Saturday, July 25, 2009

This is a build following for the Aviation Products, Inc. P-51 Pedal Plane, which was introduced at Oshkosh 1993. I was able to build this plane in under 3 weeks, but only due to very long hours of time per day devoted to the build. The post are in reverse chronological order, so please go to the May 2009 page (or go to the "Older Post" links at the bottom of the page until you are at the beginning). Please ignore any spelling errors that I might have missed (or at least spell check missed!)

Final Thoughts

I want to start off by saying that this plane was a labor of love. I built it from start to finish in under 3 weeks. While I'm sure that this is not a record for the build, it went together much faster than most of the other builders that have websites following the build. I was fortunate that I was on a summer job for the Navy prior to an assignment and had ample time to get this plane completed expeditiously.

This was in hindsight not an easy build, but it should be something a novice could do. I have build numerous model airplanes, and while I felt that the instructions may have been adequate, I went off the pictures, and basic knowledge and understanding from other builders, as well as the 4 drawings supplied with the plans.

Here are some pointers that I offer, in absolutely no order.

  • When painting the parts, I do not think it was cost effective to use spray paint. I went through 6 cans of chrome at $7 a pop, before landing on a single can of chrome brush-on paint. using a cheap roller, you can almost make panel lines using a smaller roller, making it appear more scale. Even if you do one of the other paint schemes with a set of stock decals, this is a good tip.
  • If you have all the tools for this job, you can come in WAY under what I spent to finish this project. I think the total cost came in just under $800. I was not careful in planning the paint, and I ended up with a lot of extra paint. Paint is expensive folks!
  • Keep your reciepts. When you buy too much, or break something, most hardware stores have a great return policy. I recouped some of that $800 this way.
  • Use birch plywood if possible. It may need to be special ordered. It is a denser wood that is less likely to spinter. This is also the kind of ply that is offered through the websight if you elect to get the precut peices.
  • If you don't have a drill press or lathe, I really have to recommend going with the Zinger aluminum spinner and cutting it with some Wiss snips. It saves A LOT of time. I've read that the spinner was the most labor intensive portion of the build. I had mine cut and fine tuned in about an hour all together. Its fairly intuitive to attach everything, and with a Dremel tool, cutting the indents for the prop was a cinch.
  • Bondo. I know it's a kids toy, but this covered a lot of blemmishes much better than the wood filler.
  • Gorilla glue, if used, fills in a lot of cracks, but don't use it for a filler intentionally.
  • Mistakes will likely happen along the way. I made a few. Some I caught before it was too late for the glue, but others I was not as lucky.
  • Use 5 minute epoxy on the friction pulley and metal pedals. I tried regular glue, and it became impossible to cure. Also, do not leave the rubber band that goes from that pulley to drive the propeller on, as the tension will make it impossible for any glue to cure.
  • Make a seat out of foam. At least a cushion for the butt. Enough said.
  • Sanding is much easier if you use a palm sander. While you could hand sand, that would add hours to the build
  • Build this outside in a shed or barn. If you have a detached garage, that would be good too. The saw dust in my shed was in places at leats 1/4" after a day of sanding.
  • If you order parts from Aviation Products, Inc., remember; it's first come, first serve. I got lucky becuase he had one P-51 parts kit left on his shelf. It can take a few weeks for him to fabricate things, so if you are in a time crunch like I was, you may not get as lucky as I was! Thanks again Gary for your help!
I write this from Pensacola, Florida; where I am awaiting classing up fro flight training for the Navy. I am 900 miles away from the pedal plane for now, which is sitting in storage. I am already planning on building another when the time permits, albeit at a slower pace. I very much enjoyed the build, and I will enjoy watching my daughter pedal around in her very own P-51, engaging in mock combat manuvers while I watch her in envy and enjoy her fun vicariously. Her smile should say it all, and have made this build all the while! Thanks for checking out my build!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SUCCESS! Photo opportunity completed!
I could not be more pleased! Dr. Hunt, the Military Aviation Museum's Director, was a great help in making this all happen! Please stop by the museum if you are in the Virginia Beach area. The staff and volunteers are all very pleasant, and the aircraft and grounds are just awe inspiring.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pedals, Gear nightmare, and steel reserve

June 19, 2009

After duty today, the lighting was perfect for a photo of the nearly completed bird. One of the things I've been noticing is how heavy this plane is becoming, not to mention bulky and awekward.

