Category Archives: Projects

Here’s to new adventures

The bag is empty, no cats here. Our move to Klamath Falls is now eminent!

Last week we put down a deposit on a nice little 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in the Altamont area of Klamath Falls. The original plan was to live in town for a couple of years while we build on the property we purchased back in June 2016. Over the course of the weekend, there was a rollercoaster of ups and downs emotionally but in the end, we were very happy with the results of the weekend.

The property we bought in 2016 is not going to be a good fit, but we have worked out the details and it looks like we won’t loose any money, or very little at any rate. We still have the capital we invested over the year to invest in another property a little farther down the road. Once we get established in KF we will start looking for a property for our forever homestead.

Back in April, we made the commitment to set some target dates for moving and finding work. The advantage of setting those dates was having targets to aim at. With a target in sight, we started packing the non-essentials early on to distribute the chore of packing. Last weekend we planned to go up to KF and look at a couple of rental properties with the hope of at least getting to know some of the realtors and property owners in the area. Actually finding a place was only secondary.

The Universe was smiling on us and we found a great little house with nice neighbors and a great property owner to boot. So, we came home renters for the first time in over 20 years. It’s been a very long time since either of us has lived in a house and nearly as long since we rented. Anyway, you look at it, we are in for an adventure.

Once we got home, the Universe continued to smile as we purchased a trailer kit and a bunch of accessories and paying several hundred dollars less than expected. I also was able to round up everything I needed in short order. The trailer is a lot like the one I purchased as a kit about 25 years ago after coming back to the area from rebuilding a house in Stockton. The assembly was about what I remembered with only a few changes. I got the entire frame up and structurally completed in two days. One more day and I should have it road ready with all of the electrical.

Next week I plan on wrapping up the electrical and getting started on the box which should only take a day or two. The good news is, I don’t need to have the trailer finished until June 30th. Come the first of July I will begin making trips up to the house. We will be all moved up by August first, which is good since that is when we need to be out of our apartment.

One of the things I am very much looking forward to is having a good radio antenna up for HF radio. I am also looking forward to having some room for woodworking projects. Who knows, I may even get to an aircraft build some time soon. I don’t know how all of these things are going to work out, but I am confident we will move forward in our goals.

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Nine Years

Nine years ago I set up this domain and started blogging, I still don’t seem to have gotten the hang of it.

With everything going on in our lives and in the world around us, I should have plenty to write about. I have my radio blog, also lacking in regularity, and our store/family blog also suffers from a lack of consistency and regularity.

With my 9th-bloggiversary coming up in about two weeks I thought a little goal setting was in order. I have 54 weeks to work on improving those things I feel I lack in my blogging practices. Regularity & consistency.

Scheduling writing sessions had never worked well in the past but I think that had more to do with my lack of keeping up with datebooks and calendars. In the last year or so this has changed. I am using a calendar organizer daily for tracking a lot of different things. Adding writing goals into this routine shouldn’t be all that difficult.

At the moment I’m a little too scattered to vent any moral or social indignation about whatever is going on at the moment. I have been jotting down miscellaneous potential subjects for posts and scribbling out a paragraph or two every once and a while. Some of these should be useful, at least a little. I guess I should continue jotting and scribbling and see how things turn out.

I know this is anything but a substantive post, but that really wasn’t the purpose for writing today. Sometimes you just gotta do some things for yourself.

~FlyBoyJon

E3 & New Shop Layout

So far October has been a blur of activity. All of the construction going on here at the complex has finally wound down. We had new railings installed throughout August and all of the windows replace in September. The windows actually drug on into the first weeks of October.

FCC-logoI have been studying for my commercial radio license off and on for a few months but really dug in last week. Today I took the Element 3 exam and thankfully passed with flying colors. While I may now exercise the privileges of a General Radio Operator’s License (GROL), I am looking forward to the FCC issuing my first commercial call sign. Once I get the commercial call sign I will begin working towards my RADAR endorsement.

Along with studying for the exam I started reconfiguring my shop layout. With such a small space it is difficult to keep a ‘general’ layout that works well. Tammy and I are developing some new business ideas and I need a shop space that is more conducive to those ends.

I have been reinvigorating my jewelry skills along with other small-object metal-work skills. Mostly copper, brass, and some silver work. The new bench and shop layout is set up for smaller woodworking pieces, metal work, small mechanical, and restoration work.

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The new layout moves the bench into a corner and consolidates the tools from the French Cleat layout onto a piece of 1/2″ plywood that takes up much less wall space. I need the wall space because we picked up a couple of large rolling cabinets to help get tools and supplies all accessible without having to roll stuff around. This layout also gets all of the toolboxes in a place where they are reachable from the bench and I can have all of them open at the same time, also without having to move anything out of the way. Configuring small spaces is a bugger sometimes.

