Project Update

Hey Guys,

I’m happy to report that the install of all the internal CF baffles is complete, including the final gap fills around the edges to ensure minimal air leakage. 

As I’ve noted previously, all the exhaust pipes have been welded, with the required trimming of all the exhaust pipes to length coming soon.  I’ll caveat the exhaust pipe effort with the fact that I may need some welding on the ends of these pipes to get them pointed in the right direction, but I’m of course hoping not.  In addition, I have 2 compression style EGT probes from GRT on hand and will need to have the stainless steel threaded bungs welded to the exhaust pipes to mount those specific probes.

The convergence of a few intertwined components I spoke of before is STILL slowly coming to fruition, which will set me up to be nearly done with the entire engine install, sans the firewall (at this time).  With the CF inner baffles now installed, I can turn my focus on finalizing the aft lower side of the engine aluminum baffle install.  That will, in turn, allow me to identify where the bottom cowl cross rib baffle/stiffener needs to get glassed into place.

I’m still intent to focus solely on the plane for the next however long it takes to finish this bird… ASAP!  

Chapter 23 – Engine Turning Baffles

As I get back onto my build and focus on getting the airplane completed, along with that I also have a goal to get all my shop tools online, maintained and dialed-in as they should be.  Obviously having an immediate job that requires their use makes it easier to focus on a given tool.

And thus it is with this week’s “power tool of the week,” to focus on: my standing drill press.  I started this endeavor a couple nights ago as I scrounged around a couple of hours off and on to find the parts box.

The next day I spent well over 2 hours cleaning and removing a good bit of the rust off the drill press, especially the chuck which was a solid chunk of rust after going through the hurricane back in 2019.  By the time I got the drill press to my shop (from my old hangar) back then, it had all the handles, belts, etc. in one box, and the chuck in a bag of solvent to remove the rust (in the garage).  I then never assembled it or used it, and am just getting to it now.

After putting a nice scratch on the lower right engine baffle as I was drilling a relief hole, I was assessing my best options to remove the unsightly scratch.  It turns out that as I was on the COBA forums earlier reviewing posts on engine baffles and exhaust systems (aka “What would Klaus & Marc Z. do?”), someone posted a shot of their firewall that they had just finished Engine Turning (or “jeweling”).  This was pre-scratch so I simply filed it away in my mind as a point of interest.

Someone else on that forum thread placed a link to a pic of the Spirit of St. Louis, which is a great example of engine turning on the cowls.

Post-scratch:  To be clear, I like the nice smooth look of aluminum baffles around the engine.  But I was going to have to do something to remove the scratch, and clearly that baffle segment wasn’t going to look the same after the scratch was removed… and would very well likely need the entire baffle buffed out to blend the scratch in.  After spending a good couple of days blending the paint in on Guy Williams’ Long-EZ as I repaired its winglet, blending anything at this point was not something I wanted to engage in.  Thus, Engine Turning became my answer to resolve the scratch issue.

After a good round of research on how folks were doing it, I then tried my hand at Engine Turning on a scrap piece of aluminum…. looking pretty spiffy to me!

I then decided to Engine Turn all the baffle surfaces that face reward on the engine and that would be somewhat visible when looking into the cowled bird.  I started my no-kidding Engine Turning adventures on the front left baffle segment and got this far before calling it a night.

I finished the first big top forward baffles today… here we have 2 of the 3 front baffle segments Engine Turned.

Jess was sweet and cooked me dinner over at her place tonight, but before I left to go over there I was able to finish the last segment of the front engine baffles.  Here are all 3 front baffle segments Engine Turned.

Tomorrow I plan on getting the 2 aft lower baffle segments Engine Turned.

Chapter 23 – Aft right lower baffle cut

Today I cut the right aft lower engine baffle out of 6061 aluminum.

Unfortunately I dove in without drilling the relief holes at the bend edges, so I had to do that after the fact on a couple of them.  Over towards the mid-right side as I was coming in from the edge the drill slipped and went across the face of the baffle, placing a decent-sized scratch on it for a few good inches.  Soooo, I’ll have to see if that buffs out.  If not, I think I have a backup plan to eliminate the scratch.

I then headed into town to pick up a sheet metal bending tool from Harbor Freight, but alas, they were sold out.  I ended up grabbing some Thai food with Jess, and then headed home with a handful of stuff from HF, but not what I had ventured out for.