After realizing that it REALLY does need a working propeller, to make them. I was planning on just affixing painted soap-boxes on for the time being, but being this close, better finish it strong and correct.

Using screws, I screwed the two halves together and sanded away. This went well.

The gear that go in between-not so well.

MAKE SURE you don't glue it all together before you stick it on the axle (mistake #1)
MAKE SURE you use epoxy when gluing it to the gear (Mistake #2)
MAKE SURE you wait for it to completely dry before putting the rubber belt on (#3)
MAKE SURE you do not have the rubber belt on while waiting for the glue/epoxy to dry. (#4)

Lots of errors today. I blame the 3 hours of sleep I had.

Well folks, it's just about finished! About 4 coats of clear (glossy) are on it now, and it's waiting for the little girl! IMHO, it's finished and awaiting a test-pilot.

I do have one final issue, I need to drill a screw hole for the steering linkage in the tail. I've destroyed a Dremel drill bit here, and ruined another regular drill bit that I thought was a metal bit. Wrong.

I will post tomorrow thoughts, ideas, opinions, suggestions, etc. tomorrow.

Total duration of build (in days): 23
Total Hours for build: 100-125 hrs
Cost: Close to $$500-800, not a cheap project and not one I will repeat any time soon mainly due to the cost.

I bought too much in some cases, and now I have a lot of paint that I'll never use. I have a lot of scrap ply, and I had to replace tools and worn bits.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Painting - Day 4 and Midnight Madness

June 18, 2009

Boy, they sure gave me A LOT of extra hardware! That is a good thing, but I was finding screws and bolts to things that I don't know where they would go!

While my half-painted retractable landing gear P-51 needed to sprout landing gear, so today that was the goal.

Additionally, I wanted to finish the 5-block landing gear thing with the dowels hanging out. That wasn't too bad, but my Dremel and crappy drill were slowing progress on getting the hole depths correct. Sanding the angles in the dowels was with the belt sander on it's side.

The landing gear itself is not hard to put together, but go with the plans on the assembly, since the way I went seemed more difficult. I installed the height-adjustment pieces, followed by the axle. This made it somewhat difficult to install, but possible.

The wheels, wheel pants, and associated hardware are straight forward and unremarkable.

I decided to forgo the ply ring prescribed in the plans in favor of just screwing the "hub caps" on the wheel. I nearly destroyed my Dremel doing this, the PMG shifted inside of the dremel from the heat generated to the point that it would not freely turn. I thought I had seized the tool, my brand-new Dremel.

After all of that, I started finishing the rest of the lettering. About 3 hours later, all the lettering was on.
Dreading the checkers, I started at 9pm and finished the last black square around 2 am. Cutting the square black pieces was tedious, but I pressed on.

Finishing the checkers, I went on to the tail number (463684). Using the 4 in the decal kit, I cut out the numbers to what I would think they would have been. I was unsuccessful finding my pictures of the numbers.

This close to being completed, how can I stop here?

Breaking out the fine artist brush, i outlined "Double Trouble Two" with red paint like the original, and using black and yellow only, and no practice, I painted the witch on both sides. I can draw pretty well, and I was pleased with the finished witch.

Wow, a Mini "Double Trouble Two" is sitting in my living room! All that is left is to drop in the steering stuff, put the pedals and friction gear on and it's done! Not a lot of pictures taken, but everything for the most part was straight forward.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Painting - Day 3

June 17, 2009

Rapid progress today, and it is REALLY starting to look wonderful!

I decided to leave the panels on for the rest of the painting progress. I didn't want to chance losing, chipping, scratching, or anything else that could happen-happen. Using masking tape and newspaper, prepping the areas to paint was the most time consuming portion.

I decided at this point that I will not paint on the checkerboard pattern in the nose. While arguably it would be as hard as the method I chose, I was concerned that a mistake would mean stripping off everything and starting over-not an option. The brush I had started out with on the can of chrome was cleaned in stripper, and I wiped off the olive-colored area with that brush, forgetting the previous venture, and the paint bubbled and cracked. I pressed on, vowing to fix it later after the photo.

