Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spraying Paint

Old Man Winter is blowing in here in Central NY. I love winter. I get a nice break from working on projects around the property, the kids go sledding then come in and have hot chocolate around the fireplace, I can fall asleep on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and not feel guilty, and I get to enjoy ice fishing with my friends and family. One thing that really sucks about this winter, however, is that I am in the middle of an Airstream restoration and it is just too damn cold to get much done in the trailer. The last thing I need to do out there is to paint the interior. Then I can concentrate my efforts on refurbishing and rebuilding the cabinetry, which I can do in my nice warm shop. I have made one mistake so far in the painting process. Since I had to prime some of the aluminum that I stripped bare, it was left primer grey and I tried to just paint right over it using the final finish. I should have shot it with an almond color base coat first. I'm using too much of the Mulitispec paint to cover the grey. The areas of the trailer that were an off white color are painting very easily, and it looks good without having to use 4 coats. Live and learn.
This is the compressor that I am using. It's a high volume / low pressure set up. It works great for most paints, and is working fine for what I'm doing.Here's one wall just about finished. Once the walls and ceiling are covered, I'll go back and work on getting the nooks and crannies around the windows painted.

This is what the finish looks like. That's one coat over the off-white paint that was on the interior. I think it looks great. Much like Zolatone, but not exactly. There are blue and dark red flecks in the almond colored base. I'm going to put a clear coat on the paint when it's done to hopefully add some durability and make it easier to clean.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November 15th, 2028

Today was the opening day of deer season in Southern NY. I look forward to this day all year as it is a day when I can go sit in the woods, watch the sun come up, enjoy nature, and if I'm lucky, put some venison in the freezer. This year my middle son, Jacob, wanted to come along. Actually, all 3 boys wanted to come but it was Jake's turn to spend some "special time" with Dad, so off we went. I was a little bit hesitant at first, because if you've spent any time at all with a 10 year old, you'll know that they don't generally have much of an attention span. I thought I'd be constantly telling Jake to sit still, be quiet, only 15 more minutes and we'll leave, etc. I was completely wrong. We sat in the rain for almost 3 hours, waiting for a deer that we wanted to shoot. Eventually, I was the one who suggested we go back to the house to dry off and try to warm up. Jacob would have remained sitting in the rain all day if I'd let him. After a cup of coffee and a snack, we decided to head back out to the tree stand and see if we'd have any better luck. The rain had let up a bit, but I was not feeling very good about our chances. Well, we got to the stand, climbed up, and before I even had a chance to sit down, Jacob was whispering "Dad, Dad, there's a buck!". I turned around to see a deer, not 30 yards away, looking straight at us. I unslung my rifle, took aim, and shot. The deer took a few steps, and then fell dead. My kids know where a hamburger comes from, and understand that hunting is one of the ways we feed our family. They know that a gun is a tool that can be used to good and bad. They know that when something is shot, chances are good that it will die very soon. All of these thoughts were going through my mind in the moments after I watched the deer fall. "Good learning experience". "Respect wildlife even as we kill it". "The Lord provides". All of this fled my mind when my boy turned to me and gave me a hug that I will remember until the day I die. It's about all of those thoughts that I was having, but today was also about so much more.

I titled this blog post November 15th, 2028. My son will be 30 years old then. Most likely he will be busy with a career, a family, a life of his own. I will be 59 years old, and I may be wishing for just one more hunt with my kids. Just one more time to be together when it's just us. Well, today I got that wish, even if it's 20 years before I make it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I be Preppin'

My last step before I paint the interior of my trailer is to clean up, prime, and mount the curtain rods. the straight pieces attach above the side windows above the beds, and the curved piece goes above the rear window in the bathroom. I'll get them mounted tonight, and hopefully have pictures of a painted interior on Thursday.

Monday, November 10, 2008


It's been a while since I last posted an update, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working. I've got all of the interior skin in, and I primed the aluminum that I had stripped. Originally, I was going to strip all of the paint in the back, but honestly I found it to be too much work. Stripping the paint off a panel that was on a bench in my shop was a bear, and I did not even want to get into trying to strip the paint off the ceiling panels that were still attached to the trailer. Screw that. So I'm going to paint. I found a paint I like, I've got the bare aluminum primed with an etching primer, and the old paint sanded. I also re-installed the window trim prices. If you take these off, make sure you mark where they came off to make re-installation easier.

I had curtains like this in college.

I really like Frank's map-covered wall treatment. The effect looses something when you do it with the Sunday paper.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Days Go By...

