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The Hundred Rules of Homebuilding

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Dan Thomas

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Sep 17, 2008
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5,409
Perfection is the enemy of completion
Yup. The definition of "airworthy" is "fit and safe for flight." Not perfect, just safe.

Some of us are overly concerned about what others will think when they see minor flaws in the finished project, so we build things twice or three times, or repaint and polish and polish and repaint some more, or whatever it takes to hide all the tiny imperfections. That turns a three-year project into a ten-year one.

Or we want all the bells and whistles and the leather seats and various other luxurious appointments, and the useful load capacity decreases to the weight of the pilot and five gallons of gas.
 

Dan Thomas

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Sep 17, 2008
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5,409
There's a corollary to rule 3 ...you can always buy a good used flyable airplane cheaper than you can build one.
Oh, boy. As a licensed mechanic in full-time maintenance for the last ten or eleven years of my aviation career, I can tell you that that's a dangerous assumption. I dealt with folks that had bought a "cheap old airplane" that ended up spending nearly the equivalent of the purchase price to bring the thing back up to airworthy. So many "affordable" airplanes that are on the market have been owned by people who couldn't really afford them, especially as costs rose, so they shorted on maintenance, deferring lots of snags and finding mechanics who would do cursory annuals on the cheap. The buyer is the one who gets the unpleasant surprises.
I would buy an old affordable airplane, assuming that I'd have lots to keep me busy for some time, and not expecting that I'd be flying it for several months or a year. But I'm a licensed mechanic and can fix all that stuff and certify it, where the average buyer is outside that realm and has to depend on someone else to do it. You're better off buying an airplane that has already been through that process. You'll get it cheaper. For instance, you buy a Cessna 150 for $15K and find that the engine cylinders are corroded inside, making metal and losing compression. You find cracks in the bulkhead aft of the baggage compartment. The fuel gauges aren't working right, and some control cables are shot. You spend $15K on this thing, but it's not worth $30 K now. You overspent and have to sell it and accept $22K for it, maybe not even that, because the engine wasn't totally overhauled.
 

Bill-Higdon

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Joined
Feb 6, 2011
Messages
715
Location
Salem, Oregon, USA
One: It always weighs more than you hope for.
Two: It always takes longer to build than you hope for.
Three:It always costs more than you hope for.
Four:Repeat one hundred times so you dont forget.
The Rabbit hole is deep, the sides slippery, and "Watch out for the first step, it's a doozie"
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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Feb 10, 2015
Messages
1,258
Location
Uncasville, CT
I go back to the old "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" when in the shop and about to start working on something.

When setting up to drill a hole, getting ready to mark something, running the saw, taking a cut on the lathe, looking for that sharpie that was just there under that tool, etc I try and abide that mentality.
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
1,258
Location
Uncasville, CT
Some of us are overly concerned about what others will think when they see minor flaws in the finished project, so we build things twice or three times, or repaint and polish and polish and repaint some more, or whatever it takes to hide all the tiny imperfections. That turns a three-year project into a ten-year one.
The inverse of that is also true. For me, when building something I am aware of every flaw, every bad design choice, every hidden thing that no-one will ever see but I know is in there buried beneath 4 other parts and has no structural consequences but, nevertheless, wasn't made to master-craftsman CNC-level tolerances and surface finishes. Of course to every other soul on the planet, living or dead, I've made some great work, (or at least that's what they'll proclaim) and so I will tend to just say "fair enough then, good enough for my first go at this design" But of course, I know I'm banging together scrap to make a loose collection of utter junk that only sort-of-resembles an airplane.

People will be gawking over the project and while they're busy I look at the fuselage lines and am thinking "this is all complete trash, what idiot through this contour or this seam line or these rivet spacings were ever remotely acceptable? And why is this project not yet been pitched off a carrier deck? This calls for a complete do-over from part 1."

We've all been there right? That's just the constant existential tax of creation I fear.
 

dog

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Joined
Dec 29, 2019
Messages
301
The inverse of that is also true. For me, when building something I am aware of every flaw, every bad design choice, every hidden thing that no-one will ever see but I know is in there buried beneath 4 other parts and has no structural consequences but, nevertheless, wasn't made to master-craftsman CNC-level tolerances and surface finishes. Of course to every other soul on the planet, living or dead, I've made some great work, (or at least that's what they'll proclaim) and so I will tend to just say "fair enough then, good enough for my first go at this design" But of course, I know I'm banging together scrap to make a loose collection of utter junk that only sort-of-resembles an airplane.

People will be gawking over the project and while they're busy I look at the fuselage lines and am thinking "this is all complete trash, what idiot through this contour or this seam line or these rivet spacings were ever remotely acceptable? And why is this project not yet been pitched off a carrier deck? This calls for a complete do-over from part 1."

We've all been there right? That's just the constant existential tax of creation I fear.[/QUOTE



Another phrasing with a twist.
"when I look at myself I despare,when I look at the competition I rejoice"
 

dtnelson

Active Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2019
Messages
30
Here's an old rule I learned in my engineering career:

How to Estimate Task Time:
1) Make your estimate of how long a job will take. As an example, say you think you can git 'er done in an hour
2) Double that - one hour becomes two hours
3) Go to the next highest increment - it's really gonna take you two days!

:)

You'll be amazed at how often that works!
 

dtnelson

Active Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2019
Messages
30
Some of my other building rules:

  • When thinking about the quality of your work - ask yourself, "hows it gonna feel when I'm sitting at the end of the runway for that first flight?"

  • How to keep a project going - Do one thing every day. Even if it's just order a part, make a phone call, or read the plans

  • Don't go into the shop with a schedule! Don't go in figuring "I've gotta get this done tonight". That's where poor quality comes from!
Dave
 

jedi

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Joined
Aug 8, 2009
Messages
2,156
Location
Sahuarita Arizona, Renton Washington, USA
If you never start building it costs nothing, doesn't need a storage or work space and will never fail. The best part is you are done before you even start.

I think I may have seen that posted here before. I know many here are applying this principle to their next project.
 

choppergirl

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Jan 30, 2015
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Choppergirl's Flying Circus ★★☠★★ AIR-WAR.ORG
Rule #14 - you're going to say yes to that free to a good home unfinished aircraft project your (dead?) buddy's wife insists he's given up on and should be gotten rid of. because: free airplane.

Rule #15 - you're always going to need more hanger space. always. because #14 and countless other reasons, opportunities, and diversions/distractions/free stuff.

Rule #16 - you should of built that workshop / hanger / private airstrip first.
 
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