Sunday, May 27, 2012

Go Out and Play With Your Friends

It is always bitter sweet to see one of our projects leave. We spend hundreds of hours working toward the day, but when it comes, I feel an incredible amount of sadness. Yesterday was Toasters day to go out and play again.

Even though she has been towable, she just wasn't up to the task of camping in any capacity other than as an aluminum tent.

Now she is fully functioning in all of her intended capacities. She is fully self contained as Wally Byam had intended her to be back in 1961. 

From what I understand, her first trip will be back to where she was born 51 years ago. Her stewards are taking her to Alumapoluza next week in Jackson Center Ohio.  The original factory is across the street from the present day factory. She rolled out of one of the three doors on the East end of the building if making a return to place of birth is important to you.

You might note Toaster sports her original patina. All the patches and repairs were done using salvaged aluminum so that they would blend right in. Usually my clients want a shiny trailer, but Toasters stewards wanted her to look original and untouched. I like this aesthetic and hope that many of my future jobs go this same way. My own trailer had an even deeper patina than Toaster. I thought polishing her was the way to go, but now wish I could have the patina back. I guess each situation is unique. 

Keep your eyes open for this cute little rear end going down the road near you.

Every attempt was made to keep the interior looking original. For those of you with 58- 62 International models, you will feel very much at home looking over these photos. There have been a few changes and modifications, but the look is pretty darn faithful to what it was like originally.

I think I posted a photo of the sink cabinet earlier, but here it is with the stove cover down and the counter top trim put back down. Note, both 110 and 12 volt lights working. This is a very cool feature in these International units. I also really love the towel paper holder (not original) that we recycled.

I bet a plate of bacon and eggs would taste tremendous sitting at that dinette. I know everything tastes better with bacon, but the location can really add to the experience...

Why did they stop using these metal cabinets? I love them and with the Zolatone on them, they really look part of the trailer instead of a fixture.

 Stand up shower anyone? The vintage valve was a serious challenge. I had to find the the right rubber washers, felt packing and nut packing for the valves. I have my fingers crossed they give years of service now. Most things are still available at the 1958- 62 Airstream RV Super Store(Lowes) but not always. Sometimes a visit to an old plumber who has dusty jars of stuff in his shop is needed too.

The Saniware toilet was also a challenge that beat me. Unfortunately we could not get it to hold water properly. It works if you use the wash down hose to flush with. Due to time constraints, we are making due. When Toaster comes back from her maiden voyage, we will be replacing the bowl with a new Thetfort Aquamagic.

This is my favorite window in the trailer. I love how it is framed by the cabinets. Originally the counter top was a fake, oak wood grain pattern. It looked very plastic. With the new counter top, not trying to visually compete with the real wood, it looks like it belongs.

The cushions and drapes are not present in any of these shots. They will be made this weekend by Toasters stewards. I look forward to getting some shots when she is all decked out with these things. 

Keep you batteries topped off and your tanks empty. See Ya'll down the Road!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not Eternal, But it is Still Going

Does this flame look familiar? It should, I lit it 72 hours ago and the 1961 Dometic 50A gas refrigerator is going STRONG! Ice is being made and it looks like the Klixon Tongue is doing it's job. I always get nervous with these old units. The burners are fairly temperamental and the parts are made of unobtainium. If the Klixon Tongue ( a very primitive sort of thermocouple) goes out or breaks, it is finished. On this fridge, the only actual moving part is the valve inside of the Klixon Tongue. When the Toaster came to us, we had no verification of the fridge actually working so seeing it work brings relief.

In my next post, I promise photos of a complete trailer. Well, mostly complete, the cushions and drapes are still to be made by her owners. Tomorrow we hand over the keys...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is it Done Yet?

Nope, still working on it. It is getting really close however...

The Toaster has been the one and only focus in the shop for the past few weeks. By this coming weekend, she will be completely finished and we are looking forward to handing her back to her stewards. I thought I would give you all a taste of some of the things we have been working on.

The entire interior has been restored. This meant either refinishing the existing furniture or rebuilding the furniture like new.  In the case of the sink/stove base, it meant a total rebuild.

 The counter top over the refrigerator had a very unusual dark spot on the underside.  I thought it very odd to see what looked like water damage on the underside of an area that never sees water. Then something moved...

 ... and out came a carpenter ant. Thankfully, they only made use of the counter top and were not eating away at other areas. Since the counter top was getting rebuilt with new laminate, it was no big deal. I eliminated the carpenter ants, of course.

The Toaster came to us mostly taken apart. Unfortunately, it came without any deconstruction photos. Only one Ziplock baggie was labeled.  It read, "stove connection" and contained one screw and a pipe clamp. We sorted it all out and figured it out. Both Wayne and I love jigsaw puzzles. Three dimensional ones are really fun.

