Riveting the Turtle Deck

After stringing wires and cables, mounting antennas, and generally just trying to anticipate all of the different things I could miss that would result in having to crawl back into the fuselage after the top skin (aka turtle deck) was riveted, I ran out of things to do. So, nothing to do except rivet the thing on. Per Vans instructions, I cut out the back boards and propped up the fuselage so my blood wouldn’t run to my head while laying in there bucking rivets.

Did I mention that my 25 year old son William was going to run the rivet gun? When I started this project way back in ’99, he was only 12 years old and needless to say, wasn’t much of a help back in those days, but now as a grown man, he has truly turned into a capable assistant. Having never used the rivet gun before, and mindful of the cosmetic impact of  riveting mistakes on this the most visible part of the plane, we spent some time going over how to hold the gun, how long to pull the trigger, etc. I am proud to say that not only did he not make a single mistake, but we didn’t have to drill any rivets out either.

The whole process took about 2-1/2 hours, during which I left a little blood inside the fuselage from scrapes suffered while maneuvering around the sharp metal of the bulkheads. Now, I understand why we need to debur all of the edges on those suckers! I thought about leaving the dried evidence of my presence in the plane. You’ve heard about builders who have everyone who’ve worked on the plane sign it somewhere? Well, I did consider that leaving dried blood inside the fuselage might prove a convincing way to prove to the FAA that I built it. All we would have to do is take a DNA test and match it. Voila, proof positive! In the end, I thought it was a little macabre (like this whole paragraph) and cleaned it all up.

Although I had used .032 shims in the hopes of facilitating a perfectly smooth skin across the bulkheads, it was not to be, and I have a couple of places where the skin is “sucked in” a little. When I find time and motivation to do it, I may fabricate some new, thicker shims and replace them.

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