Project Update

Hey Guys,  

Well, it’s coming up on about 6 weeks since I’ve been back on the build.  Made some decent progress on a lot of smaller tasks, and hope to be transitioning into some of the bigger airframe component builds here soon.

First off, I’ve been slowly organizing some of the info on my build log.  Essentially adding menus –such as Canopy Latch Hardware under the Chapter 18 – Canopy– in attempt to avoid having all chapter info lumped under one big page. Unfortunately, one of my last WordPress updates (I think is the culprit) reformatted my pics so they’re much larger in size, and thus have turned sideways to fit on various pages.  I try to update them a few at a time, but honestly this won’t be fixed until after this project is a true airplane.

While awaiting (initially) on some hardware for the canopy latch, I regressed into some tooling up in what I considered critical tooling systems required for my highly esoterically-designed (e.g. “one off”) components.  Those tools being my 3D printer, the plasma cutting table, and the milling machine.  The good news is the 3D printer appears to be back online.  The plasma cutting table is what I consider at bare operational capacity… it has issues on which I’m dealing with Langmuir Systems.  The major mods to the mill (besides CNC) are complete, and I can slowly start bolting it back together and get it operational.

So I’ll be transitioning back onto the canopy (Chapter 18) once again first, then with the remaining big build finishes: the nose (Chapter 13), followed up by the strake build (Chapter 21), and then knocking out the winglet/rudder install (Chapter 20).  All in haphazard synergistic fashion of course!


Chapter 13 – Hinge test

Today I started off by marking the edges of the glassed-over block of H250 foam I buried in the front of the nose, right at the top aft side of the furthest forward bulkhead.  I placed this block of uber dense foam here to mount the nose hatch door hinge bracket assembly to, although I never had a concrete plan as to exactly how that would look…. until now.

I then used my Fein saw and trimmed about a 1/4″ wide channel –going forward– at each mark.

These slots are where the hinge pins will protrude out each side, left and right, of the hinge bracket assembly.  Then the hinges will mount inside the slots on each side of the bracket.

I tested the original hinge configuration and grabbed a shot of it here.  As you can see, if I raised up the top mounting edge of the hinge (the front edge is elevated enough to touch the hatch door already) to be parallel with the door line, it would literally protrude through the top of the door.

Here we have the new modified hinge with the pivot point in nearly the exact same spot as above, but as you can see the top portion of the hinge that will mount to the door is about parallel with the line of the door…. much better!

I then trimmed the 1/16″ thick by 1″ x 1″ angled aluminum to serve as the main body for the bracket.  My band saw isn’t the most robust so it got a little wavy on the left top edge, but since this will buried under the nose I’ll just file it down a bit and call it good…. function over perfection!

I will note the ends will be capped each with a piece of 1/8″ aluminum that I’ll weld into place.  Sticking out of each end will be a 1/4″ long x nearly a 1/4″ in diameter nub that will serve as pivot points (ala “axels”) for the hinges.  The hinges will be secured to these nubs either by E-clips or cotter pins.

I’ll warn you now, the rest of this blog post is all about reassembling the milling machine. I started off with mounting the One-shot oil reservoir and 2 each 4-port manifolds.  These will feed oil, via plastic tubing, to 8 oil ports on the milling machine.

I then got busy reassembling the milling machine.  I mounted the column back on top of the base.

I then turned the mill column and base assembly on its side.

Why?  To mount the air spring back into place at the very bottom of the base, protruding all the way up into the column.

A wider angle shot of the bottom of the mill base, with the epoxy granite in place.

I then got to work drilling out the ball oilers to convert them to tubing push-adapters.

I first drilled it out with a #19 drill to tap M5 threads (too big IMO, so I reduced it to #21 and worked much better).

I then tapped the remaining brass of the oiler with M5 threads.

There were a couple of things that happened next that distracted me from getting a close-in shot of the tubing push-to-fit adapters I was mounting in the converted ball oilers, but you can see a shot of one on the each side of the Z-slide (column) in the last 2 pics.

