Chapter 25 – Final finishing
This chapter deals with filling in the weave of the fiberglass layup to give the plane a nice smooth, wind cheating finish. Many builders find this to be the worst part of the whole building experience. You put a mixture of epoxy and glass bubbles called “dry micro” over the top of the fiberglass weave and then sand, sand, sand, and sand some more. It is somewhat tedious but I find it gratifying once you see the final form come out.
I started this chapter for two reasons. The first was I didn’t want to spend 500-700 hours at the end of the project finishing the whole plane. This way I have finished the canard, bottom of the fuselage, main gear legs, and landing gear cover. I am looking forward to doing something else now so I will put off some more finishing until I get sick of doing the long layups on the wings. The second reason was I was saving up some money for the building of the wings, but I didn’t want to stop the building process for 3 months. Fortunately, a gallon of West system epoxy wasn’t that much so I was able to continue the project on very little money. That’s what is nice about building from plans. You don’t have that monthly payment of a kit hanging over your head even if you’re not building.
Here is the bottom of the fuselage with the first coat on it before sanding. I actually microed the landing brake and main gear cover in place. I sanded them as if they were a permanent part of the fuselage. This gave me a perfect transition from fuselage to cover. Once I was satisfied with the shape and contour, I cut both pieces out with a utility knife. This was a lot of extra work, but in the end it paid off in appearance.
Here is the landing cover still epoxied in place but the sanding is complete. Once it was cut out, it lined up perfectly with the bottom. You can also see the fairing board I use for the sanding. My brother is in to restoring wooden boats and he recommended it. It is a 3M product and the sandpaper is held on by velcro. It really works great!
Here is part of the gear leg with the first coat applied before sanding.
During the winter months I do some
finishing work because with the West system it doesn’t require a 75 degree
temperature in the garage like the MGS epoxy used in fiberglass layups. Using the 205
fast hardener calls for an ideal shop temperature of 60-65 degrees. Perfect for the mild
On to the updates……….I have basically filled the top and bottom of both wings and ailerons. I also completed the inside and outside sections of the winglets and rudders. You can see in the photos that I did not complete the entire wing. I left about the first 3 feet of the inboard section of the wing because this will have to be faired into the strakes once they are constructed. I also filled the fiberglass weave in the rudder and aileron depressions in the trailing edges of the winglet and wing. This area is not easily seen when the plane is fully assembled but it didn’t take too long to do it so I thought it would just add a more finished look.
The picture on the left shows me working on the bottom of the left wing. You can see I had to raise the workbench up so the winglet would clear the floor. Yes, the dust particles from sanding go everywhere and make the photo look like it is snowing in the shop. The right picture shows finishing work on the winglet/rudder.
I figure I am at least half way done with the finishing portion now that the bottom of the fuselage, canard, elevators, main gear struts, most of the wings, ailerons, winglets, and rudders are all filled. I just have the strakes, and sides of the fuselage to complete. That portion will start next fall…….on to Chapter 16 and the installation of the control tubes and the side sticks.
Total time to date for this chapter….260.7 hours.
Before I permanently attached the
turtle back, I figured it would be much easier to complete as much of the
interior work as possible. I have decided to fill the weave with micro
just like on the exterior of the plane and paint it a similar color to the
leather seats I will eventually choose. Many may think I’m nuts, there certainly is
plenty of glass to fill on the outside. Why torture myself doing all that
sanding on the inside as well. Well, I’m
only building one of these and I don't like looking at the fiberglass weave.
Below is a picture of the back of
the front seat back and brace the have been filled.
Below is a picture of the back of the front seat back and brace the have been filled.
I spent most of April and May doing the usual fill and sand routine while I waited for the engine and engine mount to show up….Not too much exciting here but did use Wayne Hicks’ method for closing out the wing/strake junction. The issue is on both the wing and the strake, the corners have to be radiused so the glass will lay flat when you do the layups. This, along with the mounting hardware, causes a considerable gap between the wind and the main spar as shown in the picture below.
I just filled the gap with a slice of foam and glassed over it with two plys of bid.
