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Archive for the ‘Paint’ Category

Plenum Checkerboard

Since I didn’t get home from work until about 7pm today, I don’t have much to report. I stopped by my hangar on my way home from Denver and picked up my plenum halves. I painted them on Thursday and they were dry enough to peel the mask today. I think they turned out fairly well if I do say so myself. I’m going to shoot a few layers of clear over the checkerboard to try and make them a little more durable. These should add a little pizazz to the engine compartment!


Diodes, Lighting, Plenum Checkers, Ignition Harness

Ah the diode. Many people say that diodes are a necessary part of the master and battery solenoid installation. They prevent a spike in current when the solenoid snaps closed and protect sensitive electronic equipment. Some people say their normally-certified airplane doesn’t have them and they’ve never had any problems. At about $0.75 each and about 0.01 oz. each, I decided I may as well install them. I covered them with heat shrink and crimped the ends directly to the diode wires. It was a 5 minute installation.

Here’s a shot of the 2 diodes installed. The one on the master solenoid goes from the ground trigger wire to the power input pole. The diode on the starter solenoid goes from the 12 volt trigger wire to ground. The orientation of the band on the diode is very important. Bob Nuckolls has a good article available on his website that describes diode use in technical detail. Advanced Power Systems has a cartoon drawing explanation that I found more appropriate to my level of understanding.

There were thunderstorms and severe weather in the Denver area last week so a few Frontier airplanes diverted to KFNL. I’ve been at Frontier for over 6 years so I wasn’t too surprised to know the captains on both flights. It was fun walking up to the left side window and asking them if they were lost… or what?

It was a little difficult to get a picture of this, but what I’m trying to show is my new nighttime loading/unloading lighting. I bought 2 12-inch strips of LED lights from Auto Zone and installed one under the right longeron and one in the baggage compartment. I’m not talented enough as a photographer to figure out how to get a good photo of this so I had to take the picture with the hangar lights on. The short story is that the lights are connected to a switch and the hot battery buss. The lights look great and provide plenty of light. Gotta love bling, right?

I was really dreading the process of finalizing the routing and tying off my ignition harness. I was convinced that I could never find a home for all that wire and make it look decent. Well, I’ll let you (and the inspector) decide how it turned out, but it’s done and I’m pretty satisfied. As it turns out, it took a fair bit of time (several hours), but it wasn’t a dreadful task after all. One more piece of the puzzle completed.

Just in case you were wondering what I was doing with better than half my day on Thursday… Here it is. I taped the checkerboard pattern on my plenum pieces. Wow. Checkerboard really is time-consuming. I had Aerographics make me a big sheet of 2×2 checkerboard to speed the process. It worked, but since the pieces had many compound curves, I had to “fill in the blanks” with some 3M fineline vinyl tape. I painted the black on Thursday afternoon and the parts are curing in my hangar as I type this message. I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Milwaukee, but will be back out at the hangar later this afternoon and again tomorrow morning. My day will be cut short tomorrow because I’m scheduled to give my last 2 Beech 1900 checkrides tomorrow afternoon. My examiner designation expires May 31st and I’m not going to renew it. I enjoyed it, but I’m looking forward to freeing up the time for flying my Midget Mustang!


Cowl Cheeks, Gas Tank Cover, Canopy

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted. Been busy at work again. I’ve got a fair bit of time off again this week so I’m hoping to finish up a few of these nagging last minute details.

I decided to line the insides of my cowl cheeks with felt. I figure I might use the cheeks to store an extra quart of oil, rags, a funnel, and maybe even a soft overnight bag if I need to avoid the aft baggage compartment for C of G reasons. I taped off the perimeter and sprayed adhesive where the felt will go.

I cut the felt to rough size and then laid it over the still-tacky spray on glue. Once it was smoothed down, I used a straight-edge and a razor blade to trim the felt to the exact size.

I also taped off the side of the fuselage so that I wouldn’t get any glue where it shouldn’t be.

This is sort of a dual-purpose photo. You can see the cowl cheek installed with the felt on the inside. I don’t know if I’ll ever use the cheeks as a baggage compartment, but if I do, at least things won’t be rattling around against the paint. You’ll also notice that I’ve installed the skin piece over the gas tank. This seems like a minor little task, which I guess it was, but it represents a milestone in that it means that I’m done tinkering with the wiring behind the instrument panel. Woo, hoo! Progress!!!

Before I installed the forward fuselage skin over the gas tank, I applied a generous bead of Permatex #2 around the gas cap filler neck ring. I’m hoping that the Permatex will provide a seal such that if the tank is overfilled, the extra gas will run down the outside of the aircraft rather than seeping between the fuselage skin and the tank itself–eventually running down to the floor near the rudder pedals. Ugh. What a mess that’d be!

