Tuesday, January 27, 2015

57 Caravanner 3 of...

When I last posted, the subfloor was being glued together and bolted down. Here you see the floor with the "c" channel installed. I re made all of it except the curved, extruded parts. In the photo above you will also see all the seams in the plywood and the elevator bolt holes have been filled with epoxy filler.

From there we moved on to insulation. There are many ways people do this. I keep coming back to 2" of closed cell foam board glued and friction fit into place. I would never go the fiberglass route however. The wiring for the umbilical cord and the brake lines was done at this stage. The plumbing is rather simple in this trailer and it can almost all be done above the floor. 

The belly pan was next on the agenda. A wonderful thing about this era; 48" wide sheets were used originally. This makes for a much cleaner look. A couple years later and there would need to be a filler down the center. You may also note that PVC film I continuously recommend you buy your aluminum with. Airparts Inc  is great about supplying it to me this way.
It is hard to take photos and drop the shell back down. This shell gave me a hard time and took many hours to position correctly. It actually got so frustrating, I had to stop work and return the next day. I would get the front lined up and the back would pull out of place. I would get the back into place and the front would shift out of place. My personal advice is when frustrated, stop work immediately. Come back fresh. 

There are some critical spots so I started at the most important; the door. My template told me right where the frame was supposed to be. I started there and began attaching going counter clock wise around the trailer. 

Another important alignment is the front steel hold down plate. When the first clecko slipped into it's original hole, I knew it was all going to be perfect. I did not have to drill a single hole in the plate. I knew I had it won.

I went right down the street side...

… and around to the back. Which brought me to another issue; The rear had dropped about 3/4 of an inch.  My 3 meter level confirmed it. This is very common. It is often missed when people do shell on repairs. I simply got out a bunch of screw jacks and made sure everything was completely level and flat. All the old holes lined right up.

From here I went on to body work. Body work is my favorite aspect of this work. You might notice that serious dent in the first segment, street side. That is just one of many blemishes we are going to remove by replacing the skin. You may be saying "wow, that must cost a pile!" I would point out that often the labor and materials to replace a panel is less than polishing the original skin. You cannot get rid of a dent like that through polishing either.

Time to remove the original.

Then I go on to copying the panel. In the case of this segment it required a special roll to both edges. I took the blank over to Tom @ Metal Benders. In a couple of days he will have it back to me with a perfect match. 

In the mean time, we will be replacing the damaged panels, one ofter another till they are all done.

Stay tuned, more to come soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

57 Caravanner 2 of...

As stated in the last post; many repairs to the frame were made. Some, like this hole that was created when the outrigger rusted around the elevator bolt were cut out and new metal was welded in.

In the end, four out riggers were replaced. The longest, the shortest, a right, and a left. 

Overall, I am impressed with the construction of the frames in 1957. I like the use of 2x 4 tube for the frame rails and the 14 gauge channel used for the out riggers and cross members. 

I need to switch back to color for this one…
Some kind of rubberized coating was applied to the steel plate that keeps the shell from sliding forward. I have never seen this in Airstream construction before. When this trailer was built, Airstream had been in business, post war, roughly 10 years. Wally Byam was leading caravans all over the Western Hemisphere, beating the heck out the units and sending the results back to the engineers at the two factories. Ten years of time is probably long enough to see how the dissimilarity of steel and aluminum was becoming a problem and someone decided to do something about it. Why this did not continue is my biggest question. Galvanic corrosion will be an issue that haunts Airstream to this very day.

After stripping the plate all down, It was treated with POR15 and then a rubberized coating was applied to the plate where it contacts the front skin.

2 coats of POR15 were applied to all the frame parts. POR also makes a top coat that we applied to all areas that would eventually see the light of day. I have used this system on the last few jobs and tend to like the results.

Using the templates I made earlier, all five sheets were cut to size. I machined all the edges of the sheets for Lamellos(biscuits for all you who are not old school woodworkers) to give alignment and added strength to the joint.

Just to field the questions I know are to follow; 
I have used many glues. I have used yellow glue, construction adhesive, and even thickened epoxy. All of them have worked very well. This time around I used polyurethane glue. Many of you know this as Gorilla Glue by brand name. All of the above work very well. 

The plywood I use is AC 5/8"plywood. I used to use marine plywood and honestly prefer it for it's lack of voids, water proof glue, and numerous plys in the sheet. The reason for using the AC plywood is two fold. It is 1/4 the price and it is made in the USA. I am on a personal crusade to use as much 'Made in AMERICA' as possible. 

