After reading through Deems website I got the tip of doing the wheel fairings before the engine was mounted to make it easier because you have to jack up the plane to get the wheels off the ground. Since we're getting the engine any time now, I decided to try to do these before the engine arrived because when it gets here I'll be super excited about attaching it. Tim Olson said he thought the fairings were worse than the doors so imagine my dread! So far with about 15 hours in on the fairings, I would say they arent so terrible but they are definitely frustrating. Here are a few paragraphs about my experience with the fairings so far.
Things start off with you trying to perfectly align the two halves of the wheel pants. Its a lot of sanding and re-checking. In the end I didnt find this so bad. I found that if I counted the exact number of strokes I sanded each time I could get a pretty good feel for how many times I would need to sand an area to take it down a certain amount. I got the halves fitting pretty well together with maybe just the tiniest gap on the inboard side, which wont be very visible. By tiny I mean maybe you could get a sheet of paper in about a 2 inch section. Not a big deal to me at least. Then you drill some holes where the two halves meet. I stressed about this a little because the dimensions in the plans say to start at the center line on top and by the time you get to the bottom there should be about a 2.5 inch distance to the bottom of the fairing. Well my measurements had it where that was off. I measured it a few more times and noodled and read ahead (again). Turns out you trim the bottom of the fairings later so that its not so close to the wheels anyways, so I think its fine. Pretty confusing to me though. This is just my opinion, but the quality of the plans really deteriorates after the fuse kit. They assume you can fill in the blanks by now since if you are to that point you are getting pretty handy around the shop, which is fair enough, but I find that some things that they dont spell out just causes extra time for you to flip through the book, check websites for pictures of people that have done it before, etc.
Next we had to jack up the plane. We dont have nice big floor jacks and my buddies who do have them that I might have been able to borrow them from were all out of town or otherwise unavailable. I had a nice 3 day weekend to work and cheapskate me didnt want to have to buy anything if I didnt have to. Ended up getting the plane up on two saw horses near the wing spar. This was pretty amusing how we pulled this off. I crawled under the plane near the baggage floor and put my back up against the bottom of the plane. Like doing a deadlift, I raised the plane about two inches off its main wheels while the nose gear was still on the floor. While I did this, my lovely assistant, Brandi, slid the saw horses under the plane. We slowly set it down on them to make sure there wasnt any bowing or anything else that wasnt safe or that we didnt like about it. I think that since we didnt have the cabin top on, the panel, or any interior, it was light enough for us to feel comfortable setting it up on saw horses like this. It worked out just fine! Yay, now I could continue working.
The next part of the fairings was to test fit the front and rear wheel fairing halves to the wheel so that you can cut out the hole where the gear leg goes from the wheel to the fuselage. This part was pretty irritating because you have to perfectly balance the thing and measure the height and get it perfect and then slide it around to get it to fit just right. It was like trying to slide a new block into a wobbly jenga tower and keep it all within 1/32". Maybe if I would have had some other kind of brace or shim or blocking.. I dont know. I couldnt think of a way to stabalize it on the three axis that you have to work on. I just kept messing with it and taking off tiny bits at a time and got it to where it was acceptable.
I finished cutting the gear leg hole on each of the wheel fairings and snapped a chalk center line on the floor. Now I need to align the toe of the fairings and start on the gear leg fairings. I got a jump start on the gear leg fairings already by cutting out the template from the manual and trimming them per the paper templates. Since we can defer finishing the fiberglass for priming/painting until a later date, I think that getting the fairings fully mounted and adjusted before the engine arrives is quite doable.