I’m sure there will be changes here and there as I start to work in the space and get used to the new layout but the biggest hurdle, accessibility, seems to be held at bay for now. With the shop configured, I can get back to working on projects.

One thing that is going to be difficult is figuring out a space for doing some small scale foundry work. I need to build a small smelting furnace and small casting frames. I want to start setting aside recovered aluminum and copper ingots for casting projects. It’s time to take recycling to the next level. 🙂

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Fall fell, or did it?

What crazy weather we have been having the last month or so. The daily high temps could have been anywhere from 60 to 100! Now it seems the weather is shifting into the more normal fal pattern, and we sure could use it. I believe we are at the bottom of the medium drought cycle and on the recovery side of the long cycle, but who really knows these days. The weather models have been “adjusted” so many times lately I don’t think anyone really has a handle on the changing patterns.

20150920_141131Besides all the weather stuff… I had posted about all of the seasonal movies in our que, promptly after making that post and settling in for some movie time, the TV let some of the magic out. It appears that it was just the internal power transformer but I have been playing hobb trying to get parts, so we ended up getting a new set so I can spend some more time on the repair. Best laid plans I suppose. I will post a follow up on the movie list later as well as a follow up on the TV progress.

BTW: When selecting a new TV, or any consumer electronics for that matter, make sure you buy a real name brand, Sony, Magnavox, Samsung, etc., someone who has a large product line and has been around for a while. Someone with a reputation to be concerned with and a supply chain that requires conformity. If you want to give an off-brand or small-house product a go, make sure you can get service documentation (schematics, diagrams, parts lists, troubleshooting tips) before you buy, and hang on to it. You or your repair person may need it.

Apex Digital is a crap manufacturer and documentation on their products is basically unavailable. Parts are also unavailable unless salvaged off of used boards, and even then are a crap-shoot. Within the same model I have found numerous incompatible parts changes, and no one can get component parts. Very few sources can even get board level replacements.

20151001_105529Moving along, I have been busy with woodworking projects for work. I have been wanting to build an built-in rent-drop for years. We started out with a basket on the wall inside the mail slot then progressed to putting a bookcase/cabinet in front of the slot with a hole cut out of the back and a basket on a shelf. After almost 20 years I finally got to destroy the bookcase/cabinets I hated build this built-in fixture. So far we are very happy with the results.

Along with the day-job stuff we have been working a some other projects that necessitated buying a few tools. Gee darn, I hate buying tools. The first two are a dapping block and a disc punch cutter. These have been on my list of jewelry tools for many years, I just never could justify them. With our current project list there are several items that need these tools. Some are jewelry related and some are for hardware and findings. Another tool I have been coveting for a very long time is a rolling mill. This one was a bit pricy but I found a deal for about a third of the usual cost. We both decided that was the Universe saying it’s time to add this tool to the round up.

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20150922_165018While I was at it I managed to make another tool I have been waiting on for no apparent reason, a jeweler’s fork, or as it is more commonly known, a bench pin. I’m not sure why I waited so long to make one, but here it is.

After getting the tools in place I worked on a few test projects and was reasonably happy with the results. Two copper rings, one with an aircraft rivet, a copper button, and a practice go at a cross-peened leaf which is a component to something as of yet undecided.

I like working copper, particularly recovered/recycled copper. There is so much you can do with it. The leaf and solid ring were made from old copper pipe, the riveted one was made from some salvage electrical wire, and the button was made from some fourth-hand scrap copper sheet.
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While in the groove I also “recovered” some tool steel from some old screwdrivers and annealed them so I can turn them into some jewelry tools before re-hardening and tempering them. Another simple tool build was a pack of sanding sticks.

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The last thing on the list is my continued studies for my Commercial Radio Tech license. I passed on of the three a couple of weeks ago and plan on taking the big one next week. I will follow up with the third, which is for an endorsement, later on in the month.

That’s it for now, until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Is a blog just a blog?

Sorry about yesterdays disjointed post. I’m really not sure what happened, other than distraction and a somewhat confused general state of mind after spending the day in the shop cleaning up.

This morning I am gonna’ do a little house cleaning here on the blog.

I had set up a blog for Off Grid stuff. If you know me IRL you know I want to live ether next to, or near by a small airport away from “the city.” Hey, I am a small town kind of guy. I also want to be living as self-sufficiently as possible. The Off Grid blog had a few entries that I wanted to keep so I moved them her to FBJ and closed down that blog. If you are interested, they are in the Off Grid category on this site and I will be posting any new stuff here.