The steel is also Made in America. I had my friend Tom at Metal Benders fabricate the new channel from mild steel. Tom is a part of just about every single project I do. His computer operated shear, burning table, and break made easy work of bending such heavy stock. ,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

1957 Caravanner 1 of...

Frequent readers will most likely recall this 1957 Caravanner. She was in a few years ago for some repairs to make her usable for right then. A truly temporary bandaid. Now she is in for a shell off restoration.

As always, it begins with making templates. I made a template of the entire trailer. No guessing this way.

Next the drilling of rivets began. All the way around. Lots of holes...

Then under the gantry. 

There is always one blind rivet that hangs up the upward motion.

The chassis was brought into the shop next. I love that 1/4" maple plywood. It was nailed down to hide the rotten floor. 

The chassis was next jacked up to belly button level. This makes working under and on it more ergonomic(not really. It is just an excellent height to roll under and work on top of. Ergonomic sounded so sophisticated when the words were forming in my head that I decided to use it).

We just started breaking off bolts at the rear and worked our way forward.

The wheel wells got rather complicated. You may have heard of blind rivets holding the shell or belly pan in place. Well, there were blind screws. There were screws that one just could not see.

Something else that could not be seen was major structural cracks in the frame. This is right where the front shell meets the A frame. A little too much tongue weight or too much tension on a weight distribution system and this frame would have gone "snap"

The rear cross member and two others were replaced. 

A lot of holes were repaired.

Two out riggers were replaced. The longest and the shortest. What's up with that?

The steps were all messed up. I sort of made them semi usable when I worked on this trailer last time. Now the step works very well.

Paint/ rust preventative coating ready. 

Stay tuned. (Check back too)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grate A Tude

In my on going series, I have to give a super shout out to Fleet Part. Though not my number one vendor, I do use Fleet Parts a great deal for running lights, missing lenses, and lubricants.

Fleet Parts is kind of like an auto parts store but for trailers. I am not talking camper trailers, I mean tractor trailer, flat bed, refer truck type parts store. 

I love to be able to buy a box. Now a days everything comes in a plastic bag. I dig buying bulbs by the box.

They sell a lot of things I would never need.

They sell things I do use.

They sell things I wish I had use for.

They offer good old fashion service and advice. Often when they do not have what I need they can send me right to where it can be found.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In Pressed...

This post will be the beginning of a series. I feel that because some of my vendors treat me so well, I need to show how very grateful I am for the services they provide to me. I will provide links to every single one of them so you too can utilize them for your projects…

Yesterday I got a call from Dennis at Metro Plating saying that my second batch of items were ready for pick up. You might remember Metro Plating from two post ago.

Of course I went and fetched them right away. I am utterly astounded with how good the items look. They are almost perfect for being 60+ years old. The guys who work at Metro Plating do some incredible work to say the very least. 
Before you say that you wish they were closer to you, know you can Fedex, UPS, or USPS your items to Metro Plating from any where in the world. I recommend you do.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dale's Little Cutie

My good friend Dale brought has trailer down to me for a some minor repairs and a re-polish. Four or five years ago we both had our trailers polished by a guy claiming to be a professional. We were both very happy with the price but neither of us were very happy with the results. With the polishing system I have now, he wanted his trailer done correctly.

Dale also had a small list of things he has been putting off and he wanted them taken care of.

After the polishing, his number one item was to replace all the window seals. These windows are very sleek and modern. They are also notorious leakers. I have covered the importance of the window seals on these 1966-68 windows before, but I will emphases to you that if you do not maintain these seals, your window is guaranteed to leak. The first step was to remove all the old seals completely including all the adhesive. Dale's seals were still the original ones. They were as hard as rocks and honestly were not sealing anything. We cleaned the frames multiple times using MEK for the final step, making sure nothing was on the surface except aluminum.

Brand new seals were installed.  These can be obtained from my favorite vendor, Vintage Trailer Supply. The match to the original is 100% correct. 

When installed correctly, the seal makes a water tight barrier to the elements. The top 1/2" is the key to keeping the water out. The gasket must be all the way up and tight against the hinge. What I see most often is instead of replacing the seal, caulk of some sort is squirted in the top corner and it makes the leak even worse. Glass against gasket is key.

It was not on his list but I replaced the steel, door keep with a new stainless one offered also by VTS. This is another perfect reproduction. Unlike the steel version however, it will not rust. 

Still on Dale's list is a toilet replacement and having all the seams sealed. I will not bore you with that stuff.
I do love working on these Caravels. These Caravels seem to like coming to FTW to be worked on. If you have a Caravel, it is more than welcome at FTW...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Triple Chrome

    I am a very curious guy. I  am always very curious about how the other craftsman I use on my projects do their work. Every now and then I get to go and see their process. This is something I actually relish. I write this blog in hopes that others might learn as I am. It is often good to see how things are done. It helps learn how much really is involved.