Days go by and not much gets done. Life has a way of interfering with my plans. Plans that involve working on my projects, fishing with my kids, working in my drug store, spending time with my family, and generally living my life according to the little post-it notes that fill my pockets and tell me what I will be doing next. I was able to get my interior skins put back in, and my next step will be to paint the interior. I could have Rob's Uncle Don do it in Brand Name Zolatone, or I could spend an hour or so on Airforums, researching what others have used to do it themselves. Then it's down to flooring. I've decided to go with a nice, organic looking cork. I just need to shop for the best price, try to find it locally, or at least semi-locally, so I can save on shipping. Unless the local price with tax but no shipping is more than the internet price without tax, but with shipping. Which it usually is. Then it's on to restoring / rebuilding the interior furniture. I think I finally know what kinds of wood I'll go with. I just need to go through the whole pricing exercise with the wood, too. I can't forget tanks, water heater, plumbing, and all that goes along with that. Once that's in, I'll pay a visit to Rob's beautiful trailer with my tape measure and try to get a handle on copying his bunk set up. And I hope to get all this done this winter and have things ready to roll come next spring. Gotta be at the Cherry Blossom.
A good race car driver has what is called "driver's confidence". It is the other-worldly self confidence that allows a driver to hustle into a corner at speeds that make his eyes wide, his fingernails carve depressions into the steering wheel, and his sphincter put creases in the driver seat upholstery. But he has the confidence in his own abilities to do the job, so he keeps his foot planted on the right pedal and delays removing it until the last possible instant. Most times he makes it through, and his confidence grows. I believe I am beginning to develope "restorer's confidence". I have done things that I never thought I would be able to, and my confidence has grown. I know that I will have a beautiful trailer when this is done. I know that I will be at CBR next spring with more than an aluminum tent. My eyes may be wide and my knuckles pure white, but I know I'll make it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Post for Ailish

The daughter of a friend of mine is coming down with a case of aluminitis. It sounds like she has it pretty bad, too. Her name is Ailish, and she is a perfect candidate for the WDCU and the vintage Airtream scene: 3 kids, a husband, and a sense of adventure. Another bonus is that her father is very handy. Rebuilding one of these old trailers would be a piece of cake for him. And what a wonderful gift it would be for his grandchildren! Just think, an opportunity to give something that will be handed down from generation to generation, with each succeding owner marveling at your mechanical abilities and love for family.
These pictures of of my friend Rob's trailer. It is a 1958 Sovereign of the Road, and a perfect example of how beautiful a vintage Airstream can be. You already know what they look like on the outside. This is what the inside can look like.

Simply beautiful. I think your dad has a spot out behind his garage that would be a perfect place to store an Airstream while it gets rebuilt. In fact, I know he does.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Feel Like I'm In a Movie

Let There Be (a) Light...

At the WDCU Installation Rally, I spent a lot of time looking at other people's trailers. I wanted to get a feel for what others had done, and try to use some of their ideas and features in my own trailer. One thing that I saw in a number of vintage Airstreams that I thought was really nice was the Humphrey Gas Lamp. It puts off lots of light, and also about 2000 btu's of heat which I definately could have used at the rally. When I got home, I did a quick search on eBay, and found this one listed, but without a picture of it included in the listing. The description sounded good, and the seller's feedback was good, so I took a leap of faith and put in a bid. I ended up being the only bidder, so for $11.00 I got the exact light I was hoping for: Avacodo green with the small globe. It does need a new mantle, but you can pick those up for about $3.00 online. Sometimes, you get lucky.
Sorry for the poor picture quality, and the sideways orientation of the top one. Something must be up with my camera and picture software. I hate computers....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Call Me "Patches"

I went down to Lowes today to pick up some more Reflectix. Seems like whenever I buy something, I never buy enough. Frustrating. Then I over compensate and buy way too much. Oh well, at least now I'll have enough Reflectix for when I do the front of the trailer.
Left side panels in place. The forward panel was a piece of cake, and it lulled me into thinking the rest would be easy. Yeah, right. The curved panel was a pain right in the butt. When I rebuilt the frame, I must have raised the back end a fraction of an inch. Not much, but enough to make it impossible to reinstall the curved panel without it getting bound up on the floor. So, I drilled out the few rivets that I had installed, took the panel into the shop, got out the power shears, and proceeded to cut off way more than I should have. Enough to leave a half-inch gap between the panel and the floor. Ugh. Back into the shop I went, got out the shears again, and I cut out a 1 and 1/2 inch trim strip to cover the gap and give me a way to rivet to the c-channel. You can see it in the above picture.
Here's the patch I used to splice the long panel back together. If I didn't cut it when I was taking things apart, I wouldn't have been able to get back to the wheel wells without taking the front of the trailer apart. It is one l-o-n-g sheet of aluminum.
Here's a close up of the patch I used to cover my screw up when trimming the curved panel. I could have left it with the 1/2 inch gap showing, seeing as how this section will be hidden behind the vanity, shower, and closet, but I want to make things right for my trailer.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pop Pop Pop Pop Pop

I put one of the interior panels back on this afternoon. I used almost a full box of 100 rivets, and got quite sick of squeezing that damn pop rivet tool. Installation was easy, since the holes all lined right up.