After doing some online searching, I ended up ordering the sheet metal bending tool off of Amazon.

I then spent a few hours doing some research on my next steps, as well as gathering up (read 45 min looking for!) all the pieces/parts to get my drill press back online —which I haven’t used since I moved into this shop nearly 5 years ago.

A significant milestone in cutting this thing out, now to get ‘er installed.  More to come!

Chapter 23 – Big baffle push

Today was all about moving out on the baffles.  In fact, my goal is to have the baffles COMPLETE by this coming weekend.

One thing I’ve been pondering for quite some time now is how exactly to work the sides of the baffles:  my decision being between leaving the side baffle segments long and extending them aft, or creating little mini-walls on the outboard aft side of the aluminum baffle segments to close off the air coming along the side.

I decided on the latter.

In doing so, I measured and marked where these mini-wall baffles would be, then marked those positions on the upper cowling.  Using contours of the inside upper cowling, I then made some initial baffle mini-wall templates and taped them into place on the left and right sides.

I then put the top cowling in place, used a shop light to check the mini-wall baffles vs the top cowling sides, took the top cowling off, trimmed the mini-wall baffles, then repeated the whole process….  a good number of times.  It’s an iterative process!  

But I finally nailed down the configuration for both the left and right side mini-wall baffle segments, which we have right here:

Before doing any cutting or brake bending on the side baffle segments, I wanted to have the no-kidding position of each lower aft shelf and skirt baffle segment in place first.

I started with the left side and traced the template onto the 6061 aluminum sheet.

It may be a little hard to see here, but the lower aft left baffle segment is ready to be cut out of the 6061 aluminum sheet…

Which I did next.  Here we have the left lower aft shelf and skirt baffle segment cut out and ready for clean up and then some bending on the brake.

I then placed the template for the right lower aft shelf and skirt baffle segment on the 6061 aluminum sheet and traced it out.

Here’s the lower aft right baffle segment ready to be cut out of the 6061 aluminum sheet.

It was getting late so I decided to call it a night and will cut out the right side lower baffle tomorrow.  I also plan on doing a good bit of bending these aluminum segments on the metal brake as well.

Chapter 23 – Securing exhaust pipes

First off, I’ll regale you with a quick story: Fall 2013 and I’m in the middle east.  I ask Mike Beasley where he bought his exhaust pipes from, and he sends me the link to Custom Aircraft Parts with the part number he bought.  I send an email to Clinton detailing my bird’s cowlings, engine, etc. and he spits out the same part number as Mike’s. I know realize the key piece of information that I added to my email that tipped Clinton off to that part number was “Feather Light” and am almost certain that is why I received the pipes that I did.  The actual key wording that should have been focused on was “Mike Melvill’s carbon fiber cowlings“… because although Feather Light made the Melvill CF cowlings, they were nowhere the same as the stock Feather Light cowlings (I’m guessing those were close to the Task cowlings, which I’m pretty sure is what Mike has).

I figured all this out from the multiple comments on the COBA forum while I was researching baffling and exhaust pipe configuration stuff.  I should have opted for the Cozy exhaust pipes that have a significant S-curve up and then straight rearwards immediately aft of the cylinders… not the gradual curve that Mike’s and mine have, although I’m having to significantly modify mine.  If I knew then what I do now, I would have demanded a swap-out for different style (part number) pipes.

Ok, part of my research was Klaus discussing that having your exhaust pipes separated about 1/2” apart is best since it keeps the vibration/harmonics/pressure waves of the pipes and exiting exhausts from affecting each other.

Now, back to Custom Aircraft Parts for a moment… if you look (closely) at Mike Beasley’s exhaust pipes you see a rounded “W” looking clamp that secures the pipes together (Dave Berenholtz and many other canards have these too).
[Also note the center crankcase vent tube in between the pipes… it comes into play]

Here’s a look at the bracket from Custom Aircraft Parts.  The PRO is that I’m certain that it’s well-made and it does the job.  The CON is that one pair costs $275, and that’s without shipping.  Clearly to do both sets of pipes we’re talking around $600.

That dog will NOT hunt!  Sorry, I’m not paying nearly $600 for these brackets, nor am I going to pay around $300 for one bracket pair.

