A Clever Gadget



One never stops learning! Although I have been working on airplanes most of my life, I still smile when I get to learn something new–which is almost every day, as the building world is huge, and the amount of accumulated experience and knowledge vast beyond comprehension. Take, for instance, this neat little tool–an optical center punch.

I am sure that the machinists among our audience will say “oh that? I use one every day!” But I somehow had never encountered one until a friend showed me just how he locates holes with unbelievable accuracy. I am used to measuring for a hole, drawing two fine, intersecting lines, then using a mechanical center punch carefully placed to make a dent for my drill bit. The optical center punch makes the punched spot an order of magnitude more precise. You peer through a magnifying lens inserted in a hole drilled all the way through the black base of the device. The lens has a dot, or a pair of cross hairs (depending on the model you have), and you center it up on your measured spot, which is highly magnified. When you have the tool centered, you pull out the lens, insert a steel center punch in the now centered tool’s hole, and give it a little tap with the hammer.


Voilà! A perfectly marked hole in which to start your drill!

I’m gonna have to get me one of these things.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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