things like cotter pins on the controls at the rear of the cabin. It also comes in handy to do a quick check on the underside of the engine without having to crawl underneath the craft.
Hydraulic Floor Jack - I have a small light duty one of these that I occasionaly use to lift and/or hold the frame, especially if I'm working alone. Since my machine will be on casters until just before completion, this can also be used to raise each side for the installation of the skids.
Clamp Pliers - When one is working with adel clamps it's a
constant battle to get the retaining bolt installed, especially
if two or three clamps share a common bolt. That's why these
clamps are sometimes called "bolt launchers". This
nifty tool won't work in all locations, but it can be used most
of the time and makes the installation of the bolt almost a non-event.
Kind of expensive at $69 but probably well worth the price in
lost time and cursing.
Update: The more I work with adel clamps, the more I find that hemostats work extremely well to hold them in place during installation.
Lathe: A lathe certainly isn't required but I found several places where I could produce parts which I otherwise would have just skipped or fudged. They also work extremely well for truing up the ends of tubing such as the control rods. I have a 17" bed Sherline 4400 lathe which produces extremely good results on smaller pieces but has a limited swing over the bed and carriage. I also have access to a much heavier lathe which is great for larger pieces but lacks precision.
Mill: There were several custom pieces I thought about that would require milling but the mill I have convenient access to leaves a lot to be desired in the precision department. In the end, I did mill a few parts but all of them were for custom enhancements. Basically an expensive nice-to-have tool but certainly not required.
Differential Pressue Tester - Normally when doing an annual inspection (or when checking an engine problem) it is customary to do a differential pressure test on each cylinder which requires a special tool such as this one. Although all maintenance facilities should have these, it can be handy to have a personal one. Note that O-320 and O-360 engines have a 5.125" bore and it appears they require the large bore tester. HOWEVER, it is my understanding that all maintenance facilities still use the smaller bore tester on 360's and that is what should be used to make valid comparisons.
In order to properly rig the Safari there are several specialized tools required ... there is some more information in the Rigging Section of this website.
Tailrotor Beam: This should be a one-time use tool to verify the lead/lag of the tail rotor blades as shipped from the factory. One of my blades had a lot of lead in it which caused a lot of problems ... there really is no way to adjust this other than opening up the bolt holes.
Head Rig Tool: This is a multi-purpose tool that is used to both align the main spindle (i.e. head shift) and also to mount a laser pointer that can be used for the main blade lead/lag adjustment.
Tracking Lights: Although one can use the stick method to set the blade track on the ground and possibly in the hover, this technique does not allow one to precisely set the tracking in forward flight. Tracking lights allow the tracking to be set through all flight regimes.
Vibration: The only way to really know if one has significant vibrations and the effect of adjustments is to use a dynamic balancer. Since these are expensive and not used that frequently, one might be able to hire someone for this task or arrange to share the cost among several builders.
Most aviation rivets, flush-head screws and bolts require a 100° countersunk (ie. relatively flat) hole whereas standard wood/metal screws and bolts are designed for an 82° countersink. I make sure that my aviation countersinks are in with my aviation tools and that my standard countersinks are never put in the same toolbox. Also, if one has both 100° and 120° dimple sets and/or cutters, the 120° ones for pulled rivets should be clearly marked with something like red paint.
When freehand drilling aluminum, especially with an air drill, if one first turns the chuck about one turn while holding the drill bit in position, it will create enough of a mark to act as a center punch and avoid skating when first powered.
When fabricating a part using sheet and clecos, I first assemble it using 3/32" (silver) clecos. Once it has been completed, I then go back and change the holes up to 1/8" and copper clecos. Although this takes a little longer, the holes can be slightly moved during the re-drilling and the holes are pristine and perfectly aligned when riveting.
I found a small reversible fine ratchet that works extremely well when tightening screws in tight quarters ... it sure saved a lot of cursing on my part. Not the cheapest at ~$25, but well worth the price in my books. For Canadians, this tool is available at Canadian Tire stores.
Weird & Wacky Tools
When I got ready to paint the controls, I realized that there were several tubes on the cyclic and collective that were open-ended and I wanted to at least get some primer in them. Before the primer though, there was mill scale on the inside that I wanted to roughen/remove. Hmmmm ... I thought about using a fine flapper wheel on a LONG extension, but that seemed like overkill as all I really wanted to do was a good cleaning with maroon Scotch-Brite. What I ended up using was a couple of sections from a shotgun cleaning rod with a slotted fitting that is normally used for swabs. By cutting various strips of Scotch-Brite in different lengths and putting a "V" cut on one end, they could be inserted into the slot in the end fitting, wrapped around the rod and then inserted into the tube. The other end of the rod was chucked into a drill and the Scotch-Brite could be run up and down the tube while the drill was turning it. Judging from the polish and amount of scale I could remove, it worked just fine for me.
While the above worked well for the various control tubes, it wasn't very appropriate for doing the inside of the landing gear legs since they're a much larger diameter. I ended up using a 12" drill extension and a flapper wheel on these. A couple of quick passes with an electric drill on low speed removed most of the scale and allowed for good paint adhesion on the inside of these tubes.
The following are some of the torque settings that I have found in various places that are relevant to construction and maintenance. These are provided as a guideline only and it's up to anyone using this information to first verify it. All are in inch-pounds unless noted differently.
From AC43.13-1B (AN310 castellated nuts, dry threads)
From electrical contactor data sheets. Note that a back-up wrench should be used on the stationary nuts.
I haven't found a Lycoming or airframe manual that discusses the torque for the engine retaining bolts that go through the conical bushings/mounts. From the Firewall Forward by Tony Bingelis, I found the following:
The Robinson R-22 Maintenance Manual indicates to torque the engine mounting bolts to 230 inch-pounds plus nut drag.
From Lycoming Overhaul Manual Part no. 60294-7
Note that these are for lubricated threads and also that some specific nuts and bolts have unique settings.
From Unison Industries FAQ:
Harness Nut Torque : Harness cap to magneto
- Slick Magneto: 18 - 20 in. lb.
- 400 - 600 series Slick Magneto: 120 - 144 in.lb.
- Bendix magneto: 30 - 35 in. lb.
- Bendix Pressurized Magneto: 40 - 45 in. lb.
- Bendix Dual Standard: 30 - 35 in. lb.
- Bendix Dual Pressurized: 40 - 45 in. lb.
Harness to Spark Plug:
- 5/8 -24 thread is 80 - 90 in.lb.
- ¾ - 20 thread is 110 - 120 in.lb.
Lycoming SI 1129A - Accessory Drive Belt Tension
These torques are measured at the alternator pulley nut and are the point at which the belt just starts to slip. This method is much more repeatable and reliable than the classic method which is to measure belt deflection.
- New 3/8 inch wide belt: 11-13 ft/lbs or 132-156 in/lbs. ... used 3/8 inch wide belt: 7-9 ft/lbs or 84-108 in/lbs
- New 1/2 inch wide belt: 13-15 ft/lbs or 156-180 in/lbs. ... used 1/2 inch wide belt: 9-11 ft/lbs 108-132in/lbs
From the pillow block manufacturer's catalog
Clampco T-Bolt tank straps
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Last updated: September 22, 2011