As builders, we often have a pile of parts to turn into something resembling a flying machine. The pile often contains dozens of similar, if not exactly matching, parts. Every part has to end up in the exact location intended. Labeling is important, but what to do about part prep, priming, and painting? How do we label so they make sense, and how do we protect the label so it’s visible after paint? Here’s my solution.

The labels on these seat back parts include the part number and a right-angle set of vector arrows that indicate which way the parts will end up when installed.

My first requirement is the part number. Unfortunately with some parts, “R” and “L” don’t always mean right or left side of the aircraft. Sometimes it’s just the direction of the part. I use the part number, but always add “R” or “L” to designate the side of the aircraft. A group of the same part, such as stiffeners, will get a numerical sequence as well.

My second requirement is a clue to help me understand exactly how the part is oriented in the airplane. Notice in the photo that each part number has a right-angle set of vector arrows. On my labels, I always point the arrows “up” or “forward” and “inboard.” Looking at the parts in the photo, it’s pretty clear they are all right-side parts and exactly which way the parts will end up when installed.

My third requirement is labels that won’t show. Labels are placed on flanges and locations where parts will mate and hide the label after final assembly. Notice in the photo the label on the seat back at the bottom and the stiffener angle just above it. When the stiffener angle is rolled into place, it completely covers the label on both parts.

My fourth requirement is to keep things simple. During the initial assembly, parts are temporarily labeled with a Sharpie in an obvious location. Next comes disassembly, deburring and scuffing with Scotch-Brite. At this stage, the label area is thoroughly cleaned and the permanent labels are written. Temporary labels are then wiped off. Before priming, care is taken to clean the parts, but not remove the permanent label. If necessary, the label is overwritten again before priming.

Since the seat back parts in the photo would be sprayed black, the labels were masked after priming, but before paint. It looks goofy, but no one will ever see it. I painted before assembly so the rivets would contrast against the black interior. It really pops!

So find a method that works for you and be consistent. You’ll never wonder again where a part should be installed.


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