Tools for Sheet Metal Construction and Repair (Part One)

in Aircraft Metal Structural Repair

Without modern metalworking tools and machines, the job of the airframe technician would be more difficult and tiresome, and the time required to finish a task would be much greater. These specialized tools and machines help the airframe technician construct or repair sheet metal in a faster, simpler, and better manner than possible in the past. Powered by human muscle, electricity, or compressed air, these tools are used to lay out, mark, cut, sand, or drill sheet metal.

Layout Tools


Before fitting repair parts into an aircraft structure, the new sections must be measured and marked, or laid out to the dimensions needed to make the repair part. Tools utilized for this process are discussed in this section.

Scales

Scales are available in various lengths, with the 6-inch and 12-inch scales being the most common and affordable. A scale with fractions on one side and decimals on the other side is very useful. To obtain an accurate measurement, measure with the scale held on edge from the 1-inch mark instead of the end. Use the graduation marks on the side to set a divider or compass. [Figure 4-3]

Figure 4-3. Scales.

Figure 4-3. Scales.

Combination Square

A combination square consists of a steel scale with three heads that can be moved to any position on the scale and locked in place. The three heads are a stock head that measures 90° and 45° angles, a protractor head that can measure any angle between the head and the blade, and a center head that uses one side of the blade as the bisector of a 90° angle. The center of a shaft can be found by using the center head. Place the end of the shaft in the V of the head and scribe a line along the edge of the scale. Rotate the head about 90° and scribe another line along the edge of the scale. The two lines will cross at the center of the shaft. [Figure 4-4]

Figure 4-4. Combination square.

Figure 4-4. Combination square.

Dividers

Dividers are used to transfer a measurement from a device to a scale to determine its value. Place the sharp points at the locations from which the measurement is to be taken. Then, place the points on a steel machinist’s scale, but put one of the points on the 1-inch mark and measure from there. [Figure 4-5]

Figure 4-5. Divider.

Figure 4-5. Divider.

Rivet Spacers

A rivet spacer is used to make a quick and accurate rivet pattern layout on a sheet. On the rivet spacer, there are alignment marks for 1⁄2-inch, 3⁄4-inch, 1-inch and 2-inch rivet spacing. [Figure 4-6]

Figure 4-6. Rivet spacer.

Figure 4-6. Rivet spacer.

Marking Tools
Pens

Fiber-tipped pens are the preferred method of marking lines and hole locations directly on aluminum, because the graphite in a No. 2 pencil can cause corrosion when used on aluminum. Make the layout on the protective membrane if it is still on the material, or mark directly on the material with a fiber-tipped pen, such as a fine-point Sharpie®, or cover the material with masking tape and then mark on the tape.

Scribes

A scribe is a pointed instrument used to mark or score metal to show where it is to be cut. A scribe should only be used when marks will be removed by drilling or cutting because it makes scratches that weaken the material and could cause corrosion. [Figure 4-7]

Figure 4-7. Scribe.

Figure 4-7. Scribe.

Punches

Punches are usually made of carbon steel that has been hardened and tempered. Generally classified as solid or hollow, punches are designed according to their intended use. A solid punch is a steel rod with various shapes at the end for different uses. For example, it is used to drive bolts out of holes, loosen frozen or tight pins and keys, knock out rivets, pierce holes in a material, etc. The hollow punch is sharp edged and used most often for cutting out blanks. Solid punches vary in both size and point design, while hollow punches vary in size.

Prick Punch

A prick punch is primarily used during layout to place reference marks on metal because it produces a small indentation. [Figure 4-8] After layout is finished, the indentation is enlarged with a center punch to allow for drilling. The prick punch can also be used to transfer dimensions from a paper pattern directly onto the metal. Take the following precautions when using a prick punch:

  • Never strike a prick punch a heavy blow with a hammer because it could bend the punch or cause excessive damage to the item being worked.
  • Do not use a prick punch to remove objects from holes because the point of the punch spreads the object and causes it to bind even more.
Figure 4-8. Prick punch.

Figure 4-8. Prick punch.

Center Punch

A center punch is used to make indentations in metal as an aid in drilling. [Figure 4-9] These indentations help the drill, which has a tendency to wander on a flat surface, stay on the mark as it goes through the metal. The traditional center punch is used with a hammer, has a heavier body than the prick punch, and has a point ground to an angle of about 60°. Take the following precautions when using a center punch:

  • Never strike the center punch with enough force to dimple the item around the indentation or cause the metal to protrude through the other side of the sheet.
  • Do not use a center punch to remove objects from holes because the point of the punch spreads the object and causes it to bind even more.
Figure 4-9. Center punch.

Figure 4-9. Center punch.

Automatic Center Punch

The automatic center punch performs the same function as an ordinary center punch, but uses a spring tension mechanism to create a force hard enough to make an indentation without the need for a hammer. The mechanism automatically strikes a blow of the required force when placed where needed and pressed. This punch has an adjustable cap for regulating the stroke; the point can be removed for replacement or sharpening. Never strike an automatic center punch with a hammer. [Figure 4-10]

Figure 4-10. Automatic center punch.

Figure 4-10. Automatic center punch.

Transfer Punch

A transfer punch uses a template or existing holes in the structure to mark the locations of new holes. The punch is centered in the old hole over the new sheet and lightly tapped with a mallet. The result should be a mark that serves to locate the hole in the new sheet. [Figure 4-11]

Figure 4-11. Transfer punch.

Figure 4-11. Transfer punch.

Drive Punch

The drive punch is made with a flat face instead of a point because it is used to drive out damaged rivets, pins, and bolts that sometimes bind in holes. The size of the punch is determined by the width of the face, usually 1⁄8-inch to 1⁄4-inch. [Figure 4-12]

Figure 4-12. Drive punch.

Figure 4-12. Drive punch.

Pin Punch

The pin punch typically has a straight shank characterized by a hexagonal body. Pin punch points are sized in 1⁄32-inch increments of an inch and range from 1⁄16-inch to 3⁄8-inch in diameter. The usual method for driving out a pin or bolt is to start working it out with a drive punch until the shank of the punch is touching the sides of the hole. Then use a pin punch to drive the pin or bolt the rest of the way out of the hole. [Figure 4-13]

Figure 4-13. Pin punch.

Figure 4-13. Pin punch.

Chassis Punch

A chassis punch is used to make holes in sheet metal parts for the installation of instruments and other avionics appliance, as well as lightening holes in ribs and spars. Sized in 1⁄16 of an inch, they are available in sizes from 1⁄2 inch to 3 inches. [Figure 4-14]

Figure 4-14. Chassis punch.

Figure 4-14. Chassis punch.

Awl

A pointed tool for marking surfaces or for punching small holes, an awl is used in aircraft maintenance to place scribe marks on metal and plastic surfaces and to align holes, such as in the installation of a deicer boot. [Figure 4-15] Procedures for one use of an awl:

Figure 4-15. Awl.

Figure 4-15. Awl.

  1. Place the metal to be scribed on a flat surface. Place a ruler or straightedge on the guide marks already measured and placed on the metal.
  2. Remove the protective cover from the awl.
  3. Hold the straightedge firmly. Hold the awl, as shown in Figure 4-16, and scribe a line along the straightedge.
  4. Replace the protective cover on the awl.
Figure 4-16. Awl usage.

Figure 4-16. Awl usage.