Hangar Capability Upgrade: Sioux 645 Valve face grinder.

Builders:

New addition to the hangar tool collection, an important upgrade in valve refacing. Old school equipment like this is capable of very good work, and you can buy parts like grinding wheels for them from a number of sources. This is an indication that shops that need accurate work, still get it from classic equipment.

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This refaced is older than I am. The fact it can grind valve faces to increments of 1/4 of a degree, and it is fully adjustable, allows the initial set up of the seat/face angles in a valve job to address factors like aircraft engines having to run at times of 100LL fuel, which leaves deposits, that are better dealt with by slight angular differences between the surfaces.

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I learned a lot about precision valve work when I was 19-21 years old, working under the instruction of Jack Puhack, at Speed World, 1400 Stuyvesant Ave, Irvington N.J. …….. I used a valve refacer identical to this one.

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Above, the Sioux 645 sitting next to my refurbished Sunen LBA-650. Both of these tools are part of my long term goal to have nearly all of the machine work in rebuilding Corvair engine components in house.

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William

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Friends In Aviation;

Builders,

There is a passion and intensity to the best part of aviation, which attract the truly devoted, and hold them for the duration. Now that Im almost 60, a lot of the times past are many years gone, but when I’m in the company of someone who I share many times with, both great adventures and tedious tasks, moments of real triumph and some hours of somber reflection, it all seems like it happened last week.

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20 years ago, my friend Arnold Holmes and I stand beside a Chevrolet based 420HP “Engine-Air” V-8, Mounted on the front of a Lancair IVP. We both did a lot of work on these planes. This is a 385mph homebuilt, that can cruise at 30,000′. In those days Arnold was a nationally known composites expert, known by the moniker “The Repair”. Today, 100% of my work is on Corvairs, because the rewards of teaching builders lasts, where the rewards of high end projects were financial and ego based, and faded quickly.

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Yesterday in my shop, Arnold and Myself. These days, Arnold is a very active DAR. He predominately works in Florida, but his FAA rating has no geographic restrictions. ( He certified the Jag-2 Twin when it was finished on Long Island.) If you have need of a DAR, look him up under “AV-MECH LLC” . If you are getting started in homebuilding, remember this: To find the quality people in aviation, all you have to do is be one, and be particular about the company you keep. When you are passionate enough about flight to build your own airframe and engine, you will be telling others by your choices and actions that you value the same learning and craftsmanship that made homebuilding a real endeavor, well worth the sacrifices to engage in the most creative part of aviation.

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William

Blast from the past – 30 years ago

Builders:

Two pictures from an old filing cabinet. This is one of my early engines being tested. This was the last engine without a starter…. It was a pain to hand prop, because everything inside was new, (a lot of ring drag on fresh cylinders) and the compression was very good. Shortly after these pictures we fitted it with a starter up by the prop hub.

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This picture was taken at the Spruce Creek Fly in. The Address was 207 Cessna blvd. In those years I worked out of the hangar of Willie Carter, the man pictured. It was an absolute guru of fabric covering, classic homebuilding, and one hell of a pilot. In the years he was my mechanical mentor, he always called me “Grasshopper” a nod to his favorite TV show.

The engine was a 2700, .030″ over. It was running an ‘Altimizer” carb, Heavily advertised back then, but in reality trash. The black hub on this engine is the one on the top of the Chevy Grove Trophy. It was made for me by my friend Judith Saber. The prop was made for me by Ed Sterba. My 1967 Corvair is in the background.

The date on the photo is erroneous, I lived in a different part of Florida in ’87.

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On the left is a 28 year old version of me. Willie mans the controls, and A&P extrodinare Steve Upson gets it to light off with perfect had prop technique. Both Willie and Steve could hand prop all kinds of things that no one would touch, 200HP angle valve Lycomings with high compression pistons and even a R-985 with a shower of sparks ignition on a DGA-15.

Steve was later a member of “the Hangar Gang” when we were in Edgewater Florida 2002-2007.

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William

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Inventory increase – Oil pan installation kits

Builders;

Today in the shop, I spent several hours welding oil pickups together. These are the central component of an oil pan installation kit. They are made by adapting a brand new small block chevy pick up to 3″ of the end of the original pick up. It all gets welded together in a fixture made from an old engine case. These kits compliment my deep sump Gold billet oil pan.

