Nose Section Sheet Metal Panels/Skin
In this month’s entry I detail the fitting of the Viper nose section sheet metal panels or skin.
For me, this is make or break time. As a proof of concept, the completion of the nose section hinges on how well the sheet metal panelling/skin turns out. If it is successful and appears as I have envisioned (remembering that my vision is based on the WW2 warbird costruction techniques of the Spitfire, Corsair, Mustang, etc), then in my mind, it green lights the rest of the project. It will prove to me that the design and construction techniques I have employed for the nosed section can deliver the desired results for the remainder of the airframe.
If the panels/skin doesn’t work as planned, then it’s pretty much back to the drawing board for the entire project. Given the time I’ve already invested in the project (estimated at 150 to 200 hours), then I’m not sure I’d be prepared to start all over again.
So here we go, here’s what I’ve done.
I firstly etch primed and painted the nosed section frames/bulkheads and stringers. I’m not sure this is absolutely necessary on an aluminium airframe construction, but I figured better to provide as much anti-corrosion protection as possible.
I then begain the fitting of the panel/skin to the top, relatively flat section of the nose. Better to start simple and work my way up to some of the more complicated curved sections. I used 1.0mm aluminium sheet for this part of the skin. Cleco’s were used to hold the panel in place while all holes were drilled. The holes in the sheet panel were dimpled and all stringer\bulkhead frame holes countersunk. The panel skin was then attached with countersunk aluminium pop rivets.
My aim is to replicate the panel lines of the original design as best I can. I’ve elected to use the panel lines on the Moebius 1/32 Classic Viper model as my guide. It’s a very good replica by all accounts and it is relatively easy to measure and scale up the individual panels on the model.
I then started on the bottom panel, using the same method for alignment and attachment, but using 0.6mm sheet aluminium. For this panel, however, I left the outermost seam unattached, to allow overlap of the other panels.
With top and bottom attached, I then started on the right hand side panels. The pictured panel appeared to be the least complex in terms of curved profile and it also forms the central panel from which all the other side panels can be designed and positioned.
Then the inter connecting panels to for the skin between the side panel and the bottom panel were sized, cut out and fitted, all from 0.6mm sheet.
I then begain to design and fabricate the upper panels/skins. I decided I wanted to make one of the panels a compartment door, complete with hinge. This is to give it a practical look and feel, similar to the old warbirds, but also to provide me with internal access to the fuselage.
Well there you have it – that’s the story so far. I’m very pleased with the results. Looks like a classic Colonial Viper nose section to me and it looks like it was built using the classic WW2 warbird construction techniques. I’ve yet to finish off the compartment door and then complete the side panelling on the left hand side of the nose. Then it will need filler applied to the countersunk rivets and some unnecessary panel lines, before priming and painting.
From my point of view I’m inspired to continue with the rest of the project. It has validated the design and construction techniques I have used and I know they will work effectively for the rest of the airframe.
I welcome any feedback on the project to date and would like to hear any suggestions people might have.
Until next time…