I began my build in late 2016 with the rudder starter kit from Zenith. My hope was to read through the instructions and knock it out in a weekend. Boy, was I wrong!
I began the assembly of the skeleton and immediately started to realize I did not have the right tools for the job. I ordered the exact number of clecos and sizes as suggested and the right number of #40, #30, and #20 drill bits but that is where my specialty tool list ended. I only used my vice grips as a clamp once before I realized that the scratches it left behind were not going to make my life easier. Fortunately, aircraft spruce has these for just $2. Few days of waiting on the mail and I am back in action. I get the skeleton assembled with clecos and it is time to debur, clean, and corrosion proof. I debur all of the holes drilled thus far and call it good. After some reading online while I was away from the workshop for a few days, I learned that not only do I need to debur the holes but also all of the edges. But wait there's more? A short trip to the hardware store and I have a new set of files and some maroon colored scotch-brite pads. (I did rummage through the house and find some green ones, I now know those do not work no matter how hard you scrub.) OK, parts are now super smooth. Cleaning time? Sure, bust out a damp cloth and wipe all of the metal particles off. How do I get the black markings on the metal off? Can I just leave them on? Quick forum search and it is back to the hardware store to pick up Acetone. Now all of my parts are cleaned and deburred. The little bit I read online before I ordered my starter kit said that as long as the plane stays in the midwest, you probably don't need corrosion protection. Another visit to the forums and I confirmed this to be true with one exception, float planes. I hope to eventually put my plane on floats one day. Back online to order some corrosion protection. It seemed like zinc chromate is the tried and true corrosion protection so I went with that. I ordered one rattle can to use on the rudder. A few more days of waiting on the mail and I was back in business. I was finally ready to pull my first rivet!
I ordered the manual rivet gun from Zenith when I ordered the rudder kit. I pulled my first rivet and noticed it didn't look quite right. Back on to the internet and discovered I used the A5 rivet head to pull the A4 rivet. Not a major problem. I subsequently drilled out my first rivet and swapped heads in the rivet gun. Pulled my second rivet and it looked identical to the first. Close comparison of my tips to some other non-machined tips I had from a different rivet showed that I had two A5 tips and no A4 tip. Couple emails back and forth with Zenith and my A4 tip was enroute. The rest of the skeleton goes together without a hitch after it arrives.
The rudder skin goes on without much issue. Lots of duct tape to hold it in place and some custom wood blocks screwed to my work bench for support. Last specialty tool that I had to order for the rudder was a hole finder. After a few hours of head scratching trying to figure out how to get a hole drilled in the skin in the exact location and the pre-drilled hole in the skeleton I went to the forums. Turns out there is a tool made just for my exact problem. Few more days of waiting on the mail and I am back in action. The rudder is now complete.
My initial $400 investment turned into over $600 by the time you factor in the specialty tools that "were not required" but made the job a million times easier. The next big question was, do I buy the rest of the kit? I mulled this question over for the next 12 months. I adopted a dog, got engaged, got married and bought a new house (with a 2-car capped garage for "storage"). After a year of life getting in the way and all the while reading about everyone else building their planes, I decided to make the leap. I placed my order for the fuselage shortly after getting back from my honeymoon. Fortunately, my wife acknowledged that she knew what she was getting in to when she married me with a "partially built" airplane in the basement.
A few days after ordering my fuselage, Zenith informed me it will be a 3 month wait. I was itching to go right now. I asked if a different kit would be able to ship sooner. Two weeks late my horizontal stabilizer shows up.