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Old 05-12-2018, 08:22 AM
didja didja is offline
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 70
Default Outsourcing fuel tank construction

Debating on whether or not I want to build my own fuel tank or have it outsourced. Anyone have a recommendation for a shop that will build fuel tanks in the Arizona area?

Trying to get a figure on costs and experiences with anyone that may have outsourced the fuel tank build.
Scott Emerson
RV-14a Kit# 140432
Working on: Wings
Construction log:
Donation Paid (military)
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Old 05-12-2018, 11:20 AM
Carl Froehlich's Avatar
Carl Froehlich Carl Froehlich is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Dogwood Airpark (VA42)
Posts: 2,933

You could always ask a repeat builder to do it for you. Better yet, ask the repeat builder to be your supervisor and do it with his help. I offer that once you get into it the vail of mystery will be lifted and you will see it is similar to the repetitive work you did for the rest of the wing.

If you really hate the thought of building your tanks, I think you can just buy the tanks from Van's - but I'm guessing they might be pricey.

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Old 05-12-2018, 12:36 PM
Steve Barnes Steve Barnes is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Posts: 583
Default Carls right

The only thing that people are intimidated with is application if sealant and riveting it together.
My recommendation would be to do all the metal work and fitting it all together. Find a local builder to supervise and help with the final assembly and sealing it up.

What I did was bring in a experienced tank builder to help and advertise to local builders that we were going to have a tank assembly workshop. Three or four showed up to help and learn. Cost was approxamately $20 to $30 for beverages and snacks. Be sure not put beverages and snacks out till tank is assembled. (Too messy to eat and work with Proseal)

There was a professional tank builder in Calif (no longer in business). You provided the parts. He charged $1600 to 2100 for a set depending on the RV model.

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Old 05-12-2018, 01:41 PM
Ron B. Ron B. is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Posts: 2,515

Just tested a set of tanks today (not Van's) and they use pop rivets rather than solid rivets. With pop rivets you can hold onto the mandrel and not get your fingers full of Proseal, but I don't think it pulls the two parts as tights together. I also like to proseal over the bucked ends (inside the tank) and with pop style rivets the end is much longer making it more difficult.
Had three leaks today so I will have to work tomorrow to seal them up. On my previous two sets (Van's) I think I only had two small leaks out of four tanks. Could be just a short memory, it's been a while.
All in all , sealing up tanks is not as bad as some make it. Think out your steps. Don't do more than you can in one session. And take your time and keep things clean.
Thanks Ron
RV-14 Flying
AirCam flying
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:49 PM
Mike S's Avatar
Mike S Mike S is offline
Senior Curmudgeon
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Dayton Airpark, NV A34
Posts: 15,837

Just in case you reconsider doing it yourself..........
Mike Starkey
VAF 909

Rv-10, N210LM.

Flying as of 12/4/2010

Phase 1 done, 2/4/2011

Sold after 240+ wonderful hours of flight.

"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it."
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Old 05-12-2018, 03:11 PM
didja didja is offline
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 70

Originally Posted by control View Post
What I hated about doing the tanks was the time pressure, the need to accept a not so good rivet and just get on with completing the session.

If I build a new plane, building the tanks will be the top priority to have outsourced. I rather paint the next plane myself than do another sets on tanks.
This is what I hear quite a bit, and exactly why I am considering having them outsourced. I'm still on the fence. I think I will try to find some folks nearby and get some advice. Maybe it really is just the "sense of impending doom" feel and not as bad as it seems! (especially if its a few thousand to have it outsourced!)

I appreciate everyone's response. I also appreciate the link to the detailed write up thread regarding fuel tank construction!
Scott Emerson
RV-14a Kit# 140432
Working on: Wings
Construction log:
Donation Paid (military)
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Old 05-12-2018, 03:14 PM
Stockmanreef Stockmanreef is offline
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Midland, mi
Posts: 963

I used the following method:

In addition, I used a semco pneumatic glue gun to lay down the proseal, which really alleviates a lot of the mess. And stainless steel spatulas to spread once applied.