First, I wanted to replace the standard grease fitting on the Z-axis ball nut because there is no physical way that I can get to it when the Z-axis ball screw is mounted in the column.  I had some tubing push-to-fit adapters that are actually for 3D printers, but a guy I follow on YouTube (Franco) converted his PM-25 milling machine to have full-time remote greasing capability of the ball screws.

So I mounted one here (to be clear, I’ll be using oil on the X and Y axis ball screws because they are more prone to getting chips and debris thrown their way, whereas the Z-axis ball screw is hidden away in the column).

After trying a few times to bend space and time with my mind to get the Z-axis ball screw down into the column, I realized I was going to have to remove the Z-axis ball nut-to-Z-slide bracket to then mount the bracket first, followed by the Z-axis ball nut (and attached ball screw/motor mount).

I’ll take a moment to remind anybody reading this, that I do not have any instructions on how to do this…

I then installed the Z-axis ball nut-to-Z-slide bracket.  Here you can see the 2 big 10mm hex head screws (top) that attach the Z-slide to the bracket.

And a peak down into the column to see the bracket attached pretty much in the center of the column.

I then attached the Z-axis ball nut, ball screw and stepper motor mount to the Z-axis ball nut-to-Z-slide bracket.

Then threaded in and tightened all 5 bolts.

If you look closely you’ll see the original grease fitting back in place.  Why?  Mainly as a dust cover really… since the space is too tight to use the tubing adapter I had to punt on that idea.  So in the future I’ll simply be putting the tip of my oil can through the opening on the right and using oil to lubricate the Z-axis ball screw.  Oh well . . . live and learn!

Just another shot of the Z-slide (left) and the Z-axis ball nut (blue bolts securing) and the Z-axis ball screw (covered in red aircraft grade grease).  Note the oil line adapter threaded into the tapped old ball oiler (center bottom).

I then seated and bolted the motor mount to the top of the column with 4 large bolts (Again, note oil line adapter on side of Z-slide).

Tomorrow I plan on getting a whole lot more done on the nose, and perhaps a bit more on the mill as well.


Chapter 13/22 – Tweaking hinges

Today was more of a planning day vs. a work day.

I did get a few hours of work in on the milling machine CNC control box backplate for mounting components (power supplies, motor controllers, etc.) into it.

I also assessed the hinges and hinge assembly on the front nose hatch.  After doing some mental and cardboard mockups on the hinges’ configuration, I determined that the aft tip (right end below) needed to be around 20ºish degrees/1″ higher to interface with the hatch door interior surface at the appropriate angle.

The upper hinge is the one I tweaked the aft attach portion angle.  You can tell the difference by focusing on the 2 small holes: parallel with edge on previous version, and at an angle on latest mod.

In addition to getting the hinge tweaked in Fusion 360 CAD and 3D printed, I also updated the instrument panel CAD drawing to its latest edition.  Should be very close to being ready to go final on that SOON.

I plan to focus on the nose and some on finishing the canopy once I get the Scratch-Off canopy cleaner from VANs (to remove build scratches & blemishes).  In addition, I will be putting a decent bit of time in on getting the milling machine up and running.


Chapter 13/22 – One ugly wrench!

I started off spending a good bit of time cleaning and tidying up the shop today.

I then got to work on a task that has been on the To-Do list for a long, long time: torquing the 1/2″ oil heat line fittings to the 1/2″-to-3/8″ reducers that run to/from the oil heat exchanger.

Since these oil line fittings sit right adjacent to the GIB fuel sump/thigh support they are quite a bit more inaccessible than I had planned on when I mounted them in that location. I was never able to fully confirm that they were appropriately torqued, so I needed a way to tighten them up to specs.

Moreover, this is a task I really needed to get accomplished pre-strake build since it would be even more of a near-impossible task to do with the strakes on.

I essentially took a Harbor Freight hollow hex “wrench” that comes in a set for plumbing, cut about 5/8″ off one end (left end, pics below), and then cut away 2 of the wrench flats to give me a 4-sided “C” piece left over.

