October 24, 2009

More Work on the Steps - 6.5 Hrs.

It was good to have a diversion and do some other things for a little while. But now I have resumed working on and struggling with the steps. I'm summarizing work done over the last few days here. It has been frustrating from the very beginning because they don't fit right. I managed to get them fitted, drilled, and clecoed to the fuselage recently. But I wasn't happy because I had to change the angle of insertion into the fuselage by opening the holes enough to give me some "wiggle room" in order to get the steel plate to lie flat against the side of the fuselage. The problem with all of that is that it changed the angle of the step... the part you actually step on. They are no longer perpendicular to the line of flight. They stick out at a funny-looking angle. I have been tempted to just rivet them on anyway and move on. But I can't stand the thought. Every time I would look at them or step on them I would see how crooked they look. At least, they look that way to me. I wondered if it was just me.

So I held a length of aluminum angle under the fuselage and lined it up with both steps. Sure enough, the ends of the steps are off by a good 1/4 inch from being straight. I've tried everything I can think of to straighten them out. I've spent hours struggling with this. The bad news (and good news) is that this material is very, very hard. You can't just clamp it down and twist it. I won't bother with all the details. I'll just report what I finally found that worked for me.

Here you see one of the steps clamped to the corner of my big work bench. Yes, I used 4 clamps on the tube. You'll see why in a moment. It's also in a very specific position. Part of the problem is figuring out what needs to be changed to correct the problem. In this case, the step, from this point of view, needs to be bent slightly downward about 1/4 inch. You need a lot of leverage in order to do that. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with something that I could use to apply the necessary leverage or force. Just as I was contemplating a complex jig that would have taken a lot of time and work and materials to build, I thought I'd give this method a try.

Here's my super-duper means of increasing leverage. I found that my trailer hitch was made from this rectangular metal piece that just fits over the end of the step. So I slipped it on. Then I put a loop over the end using a nylon strap. I shortened the loop to the right length to put my foot into. I asked Jamie to come out and help me. Her job was to sit on the opposite corner of the work bench with all her weight (which isn't much, but enough). I needed her because I would have tipped my big work bench over with all the force I applied if she hadn't been sitting there looking pretty. Then I put my foot in the loop, grabbed the side of the work bench, and using all my weight and muscles, literally jumped on this thing and gave it all I could. Now you see why I needed four clamps to hold the tubing end. After four or five shots of this treatment, I took it off and clecoed it back in place on the plane. Whoa! It made a difference. Maybe 1/16 to 1/8 inch. So I clamped it back on the bench and went at it again. I ended up doing this several times with each step.

Here's the bottom line, and final result. The angle aluminum held across both steps shows that they are finally straight. What a relief! I feel like my struggle with these darn things is finally over.

Next, I spent a couple of hours scotchbriting, cleaning, and prepping them for priming. I mixed up some of my 2-part epoxy primer to pour into the tubes to prime the insides. I sprayed the outside with my standard SEM gray primer. Aren't they purdy?

Then I got busy and scuffed, cleaned, and primed the sides of the fuselage where the steps will overlap the skin.

I used the leftover epoxy primer that drained out of the insides of the tubes rather than throw it away. It was just enough to prime the seat pans.

Tomorrow, when the primer is dry and hard, I'll get to work and install the steps for good.

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Contact me: swayze "at" europa.com (replace "at" with the @ sign... no spaces... you know the deal)