It’s what you climb up, my son, when you’re building a new Savannah instrument panel. Suffice to say that I won’t be using the panel that I’ve been working on – I can’t anyway because I drilled a large hole on the wrong side – but I’ve now learnt by my mistakes how to go about doing the next one and, hopefully, making a nice job of it.

I’ve already ordered another sheet, this time of plain aluminium instead of pre-lacquered, which I should receive in a few days time. The new sheet of 1.5mm aluminium will have a protective film on one bright side and I’ll decide when it arrives whether to leave it on or not before I start working on it.

Another thing that I’ve learned is that I must work from the front of the panel because both the drills and the cutters that I’ve been using give a clean cut on the entry face and any burring, if there is any, is left on the back where it can be removed without leaving any visible trace.

The next thing is that I’ve now managed to get clean, vertical cuts using my hole cutters. I’ve had to do several things to achieve this. Firstly, by just screwing my hole cutters onto the arber I’m using (the arber is the shaft on which the cutter is mounted that fits into the drill chuck) and not using the securing mechanism that it came with, the cutters are mounted much more securely and are rigid in use. It was mainly because the securing mechanism allowed them to wiggle a little from side to side that the holes they produced were coming out with slightly bevelled edges.

The other thing that caused the holes to be untidy was using a hand drill. I’ve now made up a temporary rig on my bench-mounted vertical drill that allows me to clamp the panel firmly in place for working on and the holes that result are vastly superior to what I was getting previously. In fact, the only holes that are critical are the three 80mm ones for the ASI, altimeter and VSI because all of those instruments are inserted from the back. I’m pretty certain now that if I take enough care I’ll be able to make good jobs of them using my bench rig.

All of the other holes in the panel are relatively much easier to cut and drill because the gauges and switches that go into them all have front bezels that will cover up any cosmetic discrepancies. The only other thing that I’ll have to do is make sure that I drill the holes accurately in their correct positions and I’ve learnt that the best way to do that is to centre-punch each one beforehand. This makes it much easier to line up the drill point before clamping the panel down on my rig.

So that should do it and I guess that taking my time so I don’t make any silly mistakes, I should get the panel finished with a couple of days of work. I received confirmation earlier this afternoon that my radio and transponder kit has all now been picked up by DHL so I’ll hopefully have that by the end of the week so with a bit of luck I could have the completed panel ready for refitting early next week.

As I then need to test everything and make sure that it all works as it should and get the transponder programmed and initialised (probably in La Rochelle), this will be too late for my first window to fly to the UK. I suspect that it may also be too late for my second window a week later but I’ll just have to do my best and see how things turn out.

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