The Permatex oozed out around the perimeter of the gas cap ring. I carefully cleaned off the excess using a paper towel and a little bit of acetone. I think it cleaned up nicely. It nearly killed me to wipe my newly painted black skin with a paper towel. Black shows every hairline scratch and I think the only time black paint is truly scratch free is approximately 30 seconds after it originally comes out of the paint gun! I’m one of those freaky people, however, that notices the scratch left by placing a styrofoam coffee cup on the roof of the car. It really does leave scratches. Look closely…

A random picture of two of the ugliest planes I can ever imagine. They share a hangar with a friend of mine. The guys who built/own these things are really nice guys, but that doesn’t change the fact that these are butt-ugly! I’ve removed the N-numbers to protect their identity!

This is what I settled on for my canopy latch levers. These things attache on the inside of the canopy skirt to a couple of steel rods that engage into a simple bracket mounted on the top longeron. It’s simple and lightweight and the canopy is definitely held down securely. If I had built the canopy and canopy skirt from scratch I probably would have used some sort of a single lever cam system, but this will do.

This is my 1996 K1100LT BMW motorcycle. I’ve owned it for about 18 months. It’s kept me away from the airplane project for a few days over the past couple of weeks. The front fork seals were leaking fork oil and needed to be replaced. A friend offered to help me replace the seals. How could I refuse? We finished up late yesterday afternoon. If you look closely, we also installed rubber boots over the exposed portion of the forks. This should prevent the forks from leaking in the future. What happens is that bugs and/or road debris contaminate the smooth part of the folk. This contamination then erodes the fork seal and eventually causes a leak. Cherokees have similar problems with their landing gear struts. Maybe they need rubber boots, too?

Here are all my remaining fiberglass parts wearing a first round of primer. I’ll need to do a little more sanding and filling and then spray another round of primer before they’re ready for final paint. I should have these ready for primer as soon as tomorrow afternoon, but the actual priming session will be weather dependent. Hard to believe I’m still waiting for a warm day to paint outside in mid-May. Welcome to Colorado, I guess.


Baffles, Primer, Panel, Canopy

The good news is that rattle can primer and paint strips very easily with Aircraft Stripper. The bad news is that I spent 2-1/2 hours this morning proving this. I purchased some Ace Hardware hi-temp gloss black and sprayed it over the top of my SEM self-etching rattle can primer. The two didn’t get along and I had to strip all the baffles back to bare metal.

It took about 2-1/2 hours to strip all the baffles back to bare metal. To avoid any compatibility problems this time around, I bought Rustoleum primer and Rustoleum gloss black. It worked out very well and I’ve now got a bunch of shiny baffles hanging from my hangar door while the paint cures. I probably won’t be back out to the hangar until at least Wednesday of this week so I’m hopeful they’ll have time to fully cure.

I wasn’t happy with the routing of the copper tube for my primer system. I visited the airplane aisle at Ace again and purchased 5 feet of 1/8″ copper tubing for $1 per foot. I have no idea whether this is more or less than what Aircraft Spruce charges, but I don’t really care. It was nice to buy the stuff locally and finish the project. I routed the line out of the primer solenoid horizontally across the firewall and then followed the engine mount to the center of the case just inboard of the left upper engine mount.

I also covered the copper line with clear rubber tubing from a oxygen cannula that they used on my Mom in the hospital. They were just going to throw it away so I snagged it. It sure made it simple to tie the copper line wherever I wanted without worrying about chafing. You can see that I also included a loop for strain relief just forward of the engine mount. I figure there’s a good possibility that there will be a little movement between the engine mount and the engine.

I took the canopy to the airport with me this morning. It had been sitting in my living room at home since I finished the Micro Mesh process a week or so ago. A friend, who’s far more experienced than I in terms of building airplanes, predicts that it’ll take me another couple of months before I’m ready to fly. I was hoping to be finished before that, but who knows… I’ll need to cover my nice, clear plexi so I started by running a strip of fine line tape along the perimeter of the plexiglass. It shouldn’t screw up the plastic or leave any residue the way that masking tape sometimes does.

I then covered the canopy with masking paper to protect the glass. It’ll be a big milestone when the day comes to remove the paper.

Here’s a shot looking into the cockpit with the panel mostly installed. I forgot to bring the GPS from home or I think I would have finished the entire panel installation. I’ll need to order the graphics to label the panel from Aerographics sometime soon. For the unfamiliar, Aerographics is a great company for all sorts of custom vinyl work for airplanes or other applications. I’m very lucky in that they’re local and have lightning fast turnaround if I need it. I’ll probably go see Marilyn sometime this week.