Installing the spinner was straightforward using the pictures on the plans themselves. Just work from the front to the back, as with the panels.

I really wanted to get the lettering completed today, but I made it as far as ONE Double Trouble Two decal. Using black monocote trim, I'm tracing a print-out of emblem. Use VERY small strips of tape to transfer the decals using this method, trust me on that.

The one of the last things wood-wise completed today was installing the exhaust, which was straight forward since the sheet metal kit supplied a guide to follow for the holes.

After bringing the bird inside for the evening, I started working on the decals, starting with using an x-acto knife with a sharp blade and copying a picture i had taken at the Warbirds airshow. This went overall well. Just be sure to use small pieces of tape if you use that method to transfer the decals (like I learned to do!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Painting - Day 2

June 16, 2009

I was not happy with the way the spray-on metallic came out, so I went back to Ace Hardware and found a brush on/roller metallic/chrome. I bought three cans because they were small, but I should have only bought one (maybe two but one covered everything). I opted to not spray primer back over everything, and it worked out well. I tried both a brush and a roller, and the roller application was by far more even and no brush strokes. I went over everything with this and the results were fantastic.

I was satisfied with the tail and went ahead with the black rudder and stripes on the horizontal stab. I opted to NOT paint the bottom since it should not be seen anyway.

I attached the windscreen today. Following the pictures supplied with the plans, it was a pretty easy process. I do not like that there is slack in the window on the sides, but I did my best. I went ahead and glued the "C" shaped wood on, then put the vinyl windscreen ontop, followed bu the metal pieces, this was straight forward and unremarkable.

I also screwed the aluminum panels on today. I did use the Dremel on some of the holes, but for the most part I just screwed the panels in without, knowing that it could cause the wood to split. Fortunately, it did not.

I was concerned that the top panel did not fit well towards the nose, but I think overall it will be ok. One suggestion on the bottom nose cowling, work from the front to the back with the screws.

The wing instillation is straight forward, and I did need to do some trimming for the wing to fit. since the seat was right there and somewhat impeding the process.

I noticed today that this weights at least 10 lbs at this point, and I know it's only going to get heavier.

Tomorrow I plan to start the painting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Painting - Day 1

June 15, 2009

Today was by far one of the most grueling days of this build. I finished cutting a few pieces out of ply (the landing gear and the bell crank platform) and got them ready to install. I do need to paint some sanding sealer on the landing gear.

I began to drill out some 1/2 holes in the bell crank supports, and my 12 year old Ryobi cordless drill, which was just fully charged, was dying out. I was barely able to drill out two holes, and I still had more to go.

I also installed the tail wheel door and tail wheel assembly. I removed the wheel for painting. When I installed it, the filler that I used for the slightly oversize hole in the dowel opened up, and I suspect that will happen with the wings as well. I have been reluctant to screw the wings in because of that.

Today I completed the prop assembly. The spinner has a aluminum back plate that looked like a great back plate to screw in a 3/4" piece of pin to. I used my belt sander to gouge out some holes to fit the PVC pipe props around a 5-1/2 " diameter pine. I secured the blades (after sanding the rouigh edges of the props) with some Gorilla Glue and three #6-1/2 wood screws per blade.

The spinned was easy to cut with the Wiss snipes. After a few trimming passes the spinner fit! Total time from start to finish and ready for paint: about 2 hours. I bet this saved at least 10 hours and a day doing it this method. I recommend this way to those dreading the drill press method described in the plans.

I went out and bought what turned out to be $70 in spray paint. I decided that spray paint was the way to go on the finish. I was shocked when I got to the register on that bill. I bought 4 cans of Rust-Oleum Metallic paint (it was the only type of spray paint that had sparkles in the paint) at $4 a can. 4 cans of white primer (to make the sparkles stand out) two cans of black, one can of yellow, and one can of Olive Drab for the top of the fuse between the cockpit and the beginning of the black and yellow checkers.

I made a mistake with the spinner, and realized my error as i was finished. I did not apply a primer coat before spraying the yellow (I figured yellow would be the first overall coat). When I went to spray the black "bumble bee" scheme, the painters tape removed some the yellow. This stinks, because the whole reason I bought the spinner was for the visual appeal, but now it will have some chipped paint. I'm going to attempt to strip off the paint tomorrow and do it the right way.

