I liked the "crinkled" effect I saw on someones plane at Sun & Fun, but I'd want to carry it on past the recess so it acts as a stuff retainer. I'll be doing all the uphostery myself. [Scratch that. I made a deal with Lois. See below][Scratch that too. I went to a professional upholsterer.]
To get rid of any air bubbles you sort of breath heavily close to the surface. Either the heat or the C02 bursts the tiny bubbles in a quite spectacular way. Unfortunately I missed a few, and a bug landed in the stuff before it dried. I waited 2 days, sanded the gloss smooth and gave it another coat. Note: You have to let the Build 50 cure for a couple of days before touching it. If you pick it up before that your finger prints will show permanently. This is another reason why I had to add a second coat. I was wondering what to mount the veneer on for the walnut trim. The acrylic I used for the dashboard was too thick. I considered 1/16 ply but didnt have enough. Melamine would work, but its heavy. Hmmm? What can I used that's perfectly flat, strong and thin. I searched all around Bill's shop and came up with nothing. Aluminum? Nah. I need something that will bond well to fiberglass. Hmmm. Eventually it struck me. "What about fiberglass?" I layed-up a single ply of UNI on plastic on top of a sheet of melamine. Once this had tacked up a bit I layed the burl veneer on the glass, covered this with plastic, then another sheet of melamine and weighted it for cure. Once this was cured I gave it a coat of Build 50. I now had an 18 * 40 sheet of finishing material which I cut up with the band saw and floxed in place around the windows, along the longeron sides and in various other places. Later note: My first attempt at this didnt work very well. The veneer didnt stay flat and started to peel.
I mentioned the headliner to Nat. He told me I was crazy - I didnt need the extra weight and that it would fall off on my head at the worst possible time. A few months later on I had the canopy fitted and the headliner fell off overnight. After a few months of muttering I scraped all the foam residue off, zolotoned the inside and decided that my Cozy would be like all the others. A few months later, as with many issues in this airplane, I changed my mind again. This is the experimental catagory - right?Determined to make the bird fit my mental picture of what I wanted it to look like, I went back to the same store and bought more of the same foam backed headliner material. (Note: I plan to fireproof the headliner with a spray on product). This time I bought spray-on glue from the upholstery store. This is the kind of glue that doesnt dry out - it just stays sticky. I had figured out a way to do the window edges... while in Bill's shop I noticed some 3/4 inch real wood iron-on edging strip. I borrowed a bit, sneaked off with Char's iron and tried it out. It stuck solid. Next I had to work out a way for the edging strip to hold the foam backed liner in place. I experimented on some old cured epoxy (a failed nose wheel cover) until I had it working. The method I ended up with was a bit painstaking, but it worked. Once I had the liner cut to size about 3/8 shy of the edge I slit the foam on the inside and peeled it off the cloth leaving a 3/8 edge of cloth with no foam. The upholstery glue allowed me to stick the edge down so that I had 3/8 of uncovered epoxy, and 3/8 of unbacked foam, then a bump where the foam started. Now I ironed the edging strips in place (after staining them to match my walnut interior and panel). The edges stuck nicely butted up to the bump and gave me a fairly professional looking finish. The corners around the windows were a bit tricky. I had to cut multiple small pieces of wood and work my way around. I was quite proud of the result, but then Nat's words came back to me... "It'll fall on your head". Hmmm. What glue can I get that won't dry out and let the headliner fall on my head, probably during a night instrument approach in a thunderstorm. It dawned on me that the canopy was MADE of epoxy. I peeled the headliner back and painted the canopy with epoxy, except at the very edges where I decided to let the still tacky upholstery glue do its work. It took two squirts of epoxy to give the whole canopy a light coat. Then I carefully layed the liner back down and rubbed it all over to get some epoxy on the back of the foam. Maybe the foam will eventually disintegrate from the heat of the sun, but I dont think the epoxy will ever let go. I have my headliner. Putting headliner in the turtleback was a little more tricky because I couldn't easily turn it upside down. I had to keep pushing the headliner back up as the epoxy dried, but eventually I got it firmly stuck. As an architech friend once said when he saw a porch I'd built... "Enjoy it while you have it!" If this doesnt work I'll have to scrape the canopy clean (again) and repaint it. If it does I'll have a nice looking soundproofed cabin. Time will tell. In five years (or less) I'll come back to this section and tell you if it worked.