In part of my straight line cut tests for the plasma cutter, I cut a 1″ x 1/16″ strip in half lengthways, to give me 4 x 12″ x 1/2″ strips.  I then MIG welded these strips to 4 of the flats of a 3/4″ bolt on one end (right end, pics above/below), and the “4-side C” I made above on the other (left) end.

This gave me both the clearance of the hose to get in & around the oil hose fitting hex nut, while also giving me enough length to reach down along side of the thigh support to get to the oil line fitting.

What it didn’t give me was enough torque to tighten the oil line fitting as much as it should be… it was just too springy and hard to gauge.

So I went with Option #2 –which is actually better in the long run– which this ugly wrench allowed me to do: simply remove the oil line fittings from the reducers.  I’ll then mount the 1/2″ oil lines to the reducers first, then mount the reducers into the thigh support/fuel sump front face bulkhead (a bit of trimming will be required).

Either way, getting this taken care of pre-strake is big on my list, and I’m glad this ugly wrench was able to work in facilitating it.

My next task was to start on the nose… specifically the nose hatch hinge assembly.  I’ve played around with different configurations on how to mount it, and one really viable option now is to mount some flanged bearings into the hinges to then mount into the nose.  The current hinge (on the left, below) was set up to simply use a 3/16″ bolt through it, but that configuration has some clearance issues.

The bearings cleared up the clearance issues, and in the long run is the simpler solution, so I widened the hinges to nearly an inch wide to allow for a bigger diameter hole to seat the bearing into.

It actually took me a little bit to tweak this in Fusion 360. I had just kicked off the 3D print of the new hinges, was making sure the first few layers went down well, and then was getting ready to head back out to the shop to start working the bracket side of the nose hatch hinges when my little buddy called me.  She’s been having a bit of a hard time at school so I took a few-hour break to go hang out with her.

When I returned home, my newly designed hinges were done on the 3D printer bed.  To be clear, I’m not crazy about the fatter design, but they will be stronger overall and can of course take the 1/2″ OD bearings.  Also, I’ll note that these are test hinges, subject to changes, and the final ones will be aluminum.

Tomorrow I plan on getting back on the nose and really digging into those tasks to get it finished.

Chapter 18/22 – Tech: Back in Black

This post is pretty much all videos . . .

The biggest news of the day is that I finally got my plasma cutter operational again.  It took a fair bit of machinations to make it happen, but it is cutting at a very acceptable level now.

So much so that after the initial test cut was successful, I dove right into cutting test instrument panel #2.  Here’s the video of the panel being cut.

With the new test panel on hand, I then finished an ongoing series of videos that originally covered both the panel and the canopy latch handle, but the resulting video would have been way too long to stuff into one video, so I broke them up.

Here’s the video on the instrument panel, including the one I just plasma cut:

The canopy latch handle progression really comes down to this one critical part at its core: the triangular interconnecting piece.  I snapped this shot to show just a few of the iterations it’s already gone through in just a couple of weeks.

And finally, here’s a video recounting the evolution of my canopy latch handle.

And after a long night of video editing, I’ll bid you adieu!

Chapter 18 – Good as it gets: part 2

I started off today spending about 45 minutes sanding the micro I applied to spots on the front canopy lip.

I had embedded some nutplates under the interior canopy skin, so I also drilled those out to make them functional.

I then got to work on the line of flocro that I placed under the left edge of the canopy to straighten out and help fill in the gaps of my “B” canopy seal.  It was still a bit rough when I finished, and I need to do some more work on it as I dial in the “B” seal fitting.

With my extra micro from the layup last night, I also filled in the holes and divots on the canopy cross brace piece… especially both ends where it meets the canopy frame.  I then sanded them today.

After all my tasks were done on the canopy, I remounted it on the fuselage.  Here’s the left side after I redid the edge.

And a look down the line. Much, much better than before.  Not perfect, but a heck of a lot better!

Left side BEFORE:

And the reworked right side as well.

