May 14, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise with my Brake Pedals! - 1.0 hrs.

A few days ago when I finished preparing the parts for the brake pedals, I decided not to prime or paint them or rivet them together just yet, thinking I would consider options about colors for paint, what the interior of my cabin will look like, etc. I've been giving these considerations a lot of thought, but I haven't made any decisions yet. Then, I was looking at my wing spars. They're hard-anodized in a beautiful gold color. They're gorgeous. And I know from all the experience I have when I built my wings just how durable and hard the anodized aluminum is. Then it occurred to me that I have flashlights and other common items that are made of anodized aluminum. They keep a beautiful appearance for a very long time despite everyday use and abuse. So I decided, why not look into having my brake pedals anodized? Surely it wouldn't cost much for a few little parts. And my hunch is, it will be tougher and last longer than paint. It doesn't add any weight. I think I recall even seeing an example or two online over the last year or two, of other builders who have chosen to have parts anodized. I thought of having them powdercoated, too. But I wanted to check this out first.

What is anodizing, anyway? Well, I learned that anodizing is not the same thing as metal plating. It's not a coating, either. You're not adding a layer of anything to the metal. You're chemically changing it. It's an electrolytic process for producing controlled aluminum oxide films on aluminum. The electrochemical process both thickens and strengthens the naturally-occurring oxide. The resulting finish is extremely hard and exceptionally wear resistant, according to what I read. I didn't realize that you can get aluminum anodized in a rainbow of different colors!

A quick google search turned up roughly a dozen anodizing shops here in my city. Wow! I had no idea there were so many. So I grabbed all the brake pedal parts and went to the closest one, about 5 min. away, to check into it. They have a minimum shop fee of $50, as it turns out, so I prepared to leave. But the guy lowered the price and gave me a 20% discount. In retrospect, I think the best thing would be for two or three builders to go together on a batch of parts and split the cost. That would make it even more reasonable. Anyway, the company I went with is called Apex Anodizing (<---- click the link) if you're interested. They also have a shop in Nevada. The district manager, Jim Malnar, was very nice, helpful, and totally committed to my satisfaction. I was impressed that a small one-time customer like me would get this kind of attention from high level management.

I decided to go with the Bright Dip Fiery Red color and to have the anodizing done before riveting, so the rivets would show and contrast with the color. I really like the brassy look of the flush rivets next to this color. They're the same color as the AN-3 bolts and nuts used for the hardware. The color of the master cylinders matches the hardware and rivets, too. It's a perfect match.

After a couple of days, they were ready. I was so excited about how gorgeous the parts looked, that I set to work immediately when I got home and riveted them all together. These rivets can all be squeezed easily. Here are a couple more close-up shots:

Tonight was our monthly Chapter 105 meeting. I finished these up just in time before heading out the door, so I took them with me for a little show-and-tell. Once a year, our chapter has one of our regular monthly meetings at Van's Aircraft. It's always one of the most popular meetings of the year. The factory is open for a walk-through tour, an update from some of the staff on what's going on at Vans, a few words of wisdom from Van, and time to hang out in the hanger and look at all the planes. To top it off, Vans provides pizza and sodas for everyone. How can you beat that? A good number of planes flew in for the event, too. My dad went with me, along with my son Luke and his wife Andria, and my Dad's neighbor, Steve. We had over 80 people attend. I had fun passing these around. I got a lot of very nice comments and compliments, including one from Van himself.

While I'm discussing the meeting, we heard a nice update from the companys' general manager, Scott Risan. He reviewed the tremendous amount of work that goes into a new product, like the RV-12, and discussed how well things are going for the company. Yes, things have slowed down due to the economy, but thanks to the prudent business management of the company and the success of the product line, the company is in good shape. They will weather this storm just fine and be around for many years to come. He also introduced other members of the staff that were on hand. The main thing I noticed, compared to previous years, is that there was no evening crew or swing shift, operating at this time. It was strangely silent as we walked through the factory. I had been looking forward to our guests being able to see the machinery operating that cuts, punches, and stamps out all the parts for our kits. Oh well. Next time hopefully.

Well, when I got back home, I just had to see what these pedals will look like mounted in place on the rudder pedals. What can I say... I love it! I can't wait to see how great this looks against a dark carpet, rather than the drawings, for a background. All that's left is to mount and drill them to the master cylinders, and this is done.

UPDATE: Summer 2015 - Well, up until now you've seen that I originally planned on having brakes only on the Pilot's side. Now I have made a major decision about my brakes. Back when I was working on them, and making decisions about them, I was thinking at the time that Jamie will be the one, primarily, who flies with me and occupies the passenger seat. And I didn't see the need (nor could I justify the added expense and weight, complexity, etc) of having duel brakes in this airplane. My thinking at the time was, keep it simple. Also, that if things changed, I reserve the right to change my mind and I can always add them later. Well, that time has come, and I have described it all and included a picture on the page from October 10, 2010. Check it out! This plane now has duel brakes!

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