River litter. I'll bet those little suckers would love to pop one of my tires.
When I took the panels out, I cut the long one underneath the windows because I was only doing half the trailer. I'm going to rivet a nice aluminum strip to cover this seam and make it all look good. I was going to do it today, but the boys came running into the garage at 5:10pm, yelling that they had to be at their football practice field for team pictures. The pictures were scheduled for 5:00pm, by the way. Oh well, the photographer was running late so they got their pictures taken. I guess I'll just have to spend some quality shop time tonight to make that trim strip.

I Killed Another Tool.

I killed my drill. I'm sad about this loss. Not only was it a great tool that lasted me through the construction of 2 decks, countless other projects, and the de-construction of my Airstream, but it was also a very special tool to me. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas 2 years ago, and it was the best gift I have gotten in all of my adult life. A DeWalt 18v cordless drill, for God's sake. It's one of those tools a non-professional tool guy like me drools over at Lowes, but just cannot justify the price. When you have a corded drill that works just fine, spending a couple hundred for the cordless version just seems wasteful. But my mother-in-law somehow knew that I would appreciate it. And I did. Very much. Thank you Joyce. I love you.
So the first thing I did Tuesday was to go to Lowes and get another cordless drill. If you have never used a quality drill, do yourself a favor and go get one. It needs to have a brake to slow it down when you release the trigger. Very important when you're driving lots of screws, say for a deck. Trust me on this. And if you think a corded drill is all you need, well, it is. But cordless is just so nice. I also bought some Reflectix insulation for the trailer, a couple hundred pop rivets, a new pop rivet tool, and a bunch of drill bits. It's time to put the inner skins back on.
I put these two guys next to each other for a while, trying to sync up the mojo a little bit.
Reflectix partially installed. One small roll is exactly enough to do back to the curved sections on both sides. It cuts easily, installs easily, and you don't have to wear a mask and gloves to work with it like you do with fiberglass. It is expensive, though. I'll have about $80 of it in the back of my trailer.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Hey, pull my finger..."

I am having a wonderful time this weekend at the WDCU Installation Rally in North Norwich, NY. The rally site is only about 5 miles from my house which is a blessing, and a curse. See, I was supposed to have Saturday off, but ended up having to work. That means leaving the rally, and all of my new friends. I will be back there after work for Rob's installation as club president.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Digitally Remastered

My computer is back up and running after about a week. My hard drive killed itself somehow, but my computer guy was able to install a new hard drive and almost all of my files and programs are present and accounted for. What a pain in the rear end it is, though. It wasn't that long ago that computers weren't even a small part of my life. It's amazing how "important" these boxes have become.
I moved the trailer from out behind the shop, and It's currently undergoing a good cleaning in preparation for Rob's installation rally next week. It's amazing how dirty it was inside. Even though we're just using it as an aluminum tent at this point, I wanted it to look nice and inviting. I think it's looking great.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Picture-Free Post

I don't have a real blog entry today, due to the fact that my hard drive decided to destroy itself. I am left working on my laptop, model year 2000. Hopefully I'll have my main system back up soon. Thanks to Frank, who lost his pictures a few months ago and encouraged me to back things up. I bought Carbonite, so all my data is saved. Thanks again Frank!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Banana Time

We got the banana wraps on this weekend. I will be replacing them with some nicer aluminum, but at least the trailer can again be towed, and I learned a ton about how to put this part together. I'm thinking about buying a rivet shaver when I take the wraps back off, though. When I drilled the rivets out the first time, some of the holes were deformed. They're ok now, but I don't want to drill again and deform them more. This is Josh, or Klecko Joe, fighting the mosquitos and 99% humidity we had Saturday night. It started pouring rain right after this picture was taken. Klecko Joe went inside to watch TV. I stayed out and kept working in the rain.
The only piece I could not salvage from the original wraps was the one over the rear cross member. If you saw what the original rear cross member looked like, it's not really a surprise. I had a piece of belly pan material left over from some work I did on my 86, and it with some trimming it fit just right.
Of course, the piece I saved was actually 2 pieces put together, so It's got a big ol' line across it. Another reason that I'll be replacing these with new material in the future.
Rivets all bucked and screwed to the underside. Now I have a bone to pick with everybody that has done this in the past and recorded it in their blog: Why didn't you tell me that the belt-line trim piece is attached by these same rivets? OK, it's my fault, I known. I should have realized when I was filling all those holes with rivets that I would be needing some of them to stay empty until I riveted the trim back on. I'll be chiseling rivets (unless I get that rivet shaver) so I can install the trim. Two steps forward, one step back.
This is Jacob, my middle son. Josh has been my primary helper so far, but I think I burned him out yesterday. Literally. It was 88 degrees yesterday, and we were in full sun. Jake was more than willing to step in and help out. He manned the bucking bar, and helped me get the skins all attached. Good work, Jake! I couldn't have done it without you!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

