More Pneumatic Squeezer..   April 15th, 2006

Today I spoke with Jerry at the Yard. Pretty refreshing to call a company for help and talk to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about!!

Anyway, I told Jerry the flapper piece was fine, and the problem is probably in the air intake valve. He told me to go ahead and send it back to him for repair. He also mentioned their turnaround time is usually one or two days (cool!)

Also, Bruce Wagner, fellow RV7A builder and coworker, offered me to let me use his squeezer over the weekend. So, I’m all set to finish putting together the horizontal stabilizer!

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I emailed The Yard last night, and today I got a reply saying it was probably the ‘flapper’. This is a piece of angle that presses on the air intake valve and makes the squeezer squeeze. I looked at it, and sure enough, the ‘flapper’ is just fine. So, I decided to take apart the squeezer and see if I could figure out 1) how the heck this monster works and 2) why does it not work!!

So, after removing the six hex bolts that hold the bottom piece in place, I found that the problem seems to be in the air intake valve. I can press on it with my thumb (with the ‘flapper’ sitting on the table) and if I wiggle it just so, I get a full blast of air. Otherwise I get just a little bit of air.

While troubleshooting my problem, I learned how the squeezer can deliver such large force to the rivet set.

As you can see in the pictures above, there is a big piston inside the squeezer. As air is let inside the chamber, the piston is pushed up. The wedge-looking piece pushes against two bearings inside the squeezer. One of them is fixed (i.e., it rotates only). The other bearing can move ‘away’ from the first one. So, as the wedge is driven between the two bearings, the ‘moving bearing’ will push against another level, which in turn pushes the squeezer shaft out with a lot of force.
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Buying Tools   February 6th, 2006

After I had a decent compressor, I needed to start buying tools. Initially I thought I would just buy one of the ‘builder’s kits’ offered by some of the tool companies like Avery, Cleaveland, Browntool, etc. After going to the Orndorff’s workshop, I decided I would instead make a list of the tools I thought I needed, and shop around to get the best price.

So, I started an Excel spreadsheet, like a good engineer. My starting point was the Avery Tools toolkit. I added things I thought I needed, like a pneumatic squeezer, and remove things I didn’t think I’d need, like a hand squeezer. I then had several columns with prices from different companies.

I ended up buying my tools from three places. Most of my money went to The Yard. They have rebuilt pneumatic squeezers for about $350 and all sorts of other cool things. Their prices are very reasonable too. I must admit I was just a little nervous I wouldn’t be getting quality tools’, but after getting the tools and using them on the training projects, I was pretty happy with them. The only exception was a $15 flush swivel set. The rubber guard protrudes too far beyond the flat metal piece, and when pushing against a rivet with a bucking bar on one side and the set on another, I couldn’t fully push the rivet into the hole. This resulted in the rivets being set with the head protruding from the manufactured head side. Not pretty. So, I bought Avery’s $35 set and was very pleased with it.

I also ordered a few tools from Avery Tools. There’s no question they have nothing but quality tools, some of which are their own creations. I bought things like the vise-grip dimpler, fluting pliers, etc. I also bought a 6″ scotch-brite wheel for my bench grinder and a smaller one for the hand-held pneumatic die-grinder.

Finally, the rest of my money went to Brown Tools. I bought a C-frame from them (which is actually manufactured by Avery Tools!), all of my clecos, etc. Shortly after receiving my tools from them, I got a flyer in the mail saying they had a special on Sioux Tools, so I ended up buying a Sioux drill from them as well.

I’ll be happy to share my spreadsheet with anyone interested.

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Picking a Compressor   November 2nd, 2005

If I was going to build an RV-7A, I was going to need an air compressor!

I figured I’d be using it to power my rivet gun, drill (maybe), some painting now and then, and other miscellaneous air tools. I have no room (and I’m too cheap) for one of those gigantic 60 gallon upright models. On the other hand, I once borrowed a little $100 oil-less compressor, and it was too loud even for Mr. Cheapass.

So, after doing a lot of reading and web shopping, I settled on the Craftsman Professional 25gal, 6HP compressor from Sears.

I ordered it online and paid about $400 for it. I thought maybe it was a bit too much to pay for an air compressor, but when I picked it up about a week later, I was pleased to find it was going to be a worthwhile investment. It fits perfectly under my garage bench, and it is much, much quieter than any oil-free compressor I’ve seen.

It can power my disc cutter, air hammer, and touch up paint gun without too much trouble. I still don’t have a rivet gun or air drill, but I’m sure if it can handle my touch up gun, it will have no trouble with anything else I put on it.

I bought a nice brand-name 100 ft. extension hose for $40 and a wall-mounted hose spool at Harbor Freight (I wanted it to reach all the way to the back yard so I could use the air hammer on some limestone rocks).

So, if you want a mid-size compressor, this one is definitely worth the money. Though I haven’t used it to do any RV-building yet, I’ve found plenty of things around the house that can be done better/faster with a compressor 🙂

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