Marking Rivet Locations

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Laying out rivet patterns can take a lot of time, especially when the drawings specify distances from a leading edge or other reference mark, and the distances are not whole numbers. If you have to lay out a number of rivet holes on identical items, it is easy to make a measurement mistake if you go back to the drawing for each one. Fortunately, wing and tail ribs on a constant chord surface usually have the same pattern across the span, so you can use a little mass production to help you out.

I use some thin scrap aluminum cut into one-inch strips, with the edge made straight on a belt sander. Lay this against the full-size drawing and mark the rivet locations with a Sharpie. Be sure to include a “zero” point for an easy-to-find reference point, like the leading edge of the sheet. Label the template to make sure that if there is a difference between upper and lower surfaces, you don’t get things reversed-then move to your wing or tail skin and transfer the marks quickly and consistently.

The best thing about using a Sharpie on aluminum is that when you are finished, you can erase it all with some acetone and reuse the blank for your next marking project.

Lay a thin scrap of aluminum against a full-size drawing and mark the rivet locations with a Sharpie. Be sure to include a “zero” point for an easy-to-find reference point.

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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 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as 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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