And another close-up view down the line.  Again, a LOT better than before.

Right side BEFORE:

I also reinstalled the canopy latch system & handle and messed around with that for a little bit.  It gave me enough data to tweak the CAD file for the triangular interconnect piece and then reprint another one.

Chapter 18 – Edge Saga Over!

Today I had to run some important errands, so I didn’t get into the shop until the evening.

I started by trimming up the right side edge glass that I laid up on the canopy yesterday.  I got it so that the canopy could open and close with plenty of clearance between the longeron/fuselage and the added glass.  I then removed the canopy.

Since I was working on the side of the canopy I went ahead and set it on the shop floor.  I then sanded and prepped the side for some pour foam.  At the front and aft end you can see some dams for the foam.

I then poured a couple of rounds of foam.

I hit the cured foam first with a hacksaw blade to knock off the major stuff, then moved into sanding it to shape.

With the canopy so low on the ground, I could already feel it in my back from bending over so much… definitely wasn’t going to make it through a multi-hour layup.  So I turned my workbenches on their side and put the canopy on them… perfect height!

I then spent another few hours total on the canopy right side edge/frame layup.

Again, like the left side I took nearly 0.2″ of foam off the edge and filled it with carbon fiber UNI, then laid up 1 ply of BID over that and the added foam.

I had a decent bit of epoxy left over after I peel plied the layup, so I mixed up some micro and applied it to the rough spots on the underside of the front canopy lip.  This was on my task list for the canopy anyway, so now I have a head start on it.

And with that, I called it a night.


Chapter 18 – Gettin’ edgy!

I started off today by trimming the canopy left side lip extension, and since I have black duct tape on the longeron for protection, I threw some white paper towels underneath for contrast (note: black = carbon fiber).

I then prepped the right side for glass.  Now, I did cheat just a hair on the left side and went out 1/2″ (vs. 3/8″), but on the right side I have the front hinge constraining how far out I can go (note: here black = duct tape).

I then glassed the canopy right side lip.  I had a bit of epoxy left over, so I whipped up some dry micro and filled the hinge screw counterbores.

I took a close up of the left side to show an issue I’m contending with: when I glassed the canopy I had an indention that ran down the aft 3/4 of the canopy lip.  It didn’t really effect extending the lip out, but it will need to be accounted for in the final shape of the canopy left side frame.

After assessing how much material needed to be added to shape the canopy left side frame, I decided to move forward with pour foam to fill & reshape it.

I added a mini-shelf with a couple pieces of angled aluminum.

I then very sloppily added the pour form.  I didn’t need it to be perfect here, just workable.

After the pour foam cured, I removed the mini-shelf.

And then did a quick major foam removal with a hack saw blade.

I then did round one of shaping with a sanding block.

I decided I needed some more filling foam at the top edge of the foam I had just put on… but didn’t want to mess around with a bunch of forms, etc.  So I opened the canopy and set the frame on a box to get the best angle possible for a “level” pour. I did make up one quick tape dam at the very front just to ensure it didn’t go running down the front of my canopy.

I then whipped up another batch and poured it out.

Here’s the canopy left-side pour foam application round 2.

I then did a quick hack saw blade removal and sanding just like round 1.  Here we have the canopy left side pour foam shaped and ready for glass.

And here, 3 hours later, is the new canopy left side frame.  Note the bottom edge of carbon fiber UNI (for strength and to add to the thickness of the flange).  I then added 1 ply of BID to cover the carbon fiber edge and the pour foam side.

That’s pretty much it for the left side.  I’ll of course pull the peel ply and trim the edge, but tomorrow will be all about working the canopy right side lip and getting it dialed in as close to the left as possible.


Chapter 18 – Nice lips!

Today I started out by pulling the peel ply from yesterday’s 1-ply BID layup that I laid up on the underside of the left canopy frame first, then overlapped onto the upper fuselage.

On the inside I placed a decent bead of flocro along the top of 1/8″ aluminum spacers that were themselves on top of the left longeron.  This all will allow me to level out the left underside canopy rail for the “B” seal to have a consistent pressure against it along the top of the longeron.

