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Old 01-13-2021, 10:50 AM
salty salty is offline
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: FL
Posts: 37
Default analysis paralysis

So, the wife and I are trying to get started with our tail build, we finally have all the tools needed and have worked on the training kits. But, I feel like we're getting worse, not better. It's probably not that we're actually getting worse, but rather, that I now know enough to realize how bad we are.

But, I'm reluctant to start on the real thing due to two issues.

1. We're still messing up the skin pretty badly every now and then. We know why we're doing it wrong and how to not do it, but the actual doing it right part isn't consistent yet.

2. No matter how many times we read the instructions and review it until we think we know what to do, we still make stupid mistakes now and then drilling out the wrong size hole, or do things not in the best order. I think our biggest mistake here is not marking the parts and then after sitting them down getting confused.

I'm looking for feedback on the above, and guidance on when to know we're read to do the real thing. It just feels like we are going backward because even though we're probably getting more consistent, we see the mistakes more obviously and I feel like we are doing worse.

Adding a few examples of the horrid mistakes we're still making.
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:10 AM
Carl Froehlich's Avatar
Carl Froehlich Carl Froehlich is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Dogwood Airpark (VA42)
Posts: 2,753

A lot of bucking bar issues. I suggest you tape every surface of the bucking bar except the surface in use - especially the corners (first three photos are bucking bar damage). Practice holding the bar in exactly the right plane. Also, if your are using a tungsten bar try use using a standard steel bar. The tungsten bar is great for tight areas but tends to be too small to keep properly oriented.

On the last photo, two issues. First is allowing the rivet set to skip over the rivet. Second is I assume you are not doing the tape trick to eliminate “smiley”. Put three layers of standard masking tape over the rivet set. Set 2-3 rivets, add another layer and do a couple of more rivets. Replace the tape when you see the rivet set head coming through. Do this and you will never have another smiley.

On the second photo you did not deburr the empty hole. All holes musty be deburred.

Side note - you may need to buy some replacement parts. Hard to tell from the photos.

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Old 01-13-2021, 11:13 AM
rv8ch's Avatar
rv8ch rv8ch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGY
Posts: 3,444
Default Congrats

It's nice that you have your wife working with you - congrats on that!

I assume you are just practicing on scrap? Perhaps you are just not focused enough? Knowing that if you make a mistake it might cost you several hundred dollars or more tends to increase concentration, at least it does for me.

I also recommend using a sharpie to ensure that you flag holes that need a dimple, countersink, a #40 or a #30 or whatever. Write on the metal or the blue plastic - it comes off later with a dab of acetone, so have at it.

I also recommend just doing it a lot - like everything new, it does take some practice. If you have not had another experienced builder over to coach you, that would also be helpful - like my golf swing, perhaps your technique needs adjustment.

I'm sure you will get more helpful tips from others - this site is fully of people who want to see you succeed and build a beautiful and safe RV!
Mickey Coggins
"Hello, world!"
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:19 AM
terrye terrye is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Posts: 905
Default analysis paralysis

1. Practice on the practice kit(s) not real parts. You can make some test pieces of "scrap" aluminum, drill some holes and fill them with rivets.
2. All parts or subassemblies should be secured prior to riveting. Clamp them in a vice, clamp them to a Workmate, clamp them to your bench. Nothing worse than parts hopping around when you are trying to rivet them.
3. My preference is a tungsten bucking bar 5/8" x 1" x 5" (approx). I cut short pieces of bicycle tube to install over the bar to help grip it, cushion the parts a bit if I drop it.
4. Make sure you have a good rivet gun with a teasing trigger. Try lowering the air pressure with a good regulator (or raising it if need be). The rivet should be driven by 5-8 impacts. Visit other builders to try their guns and get a feel for them.
5. On AN470 universal head rivets I found Snap-Soc plastic caps on the rivet set very helpful in keeping the set on the rivet while driving it.
6. This is a skill that comes with practice, so practice.
Terry Edwards
RV-9A (Fuselage)
2020/2021 VAF Contribution Sent
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:21 AM
salty salty is offline
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: FL
Posts: 37

I need to read the responses in detail still, but wanted to be clear we are still practicing on scrap.
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:27 AM
wjb's Avatar
wjb wjb is offline
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Half Moon Bay, CA
Posts: 1,057

Hi Salty

Practice, practice, practice! is what you need. Lots of new physical skills learn here and it takes time to get the feel ... holding the gun, setting the air pressure and pressure on the piece, etc.

If you can find an experienced builder in your area (should be easy .. check at the airport or the local EAA chapter), get some hands-on show-and-tell. Live feedback will help a lot.

I took the EAA sheetmetal class before building, and was able to screw up my first rivets in front of an experienced instructor who could quickly ID what was amiss and help correct it.

