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Aluminum Angle Kit 7

These are now my longest band saw cuts.  The cut started scaring me with banging sounds.  After I was done cutting I re-tensioned the blade and adjusted the blade tracking.  The second cut had no scary sounds.  I cut just on the outside edge of my sharpie line and was within a blade width the whole cut.

These parts had a nice diagonal band saw cut.  The first part I cut the wrong angle but fortunately I left too much material behind and was able to fix it.  I was able to try out the vixen file on the cuts.  The secret seems to be to be very gentle with it to keep the teeth from catching on the edge.  Its amazing how much material is removed with as delicate pressure as I can apply.

Aluminum Angle Kit 5

Was losing my marbles this evening.  I dropped the sharpie I use to label the parts and wasted a bunch of time looking for it.  Then I left my cutting schedule that came with the aluminum between two pages of my plans without realizing it and spent a bunch of time trying to find it with no idea if it was on the floor somewhere or stuck in the plans.  I did manage to get some parts cut though.

Aluminum Angle Kit 4

Seems like I’ve had a pattern of developing a new skill each day. This seatbelt attach bracket was my first “long” cut on the bandsaw (hehe… I know much longer cuts are coming).  I used the fence to get a straight cut.

I’m starting to feel more comfortable making both mirrored parts.  Did these cuts on the miter saw but will probably need to use the band saw for the rest.  This part reminds me that I’ve been using a lot of trigonometry to calculate the cut angles–I guess most people use a protractor, but I don’t have one I feel is accurate enough.  I can set the miter saw to a quarter of a degree with no interpolation.  I mark the beginning and end of the cut on the part’s edges and I hit both marks each cut.  I guess my calculator works (good thing I’m not stuck in radian mode).

This was my first “miter” cut on the band saw.  I had hoped to use the miter gauge to help cut at the right angle, but the geometry of getting the part to the blade while attached to the miter gauge wasn’t working so I decided to freehand it.  I drew the cut line and used the laser to help cut right down the line–I split the line in half on my first try.  The second try wasn’t as good–I ended up off the line by a blade width, but some finishing should clear that up.  Not sure if I like the laser–the reflection off the aluminum seems a little too bright.

Aluminum Angle Kit 3

Cut out more parts and started actually using the miter feature of the miter saw.

Aluminum pieces cut to size

I assume the dashed lines in the plans indicate a hidden corner, so this drawing is showing what I would consider to be the bottom of the part. Update: I was reading this guy’s build log who made this part first and cut it the wrong way around, so I am reasonably convinced that I did it correctly.

Comparing part to plans

I also made my first mistake (that I know about anyway).  I’ve been measuring from the 1 inch mark on the steel ruler to get a precise measurement and finally cut an inch too short on my last cut of the evening.  Maybe had I not made the mistake I would have continued working?

Cut the part exactly one inch too short and quit for the evening.

Aluminum Angle Kit 2

My parents got me a nice Dewalt 715 compound miter saw and a real aluminum-cutting 12″ 96 carbide tooth sawblade for Christmas.  I decided to put this to use cutting the wing attach blocks which are cut from a 1″x1.25″ block of solid aluminum.  I figure if the saw will cut this it will cut anything.  Also, there is a 3/16″ beveled edge that had been worrying me as I have not previously had much luck with my band saw (I was tempted to do this bevel with the compound miter saw, but could not think of a simple, safe, and accurate way of making the cut).

New miter saw with a block of aluminum

A lot of builders seem to recommend using a wood-cutting blade on the bandsaw to cut aluminum, but I couldn’t tell if this recommendation is just to save some money or is because a wood-cutting blade is actually desirable.  My experience has been wood-cutting and metal-cutting blades are priced similarly at Lowes, but the selection of blades that fit my saw is small.  The woodcutting blade I tried had a kerf that is about 10x wider than the actual metal of the blade and seemed to be gouging its way through the metal causing a ton of vibration, leaving a terribly ragged cut, and cutting much slower than I believe a blade with a smaller kerf would have.  Unfortunately the kerf width is not labeled on the packaging, so you can only eyeball it.  I decided to try a metal cutting blade and haven’t looked back since–the cuts have been fantastic.

Here I have tilted the bandsaw table 45 degrees and set the fence for a 3/16 inch bevel.  The desired cut path is drawn in using a black sharpie.  The cut went great even though I was initially worried the blade might drift and there would be little I could do to correct for it with the fence in the way.

Bandsaw prepared to cut wing attach block

Here is a part after being cut to size on the miter saw and beveled with the bandsaw.

Wing attach block on plans

Before making these exciting cuts I cut a bunch of aluminum angle to size for various parts.

Aluminum angle cut to size

2010 Crossville Sonex Gathering

I have been interested in building an airplane ever since getting my pilot’s license. For a long time I considered building the RV-7, but was looking for something less expensive and easier to build.  The Sonex seems to be the perfect fit for me, so I emailed a local Sonex builder and heard about a Sonex fly-in in Crossville, Tennessee.

The fly-in was great. It was wonderful to see all the airplanes and talk to builders about the building process and their flying experiences–especially their experience with the 80hp VW conversion Aerovee engine. Part of what appeals to me about Sonex is this ~$7000 engine, but I have been concerned about not having enough power to tow me and a friend around.  I have heard about saving weight by polishing the aluminum instead of painting it (20-30lbs) and building the tailwheel option instead of the tricycle (~10lbs?).

A whole bunch of Sonex airplanes.

While there, a couple airplanes built by Tom Huebbe and his son caught my eye. They had the most beautifully polished aluminum I could have imagined and the decals looked ridiculously stylish. But most importantly, they are also powered by VW engines–I figure if they can have this much fun, it should be good enough for me. I had been afraid polished aluminum would feel like a compromise, but now it seems like the only way to go.  Be sure to check out their videos–they are every bit as artistic as their airplanes.

Standing in front of a polished Sonex airplane.

Also while there I noticed Aaron Knight’s color-changing Jabiru 3300-powered Sonex. I recognized it from his youtube videos and have since discovered his website.  Check out his videos–my understanding is he wrote the music, I wonder if he plays his own theme song while he flies?