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Elevator Refaire

March 22, 2011

My arch nemesis…the elevator.  Ok, the stiffeners are all dry and ready to go.  I’d love to tell you that riveting them in went without a hitch, but unfortunately that is not so.  While riveting the left elevator I messed up a rivet.  Usually this is not a big deal, but the elevator skins are thin and one false move and you buy yourself a new skin.  Which of course I did.  I destroyed the hole and that was that.  For those of you playing the home game, thats 2 messed up left elevator skins.

The right elevator skin went fine, there were no mishaps and all the rivets are great.  Why they both didn’t go this way, I cant say.  But now comes the part that screwed up last time…making the bend.  As recap, last time I foolishly decided to follow the advice of someone on VAF who had done quite a few.  That was a big mistake.  If you are reading this because you are researching the best way to make the elevator bends…stop.  Go back to your instructions from Vans and build a brake precisely as they say to do it and it will work fine.  Get straight, select lumber and sturdy hinges (you cant have enough hinges).  My second crack at this I only deviated from Vans instructions by using 2×6’s instead of 2×8’s or 2×10’s.  The 2×6’s are a little whipy, 2×8’s would have been great.  After pressing it in the brake for awhile this is what we had.

Looong way to go, believe it or not.

See how the skin is about 3″ above the spar?  We are looking for the skin to rest on the spar itself.  Then, and only then, is it complete.  30-min in we had this.

Not even close to being enough

Eventually I had to get on top of the table and step on the brake, applying slightly heavier pressure with each attempt.  Eventually I was standing full weight on the board and pushing on the ceiling to add weight.  Finally it started to bend again and we got it.

This is the correct result. The skins should rest on the spar and there shouldn't be any "drop off" when you lay a straight edge on the trailing edge.

This is universally the most hated part of the empennage because the risk of screwing it up.  You’ve already put so much time and effort into it, and bending it too far means you get to start all over.  You cant unbend it, the chances of it cracking are too great.  On the trailing edge we want to see this.  There should be no gap between the elevator and the straight edge.  I have a few spots where there is still a little bit of gap, but these can be squeezed out with a hand seamer later.

There is almost no gap here. This is what we are shooting for.

The rest of the time was spent dry fitting everything and making sure that holes lined up and I drilled everything out.

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