What tools do I need to build an airplane?
is best to refer to the building manual provided with your kit. It
should provide a recommended tool list. If you cannot locate the list,
check with your kit supplier. We have designed our RV toolkit using the
Van’s Aircraft list. This list can be found in the beginning of our
catalog. Stoodard Hamilton provided us with a recommended tool kit
package for the Glastar, and this suggestion is available as our
“Glastar Tool Kit”.
Do I really need all of that?
you do not absolutely need every item included in the lists; however
you should try to have all of the tools the kit manufacturer
recommends. Remember – not having the right tool for a job can make the
task much more difficult and time consuming, and may result in added
frustration and sub-standard results. First, look around your shop –
you may already have a few of the tools needed. You could start with
the basics: a rivet gun, a few rivet sets, a bucking bar; and add the
rest of the tools as you find a need for them and can afford them. Keep
in mind that our catalog and the tool kits are full of items that are
great time-savers and frustration-preventers. The best advice is to go
out and talk to people who are building or have built a project like
yours, and ask what they experienced - Even better, take a weekend
sheet metal course.
What size air compressor do I need?
most air tools a 2 to 5 H.P. portable compressor is adequate. Check the
CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating of the compressor. Most air tools
(drills, die grinders, rivet guns) are rated from 2 to 6 CFM for
continuous use. Keep in mind that you will not be drilling or riveting
for long periods, so the compressor will not need to run continuously.
The exception is if you plan to paint your airplane – Then get a
compressor big enough to furnish a continuous air supply for the paint
gun you plan to use.
Helpful air tool tips
tools should be oiled frequently when in use with a non-detergent type
oil. We recommend 4 or 5 drops of air tool oil, or Marvel Mystery Oil,
through the rear air inlet of the tool. If possible, a fog type oiler
is recommended. Check your air compressor daily for excess water, and
drain as necessary. Moisture greatly affects and reduces tool life and
efficiency. 120 P.S.I. is maximum satisfactory pressure for most air
tools, consult the mfg. specifications. Store your air tools in a clean
and dry place when not in use. Also, cover air inlets and rivet gun
barrels to keep bugs and foreign matter out. Lubricate and run air
tools frequently to avoid corrosion and gumming of lubricants.
Measuring tips for AN bolts Do AN bolt length “numbers” confuse you??
is the secret of how to measure bolt lengths with a scale. AN BOLT
LENGTHS ARE MEASURED IN INCREMENTS OF 1/8 INCH. Example: a –4 length is
4/8ths, or ½ inch; a –6 is 6/8ths, or ¾ inch; and a –7 is 7/8 inch.
Note: After a –7 the next size is a –10; this bolt would be one inch
long. At one inch, the 2 digit numbers start. You now read the first
number as full inches and the second number as fractions of an inch in
1/8ths. Example: a –13 length is 1 and 3/8 inch; a –25 length is 2 and
5/8ths; a –34 length is 3 and ½ inches. Note: This length is measured
from under the bolt head to the end of the threads. Also, note that
bolt diameters are measured in 1/16ths. A –3 diameter is 3/16 inch; and
a –4 diameter is 4/16 or ¼ inch. SIMPLE GRADE SCHOOL FRACTIONS!!!
Which squeezer, Tatco or Avery?
Tatco squeezers are good, light duty squeezers. The deepest (largest)
yoke available for a Tatco is 3 inches deep. Tatco yokes are only
available from a Tatco source and no other yokes will interchange with
The Avery squeezers are heavier duty and
standard CP-214 style pneumatic squeezer yokes that are standard to the
aircraft industry, and are available from any aircraft tool supplier.
More sizes of yokes are available for the Avery squeezer – up to 4
inches deep, plus three sizes of no-hole yokes, and a longeron yoke.
Consider starting with the Avery hand squeezer, and if you ever decide
to upgrade to a pneumatic squeezer, all you need to buy is the squeezer
body. All of the Avery hand squeezer yokes will fit on the Chicago
style pneumatic squeezer.