There were a number of things missing from the puzzle, too. This bulk head wall was one of them, so we first made a template of the wall.

Then, a final version could be made from oak plywood, removing virtually any chance of making a mistake with the saw on an expensive piece of wood.

We had all the light fixtures to deal with. Some of the fixtures were painted, as was this overhead light. It's made of aluminum and polished up like a mirror. On the International models all the fixtures are dual voltage. Care was taken to document how everything was wired before they were all taken apart to be made new again.

 Those fixtures not coated in paint were rusted fairly badly. They look like brass at a glance, but they are really just sheet metal that was nickel coated. The nickel then was sprayed with a tinted lacquer.

Every part was glass beaded to remove all the paint and rust.  My favorite,  PPG K36 primer was used for its incredible filling properties. We then shot the parts with a brass paint and topped them with a dull lacquer finish. They are not as clear a brass color as the tinted white metal was, but they look 11,000% better than before. If I could find a source for all new plastic lenses they would be absolutely perfect. 

A serious issue we had to overcome was this repair done previously to arriving at FTW.  The seam between the old and the new wood had nothing to bond the two pieces together. When you stepped here, they moved independently of each other. I thought I was going to have to cut the floor out and fix this, and then a very old school carpenter's fix came to me.  Butterflies! Butterflies have been used for a thousand years to keep boards together and aligned.  The floor is 5/8" thick and the butterfly is 1/2" thick.

They were epoxied into the holes....

 ... then sanded flush. There is now zero movement in this area. It is a shame you will never see this kind of fix. I think it looks beautiful!

Here are the new countertops for the bathroom. The laminate, Formica 'Surf', very closely matches the original blue used in these units.

 It was also used on the shower wall that we fabricated. I really like the feel this blue gives. I am 100% certain you will be seeing this laminate used again.

Originally, a gaucho was used up front. The owners really wanted a dinette. "We make dreams a reality" is our slogan.

 Here it is with the table in place...

 ... and here it is with the table lowered as it will be for converting to a double bed.

 The original sink was reused in the new countertop.

An all new countertop above the refrigerator. We reused the grill work but did not reuse the carpenter ants.

The Toaster has had a few tire failures over the past 51 years. These blow-outs have really torn up the wheel wells. Since the eye always goes right to the wheel well, we made the effort to fix the damage here.
We save the skins from panel replacements for just these situations where new patches would really stick out. The match is rather good, if you ask me.

 We go from all torn up...

 ... to fairly original.

The gas lines were made new again, too. A little hint folks: if you disconnect a gas line, cap it off or put tape over the end. By taking a few seconds to do this you will save a few hours of taking EVERYTHING apart to get to the spiders that crawl in the pipes and the grit that gets into the open fittings. Spiders and grit plug up the orifices in the appliances. Just a suggestion you should take seriously.

This is the crucial flame. A 1961 Dometic 50A gas refrigerator works well as long as that flame remains on. So far it is on. So far the refrigerator is getting cold.

In my next update, I will post final finished photos of this trailer. She is very close right now and will be leaving us this weekend.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Post Modern Cir 1957

Many modernizations took place on this 1957 Caravanner while she was at The Works.

She was a park model, so the only 12 volt was an overhead 1156 bulb that allowed for lighting while plugged into the truck. This was intended for set up purposes only and not task lighting. We put in an entire 12 volt system to control lights, a Fantastic Vent, a water pump and an on demand water heater. A converter and 100 amp hour battery were added also. Off the grid is now no problem.

The original, electric only, Marvel fridge had been replaced by a dorm style electric only fridge. We replaced that with a Dometic gas/ electric unit. The challenge was to make it look as if it was always there. The other challenge was to make it fit in a cabinet too shallow for a standard refrigerator.

We used some salvaged skin from a 1955 Safari that had a panel replaced as the fridge panel and built a cabinet above the new fridge. A nice blend if you ask me.

On Guard

 A bit more work took place on the little 1970 Caravel. Those new wing windows needed a little protection against flying rocks since replacing them involves major surgery and buck riveting.
 We installed a factory rock guard from Airstream. Made in America it was, however the instructions must have been out sourced to China. Not to worry, we are smarter than a rock guard and we got it installed.
 A funny thing we learned while installing the rock guard; the letters spelling out A I R S T R E A M are not level to the front window. The rock guard is level to the letters so it all looks correct, but the letters are on an angle to the horizontal plane of the window. These are hand made vehicles so this is part of the hand made charm.
 All looks good while it is open or closed.
Something that did not look so good was the fitting going into the original gas regulator. The regulator was being replaced, so why not escalate the project just a little more and replace this part too. Five fittings and an hour later it was all fixed.