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Above, on the welding bench. The new V-8 pickups start the process by having .049″ x .750″ 4130 tubes Tig welded onto them. This later forms the joint to the original pick up in a second welding operation. The kit includes the pick up, a magnetic drain plug, all of the 19 Allen screws and washers to mount the pan.

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William

Inventory increase – 2,850cc Piston, Ring Rod and Cylinder Kits

Builders,

One of the most common questions I get is about the availability of 2,850cc kits. Good news, Im getting very close to having them on hand again.

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I have not been making them for several months while my attention was focused on manufacturing upgrades in the shop. I didn’t intend to let it go this long, but shortly I will be focusing large blocks of time to getting these kits back on the shelf, and keeping plenty in stock.

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Cleaning, boring, honing, painting and packaging these kits is best done in blocks of time. It is terribly inefficient to try to produce single sets or do the work when the shop is also producing other items, like complete engines. Now that I’m back on production focus, I can devote the attention and time to building a large run of the kits.

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Above, The door to the CNC room in my hangar. The boring bar lives in the same room with the CNC. It is clean, very well lit, and climate controlled, all importian in doing precision work and keeping the machines in good order. If you look at the picture, you can see twenty two sets of 2,850cc pistons in the picture. The tall red item inside the shop is the Van Norman 944S boring bar. It is a 1950s vintage machine, manufactured to a 1937 design……and it is stunningly accurate when you operate it correctly. When I bought my machine, it had zero use since it was completely overhauled. I was essentially starting out with a brand new unit.

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Above, crates of cylinders. I just bought this to supplement the supply I have. When you buy a 2,850cc kit, a politely ask builders to return their core cylinders to me. I don’t have a core charge system, but instead operate on the honor system that people ordering kits will send their old ones in. Not all of the ones sent in are useable, (Don’t send cylinders with broken fins, thanks) but as long as people put an effort in on this, the less cylinders I have to buy on the market, and the longer the kit price can stay down.

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Youtube Video on the kits, a good look at how they are made:

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The Catalog page on 2,850cc Kits. You will be able to place your order here when these are back in stock shortly:

William

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Inventory increase – Ultra Lightweight Starters.

Builders;

Here is another installment of my inventory increase series. The subject here is the Ultra Lightweight Starter, Part Number 2401. 

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This has been my standard starter for the last decade.  In my conversion manual, everything to do with the starting system is Group #2400. 

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Pictured below are 9 starters I just finished assembling and putting into inventory. The center of the of the starter is a complex 3/8′ thick,  6061-T6 plate machined on my CNC. 

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The link to my products page:

2400L Ultra Light Weight Starter Kit

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Instructions:

Group 2400-L Starter installation instructions.

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Video on the starter:

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Going from old starter to new: 

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William

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Inventory increase – Heavy Duty Oil Coolers.

Builders;

‘Group 2800’ is the section of my conversion manual for Heavy Duty oil cooling systems. The cooler itself is part number 2801.

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These are very popular, nearly 90% of corvair powered aircraft use the 2800 oil system, opposed to the Group 2700 system, built around the stock GM oil cooler. Every engine I have built for nearly 20 years as been equipped with a heavy duty oil system, they just make sense for the great majority of aircraft. As a general rule, the slower a plane flies, the bigger the oil cooler needs to be (because it is seeing lower velocity cooling air and slower planes have more drag and are frequently flown at higher % power settings. )

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Because I have been a recognized engine builder operating the same business for several decades, I have been granted OEM status (Original Equipment Manufacturer) by the Aero Classics parent company. This gives me the ability to buy the coolers in quantity from the factory on the west coast, at good pricing and with quick shipments.

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An example of this: I sell this cooler for $26 less than Aircraft Spruce does, and I frequently have it in stock when they don’t. ( I also sell this particular part to non-Corvair homebuilders ). The Aero Classics 10 row cooler is a good value and a quality product.

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Above, the markings on the Heavy Duty oil cooler. Although these are just for experimental aircraft, they are made side by side with models that have a TSO ( Technical Standards Order ) for certificated aircraft.

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Again, this is another part of my program to increase the inventory to give better part availability to builders. As I explained in my previous story, Price is an important factor, but builders primarily need availability . In this case, I provide both.

