Opening Aluminum Angle


It is not uncommon when building an aluminum airplane to need to adjust the finished angle of an aluminum extrusion a bit. Closing up an angle to less than 90 degrees is easily accomplished by putting the part in a vise and hitting it with a hammer. Opening up the angle can be a little trickier. For a short piece, here’s a simple trick. In the tail of the Xenos motorglider, you have to open up a 2-inch length of 2x2x1/8-inch angle from 90 degrees to 95.1 degrees. Aside from not knowing how to measure that 0.1 degree, the bending was made easier with a claw hammer and my big Chinese vise.

The block of wood makes it easier to slide the claw of the hammer in there, and then a little pull back on the handle opens the angle a little. In this case, careful measurement showed that I got it to 95.5 degrees—but a quick rap with the hammer drove it back down to where it needed to be:

A quick pass on the belt sander took the little bit of curve out of the outside flats, and it matched the drawing—as close as I could tell.

Opening up a short piece of aluminum using a vise and claw hammer.

A block of wood makes it easier to slide the claw hammer into position.

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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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