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Old 05-21-2019, 12:44 AM
Ali Ali is offline
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Chandler, AZ
Posts: 10
Default Forgoing Air Drill/Grinder In RV Build

I am in the process of starting my first RV (and aircraft) build. I live in a rental house with a garage, but I am limited in how I can set up the shop in the garage since it is not my house. One of the big limitations is having a compressor that can provide the right CFM for the air-hungry pneumatic drills and grinders. The greatest difficulty is not having access to 220 V power source and also the immense cost of the nicer air compressors.

Is it possible to forgo the air drills and grinders and instead use corded electrical versions for an RV build? Or am I going to be extremely frustrated when working?

I haven't decided on whether I want to go to the QB route or do the standard build. Will my choice make the process any worst/easier?
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Old 05-21-2019, 01:20 AM
bruceh's Avatar
bruceh bruceh is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Ramona, CA
Posts: 2,511

You don't need a huge compressor to build. I did my complete slow build using this cheap compressor.

The high speed of an air drill is nice for drilling/countersinking, but for just match drilling holes, an electric drill is fine.

The die grinder will tax the smaller compressors, but you won't be using that tool too often.

Please remember to use appropriate hearing protection with these compressors in a small enclosed space. They are LOUD.
Bruce Hill
RV-9A N5771H flown over 900 hours!
APRS Tracking for KJ6YRP and Flying Over the Hills Blog
2021 VAF donator
EAA Tech Counselor, Pre Buys, Build assistance - canopy/tanks/fiberglass/electrical/repairs
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:49 AM
tgmillso tgmillso is offline
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Posts: 841

My Makita 10V lithium compact drill was my probably my second favourite tool of the build, probably second only to the tungsten bucking bar. You are still going to need a compressor for the rivet gun, but if you can find an electric powered die grinder for edge finishing, then you could probably get away with a much smaller compressor, as the rivet gun uses virtually nothing in comparison to the die grinder (the die grinder is a total pig).
A second lithium drill (18V version) is great for countersinking. I find the extra RPM gives a better finish than the slightly slower 10V.
The electric drills are great. I almost never used my air drill, and I think the RPM advantage of the air drill is completely overstated. I looked with a powerful magnifying glass at both holes (air drill v's electric) and could not see a difference in quality.
Where you will need a good sized compressor is spray painting if you intend to prime. I did large sheets with the compressor and my spray gun in bulk batches at the start, then used rattle can zinc phosphate etch for the smaller items during the build. I did my entire build and paint (including exterior) on a twin cylinder, 3hp, 15gal tank, although I did build a water bath cooling loop for the exit air to dry the air and stop fisheyes in the paint and primer.
Good luck.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:00 AM
alcladrv alcladrv is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Southeast
Posts: 632

The QB kit has substantially less riveting for the builder than the standard kit. I went QB as I wanted that significant head start on airframe completion. I used a 10 gallon compressor for riveting. Various cordless and electric drills were more than adequate along with a benchtop drill press. I found that I got better and more consistent counter sinking results with the drill press.

I used rattle can primer wherever I had access. On the QB, major portions are inaccessible for priming, especially the wing, so I just accepted the Vans wash primer as adequate. I used a Zip tool with the Vans supplied cutting wheel to cut the canopy.

Last edited by alcladrv : 05-21-2019 at 06:03 AM.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:56 AM
Maxrate Maxrate is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: League city, TX
Posts: 612

Agree. Cordless drills are now so small and powerful that I got two small sized 18V and the high dollar air drill just sits. Sometimes the slim line nature of my air drill comes in handy though.
Mark Malone, RV7
Wings complete, SB 14 complied with, canopy and cowling in progress, Up on the gear.
N442MM reserved

2021 Donation gladly paid..
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:47 AM
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DaleB DaleB is offline
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Omaha, NE (KMLE)
Posts: 2,331

A Sioux air drill is really nice to use, especially when reaming hundreds of rivet holes. Kind of pricey, though. As for compressors, mine has a 30 gallon tank and can be wired to run on 110 or 220.

That said, a cordless will work just fine. Never really did use the grinder for much of anything.

Omaha, NE
RV-12 # 222 N980KM "Screamin' Canary" (bought flying)
Fisher Celebrity (under construction)
Previous RV-7 project (sold)
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:51 AM
echozulu echozulu is offline
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Ocean City, MD
Posts: 101

I have a cheap HF compressor that runs off 120V, but it's loud. I have an air drill, but I've only used it when I couldn't get my regular drill into some tight spaces, so maybe once or twice and I'm about done with the empennage.

I haven't really used a grinder, I've done everything using a belt sander so far. Also cheap, electric, and got it off Amazon. I haven't had the need to run my die grinder much since everything I'm doing is parts that can move to the grinder instead of the other way around.

My entire build I used this drill and have never had the need to utilize the higher RPMs of the air drill.
RV-10 - Empennage 95%
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San Diego, CA
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:15 AM
PilotjohnS PilotjohnS is offline
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Southwest
Posts: 1,816
Default No air drill

I have a makita cordless brushless drill. Best drill i ever owned. I dont have an air drill or a die grinder and never had the need. For those tight spots, I just use a 12? drill or 90 angle drill attachment.
I do have an electric dremel tool.
I have not had the need for a die grinder, but I havent got to the canopy or fiberglass stuff yet.
John S

WARNING! Information presented in this post is my opinion. All users of info have sole responsibility for determining accuracy or suitability for their use.

Dues paid 2021, worth every penny

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95% done, 10% left to go
Electrical/Panel done
Firewall Forward 75%done
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:28 AM
rv7charlie rv7charlie is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Pocahontas MS
Posts: 3,888

What Bruce said. I used a similar sized compressor for an entire slow build. I have a 'build room' inside a regular hangar, and put the compressor outside the room, which lowered the noise level a lot. Working in a garage, you could put it in a laundry/utility room, or just roll it outside while working. Make a small shelter for it in case of rain; it could be as simple as a piece of roofing tin long enough to lean against the wall with the compressor under it. Most air grinder jobs on an RV won't tax your compressor patience that much (riveting, not at all). You can also get electric substitutes now that can do most of what air grinders can do, just in a somewhat bigger package.

For cutting the canopy or thin aluminum, google 'bone saw' (or 'oscillating multi tool'). They came on the market at affordable prices only near the end of my construction phase, and I could have used one *a lot* if it had been available earlier.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:33 AM
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wirejock wirejock is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Estes Park, CO
Posts: 4,770
Default Cordless

A few tools need air. Rivet gun and pneumatic. Otherwise, I switched to Ryobi cordless.
Drills, Angke grinder, sanders, etc. You can rattle can paint if you want to prime.
Larry Larson
Estes Park, CO
wirejock at yahoo dot com
Donated 12/01/2021, plus a little extra.
RV-7A #73391, N511RV reserved (3,000+ hours)
Empennage, wings, fuse, finishing kit done. Working FWF
I cannot be, nor will I be, held responsible if you try to do the same things I do and it does not work and/or causes you loss, injury, or even death in the process.
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