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Old 10-11-2010, 09:35 PM
Ironflight's Avatar
Ironflight Ironflight is offline
VAF Moderator / Line Boy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Dayton, NV
Posts: 12,459
Default Tip: Making Holes ? Peacefully

There are many ways to cut out an instrument panel. You can use fly cutters, air nibblers, hole saws, jig saws, die grinders, angle grinders, files, plasma cutters, water jets, laser cutters and even milling machines. I’ve used many of those techniques myself over the years. Lots of people let their pocket-book do the work, and hire it out to someone with one of the fancy computer-controlled cutting machines. But nothing, to my mind, matches the beauty, quiet, and precision of a good old fashioned Greenlee hole punch. No frenetic moving parts, no flying chips or dust. No worries about things going too fast, or getting out of alignment. No risk of injury or death. Just the silent spinning of the wrench and two nice “snaps” as the hole is punched – first one side, then the other.

After building a number of panels over the years, always using what I had on hand, I finally sprung the few hundred bucks it takes to buy the combo punch (two hole sizes, 2 ¼” and 3 1/8”) you see in the aviation tool catalogs. All it does is punch instrument panel holes. Seems sort of pricy, huh? Well….if you pay to have someone cut your panel, it’ll cost as much – and if you are a multiple offender, you’ll save the money on the second go-around. If you use the fly cutter, your emergency room fees for bandages ALONE will be double that! Besides, it’s nice to have a tool no one else in the neighborhood has – your contribution to the ”loaner pool” so to speak.

I know it is almost old-fashioned to build your own panel these days, but if you do, think about borrowing one of these little wonders. Mine sits in the dark drawer most of the time and is happy to go visit local builder’s shops. There is nothing new about them – they’ve been around forever. But they are completely goof proof, so long as you drill the center hole in the right place. Spot it with a #40, enlarge to 5/8” with a step drill, then slowly turn the screw with a nice long breaker bar until you hear the “snap” - Your hole is ready! A rare moment of shop silence these days is worth the price, believe me….

Paul F. Dye
Editor at Large - KITPLANES Magazine
RV-8 - N188PD - "Valkyrie"
RV-6 (By Marriage) - N164MS - "Mikey"
RV-3B - N13PL - "Tsamsiyu"
A&P, EAA Tech Counselor/Flight Advisor
Dayton Valley Airpark (A34)

Last edited by Ironflight : 10-12-2010 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 10-11-2010, 10:25 PM
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SMO SMO is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Salmon Arm, BC
Posts: 933
Default Agreed

Anytime I can buy a tool to do the job myself for the price I would pay someone else, I always opt for the tool purchase. So when it came time to put some holes in an instrument panel, I did exactly the same thing. Such a satisfying process!
Mark Olson
1987 RV-4 Sold
2003 Super Decathlon - Sold
F1 EVO Rocket, first flight May 31/14
First in line for the Sonex JSX-2T kit
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Old 10-12-2010, 02:54 AM
chinch chinch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Posts: 97
Default Amen to that...

There is nothing *quite* so satisfying as acquiring a new tool that can do quickly and cleanly what would take hours to do poorly otherwise - a fly cutter recently purchased for a wood working project was testament to that - hey! now I can make toy wheels! The opportunities, the new vistas, that a new tool can create... Much like the satisfaction that comes from having thought through, designed, made and used a wood working jig/template that works like a dream!
Chris Hinch
Dunedin, New Zealand
False start on RV8 in 1998, starting over 2010.
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Old 10-12-2010, 06:57 AM
noelf noelf is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Cary, N.C.
Posts: 1,233
Default Well, not really "goof proof"...

...So there I was, using the Greenlee dual size punch on my instrument panel. I made all of the 3 1/8in holes, and several of the 2 1/4in holes. Boy, was this ever going well and look'n gooood. Now, I am on my last 2 1/4 in hole, top center of the panel, and there was no familiar 2-snap sound that I was expecting from the tool cutting through the aluminum.

Turns out that in my previously-successful-induced-complacency, I had inadvertently arranged the 3 1/8 die to the 2 1/4in punch and torqued down on the wrench. The aluminum did not get cut, but it sure did get distorted and bent. I was able to salvage the goof by beating it out with the flush rivet set and the gun.

Moral...nothing is goof proof!
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Old 10-12-2010, 07:54 AM
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ColoCardinal ColoCardinal is offline
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Morrison, CO
Posts: 372

Chief sells a punch that will cut a 3-1/8" or a 2-1/4" hole for $140. Save some cash while saving your fingers!
Carl - - Morrison, CO
Airworthiness cert issued 12/24
best X-mas present I could have hoped for!
paid 'til 10-19
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Old 10-12-2010, 08:44 AM
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Special Delivery Special Delivery is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: League City, TX
Posts: 602

Originally Posted by chinch View Post
There is nothing *quite* so satisfying as acquiring a new tool that can do quickly and cleanly what would take hours to do poorly otherwise - <snip>
I wholeheartedly agree!!!

Originally Posted by Ironflight;
Besides, it?s nice to have a tool no one else in the neighborhood has ? your contribution to the ?loaner pool? so to speak.
And to that end, my most recent purchase was a DMC AFM-8 Crimper which is available for loan to any builder in the Houston area. Best crimper I've ever used!
R. E. "Ernie" Butcher
Friends of the RV-1/Eagle's Nest Projects
"Mentors build the student...
Students build the airplane." -Glen Salmon

Dedicated to the historical preservation of the RV-1 Aircraft
and organized for the purposes of promoting, supporting,
fostering, and engaging in aviation and aerospace education.
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Old 10-12-2010, 09:56 AM
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Danny King Danny King is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Southlake, Texas
Posts: 628
Default Making holes peacefully

I couldn't agree more. I have a neighbor that use to be on a "Big Name" racing team. His job was to make instrument panels, and he has one of those Greenlee combo hole punches. I borrowed it for the Doll, Chris Parts beautiful RV-8. Mike Pratt's beautiful RV-8, and a couple of other times. What a great tool!

On my first homebuilt, a Pitts S1S, I use a fly-cutter. The cut finger didn't need stitches, and the nail finally grew back!
Danny King
Beautiful Doll 80434 TT 1710 hours
I0360 A1B6 200 HP
Christen Inverted Oil
First Flight 12 July 2000
VAF Dues current for 2021
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Old 10-12-2010, 10:06 AM
aerhed aerhed is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Big Sandy, WY
Posts: 2,567

Just one downside. Round holes seem to be slowly going extinct dang it. Used to be those round holes were just about the whole gig. I wonder how much an "EFIS Punch" would cost?
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Old 10-12-2010, 10:57 AM
szicree szicree is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: SoCal
Posts: 2,061
Default Or borrow it

Can't remember who it was, but some generous soul on here loaned me their punch. That thing was a dream to use. All other methods suck by comparison. If only Greenlee made a pinhole filler.
Steve Zicree
Fullerton, Ca. w/beautiful 2.5 year old son
RV-4 99% built and sold
Rag and tube project well under way

paid =VAF= dues through June 2013
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Old 10-12-2010, 12:48 PM
terrye terrye is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Posts: 916
Default Use a thrust bearing

Many years ago I borrowed and used one of these punches to make a new panel for my C-150. Great tool, but I found it worked much better after I bought a 5/8" ID ball thrust bearing from a local bearing house. Mind you I was cutting .090 aluminum. Also found the holes needed to be enlarged slightly to fit the instruments, used a 2" drum sander.
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