Do I need (have to have) a pneumatic squeezer or a hand
dimpling and flush riveting a hand (or pneumatic) squeezer is a
necessary tool to have. Hand squeezers are adequate for most builders
to build with. If you have problems with repetitive motion or stiffness
of the finger joints, consider a pneumatic squeezer as they are easier
to use and put less stress and wear on the hands. (Ask fellow builders
that have pneumatic squeezers their opinion and most will say it’s the
best, most useful tool they ever bought.)
What size hand squeezer do I need?
rivet squeezers are used for setting rivets around the edges of parts
and for dimpling rib and spar flanges. By squeezing the handles
together by hand, force is applied through leverage to an adjustable
set holder that squeezes dies together to set a rivet or dimple. Hand
squeezing 1/8” and larger rivets takes considerable more effort than
dimpling, and rivets larger than 1/8” are normally set with a rivet gun.
In most instances, a 1-1/2” or 2 inch
yoke squeezer is
all you need since most rib and spar flanges are less than 1 inch wide.
Anything further in can be done with a rivet gun and bucking bar. With
a squeezer that has removable/replaceable yokes, you could add a larger
yoke if and when you find a need for one later during your project.
You could choose a large yoke to start with, say a 3 inch yoke. This
would give you the flexibility to do flanges as well as reach rivets up
to 3 inches in from the edge of parts. The only disadvantage to the
larger yokes (beside the added cost) is that they are bigger, heavier,
and the larger yokes flex open a little when squeezing 1/8 inch rivets.
(Yokes larger than 3 inches tend to flex or spread open enough to
change the alignment between the dies and this makes setting rivets
much more difficult, if not impossible to set – better results are
usually obtained with a rivet gun and bucking bar.)
How do I change squeezer yokes?
the Tatco hand squeezers there are (3) 1\4 inch roll pins that you
drive out with a hammer and punch to change yokes. (You can replace
these roll pins with bolts or quick release pins.) On Avery hand
squeezers we use 2 quick release pins for easier/quicker yoke changes.
How do I set/adjust squeezers for different length rivets?
squeezers have adjustable set holders (the part that moves up &
down when you move the handle). These set holders are internally
threaded and screw up & down to give you a range of adjustment.
Pneumatic squeezers have a rigid set holder and you adjust the die
height by adding shim washers of different thickness, and/or use
different height flat set holders. (Note: We make an adjustable set
holder for pneumatic squeezers that works the same as the set holders
on hand squeezers.)
Which rivet gun do I need, a 2X or 3X?
the 2X & 3X guns will set 3/32 inch and 1/8 inch rivets. The 2X
has a shorter stroke and shorter (lighter) piston, and hits more blows
per minute – the blows are lighter than a 3X, thus it takes longer to
set a rivet with a 2X gun. The 2X gun is a little easier to control.
The 3X gun has a longer stroke and longer (heavier) piston, and hits
fewer blows per minute – the blows are heavier than a 2X, thus it takes
a shorter time to set a rivet. Keep in mind you can regulate your air
pressure up or down to make either a 2X or 3X gun hit harder or
lighter. Suggestion: Contact other builders in your area and try out
both a 2X and 3X gun. Choosing a rivet gun can come down to a personal
preference of how a particular gun feels to each individual. Note: The
4X gun is just bigger (longer) than a 3X gun and has a ¼ inch rivet
Rivet Gun Springs:
beehive spring works with all straight or angle rivet sets. You have to
screw the spring on or off each time you change sets. The quick-change
spring works with any set (straight or flush) and the wire is light
duty enough to be able to leave the spring on the gun and bend the wire
end out and remove/replace the set quicker.
Can I use an “air hammer/chisel” in place of a rivet gun?
hammer/chisel guns are designed for hitting hard and do not have a
teasing trigger like a rivet gun. The results will not be good.
Suggestion: Find another builder in your area with a real rivet gun and
set some rivets with it and set some with a muffler cutter (air hammer)
and compare the results.
