Everybody, including myself, wants to know what tools they should buy when building an RV. As a general rule-of-thumb, the kits sold by both Cleveland and Avery come recommended, but there are additions and subtractions you will probably want to make. I have chosen to go the standard kit route, therefore I decided to spend a little extra on tools. Since I haven't been doing this very long, my list is certainly not complete, but I will attempt to hightlight a few things, updating this as I go along.
Generally, I beleive you get what you pay for when it comes to tools. Sure there are exceptions, and higher price doesn't always mean higher quality, but good quality tools in my opionion result is a quality airplane being built (or anything for that matter). Do yourself a favor, don't mess around, get the tools that are meant for the job and build yourself a nice airplane!
I started with Cleveland's basic kit, but made some changes, and picked up a few things from Avery, Brown Tools and elsewhere as well. For a longer list of aircraft tool vendors, please see my links page. You will find that I will tend to spend $ on a tool if I think it will save me time. What's another $50 if it shaves hours off the project. If it helps me get out of the shop and into the air faster, then in my book, it is money well spent. Ok, on to my list. I am not including everything here just yet, just a list of the tools I think are worth comment. As you review it, just keep in mind this is heavy with opionion, YMMV!
Brad's Tools List (Alphabetic)
Bench Grinder & Scothbrite Wheels
Countersink Tool & Cutters
Die Grinder & Deburring Wheels/Discs
DRDT-2 Dimpling Frame
Lightweight Hose Kit
Pneumatic Cleco Gun
Band Saw [TOP]
In my opinion, this is a nice to have, not a must have. Keep in mind though, at the time I write this, I am working on the tail. So far I have found it most useful in trimming the rudder stiffeners. I was able to knock them out in a matter of minutes. Sure it's a lot to spend just to make the rudder stiffeners, but I am sure I will use it througout the project. At this point I don't regret buying it, but I could have gone without it so far.
I also bought an 18 TPI blade at Lowe's for about $8. The high teeth count is important for cutting metal.
Tool: Band Saw / Metal Blade
Model: Delta BS100 / Vermont American 18TPI Blade
Source: Amazon.com / Lowe's
Price: $100 / $8
Belt/Disc Sander [TOP]
This is/was definately a luxury item, but I have still found it very useful. I bought this tool because the local EAA'ers said it was the one tool they wouldn't go without. At first I thought I would use the belt portion more, but I have found that I use the disc more that the belt. The disc was very useful in trimming large items such as the HS-710 and HS-714 stiffeners, as it was easy to just hold the part flat againt table while sanding (grinding) away the unwanted portions.
Tool: Belt/Disc Sander
Model: Delta SA180
Bench Grinder & Large Scrotchbrite Wheels [TOP]
I don't really think there is anyway you can get away without these. The medium Scotchbrite wheel came from Cleveland as part of my tool kit, but I added the light version to my order as well. I really like having both the medium and light wheels as I find the medium can be very aggressive in certain cases (thin material). I tend to start on the medium to get the rough stuff out, but then I finish on the light wheel. This method has worked very well for me.
Tool: Bench Grinder / Scotchbrite Wheels
Model: Delta 6" Bench Grinder / Medium Cut & Polish Wheel / Light Deburring Wheel
Source: Amazon.com / Cleveland Aircraft Tool
Price: $45 / $57 / $57
What type and size of compressor to buy is often a question asked by new builders. Many of us have either never owned or used air tools before, or maybe our compressors were inadequate for the job (mine was). In either case a shopping trip was necessary. If you plan on using air tools to build your airplane, in general it is a good idea to buy the biggest compressor (capacity and power) you can afford or have space for. That isn't to say you can't build and airplane with a smaller compressor (you can even skip the air tools altogether), but having a large compressor will allow you to run high air consumption tools such as drills, die grinders, or spray guns without the compressor running all the time to try to keep up. When comparing compressors it is best to pay closer attention to the CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating rather than horsepower or tank size, and to purchase a compressor that has a CFM output that is greater than the CFM requirements of you tools. Unfortunately, if you plan on painting your own airplane, many of the HVLP spray guns require CFMs that only the largest compressors can deliver. This is a little impractical for the homebuilder, but tradeoffs can generally be made.
