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My first at home project will be the Van’s Light Box. It is a simple aluminum sheet metal project that looks bad ass. Since taking the EAA workshop in October, this will be the first time practicing my skills and getting a chance to see how my workshop is coming along.


Couple of observations on building the front section of the kit:

  • I did not dimple the angled aluminum where the nutplate attach. Now I can not reach with the dimpler on the squeezer. I will try to get a pop rivet dimpler in there when they arrive
  • When back riveting it seems to scuff up the aluminum pretty badly. Ordering rivet tape to both make holding the rivets in easier but also see if that helps with the scratching.
  • I was contemplating always taking off the blue plastic on the aluminum but given how easy it is to scratch, I will be going with the option to remove just the covering around rivets. Need to research and order that.
  • Working with the flush rivets (AN426) went well using both the flush head and bucking bar. Same with back riveting. Dimpling was good but if I did not adjust the dimpler just right, would leave an outline of the die on the sheetmetal.
  • Had less luck with the universal head (AN470A) rivets. Both bouncing off the head and doing a lovely smiley run across the sheet. Definitely can use more practice on gun control.


Decided to replace the bottom plate of the light box. Ordered a replacement from Vans and more rivets. I have a feeling it will be a couple of weeks before I see this.

Drilled out a couple of the AN470A rivets. Need to get a punch die to pop the heads off. Drilled with a #41 to make sure I don’t increase the size of the hole.

Found tapping the rivets a bit hard given the lack of structure along the edge of the plate. It the future I will make a 2x4 gig to get better backing behind the edge. I can imagine I will need a handful of wood shims for these sorts of things.


Got a pop rivet dimpler from Aircraft Spruce that made dimpling along the angle where I had already attached the nut plates. Worked like a champ. Was able to dimple the angles and attach to the lightbox with flush rivets.