Dennis at Metro Plating was kind enough to allow me in to see the entire process on a batch of items I needed redone. I should first point out that electro plating is a business that is quickly disappearing in our country. At a time, everything metal was plated in nickel, copper, or chrome. The development of stainless steal and plastics has reduced the need for a large portion of plating work. The EPA has also been pivotal in making it so difficult for the plating companies to comply with their regulation, that today very few shops exist. Those that do are only open because the volume of chemicals used and improved material handling keep them compliant. The demand for plating on the other hand is growing since no one is around to do it any longer. Metro Plating is just about the only place left that does it in Maryland. They do plating of copper, brass, silver, gold, platinum, nickel, and chrome. I was in for a process called triple chrome. I will describe the entire process in this post.

Dennis turned me over to Tony. Tony is a frickin genius to put it in as few a words as I can. I learned more from Tony in three hours than I have in the last half of my life. Tony has a hands on knowledge of atomic theory, metallurgy, physics, and alchemy like no one I have ever met. This knowledge is not the kind you get from school or books, this knowledge comes from years of doing it. This knowledge comes from taking great pride in your work and striving to make each job better than the last. I was honored to spend the afternoon with him. I did not realize it but Dennis was so gracious to my request to see the process that he gave me one on one time with Tony and just my items.

The first step of the process is in the polish room. The items are put through various polishes and abrasives to remove all the oxides and corrosion.

This part of the process is done by a crew who get everything ready for Tony. Since it was Saturday they were not there. I think you can fill in the blanks...

Shelves of items are prepped then wait for Tony and his magic. On the shelf was everything under sun. I saw grandma's flatware and Bobbies air filter cover for his GTO. There was service ware next to Harley forks. Coffee urns were next to necklaces.

Here are some of my items all prepped up. In all honesty they were so shiny I thought they were done already. Each item is wired in copper to a copper hook. 

I should point out that I have been taking all my photos in black and white for awhile now. When I walked into Tony's world however, I had to switch back to full color. I wish they still made Kodachrome.

The item has been wired to a copper hook so electricity can pass from the hook down the wire to the item. Remember, this is called electro plating. So here is what happens first...

The item is cleaned very well in a four step bath. A dip into a tank of detergent is first. It is scrubbed with a brush to remove all traces of oil, rogue, and things that will resist the plating.

Next it goes into another bath that removes the things a brush did not take off. From here it goes into two clear water baths. The item is now totally free of anything but the base metal. Each step takes about 30 seconds.

In this tank it gets it's first coating. Tony called this the primer coat. This is done with copper that is dissolve in a cyanide creating a solution. The copper is inside of that bag you see in the back. The cyanide dissolves the copper and creates a solution.  When electricity is passed through the bar you see the item hanging from, the atoms of copper are bonded to the base metal. As metal is dissolved, more metal dissolves into the solution. This is where hands on learning pays off. Each base metal requires just a little more or little less electricity to make it build to the proper thickness. On the pot metal it took about 6 minutes to build the base of copper. On the steel items it took much less time.

And there you have your base coat in the electro plating process. Hanging off the bottom are the two hinge bolts. The yellow electrical tape keeps the copper cyanide from making contact with the base metal so the layers will not effect it's diameter. The item is then washed again as described earlier to neutralize all of the chemicals used. All electro plating is begun this way.

The next step is to copper plate the item. Tony explained that this step is the most important. If the copper it too thin, it will not be durable outside. If it is too thick, the rest of the metals will not bond properly and it will begin to flake off over time. My items took about 45 minutes in this step. 

This step of plating is done in a solution of copper dissolved into solution by an acid.

After yet another cleaning it goes into the tank that has nickel in solution. Same process of metal dissolved into an acid. You can see the bar the item hangs from in the center of the tank. The power actually goes into the tank through the bars at the side of the tank and out of the bar the item hangs on. As the electricity passes through the solution, it carries the metal atoms with it and they bond onto the item. Hands on knowledge is how Tony knows exactly how long he has to build the surface, nickel atom by nickel atom. All the items required about 20 minutes.

The item is then, yes, again, washed. Then it goes into the chrome tank. 2 minutes and it was done.

And then you end up with this. Triple chrome is not three platings of chrome as many (myself included until Tony learned me) think. It is actually chrome on top of nickel, onto of copper. 

I really want to thank Dennis for allowing me into his business like he did. Most people would just say no. Not only did he allow me in but he made it a tremendous one on one experience for me.
I also want to thank Tony for teaching me so much and actually allowing me to participate in the plating. You are a genius my friend. 

Metro Plating is the type of small business I support and want to promote. I hope if you have the need to get anything plated you will not hesitate and send it to them. They do work for people all over the country and UPS stops there everyday.