I’ve already ordered the stainless steel from McMaster-Carr to construct a bracket pair for the RIGHT side, and the 1/2″ round tubing I’ll be using to create a securing brace for both sides.  Moreover, I also ordered 321 stainless steel “P” clamps (AKA bare Adel clamps) for the LEFT side, all for just over $60 bucks (including tax and shipping).

Taking Klaus’s words of advice into account, I then modeled up a set of brackets in Fusion 360 CAD to test out his 1/2″ gap configuration.

I then 3D printed a narrower width version (0.4″ wide vs 0.75″) of the brackets to save both printing time and plastic.  Here’s the result:

I then test-fitted the brackets onto the left side exhaust pipes.  The 1/2″ gap between the pipes drives the outboard pipe out too close to the upper cowling wall, so I’m going to have to pass on his advice and go the more standard method that is seen in most canards (pipes nestled together).

I then cherry picked through my stock of Adel clamps to find one that fits the 1.75″ dia. exhaust pipes spot on, which is the -25.  This was merely a test fit as the potential issue here if I were to use an Adel clamp is that they are aluminum (from ACS) and their ability to fend off the intense heat of the exhaust pipes is —in my book— suspect.  They do make stainless steel versions of these style clamps, which is what I ordered from McMaster-Carr.

Although I only have one clamp installed below, in the final configuration I’ll have one on each pipe, mounted back-to-back and secured by a 1/2″ brace that will serve to keep the exhaust pipes in position during normal ops, and also keep any pipes from exiting the cowling should either of them crack/break free.

As a point of reference, here is a shot of Klaus’s exhaust pipes… note the P clamps securing his pipes.

Finally, the reason I’m not using the “P” style clamps on the right side exhaust pipes is simply due to the crankcase vent tube that will nestle in between the pipes to create the lowest profile of this grouping as possible.

And with that folks, I’m calling it a night.


Chapter 23 – Pipe monster returns!

Last night I got my air compressor oil change and maintenance tasks finally completed, with some test runs to ensure the pressure valve was working correctly.  All looked good.

I also took out the oil heat sump street fitting with standpipe to do some “spot welds” on it just to ensure it’s physically fit for duty in the engine.

Today I got back to work on the aft/lower engine baffles by putting the thick paper templates back in place.  I made notes and trimmed the templates in various spots as I worked to dial in the final configuration of the lower baffle “skirt.”

After removing the aft/lower baffle templates, I figured it was time to add in the last reinforcement piece to the “Melvill” baffle bracket that mounts to the aft right side of the engine.

I scrounged around for the best piece of scrap left over from the VANs baffle kit, made up my tape template on the bracket and then transferred it to the scrap aluminum piece.  I then cut out the reinforcement plate and bent the tabs on the metal brake.

Here we have the reinforcement tab riveted to the Melvill baffle bracket, with the bracket reinstalled on the engine.

And yet another lower view of it.  Another task, of a myriad left to do, completed.

I then mounted the top cowling to capture all the tasks I need to finish on that, and take a hard look at the final exhaust pipes configuration.  Assessing my exhaust pipes once again, I’m still convinced that these are the wrong pipes for my setup: a case where I (the layman) am correct, and the vendor is plain wrong.  Which at this point means nothing now other than working the problems out.

After analyzing the exit positioning of all the exhaust pipes, I came to the painful conclusion that I’m going to have to once again cut the left outboard pipe to angle it both inboard and down a hair —so that it nestles in very close to the inboard pipe in its position below.

The right side exhaust pipes will be workable, with the only drawback being the position of the aft final bend in the pipe… which happens to be right where I need to trim them. The cut will either have to be a bit further in than I want (~2″ inside the cowling), or I’ll have to live with the aft pipe openings pointing outboard much more than desired.

Pressing forward…

Chapter 25 – Fixing Guy’s Long-EZ

Over the past week I’ve been involved helping my local Canardian buddy, Guy Williams, fix his Long-EZ that was damaged during its annual condition inspection, when the A&P pulled the batteries out of the nose without it being lowered first… Oops!  And yep, up it went on its backside.

The nearly horizontal prop got a ding on one end, which Guy removed, boxed up to send to Joe Person for repair, and replaced with a spare wooden prop.

