This site is dedicated to the construction of a plans-built airplane
Unibit Step Drill: This thing is great for drilling holes up to 7/8. (there are different sizes as well) It really works good for the lightning holes in aluminum bell cranks and idlers. The nice thing is you can drill 12 different size holes without changing bits in the drill press. Kind of expensive at about $27, but a better bargain than hole saws.
In shopping for tools, I found patience and comparison to be the best attribute you can have. You can literally save hundreds of dollars by just shopping around. This doesn't come naturally for me, and is something I have to really work at. But as with everything involved in this project, patience is a virtue that is vital to not making costly mistakes that can ruin your project. Below are some of the tools I have purchased up to now.
First, a few thoughts on Sears, and Harbor Freight.
Sears – Craftsman: Having compared Snap-on and other major tool manufacturers, I went with Craftsman on almost everything. Their return policy is very liberal, and their prices are reasonable. If you join the Craftsman Club, which is free, you can get an even better deal on many items.
Harbor Freight: I have been fairly cautious about buying Harbor Freight tools. Other builders had success with the drill press I purchased, and I haven’t been disappointed. I have also had success with the metal cutting band saw. One of the biggest advantages to buying large tools from Harbor Freight is the free shipping on any item over $50.
Tool Chest: Kobalt brand from Lowes for around $220. This is a very nice tool box for the price. It has ball bearing drawers in a good combination of sizes.
Compressor: Purchased from Sears for around $240. I think Sears is by far the best bet for compressors.
Grinder: Sears for $60.
Metal Cutting Band saw: Harbor Freight for $169, the blade that came with the saw sucked. I bought a new one from Enco, and it has been very good so far. I will probably always keep an extra one around. It’s cheaper to by rolls of blade material and make your own, but I don’t think I will do this. I will be using a plasma cutter to fabricate most of the 4130 fittings and other small steel parts.
Wood Band Saws: I originally bought the top saw from Harbor Freight for $100. It has a rheostat that controls the blade speed from 0 to 2600 fpm. Unfortunately, it was underpowered and somewhat temperamental. I have since bought a new saw from Sears for $119. It is more powerful, and works much better for making the forming blocks I need for the wing ribs.
Belt Sander: Sears for $70.
Gas welding rig with a Smith Airline torch from Jump Run Enterprises. This is a 4130 kit that I sell for $429. It includes a 120 minute video on constructing a tube airframe, 2 tip sizes, regulators, eye protection, hoses and other accessories. The lightweight torch is the best made, and includes a lifetime warranty. You have to constantly adjust the flame to produce the correct amount of heat, and the position of the controls allows you to do this on the go. See my web site at Jump Run Enterprises for more details.
Vises: Nothing spectacular here but the method used to attach them to the bench. I use two bar clamps which holds them to the table very securely. This gives me the ability to move them easily.
Rolling work table: I put the belt sander, grinder and band saw on wheels to allow me to keep them close to the place I’m working. I also used a power strip on the bench.
Drill Press: I bought this from Harbor Freight for $169. I have been very happy with this.
Tubing Notcher: I bought this from Grizzly for around $60. This is a knock off from the Joint Jigger that lists for $170. If used properly, the notcher can cut tubing that will be very close to a perfect fit on the first cut. On thin walled tubing, (most of the tubing on the STOL King is 5/8 or ½ inch .035) you can also use tin snips to make your initial fish mouth cut. Time will tell which option works the best. My guess it that I will use a combination of the two methods. (I didn't use the tin snips once!)
Kool Mist coolant system: I bought this on sale from Enco for about $100. It uses compressed air and non-corrosive coolant at low concentrations to provide cooling for the hole saws used in the tubing notcher. Without the cooler, the saws break teeth much more frequently. Hole saws are about $6 each, and there is also the inconvenience of having to change them and running to the hardware store, so I’m hoping this tool pays for itself.
One of the biggest tasks has been purchasing all the tools required to build. The other day, I stumbled across one of the first list of tools I wanted to buy. It was pretty funny how much it changed up to now. This was mostly due to the fact I had no idea what I was doing.
Now, I know exactly what I'm doing?
Grinder: On sale at Menards for $5. Used to rough cut steel and aluminum sheet and tubing. Replacement cutting disks are about $1 each.
Various air tools for sheet metal fabrication. I bought most of these from Harbor Freight as the went on sale.
Sliding T Bevel. $5 For transferring angles to the tubing notcher.
Six piece measuring set. On sale from Grizzly for $29. The caliper isn't very good. I have since ordered a digital one from Harbor Freight for $15.
Welding Magnets. $5 each from Harbor Freight. These work great for holding pieces in place for tacking. Be advised: The insides will melt.
Various hole saws for cutting lightening holes and tubing.
6" digital caliper from Harbor Freight. $15
Circle cutter for making an holes up to 6". Primarily for the large lightening holes in the main wing ribs. $20 from Sears
Lincoln Precision TIG 185. This is the welder I ordered in March of 05. I bought the ready pack and upgraded torch from TIG Depot. I also bought a gas lens kit, and Miller helmet on E-bay ($218). I think the total, with a leased Argon cylinder, will be about $2200. For more product information, Click here.