Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rejuvenation - Skining the floats

My floats were getting new skins. This meant drilling out aproximately 1,200 rivets in each float. We started with a bunch of #21 cobalt drill bits from Aircraft Spruce. We used pneumatic drills, which are lighter weight and more powerful than the cordless kind. I eventually got to the point where I could drill a rivet with either my right or my left hand. The trick is to stay in the center of the rivet and drill straight into it. Done properly, you just have to drill the top of the rivet off and then hit it with a punch to drive it out of the hole. This leaves a hole the same size for the new rivet that will have to go back in. Not all of our holes were perfect and we spent literally hours drilling.

It took as long or longer to pull the bottoms off as it did to replace them. Once the skins were off we could really inspect the insides of the floats. They were really in pretty good shape. We also decided to replace the middle and front bulkheads. One was dented really badly, and the middle bulkheads were pretty corroded. Now was the time to do it while the skins were off. This process took about a month. We ordered new parts from EDO, the float manufacturer, and Peck Aero Products in Canada. Ed Peck owns the operation and he was very very knowlegable and helpful. He even offered to reskin the floats for me. I winced at the thought of all that shipping and delay. In hindsight it might have been a good plan. We learned many lessons pulling these things apart and putting them back together that I am sure Ed learn a long long time ago and not at the expense of my time and the quality of the job that we did on my floats. I had lots fo bonding time with my mechanic and I learned a ton. I probably spent $3250 on float parts. They were all very pretty and shiney and new when they arrived. We used the old skins for a template for the new ones and we got to drill thousands of new holes in these very shiney and new parts. Once all the holes were drilled we started assembly. This was very exciting to see. I had witness so much destruction as the dead parts were removed and now they were being replaced with shiney new parts. When the float skins come off the float loses a bunch of its strength and the become flimsey. As the new parts were added back on everything became strong again. Very satisfying. I was starting to get the itch to fly the plane really badly now. All the ribs and doublers were added to the bottom skins before they were applied to the rest of the float. This made the rivets much easier to install. There are only about 40-50 rivets that have to be installed using two people. One person is on the bottom of the float shooting the rivets while the other is reaching in through the inspection hole trying to buck the rivet. Doing all of this you end up covered in sealant as well. We used latex glove for most of this process and the sealant would really stick to everything. The sealant is a two part substance that actually mixes inside the tube and it has a relatively short shelf life of 6 weeks and a working time that you can choose when you buy the tube. Some of the stains from the sealant will be a part of my wardrobe for years to come.


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