The lower aft winglets were next on the list of damage, with the right getting off fairly easy while the left took the brunt of the impact: cracking the tubular taillight housing, these being added to the bottom of the lower winglets by original builder Frank Tifft.

Here’s the right lower winglet with some minor cracks, which I filled both internally and externally with micro and flox.

Again, the damage to the left lower winglet was much more extensive and required sanding off the paint to expose all the damage.

Apparently neither Guy nor I got a shot of the left winglet’s damage, but my first task was to get all the cracked “jigsaw puzzle” pieces micro’d/floxed back into place and the original shape reestablished.  I then did a 1-ply UNI wrap layup to secure the reassembled structure to the existing lower winglet.  That did the trick and it was plenty strong with minimal added weight.

Also not shown was the remaking of half the top and the complete bottom taillight standoffs that are located at the upper and lower side of the light bracket at the screw mounting positions.  After creating templates of the right light assembly, I made the new taillight mounting standoffs out of 1/8″ thick G10 phenolic and floxed them into place.

After an overnight cure on mounting standoffs, I slathered up the lower left winglet with micro, and cheese grated it about 3-1/2 hours later.

The following day I sanded down the micro to its final state, and then applied 5 epoxy wipes as per the Corey Bird finishing method.  We then let that cure overnight as well.

After sanding down the epoxy wipes and blending that into the existing winglet paint, I then hit the repaired area with a couple coats of primer.

I then shot the lower left winglet with some color-matched Nasson paint that we picked up at Napa Auto Parts.

The blending is always the hardest part when you’re repairing a smallish area on a much bigger painted surface.  Even though when I shot the paint I kept peeling back the tape to expose more of the original surface, there was a bit of a hard paint line that was distinct between the old and new paint.

I told Guy we could let it cure and see how the paint levels out, or try to blend it more.  He wasn’t too keen on the distinct line between old and new paint, so I very carefully went sanded the junction line, prepped the old and new paint surfaces and reshot the yellow paint to blend it in more.

Here’s the result.  It’s very difficult to see any difference on the inboard side of the winglet.

Admittedly, I am NOT a master painter, and the outboard side of the winglet looks really good, albeit the blending did leave a hair flatter surface towards the front lower side of the winglet that can be seen if you’re looking more critically at the paint.

In the pics above and below the taillights have been successfully reinstalled (note the light brackets were stripped, primed and repainted as well).

As both Guy and I quipped at the end of our repair effort: Good enough for government work.  Time to get this bird back in the air! … and for me to get back to getting my bird in the air.


Chapter 23 – Oil heat hose shortened

Today I spent a good chunk of the day repairing Guy Williams’ dinged up Long-EZ at the airport.  Upon returning home I wanted to get at least one task knocked out, and with the new 45° street elbow and 90° AN hose fitting looking promising, I rounded up my oil heat system feed oil hose and tested out the length.

I knew it would be too long with the new fitting situ as it is, so I pulled back the fire sleeve and marked the cut line.  In retrospect I should have cut it about 1/4″ shorter, but this dog will hunt.

I then installed the new 90° AN hose fitting, trimmed and safety wired the black fire sleeve in place, and finally added heat shrink over the exposed end to tighten it all up… Voila!  The oil heat feed hose from oil sump is remade and the configuration is looking pretty darn acceptable (clearance always could be better).

And better still I didn’t have to move the fitting on the firewall!

I then spent well over an hour doing some much needed maintenance on my shop’s air compressor, including an oil change.  I still need to check one of the main out lines to ensure there’s no leak… I’ll need this compressor soon for finishing the paint on the bird.

Back to inching forward on the build!

Chapter 22/23 – MiniUni EFIS panel prep

Yes, my friends, it’s been quite a few months since I was on this build.  Dealing with the cold weather I got into a couple of other projects, one of those being getting engaged to Jess.

Yada, yada… time to get back to building.

My first task was swapping out the desiccant in the plugs on the engine.  I broke yet another one so I taped it into place with green painters tape.  Hopefully this is sign that I won’t need them soon?! (wink)

I wanted to clear some “low hanging fruit” off the proverbial build tree before jumping back into some major tasks.  Over the last couple of days I modeled up an outline of my new 360 Avionics Mini-Uni 2 EFIS in Fusion 360 CAD to provide me a cutout template for the original composite panel.  I also verified fit and mounting screw hole size by checking the Mini-Uni 2 with the aluminum panel.

