With the Fuse painted, it was now ready to fabric cover. However before I tackled the largest fabric covered component I decided to first test my skills on some smaller parts. The Turtle Deck was my first experiment in learning the fabric cover process. I researched various covering methods and products and decided on The Poly Fiber System. I liked the Instruction Manual and I also attended a two day class which helped me gain some confidence. But the most important aspect was the product itself. The Poly Fiber System is durable, easy to install and easy to repair.
In the photo above the fabric has been glued to one side of the Turtle Deck and is in the process of being heat shrunk. The next ironing at the highest temp setting will smooth the wrinkles away.
The fuse became noticeably heavier to turn as I continued to attach more parts. Without redesigning the rig I attached a hoist motor at the base of the rotisserie and strung the winch cable to a pulley at the top of an 8 foot aluminum mast. I then redirected the cable downward and attached it to an “L” channel that spans the rotating plywood panel. This arrangement allowed me to spin the fuselage from zero to ninety plus degrees in one direction. To spin the other direction all I needed to do was disconnect the cable and reattach it to the other side. This proved to be very helpful especially when it came to the Poly Fiber Fabric attachhment and painting process.
Later, after the airplane was completed I used the same motorized mast to help raise the tail for tailwheel repairs, weight and balance computations and adjusting wing dihedral angles. In this case, I attached the hook and cable directly to the welded lift handles on the fuselage.
Before proceeding further with the Belly Panel project, I decided to move on to the Engine Mount installation.
There are certain welds on the airframe that deserve more attention and respect. These include the wing spar brackets, wing strut brackets, spar crossover tubes, landing gear brackets, tail feather attachments and the Engine Mount Brackets. Every weld is important but a a bad weld on the engine mount can ruin your day.
This project starts by first taking the fuse off the rotisserie to expose the front end of the airframe. The four airframe connection points must be accurately welded to agree with the chosen engine mount holes and the engine mount must agree with the engine you plan to use. My future plan was to use a Lycoming or Superior 180HP Engine and for now all I needed to do was decide on which type of Engine Mount to use. There are basically two types of mounts – conical or Dynafocal. The Dynafocal Mount is said to reduce noise and vibration inside the cockpit and the swing out feature sounded good in theory. The installation needed for the swing out feature will require careful alignment of the top and bottom brackets on each side so that the hinges will not bind and stay in alignment. There is no means of adjustment for a misaligned hole so careful tack welding and trial fitting is necessary to assure proper fit of the Engine Mount.
In later years I would discover that the swing out Engine Mount is not as practical for servicing the engine as it sounds. As you can imagine, the throttle cable, mixture cable, carb heat cable, magneto cables, oil lines and numerous electrical connections disallow any means of hinging the engine away from the firewall without first disconnecting everything. Only during a major service event will the swing out Engine Mount feature be utilized.
The newly purchased fuselage was attached to a homemade rotisserie fixture on wheels. The fixture supported the fuse and allowed it to be turned and held in place for welding parts on, attaching floorboards, installing components, and for fabric covering and painting.
The fuselage stayed on the rotisserie for 4 years until it was removed for sand blasting and painting. It was then re-attached and the rotisserie was motorized for easier turning. It stayed attached for another two years for fabric covering and painting until it was finally removed and let to stand on its own wheels.