Finishing Kit

August 25, 2011

The Canopy Frame - Finishing Work - 4.5 hrs.

With the canopy fitting fairly well now, I'm departing from Vans plans a little bit. I've given this a lot of thought these past few months, and I've decided that I'm definitely going to use Sikaflex adhesive on my canopy, rather than the standard attach hardware and lots of drilled holes. Even before I cracked my canopy, I had decided that from a purely aesthetic point of view, I didn't particularly care for the look of all those nuts and bolts holding the canopy and rear window in place. But now, being so skiddish about another canopy disaster, there's no way I'm drilling any holes in this canopy. Further confirmation backing up my decision came at this years' Vans Homecoming Fly-in. A good friend of mine with a beautiful RV-7 from Arizona had his tip-up canopy open. Being at this stage of the build, I studied his work and looked it over real good. His canopy had some cracks and stop-drilled holes drilled in it. We talked about it, and he would use Sika if he did it again. I realize this is just one data point, but I've read more than a few stories of people drilling those holes in the canopy and getting a crack. Sometimes on the last hole drilled. There's nothing wrong with Vans methods. Thousands of RV's are flying with the holes drilled and standard hardware in the canopy. This is just the way I'm choosing to go. I figure I'll save at least half a pound of weight by omitting the hardware, offset by the weight of the Sika, of course. So is there a net gain? Who knows, but I have a hunch it will be a little bit lighter this way as well.

So, my next step, as I see it, is to get this canopy frame finished and riveted together. Vans has you do this later, but I carefully lifted the canopy off. Since the frame is clamped securely in position exactly where I want it when it's finished, it was time to drill these holes out from #40 to #30.

Flush rivets go here, so out comes the countersink cage, and some countersinking action.

A while later, I had all the flush rivets squeezed in place. I spaced 4 rivets on each side, instead of the 3 called for in the plans, avoiding the tooling hole area in the middle. I think this was poorly designed by Vans, to have a rivet so close to the tooling hole. The greenish stuff you see is a small bit of Rage that I mixed up and filled the tooling holes in the rib channels. This should look real nice when it's painted.

Next, the shiny spots you see are where I took a fine-tooth file and did some work to smooth the transition where the canopy will sit here. I'm not going to re-prime this. In fact, I'm going to have to take some MEK and clean the primer off above the black line you see on the left. The primer for the Sika needs to be applied to bare aluminum.

Now it's time to fabricate some little aluminum parts. These are the pieces that hold the gas-filled struts that hold the canopy open. You fab these parts out of aluminum stock in the kit, just following the plans. This is time-consuming detail-oriented work, but I like it. It's enjoyable enough. Here I have the parts laid out, marked for cutting and drilling. I'll do the cutting, etc., next work session.

Next, I clecoed the skin back on the canopy frame, and checked the fit one more time. Satisfied that this is good to go, I drilled the two holes in the upper strap to the side frame, countersunk, and riveted them in place.

Back to the rear of the frame, the dabs of green Rage that I had applied earlier to fill the tooling holes are cured and hard. So a little finish sanding, and a shot of primer, and here we are. You can't even hardly see the rivets. Nice! The final topcoat of paint will look even nicer.

Next, I drilled the aft row of rivets out to #30, as seen by the copper clecos below. These will eventually be pop-riveted to the tubing underneath.

Finally, I pulled out the pieces for the canopy brace kit and studied the drawings and plans. I have a significant amount of work ahead of me in these 3 little parts. I'm especially NOT looking forward to all the tedious hand deburring of all those tight little edges.

This was a good day. I feel like a lot of little details got wrapped up.

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