My first effort 3D printing the cutout template is the one on the right, which is a 1/2″ thick.  I then tweaked the corner chamfer sizes to match the actual EFIS unit’s, and then reprinted another version (left side) only 1/4″ thick.

As you can see, the dimensions of the 1/4″ thick 3D printed composite panel cutout template came out nicely.

I then did a general check of available spacing behind the panel for the EFIS.

And set the cutout template in space on the front to check I had enough clearance (barely, as par usual) to trim out the material.

I’ll remind ya’ll that I had surface mounted the MGL clock that was in this position, with #6 nutplates floxed onto the back side of the panel to thread the screws into.

I knocked the four #6 nutplate assemblies off the panel and then proceeded to cutout the area needed to fit the 360 Avionics Mini-Uni 2 EFIS.  To be clear —as I noted months ago— I wanted to ensure that not only with this instrument swap, but that in the future I could install virtually any 2-1/4″ instrument without having to remove all the instruments and aluminum panel to do what I’m doing now… making a lot of dust and mess!

I left the existing upper outboard screw hole tab of just the carbon fiber top skin of the original composite panel in place so I could verify fitting with the EFIS mounted to the aluminum panel (only), and having the required clearance with the composite panel.

The one fly in the ointment regarding clearance was my Autopilot “EFIS vs GPS” nav source switch.  Although this switch is a mini-switch, it has 9 posts on it and is fairly robust in size.

After some pondering and evaluation, I decided I’m not messing with moving the AP nav source switch on the panel, and that the EFIS was going to have to sacrifice a bit to make this work.

If you look closely, the case of the EFIS is actually 3D printed (not by me), and is actually fairly thick, about 0.075″.  I determined with the case thickness removed and about another 0.07″ shaved off the aluminum front bezel, I could reclaim the clearance required for the switch and press forward.

After I carefully removed the case and looked at the internal boards, and the screen components, I ascertained this could be fairly easily accomplished and set to work.

Here’s a test fit back in the panel after the surgery on the mini EFIS.

I then took the Mini-Uni 2 EFIS into the house and test fitted it into the panel with the actual switch… Voila!  The plan was successful.

Another couple of shots of the mini EFIS switch clearance notch with the switch in place.  Of course I’ll put some tape over the EFIS notched hole when I install everything to seal the case up.  I’m very pleased with how all this came out.

I then got to work draining the oil out of the engine.

My plan here was to get the oil sump oil preheater from Anti-Splat Aero installed and off the to-do list.

On the front right corner of my Superior Cold Air Induction oil sump is a horizontal port that had a threaded hex seal plug in place, from the factory.  I removed that steel seal plug and cleaned off the sealant and oil in the threads with acetone.

I then gooped up the threads on the oil sump oil preheater and installed it.  Voila!  Another task complete.

I then moved onto the bottom left side of the oil sump, where I had the rather robust steel 90° oil heat system outlet fitting installed.  Note that I do not have the hose bracket installed into the ram air induction can since I cannot mount the orange SCEET tube with this behemoth steel 90° fitting installed… it has to go.

Another reminder: welded to the 90° steel fitting is a standpipe to ensure that the oil heat system will never syphon too much and always leave the engine with at least 3 quarts of oil in the oil sump.  I removed the steel fitting and measured out the height of the standpipe (~4.5″) and then marked the new replacement brass 45° street elbow with to trim its attached standpipe to the same height.

I then installed the new brass 45° street elbow fitting into the engine oil sump port HAND TIGHT to check fitting and clearance with the orange SCEET tube (note mounting bracket back in place on the ram air induction can).  Again, although not optimal clearance, but once I torque the fitting into place I’ll have about a 1/4″ clearance.  As with all other components, this too will be monitored closely during the 40-hour test flight period.

A caveat on my being “back on the build”. . .  My local Long-EZ canardian buddy, Guy Williams, had a mishap during his annual CI last week when the A&P took the batteries out of the nose without his short-nosed EZ being in the grazing position… yep, popped right back on the winglets and crunched them a bit (not too bad).  That being said, starting tomorrow on I’ll be spending a few hours a day helping Guy get his bird fixed up.