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Sealed Tank

December 19, 2011

Ok, so full disclosure.  These fuel tanks are an immense pain in the ass.  I’ll build my second one for the other wing, but if I were to build another plane, some day, I’ll farm it out to someone else.

Like everything else that you do on this plane the fuel tank requires you to assemble and disassemble it 10 times (not kidding) before you actually rivet it together.  There is one wrinkle here, though.  ProSeal.  This stuff is legendary in the building community.  It is hideously messy.  I consumed over 300 gloves.  Anyway….when you put it together for the final time you coat any two surfaces that meet with Proseal, then rivet it in.  I have no idea how people who build by themselves manage it.  Michelle and I were able to make the rivets presentable only when we did it together.  I had to stretch to get the last 10 or so rivets at the leading edge.  I always messed them up.  So I enlisted Michelle’s help.  Having to coordinate both of our schedules probably added to the time it took.

We got all the ribs assembled and put in place and then there was the plumbing.  The vent tube and the flop tube.  The vent tube wasn’t very hard to do.  I did have to buy a tubing flaring tool to complete it.  I’ll add that to my toy box.  The flop tube went in no problem and I got all the plumbing sealed and (hopefully) leak free.  There remain but one last task.  The rear baffle.

permanently attaching rear baffle

Seen here as that long white piece of aluminum.  It basically is the rear of the fuel tank.  Once it is in place and riveted the tank is essentially done.  In this action shot I have just placed the baffle down on the end of the ribs and cleco’d everything in place.  I am attaching the first of the blind rivets (pop rivets) in the baffle to hold everything together.  From here I had to replace all those silver clecos with rivets.  Fun fun!  A couple of hundred rivets later and the baffle was on.  The entire baffle took me about 1.5 hours.  This is really stretching the pot time of the Proseal that is holding everything together.  This means that the proseal is really starting to get stiff by the time I’m setting the last 20 rivets or so.  I’m praying for no leaks.

The amount of time this took caught me off guard.  I really hadn’t thought ahead to how much time the riveting would take.  At the end of the tank I think everything is OK.  I cant see how with this many rivets something isn’t going to leak.  There are soooo many places for something to go wrong.  We’ll see.

Next up….skin prep and rivet the skins onto the wing.

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