I really enjoyed building the tanks. My opinion about the build could change if they leak when filled with fuel, but they did pass the balloon test.
Ken Stockman
Midland, MI
EAA Chapter 1093 member

FaceBook Page: Ken's RV-14
RV-14a (serial number 140073)

Plane at hangar and the wings ON.
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Old 05-12-2018, 05:07 PM
Tom023 Tom023 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Cypress, TX
Posts: 446

I must be in the minority but I didn?t find the tanks to be all that bad. I used a Semco gun and had shop towels cut into one inch squares to wipe and discard as needed. I Riveted wet and countersunk the rear baffles as per the instructions. I recommend doing it yourself. I hated riveting the bottom wing skins more than building the tanks.
RV14A #140083
Flying! 8/12/19
2020 Donation
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Old 05-12-2018, 05:28 PM
David Paule David Paule is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 4,757

There are 3 main types of sealant that I used:

1. Van's type B sealant.

2. Access panel sealant for the hatches.

3. The thinner, lower-viscosity type A sealant to overlay the rivet heads and edges.

Skygeek had the last two.

These pictures show how to do it:


One mill is .001 inches, so 60 mills is .060 inches and 250 are .250 inches.

I used Popsicle sticks and the small cut squares of paper towel and a digital kitchen scale, reading in grams and tenths (just grams are probably good enough) for measuring. I let it cure before riveting it, and that left some clecos needing clean-up, no biggie.

It's not hard and if you liked playing in the mud when you were a child, you'll enjoy it. I kind of did.

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Old 05-12-2018, 05:38 PM
StressedOut StressedOut is offline
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Fullerton, CA
Posts: 138

I think the thing that most new builders fear on the tanks is working with the sealant and the possibility of a leaking tank when the work is finished. I counted myself in that group until a few weeks ago. We had one of our AOG teams (aircraft on ground) spend a couple of weeks with us dumb engineers to show us the reality of aircraft repairs on large aircraft. We did a variety of typical repairs under their supervision on a 737 we had in our boneyard and I picked up a bunch of useful information for my RV build.

They showed me how they dealt with sealant. Now I've read dozens of builder logs and many of the post on this site and nowhere was ever mentioned the tools and methods used by the professionals. I think we can adopt some, if not all, of these methods and tools to building the tanks for our RV's.

First, get a pneumatic sealant gun. If you buy a new one, it'll run you several hundred dollars. That's too expensive, but if you go to Brown Tool you can pick up a used Semco gun for $60. Once you get this tool the possibilities open up. You can use a bunch of different attachments that will make the job of sealing easier, with less mess and higher quality. You might even find it enjoyable.

Instead of using popsicle sticks to butter up a rib flange, use a roller. I used a roller to apply sealant to my rudder trailing edge wedge. The advantage to a roller is the sealant goes only where you want to and it doesn't get into the holes. It's far superior to a popsicle stick. You can get a continuous flow roller attachment ($47) for the Semco gun and replacement rollers at SkyGeek. I'd get the 2 in. roller attachment only because for some strange reason the replacement rollers are cheap (less than $3 each) and the 1 in. rollers are expensive ($17 each).

For fillet sealing there are a wide variety of dispensing nozzles you can choose from for the specific task required. If you're fillet sealing on the non-flange side you can use a standard round opening nozzle. If you're fillet sealing over a flange there's a specialty nozzle for that. Nozzles are inexpensive. They range from $1.50 each for standard nozzles to about $6 each for specialty nozzles. They are reusable if you solvent clean them after use.

Finally, sealing each and every rivet tail is another messy job usually done with a popsicle stick. There are premolded cap seals that you fill with sealant and press and twist into place. Very clean and high quality. It looks like my RV-14A tanks need about 1500 cap seals. I'm still trying to get a quote from PPG on the price of such a small quantity, so I'm not sure if this one will be economically feasible. If I can get them for 10 cents each or less then I'd do it. Any more than that and it gets too expensive for me. I'll let you know about the price when I get the quote. The seal cap video below shows cap sealing of HiLoks, but they make caps for rivet tails too. The concept is the same.

Roller sealing video: PPG Aerospace - Semco Ribbon & Roller Nozzles
Fillet nozzle video: PPG Aerospace - Semco Fillet Nozzles
Seal cap video: PPG Seal Caps

When I get my wing kit I'm going to build the fuel tanks first. I'm now really looking forward to it.
Art Jackson
RV-14A Kit#140433, N393AJ Reserved
Completed: Vertical Stab/Horizontal Stab
Scrapped: Rudder
Working on: Empennage (Elevator)
Construction log -
Dues paid on March 2021
Member of EAA Chapter 92 (KCNO)
Pet peeve: "Lose" (rhymes with "booze") is the opposite of "find". "Loose" (rhymes with "juice") means "not tight".

Last edited by StressedOut : 05-12-2018 at 06:13 PM.
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