Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shift Change

A new lady has slid into the hot seat at Frank's Trailer Works. I would love to tell you her name but her owners have not chosen one yet. Maybe they don't believe in that kind of thing. Not really sure, but she is a sweet little trailer. At 20 feet maybe I should say sweet normal sized girl. You are looking at a 1977 Argosy Minuet. Argosy was the test bed for Airstream and this one fits that mold for sure. The floor is aluminum and all the cabinets are vinyl wrapped metal.

I have a running list of things to accomplish. The main items are axle replacement, making sure the frame is in good shape, cat heater installation, new Fantastic Fan, and a bunch of other small projects.

I began with removing the sheet vinyl and the carpet to expose the sub floor.

The aluminum floor is a really cool idea. The only thing I do not like is that there is some sag between the cross members. I will be laying Marmolium over this and am very concerned about the cross members telegraphing through the flooring.

Remember the universal rule of Airstreams? They all leak, yes they all certainly do. There were some minor drips noted by the client and I was already planning to deal with that, but this leak is in a different area and needs to be stopped.

Here is where the leak is we knew about. The curb on the refer vent has a clear and defined gap. The upper shroud looks like it has been dealt with before too.

I see a lot of this on the seams. It is very easy for water to go in that gap. Once a little finds it way through it continues to pull more in with it. "Capillary Action" for all you cool folks not paying attention in sixth grade science.

The sun was blazing so forgive my photo quality... for demonstration purposes only...
That is a missing rivet. "So?", you say, "a missing rivet? Big deal..." Well, everyone talks about how Airstreams are the top of the heap. But here we have a clear example of how the quality control is not always in control. The top sheet was drilled out on a line punch. But the hole on the lower sheet was not drilled. When they bucked the sheets together they just left it empty. After 32 years someone has finally gotten out a drill and riveted the sheets together as they should had been in the first place. Lots of sealant was injected up between the sheets and now they are flat and together.

I know I will get a bunch of questions about this product so I will try and answer as many as possible before hand....
I sealed all the obvious leak spots using the same product Airstream does in their service center. This can be purchased online through the Airstream Store. The pump dispenser squeezes out a fine bead. The material is drawn into the seam as it begins to cure. This is actually fun to watch happen. From what I understand the product can be used on up to 1/4" wide gaps. The sealer is kind of clear with a silver dust in it. It has a silver cast when it dries too. The pump takes a good deal of practice to get a real smooth bead so start up high and work your way down into eye sight. By the time you get to eye level you will be a pro.

Well with the holes hopefully sealed I turned my attention back to the new flooring. In order to even out some of the sags and humps I put down a padding made for floating floors.

Next I hope to remove the old roof vent and install a Fantastic Fan. Lots of things going on so check back often.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When will I be done?

I will be done when I am finished, that is when. And why I say that, I will explain.

I have certain superstitions that effect me. For instance, I never put away a tool until the job is done. As soon as I put it away, I will need it. Keeping it out and ready usually assures I will not need it. Another superstition is to never say it is done until I am sure it really is. I broke that rule by calling Lu Lu done in a previous post. I hooked her up and got ready to tow her over to the yard so I can get working on my next job. I pulled out on the street and stopped to check the lights. NO LIGHTS. NO BRAKES. NO NOTHING. What does one do? Well, I tried wiggling the plug, for it must not be making good contact with the pins. By doing this I was able to get the green light to light up on the brake controller. Yeah, success! But when I put on the signals the brake controller flashed red. When the brake are applied... RED. The controller owners manual says, "open ground" I wiggle again and feel a distinct "POP".

By inspecting the connector I notice that the screw that clamps down on the cable is gone allowing the cord to spin around in the connector. The set screw that holds it together is also screwed in so far that no threads are actually holding in the main body of the connector either. I open it up to find...

that a great deal of water has been having a good old time with the brass and copper in the plug.

But this is the shocking part... literally. The white wire is loose and with just a little flex of the cord, it is touching the black. No wonder I blew a fuse, everyone knows to never touch a white wire to a black one. A run over to the RV store, a little rewiring, and we are back in business. A side note: Not all seven pins are wired the same. Some are set up differently than the standard pattern. Put it back the way you found it, unless you want to rewire the tow vehicle too.

So, Lu Lu is most likely done now. She is over at the storage yard and her owners will be down next week to pick her up. They will be doing some polishing, some seam sealing, and some much needed window reglazing. I am very happy with how I made that giant rip in the skin go away.

This brings me to another delay in getting her done. A number of you read my other blog. Some might remember a year ago when I got some metal stuck in my eye. I had to have it removed surgically. Ringing any bells? Well, the next trailer, and the one after that need new axles.

In order to order axles one needs some very important measurements (unless you go the route we ended up going, but more on that later). One needs frame rail to frame rail dimension and the distance from hub face to hub face. To obtain these measurements you need to jack the trailer up and remove one of the wheels. While crawling under to measure frame rail to frame rail my shoulder brushed the frame. Some of that rust on the frame rubbed off and fell right between my safety glasses and my eye. I flushed my eyes out right away and went back to work. However, while driving home I could feel a burning in my eye. Sure enough, I had another piece of metal stuck in my eye ball. If this ever happens to you, make sure to seek treatment right away. The eye contains proteins and enzymes that oxidize metal very quickly. Removing the object is easy but the rust left behind requires surgery. Having been through it twice now, I can tell you it is no fun having your eye drilled to remove the rust. Three days later it still feels very uncomfortable and the sensitivity to sun light is extreme.
WEAR THOSE DAMN SAFETY GLASSES(even if they fail to protect your eyes some times)