Here’s a shot of the current status of my panel installation from the backside. Don’t be too critical just yet. I’ve still got to install the GPS and its mounting bracket. I’ve got a couple of hard points built into the GPS bracket where I’ll use a couple of Adel clamps to firm up my wire bundles. It’s amazing how busy a fairly simple VFR panel can get.

Here’s an overal status shot taken just as I was ready to leave the hangar this evening. I just laid the black forward fuselage skin in place to see what it will look like. It’s pretty exciting to see the project taking its final shape. I think installing the newly-painted black baffles along with the plenum, routing the ignition harness wires and installing the canopy will make a huge difference. I can’t wait until the day comes when I can roll it out onto the ramp and give it a good wash job. It’s accumulated a fair amount of dust over the past few months. I’m sure it will also require a light polishing to remove some hairline scratches in the clear coat, too. Oh well, a labor of love!
I’m scheduled to give 6 Beech 1900 checkrides over the course of the next 3 days. With this much going on, I sort of doubt I’ll make it to the hangar much this week until maybe Friday. My vacation from Frontier is coming to an end and I’ll have to go to work for 3 days starting on Saturday. I’m nearly out of clean clothes because I’ve been spending so much time at my hangar so I may have to play Danny Domestic on Friday rather than going to the airport. We’ll see how much I can accomplish in the evenings over the next few days. i’d really like to get another day at the shop in before I have to go back to work. Stay tuned!


Baffles and Tank Installation

The weather has been absolutely freaky around here lately. It starts off looking like it’s going to be 70 degrees and sunny all day and then sometime about mid-day, it turns cold and windy and starts raining. In the late afternoon, the skies clear, the sun shines and it actually gets warmer. Oh well. The reason I’m telling you all this is that I was hoping to prime and paint all the metal pieces of my engine baffling today. I primed them with no problem, but then kinda got weathered out on the actual painting. As it turns out, the paint I picked wasn’t performing well anyway so I’m going to have to strip everything back to bare metal and start over tomorrow. Bummer.

Knowing that access is much more difficult once the tank is installed, I took a bunch of pictures showing how things are installed before I inserted the tank. Here are my throttle, carb heat and mixture cables along the left side of my cockpit.

I changed out my Home Depot tye wraps in favor of the heavy duty wire ties that came with my Click-Bond fasteners.

$140 worth of firewall pass-throughs. The top one is aluminum. The other 3 are steel. I went with the aluminum because I needed a big hole for the wire bundle that wasn’t available in the steel pass-throughs.

My power bus system. The one on the far left in this picture is my avionics bus. The center is the main bus and the right is my main ground bus. I plan on editing this photo to add labels showing what’s plugged in to where. I have all my wiring information stored on my computer in spreadsheet format. Every wire has a number.

This was today’s little “challenge.” Installing this fuel line was a pain in the tookus. For those of you who haven’t seen me in person, let’s suffice to say that I’m not shaped like a gymnast and/or contortionist. In fact, I’m shaped more like a left tackle from a college football team. To make matters worse, I had planned to use a 45 degree AN fitting from the gascolator through the firewall to attach to this hose. Well, the twist of the 45 degree fitting wouldn’t work out for me so I ended up going with a straight fitting. Not only did I have to steal the straight fitting off my fuel flow transducer, I also discovered that the lack of the 45 degree bend meant that my fuel hose was now approximately 2 inches too short! Arrgh!. I checked with one of my friends at the airport. His hose stretcher was out of service so I had to fabricate a new hose.

If I ever have to remove this hose again or this Adel clamp holding the hose in place, I’m going to go steal one of my brother’s daughters to do the deed. One of them is 5 foot tall, 80 pounds and smart as most adults. The other is a 42 pound 2nd-grader who also happens to be into competitive gymnastics. Ah, the cycle of life. Kids come along just about the time I’m too fat and too stiff to fit into these tiny places!


Spinning the Spinner

I woke up to snow this morning. Gotta love springtime in Colorado. I started the day by going to the hospital to visit my Mom at about 8:15. She’s recovering very well. I can’t believe she’s climbing in and out of their simulated car and up and down some stairs in the physical therapy room only 2 days post surgery. Amazing.

I left at about lunchtime and decided to visit the paint shop to see how they are coming on my parts. Our agreement is that my work is filler work for them so they’ll do it when they don’t have their usual flow of automotive work. We’ve worked under this arrangement in the past and they’ve always treated me very well. If anyone in the area needs any paint work, I highly recommend Choice City Auto Body in Ft. Collins, CO.

Since I’m getting closer to starting the engine, I asked the Choice City guys if there was any chance my spinner and backplate were painted. As it turns out, they had everything ready except for the cowling itself. I went straight back to my hangar with my CR-V full of freshly painted parts and installed my backplate, propeller and spinner. The spinner looks a little out of place without the cowling, but it should look great once the cowling is installed.

