Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Migrant Worker

Rosie is standing very proud these days. All of her structural work is complete at this point. She has had so much done over the past couple of weeks that it has been a total whirl wind. Only a few minor tasks are still to be done before her owner comes pick her up to take over the rest of the work.

In order to reunite the shell and the chassis a lot of riveting needed to be done. Riveting requires two people to do it correctly. Frank's Trailer Works has hired it's first employee...

He is a migrant worker of sorts, for Steve has come on board to help on a part time basis. I flew him in from Wisconsin for a 6 day stretch. His attention to detail is beyond expectation and he does only quality work. The fit is perfect for me. Steve will be coming again soon to work on the next project.

I got most of all the body drilled and set for rivets. I wanted the time Steve was here to be as productive as possible.

Inca Plastics came through on an exact match for the black tank. They even put sensors in the end for me. It is pretty cool that the company that manufactured the original was still around to build an exact match. The installation of this tank is one of my loose ends.

An area in the original design that I have issues with is the wheel wells. The entire system is plastic and there is a huge void where the wheel well cutout, and the skin, and the channel, and the floor all come together. I worry that water from the road could easily get into this area. There was nothing really tying the exterior skin to the plastic pans or to keep them rigid. I decided to make an "improvement." I got out some sheet aluminum and cut out some shapes.

Did some bending and some folding

And some drilling and some clecoing. All to be followed by some riveting.

And now all that area is stout as can be. No gaps for water to get in or anywhere near the the plywood. A very good "improvement " if you ask me. You can also see the water heater hanging proudly in the opening I added mini ribs to. The fit was perfect as if it was made for it.

We shot a ton of solid rivets. Thousands for sure. Steve bucked every one of them. We also replaced a good number of rivets. There is nothing that I loath more than re doing other people's shoddy repairs.

At some point two end cap segments had been replaced using "the Airstream approved" overlaid, panel replacement done from the outside using Olympic rivets*. Well, it might be allowed, but it sucks and is a failure, not an "improvement" at all. Here you see conclusive proof that Olympic rivets leak. Actually 12 in a row leaked, there were many others scattered in other areas also.

Two of the rear segments had been replaced in the past. Steve and I worked together drilling out every other rivet, using the remaining ones to hold things for us. I might point out that the sun is blazing down on us and the thermometer on the shop is reading 98 when this photo was taken. Rosie's skin is so hot that one could barely touch it.

We leap frogged the new solid rivets in and then reversed the process until all the bad rivets were gone. See how easily you can see the center of the Olympic? Well, so can water. The sheets are also not as tight together as they could be with the Olympics. See how where every solid rivet is, the sheets are so much closer together.

This is up top on the two replaced segments. It is a shame to see this big dent, but fortunately it cannot be seen from the ground. It looks as if someone slammed a chain down on the roof with tremendous force. There actually appears to be dents like links in a chain. The seams in this area are not perfect, but they are drastically improved over what we started with. Hopefully the next rain will reveal that the leaks in this area are gone.

Having Steve is a huge asset. He is willing to work on any task I need him to. He approaches everything with great pride and the results show. He does not hesitate on getting down on the ground and crawling under or going up on the roof. For a first employee, even if it is part time and he is a migrant worker, I could not had gotten more lucky.

So here she sits. Looking ready to hit the road again. I will have a wrap up post in a couple of days once I finish the little list of minor tasks.

*"the Airstream approved"overlaid, panel replacement done from the outside using Olympic rivets.
This is just a descriptive name I call this process. It is not necessarily what Airstream Service calls it. The name came from various heated discussions on the AirForums. New skins are mounted over the damaged ones and riveted using Olympic rivets from the outside. This saves on removing the interior to properly install buck rivets.
Airstream Service does however, approve of the use of Olympic rivets for repairs even structural ones.
Frank's Trailer Works does not approve of the use of Olympic rivets for anything except installing trim or accessories. When used, copious amounts of sealant are used. Future use of these rivets is in serious question right now and all previous work done using them is being monitored closely.


  1. Frank, thanks for inviting me to come help out... it was a blast!

  2. Cool find with Steve - It's always great to find team members who share your goals & expectations.

    But hide the beer anyway.


  3. Frank, although we missed Steve here at home, we knew he was with great people doing what he loves. Thanks for everything.