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Old 05-14-2018, 09:00 AM
RV7ForMe RV7ForMe is offline
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Europe
Posts: 647
Default RV7 Empennage Tools: My experience

Tools Tools Tools,

I remember before I ordered my empennage kit I spend weeks if not months on this topic. What do I need? What does everyone else buy? What should I buy?

Well. I suppose I should first tell a little bit about me and my Knowledge on this topic: In one word "NON"

As I stated in the beginning of my build log I started building in my college dorm. I had NO tools whatsoever. So I had to buy EVERYTHING!

Since then I have bought a lot of tools and have made a few experiences I would like to share. I'm mainly answering the questions I know I had 2 years ago.

But at the time I had no knowledge on most of these tools or what they are used for. So there is a certain appeal to buying a kit that has it „all“.

In hindsight I must admit that the kits do NOT contain everything you WILL need and contain things that depending on your liking you WILL NOT need. If I had to buy tools today, knowing what I know I would pick and choose only the things I like. But I guess you will not have that luxury unless you go to OSH and play with the tools. Even then I don't know if you have enough time to make that decision.

I was and I still am on a budget so I actually bought what I thought was the least amount of tools for the least amount of money. I decided very early against a Pneumatic squeezer, the DRDT-2 and the tungsten bucking bar. My thought process was that these items were very expensive but not really necessary for the empennage. I wanted just the tools needed for the first kit. I didn’t know if I was going to like building or not, so I did not want to spend a ton of money if I didn’t have to.

ABC’s... No I don’t mean the liquor store. I mean Avery, Brown, Cleaveland tools and there is also Isham/Planetools. (Avery retired and I believe Cleaveland sells their stuff now)

These are 4 tool suppliers that stock „RV-Tool-Kits“ I spend a lot time comparing these kits. I decided on the Brown tool kit. I deleted a few things but mostly bought the kit as is.

There was a lot of talk about: My choice
  • Pneumatic squeezer vs. Hand squeezer
  • DRDT-2 vs. C-frame Dimpler
  • Steel Bucking bar vs. Tungsten Bucking bar
  • Air Drill vs. Battery drill
  • Rivet Gun 3x vs. 2x
  • No name brand vs. Siux brand.
  • Band saw vs. No band saw
  • Compressor, How big? -had a big oil driven one first. Broke 3 times. Now have a tiny non-oil one. Works good.

As you can see these choices were based on price more than anything. I think some of these tools just save you a bit of work but will not change the quality of your parts. Here are my thoughts on these choices:

I absolutely hate the hand squeezer for setting rivets. So I just shot all of the rivets with the gun even if I have access to them with the squeezer...Just my choice. Side effect: It will help you get good with the gun.
C-frame works fine really. It is loud. wear ear protection.
I have never used an air drill. No idea if that works better. If you are going to use one you better have a big compressor.
3x gun I just chose based on "what most people" do. Nothing to compare it to. Works for me though.
No name brand was cheaper. I read the trigger is better on the siux. One day somebody is going to have to let me try so I can see what all the fuzz is about...
Bans saw? we'll Most people say they can't live without it. I see the appeal. I actually borrowed one from my dad. But the empennage kit is all prefab. There is not a whole lot to use the saw for. I think this will change with wings and definitely fuse!
With the compressor I was pretty unlucky I picked a pretty expensive one because I felt I needed a good one...So in the end after 3 broken ones I picked up the cheapest air compressor and that one seems to be lasting the longest. (fingers crossed).

Now, after having successfully build the empennage and starting on the wings as of the time of this writeup I feel like I can give my opinion on my tools needed for the empennage only pretty well. I kept an excel spreadsheet on everything including supplies such as wood or screws and noted if it was required to build the empennage or not. Some items I just marked as „nice to have“

Please remember that I cannot compare my tools to any of the other RV-kit as I only bought one kit. I have however bought a few parts at Cleaveland tools and while they are on the pricy side their customer support is outstanding.

Some of these tools I bought were not the highest quality. I say that knowing I bought cheap tools. However, I must admit that I have changed my opinion on buying tools since then. Some people say if you buy cheap tools you have to buy them twice and it is somewhat true. It is getting hard and harder to find quality tools specially if you want imperial tools in a world of metric tools… YEA everything is really expensive. But there are few non aircraft specific tools that I just can’t recommend enough in terms of quality. One of them is “Knippex” pliers. They are just great! Slowly I started collecting nice tools rather than cheap tools. I bought some screw drivers from “Wera” and “Wiha” both are pretty nice. But I still feel like my grandparent’s old tools from 19xx are way better.

Anyway. If you happen to be tooling up and looking for tool guidance this may or may not help you. This is just my experience. You just have to decided what camp you are in. Some people spend spend more some spend less on tools. I tried to turn around every dime and nickel but I still spend a pretty good chunk of money on tools and it doesn't look like that will stop anytime soon. Vans has a page about tools on their website and it says "You should plan on spending between $1000 and $1500 for a complete set of tools". When I started I thought that was a lot. Now, I am ashamed to say I am way past that. I read on numerous build logs that tools will run between 3-5K throughout the build. I can easily see that happening. Remember the farther along the kit gets the more special tools you will acquire. I have made peace with it. I like collecting tools now. Shipping will also add a lot.

I borrowed these for a few rivets I could not get otherwise:
Longeron yoke for 2 rivets.
Vice grip Dimpler 3/32"

Note of the excel:
The items in Grey are the recommended tools from the VANS instructions.
The Yellow items are the ones included in the Brown kit. Everything else I bought later from different vendors.

You may download the file here.

Most of this stuff I used...

This used to be my moms Ikea kitchen cutting area...

Scotch write wheel is the best!

Dimple die too large for some application. took some material off...

Not much to say about these...

Love the wall holder...

Not aviation special tools but they are so nice!

Had "no whole" yoke... So I improvised.

Sometimes the Cage needs to come off for clearance issues...

Indirect riveting does work!
VAF dues paid for 2021
RV7-A (N137MX Reserved) - Wings Started...
RV7-A - Rebuild Done - Flying!
Cessna Rocket 210HP - Best dang 172 Ever made! (sold)

Last edited by RV7ForMe : 05-14-2018 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 05-15-2018, 08:27 AM
Tomcat RV4 Tomcat RV4 is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Jacksonville,Fl. 32246
Posts: 281

Only thing I disagree on is tungsten bucking bar, once u use one ,you will use it 80% of the time.
Tomcat RV4
RV4 gone to RV heaven !building Zenith 701
dues paid and worth every penny
Life is uncertain -Eat desert first !
U F O Member since Dec 2017
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Old 05-15-2018, 11:30 AM
RV7ForMe RV7ForMe is offline
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Europe
Posts: 647

Originally Posted by Tomcat RV4 View Post
Only thing I disagree on is tungsten bucking bar, once u use one ,you will use it 80% of the time.
Maybe I will get to try one and change my mind. The point I was trying to make. It is possible to build the first kit without it.
VAF dues paid for 2021
RV7-A (N137MX Reserved) - Wings Started...
RV7-A - Rebuild Done - Flying!
Cessna Rocket 210HP - Best dang 172 Ever made! (sold)
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