Another imporant thing to consider is power requirements. Many of the larger high-CFM compressors require 220 volt power. That may be fine at home when you are building in the garage, but what about when you move to a hangar? Will 220V be available to you? I purchased a compressor that was convertable from 110V to 220V. At home I have it set up for 220V (consumes half the Amps) and when I move to the hangar, I will convert it back to 110V.
Model: VT6315 - 5HP / 26 Gal / 120/240V
Source: Home Depot
Countersinking Tool & Cutters [TOP]
When I purchase my tool kit from Cleveland I chose to upgrade, for a few bucks more, to the microstop notched countersinking tool and single flute. I upgraded to the notched cutter becasue I felt it would hold it setting better that the threaded version. As far as the cutters go, based on my prior useage of the standard three-flute cutters, I have found that the single flute versions produce a much smoother countersink with no chatter whatsoever. For the couple bucks more I paid, I think it was worthwhile investment.
Tool: Countersink & Cutters
Model: Heavy Duty Notched Countersink / Single Flute Cutters
Source: Cleveland Aircraft Tool
Price: $37 / $11 each cutter
Deburring Tools [TOP]
Ok, heavy dose of opinion here, so be prepared. From left to right is the 4" Hex Deburring Tool that came with my Cleveland Tool kit, the 3-Piece Duburring Tool also included in the Cleveland kit, and the Speed Deburring & Countersinking tool I purchased from Avery Tools. For deburring holes, I have found that I much prefer the Cleveland Hex Deburring tool over the Avery. Why? I just think the Avery with its three flutes (blades) is too agressive, while the Cleveland is a single flute design and tend to be gentler to this parts such as skins. Just my $.02 here. That being said, I find the Avery tool necessary for countersinking holes the normal countersink tool won't reach.
As far as the 3-Piece tool goes... I hardly use it as I tend to favor the die grinder/Scotchbrite wheel combo where I can, and a plain old Scotch-brite pad in others. I dunno, I just don't get it. It just doesn't seem to do too much, but I will admit that it goes where other tools have a hard time reaching.
Tool: Hand Deburring Tools
Model: 3" Hex Deburr Tool / 3-piece Deburring Set / Speed Deburring & C'sinking Tool
Source: Cleveland Aircraft Tool / Cleveland Aircraft Tool / Avery Tools
Price: $17 / $15 / $26
Die Grinder & Deburring Wheels/Discs [TOP]
In combination with the small deburring wheels (pictured) I have found this to be a very useful to deburr/edge-finish the egdges of the spar flanges. Using this method, I am able to knock out the edge-finishing on a spar in a minute or two, where it took much longer using the file and scotchbrite method. I have also found it indespesible for deburring the inside of large holes such as in ribs or the Vertical Stab Doubler. I also found the Die Grinder in combination with the Roloc Deburring Discs (right) to be great at breaking the edges or finishing parts such at the Horizontal Stabilizer Doublers.
For the tail I certainly could have gotten away without the die grinder, but I understand most people use a die grinder with a cutting disc to do the canopy trimming.
Tool: Die Grinder / Deburring Wheels & Discs
Model: Sioux 90-degree Die Grinder / 2" Wheel & Mandrel / 2" Roloc Kit
Source: eBay / Cleveland Aircraft Tool / Avery Tools
Price: $25 (deal!) / $15 (both) / $25
DRDT-2 Dimpling Frame [TOP]
Another one of my favorite tools. Sure it is expensive, but it is whisper quiet and produces consistant results every time. I knew that I would be doing much of my construction in my garage late at night, after my wife and neighbors had gone to bed, so I didn't want the banging associated with a regular c-frame, so I bought the DRDT-2.
Another benefit is faster dimpling. With a regular c-frame, you set the part in place, hold down the ram, pick up the hammer, strike the ram, put the hammer down and repeat. With the DRDT-2, you just move the part and depress the lever, and repeat. I have done it both ways, and the DRDT-2 method seems a lot faster to me.