It seems like the FBJ site has always been somewhat enigmatic to me. Maybe it’s my OCD that gets in the way of just posting when the mood strikes. I like to have things compartmentalized into there own little categories separate from each other. Having an idea for a post is one thing, I have them all the time, what usually keeps me from posting is where to post it. This gets messy when you have so many interests, and worse when you have a bunch of topic specific blogs. So here we are again, It all comes back to FBJ. I am going to try and post when the ideas strike rather than saying to myself that it should be posted somewhere specific to that interest.

I will continue posting to Lumber Jocks because I am participating in the woodworking community there and that interaction is important to me.

The Vintage Aero Works site and blog are still in the planning stages, but that site will most definitely be reserved for aircraft restoration projects and related topics. it will be my commercial/professional website.

So what will be posted here on FBJ? A little bit of everything. A lot of aviation, some school related posts, woodworking adventures which will mostly be tool and aircraft related along with skill builders and cabinetry work, and any progress in moving off grid and all of its related topics. All of this along with an occasional soapbox post on politics, religion, philosophy, the economy, or anything else that pops up.

One of my goals for this year is to be more engaged with the FBJ site. We shall see how it goes.

Until next time. Peace, Love and Airplanes.
~FlyBoyJon

Something about lumber

We Can Do ItIv’e spent some time sourcing materials the last two months and I found out a few things; the most important of which is that it is good to look for local suppliers of wood products. Having said that, I am going to be buying my lumber from Aircraft Spruce. “What the what?” you may be thinking, well here’s the thing, I have been poking around for spruce and doug fir as well as marine plywood. The 1/16″ plywood is a flat out no-go any where else locally. The 1/4″ and 1/8″ plywood can be found locally but the quality varies widely as does the price. I thought I had a supplier for a really low price, turns out the quality matched the price.

I had much better results in the Lumber search in that I could find good quality doug fir. The price for it matched or in some cases exceeded the cost of spruce, which I could not find locally, at least not in quantity or quality. So I am back to Aircraft Spruce, not that this is a bad thing mind you. The main reason I was looking to buy locally is I try to do that with everything. Buying locally improves the local economy, and buying from small business helps revitalize the vanishing middle class. At least I can say in this case that I will be buying regionally from a small/mid-sized company. Aircraft Spruce has a store down in southern California, it’s a seven plus hour drive from San Jose, but paying for gas is considerably cheaper than the freight costs having it shipped up to me. I plan on buying stock sizes and milling myself to keep the costs down and ensure ready availability.

Now that I am back to were I was last month as far as the materials quest goes, I am more prepared and knowledgeable in the area of aircraft lumber. I know what I can get and where to get it, as well as what substitutions I can make for specific applications. It looks like the plywood is going to come in just shy of $1,000 (materials and tax). I need to calculate the lumber requirements, that is this weeks project, but I am estimating that to be about $500. I will need a few odds and ends to have on hand, basic airframe materials, so I am planning on a $2,000 trip including the round trip fuel for the van and me. It’ll be a long day but a fun one I am sure.

The only tool I need to look into at this stage is a plainer which I am sure I can find at Harbor Freight in Newark. I also need to make a router table top and several jigs for cutting precisely duplicated wing ribs, all of the materials for this stuff I ether have or can find locally on the cheap. All-in-all I think I am getting really close to making a lot of saw dust.

Until next time, blue skies and tailwinds,
~FlyBoyJon

The Long and the Short of it…

PlanningThere has been a lot going on in and around the old homestead. Some of it has even been aviation related!

To begin with, I spent the last month clearing out old projects. Ether finishing them or cutting them off my list of things to do. I have also decided that 2011 is going to be a year of completing outstanding projects and divesting of outmoded ones. I have been completing little projects right and left and trying really hard not to start new ones, even small ones.

All this housecleaning has also got me organizing and prioritizing the projects I am working on. Always number one on the priorities list is family. Next on the list, out of necessity, is the day job. I have a lot of flexibility here but I need to stay on top of work projects and close out as many as possible by years end.

The third in line on the priority list is school. I enrolled in classes for the Spring term at San Jose City College. A couple of years ago I enrolled at Mountain State University in an Aviation BS distance learning program. Without going into too much detail, I had a 4.0 at MSU, I even made the Dean’s List. Something happened and my GPA hit the floor causing me to loose my funding. I need to bring my overall GPA back up before I can go back and finish my degree at MSU, enter SJCC. I am working on a General AS in Physical Sciences with concentrations in Physics and Chemistry. This is a long term goal, but I need to stick with it. It needs to be a priority.

