My wife and I attended the rudder workshop this last February and began our CH-650 project.  Prior to attending the workshop, we were in general agreement about using the lower cost hand riveter and a basic drill, but after the workshop we felt a bit spoiled by the ease of the pneumatic equipment.  Newlyweds, we don't have access to an assorted tool supply of drills and air compressors; however, we see these as worthy investments for other projects in our lives.

Anyway, my question is whether or not you would recommend the use of pneumatic equipment to make cleaner more consistent rivets and if so which air compressors would you also recommend?  I'm sure the project wouldn't need any more than a 5 CFM 20 gallon air compressor?  If we go with an electric drill instead, which models would you recommend?  Can an electric drill achieve enough RPM to not make a mess of the metal?

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I am using a rechargeable drill for my project. We found that DeWalt now sells a 20 volt Li battery powered drill that has a max speed of 2000 rpm. I found this drill works fine and is much more convenient than either an electric drill or a pneumatic drill. After having used the pneumatic rivet puller, I would not want to pull all those rivets by hand. We used a cheap small oilless (diaphragm type) compressor to power the rivet puller. You don't need to spend a fortune on tools but having enough of the right tools will make the project much more enjoyable.

Ditto what Joe says.  I have been using a very inexpensive Ryobi cordless drill and it's been working fine.  I think sharp drill bits are more important than what you are spinning them with.  You don't need alot of CFMs to operate a pneumatic riveter so unless you plan on painting your plane a small compressor is all you need.  

Have fun,



I purchased the zenith tool kit w/o the air drill. My wife spoiled me with a $300 Air Drill for my birthday because I told her I needed a good drill to build this plane. Shortly after starting the project I was at Harbor Freight and purchased two more drills at only $14 each and another rivet gun at $30 dollars. The drills worked just as good as the expensive drill and the rivet gun worked better than the one from Zenith. Having 3 drills really speeds up the process not having to change bits often, also nice when you get help for both of you drilling at once.. Same with a second rivet gun, you will mostly use two rivet sizes. The rivet gun from zenith comes with the tips ground out concave, I took a larger drill bit and drilled the end of the tips and it worked great to round the rivet heads. Each of my wings had over a 1000 rivets, I couldn't imagine doing it with a hand riveter, although you would have the strongest hand shake known to mankind.

Patrick, I agree with the guys above with one caution. I use a Bosch 18v Li drill (very happy with) and a pneumatic rivet gun purchased from Zenith (also happy with). My caution is on the compressor, I too use a diaphragm compressor but depending on your shop layout mine will drive you from house and home, weather permitting I put it outside and run the hose under the garage door. They may not all be as loud as mine (an old craftsman that I've had for years) but you might try before you buy.

Ditto Tim's and Scott's advice! I have a newer, diagphram compressor that sounds like a fire alarm klaxon! It grates on your nerves in short order - got so bad that I typically placed it outside of the shop and ran the air hose into the shop just to keep the noise down some. Over at the hangar, I've got an old Craftsman with a belt-driven pump and it makes a pleasant Walter Mitty "ta-pocketa, ta-pocketa" sound that's softer and much easier to take!

If you're into multiple drills, by all means by a Harbor Freight right-angle air drill. They're inexpensive and since it won't get heavy use, it'll last through the build. You'll find it invaluable for getting into a tight spot occasionally!

Remember, this is a guy's "chance of a lifetime!" Now you'll be able to justify the "need" for almost every tool you can dream of! But, maybe that's not true ... now that my build's complete, I'm now assembling the ultimate collection of tools for the annual condition inspection: leak-down cylinder tester, borescope, cable tensionometer, etc., etc., etc. ... this "addiction" never lets up!  ; )

I agree totally with Tim. I started my shop with a small Delta oilless compressor. The noise was deafening. I upgraded to a belt driven cast iron type and have not looked back. It still makes plenty of noise but not in the high pitch irritating range that the oilless one did. I am thinking about donating the Delta to the CIA for an interrogation device, any terrorist would give up any information after about 10 minutes with that thing running in the same room with him.

Also consider the fact that you are young and that quality tools with last you a lifetime. I am in my mid 40's and I am on my complete second set of tools because I could not afford well made stuff when I was younger. So if you can buy better made consider it an investment.

As for a drill. I worked at Gulfstream Aerospace for several years and used high quality air drills every day on the job. My choice would be the highest RPM cordless drill that you can find. More important is the bits, if you use titanium nitride coated ones you will notice that they stay very sharp and penetrate fast. The issue with a dull bit is that it will not penetrate fast and it will wander around before it begins to drill.