Well, in trying to extricate the canopy off of the longeron, I popped off the front “X” of the wood canopy frame.  I cleaned it up a bit and slathered some more Bondo on to securely attach the frame to the canopy front apron.

As the Bondo cured I got busy trimming up all the screws on the canopy hinges so that they sat either flush or below the surface of the canopy frame, and could then be filled with dry micro.

I also removed a good portion of the tape from under the layup.

I then slowly and careful worked the canopy frame to get the canopy opened. Here we have the messy flocro on the underside of the frame.  A fair bit of it will get sanded away.

Another shot with the canopy frame front “X” re-attached, and the canopy open.

I then marked a line on the fresh layup where the new edge of the canopy will eventually be cut.

I then taped up the left side again for its round 2 layup.

I then sanded the intersection and old frame edge for a good 45 minutes to prep for glass.

Apparently I didn’t get a good shot of the glass after it was finished and I peel plied it, but this is after it cured.  The new black carbon fiber edge, with a ply of BID over it, will be the new edge.  Layup #3 will be to fill in the depression, which may very likely be filled with pour foam, with a final ply of BID on top.

Tomorrow I plan to continue working on both the left and right side canopy lips.



Chapter 18 – The Blue Cabin

I started out today doing a quick mod on the canopy latch handle triangular interconnecting piece and then 3D-printed it out (sorry, no pic).

Out in the workshop my first task was to first do the final install on the canopy lower aft hinge half to the longeron.

I then moved forward and did a temp install on the canopy lower forward hinge half to the longeron.  I will be adding a form-fitted HUD mount here that will mount in part with the hinge screws on the underside of the longeron.  Thus, these screws will come out and be replaced with longer ones.

I added this pic of the canopy work just because I like it . . .

As you can see from above, I flipped the canopy back upright so I could Dremel out the final 2 hinge screw counterbores in the canopy frame.  Here’s the aft hinge area BEFORE.

And then AFTER I cut the screw counterbores.  I then proceeded to mount the canopy upper hinge halves to the canopy frame (see below).

When I original built the canopy I did so with a designed 1/8″ gap built in between the canopy frame and the longeron, to give the right compression for the “B” seal that I was using.  On the left side especially, the final shape of the canopy exceeds that 1/8″ gap (read, “air gaps”), so I need to reestablish it.

To do so, the plan is to simply tape up the longeron with 1/8″ aluminum spacers on top. Then apply flox, or micro, or better yet: flocro to the underside of the canopy frame as it is pressed up against the 1/8″ aluminum spacers atop the longeron.

Ok, a wrinkle to that is that I am also extending the canopy frame’s overhang onto the fuselage a bit, for even more stoppage of unwanted incoming air.  I bantered how I was going to do this in my mind, so this was somewhat of a gametime decision.  I went with a bit riskier half wet, half dry layup (for a good bit) to get the initial layer for the overhang attached directly to the underside canopy frame, and UNDER the added flocro 1/8″ spacing layer.

So I glassed a 2″ strip of BID onto the left underside of the canopy frame, but only wet out the portion touching existing glass (somewhat like the very aft layup on the fuselage pan).

I then added the 1/8″ aluminum spacers to the top of the longeron and taped them up, with some tape down the side of the longeron for protection and glass release.

I then piled up a decent-sized bead of flocro all the down the outboard edge of the 1/8″ higher “longeron.”

I then set the canopy back in place, replaced the hinge rods, and then wetted out the overhanging (dry) BID onto the upper fuselage (I’ll add more glass and shape this side and the right side over the next day or three).

Here’s a couple shots of the officially mounted canopy upper hinges: first the aft hinge, and then the forward hinge.

I went out to visit some friends for a few hours, and when I returned I was curious to see what was going on inside the canopy/cockpit (without opening it of course)… so I peered in through the back hole in the GIB seat.  After looking around a bit, I thought this would make a great pic, and it did . . . IMO.

Pressing forward.