Mark and the guys at Choice City went the extra mile and even painted the back of the spinner backplate black and white. Very cool. I’ve dealt with other paint shops in the past who didn’t care about the big stuff, much less this kind of detail work.

I received another package this afternoon from Aircraft Spruce. It contained the mounting bracket for my primer solenoid along with the Facet electric fuel pump I’m going to use for my electric primer system. I spent a little time this evening running copper tubing for the primer system and mounting the pump and solenoid on the firewall.

My new ECI cylinders have primer ports in each cylinder just like Lycoming engines. I decided to prime two cylinders by splitting the primary input line using a steel “T” fitting. The Adel clamp fits nice and snug around the nut from the primer fitting. I started at the “T” and then worked my way back to the primer solenoid on the firewall. I covered the primer line with rubber tubing and then wire-tied it to the engine lifting bracket. I tied it to the lower half of the bracket so I can still lift the engine without having to move the primer line.

I used my string tie technique rather than Tye wraps. I also padded the tubing with clear tubing.

I put a loop in the tubing as it approached the firewall to allow some “give” for vibration. The whole mess is still a little “bouncy” so I will probably end up adding another Adel clamp on the firewall to stiffen things up a bit.

I’m using an Odyssey 680 battery and have no alternator or generator to charge the battery. I’m planning to just charge it up after each flight. There are many opinions as to the best/most appropriate battery charger for this application. Rather than wade through all the various opinions, I ended up just sticking with the Odyssey-brand charger. This particular unit provides up to 12 amps for a quick charge but also has “smart” capabilities where it automatically reverts to a maintenance phase when the battery is fully charged.


Hose Fabrication & Transducer Bracket

I decided to fabricate my own fuel lines out of Aeroquip 303 hose and Aeroquip 491 hose fittings. The EAA has a nice video tutorial and I thought I was good to go. It was a little more difficult than I had hoped.
I learned a lot as I went along. I’ll share the following tips if you want to try it for yourself:

  • Use tons of lubricant. Pick the slickest stuff you can find. I used Tri-Flow and motor oil. I think WD-40 might work just fine, too.
  • Once you’ve got everything set up and you’re ready to start threading the mandrel into the hose, you might try tapping lightly on the end of the mandrel until the shallow metal threads start tapping lightly against the metal of the gold sleeve. This way, when you start pushing and turning, you know you’re about to have thread engagement. Don’t bang too hard or you’ll damage the threads! Just a tap or two.
  • Don’t be afraid to back the mandrel out if it gets really hard to turn. I’d do this rather than continuing to crank the mandrel down tighter against the hose nut. Just back it out, apply additional lube and screw it back in.

Here are a couple of my completed hoses. I buggered up the fittings a little bit, but these were used fittings to start with so I didn’t put all the scuffs on them!

The official dip for fire sleeve is quite pricey at about $130 per quart. On the advice of a friend, I thinned a glob of high-temp RTV using lacquer thinner. It didn’t mix perfectly, but after sitting for a few minutes, it was at least acceptable. I made it a point to stir the mixture a little bit before I dipped each end of the hose. You can see that it wicked up in the hose pretty well.

I’m installing a JPI fuel totalizer. The installation instructions state that the fuel flow transducer should have something like 6 inches of straight flow before and after the transducer. Not gonna happen in my installation. With a gravity flow system, I don’t want to be routing fuel all over the engine compartment just to have 6 inches before and after the transducer. Instead, I just did the best I could and kept the fuel hoses fairly simple. I’ve seen installations that are far more “bendy” than mine and the owners claim their fuel flow system is still very accurate. I fabricated the yellow bracket as a mounting pad for the transducer. I glued it to the kidney-bean-shaped tank using JB Weld. I actually think it turned out quite well. I hope it works! [Oh. Before somebody scolds me… I am planning on using steel fittings as per the JPI instructions. The blue aluminum fitting was temporary for initial hose measuring and fitting. I’ve got steel fittings on order from Aircraft Spruce.]

This is the tool to install the stainless band clamps to secure the firesleeve. The tool was $18.65 and each stainless band cost $2.20. I didn’t price it out, but I’m betting I bought all the tools and supplies to make the hoses and still saved a little money. By using the proper tools and taking my time, I’m pretty certain I achieved an acceptable level of quality and saved a few bucks. On top of all this, it was very handy to be able to make, test fit, and re-make the hoses as necessary to achieve a perfect fit.

This is a close up of my finished banding at the end of the firesleeve. You initially bend the band at a 90 degree angle before you cut the band and remove the banding tool. I then tapped the band tight against the sleeve with a small hammer and cut off the excess band using a Dremel with a cutoff wheel. I tapped a little more with the hammer and then polished away the rough edges with my Scotchbrite wheel. I’m pretty pleased with the results.