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William

Switching gears, Tooling to Production

Builders;

Over the last 18 moths, and particularly the last 5 months, I have put a great effort into upgrading the tooling in my hangar and workshop. The goal has been to bring more manufacturing in house, to have better control over costs, timelines and quality. The first two factors play into a very important issue: Availability.

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Its no secret that all kinds of mechanical items have been selling really well, and this has caused long lead times in our industry, and material price increases. I listen to builders everyday, and frequently ask them what their concerns are. Many people would guess prices, but in a word, the greater concern is availability. Builders are concerned about budgets and costs, but in the end, the parts have to be available when builders need them, and as long as pricing stays reasonable, available remains the paramount goal.

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Just deciding to increase the levels of stock will not cure availability. Just increasing stock requires price increases, because the costs of carrying more inventory is not offset by discounts for quantity manufacturing at our volume. Even getting machine shops I have worked with for decades to produce more is difficult, as they are now flooded with lucrative orders from companies cut off from overseas suppliers. The real solution in more in house manufacturing, and that means heavy investments in tooling and time investments in bringing these systems into productive use. Good news, we are almost there, and the next 90 days before Oshkosh will see a steady increase in availability of all catalog items, as more and more of the production comes from raw materials I put into my own machines, here.

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Above, a look at the centerpiece of my machinery investments. This is my MillWright 48×48 CNC. I have had it a year, it required expanding the climate controlled section of my hangar to house it. It was a good machine, but to really have it produce parts unique to my product line, it underwent very extensive upgrades and modifications in the last 3 months. The start of the video pans over its control system; This was designed and installed by 601/Corvair builder and pilot Ken Pavlou. If you know this stuff, it is a 2hp 220V 3 phase spindle controlled by the VFD in the cabinet. It is a 5 axis Masso controller, as it needs 4 controllers because it has 2 screws on the y axis. Ken when out of his way to design systems and controls that made sense to me, a technology imbecile. He was a bit tired of hearing me whine about the non user friendly software that originally came with the unit. If you look close, the fixtures from left to right are for machining ring gears, top covers and alternator brackets. This machine can now do many tasks efficiently, not just flat shapes.

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The CNC is just one of the machines that I have brought on line here, starting with My boring bar, continuing on to the Winona seat and guide machine and the latest, the Sunnen precision hone. There will always be further additions and refinements, but now, I’m switching to production as the primary work in the shop.

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The next few stories will cover inventory increases, many of which are made directly possible by the machines here, or made possible by the increase in business providing the resources to carry more inventory. If you are one of my builders who has waited for a part to become available, thank you, know that I take providing all the parts you need, very seriously.

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William.

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Inventory increase – Conversion Manuals

Builders;

Im going to share a series of notes here about catalog items which I will be increasing the inventory on hand of. Let’s start with something simple: Conversion Manuals.

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I have these printed locally, and I just picked up a batch of 25 yesterday and put them in inventory. In my catalog, you can actually see how many of any given part I have on hand. Yesterday, manuals went to 36 after I put this box in inventory.

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If you would like a manual, here is a direct link:

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William

An afternoon in “Quiet America”

Builders;

I took the afternoon off so Vern Stevenson and myself could go over and look at the workshop of a highly skilled and respected automotive machinist. I leaned a lot about the mans craftsmanship and reputation from looking at his shop and listening to stories of Vern and John, the latter having been a close friend of the man for decades. I was late to meet the man in person, as he had passed away seven years ago.

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Above, the mailbox outside the man’s home and workshop. The post, probably meaningless to 95% of the people who passed it on the rural dead end street, told many people in the mechanical world they were at the correct location. The man’s widow lived in the home until a year ago. His friends had assisted her in the sale of a small fortune in tooling and engine components. When we visited, our guide, loyal to a trust, was going through the final clean up, although his friend and spouse were now long gone. The promises some people make don’t expire with the passing of the person to whom they were given. This may seem archaic to todays social world, but it is common place enough in ‘Quiet America’ to be assumed as expected conduct of ones life.

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The mans work and expertise centered on high performance Fords. While modern complex engines like the modular series and the 5.0’s have their fans, the mans work was of big FE engines, 390’s, 427’s, 428’s and 429’s. The outer buildings once contained driveline components floor to ceiling. The have been sold over the years, and during our visit just a shadow of what once was remained. The ring and pinion here is from a Ford 9″, the axle so strong and versatile that it popularly appears as an aftermarket installation in all brands of muscle cars. There were a dozen of these on near empty shelves, a small hint of what was once here.

