Project Expedition: A 3500-pound Metal Wing, Tube and Fabric Utility Plane

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Chris In Marshfield

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Now that I have a system for ripping the spar caps, things moved along quite nicely. I finished 15 of the 30 spar caps I need to make (3 wings). I wondered how I was going to clamp down the sheet to keep it tight up against the fence. My friend suggested that since there's going to be some waste for the spar attach plates, just drill a hole close to the edge/ corner and screw it directly to the table top. So simple, yet so functional!

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Chris In Marshfield

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I ripped a couple more spar caps out of the remaining sheet tonight, and left enough behind for the attach and splice plates. So I traced everything out, and cut it down to reasonable-sized chunks that I could run through the bandsaw.

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Brought them down to the basement shop, and Riley helped me with the rough cuts.

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Afterward, I drilled the jig holes in the rough parts, and then bolted together the routing jigs with the aluminum sandwiched between. Don and I took turns on the bandsaw cutting away excess material to get ready for routing.

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We got about half of them rough cut tonight.

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Chris In Marshfield

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Got about half of the plate stock routed tonight. As luck would have it, crises at work kept me from finishing them all. To keep the router bit safe, I only did two pieces at a time. They'll be matched pairs that way, too.

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With luck, I can find some time to finish them before the weekend is over.
 

Chris In Marshfield

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Now that Oshkosh is over, back in the shop to assemble spars. It's the first time all the pieces have touched each other since I started working on them. A family gathering of sorts.

I did a rough fitment to make sure I got the pieces the correct size. So far, so good! Time to get them all deburred now.

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That's one big spar (16' 7")! I'll name it "Sparticus".

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Chris In Marshfield

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Miss Alexandra told me that she wants to help me build the plane, so she's cutting her teeth on deburring attach and splice plates.

Of course, she couldn't dive right into good stuff without doing some of the mundane stuff first. So she got her first taste of removing a lot of plastic from a lot of parts.

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Then we moved on to deburring holes. She quickly learned that there's a feel for how much to take off.

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Then we talked drill press safety and how important it was to keep her hair tied back and keeping that and loose clothing and jewelry out of the way of spinning death machines. After that lesson, I showed her how to deburr with the ScotchBrite wheel. She quickly became an expert.

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I think we got the last of the life of the ScotchBrite wheel knocked out of it tonight. Time to order another. This one had a lot of miles on it. But a fine looking batch.

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Now, imagine how much fun it was trying to explain galvanic corrosion to a 12yo girl who lives Minecraft and My Little Pony.
 

Chris In Marshfield

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Started laying out the main spar tonight, and dug out the bar stock I got some time ago. I forgot how much I bought, so wanted to make sure I had enough.

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I had the spar blanks end-to-end and got the tape measure out. Starting from the tip end, I laid out the spreader locations and lightening holes.

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I put the the splice plate in place, then started thinking ahead as to how all the pieces fit together. Something felt a little off, though, so I went upstairs to the computer and gave the CAD measurements another glance. Glad I did because I had the spar blanks reversed!

So I got my can of Sharpie eraser out, cleaned things up, flipped the spar blanks, and then remeasured. All came out perfect afterward.

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Next task was to match drill all the end plates. I was snapping drill bits left and right. So I slowed down the drill a bit, and also found the deck was about a half degree out of square. I squared everything up, and chucked the drill bit up so it was shorter, with a lot less flex. I didn't break any after that.

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Chris In Marshfield

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Got the rest of the attach plates deburred and started laying out the spar caps, spacer bar locations, and spar cap splice locations. Started by drilling and clecoing the attach plates in place so I had a starting point from which to measure. Generally one would have the spar web stick out past the end of the wing attach plate, and then shape the web to the attach plate. I accidentally cut the spar web to where it was supposed to be trimmed to on the back-of-the-ear edge, though. After a call to Bob Barrows, he said it was fine to put a filler in place, which makes me feel better. In the photo you only see two of the four layers that will be the wing attach point.

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Then I measured from the tip end, and measured back to get the spacer bar and lightening hole distances correct.

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Knowing where the rivet holes are helped to determine where the spar cap splices are. The spar caps are full-length on this wing, not stepped. There is a two-foot overlap between the inner and outer spar caps, creating a wide splice area.

