Panel label prep

This is yet another one of those composite updates. I haven’t had a good long work session all week, but I’ve been trying to make a habit of doing some small thing each night – the age-old “touch the project every day” adage. This week, I’ve been continuing to get ready for doing the panel labeling.

Earlier this week I cut a couple test coupons from scrap to use for labeling experiments. Basically, I want to test my methodology for top coating things once the labels go on. I want to cover the labels with a good two-part clear coat, but I’ve read of builders who discovered that such a clear coat started dissolving the dry-transfer letters! Seems the best fix is to first spray a light coat of single-part clear, and then add the two-part on top for durability. In any case, I’m definitely trying this out on scrap before going to the real thing.

Also this past week, I took out the switch console and instrument panel parts, and removed all the components to get ready for painting. The main panel and console got cleaned and scuffed yesterday, while the panel wings needed a little more attention – I need to clean up some ugly marks on those before paint. And today, after a day full of events, I was able to go ahead and shoot primer and flat black on the panel and console. I figure I’ll let those cure for a few days before I do anything else – besides, I still have my top coat experiments to do.

In other news, my printed labels arrived today. I had a great experience with Luann at Turns out the stuff I exported from my long-running Photoshop panel planner were not the right stuff for printing, but she asked me for the original PSD files and was able to recreate them as the vector art she needed – at no cost to me. Between that and having the labels in hand the same week, I’m pretty happy.

So the other fun today was doing a couple test applications on one of my test coupons. Everything on my label sheet has at least one duplicate to allow for mistakes and do-overs, plus as printed there’s some extra text – plenty of material for experimentation. The labels go on really easily, and look great. Now I just need to get the clear coat I need for top coating:

Posted in Fuselage, Panel | Hours Logged: 2

Label planning

So I’ve been in a sort of odd-job space when I’ve had time to work on the project, and tonight was yet another pivot from recent stuff. The main panel/switch console layouts, complete with labeling, have been established for a while, but I haven’t yet followed through in making the labeling happen. I’ve been intending for a while to just go with custom-printed dry-transfer labels for this, and I’ve decided that finishing up this labeling is a good digestible mini-project to take on.

The one thing I got to think about was potential labeling for the stick grip functions. At one point I’d planned on having a small reference diagram on the panel, but in the end I couldn’t find a good spot for it. It’s possible I could get away without labeling here, but some DARs are known to be sticklers about this…and being realistic, having the labeling is a good fallback in case anyone else flies the aircraft for whatever reason.

With that in mind, I decided to explore putting dry-transfer labels on the stick grips as well. The top of the grip seemed like a good spot for most labels, and to get a true trial I modified and then printed the label document I’d put together some time ago. I made sure everything had printed at the proper scale, cut out the pertinent parts, and just taped them in place to get a preview. I think this should work pretty well (the final labels will be white text, of course, and much more carefully positioned):

The one thing that doesn’t work for the top location is the autopilot disconnect on the side of the stick, but a one-line label fits nicely here as well:

And since I’d printed out the switch label layouts at the same time, I figured I’d trial fit that part as well. The idea is that when I apply these, I’ll cut out the whole strip and apply the entire console at once, which is only possible if the circles (which represent switch holes and won’t actually get applied in the end) line up with the holes. Looks pretty good to me:

My final act of the night was to finish off my label document, get it properly exported, and place the order for the labels. With any luck, those may get here by the end of the week, and maybe painting/finishing the panel and console can be a project for the next week or so.

Posted in Fuselage, Panel | Hours Logged: 1

Motor mount massaging

So here I am, back after another little break. I have yet to figure out my headset noise issue from last time, but fro some asking around I did dine one other person who’d had a similar problem with a Lightspeed headset. I’ve been meaning to shoot them an email asking about potential issues, but things have been kind of bananas with work and other stuff.

Continuing on the electrical front, I looked a bit at handling my control stick disconnects a few days ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I already have all the connector hardware I need on hand. Still need to actually do those disconnects, though…and even better, my engine has been assembled at Titan and should be shipping pretty soon…well, once I send them a check for the remaining balance.

The engine news has me thinking about FWF stuff again, which got me to revisit the engine mount fit. I’d been wanting to see about stretching the mount vertically a bit so that inserting the bolts was less of an ordeal, so I decided to look into that. The good news here is that I only need to stretch things by about 1/8”, but the bad news is that this structure is far beefier than the canopy frame I bent before.