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Above, the primary subject of my visit. Our guide knows of my work with Corvairs, and asked if I would like one of the few remaining pieces of equipment from his friends shop, This Sunnen LBA-650 precision hone. It is 1950s vintage, in need of restoration, but can be set up to hone connecting rods to .0001″ bore size. ( That is the correct amount of zeros, yes, it sizes holes to one ten thousandth of an inch. ) In the everyday world, this might be seen as antiquated stuff that isn’t desirable because its currently dirty, you would have to learn how to use it, and it isn’t two of my least favorite phrases ‘Plug and play’ nor ‘high tech!’.

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Conversely, I saw this not just a a fine piece of equipment, but much more importantly, our guide, who has been to my hangar, has concluded that I was a worthy recipient of a piece of the shop of his deceased friend. I don’t know how main stream people think, but to me this was a humbling validation of my mechanical work and character………..In 2016 I was awarded the EAA Major Achievement Award for my work with Corvairs. It was presented at The Zenith Homecoming dinner by Charlie Becker. I was not told in advance, and I was both moved and dumbstruck. There as a standing ovation and I stuttered through a thank you to everyone who helped me along the way. …….. Ironically, standing in outside and empty, shuttered home and shop, the breeze blowing the dead leaves around the yard, the only sound, being given a seventy year old machine, made me feel the exact same way. being understood as a fellow craftsman by a full time resident of ‘Quiet America’, was moving to me.

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The man was an accomplished welder, this canister of rods was on the shelf. They are unopened, date coded 1981. You know you are getting older when it takes a moment to sink in, that is 41 years ago.

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This property tag was on an incubator style welding rod heater and dehumidifier. Duval county is the greater Jacksonville area. This is the pre-1970s name for the school board. This is from an era where welding was understood as a viable trade to teach students. I was in high school at the very end of the industrial arts era, where every guidance counselor was getting on board with the idiotic myth that factory jobs would all be sent overseas, but of course computer jobs never, ever could be. Its impossible to explain to such people that the average refinery or power plant has thousands of miles of welds in it, and it has to be built here, it can’t be outsourced.

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A cabinet of ignition parts, the kind you would have found in most neighborhood gas stations, before they made cars so high tech they were essentially granting the dealerships a maintenance monopoly and making sure they were a disposable product after 10 years. I have always loved the artwork of this era.

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This is the data plate on the Sunnen hone. Sunnen is the world wide leader in the modern version of all kinds of industrial hones. It started out of the back of Joe Sunnen’s car 98 years ago.

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We stopped at the little mom and pop diner in Baldwin for a late lunch on the way back. When you write a story about this kind of day and place in America, there is a near instant assumption on the part of people trained by urban focused media, that because I live in the south, I’m getting nostalgic over some red neck era. When you say anything positive about rural, simple life, and add anything blue collar or industrial to the story, there is a conditioned Pavlovian response to label it as bigoted, because that it the only way they know to attack people who’s life they don’t get. This bulletin board was in the diner, notice that just like the patrons, it is people of all backgrounds, who are more likely to see themselves as Americans, rather than some artificially divided subgroup.

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Direct Connection to your Airplane: If you don’t yet know that the mailbox post in the first picture is a crankshaft supported by a camshaft, that is perfectly OK, I was taught these things by people who cared to share them, and I actually regard it as an ethical duty to share what I was taught with others, lest I be some kind of ingrate. There are plenty of people, maybe even a majority, who don’t care anything about the ideas of understanding the mechanical things they use, simplicity, nor self-reliance. Thats fine, I’m not here to change their world or worry about their choices. However, if you care about these things, and want to spend your days in aviation among a people who do, then the world of Corvairs may be your home in homebuilding.

William

❤️🙂

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Three related stories:

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Our country wasn’t built by greedy people employing labor in other countries, but it could end that way.

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 “As I sat down on a milk crate, I realized that this is the exact same thought that this man has with every single person, every day. The distinction being, in my case I thought I was doing some charity, and in his he is living as a genuine human being.”

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“That isn’t false modesty, it is just an awareness that comes from learning that the largest mistakes I made in life happened when I had the least doubt about which path to take. “