My fourth priority area is aviation. In truth, this one will move up one or two spots on the list as things progress. This is a broad area because it includes so many small(ish) goals for various endorsements, ratings, and additional certificates. The top of the list here is building the Volksplane. Building an airplane ties into a lot of areas within aviation that are important to me. One of which is working on my A&P Mechanic Certificate.

Having defined these areas and the goals within them, I outlined processes to get to the goals. Since then I have been streamlining. The biggest challenge for me in recent years has been motivation. I suppose that is because up until recently I didn’t really have a defined life goal. I have talents in many areas and I have been searching for some way to incorporate as many as I can into some kind of commercial enterprise. Up to this point I haven’t been able to pull that one off.

I have known for several years that I needed to find a life goal but it always seemed to elude me by staying in the shadows as some vaporous, obscure conglomeration of skill sets that looked like they might work themselves into a good gig. Since that approach didn’t worked, it was time to make the damn decision once and for all. Looking at the non-family things that really bring me joy and satisfaction and making a career out of them, I find myself happy with the results. What I want to do is build, repair, restore, and maintain aircraft. In short, that makes me a mechanic; it also includes many ancillary aviation related things, and thats fine by me.

As for other interests, if it doesn’t move me towards my goal, I am not going to spend a lot of time on it, if any.

Sitting here thinking and typing this post I am feeling a lot of life stress dissipating. For the first time in my life I can see myself twenty years from now doing something I love to do, and actually know what it is. I could be anywhere, as long as I’m in a hanger with tools, music, and an airplane destined to fly again.

Keep moving forward!

As you may have guessed, the day job got in the way of my preferred interests making it hard to get anything done on the airplane. But, now I’m back in the shop going over the construction plans trying to decide where to begin. Most builders seemed to start with the empennage. Building the vertical stabilizer and the horizontal stabilizer first. Because of my shop’s space limitations, I’m thinking about starting with the bulkheads; building the firewall bulkhead, forward spar bulkhead, aft spar bulkhead, and lastly the stern post.

VP-2After the bulkheads are built I can do a temporary fit of the cabin, building the seat components and cabin floor structure without permanently affixing them to short, temporary longerons. I can’t build the completed fuselage just yet, there is just nowhere to put it. Next I can move on to wing ribs, horizontal stabilator ribs, and vertical stabilizer ribs. With all of the ribs cut I can go ahead and start building larger assemblies. I should have enough room to easily store the completed vertical stabilizer. Then I can move on to the horizontal stabilator spar and the stabilator itself.

With the empennage components completed I can move on to other assemblies, forwards spars, aft spars, fuel tank, control stick, landing gear and such. By the time I get to this point, I should have access to a larger space for fuselage construction then I can put it all together. At least that is the plan for now.

As I’m sure you figured out by now, because of my space limitations I am looking to build flat components first, then flat and/or small assemblies. This should keep my space requirements to a minimum until absolutely necessary for the fuselage. The longer I can keep the build in a small space the better.

On another subject, I have been reconsidering the model this last week. The paper laminates that I planned on using as plywood substitutes for the 1:4 scale model just don’t provide enough structural support or hold shape well enough for me to consider them viable, especially the two-ply and four-ply laminates. I had thought about purchasing some balsa materials in the proper size but I almost fell over when I saw how expensive balsa wood has gotten. Another problem is the mechanics of milling small pieces of material from Douglas fir. That being said, I have decided to go with the VP-2 rather than the VP-1 and build it as a single place instead of a two-seater. Because I don’t need to compare the airframes, I don’t really need to do the model. If I run into a problem I can always model the assemblies involved if I need a solid reference.

Following the plan outlined above and building the bulkheads first all I should need to put together right now is a materials list for the bulkheads, source it out and figure what my cost are going to be. I already have some of the Douglas fir and I know where to get everything else I need, so this should be little more than an academic exercise, until I start making saw dust anyway. Oooo… sawdust… I am really looking forward to building.

Until next time, blue skies and tailwinds.
~Jon

Back on track

Greetings Intrepid Aviators,

The last few days have been plagued with zombies; no seriously, take a look . Now that the zombie menace has been put down for the year, they will be back next year, it’s time to get back on track with the matter at hand, building an airplane.

Nothing new has been done on the 1:4 scale since last week, but I have had some thoughts on the matter. I think making the paper laminates in smaller sections rather than the 24” x 12” pieces I planned on, using thinned glue, and pressing the material with more weight should help make the resulting material a high quality substitute for very thin plywood. This week I am going to focus on the laminate first and then if all is going well I will get started milling the lumber materials from the Dough Fur I purchased last week.

