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Left Elevator Nearly Complete

March 28, 2011

Tonight I hit two milestones.  I was able to bend the elevator to the perscribed height.  Like the other elevator, it will need some tweeking before flying, but it’s pretty good right now.  I was also able to bend the tabs that close the elevator on the inboard end where the trim tab will be.

Step one is getting the right wedges made to act as forms for the bend.  I used ~5/8″  MDF and it was perfect.  Through trial and error on the band saw I made the wedge that I needed.  The instructions, again, are very vague about the details of this.  I started out by guesstimating the angle and just went from there.  After 3 attempts I came up with a great wedge.  Next you mark your line where you want the bend.  Start on what is the bottom skin.  Then fiddle the wedge in place until it is right where you need it.  Remember, the bend will not be exactly where the edge of the wood is, it will be a little outboard of the wedge…say 1/16″ or so.

Double sided tape

Double sided sticky tape is used to keep the upper wedge in place and not slipping.  You can find this at any DIY store, usually in the carpeting section.  Next place the upper wedge carefully.  Once its stuck to that tape it isn’t going anywhere.

One clamp in place

Get a clamp into place.  Notice that under the elevator I have a wooden shim that is protecting the bottom of the elevator from the metal clamp.

Two clamps holding everything in place

This is a great illustration of the fact you need multiple sizes and shapes of clamps.  You just cant have enough variety.

Action shot of hammering

Now it’s time to give the tab on top a beat down.  Use a wooden block like this, or a light weight rubber mallet.  The key is light whacks.  You aren’t going to get this in 2 or 3 whacks.  I even stopped using the mallet and just hit it with the wood.  Once you get the metal bent down as far as you can this way put your mushroom set in your air hammer.  Adjust your air pressure very very low.  I had mine set between 15 and 20 lbs.  Now just beat the hell out of the bent tab until you have a nice crisp bend.

Finished result, nicely bent tab.

Wash, rinse, repeat for the other side.

Lots of people get weird about this step.  Some people advocate just cutting the tabs off and making a riblet to go in there, instead.  This is fine, and looks good as well.  But there this is definitely faster.  I was lucky.  I had two skins that I messed up before, so I had plenty of spares to practice on.  If you dont have that luxury, order two extra trim tabs from Vans and practice on them.  I found that after bending four of them, I got pretty good.  If you screw it up bad, just trim off the tabs and make a riblet.

Tomorrow, riveting the elevator!  I can’t wait for these elevators to be done.


  1. Paul Steen permalink

    I should write more, but I’m keeping up with your progress. It’s quite impressive. I check in every week to see how you’re coming along. So thanks for blogging and all the pictures.


    • I think I can relate. Building an RV in Bentonville can be a lonely task. Very few people here have built them. The ones that have, don’t seem that open to questions or assisting me locally. So I feel a lot of times quite isolated. Must be like living somewhere where you want to fly, but can’t.

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