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How to Make a Wing Stand
By Tony Bingelis (originally published in EAA Sport Aviation, December 1987)
Unless you are blessed with a very spacious workshop, you will find that your two newly assembled wings can take up far more space than you can spare . . . but that should come as no surprise. After all, who has too much work space. Undoubtedly, you are already well aware of the problem and may have been wondering what you could do to cope with it.
Two wings take up plenty of space as it is, but how about the space required to accommodate the wings for a large biplane project or a triplane project . . . wow! What can you do to get these space robbers out of your way? And get them out of the way you must. Otherwise, you may not have room for constructing that other, equally large, space robbing fuselage jig. And, certainly, you will need some extra floor space and plenty of elbow room for working on the fuselage.
Fortunately, there are several ways to cope with this problem . . . some of which you may have considered already. You could hang the wings up on the wall. All that would require is the installation of sturdy brackets of some sort. This could be a practical solution for a few builders. However, the wall hanging idea may not be possible because most of us have a very limited amount of useable wall space, and that most likely is already taken up by the tail surfaces.
Well, that still leaves the ceiling, doesn't it? A lot of builders do hang their wings up against the ceiling - at least until they are finally covered. That could be another answer to your problem, of course, but maybe no more appealing than the first. For one thing, it is almost impossible to hang wings from the ceiling without plenty of help. Hoisted out of the way, they may be safe from harm (if they don't fall) but they will probably also do a good job of blocking what precious light you have in the workshop area. Do that and you may be left in the dark in more ways than one . . . you may even have to finish your project wearing a lighted miner's cap.
The idea of storing the wings elsewhere, I'm sure, has likewise occurred to you. On first consideration, that seems like a good idea. It's not bad, but not too good either. Inevitably, after you have removed the wings from your shop for temporary storage elsewhere, you find that you may have to have access to them, time after time, to check something or other. Although you think your wings are basically complete, you generally find that you want to add a number of things later - things like landing lights, navigation and strobe lights, pitot tube, inspection plates, etc., etc. It's not that you didn't think of them beforehand, as much as it is that you may not have had the items on hand earlier.
No, I think it is far more convenient to keep your wings in the shop (if you can possibly arrange it) where you can get at them when you need to.
Why A Mobile Wing Stand?
What's so good about a mobile wing stand? Well, for one thing, both wings can be accommodated vertically (on their leading edges) in a single mobile stand (Figure 1). This greatly reduces the amount of floor space required, and you will be able to move them out of the way against a wall or elsewhere . . . all by yourself.
Standing both wings on their leading edges is the safest way to store them.
Furthermore, in this position, the rear spars and the trailing edges are up, enabling you to fit, install or remove the flaps and ailerons at will. Actually, you could temporarily install both the flaps and ailerons while the wings are in the mobile stand and solve the problem of finding storage space for them.
You will also realize other fringe benefits, thanks to the mobile wing stand.
For example, with the wings in the stand, fitting your fiberglass wing tips is greatly simplified because you will have access to both the top and bottom of each wing tip. No need to struggle with that heavy wing, flipping it over and over, as you try to fit the wing tips. The wing stand could be a great help for the gent who has yet to install the wiring for his wing tip navigation and strobe lights. This need generally arises when the builder does not have his lights and wiring on hand when he is ready to cover or close the wing. Not wishing to delay the covering job, he goes ahead with it figuring (and rightly so) he can always retrofit the lights later.
You can generally route navigation and strobe light wiring along the rear spar just ahead of the space provided for the flaps and ailerons. This, quite often, is an easy way to do it. In addition, this makes the wiring more accessible. To take full advantage of this alternative wire routing, you may have to make the wing tips removable.
About Building the Stand
This mobile stand is like a bargain suit – one size fits all. The carpet slings, by their very nature, adapt to any airfoil shape . . a remarkable feature when you think of it. The length of the stand, too, will fit most any wing length. However, if your wings are exceptionally long, you should make your stand a bit longer. Actually, my RV-4 wings with the fuel tanks removed will still balance nicely in the stand, especially when I weight the root end of the wing spar a bit.
The wheels are an essential feature. You can take a discarded pair of roller skates, and with the little modification, separate and install those wheels. Of course, you can use casters instead. Casters will swivel and give the stand greater mobility with less effort. Non-swiveling wheels do have their advantage, though, as the stand will be less skittish when you are working on the wing.
I used 2x4’s to frame my mobile stand and cut the reinforcing gussets from left over shipping crate plywood. You can make a stronger mobile wing stand from 2x6’s. However, the extra strength is not needed unless also intend to use the stand to cradle your wings when you haul the airplane to the airport.
Incidentally, nowadays a 2x4 is only 1 ½" x 3 ½", which may explain some of the dimensions shown in the accompanying drawing (Figure 1)
Anyhow, don’t make a big construction project out of building your mobile wing stand. You can better expend that extra effort on your airplane.