VP-2Another task for this, and the next few weeks is to dive into the plans in much more detail. I have looked over both the VP-1 and VP-2 plans but I have not really focused on them in detail or thought about what assemblies to begin with. I am considering picking up a large drawing pad and redrawing the plans so that all of the details for a sub assembly will be presented on a single sheet. I like to study the details of drawings and plans by reproducing them by hand. The process helps create 3D models of each piece and assembly and how they interrelate with other parts. It gives me a clearer vision of the entire plane and all of its component parts. By redrawing the plans I will also be able to come up with a complete parts list, assembly parts lists, work operations list by assemblies, and other useful administrative minutia that should make the build go smoothly for me. A side benefit is taking the time to include the 1:4 scale dimensions in parenthesis alongside the full scale dimensions.

All of this may sound like it is complete over-kill, and it may be, but it’s how I work. I like to plot out all of the details and have contingencies for problematic areas. It comes from decades of working with non-profit groups and producing events. Even though I have been harassed mercilessly for taking so much time in planning to the smallest detail, everything works out smoothly even in the face of adversities most of the time. It is an attitude thing, too. When running an event, it is easy for panic and frustration to kick in when something starts to turn south, particularly during the event. It’s all about focusing on solving the problem at hand, removing the cause, and smoothing out the bumps. Oh, and doing it all behind the scenes without the general public knowing it happened at all. All in a day’s work as they say.

Blue skies and tailwinds,
~Jon

Materials

Got out this morning and did another material sourcing run. It didn’t go as well as I had hopped, but that’s okay. I have made some solid decisions on materials and can now start buying what I need for the 1:4 scale project, as well as buying materials for the full scale airplane. Full steam ahead!

Full Scale

First and foremost, I’ve been able to source a majority of wood products locally. However, it looks as though I will have to run with one of the regular aviation suppliers for the 1/16″ plywood. I can find 1/4″ and 1/8″ but that’s as thin as local suppliers carry. 1/4″ AA marine is relatively easy to find, 1/8″ is tougher, 1/16″ is nearly impossible in any grade.

I found a local source for aircraft cables of the mechanical control variety; not electrical, which I suppose would be obvious to anyone who has been reading this blog since I don’t plan on installing an electrical system in the airplane. It looks like Orchard Supply carries aircraft cable as a regular item.

A local supplier for composite materials is TAP Plastics. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be particularly difficult getting some of the composite supplies locally. They don’t have all of the right fabrics, but they do have some. I am not sure about the resin and epoxy they stock, but for the basic materials to work with them, well those they have in spades. I will check out the chemical stuff later when I get to a point that I actually need to think about composites.

1:4 scale

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I will need to manufacture the ply products I need. The lumber is readily available, ply products on the other hand… With the full scale ply sizes being 1/4″, 1/8″, and 1/16″ the 1:4 sizes are 1/16″, 1/32″, and 1/64″ respectively. As I said earlier in this post, it is tough if not impossible to find ply this thin anywhere locally. So, I have resigned myself to the arduous task of manufacturing a replacement material.

At this point I think it will be a laminated paper product. Layers of a a heavy water-color paper should do nicely, maybe a 25 sheet pad. With any luck the end product will be moderately stiff ply-board in the appropriate thicknesses. In 1:4 scale a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood is only 1’x2′ so it shouldn’t be difficult to find the paper stock large enough. I was thinking of using Gorilla Glue as the laminating adhesive mainly because it is very strong and you can use water to thin it for spreading a very thin layer evenly across the surfaces of the laminates. I was hoping to avoid this but ya gotta do, what ya gotta do.

Composites

In truth the only composite parts that I would need to build are the engine cowling and the turtle-deck faring which isn’t even a required part, though, I must admit, I am definitely warming up to the idea.

The EAA Chapter 62 meeting I mentioned in the last post got me thinking about composite materials and processes. I haven’t done any fiberglass work in a long time but that is going to change with a day-job project that I recently started. It has some fiberglass work that needs to be done, so I figured I could brush up on those skills and maybe put some of the new techniques into action.

I purchased a book on fiberglass repair and construction to refresh the old gray matter on the subject. It has nothing to do with aviation but it is all about the basic skills for fabrication and repair in the medium. The book was published in 1988 so some things might be a little different or out of date material-wise, but the skills should transfer reasonably well.

Till next time, blue skies and tail winds,
~FlyBoyJon