But with all of that said... NEXT!!!!!
Folks this is my next project. You are looking at a very well cared for 1977 Argosy Minuet. She is 20 feet long and in very nice shape. There is no structural work slated for this project however I will be peeking in and making sure everything is looking alright. The scope of work includes a new axle, fantastic fan, new cat heater, flooring installed, and a number of little projects if time and budget permit. Her owners are very nice people that are very proud of their new Airstream. They are excited to get her out and do some serious camping this season.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Everything comes together at the same timen

As I finished the last details on Lu Lu, I also am finishing the final details on Client #0001's interior. All the parts are made and it is all ready to be installed into his trailer. I kind of have to laugh, because he was so worried about me getting his job done and now he still has floor to be put in. For some reason he wants to use winter as an excuse as to why it is not done. I think a little too much ice fishing and snow machines might be to blame, but hey. Who am I to judge how my clients spend their time away from work. (Please take note that #0001 and I are good friends and this is a friendly jab at him. He would hopefully do the same for me if I were loosing focus of getting my project done)

The curb side run of cabinets with the new reefer cabinet are trimmed out with aluminum corners to keep the kids from tearing up the corners. I like the straight grain of the quartered cherry. I hear narrow vertical stripes makes things look taller.

Scalloped aluminum edge on the counter tops looks very classic. This same edge was used in the bathroom previously. I love the nostalgic feel it creates.

A little before...

... and after.

And to round things out with some detail. I was fortunate to have trained in a formal apprenticeship situation. Unfortunately now a days very few cabinet shops use apprenticeships for their employees. My Master was a very difficult man. If something was 1/32" off, it was wrong and it was trash. Mr. Fitzgerald alway told me that the detail was everything and it was also where the money was made. He was a stickler for many things, but the final details were always key with him. One of the details a 1961 Ambassador had was mini shelves. Often these are missing. I was lucky to have most of the parts to copy how it was made. I think they look very sweet made out of cherry. The fine punched screen looks perfect in there too.

My next job is here at the Works. My posts are a little behind schedule and I am playing catch up. I will post about that job next.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Task tie ups and tool talk

I am always amazed at how many tools it takes to do even the most minor of tasks. Very quickly the tools are scattered about the area in which I am working. All the best attempts to keep them in order usually fall short of my intended goal. I will tell you kneeling down on a bucking bar will get your attention real quickly. A stray rivet will get your attention even quicker.

Speaking of rivets.... There are a lot of different types not to even mention sizes. None of the rivets in the picture above are available at your run of the mill box store. They all need to be purchased at a store specializing in rivets. At the bottom you have the solid rivets that are used as often as I can. Once set, they are a permanent connection and look exactly like the original ones used. Unfortunately, getting a bucking bar behind the rivet is not always possible. That gold color is a coating applied to keep the rivet from oxidizing, they are aluminum under it. The three rivets to the upper right are kind of special. When the tool pulls them, the center pulls in and there is no hole in the center. This keeps water from getting in through the center. The four serious looking rivets in the center are called structural rivets. They are extremely stout rivets. Like the closed end rivets, they do not allow water in and the mandrel in the center breaks off to leave the rivet filled in the center. I love rivets. I find them very interesting things. My wife however, is tired of finding then in the washing machine.

I might love rivets, but they are worthless without a good tool to pull them. This is where the "tool talk" comes into play. (just a warning, I am about to step onto my soap box... you may want to tune out or look away....) Now there are many tool options. You can go to the blue or orange box and buy something that will last a few jobs, maybe even a bunch of jobs if you get lucky. Another option is to go to Harbor Freight. I can clearly picture the factory workers in China laughing as they box up the worthless things they call Harbor Freight tools. I needed to pull some 1/4" rivets. These are some honking rivets requiring a tool with a fairly large nose piece. I thought why not buy the cheap tool, how often would I actually be pulling 1/4" rivets, it is only about 30 I need to pull. Well, on the second rivet the tool broke. For $20 what was I expecting right? Well, I was expecting to finish the job and not having to go buy a real rivet gun. The upper one from Fastenal cost as much as eight Harbor Freight riveters. I have made the claim before that I would not waste my money at Harbor Freight and I once again broke my pact. This time I intend to keep my word. Even the acid brushes I bought fell apart right away. Nothing like throwing away money in order to save a few dollars.

Now back to trailer talk

Originally I had intended to use all the gas lines over. When taking all the lines off I numbered everything so that I knew how it all went back together. I had put tape over the ends of all the sections so no spiders would crawl in and cause an issue. I kept them all safe and sound on a shelf in the shop. Unfortunately when I started to put them all back together I got this stuff coming out of the pipes. Lu Lu now has all new lines and fittings. The black goo combined with a cracked fitting found earlier just had me wanting to take no chances at all. Better to be sure about the system than have issues later. This is another clear example of how these restorations ALWAY escalate.

An aspect of the job that really took a lot of time was wrapping the wheel wells in new edging. I ruined many sections trying to get this right. I had just about given up when I called my buddy Uwe at Area 63. Uwe has talked me off the ledge a few times now. Maybe it is because he is from Germany and my Mother is German and he understands my mentality. Maybe it is because he is very sharp and just knows the right thing to say, not sure. What I am sure of is EVERY time he says the same thing to me... (paraphrased for the sake of kids ears) "stop being such a little girl about it, and get it done" Those are not really the words he uses, but you get the jest of it.

With his advice, I grew a set and made it happen. Not only made it happen, but it happened well. Thank you Uwe. I owe you a whole keg of Heife Weissen now...

When Lu Lu came to me she was all torn up around that wheel well. Having a rim fail caused a lot of serious damage to the surrounding area.

Now she is looking very sweet. I like the extra row of rivets. She looks like a jewel studded lady now. I will be giving her a bath and then tow her to a nice location for photos of her. Hope you all enjoyed the preview.