Friday, November 18, 2005

Dimpling Aircraft Tools

The facts are that no matter what dimple die you use for dimpling 02Thin skin you will not get a professional dimpled rivet unless you finish the dimpling process when you set the rivet.

Everyone selling tools has the best dimple dies on the market! Some suppliers claim to have developed and hold the secret to the perfect springback dimple die after years of fine tuning. I don't know if they are dazzling you with their genius or baffling you with BS. What I do know is that the "perfect" 100-degree springback dimple die was perfected in 1942. Everyone that builds springback dimple dies today uses the original 1942 design with very little difference.

I constantly hear and read that dimples are too deep or too shallow and the dimple die is generally blamed for this. The real problem isn't the dimple die, it's the process for installing countersunk rivets.

In order to do a professional job you will need to start with the dimple die to make the initial dimple. This is done by impact or pressure on the dimple die set using a DRDT-2 dimpler, C-Frame dimpling tool, hand squeezer or pneumatic squeezer. After the dimple is formed in the skins, stringers, ribs, bulkheads and all parts for assembly you will need to go to the next step.

Lightly debur the holes. Very lightly so you don't actually cut any metal away, only knock off the rough burrs. After deburring cleco the parts together and your ready for the next step.

Make a tool. Yes, that's right. Make a dimple set block. Make this by drilling a hole and countersinking it to match your rivet head depth in a scrap piece of steel or bucking bar. Next, use the dimple set block.

Install a rivet in the skin, place the dimple set block on the back side and lightly drive the rivet into the dimple set block. This will "set" the aluminum and the rivet tight and flush. When you do this it only take two or three taps with the rivet gun at low throttle.

Next drive the rivet using a standard bucking bar and you will have the perfect countersunk rivet.

This is a lot more work than would be required if you had the "perfect" springback dimple die. Unfortunately, many claim to have improved upon the springback dimple die developed in 1942 by NACA. Few, if any, have come up with a new unique design for a tool that installs a rivet into aluminum sheet that hasen't changed since 1942. Drive your flush rivets using the dimple set block and you won't need to spend hours trying to figure out who makes the best 1942 springback dimple die or why your flush rivets just don't set right in the dimple.

Happy building!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rivet Gun & Bucking Bar versus Squeezer

What is wrong with a good ole' bucking bar and rivet gun? I continuously hear about problems builders are having with hand squeezers, pneumatic squeezers and C-Frame riveters and think it is time to talk about getting back to the basics -- 101 Riveting!

Have you ever walked through an airplane factory? Listen. . . hear that. . . sounds like rivet guns pounding away. There is a reason that Cessna, Piper, Raytheon, Boeing and others use rivet guns and bucking bars -- quality. A rivet installed this way gives the strongest, tightest and best rivet. What amazes me is that it is also the easiest when one considers how many rivets installed with a hand squeezer must be drilled out and re-installed.

In a major production facility you will find automated rivet machines -- but these are no comparison to a hand squeezer many kit builders use. The only application you will find a hand squeezer use for in a production factory is where absolutely no other tool will reach. There are instances where production facilities use pneumatic squeezers, but when a rivet gun and bucking bar will fit it is the preferred method.

Try this -- instead of trying to use a hand squeezer or pneumatic squeezer to build your airplane use a rivet gun and bucking bar. If you absolutely cannot get these into an area and the squeezer will do the job then use it. You will find that you have very few bad rivets and you won't have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you are doing wrong on a tool that really should have very little use when you build your airplane!

I expect Rosie the Riveter would tell you "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." After all, Rosie could have built a B-17 with the basic sheet metal kit like the one linked in the title above.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Quality of Aircraft Tools for Homebuilt Aircraft

I want to share some thoughts on the quality of homebuilt aircraft tool kits.

There have been several suppliers over the years that have entrenched their names in the minds of builders. These aircraft builders have become the experts that new kit builders rely upon for advise. This is particularly true in the Van's RV Aircraft world. For many of these former builders there is no alternative to the tool kits and tools they used when building their RV airplane.

This could be true if the older aircraft tool suppliers were the only ones that offered their own branded product. The fact is that the old tool suppliers, for the most part, sell the same exact tools as the new suppliers. Each aircraft tool company may have a specialty item or two, but there are only a few manufacturers of rivet guns, pneumatic drills, rivet squeezers, dimple dies, tin snips and most other tools contained in the tool kit.

Occassionally a new product comes along that is a big hit with RV builders. This is the case for the ExperimentalAero DRDT-2 Dimpler (see the web link in the title above). This new dash 2 dimpler makes professional quality dimples consistently. The DRDT-2 has a reasonable price tag and is in very high demand by RV aircraft builders. I have seen several posts on the RV web spots where former builders just cannot see how this tool can replace their conventional hammer operated C-Frame riveter and dimpler.

The piece of the puzzle the experienced builders are missing is competition. In a competitive market a company provides an equal or better product at a lower price. The way they do this is by having a lower cost. This can be by quantity purchases, lower overhead, lower operating cost and other factors that improve their competitive position.

A new competitor will also offer quick delivery and service after the sale if a customer has a problem. In a tough market like Van's RV aircraf tools it is critical for a company to offer service beyond the sale. RV builder's talk a lot! With over 8,000 RV aircraft kits out there they have websites devoted to people building RV aircraft.

When a homebuilt aircraft kit builder is looking for a quality aircraft tool kit look carefully at the price and the tools provided in the kit. RV builders are finding that they get the same or better quality at a lower price by looking at the latest tool kit options, versus the old companies.