To make a long story short, I tried a couple different setups before settling on the one that finally worked, as seen in the following photo:

Here I have the bottom portion of the mount secured to my work table with a 2×4 and a few clamps. This gives me a good angle to attach a ratchet strap from the mount ring to a large eye bolt under the table. Once again considering the forces at play here, instead of a small ratchet strap I grabbed one of the big ones I have for securing a car on a trailer. I’ve also placed some hard plastic tubing, split down the middle, on the table corner to avoid a potential stress concentration.

I’ll just say up front that exerting this kind of force was more than a little scary, especially since with me standing by the table cranking on the strap, I’d be directly in the line of fire if my clamping setup were to fail. With that in mind, I added a backup safety strap between the mount and the clamp side of the table, hoping that if a clamp did fail, that’d keep the mount from becoming a deadly projectile.

In the end it took about three iterations – each one just going one tooth further on the ratchet – to get the stretch I wanted. The end result still isn’t perfect, but the force needed to align the mount while inserting the bolts is easy to exert with one hand, a huge improvement. Overall I’m very pleased; going into this I figured there was at least a 50/50 chance that I’d chicken out on cranking the ratchet strap before anything moved at all.

So at this point I’m working on a punch list of inside work I want to get done before the gear legs go on. I kind of want to go ahead and build the cover plate for the rear stick base, but I can’t be sure the full range of motion of that stick until the wings are installed and rigged, so I may end up waiting on that…or maybe I’ll fab up the plate but skip cutting the actual hole for the stick, I dunno.

Other things on the punch list are rigging most of the brake lines (but probably not leaving the pedals in place afterwards) and securing a few more electrical components under the seat floors, but…I think that’s about it.

Posted in Firewall Forward | Hours Logged: 1.5

Rear charge port, front headset jacks

Well, it was another day with stuff to do around the house but I still found some time for airplane stuff. I wanted to go ahead and finish up the rear seat stuff, so I decided to work on getting the charge port mounted. I would have liked to have terminated the power and ground wires as well, but I seem to be out of the correct fast-on terminals. I do see where I added those to my shopping list a while back but I’d been putting off actually ordering them. No wiorries though, crimping a couple terminals on is easy. Making the holes for the charge port and headset jacks would be more fun.

I decided a while back to mount all these items on the right-side armrest, which would allow for the wiring to be concealed by a cover plate that mounts below. The downside is that this means drilling holes in an awkward spot. The headset holes were pretty easy – they were small enough to be drilled with my modified uni-bit that I can chuck in the angle drill – but the charge port requires a larger hole, and thus my large uni-bit. There was just no way to use that uni-bit with any regular drill, so I resorted to opening the hole as big as it would go with the angle drill, then using the big uni-bit with a socket wrench to finish enlarging the hole by hand:

Another bit of fun with the charge port: there’s a little locating tab that requires filing a slot in the hole to keep the port from rotating. That’s pretty easy, except that the tab itself is about 3/32” deep, more than the thickness of the armrest material. In order for the backing nut to properly snug up, I needed to add a spacer to add a bit of thickness, which I made out of some scrap from my first panel attempt:

Finally, though, I got everything installed and now I’ve got a nice little setup in place for the backseater:

Next I went to work on wiring the front headset jacks, which went pretty well other than the soldering being a lot more awkward due to the position of the jacks. Once I got those done, it as time for another headset test. I repeated my test from the previous night, plugging in a headset, testing talking to myself on the intercom, and then testing transmitting with my handheld, all of which worked perfectly.

For my next move, I figured I’d plug up headset front and rear, and get Josie to come out and try a two-person intercom test. Unfortunately, this is where things got interesting. I’d been testing previously with a cheap Flightcom headset; for this, I got out my Lightspeed Zulu, but the moment I plugged it up in the rear jacks there was an obnoxious tone. Eventually I figured this was coming from the Lightspeed set itself, and only happened when I had the microphone cable plugged in.

Interestingly, the Lightspeed set works just fine when plugged up front, and the Flightcom set also works fine when plugged in back. Just to be more thorough with the troubleshooting, I grabbed my QT Halo set…which also works just fine in the back. So the problem is entirely limited to the Lightspeed microphone jack in the rear seat.

One thought I had was that the jack might be grounding out on the armrest, even though I carefully installed the isolating washers. Just for fun, I took the jacks back out of the armrest and tested again…same result. So I have no clue what might be happening here…guess it’s about time to run this by the VAF brain trust.

