Progress on the Fuselage Skin

I have made a bunch of progress on the first piece of fuselage skin for my Bede BD-4C airplane. This is the piece on the top of the fuselage, at the rear. It sits under the vertical stabilizer so, no surprise, I got to cut a hole in the skin for the stabilizer’s spar to fit through. Here is a photo of the skin on the fuselage with the vertical stabilizer in place.

Bede BD-4C fuselage skin with vertical stabilizer in-place.
Bede BD-4C fuselage skin with vertical stabilizer in-place.

Looking up from underneath, near the center of the vertical stabilizer, you can see the hole that I cut in the skin with the stabilizer’s spar sticking through it. It is really hard to see this clearly in the small image below so click on the picture to see it larger. (You can click on the other pictures, too.)

Vertical stabilizer spar extending through fuselage skin
Vertical stabilizer spar extending through fuselage skin.

Cutting the hole was pretty quick. Measuring and remeasuring and marking and double-triple-quadruple checking the marks before cutting took a long time. This was another chance for me to mess up a large and expensive piece of aluminum. Fortunately, I seem to have gotten it right. :-)

The other task which took a long time was trimming the skin to match the width of the Bede BD-4C fuselage. I wanted the edges of the skin to line up nicely with the rounded edge of the aluminum angles and I wanted nice, long straight edges. Here is a photo of the end of the skin, so you can see what I mean.

Aluminum skin on fuselage angle.
Aluminum skin on fuselage angle.

I had initially cut the skin extra wide. Now I marked where the edges actually needed to be and then carefully filed the aluminum down to the lines. Candy deserves my undying gratitude to not only spending hours holding an 8 foot long sheet of aluminum still while I cut, drilled, and filed it; but also for allowing me to use the dining room table for much of the work. “Why the dining room table?”you might ask. Because it is longer than my workbenches and the dining room has 8 feet of clear work space, something that I don’t have in either the garage or the basement.

You can see, in that last photo, how thin the skin is. At the back of the plane, it is just .016 inches thick. As you can well imagine, it does not provide any structural strength to the Bede BD-4C. It will not even be held in place with rivets; the skin will be held onto the plane with 3M Scotch-Weld #10 Contact Adhesive (but more on that later).

One thought on “Progress on the Fuselage Skin”

  1. Hi Art, nice to see the progress. It is looking great. I found a nice way to measure my skins to get an equal distance from the edge, so as to be at the point where the curvature stops on the L channel. I took a flat piece of wood about 3 inch by 3 inch then added a 1/2 inch strip along the top that was the thickness to match the point where the curve ended. Then with the slightly oversized skin in place I slid it up the side of the fuselage while tracing with a marker and got a nice line to cut along. This gives the skin an edge that is equal distance from the edge. Was quick and easy. Keep up the great job on you project. I will try to post a few picks of the jig in my photo section of the BD4 Group Website.
    Cheers, Mike

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