I bought a rivet gun from Harbor Frieght for 39.00.  It works great, and if it craps out I can buy 5 more before I spend what the good ones cost.  Dont even think about pulling all those rivets by hand.


One of the tools I;ve used for sheetmetal work for over 25 years is the BernzCutter from Berrnz-o-Matic. They are no longer made, but can be found on Ebay and maybe yard sales. Far and away better than tin snips for the light aluminum fabrication you'll be doing. Relatively cheap cordless drills can be had by visiting the local pawn shops and rental places. Only get name-brand tools. I try to stay away from "great deals" on high-end cordless items, as the replacement batteries are horrendously expensive. They can be rebuilt at places such as Batteries Plus, however. Building in the cold, I have to use gloves, and they have saved me countless times from cuts. You can download money-saving coupons from Harbor freight and save up to half of what you would normally pay. Not everything there is junk, but you need to keep your eyes open and be sure to use this forum for more good advice, as I do.

Happy Building!

Thanks for the advice everyone!  As I suspected, the oil less air compressors would be a horrible experience it sounds like.  The only drawback I've heard about the oil variants is that sometimes the oil can leak into the lines and then painting would become an impossibility.  Yes, we are planning to paint the aircraft.  My wife is a gifted artist by trait and paleontologist by trade.  She'd like to do some sort of dinosaur themed paint scheme:

I think it would look pretty good on a 650.  It'd certainly get some ramp appeal if finished off as well as her other works.  Might even be something to show at Oshkosh.

Anyway, that in mind, it would seem we're increasingly moving towards pneumatic options since a paint sprayer can be fixed to one quite easily.

A bit more about our workshop - we don't have one.  My wife is supportive enough of the project that she has agreed to allow it to move into the living room.  Nothing like riveting while watching your favourite movies and TV shows!  We have a large deck just outside the living room where the focus of the work will likely take place in reality.  As we found from the rudder workshop, those metal burrs go everywhere and they probably wouldn't be too vacuum friendly.  However, given I'm in South Dakota, temperatures don't often agree much with outdoor work this time of the year.  We'll certainly be able to put the air compressor outside so we don't go crazy.

We were at Runnings last night and I saw DeWalt's nice lineup of 20V Li drills, however, the wife and I both noticed that those things are incredibly heavy as are most cordless tools.  Maybe we just need to beef up our wrists with 7000 hand rivets and it wouldn't matter anymore to us :).  They're certainly nice drills, but at their price ~$300, I don't see it as savings vs buying an air tank.  I suppose we could just buy a cheapo $40 2000 rpm hardware store drill and make sure we get good bits and then be good.

We looked at a few tanks and a couple caught my eye so far.  These seem to be big enough to run the painting equipment, a drill, or even the riveter:

Craftsman Professional Series 25 gallon portable
DeWalt 20 gallon horizontal

Both of these tanks are >5 CFM, by good brands (although I tend to be loyal to Craftsman), accept 120 V 20 A outlets (all we have in our cabin), and are oil lubricated.  Are these overkill?

Patrick - That Craftsmen compressor looks very much like my Walter Mitty "ta-pocketa, ta-pocketa" compressor that I bought decades ago ... and still works! I think it was a lot less expensive, but then again, live dinosaurs were roaming the earth! LOL!

By the way, you better think this through ... if you're going to build the airplane in your living room, where are you going to paint it??? I'd build a shop, first! - maybe enclose that deck???

We'd likely just do the painting outside.  Living in the Black Hills, we have something of 270+ clear dry days per year.  Finding good days for that sort of activity isn't as bad as those living in the Midwest where it rains all the time.  This is part of the reason many retire to this region.  Another oddity - mosquito's and many other flying pests don't arrive until August with the tourists.  A couple years ago it was so dry none appeared all year.  We're in a semi-arid climate with about 8-12 inches of rain per year.  Prickly pear and sage brush make up most folk's landscaping.  Go only 100 miles west into Wyoming and the climate turns into full desert.

We can't do anything too drastic to the cabin since we're only renting.  Surprisingly my landlord is alright with this project.  He's built several aircraft himself over the years.  It may be moved to his workshop by the point of painting anyway.  He just has too much junk in there for me to work in there at this time.

I had no problems using an electric drill, although I had both pneumatic and electric available. The one pneumatic tool I would recommend is the riveter. I think you'll find your arm/hand will get pretty tired pulling all those rivets manually.

i do use a hand riveter in a few areas where I cannot fit the pneumatic unit. I ground a cheapie hand riveter, unit it would fit some pretty awkward places.


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