Posted in Electrical, Fuselage | Hours Logged: 2

Rear headset jacks

So tonight I picked back up on cabin wiring. I briefly started looking at the charge ports, but sort of randomly decided to look at the headset jacks instead. I spent a bit of time looking through my schematics again to refamiliarize with how I’d set up the audio cables before going to do actual work. I did the rear jacks first simply because those wires could be easily accessed from outside the fuselage. The front ones won’t be as much fun; I’ll probably have to sit inside the fuselage while I work on those.

I also wanted to double check that everything was OK on the airplane to apply power again. There are a lot of missing components, most notably all the stuff on the aft avionics shelf, so in the end I decided to pull all the fuses except for the one for the radio and intercom, since those were the only things I’d be testing. I also temporarily reinstalled the com antenna with its short test cable, since I intended to actually test the radio.

Finally, I got to the actual wiring. Out of an abundance of caution, I wanted to test the jacks before doing any soldering, just in case I’d gotten something wrong. So after stripping the wires, I used a bunch of test leads to connect the jacks and then plug in a headset. The result was a little crazy-looking, but it served its purpose:

I was quite happy to find that everything worked just fine. I could hear myself talk in the microphone, and when I brought over my handheld radio and did a test transmission, I heard myself loud and clear. I would have liked to have tested transmitting from the airplane as well, but I don’t have either PTT switch wired up yet – those are in the stick grips.

So with everything testing out OK, it was time to break out the soldering iron and get to work. This was a little more fun than most soldering, since there was no good way to bring my helping hands setup into play, but I got it done and only burned myself about three times. And a final function check after soldering also passed with flying colors.

Now I’ve just got to drill the mount holes in the rear armrest and these can go into their permanent home.

Posted in Electrical | Hours Logged: 1.5

Rudder bottom DONE

Another bit of work in the books – and I guess the end of fiberglass work for the time being. Really all I had to do tonight was to hang the rudder and install the bottom fairing. This took bit longer than expected, though – apparently when I installed the spacer washers around the rudder stop way back when, I didn’t do it right. I put a regular AN3 washer above and a thin one below at each hole, but when I torqued down the rudder stop attach bolts, it squeezed the mount ears together where the rod end wouldn’t fit. Some measuring confirmed that the proper washer stickup would be two regular washers, so I extracted the thin washers and replaced them with regular ones. Fortunately this wasn’t too awful thanks to my washer wrenches.

With the rudder in, I clecoed the bottom in place and got to installing all the pop rivets. Next was feeding the tail light wire in. This time didn’t go quite as smoothly as before – the wire sort of curled up inside the bottom – but it was still easy to reach in there with my Romex hook, snag the wire, and pull it through.Then I connected the tail light, this time with heat shrink over the connectors since this should be the last time I do this:

Two screws installed, and everything is buttoned up:

I really like the way the bulkhead turned out on the forward end, and moving the rudder around bit confirms there’s no rubbing or stretching of the wire anywhere:

I guess at this point it’s time to get back to interior wiring again in earnest. I think the remaining work should go pretty quickly, and after that it’ll be the big step of installing the gear…

Posted in Electrical, Empennage, Fiberglass | Hours Logged: 1

Even more rudder bottom finishing

So, this is another multi-day update – I’ve been continuing to chip away at the glass work. I ended up doing a couple more rounds of the sand-prime-groan-sand dance, and this morning I decided to add a bit more filler to a couple countersinks that needed some work. But after sanding that down and shooting a bit more primer, I finally decided that this thing was as done as it was ever going to be.

That meant it was time to move on to the question of wiring routing. Last week I went looking for something to use for conduit in the bottom. I have plenty of flex conduit on hand, but the issue there is that the wire in this case will be getting pushed through the conduit – not likely to work well with the ribbed conduit. I wanted something smooth on the inside, so I ended up ordering some tubing from Amazon. Unfortunately it was way more flexible than I was expecting, and when I tried to route it along the 90° bend below the snap bushing, it just collapsed.

So I spent a lot of time today trying to work out some sort of alternative. I found some more rigid scrap tubing that was a bit too small, and tried sort of “flaring” the end to fit over the snap bushing – that didn’t work out. I looked online for other possibilities, but didn’t find anything that seemed like a better choice. I even considered ordering some 1/2” soft aluminum tubing and slightly enlarging the end.