Once this was done, I just filled the area with micro and sanded a very smooth transition from spar to wing as if it were one piece. After the sanding was complete, I cut a nice straight 1/16” seam so the wing can be removed….Mercedes and Lexus would be proud! It doesn't look good in this picture due to the low resolution of the digital picture, but it came out beautifully!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I’ve gotten numerous requests for an update….well, I finally have something to write about. For the last 4 months since my last update, it has been more of the same old song…fill, sand, fill, sand…..you can see plenty of that at the beginning of this chapter.
I finally got everything filled both on the exterior and the interior. I wanted to get the interior painted first because some of the exterior color would be used on the inside of things like the canopy and the top of the front seat brace. Here are a few pics of the interior all taped off for painting. Everything that is taped off will either be upholstered or painted white. I will be doing a minimal amount of upholstery simply to keep the plane as light as possible. The seats will be done in a light gray leather and the side panels will be done in either a faux leather or ultra suede type of material….I haven’t decided yet.
Front seats Rear seat area
Once this was done, I used some Zolotone light gray paint. It is user friendly and doesn’t
contain any of the nasty isocyante poisons found in other epoxy paints. I figured I could
spray this myself using my charcoal respirator. Below is the completed job…..
Next, it was on to priming the exterior….I used PPG Concept primer. Other builders
have had luck rolling it on. It goes on thicker than spraying and fills many of the small
pinholes that were missed in the skim coat. Once this was applied and sanded, I used
a can of black spray paint to spray a light coat of contrast color onto the primer to locate
the last of the dreaded pinholes. You sand the black off with 320 and any black color
that is left is in a pinhole. Fill it and you are done. This was a very labor intensive
portion to the project, but in the end it was well worth it. Here is a picture of the canopy
with the black contrast coat applied before sanding….
There has been an aged old debate on whether to paint the plane before first flight, or after flying it for sometime. It goes something like…..don’t paint it until after you have flown it because there will be modifications to wing incidence, canard angle of attack, etc, and you will have to repaint the altered areas…….the other side is if you don’t paint it before first flight, you will never get the primer clean enough from bug splats, oil and fuel residue, etc. and the paint won’t stick…..Well, I opted to paint first….I guess I am an optimist and hope there won’t be many modifications I will need to make.
With the decision made, I opted to have a paint shop paint the plane for several reasons. The epoxy paint I wanted to use has all kinds of nasty chemicals in it. A proper respirator system would cost around $800. I’m sure I couldn’t get the results that a professional can attain, and I didn’t need to have my next door hanger mate come by and say his nice white Mooney now had a nice blue overspray on it. Since the plane isn’t flyable yet, my choices were limited. I could truck everything to a paint shop…a major pain,
or I could at least check out the the paint shop that was right on the field. Kracon Aircraft Refinishing (www.Kracon.com) has been in business since 1972. They have painted everything from Cessna 150’s to Mig 17 fighters. When I first stopped in, they were in the process of painting a glider for the US NAVY. Actually, they had 2 other Bonanzas and a Piper in various stages of stripping and priming as well. A busy little outfit. I wanted to do all the labor intensive stuff like sanding, taping, laying out the scheme, etc. I was hoping they would basically just spray the paint…..after our first discussion, they said, “yeah, whatever you want us to do” They charged a flat $90/hr. labor rate and provided all paint and supplies at their cost. Very fair and great people to work with! If you’re interested, ask for Erin or Terry. They were on the other side of the field from my hanger and I needed to walk the plane about a half mile each direction…..on three separate occasions. I received numerous comments from pilots on the way…..”Hey, you’re supposed to fly those things”…..”Taking your plane out for a walk?” etc.
Here are some shots of various steps in the process. They sprayed the white first…..
Then the Silver
and lastly the blue
My inspiration for the paint scheme was the Honda jet
And here’s the final product.
The pictures were taken in the early evening and just don’t do the colors justice. I’m very pleased with the results….this was a long tough portion of the project and I’m glad it’s done. I’m afraid of totaling up the hours but I know it is over 1000 hours.