CHAPTER 2 - Getting Started

Finding myself in Michigan working for a cargo airline should have kept me real happy. But I wasn't used to the Winters and I had not brought any of my modeling equipment with me. Soon I was itching to build something, and I had read every book on homebuilding I could get my hands on. At last I broached the idea to Judi.

Basically, my plan was to buy the tools and the tail kit. If I paced myself, it would take a year to build, by which time I intended to have the money for the next kit. Since Judi spent most of her time at school, I would not be inconveniencing her by taking up part of the living room with my project. Noisy work would be done in such a way as to avoid the neighbor's wrath, and painting would be farmed out.

Judi agreed, and the orders were placed faster than lightning. I got ready for the arrival by cleaning the house and countless other points-building chores, to insure good will from the spouse. The tools arrived first, and I spent much happy time getting familiar with them all. I also watched the Orndorff tail and wing kit videos over and over.

When the kit arrived, it was with a foot of snow. The UPS driver left the boxes with the apartment office (imagine their surprise!), and I carted it back to my building via pick-up truck and muscle. Once inside, I made a cup of chocolate and inventoried the kit.

I had already picked out lumber for the jig. It would be cedar, both because it was dry and stable, and because it would smell good inside the apartment. These little details mean a lot to the spouse. A side benefit is that it is lighter than other woods, making assembly and disassembly easier. At this point, I had not assembled the jig; I merely laid the 4x4 crosspiece on the carpet and used it as a table to build the rear spar.

Layout was no problem for someone used to building competition gliders, and hand tools are familiar friends. However, I had never used clecoes before, or riveted. Clecoes were the first new experience for me, and I loved it. Am I the only person who feels like a surgeon, wielding his strange, specialized tools as I knit parts together with these shiny implements? I think not. I must have taken that spar apart and put it back together four or five times. Eventually, it went to the painter. And then it was time to rivet.

Now, up to this point I had made no mistakes. I swear it! But that rivet squeezer and those #4 rivets nearly did me in. I could not seem to squeeze a rivet without offsetting the shop head. I did learn to drill rivets out effectively, though. Soon I got the idea and the spar was finished, with Judi making polite comments.

It was time to assemble the jig, and I had a plan. Two 2x4 uprights, a 4x4 crosspiece, and 2x4 crosspieces top and bottom. All assembled with carriage bolts and metal brackets, and braced with 1/4" rod and turnbuckles. 2x4 'feet' attached to the bottom of the uprights and also braced with threaded rod allowed this frame to stand upright. Not only that, the jig could be adjusted for plumb with a few turns on the turnbuckles, moved, and adjusted again. When finished, I would be able to disassemble it and get it out of the way. The cost was in the neighborhood of one hundred dollars, but it worked and worked well. As an afterthought, I hung a power strip on one upright and put tool hangers at various places, to help ease the clutter around the jig.

I'll wrap up this chapter by noting that I was very light in the way of power tools. I had a small drill press, and a hand drill and that was about it. I had access to a band saw at work, but most work on the tail was accomplished with a hacksaw followed by a vixen file. For Christmas, I got the air compressor I needed to run my rivet gun, and a tool box to help reduce the clutter.

In the picture, you can see the skeleton in the jig and how the jig neatly fills the end of the living room. It was like shortening the room about a yard. In the Winter, we don't use the sliding door, so it was no hardship. And what a conversation piece!