Helpful riveting tips
riveting with a universal rivet set you may experience marks on the
head of the rivet from time to time. An old riveting trick is to put
one or two pieces of masking tape on the end of the set (sticky side
into the cupping), and this will usually help cushion and protect the
rivet head. Note: The tape will have to be replaced every 4th or 5th
rivet as the tape wears out. Also, a piece of masking tape put on the
face of a flush rivet set will keep the set from leaving black marks on
the surface of the work. This tape will have to be replaced
periodically when it wears through.
15: Punch use
you have a rivet that will not go in a hole, use a punch to align holes
in mating parts – Just insert the punch in the hole and twist around in
a circular motion and this will pull the parts together in alignment.
If the rivet is still tight, you can repeat with a little more circular
force and the punch motion will actually enlarge the hole slightly
(Practice this slowly so you don’t oversize the hole.).
When removing rivets, drill into the
rivet head to a
depth equal to the height of the head (Caution – any deeper may damage
the hole in the part.), and use a punch the size of the drill to break
or snap off the rivet head; then drive the rivet shank out with the
punch. You may need to back up the rivet when punching it out – A
simple method is to use a block of wood or plastic with a drilled hole
large enough for the rivet shank to fall into. The block supports the
area around the rivet, plus does not mar the surface; however, this may
take an extra hand to accomplish.
Bucking bar tips
come in many shapes and sizes. Generally the heavier the bar, the
better the bar works for upsetting the shop head side of the rivet.
Also, the larger the working face size; the less chance you will slip
off the face and damage the work or rivet. Most bucking bars have two
surfaces polished to set rivets on, and the rest of the bar will be a
roughcast finish. You can get extra versatility out of a bar if you
belt sand and polish some of the other cast surfaces – usually a side,
edge, or opposite end. Use a belt sander first, and then a Scotch-Brite
wheel to finish. In a pinch, you can use any steel object as a bucking
bar – Look around your shop and toolbox and you will usually find a
tool or part that will work as a bucking bar. (It does not need to be
heat treated if used for just a few rivets.)
Can I use my cordless drill instead of an air drill?
cordless drills are fine. Their rpm is slower but cordless drills work
fine for hole drilling, countersinking, etc. Note: Sometimes the slower
speed of a cordless drill is an advantage for countersinking (The
slower speed reduces the chances of the cutter chattering in the hole.).
duplicators Always use a drill stop on your drill when using a strap
duplicator. Preset the drill depth to avoid drilling into the bottom
part of the strap duplicator. (The guide pin piece is not hardened.)
Repeated drilling into the bottom part will eventually drill thru and
cause the guide pin to fall off and will ruin the strap duplicator.
nutplates first drill a clearance hole for the screw (should be the
same size as the large pin on the nutplate jig). Locate the jig with
the large pin in the hole (both a small and large pin will be sticking
up). Drill the first rivet hole with a #40 drill. Flip over the jig and
insert the large pin in the clearance hole and the small pin in the
first rivet hole just drilled. Drill the second rivet hole. Deburr and
countersink holes and install nutplate. In a pinch, you can use a
nutplate for a drill jig: Use a short screw or cleco to hold the
nutplate in position; drill the first rivet hole; temporarily use a
rivet to maintain the first hole location; then drill the second hole.
Deburr, countersink, etc.
Hole reaming tips:
a lubricant when reaming holes. Use a slow turning drill (electric or
cordless drill). Start with about a 1/32nd inch undersize hole and
finish ream to the desired hole size. Hold the drill and reamer square.
To make a temporary drill or reamer guide for holes in parts that
cannot be taken to a drill press, first drill or ream a guide hole in a
block of material (wood, aluminum, plastic, etc.) and clamp the block
onto your work – you now have a true and square hole guide.
