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Empennage Fiberglass

Fiberglass tip

For the empennage fiberglass, I needed to do stabilizer and control tips, then the rudder bottom.  Careful sanding generally got everything to fit together nicely.  There were a few spots that needed extra attention.  Here’s how I did it.

Stab and control tips

I started the empennage fiberglass work with the tips for the stabs.  First thing I had to do was get the tip to slip into the stab.  I had to sand the end at a few spots to prevent the tip from bottoming out inside the stab before the lip was tight to the bevel.  I also had to do a little fine sanding with a file where the bevel had gotten rounded over or where resin had dripped.  Once the tip would fit properly into the stab, I drilled the holes and clecoed it into position.  

I repeated this process for the control tips.  The rudder top was a little different, as there is no front that needs to be made, but the fitting and drilling process was the same.

Don’t forget to make the metal backing strips and fiberglass them onto the tips while you are busy making a mess.

Stabilizer fiberglass tipTo fill the ends, I cut out some foam to use as a block for the new fiberglass.  This is the cheap insulation type of foam you can get at any of the big box hardware stores in 4 ft x 8 ft sheets.  I cut them to fit snug about 1/8 inch inside the tip.  Then I laid up a couple of layers of fiberglass on both the inside and outside of the foam.  After that dried, I sanded everything enough to fit back on the stabs and controls.

Stabilizer fiberglass tip clearanceWith the tips clecoed into position, I spent some time sanding the ends of both until I was happy with the fit between them.  I wanted a small, uniform gap that allowed the control to travel without hitting the stab.  (Remember to leave room for the paint.)

I had a few areas that I had to sand through the cloth I had laid up.  Not to worry, I fixed them a little later.

Elevator fiberglass tipOnce I had the shape finished, I riveted the tips into place.  Next I masked off the stab and controls about 1 inch down on the metal.  Here is where I fixed those holes I made earlier.  I removed enough extra material to allow a small patch of resin and cloth or micro balloons.  Then I filled all the holes, and also any spots along the metal to fiberglass seam that I wasn’t happy with.  Some sanding with a sanding block brought everything flush with the metal and gave me a good fit.

Rudder Bottom

Rudder fiberglass bottomThe last part of the empennage fiberglass I did was the rudder bottom.  I started by making a template for the control horn out of poster board.  Then I transferred it to the fiberglass and made the cutout.  Initially all I removed was the U shaped channel for the horn itself.  Later I discovered that the top portion interfered with the stab mounting bolt heads, so I ended up removing that portion too.

Rudder fiberglass bottomI didn’t like the idea that air could travel in the end of the cap and bounce around inside the bottom of the rudder.  So I added a small piece of foam and a couple layers of fiberglass to the front inside of the cap.  It fits just under the control horn and so closes off the front of the cap.

Fitting the cap onto the bottom of the rudder was a little tricky.  I had to get it started over the horn, and slide it up until it was almost touching the metal lip.  Then I inserted the aft end and worked my way forward until it fit all the way on.

I opted to install the cap with screws and platenuts.  This lets me remove the cap if I need to do any work on the taillight.  I also installed a two-wire connection so the light can be disconnected and the cap completely removed.

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