I started this adventure by buying an RV tool kit from Avery Tools. I’ve been very pleased with everything from Avery but I’ve also added a few items along the way. I wanted to start this page to keep note of some of my favorite tools and notes about what I find most useful.
For aluminum aircraft construction it all starts with the air compressor. I found this guy discounted about 25% at a local Sears because it was a return. It’s a 27 gallon tank and has performed flawlessly.
Next up is my Main Squeeze from Cleveland Tools. I deleted the squeezer from the Avery kit and purchased the Main Squeeze instead. I’ve loved using this tool and am able to deliver substantially more power than using a standard squeezer.
This one is a must have as far as I’m concerned. I know it’s expensive but it’s worth the price and you can sell it after you’r done building on the builders forums (like VAF) for near what you paid. The DRDT-2 is a vast upgrade over a C-Frame and a mallet. I got mine as an upgrade on the RV tool kit I ordered from Avery Tools but I don’t know if they still carry them. Cleveland Tools does carry them and you can get them from the maker Experimental Aero also.
You can scrimp on air drills but it’s something you’re going to use a whole lot through the course of the build. I got this Pan American (Sioux knock off) from Avery as part of my kit and I’ve been very pleased with it. It’s smooth, quiet, and well balanced.
In fact, while you’re at it…if you’re building a Van’s RV aircraft, you probably want at least two air drills. That’s because 99% of all holes on the plane are either #40 or #30. You’ll save a great deal of time if you don’t have to switch drill bits back and forth. I’m also not a fan of keyless chucks for things like this. They are heavier and mess up the balance of the tool in my opinion. Also shown here is my 18V lithium battery powered drill. I use it for most drilling on the plane that’s not #30 or #40. It’s also important to use the slower drill for countersinking.
Another tool I got as part of the Avery kit but would not do without is the tungsten bucking bar. It is as heavy as a steel bar twice it’s size but so much easier to get into tight spaces. Once again, it’s expensive but it’s something you’re going to use a whole lot during the build.
I don’t know if this qualifies as a “tool” but its something I like a lot. Cleveland Tools lightweight air hose kit and the associated rectus fittings are wonderful. They operate much more smoothly than the typical air hose fittings and it’s nice to not have a heavy hose and fitting attached to the tools we use a lot. You can see the lightweight hoses and fittings below next to a typical air fitting.
Avery Tools ran a sale for Christmas so I bit the bullet and grabbed a pneumatic squeezer. It uses the same yokes as the Main Squeeze but Ashley gave me a new longeron yoke for Christmas so I can now keep a yoke in the hand squeezer and in the pneumatic.
Update after working with it for a week: I love this tool. Especially for the AN3 size rivets. It lets me hold the part with one hand and set the rivet with the flip of my thumb. I don’t know why I went without it for so long.