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Beejs Blog Update: Instrument Panel

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Creator of this place
Staff member
Jan 1, 2006
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Austin, TX

<TD vAlign=top>Pose picture...

After completing the wings, I was looking around the fuselage to see what I could do next. I spent some time sortingthe pile of 1/4" plywood jigsaw piecesthat were once floor boards in the original Skybolt. I plan on fabricating something new to replace them, although I don't intend on the samecomplete coverage...there is a fair amount of weight in that pile of ply...

I have been looking at usingalum' diamond plate for foot treads. Where the pilots heels are situated for ruddertravel, I would mill out the raised diamonds and polish, 'still thinking about this.

Instrument Panels

I have no engine yet, but I know what I want, so I decided to risk the 'horse before the cart' andtackle something that would give me some sense of highmotivational return - the instrument panel.

I had all along intended to use the original instrument panels, but you know how it is...we builders want to add our own little signature to the plane and I'm no different it seems, the panel is one of those areas ripe for individualism.

Having designed myself a new layout (with help from many, with some great tips), I got to work cutting the panel out. The panel was 0.063 2024T3, and amazingly, was 30% cheapersourced locally than AS&amp;S, so I saved a bunch,and had it in handimmediately. The holes were done using an instrument punch. Some local RV builders loaned me the punch (and other stuff, such as the template for drilling the 4 x.177holes).Once the holes were done, I had three other apertures to cut out, but these were not standard round sizes...one was to be an intricate cut out for a Lowrance Airmap 600c GPS, the other two being rectangular cut outs. On the old panel, there was a mini 4-cluster gauge deal which sat behind 4 small rectangular apertures. I wantedto use twoof these gauges only, so I had to refabricate the back box that housed the four, into a two gauge box. The rectangular cutouts were done with a router.

The GPS panel was apain to plan and cut out. It seems crazy that someone would design a panel mount that insets, but with NO FLANGE at four locations around the panel. This meant that the cut out hadzero tolerance in certain areas, the chances of it looking sucky were high...I cut this out with a router. The cutter was aTCT with a bearing on the top of the cutter. The bearing then followed the path of the MDF jig I had set up. To achieve accuracy, I used vernier calipers ('no measuring tape for this!)to measure the panel, locked them, then set the MDF runners apart accordingly. At the top of the panel mount there is a crown, to achieve this shape for the jig, I cut a hole in the MDF with a hole saw then chopped the MDF until the desired crown was left (see pic).When test fitting the panel after the first cut (first of what I thought was going to be many)I almost performed an Irish jig...perfect fit.

The original panel had a bulbangle alum' piece spanning the bottom, I decided to scrap this and bend the bottom on a break instead. This had its precarious moments. I took my piece to a buddy who has built several planes, we set up the panel in his break, but lo and behold, the break could only cope with an approx' 60 deg bend. Watching him take a block of 2x4 lumberand a hammer, then wacking away at it in unevensectionsto bend it up really concerned me,then seeing thepiece out of the break with ripples and a huge banana bend in the panelconvinced me I was going to be cutting it off and riveting angle alum' on it afterall...

...then I got a lesson in theart ofshrinking and stretching...

With about 10 minutes of tapping and shrinking Markus had gotthe darn thingstraight as a dye :0)))

I still have to radius the top of the panel, and match drill / rivetthe curved angle alum' on the back and deburr everything. Completed pics on the next update.

Step Drilling the Panel...

GPS cut out. The large hole is for cutter clearance...

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