It didn't work. A couple of months sitting in the Florida humidity on my patio was enough. The edging strips started to peel off. I'd originally tried to do the trim in real walnut veneer like the dash, but hadn't been happy with the results. I decided to try this again, with a slight variation of technique. This time I made paper patterns for all the window corners and used these to cut out the veneer shapes with scissors. [I've noticed that the veneer cuts nicely with scissors and doesnt crack once it's absorbed a bit of the Florida humidity] I was a bit unhappy about the rim around the turtleback. When the canopy is open this rim is very visible. I tried zolotone, headliner material and edging strip and they all looked tacky. The obvious thing to do was use walnet veneer to match the longeron sides, but I couldnt get it to lay flat. Finally I found a solution. This time it wasnt one of those final solutions that gets revised the following month (there have been many of those). This final answer was definatey the FINAL answer. (but see below). I microed the rim to give me a flat surface. A compond curve, of course, but flat in the sense that a 3/4 strip of walnut would lay flat across it's width. Once the micro cured and I'd sanded it "flat" I duct taped the lip and glassed one ply BID over the duct tape. Once this cured I trimmed it to fit the edges, removed it and layed it flat on the bench. This was the shape I needed in walnut. I roughed up the cured glass, painted it with epoxy, layed it on top of the veneer and traced the shape. I cut the shape out of the veneer with scissors, painted the glass with epoxy, layed the veneer piece on top and weight it down with a flat board. Once this cured I trimmed the edges and floxed the veneered glass piece in place on the canopy rim. When the flox cured I rubbed the veneer down gently with 320 grit, cleaned it off and gave it a coating of build 50. It took a couple of coats with a sanding between, but I ended up with a very nice finish to match the panel. I guess this all sounds like a lot of work to add additional weight for cosmetics. Once I'd figured out the best method it didnt take long, and the effect is exactly what I'd imagined when picturing my plane, even before the plans arrived. That's the whole point isnt it. You spend many hours dreaming and planning what you're plane is going to look like. The beauty of home building is that you get to fullfill those dreams. I'm sure a professional airplane finish shop could have done a nicer job for $30,000, but the overall look is just what I wanted, and it cost me less than $100, plus a few (read many, many) hours of my labor.
Next day - disaster...
Well not disaster, exactly, but not at all good. The build 50 had gone sort of black and oily and hadn't cured properly. I'm guessing, but I think the problem was caused by the weather. It was a humid stormy night, and the veneer may have been a little damp. Whatever the reason, I was left with a black sticky mess which covered the wood grain. I scrapped, sanded and dremelled (with a soft sanding attachment), sanded and scraped some more for about 3 days until I got back to the bare wood. had to be laboriously scrapped off. This will be the only Cozy with hand finished walnut trim. I'll bet that Rolls Royce don't put as much effort into their trim work, but then again, they probably do it right the first time.
Once I'd scraped the veneer trim down to bare wood I gave it another coat of Build 50. Next day the results still weren't up to even my low and getting lower standards. There were dust and dirt specks in finish, and lots of runs. I rubbed it all down again. This time using 320 grit wet & dry. This worked better and only took a few hours. I've come to the conclusion (yes I know you'd figured this out 3 pages ago) that bar top epoxy is great for horizontal surfaces like a panel on the bench, but just doesnt work on something with compound curves. I was ready to spray the Zolotone clear coat on the fresh zolotone in the back seat area, so I resolved to mask the canopy up and give the trim a squirt too. I'll let you know how it turns out.
It worked! Finally I got the finish I was looking for. The Zolotone clear coat dried to a high gloss and didn't run. Unfortunately, all the sanding and scraping had removed the veneer in a few spots and the epoxy backing showed through. While I was messing about the humidity, and probably the wet dry sanding had got under the wood and buckled it here and there. Finally, some of the Build 50 had wicked under the masking tape and stained my headliner in a few areas. I guess, to a professional upholsterer, my walnut trim will look like a clusterfu.k. Well, to them I say, it's MY clusterfu.k and I like it. It's has a hand finished look. You might call it the ultimate hand job. Anyway - it's done, and it's time to move on to more serious stuff.
I stored the foam under the bed. Two years later I got it out to take to the upholstery guy. It had lots of little cuts and pin holes in the surface. The cats had been sharpening their claws on it. Ah well. No-one will ever know once its covered with leather.
About 6 months later my headrest test was half done, so I gave up on that plan. I know what kind of help to expect when paying peanuts. I was resigned to doing the job myself and making a fair to reasonable mess of it. I spotted an auto upholstery shop in West Palm which also advertised aero work. I stopped in and chatted with Dan, the owner. I bought $2 worth of piping from him. "Do you know how to use this stuff?" asked Dan as he handed it over. "Nope. I didnt even know what it was called until 10 minutes ago", I said. Let me show you, volunteers Dan. he fished out some scrap vynal and some piping and ran it through his sowing machine. In a few seconds he had a nice piped seem. Looks pretty easy I thought.
Later discussion at home (mentioning no names) made me think that doing the upholstery myself wasnt a very good idea. I reupholstered my Piper Cherokee once. The job cost me about $50 and looked it. Maybe this is something I better have done professionally. I went back to Dan with pictures of the cockpit, my precut temperfoam and my leather hide. He was very impressed with the quality of the hide - said it would have cost him about $400 plus. Dan wanted to know what kind of look I wanted, so I showed him the inside of my Saab 9000T (minus rear headrests).