Finally, though, I decided that maybe putting conduit in here really was overkill. So I clecoed the bottom in place again, and tried pushing through the wire. This time, with a bit more care, it ended up in the general vicinity of the tail light opening. A hook made from some scrap Romex allowed me to hook the end of the wire and get it close enough to grab with needle nose pliers. With that, I decided to abandon the whole conduit idea entirely.

So I figured it was time to actually add the terminations in here. At one point I’d been considering using a Molex connector back here, but this is a spot that will quite likely get wet, and I think something more weatherproof is a better idea. So in place of a fancy connector, I’ve decided to just use plain old knife connectors.

The fun part is making sure that it’s nigh-impossible to mix the wires up. Proper polarity is kind of important for LEDs. Even better, the two internal wires from the shielded bundle (from the fuselage) aren’t super well-marked – one is white and the other is white with a little blue stripe. I figured I’d use my usual printed heat shrink, but even that felt not as foolproof as I’d liked. (By the by, on consideration here is that a paint shop will, at some point, be removing and installing this light. As a control freak, my mind imagines lots of potential for errors.)

Then I remembered that I’d bought a set of red and black heat shrink tubing, which I’d used for making some new battery cables for my golf cart. Instead of fancy labeled heat shrink, why not just use standard colors for power and ground? Then it’s just matching up colors instead of reading labels. As an additional indicator, I staggered the wire lengths, which will make it even harder to inadvertently reverse them. This also has the side benefit of making it easier to thread both connectors through the snap bushing.

The resulting connection setup, mocked up: (these will get heat shrinked when they’re final-assembled)

Unfortunately I had to go do some yard work after that, so that was the end of the day. Next I’ll need to reattach the rudder, get that bottom piece riveted on, and final-install the tail light.

Posted in Electrical, Empennage, Fiberglass | Hours Logged: 4

More rudder bottom finishing

Nothing exciting to take photos of this time around. Last night I sanded down the previous night’s epoxy coat to get rid of some mild runs that developed, then shot my first coat of primer. This turned out fairly well – the bulkhead I added had no pinholes whatsoever, but I did find a few back in the tail light area. Additionally, there were some chips around a few of the rivet holes that needed some attention, so after letting the primer cure for a few hours, I mixed up a small batch of body filler and took care of the couple pinholes. For the countersink chip fixes, I put a little glob of filler in each one, then inserted an unused CS4-4 rivet that had been dipped in acetone; this roughly formed the filler to the countersink profile.

That primer coat also revealed – as they tend to do – a few more imperfections that needed cleaning up, so tonight was another sanding night. In addition to cleaning up the areas where I added filler, I also took care of a few lumpy spots, and then shot yet another coat of primer. At a glance, things are looking good, but there are just a couple more spots I want to give some attention to, and after that I think I can apply the final coat and call the finish done.

At that point I’ll just need to install the conduit for the wire routing, and this thing should be able to install.

Posted in Empennage, Fiberglass | Hours Logged: 1

Rudder bottom finishing work

Another quick session. I did a bit of sanding on the rudder bottom edge where it was a bit wavy compared to the rudder skin profile. Next, I removed the bottom, gave it a good sanding (I made some epoxy spots while working on the bulkhead), and countersunk all the attach holes. Finally, it got a coat of System 3 epoxy to hopefully plug any remaining pinholes.

Next up, primer…and hopefully not any more filler…

Posted in Empennage, Fiberglass | Hours Logged: 1

Tail light wire routing

So I had assorted other things going on today, but I did find an hour to get in a bit of shop time. I skim sanded the micro I added previously for pinhole filling, then got to looking at locating where I wanted the tail light wire to enter the new bulkhead. This involved a fair bit of head-scratching and staring off into space. Optimally, I’d place the hole in line with the rudder hinge point, so that it’d have no movement at all relative to the fuselage, but I didn’t want the wires possibly rubbing on the rudder hardware. In the end, I chose to put the hole on centerline, but as far forward as possible. This is only about an inch or so off the hinge line, so it still doesn’t move much with the rudder going stop-to-stop.

Here’s a look at the finished hole with the wire in place for checking clearances and such. When it’s done, that hole will have a snap bushing, but first I have to do all the fiberglass finish work on this piece:

One fun bit that came out of this tinkering: what I thought was a generous amount of wire from back when I built the harnesses is, in fact, just barely enough. I kind of wonder whether this will end up being too short once I add the conduit run I’m putting inside the fairing. Worst case, I can just extend the two wires…it just might make routing things through the conduit slightly more interesting:

Posted in Electrical, Empennage, Fiberglass | Hours Logged: 1