Kit aircraft have been constructed in every imaginable space, from
studio apartments to fully equipped aircraft hangars. Many are
built in garages. Some are built utilizing state of the art CNC
tools or laser cutters, others with simple hand tools. I
decided to go for a balance of practicality in both the aircraft, and
the methods used to build it. For each builder, some attributes
of the build are more important than others. For me, the shop in
which the aircraft is constructed was vitaly important, following the
notion that the finished product will be representative of where it
came from, or rather, a solid foundation is a cornerstone of a
I'm on shop version two, due to relocation, and expect at least one
more relocation before this project is complete. I do have room
for the empennage build, which is all I expect to complete before
moving again. As some others have
stated, having the build as close to home as possible will make it
easier to stay engaged versus starting it at the airport, or other
location away from home.
Go on a forum, or EAA meeting and ask what kind of table(s) you should
have for building airplanes with. You will get nearly as many
answers as there are people. Which is right? The correct
answer is whatever works best for you.
Some prefer the "EAA
tables", others prefer to build a table worthy of supporting a house
with engineered beams, and yet others simply bolt some sturdy framing
lumber together and say "get on with the build already".
I have three (3) separate 36"x48" torsion box tables that can
be leveled and bolted together to form a 3'x12' table if needed. Otherwise, the separate tables can
be easily moved and used independently.
The "torsion box" construction is simply a framework sandwiched between
two skins. The principle of it is to carry more load while using
lighter and fewer materials. Having a "skin" (plywood sheet) on the
bottom as well as the top surface helps to stiffen the structure, and
resist warping by counteracting any forces from the top surface.
This is also supposed to help keep it flat and level.
I used 1/4" sanded plywood for the bottom, and 3/4" sanded plywood for
the top. The "joists" and sides of the box are 1"x10" white
pine. The legs and leg crossbeams are regular framing lumber,
2"x6" and 2"x4", respectively. I bolted the legs directly to the
torsion box before securing the top. The top and bottom skins are
glued and screwed to the 1x10s. Everything is glued, and I
learned on the first table that you must have the 1x10 frame perfectly
square before you let it cure.
First off, I am no woodworker. I will own that. Metal has
always been my medium of choice, and can do quite well if something
needs to be welded or machined, but I have never fully appreciated the
skill of woodworking until these tables. I glued and screwed the
first frame together with no fixture or jigging, leaving it to dry
overnight with the "assumption" that I could manipulate it a little as
needed to fit up to the plywood, which was perfectly square. I
learned the next day that wood glue has a cured strength of several
thousand pounds per square inch, and does not take well to being
manipulated. In the ensuing battle to get the frame square, which
ultimately involved a crude fixture and several nylon cargo ratchet
straps, a couple glue joints failed. While the joints did not
physically come apart due to them also being screwed together, the
made just from the glue failing was pretty impressive, and made me glad
they were also screwed, lest the whole thing might have come apart
violently. On subsequent tables, I squared the frame up with a
carpenter's square as it was being built, and rigidly jigged it down to
The table top on the "short" 36" ends are flush with the frame.
This is to facilitate rigidly joining the tables together when a larger
table is needed. On the "long" 48" sides, the top overlaps the
frame by 2" to facilitate clamping fixtures and workpieces to the
table. A couple coats of polyurethane on the top of each table
and the edges should help protect the plywood from splintering, and
facilitate easier removal of epoxy (maybe).
As shown, they are not equipped with the leveling feet or the holes for
joining them together. Still deciding on exactly how I want to do
that, but leveling and joining is not needed right away, so moving
Total time working on tables: approx. 72 hours. I took a lot of
time on these. Wanted them to be useful long beyond this
Table: This was not in the plans, nor have I seen it in anyone
else's plans yet, but it fits in with my approach of keeping everything
neat and organized. I built a "drafting table" for tracing
templates on, keeping a drawing out but away from epoxy while building,
and also for storing drawings. It's tall enough to work with while
standing up, and the hinged lid allows all of my manuals and drawings
to stay clean while dust and epoxy are flying through the air.
Total time working on drafting table: approx. 22 hours.
box: Not much use for the RV, but while building a canard, I learned quickly that trying to handle 40" rolls of fiberglass,
roll it over a wet part, then hold it and cut it is an exercise in
futility. It results in fiberglass strands running in all
directions, lots of spilled epoxy, and cuss words scattered all over
the shop. The best way to handle fiberglass cloth is like any
other. Have a large table to cut it on, then roll up the
individual pieces and unroll them on the piece you are working
with. Much better.
My cutting box is mounted to the wall, has metal rods (3/4" rigid
conduit) to hold the rolls, and a folding door with folding legs that
is like a double-jointed murphy bed.
The rods pull out of the ends to replace rolls as they are used.
I made room for four rods, to have two rolls of each fiberglass at a
time, but so far have only been using three, and just leaving extra
rolls sealed up in plastic on the shelf.
When it is closed up, the door, table and legs all fold up to less than
12" from the wall, keeping the shop open. Four pull latches hold the
door tight to the cabinet to keep dust out. I considered a
temperature control for moisture, but we live in South Texas, so
moisture has not been much of an issue.