After some time, the table was no longer flat or level.  It began to bow in the middle so that there was a slight trough the full 12' length of maybe 1/8 inch.  It never was particularly sturdy so I made some changes.  I replaced the top 2x4 on each saw horse with a 2x6 and since the board I picked had a slight bow in it, I put the bow up.  I used wedges (the kind you use to shim a door frame or window frame when building a house) to make it exactly flat and level in every direction (you can see two of them in this picture).  I also added cross-braces on the legs made of a 1x2 and now it's rock solid and I'm no longer planning on building legs for it.



The Zenith website says you need only a few hand tools as shown...



I've spoken to some friends/acquaintances who are Zenith builders and most agreed that while you can build a Zenith with simple hand tools, the consensus is that you'll have forearms like Popeye when you're done unless you get some air tools and a compressor.  Even then it doesn't have to be expensive.  I've rounded up most of what I'll need for less than $1,000.


I found a number of good tool suppliers including...

Aircraft Spruce

Northern Tool


Aircraft Tool Supply



Harbor Freight



Compressor - I struggled with the air compressor decision for a while.  I'm in a rental home so I'm limited to 120 volt 20 amp service.  My goal was to get the highest SCFM at 90 psi.  An oil filled pump will last longer and a belt driven pump is quieter.  A compressor with a larger tank will have to run less often than one with a small tank.  I found this one at Lowe's and it gives me 5.3 SCFM @ 90 psi for less than $400.

Pneumatic Drill - I wanted something high-speed (2,500+ rpm) and there are many to choose from.  I bought a Chicago Pneumatic CP7300RK and I really like it.  It was fairly inexpensive at $130.

Pneumatic Riveter - You can spend HUGE money on these or you can buy a cheap one.  I've heard nothing but horror stories about the cheap ones, so I went a step up from "entry level" and bought a Sunex from Northern Tool for $159 (same one Aircraft Spruce sells for $100 more).  I'll let you know how it works after I've had some experience with it.

Hand Tools - I try to buy high quality but shop for a deal.  Prices definitely vary.


A plug for employer.

Buy IRWIN tools (the snips are outstanding), use Sharpie ultra-fine retractable markers (no searching for the cap to keep them from drying out), and keep your clecos in Rubbermaid containers (none of that Sterilite off-brand junk).  Our products are high quality and best won't be disappointed.




With that great new compressor and new air tools, don't ruin them by forgetting to give them clean dry air.



Update 3/21/2010

I discovered two new tools and I'm kicking myself for not owning them sooner.  I bought them from Harbor Freight for $6.99 each.  They are a MUST HAVE when you start cutting aluminum skins.  I wish I'd had them to cut out the little triangles  for the slat and flaperon brackets.

Compact Hand Nibbler                    Nibbling Cutter


They call the one on the left "Compact Hand Nibbler" and the one on the right "Nibbling Cutter".  They have different uses.  The Hand Nibbler is used more like Aviation Snips but works much better on inside radius cuts although it moves through the material more slowly.  The Nibbling Cutter makes very slow progress but nibbles away metal in places where you'll never get a set of snips.  Both leave a clean edge that needs almost zero filing to make smooth.


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