Total Beginner Question: Where to get beams on which to support the rudder etc for skinning

The photo guide, and the DVD, shows putting the rudder skeleton on 2x2 steel beams prior to skinning but I had no idea where to get such things so instead bought a 2x3 piece of wood cut into 4ft lengths. I thought this would work but I began to notice that the rudder wasn't laying flat on the wood, I presume because the wood isn't precisely level. 

A friend said he could get them planed level and when they came back they were now too small to support the rudder with the clecos in :) So I'm back to finding some good beams/supports. Looking ahead I can see I shall need beams again and again, so I thought I'd try and find something that will work right now. Hence my question - what does everyone use?

Feeling a bit discouraged that I'm struggling on the rudder, probably doesn't bode well for the rest of the plane but I figure I'm learning from scratch and, with no one around to help, I'm bound to have more stupid questions than most.



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I purchased 4 steel square tubes at With shipping I think it came to about $80.00

Paul, an easy solution would be to get a sheet of 3/4" plywood and rip it on a table saw. Cut into 3.5" strips and glue and screw 4-5 strips together, it's a homemade laminated beam. Make at least 2 that are 8' long and they will work well to support the fuselage. I used jack stands to hold the beams, that allowed me to control the height at each corner and shims did the rest. A laser lever on a tripod works great to level the beams and fuselage.

You should have enough material to make 4, 4' beams to use while working on the rudder, wings, flaps and ailerons.

Paul, This group of builders is open to any and all questions and is ready to help. I went to a metal supply firm that sold metal in angles, pipe, sheet and tube of various thickness. Look in the yellow pages for a local metal vendor. In my phone book, they are listed under "steel distributors" . I purchased 2by2 steel tubing in 12 foot lengths for the wings and fuselage and 4 foot lengths for the rudder. In my small town they even let me look them over for straightness.
Preferably, buy your steel at a local steel supply company. According to Yahoo local, the nearest to you is Douglas Steel Suppy in Holtville. An alternative is to visit a local welding shop. They may sell 2 x 2 x 1/8" square tube (a common material for fabrication) . If not, they may include some on the next truck shipment from their supplier. I just bought a 24' stick for $50 and the guy cut it for me. Hope this helps. ... Fred
Go to your local metal fab shop or welding shop and ask them for some scrap. The dimensions are not critical, just get straigh pieces. I bet they have some to suit your needs. Or, you could just get yourslf some good quality levels from home depot and use them as beams. Just treat them with care, you'll need them when you get to the fuselage anyway.

Don't get discouraged, it's all a learning process.

Don't get discouraged. It gets better with time. The more you work on your plane the better your work gets and the more confidence you get. Check with a metal supply company in your area. I don't think Holtville is to far from you. Try this company.

Douglas Steel Supply Co
1597 E Alamo Rd
Holtville, CA 92250-9633
760-356-2771 (Phone)
Paul - Its not so much as having steel as it is making sure your skeleton ribs are centered in the skin and not twisted. Bring your skin together at the opened end if the edges match thats a great start. Stand the skeleton up by itself. Now take the top rib and slightly push it to the right and then to the left. Its very easy to do. Thats why it so important you take care to center the ribs in the skin.......... Metal tubes would be best because of the weight and less chance of movement but wood would work. - Chris
PS: Don't let it discourage you. Just except there will be set-backs.
Thanks all for the replies, I will check out the local firm - Holtville is fairly close, will see what they have. Or that site looks ideal, also. So I'm a little worried that I may already have twisted the skeleton but will find out when I get some beams and finish up.

And thanks for all the encouragement, I'm still far from giving up.
Hey Paul,
Don't get discouraged when you make what you think are stupid mistakes. We've all been there!! You'll find you get a feel for what's right. Just try not to rivet bits together before you're sure you've got it right. Most on this site have had the 'experience' of drilling out hundreds of rivets to do the mods on the spar and wings. If you can maintain your sanity through that you're doing well. This site is great for getting answers to what might seem at first silly questions. Ask away. There's always someone who can come up with the right answer or at least one that will give you the help you need. Stick at it. You'll think it's never going to be finished. It will......................

Paul Toone
(an Ex-Brit in Oz)
I bought some 1X3 - ripped to 2 inches and inserted 1/2 ply in between and screwed down. cheap(scrap) and light. ed
For what it is worth, I used square 2 inch PVC plastic normally used as porch rails, they were straight and fairly light. I also checked with a laser level before doing any work and had a lot of shims available, our home is on plastic clay and the floor tends to move somewhat. Seemed to work OK since the airframe is square and true.
I think the secret is to check and double check as you go along. Bob Pickens, Troy, Mo.
Frequently metal recycling/scrap yards carry a basic selection of structural steel tube. I found a thicker wall tubing was actually cheaper locally than a thin wall tubing shipped. Add to that you're limited to 8 foot lengths on UPS or FEDEX. They have 20 foot lengths to start with at the scrap yard. They will cut 'em for a buck or 2 to custom length.


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