Firewall Forward

January 1, 2013

Finishing up the Air Vents - 4.0 Hours

A while back, actually quite a while back, on April 28, 2012, to be exact, I spent some considerable time on my air vents in the cabin. I bought these really nice anodized black vents from Stein Air, because the plastic ones that come in the kit from Vans are notorious for leaking and for being cheap. So I fabricated some brackets for them. I was very proud of my work and how they turned out, but I never got around to finishing the installation. Something about them just bugged me. Two problems finally became apparent to me. As it turned out, they weren't as sturdy as I had hoped. The flimsiness became apparent when you moved the eyeball around. I used sheet that was too thin. Especially when cut into the small parts used to hold the eyeball vents. The retaining rings that screw onto the back of the vent wouldn't even tighten down all the way, because the threads ran out before you could turn the ring tight enough to hold it. I should have used thicker material. Then one other thing bugged me about them. They were rather permanent, as far as brackets go. Once riveted on, there was no taking them off, unless I drilled out rivets. I could unscrew the eyeball vent by itself (assuming I found a way to screw them on tight enough in the first place), but the bracket would have been permanently riveted on to the airplane. I didn't like that. I just hated the idea of possibly having to drill out rivets, in the rare event I had to take them off for some reason. In this case, we're talking about rivets on the painted (eventually) side skin of the fuselage. What if I needed to remove them for some reason? I was wishing I had made them differently, used thicker material, installed platenuts, or at least drilled holes to just use bolts and nuts. Then recently, I found out that a very well-known upholstery company, Classic Aero Designs, also makes some very nice support rings for these vents. They were inexpensive, too! So I bought a pair and decided to re-make my vent brackets. Here's a picture of one of my vents with the retaining ring, and the ring brackets from Classic Aero. These are Stein's small vents, by the way. He sells a larger diameter vent, but if you've ridden in an RV with these small vents wide open, it's enough to blow you back against your seat! PLENTY of air comes through these vents!

As you can see, they are pre-drilled for bolts or screws to hold them on. All I needed was an angle bracket and some platenuts. After scrounging around my shop for the appropriate material, and quite a bit of time remaking them, here's the final product:

Here's the back side, showing the platenuts. I'm still amazed sometimes, at how much time you can spend on a simple little part like this. By the time you carefully measure, cut the material, line it all up, drill the holes, then deburr, countersink, scuff, clean, prime, paint, and rivet platenuts on, and make the cutout for the vent, several hours have gone by. Then repeat for the other side. All in a days' work, I guess. Not a whole lot to show, but I'm glad to have these done.

Then, finally, after all these months, I riveted the angles in place on the fuselage, and screwed on the brackets. Here's the left side, with the vent bracket bolted in place and the eyeball vent solidly fastened in place. I hope I never have to take it off, but it's nice to know that I can if I have to. I'll probably replace the brass screws with black ones to match, but for now, I really like the way these turned out!

Incidentally, just so you know, you can see 4 screws. The pictures of the brackets at the top of this page show that only 3 are needed. The one on the lower right is an extra hole I had drilled in my panel for the previous home-spun brackets I had made. I can't get rid of the hole, unfortunately, so I will probably just put a screw in there, as you see now, just to fill the hole. Unless I can find something useful to do with that hole! As long as I'm making confession here, I should also point out that the items you see on the panel are just pictures, scotch-taped in place. I don't have any of that stuff yet. But it looks so real, it even makes me do a double-take!

The only thing left now is the SCAT tube and clamps, to complete these vents. I'll have to get to that some other session. I'm out of time tonight.

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