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Progress so far

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I have had a go at working with aluminium for the first time. Working out quite well.. Right now I have three ribs mostly completed. Two inner ribs with a relief in the corners and one without the relief which will be on the of the ends for the tank. The relief is not cut in the ends as the corners will get welded.

Last thing to do is final sand the edges and then drill/cut the lightening holes with a  flanging to finish. Then it will be onto the tank skin.




Time for something new

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Ok given my wing kit despatch is now 3 months late, I am running out of things to do. So in order to keep making some progress I have decided to have a  go at something new, the top wing centre section fuel tank.

I have ordered the aluminium sheet locally and ordered parts from Aircraft Spruce. I found a bead roller and sheet metal brake online so am fully equipped to do this.

This week I started with making the template/jig for the ribs for the tank. In the picture below the 5/8″ thick template will be used to bend the flange edges over the template. You can see the template sitting on the template for the inside dimensions of the actual spacing between the spars. The tank will be about 40″ wide. If you are building this tank, note that the Steen plans have the incorrect width of this tank on the plans. Re-measure to be sure. I also want to put a capacitive probe in it…these have about 3/4″ on the outside of the tank so you need to make allowance for that spacing. Remember the tank needs to be centred to be balanced too so whatever space you leave on one side, you will need on the other.


I haven’t stopped building…

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…but building has slowed as I am waiting for my Steen Aero Wing Kit. It was ordered in July and still waiting. Was hoping to get it before Christmas, but still hasn’t been completed. I am told its the laminated spars that are holding things up. It may be because they are building the delta spar mod and my guess is this may be the first time they have done it.

In the mean time I am trying to find little things to do. I have ordered the components for the upper wing fuel tank and will start on that if it doesnt arrive soon.

Stay tuned.

Fitting Hand Rail

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From the last post I was making up the rear handrail that runs along the rear of the top wing centre section. In this post you will see the fitting of the rail to the rear section. It required trimming the hand rail itself and sanding the profile into the trailing ribs from the rear spar. I can see that the gap here particularly in the outboard bays will, once some supporting blocking is added will need to be filled with foam and glassed to get a smooth solid surface for the fabric to stick to. Of course that will be later as I won’t be doing any more to this section now until it is trial fitted to the fuselage.


In the photos above you will also notice that I have trimmed and prepared the bottom section of plywood. This will provide structure for the “box” that is the centre section. In addition it will contain the large (relative to the standard Skybolt) upper fuel tank.

The piece of timber laying on top (though the centre section is on the bench upside down) is the first of three laminated stringers that run front to back and screw into the spar. This will provide further strength to the front leading edge, centre section bottom ply and add rigidity to the complete centre section.

You can never have too many clamps

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I remember reading on some build posts about the need for a large number of clamps. I have found myself drawing the same conclusion. I find every time I walk into a hardware store I pick up a couple of clamps of differing kinds as the use of them changes.

I can confirm, if you are building a wooden plane – they are your best friend. I must also say you get very adept at putting them on even with one hand.

Below is some pictures of the laminating process for the hand hold that sits at the rear of the top wing centre section. Most of this will be covered eventually except the middle which will assist the passenger in the front pit extracting themselves on the way out.

How to Make Ribs

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OK a quick tutorial on how to make wooden wing ribs.

Step 1: If you want to do this the easy way…. but a wing rib kit from Steen (if you are building a Skybolt) as well as the rib jigs. If you dont want to buy the gussets, capstrip and jigs – thats fine you can make them, but man that would take a lot of time

Step 2: From here I am using a rib kit and the jigs. Next step is to lay some Glad Bake into the jig. This stops the glue sticking. Then cut out the gussets from the sheets that come with the kit. One sheet per rib. It does take a bit of tim to figure out which of the 6 jigs to use. Once you have done a couple you can figure that out. You will notice in the picture below that the nose rib is already cut – another time saving from the kit.




Step 3: Trim Capstrip and lay it in. You will notice that you need to notch the fronts of the top and bottom cap strip to lock it into the nose rib infill. Trim the rest. I do the verticals first then the angles.

Step 4: Glue. Now once its laid in, I pull it all apart again to start the glueing process. I do one rib in about 35 minutes. Each piece needs to have glue added in the right spot in the joint starting with the bottom gusset, then lay the cap strip in then add the top gussets.

Step 5: Lay another sheet of Glad Bake on top of the ribs, ready to sandwich between the bottom of the jig and the perspex overlay


Step 6: Place the top on and clamp to hold flat. Once clamped drying only takes about 12 hours.


Step 7: Once dried and removed from the jig, there is quiet  bit of sanding that is required. What I have done is use a file with the jig in a vice to file out the spar location holes, then used a linisher to sand any glue on the outside of the rib. Any further removal of glue for example on the cap strip is done with a file.

Step 8: Once all of the ribs are dry I then joined them up to profile sand. This takes quite some time to get the profile of the ribs together so they are the exact same size and profile


Step 9: All done and ready for placement onto the spars




Still Going

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It has been a few weeks and no posts, but that is largely because I am still doing the same thing. Glueing ribs. Whilst they are often a little different, it is the same process and the pics are identical. I have made two customisations on the lower inboard ribs.

On the butt rib I have made them half inch wide, not 1/4inch like the rest of the ribs and then on the rib outboard of that, I have sheeting the whole of the inboard side. This is all in order to strengthen the wing walk area on both wings. That way….people can walk over the top on a little more than egg shells.

Next post will be the last rib…given this morning I glued the second last rib. The end is in site. Unfortunately by Wing Kit is not.