CHAPTER 31 - Fuselage Jig

About two weeks after ordering the fuselage kit, I ran down to Home Depot and selected all the lumber for the jig. I wanted to give it time to dry out (and, boy, was I glad I did!) and I paid most attention on getting decent 2x6 material for the rails. I also bought a box of drywall screws for assembly. All the wood got piled up in the garage to await the kit's arrival.

When the kit arrived, I evicted Judi's car while I inventoried all the contents. In the photo is the aftermath: a pile of wrapping paper, a crate full of more paper, and kit parts all over. The skins and such I put on a long folding table I got from Office Max - it was used and I paid about half new cost for it (it looked like new until I started working on it). The long parts went on some cheap sawhorses I got and the rest of the parts were stacked on two flattened cardboard boxes. All the weldments went in odd places, still in their wrappings. After breaking down the crate and taking it and the discarded wrapping to the dumpster, I used the table to divide the garage and put the stacked parts under it. Now Judi had a place to park again. Out of all the parts, only one small sheet was missing. Van's got it to me before the end of the week.

Now it was time to build the jig. I precut all the crossmember pieces and assembled them. At this point, I noticed that much of the 2x4 and a couple of the 1x6 I had bought had gone from die-straight to bowed. Well, I used straight cross-member pieces with curved ones to straighten them out, and it all worked. At least the main rails were Ok. If you look at the photos you won't see any problems; I paid careful attention to the plans and made sure that all the bulkheads could be positioned properly, even if they needed a shim here or there to be perfect. I'll say it again; the jig is only for holding parts, not for setting alignment. However, if you are building a jigged fuselage, be sure to pay attention on the plans where the bulkheads will go relative to jig crossmembers or you could find yourself moving a crossmember later to make room for the bulkhead.

The only variance I made from Van's plans was the crosspiece at the front of the jig at the top of the legs. This added lateral stability and makes a convenient drape point for power cords, etc. I added the front legs one at a time, leveling the jig laterally, and then did the rear legs. Finally, I added the center legs, using a level to determine when all the bow was eliminated. Even so, there is some variation in the crossmembers, so I will be leveling the bulkheads and longerons with shims under the longerons.

With the jig completed all the skins could be moved from the table, giving me a place to work on the bulkheads.