Helpful metal cutting tips:
metal snips leave marks on the edge of the material – some worse than
others if the cutter jaws have serrations to grip the work. One way
around this is to not cut directly on a finish line, but to cut about
1/16th inch away from the finish line. This serves two purposes – first
it makes it easier to cut without worrying about cutting too deep or
staying on a straight line; second, the marks made by the snips will be
removed so they are not a problem. Use either a curved tooth file to
finish the edge down to the line; or use coarse emery cloth (60 grit
works fine) attached with staples or tacks to a straight board about 12
to 18 inches long. This sanding block will take the high spots down
quickly and leave you with an unmarked straight edge (no snip marks).
Be careful as the edges will be sharp until you deburr.
What are fluting pliers?
pliers are used to straighten rib flanges and to form curved stringers.
The jaws of the fluting pliers form the metal in a fashion that
“shrinks” a small section of a flange; as a small area is pushed down
it pulls the adjacent material into the bend. When this is done close
together you end up with a curved section of material –a quick and neat
way to make a curved stringer. Note: Our fluting pliers are capable of
forming a flute about ½ inch wide – so you can do a lot of fluting in a
small section. The type of fluting pliers that have molded plastic jaws
make a flute about ¾ inch to 1 inch wide and do not work as well when
trying to form curves and/or missing rivet spacing.
What is a hand seamer?
seamers are used like a hand-held bending brake. You can bend small
flanges, straighten flanges, bend tabs in different directions, etc.
with a hand seamer. For aircraft work make sure you get a hand seamer
that has a radius on the edge of the jaw so you don’t bend too sharp of
a radius and scratch or mark the inside of the bend radius (both are
bad practices for aircraft as fatigue cracks can result.).
Helpful deburring tips
Scotch-Brite wheels are primarily for deburring edges of aluminum
sheets. The wheels cut too much to be used on the surface of a skin
(The surface conditioning product is for that use.). It is a good
practice to first deburr the edges of aluminum sheets and parts with a
hand scraping tool (such as our #1046 swivel deburr or our #1044 double
edge tool). On the ends of angles and other parts it would be good to
belt sand or roughly file and roughly radius all sharp corners and
edges. Your wheels will last longer and wear down less quickly, if you
take this step before running the parts against the wheel. The
Scotch-Brite wheels can be dressed down when needed by carefully
running a sharp steel object (needs to be supported as rigidly as
possible) against the edge of the wheel while the wheel is turning.
Note: Whatever you use (old file, chisel, etc.) will be cut down, so
don’t use anything you do not wish to be dulled or cut down. Above all,
be extra careful and wear eye protection when dressing wheels - it’s
What drillpress do I need?
bench model drill press is adequate for most applications. One with
variable speeds (step pulleys) will be more useful. Consider mounting
your Scotch-Brite wheel on an arbor in the drill press. This gives you
more access to the wheel (than on a bench grinder with a guard). Plus
the horizontal location of the wheel makes edge deburring of large
pieces (such as wing skins) easier.
What kind of benchtop grinder do I need?
only use for a benchtop grinder would be for mounting a Scotch-Brite
wheel for deburring parts. The wheels have ½ inch thru-hole X 1 inch
depth X 6 inches diameter.
How many clecos
How many clecos for
doing both wings at once? 600 of the 3/32 1016s and 250 of the 1/8
Do you need the rivet fan spacing tool for the RVs?
Not for the newer models.
The rivet shaver bit
The rivet shaver bit
leave some marks on the surface. Builder needs to use a small file
and/or Scotchbrite and emery cloth to hand finish each rivet. The
Scotchbrite surface conditioning disk kits work good in a die grinder
to clean-up the heads of rivets, too.
To use the 150 air tool regulator:
with the little piston inside completely open. (Look thru the hole to
see this.) It is open when the piston is down. Then adjust the pressure
by turning the piston up towards the closed position until the pressure
the Parker Flaring Tool is making scratches, we have replacement cones.
Also use a lubricant – put a drop of oil on the tubing where it touches
Chattering Countersink Cutters:
should be done at a fairly slow speed, so slow down the air speed, or
use in a 1095 hex adapter with your own cordless drill or cordless
33: For replacement reduced
(Uh-Oh) – use NAS 1097 __ __;
available from Vans or Aircraft Spruce.