Tool: C-Frame Dimpler
Source: Experimental Aero
Drill Press [TOP]
Some would consider this a luxury item, and while I would agree it is not absolutely necessary, it certainly does help with some tasks. So far, I have found it most useful when drilling the lightening holes in the Vertical Stabilizer Doubler. These were drilled with a fly-cutter and I can't see how it could be done without a drill press. If you plan on using a fly-cutter, then I would suggest purchasing a drill press that can operate at slow speeds (<300 rpm). In my case I found one that operates as low as 250 rpm, and I couldn't see using the fly-cutter any faster, as it would just be too dangerous.
Tool: Drill Press
Model: Tradesman 12" 12-Speed
Lightweight Hose Kit [TOP]
This tool came with my RV tool kit from Cleveland Aircraft Tools, and I liked it so much I orderd a second one. I like it because it eliminates the heavy hoses, couplings and connectors in your typical air line set-up. Sure I have seen lightweight hoses in the tool stores, but I have never seen the tiny little connectors/couplings that really help make this set-up so light. I connect my lightweight hose(s) to my regular hose, and with 10' or lightweight hose my regular hose just stays on the floor. I find it very easy to handle my drill and squeezer without dragging that heavy hose with me. Sometimes I will connect two lightweight hoses (using the t-connector pictured), one for my drill the other for the pneumatic cleco gun. The kit comes with three fittings, but don't forget to order a few extra.
Tool: Lightweight Hose Kit
Source: Cleveland Aircraft Tool
Notes:T-connector made with standard air line connectors (not from Cleveland)
Pneumatic Cleco Gun [TOP]
This is a pretty cool little tool. Definately not a must have, but a strong nice to have. This puppy makes moving clecos a rapid fire task. While I still use my cleco pliers a lot, when moving or installing clecos in large areas of skins, I always favor the pneumatic tool. Some people complain that cleco pliers make their hands sore, and I will agree with that, if moving a lot of clecos (and you will) you hand does get fatiqued after a while. The pneumatic cleco gun helps eliminate that fatique. For the money, a great little tool.
Tool: Pneumatic Cleco Gun
Source: The Yard Store
Pneumatic Squeezer [TOP]
By far my best investment in tools to date. I love this thing. I started with a hand squeezer, but found I was having trouble getting good results with some of the -4 rivets in the tail, so I broke down and bought the pneumatic, and I am glad I did. Sure you can do the entire airplane with a hand squeezer, but the pneumatic makes it so fast and easy. Do yourself a favor, get one, you won't regret it.
Keep in mind, if you buy a hand squeezer, some models of hand squeezerss have yokes that will not work in pneumatic squeezers. If you plan on upgrading to a pneumatic squeezer at some time, you might want to buy a hand squeezer that uses the same yokes so you don't have to buy those again as well.
Tool: Pneumatic Squeezer
Model: 214C Clone
Source: Cleveland Aircraft Tool
Price: $474 plus $65 for the adjustable set
Rivet Gun [TOP]
The debate still stands... 2X or 3X? I can't really offer any assistance, all I can say is that I bought a 3X gun and I am glad I did. Why? Because I screwed up a -4 (1/8") rivet in the tail and had to move up to a -5 (5/32"). I probably could have used a 2X to set that rivet, but the extra power of the 3X was nice in that case. I ended up buying a Sioux gun from Brown Tools. Some would say that the extra expense ins't worth it, and I am not necessarily going to disagree with them, good quality rivet guns can be had for less money. I will however say that this is a nice gun... I have no complaints whatsoever.
Tool: Rivet Gun
Model: Sioux 3X
Source: Brown Aviation Tool
Squeezer Yokes [TOP]
You are going to need a few squeezer yokes. The standard 3" yoke (left) is very useful, but there are times when you need to get around a flange or in a tight spot, and you will need a new weapon. In my case it is 4" No Hole Yoke (middle) and the Longeron Yoke (right). While building the tail I found places where each of these have been very useful. Sure they are expensive, but IMHO these are must haves.
Tool: Squeezer Yokes
Model: 3" Standard / 4" No-hole / Longeron
Source: Cleveland Aircraft Tool
Price: $125 / $140 / $135 ... OUCH!