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Joe Graham's Online RV-7 Builder's Log

Building the Rudder Skins

It's time to build the rudder! Here is the left rudder skin as it came in the parts box. The rudder skins are only 0.016 inches thick, the thinnest material in the kit so far. They were duct taped to a piece of cardboard to help keep them rigid and in place during shipping. Van's has the packaging routine well defined. They really maximize the space in every box shipped. The RV-7 kit comes with the same rudder as the RV-9. There are two skins for the rudder that will be riveted together later. This is in lieu of the single folded RV-8 skin that used to come with the kit.

As stated above, the rudder skins are extremely thin. So to give them strength and rigidity, eight stiffeners are attached to the inside of each skin. Here is a picture of the angle stock from which the stiffeners are fabricated. Eight pieces of angle are provided. Each is cut in half, then each half is cut to length depending on the position it will be installed.

Here is a picture of the stiffeners after they were rough cut and the blue film was removed.

This picture shows a stiffener marked for cutting. Notches are provided in the angle material to indicate the end points of the cut lines. Metal shears make quick work of these cuts.


I stopped by ABF today on the way home from work to pick up my slow-build wing kit. Two crates of approximately 200 pounds each. I had envisioned a lot of trouble in getting them home, but this borrowed trailer (Thanks John) did the trick. The ABF guys loaded the crates with a fork-lift at the terminal and I strapped them down for the ride home. No problems at all. I saved about 70 bucks by picking them up myself. The total shipping cost from Van's to Fort Worth, Texas was $260.00. I was pretty happy with that. Once home, my daughter helped me unload the boxes into the garage. No muss, no fuss.

We now return to our regularly scheduled rudder commentary.....

This is a shot of the left rudder skin and stiffeners after match drilling.

After drilling and dimpling, I primed the stiffeners.

OK Mr. DAR. Here's proof that I actually did the work here. The C-frame and a nice Avery Tools hammer make quick work of the skin dimpling. The 0.016 skins don't need much force to get a good dimple.

After everything is dimpled and primed, it's time to back-rivet the stiffeners to the skins. Instead of using high-dollar rivet tape, I bought a couple of rolls of #811 Scotch Tape at Office Depot (About one third the price per roll). It comes in the blue boxes. The adhesive on this tape is for temporary fastening; kind of like post-it note adhesive. It holds the rivets in place very securely and it peels off very easily after riveting. I was able to use this one piece of tape for the whole rudder skin.

This is a view of the inside of the rudder skin. The stiffener has been position in place over the rivets that were taped in place in the previous step.

Each stiffener is back-riveted and the skin assembly is complete.

Here's the external view of the finished skin.

Both skins are now finished.

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All photos by Joe Graham unless otherwise noted