Finishing the Turtledeck

Fabricating the Turledeck 3 of 3After the metal fabrication and system testing of the lift and lock mechanism was complete it was time to finish and protect the metal.  A backyard sandblasting set up was used to clean and prepare the metal for paint.  This set up was used for all smaller parts like tail pieces, rudder, landing gear legs, etc.  I found out that sandblasting is very messy and its impossible to recover used blasting material when you do it outside. All future sandblasting was done by Southwest Sandblasting in Grand Rapids who do an outstanding job.

After the turtledeck was sandblasted it was cleaned with MEK and hand brushed with a 2 part epoxy primer from Randolph Coatings quickly followed by a 2 part epoxy J-3 yellow finish color.  The 2 part epoxy paint protects the metal from corrosion and is impervious to MEK and all other Poly Fiber chemicals used for fabric attachment and finishing.

Because the inside fabric of the turtledeck can be seen when it is raised I used untinted Poly Brush to avoid having pink brush marks visible.

Learning to Weld

Welding ProjectsWith the fuselage securely attached to the rotisserie it was time to learn to weld the 4130 steel tubing.  Using a oxygen/acetylene gas rig and jewelers torch I test welded several scrap pieces together but it was’nt until I got expert instruction from Chuck & Craig Garret from my local EAA Chapter 145 that I finally gained some confidence.

I started welding on the fuselage lift handles and then the wing spar brackets, elevator bell crank assembly, floorboard mounts, rudder pedal mounts, engine mounts and landing gear and wing strut brackets.  They say the best way to test a weld is to try to tear or break it apart.  Unfortunately that destroys your weld.  Sadly, a few years later I put some of my welding to a real world test during a bad landing/ground loop event.  The good news is, the welds survived – the bad news is, the landing gear did not.

I will post more about that event in a future post including photos of the damage and the repairs made to the aircraft.