Keep pounding!
Bill Bencze
N430WB RV-7 @KHAF, Flying
VAF 2021 donation happily made

Last edited by wjb : 01-13-2021 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:33 AM
salty salty is offline
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: FL
Posts: 37

Great responses, very helpful. Keep in mind, I only showed the bad ones, the vast majority are fine, but I’m disappointed that we’re still producing these results so often. The really horrible one was where I did not have the part well secured and all **** broke loose instantly. Still a mistake I can’t believe I made. I thought it was secure enough.
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:37 AM
David Paule David Paule is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 4,591

Originally Posted by rv8ch View Post
....Write on the metal or the blue plastic - it comes off later with a dab of acetone, so have at it....
Alcohol or lacquer thinner removes the markings, too, using a less-abusive chemical.

You can mark the part number on the parts to keep them from getting mixed up.

Practice! You're on the right path. And remember, if you do make a mistake that you can't fix with the knowledge you have, ask us on VAF or if it seems really bad, don't hesitate to ask Van's support. They are prepared to assist you. From time to time you may need a replacement part, and that's part of the game. On my RV-3B project, I have a bunch of scrap in the attic. It's amusing to see the pile from time to time. And the pieces serve a worthy purpose, too: if a visitor wants to dry riveting, I've got things that they can practice on.

It might help to find someone experienced in your area to give you a lesson or two. Sometimes a couple hours spent with someone who's done it, can make all the difference.

All the best,
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:46 AM
Roadjunkie1's Avatar
Roadjunkie1 Roadjunkie1 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Erie, Colorado
Posts: 49
Smile Rivets! Grrrrrr

YOU CAN DO THIS!! Really! I'm not just saying that! Look how many RVs are flying and, with ALL of those, SOMEone had to pound those rivets. Many airplanes flying today were built by people that, at first, didn't know a rivet from a broom handle! Don't give up! And sometimes you need to just walk away and let things sit. There were days when I was building it was suddenly 2 am in the morning and I didn't realize it! There were other days I would go out, look at things, and turn around and go back in the house. Nope: not today. Not in the mood. Do you need to do "something" every day to get the airplane flying? Yes, but with a caveat: some days you don't. As my flight instructor once said, sometimes you just have to walk away, roll up a cigarette, sit down and have a smoke. (He never smoked a day in his life but, being from Montana, that was his way of saying "step back and let things settle for a while".

Several points: 1) DON'T give up! 2) Get someone who has pounded rivets before to come over and watch what you are doing. We were all once new at this. There are many factors that seem small but can be important with driving rivets: size of the rivet, size of the bucking bar, and, one that is occasionally not thought of, the air pressure to your rivet gun. That is what that little nob is for. THAT takes a lot of adjusting to get just right and can vary depending on what you are driving. 3) Go to your local metal dealer or Home Depot and pick up a big piece of new or scrap aluminum. Does not have to be aircraft quality but should be close to the thickness of what you will be riveting on your airplane. And do everything you are going to do with the real thing: drill, deburr (very important and EVERY hole), countersink, rivet! Because: 4) How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice practice practice. The more rivets you drive, the better you will get. Will you still bounce off of some on your airplane? Yes. It is a rare bird that doesn't have some "interesting" rivets. I could tell you stories of things I have seen. Look at a "factory-built" airplane sometime.....

SO: did I mention YOU CAN DO THIS?? And how cool is it that your wife and future copilot is in there with you? Don't just have her bucking. I find women are sometimes better at driving than bucking. That may freak her (and you) out but she will get better with practice as well.

My RV-4 was a "slow build". No pre-drilled holes. My former room mate and I drove every one of the 13,000 driven rivets in that airplane!

Keep going!
RV-4 2860
1946 C-90 J-3 Cub
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:53 AM
wirejock's Avatar
wirejock wirejock is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Estes Park, CO
Posts: 4,088
Default Practice

I don't see anything that can't be resolved with practice.
Find a mentor and make sure you are not solidifying bad practices. Even the grip on the gun has an effect. Try pointing the index down the barrel and use the second finger for the trigger. Practice feathering till you can get a single hit.
Mentor will help you find the rivet set that suits you. I prefer a mushroom swivel set. Some builders hate them. Each person is unique.
Bucking bar protection. Bicycle tube is a good idea. I use Gorilla black tape. A wrap aroud with a 32nd hanging off the end is more than enough. If I need access to a side face, I cut a window.
Pressure. I prefer a good regulator instead of a flow restrictor. Consistent pressure is key. The mentor will help you find the sweet spot pressures for each size.
Protect the surface. Let's of skinned cats here. I use heavy packing tape on 426 and black Gorilla on 470. Keeps the rivet set clean. No smileys.
Finally, practice. Make a test part. Pound it full of rivets. Drill it apart. Lather, rinse, repeat. Drilling rivets is as important a skill.
Larry Larson
Estes Park, CO
wirejock at yahoo dot com
Donated 01/01/2021, plus a little extra.
RV-7A #73391, N511RV reserved (2,000+ hours)
HS SB, empennage, tanks, wings, fuse, working finishing kit
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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