Now that we've fixed the problem started by that rogue drill bit, we can finally begin final assembly of the vertical stabilizer. I honestly can't even remember how long we've been working on this one piece of the plane. Has it been two months, three? OK, so I just looked back at my earlier posts and it's only been about six weeks. It just feels like a lifetime.
This is the part of building that gets really exciting because you can finally see a finished product. It's also the part of the process where the instruction manual becomes very, very important. I'll talk about that in my next post.
For the very last time, we assembled all of the pieces that we've been working on to create the skeleton of the vertical stabilizer. First, we used clecos to hold everything together, then we put in the final rivets. Amazingly, the whole skeleton is only held together with 11 rivets. Even riveted together the vertical stab felt really flimsy at this point. Mike assures me that most of the strength and stability comes from the skin being riveted onto the skeleton. Everything on the skeleton is curved so we had a few challenges installing some of the rivets. To make everything even harder, there were a few clecos that stuck out at odd angles but couldn't be removed. We finally figured out that if we clamped some boards to the end of our work bench, we could move those boards around to accommodate whatever structural components or clecos were in the way.
We also had our first opportunity to do some offset riveting. An offset rivet set has a curve so you can work in tight areas or around structural components. It was kind of weird to use but we tried it out on some practice pieces first and everything went just fine.
Once the skeleton was riveted together, we put the skin on over the frame. Two hundred clecos later, it looked like this.
Now just for fun, here are two pictures of the vertical stabilizer. One of these pictures is from the first time we put the vertical stab together on January 16. The other picture was taken last Saturday, February 18. Can you tell which is which, because I sure can't? One month of work and we're right back where we started.