Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Belly pan the hard way

I bet some of you are wondering what has been going on with LuLu. A great deal of work is the answer. She has been converted from the original Thetford valve to a more modern Valtura system. Not only will this make future valve work easier, it will allow for easier hose hook up and dumping of the black tank.

The main thing that has been going on is the forming of a new belly pan. Now usually, a new belly is installed by copying the original and slipping it up between the skin and "C" channel. Then the whole thing is riveted together. The inner skin is usually off and there is lots of room to slide the new belly pan in. Well, I do not have the luxury of removing the inner skin nor do I have an original to copy. The original is still firmly in place between the skin and channel. I am using a technique that I first saw done by Colin Hyde while he was still at GSM. It involves slipping the new one between the original belly pan and outer skin. Folks I am going to be honest, this is extreemly challanging. Aluminum is totally unforgiving and you have to fit, trim, fit, trim countless times.

The new belly is then riveted to the original one. My clecos are getting a serious workout.

However, being able to use a rivet gun to join the two skins together sure is a lot of fun. I think a rivet gun is like bacon. Just as everything tastes good with bacon, everything is more fun when you are buck riveting it together.

And there you have it....

As many of you know I work outside next to the shop. When it rains or snows I cannot work on Lulu so I am forced to work on inside projects. Fortunately I have client #0001's entire interior sitting in my shop, just for this situation. In my next post I will bring you up to speed on that project. Here are a couple of teasers so you can see the "before" pictures.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More work coming into the Works

I had an Airstream follow me yesterday. It followed me all the way to my storage location. Her name is Rosie and she belongs to Elly, client #0007. Elly thought it wise to take advantage of the resent snow melt and bring her trailer in now even though there is a project in between hers. I am honored to have a new client as enthusiastic about getting started.

I also am honored by a client determined to back it in even though she openly admitted to be intimidated by backing up and the turn being somewhat tight. Elly, you did a great job, be proud of yourself.

Rosie is a 1973 Safari built in Ohio. Rosie has a blog named after her that you might want to book mark. Following the customers point of view of working with a professional shop might be an interesting read juxtaposed to me as the guy doing the work.

At 23 feet long and dual axles I would imagine she tracks very straight down the road. She has been rode a little hard over the years. Her new owner is going to show her a little more love than she has seen for a long time.

Rosie has some frame issues such as a rotten out rigger or three. Kind of hard to see all this when she looks so straight from ten feet away.

Fairly nice, clean shell with your usual beauty marks. She will look awesome polished up. I think ultra dark tinted windows or silver film would look wicked cool. That is just my thoughts and not something Elly and I discussed.

The darker segment on the road side was replaced at some point in the past. It was never clear coated and oxidized more than the rest of the segments. The olympic rivets that were used will be replaced with solid rivets as part of the project.

Olympic rivets are approved by Airstream for structural repairs. Unfortunately even in non structural situations they often fail to keep the water out.

A little leak in the tail light assembly and the water goes down...

and just rots things out.

Sometimes it is the factory seam that leaks even after they sealed it a second time out of the rain tunnel.

And that leak runs down and rots things out too.

Many little puddles in the "C" channel. Good thing I came over in the rain to see how the shell was holding out the water.

Next weekend my next client is bringing in his trailer in. Hopefully before Client #0006 arrives I will be able to update what is has happened with LuLu.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nothing Glamorous...

NOTICE: The following happened in the past. Well, not distant pass, but more resent past. Okay, okay, two days ago...

There is nothing glamourous about laying on the frozen ground and having molten metal fall down on you. Ones clothing catching on fire while wearing it is a very unsettling experience. Good thing it was Mike laying there and not me.

He was able to sit on a bucket for part of it too....

Really nothing glamorous to see, you probably want to move along....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stepping back to move forward

I posted some photos in an earlier post of the patches made for Lu Lu's skin tear. I just was not happy with the way the curve looked. I had cut a template out by hand and it was not a true arch. The curve had a few dips to it, and I just was not willing to put my name on that. I went to the job folder and crossed out all the hours associated with creating the patches and started over.

I started by having my buddy with a CNC machine cut out the arch I needed. TJ actually cut out two patterns so I could sandwich the aluminum sheet between them. I then traced the template with a top bearing tracing bit.

The curve is now perfect and I feel much better about the way it looks.

I cut out the peaked wheel well and formed some fender edge to go around it. Now I am back where I started and feel much better about what I am putting out of the shop door. Lu Lu has been worked on by another shop. That shop has a stellar reputation and to be honest I am astounded by some of the things they did.

One of the things that astounds me is the use of these rivets to hold the belt line on. Those steel shafts just should not be there. They were such a pain to drill out and actually caused me to buy a rivet removal tool. They were 1/4" shaft too, which leaves a big hole.

The belt was stuck into place very well with big blobs of vulkem. I had to get in behind there and slowly work a knife in to cut it free

It is amazing how debris can get in behind these things. I know this belt was off not too long ago.

Then there was this head scratcher. A drywall screw and a small washer screwed into the floor right at the frame rail. I can only guess this was some sort of front end separation fix. There is one on each side. I'll back that out and replace it with stainless steel so that the iron does not react with the aluminum.

The front floor was replaced and they used self drilling screws to attach the patch to the frame. Some of the screws were a little long. these will need to be cut off flush so they do not come through the new belly pan I am fabricating. Yes, all new belly pan...

The belly is being made from the same material that new Airstreams are made from. Not sure of the alloy, but it is coated on both sides. I needed to take the roll over to my buddies shop to unroll it. I was afraid of the wind catching it as I unrolled and twisting it up. I am lucky to have good friends that help me out like this. I am lucky to know someone with that much clear floor space....

I now have more manageable sizes to work into the final shapes.

A little trick I learned from one of my friends across the pond is to cover the edge of the outrigger with edge wrap. This keeps the outrigger from sawing through. He had sent me some to try out and it was very substantial in thickness. I had been searching a local source and and found some made of neoprene.

Here is a cross section of the material.

Next up will be welding and the actual shaping of the belly pan. Things are moving along very well now. Please check in again soon.