It was Friday late afternoon. Dan gave me a "look", got himself a beer from the corporate fridge, gave me one, and invited me into his "office". We chatted about a 172 he'd done for a guy who then offered him a ride. Seems he enjoyed getting his hands on the controls. I offered a ride too. We discussed details like how wide the panels should be and what sort of seem stitching he should use. I showed him where I'd need a notch for the landing light controls and where the curve would be. Dan grabbed some foam and vynal and made me a sample of what he was proposing. In the end I told him to just use his best judgement and make it look nice. The seat cushions would be the first job. He would do the work personally. If I like the work, and the price, then we'll talk about the console, armrests and headrests. Dan can be reached at Wholesale Auto Upholstery Inc. 561-684-7511. email email@example.com. He's a real nice guy, an ex-marine and, as of next week he'll know how to do Cozy IV seats.
The following week I picked up the seats. As expected, the work was first class. The only problem was that I hadnt really given Dan much input about the curved position the seats would be in, so he hadnt allowed for the bend. The leather bunches up a bit where the seat curves. Dan suggests that I use the seats as they are and let them "settle" with use for a month or two. Then he'll do whatever adjustment is needed to make them fit into the curve just right. One evening, after talking with Cozy Girrl, Chrissi, about camping at Sun & Fun, I realized that the front and back seats would make a perfect camp bed when laid out flat. I could even make straps to clip them together using the clips Dan's going to attach to hold them down to the seat. Perfect. I'll let them bunch up a bit.
Dan showed up one weekend to look at the work he'd have to do in situ. We discussed how the interior would be done and agreed that I'd call once I was ready to go ahead. I was currently held up by budget and the need to get all the AC and heater pipes installed, the center console rebuilt, and some wiring tidied up before proceeding with the upholstery.
Over the next few weeks Dan and I worked on the upholstery together. I did the prep work, then he took the removable parts away, then brought them back finished. Dan did the work on parts that couldn't be removed, and the overall picture started to emerge. Like everything else, the upholstery plan sort evolved. Char wanted elastic restrainers for the baggage area. I liked the "gathered" look. We were quickly running out of cow, so Dan found some vynal that matched perfectly, and we used this for the back armrests. Now one will ever know.
One evening I walked over to the plane and lifted the canopy. I immediately noticed a smell. Not a bad one this time - a good one. I called Char over to take a sniff. "New car leather" she said.
I dug holes in the cosmetic bulkhead to support the headrests, drilled and tapped the supports and inserted a bolt for adjustment. This bolt also stops the headrest from going back too far and impacting the battery. Nat's going to go beserk when he sees the headliner and the headrests in the front, so I guess the back ones wont make any difference. Sure, when I throw them up in the air they dont stay up. In fact they come back down pretty quickly, but then again. so do 280 horses.
Dan and I ended up good friends. While we worked we discussed where he'd like to go for a trip in the Cozy. The conversation went a little like this....
How far can we go?How much does you're wife weigh? 130#, you, 175, plus Char & I hmmm.... How about anywhere in a 600 - 800 mile radius? New Orleans? I've never been there.Sure, we can do New Orleans in one hop, but lets make it a weekend.OK, maybe we should do a short trip first to make sure Mrs. Dan likes flyingOK, Fort Pierce Tiki bar, then if that works out, we'll do New Orleans.Done.
As we proudly surveyed the final results, I said to Dan that I didn't realized how much work it was going to be. "I did." he said, simply. I don't know how much weight it all added, but I got my wish. The plane looks like the interior of a quality autombile. Much better than many in fact. I asked Dan what he would quote to do the work for a "regular customer". His answer was $2,500. But ... if you're ex-military, especially a marine, easy going and prepared to pitch in and help, you'll probably be able to talk him down some. If you want good work, Dan's the MAN!
After Dan left I finished off the work I'd been doing on the pipes in the rear armrest and installed the rear seats. The armrest is almost level with the seats, so a large person will be able to "spread" across the back seat. I sat in the back and found it very comfortable, if just a little short on headroom. I'm not sure the headrests are going to work for everyone, but I like them. I'm left with one remaining item in the upholstery department. The spar hole covers. As you'll see in the pictures above, there's a pretty good sized gap between the top of the seats and the bottom of the firewall cover. I think I'd like a cushion above each seat. This will mount on the spar with velcro so it's removable and can be used as a bolster if needed. At some later point I'll get Dan to make me the cushions in two colors to match the trim around the sides. I think this will "finish off" the back nicely.
I made small fiberglass covers for the fuel return lines and fuel capacitance senders, and covered them with some left over leather. It just happened that these items were in the dark brown area and the covers were light brown so I got a contrasting look. I described this to Char when I got home and she looked doubtful. "How does it look?", she asked. I hesitated, then said "it looks....... done".