Rudder is riveted. Mostly.

Work progressed so quickly this week that I barely had time to take photos.

All of the pieces are now firmly attached, and all but a half-dozen or so holes are still waiting for rivets. I spent a fair amount of time drilling out rivets in a few spots where I prematurely went to town along the rivet line for the piano hinge, which I’m attaching in the photo.

The gap between the end of the top cap and the back of the trailing edge seems weird. Here’s what that looks like:

I messed around trying to close that gap as much as possible without distorting the bend. The top cap is about 5 mm forward of the position specified in the plans, but there’s no way to move it back farther without trimming off material and/or bending the curve. Based on a review of a lot of photos online of Cruzer rudders, it looks it is what it is. Hopefully there will be some insights in builders’ forum, but I believe I’ve done this correctly. It seems weird to leave an gap like that, even on the trailing edge, so a little bit of silicone might close it up in the final product.

I’ll still be drilling out some rivets that didn’t get seated properly, as noted earlier. I’ve actually run out so have ordered more via Aircraft Spruce. The concave rivet gun nose I was using may be close-but-no-cigar, and that’s what caused circles around many of the rivets and not-fully-seated rivets. With the Official Zenith riveter and noses in hand there was no problem at all getting the rivets in cleanly. Lesson learned.

Speaking of rivet guns, I picked up a very useful tool that you see in the first photo. It lets you use a drill to smoothly pull blind rivets. This works great, and avoid the “bounce” from pulling out a mandrel with a hand or pneumatic riveter. I love the air tools that I get to use at Tech, but there are some advantages to the smooth action of the drill attachment over the fancier tools. A hundred bucks well-spent.

After a little rivet revision next week I’m planning to move on to the polishing stage with some Nuvite purchased this week and a cheap random-orbit polisher on order. The goal is to see how closely it’s possible to get to a mirror finish.

Considering all of the lessons learned building this piece, including some minor scratches and bangs from driving the part back-and-forth from Tech, I went ahead and included the rudder parts in my order this week for the rest of the empennage. The rudder kit has been a great tool for learning, and the skills and tricks I’ve been learning will be very useful for making airplane parts as accurately as reasonably possible.

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Dean Betz

I'm a lifelong journalist and aviation wannabe.