I've had a 4 month hiatus from the plane with work being crazy and moving to a new house. The plane has made it to its new home safe and sound, and the workshop is slowly getting set up again. Now the build resumes!
Before I fabricated an alignment guide to keep the bucking bar perfectly perpendicular, I managed to nick the J-channel in a few places which left a healthy dent that was barely visible on the exterior, but definitely on the interior. I was a bit concerned that this would be a structural issue, and was prepared to drill out all the rivets and replace the channel completely. After consulting Vans however, they recommended to buff out any sharp edges and build on, so that's what I did.
This particular section has been taking some time for me with work getting busy, but I'm finally getting around to writing it up. There's a bit of fabrication you have to do for the rudder stops by cutting up some angle stock. I somehow got the measure twice cut once rule backwards and frustratingly had to order a replacement but the second round turned out pretty well.
Next is getting all the bulkheads riveted with heavy aluminum reinforcements to attach the tail components. These guys were a pain to deburr with all their complex corners and tabs. The squeezer could reach almost all the rivets so I was happy about that.
In putting the large components together, there was a ton of dimpling and countersinking to do first. Then you start riveting the bulkheads, J-channel stiffeners, and longerons to the skins, which is exciting as you start to get a sense for the scale of the aircraft.
Here's where I had my first bucking bar incident where the bar slipped off the rivet, and hammered a bad crease into one of the J-channels and the corresponding skin behind it. I did my best to hammer the skin flat again, but the J-channel had to be drilled out and replaced.
Attaching the side panels was fairly straightforward, but there is a lot of riveting to do here. Some of it is easy, some are pretty hard to reach without two people. Most frustratingly for me was the aft most section where you can barely fit your hand inside to hold the bar. I found that I would inexplicably dent the skin with the rivet gun once in a while and I really couldn't figure out why. Best current theory is that I wasn't able to provide enough back pressure on the bar. I purchased a cheap dent removal tool from ebay to experiment with pulling some of the dents out, but it really wasn't very effective. I'll probably play a bit more with finding ways to smooth these out later as dents drive me crazy.