I must warn those out there considering using spray paint, you will pay a lot, and 4 cans of metallic aluminum is not enough. I think I've applied 7 coats of this stuff and it is still uneven. I suspect at least 3 more cans are needed.

The paint on the wood is after 7 coats.

Tomorrow I hope to have the painting completed, and I will begin the process to get the wing on. After this, all that is left is the fine detailing. I have Sunday as the date I'm shooting for to have this finished (Gretchen/Jocelyn's baby shower) as an excuse to get away. Hopefully the weather is nice and the hanger doors will be open for a photo with the real deal!

The reason that the tail is not fully painted is because the entire rudder is black. The same with the other panels that you see that are only half metallic (black/yellow checker scheme goes there). I must say, I think a roller job to start would have been best, but I will continue with the cans for now.

Tomorrow I will buy more cans of metallic, and drill out the remaining holes for the landing gear dowels. I hope to have the wings on at least tomorrow, but I will not have the wheels on until at least Thursday.

All Packages Arrived!

June 14, 2009 (Flag Day)

I've been on a hiatus from the project, as I was at my wife's family reunion/grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary in northeastern Ohio for 5 days. While I was gone, the Spinner, Sheet Metal Kit, Steel Kit, and Decal kit arrived! All were well packed and seemed complete.
I was concerned when i saw the Spinner box, as it seemed small. turns out it is even more perfect fitting than i had anticipated, and the quality is excellent. provided that the blade installation goes smooth, I must recommend this route to people, as it probably saved 5-10 hours of work, and easily more. I'll spray an antioxidant paint on all the sheet metal kits tomorrow, as well other assorted things. I anticipate a rapid progression from this point on, so I'll be sure to snap a lot of pictures.

I will be paining a white base coat on tomorrow, followed by the first metallic coat.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Primer and Painting Begins

June 8, 2009

I didn't work on the bird yesterday (hence no blog) but I made up for lost time with that today. I gave the fuse and wings a final sanding after 3 coats of sanding sealer (and sanding between coats) and applied Ace hardware's gray primer (it took 3 cans for one coat). I must say, all of the sanding, bondo, filler, and sanding sealer helped, because with only two blemishes spotted, I can move on to the final painting!

Today my credit card statement reflected the $248 shipped for the hardware, sheet metal, steel, and decal kits, and the Aluminium-spun spinner cost $55.67 shipped, so those parts should all be in by the time I get back on Sunday from Ohio.

I am taking a five day hiatus from the project, but I think that I'll have it completed by the 24th at the rate I'm going! I'm actually exactly where I was hoping to be before leaving. Tomorrow, I'd like to finish the landing gear assembly while awaiting the arrival of the parts, and also work on fashioning wing spacers for the dihedral in the wing. Aside from this, finish painting!

I was also able to spray the cockpit area black. I chose a epoxy-based enamel for this area, since it will experience wear and tear. It came out well! I originally was going to do Olive Drab, but the one I saw at the Fly-in a few weeks back expose numerous flaw, so I opted for black, which I must say, looks sharp! This is a more durable paint too than the traditional enamels, but I plan to assemble a seat and seat cushions to cover these, but I also wanted to just make it last when the seat rubs against the wood.
The black was also applied for the glare shield and instrument panel areas.

One final note, a reminder; this is only a toy. It's not going to be perfect, but I'm striving to do justice with the paint scheme. I'll do my best to completely recapture DD2's paint scheme, but if I fall short, I'll still be very happy with the outcome! There is a confession at this point in teh build: The fuselage has a slight bow in it, similar to a banana. If this was a real airplane, I'd have scraped it. Its very slight, and you can somewhat see it in this picture.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sanding sealer

Today I finished putting on bondo in the areas that were in need of filler. I opted to not concern myself on the lower surfaces simply because there is no reason that these will be exposed, and the chances of this thing being upside-down are slim, so those blemishes on the stab and wing are staying.