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Now that I know how long each layer of the inside spar caps will be, I can get them trimmed and make the outer strips. Then time to match drill the caps
 

Chris In Marshfield

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Don and I set up and drilled a couple of reference holes on the main spar cap strips to get them lined up. We then set them up and match drilled the top and bottom pair on the front of the main spar. I'll be using them as templates to match drill the back set. The #30 holes you see right now are just where the dividers and wing ribs will go. Still need to drill the other holes between them ~1 inch apart, and then opened up to #21. The spacers are 6-1/8" apart, and then I set the rivet fan to fill in the middle at equal distance.

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Chris In Marshfield

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135 holes going once... Three more sets to go, using this one and the next set as templates for the two to follow (top and bottom). And these are just pre drilled to #30. I'll open them up to #21 in place when ready to fasten them to the web.

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Chris In Marshfield

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I finished drilling the long parts of the cap strips last night, front and back, for the main spar. Now to cut the short ones and get them marked and drilled. You may recall that the caps run all the way to the end on my wing.

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Group shot of the long pieces.

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Short end to go.

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I've had a work project that has slowed me down a bit, but hopefully I'll gain more momentum shortly.
 

Chris In Marshfield

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After a couple months off due to work, I found some inspiration to get myself back down in the shop today. Had to get things cleaned up and organized so I could get started again.

Today I cut and match drilled the spar caps that go to the end of the spars. Note that the Expedition spar caps go all the way to the end, and have a two-foot overlap/lamination 10-12 feet from the root.

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After positioning to allow for the kerf, I placed a sacrificial piece of wood on top to keep the the blade from grabbing the piece and bending it. I haven't bought a blade meant for aluminum yet, but the carbide will do just fine. This just holds everything still.

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Getting the guide marks set up and aligned:

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Getting the hole spacing right:

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Drilled a few hundred holes in everything:

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Everything lines up nicely:

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You can't really see the splice in the photo, but it's there, and looks great:

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Next step is to cut the dividers.
 

Chris In Marshfield

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Cut all the spacer bars this evening. What you see is actually double-stacked, with both the front and back parts all together on the front side.

I measured the distance between spar caps, then set a stop block so each is the same length. They are mainly 0.25" x 0.5" 6061 bar stock. I did use some 0.125" x 0.5" where I needed to layer them for special cuts.

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The spacer bars in place and trimmed where necessary for angles.

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Chris In Marshfield

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All has been quiet on the Wisconsin front as winter continues. Progress has slowed a bit due to large work projects eating into my build time.

If life didn't have enough adventure in it already, my wife has traveled down a new career path, which means we'll be moving across the state. When the movers came in and did their evaluation, I showed them the airplane parts and expressed my concern that these must not be scratched or otherwise damaged during transportation. They said that they wouldn't trust the packers/movers not to scratch them (they honestly don't know the importance of these parts--I don't blame them), so I'll be handling the packing and transportation of these parts. I also don't trust that they won't scratch or gouge the 4x12 aluminum sheets, either. So I'll be taking care of those myself as well.

So the project will stop while I tend to packing and transporting the project to the new house. I should be back on track again in June with a fresh set of updates!

~Chris (soon to no longer be "In Marshfield")
 

Chris In Marshfield

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Packing it up!

The Airplane Factory is a sea of boxes and stuff as the shop gets loaded into the big semi sitting at the end of the driveway. And to think, just two days ago I could see the floor.

By Saturday, all of this will be in Milwaukee. By September, I'll probably finally find everything so I can get back to work.

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And Buddy is sitting here calmly watching as his house disappears around him.

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Chris In Marshfield

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Started digging out the garage yesterday, and found my spars... OMG...

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Yep, that's them laying on the floor along with my form boards and stuff. My heart sank when I saw them there with stuff on top of them. I carefully fished them out and got them stood up out of the way of everything. They're in fine shape, thankfully.

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The movers who packed up my shop were very conscientious and aware of the fact that these were airplane parts. They did a fantastic job of wrapping and protecting everything going into the truck and in transit.

Sadly, I wasn't at the destination ends when they arrived, as I was cleaning up the old house. And there was a different crew unloading that didn't know what they were moving. So my advice: if you've got a moving company moving your airplane, do your best to make sure you're on the receiving end to capture your stuff coming off the truck!
 
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