One super tough area that I have given up on is where the trailing edge of the stab and the fuselage meet, it's very difficult to get in there with a sander, so it's going to stay blemished. It's low enough to the ground, and far enough underneath that no one but I will be the wiser that there is a blemish.

I put on the first coat of sanding sealer on all parts, including all of the wood that is inside. I won't worry about sanding these parts, but I wanted it to have some protection beyond over sprayed paint.

I ordered the Sheet metal kit, Hardware and Wheels kit, Steel kit, and the Paul I decals. I am hoping that these come in before I leave for my mini vacation in Ohio next week. My goal is to have the fuse and wing primed, sanded, sealed, primed again, and then a coat of white paint by Sunday. I'm going to start working on the landing gear too, since I did not cut out those parts yet (The last parts left to be cut)

By my calculations, this will be done the last week of June, so I will be able to take photos with DD2.

The last thing I am researching tonight is the possibility of getting custom decals made so to make the numbers, words/letters, and the witch.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fuselage Complete!

June 4, 2009 (the build part)

I had a VERY productive day today on the P-51. The remaining formers were glued in (required some trimming, but went in without issues otherwise). The nose bowl was glued on, screwed in through the back, and shaped using both the Dremel with a sanding bit, the belt sander, and finished it all off with the palm sander.

I noticed that the Gorilla glue is not as great of a filler as I had thought. I intentionally used excess glue on the nose to later sand down. It seems that when it was not used to bond parts, it is more spongy, if that is possible. I ended up picking out those areas and cleaning it out.

I forgot to mention that I've pretty much stopped going off the directions out of frustration. I've build a model airplane or twenty and it is similar in the building aspects. There are 3 pages of illustrations that somewhat show how things go together, and I'm now going from that, and from common sense.

Around noon I was completely done sanding and molding the nose, and it looked great! I notice that I had some deep scuffs and markings on the fuse, and I don't feel like priming and sanding it more than twice before the final paint, so I figured using Bondo on the whole thing would be a good idea. I had never used Bondo before, but it was not difficult to get the hang of. I applied it liberally to most of the surfaces and it sanded off well. I have applied it three times on the fuse (I kept noticing places that I had previously missed.)

One of the wings is completely done and ready for the first coat of sanding sealer. I have some things to do in the morning, but I hope to have all parts coated with at least one coat of sanding sealer tomorrow. There are a few pieces left to cut out of wood (Wing spacer, bell crank supports, and the landing gear parts) but I've held back on that until this is all completed.

I ordered the nose cone today from Zinger, and that should be in early next week, before the trip to Ohio (which I'm hoping to have it primed prior to departing). As long as my pay gets in, I'll order the remaining parts tomorrow and hopefully have those by the time I get back from Ohio, and have those one within a few days. It is not only looking like I'll have it done on time, but likely before the end of June! I again got the thumbs up to have the picture with DD2 from a higher-up at the museum, so hopefully my painting will go well! (I'll post pics from today later, my battery died in the camera)

Double Trouble Too

June 4, 2009

For those curious, Double Trouble Too has been a P-51D that I have seen since I was a child. Don Davidson used to fly it to the Manchester New England Escadrille Airshows annually in the 1980's, and it was a common sight back then in Nashua, NH, in the same hanger as another P-51D, "Passion Wagon ".

This plane was raced in the Reno Air Races in the early 1980's when Mr. Davidson was the mayor of Nashua, NH. He sold it off in 1990 or so to a museum in Sweden.

I got a phone call one day by a fellow aviation fanatic and my best friend, Mark, saying he saw Double Trouble Too at Sun N' Fun in 2004 or so. He told me that is was based locally in Suffolk, VA to my surprise! I scoped it out and found that to be a fact!

It is now part of the Virginia Military Museum, located in the southern side of Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach Airport (VA42). This is a wonderful museum and I urge any aviation fan to check out.

On May 17th, I went down to their first airshow they hosted, and it was a visual delight. Many sights to see on the ground; WWII re-enactments, many historical aircraft (some of which I had never seen before, one is the one of it's kind flying in the world!) and music from the era. It was like Rhinebeck, only better!

I see that they are scheduled to have another show in October, and I regret not being able to attend. Here are some photo's that I took of DD2 from the museum, and from that show

All of these pictures were taken by myself, and taken on a Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS camera.