One for Frank

I was playing around with Blogger last week, and tried something new; Google Ads. I didn't like the way they looked, so I took them down. My buddy Frank reminded me that they really detract from my blog. Really, though, I think it's Frank's hippy, anti-commercial bias that is behind his dislike of Google Ads. Too bad. The picture in this post was going to be the next Ad in the Google Ad rotation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Full Day

Today, I was able to get almost a full day in on the trailer. I left work at 10:00am, worked until 1:00 when I had to go see a house with my mother-in-law, then got back at it until dinner at around 5:00. Since my helpers were all in school, I used Gorilla Tape to hold the c-channel bolts from underneath. It worked great, and with a pneumatic ratchet I was able to tighten them right down from above. I used a plop of Vulkem underneath each screw and washer to help prevent corrosion.
My banana wraps are in fair shape. By that I mean they are not in very good shape, but they are re-useable. I decided to give them a shot and see what it looks like. Those clekos holding the panel in place are the best invention in the history of mankind.
Once school let out I recruited this little bucker to give me a hand. We got on a roll, and after a few rivets it was like we'd been doing it for years. Bucking rivets is much easier than I had anticipated. Thanks a million to Frank Yensan for lending me the rivet gun and rivets. Frank is the unofficial ambassador for vintage Airstream restorations. His advise, support, and now use of tools has made this project much easier than it would have been otherwise. Frank, I am sure I am speaking for many other restorers when I say that you are the man.
Curb side all riveted back together. The banana wrap looks, eh, decent. I'm not going to be putting the interior skins back on right away, so I'll see how I feel about the wraps after I get back from Rob Baker's installation rally. I might end up drilling these rivets back out to install new wraps, but at least these will get me on the road.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Midget For Rent

Midget for rent. Good for getting into those hard to reach areas. Will work for cookies. My youngest son, Josh, helping me tighten the c-channel bolts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hey, I have made progress!

Before. I was looking through my pictures when I came across this beauty. Goes to show, even if you only have a little time to work on a project, you can still make progress. I'm calling this my "15 Minute Airstream"; I only get about 15 minutes at a time to work on it, but those minutes add up to hours.
Much, but certainly not all, of the the dirty work is getting closer to completion. Stripping the paint down to bare aluminum will probably be the dirtiest, most tedious work of the entire project. It's bad enough doing it on a bench in my shop, so stripping the ceiling should be a real treat. One panel at a time, one panel a day, and it will be done and definately worth the effort.

Screwing It Down

Today I was able to get the c-channel screwed down all the way around. It's in place now, ready to be bolted through the floor. Then I can get started bucking rivets. My kids are already fighting over who gets to man the bucking bar. I'm going to try to re-use my banana wraps. They should be fine, but I can always send an order to for some new aluminum if I need to.
I wish I'd used a better quality plywood when I did the floor. There are a few voids, but the wood was literally bathed in Olympic waterproofing when I was prepping the floor for installation, so it should be OK. I also plan to skim the entire subfloor with leveler before I cover it up with whatever flooring I decide to go with.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Learning About Strippers

I'm starting the think about how I'm going to do my interior. I really like the look of polished aluminum against nice, rich wood. As it's getting darker so much earlier these days, I'm finding myself running out of daylight to work on the trailer outside. I decided to spend some time inside the shop trying to get paint off the interior skins that I had removed. This is what it looked like. Original Zolatone covered with a thick coating of latex. Pretty nasty looking.
Here's my "kit". I got the Aircraft stripper at the local autoparts store, used a sponge covered in a plastic mesh, a pair of my wife's old bluejeans, and a spatula for a scraper. The mineral spirits is used as a final wash to get the dissolved paint off after scraping and scrubbing.
Step one is to put a generous coating of the stripper on the panel and cover it with plastic to keep it from evaporating. I leave it like this for about an hour. Then I remove the plastic and scrape as much of the paint off as I can. Areas that got a light coat of the stripper are tough to remove. Areas where it's gobbed on slough right off easily, so don't skimp on the stripper. Once it's all scraped, I apply another light coat of stripper, wait about 15 minutes, and scrub with the jeans and mesh covered sponge to get the rest of the paint off. I finish by wiping the panel down with mineral spirits to remove all the stripper / paint / muck.
Finished piece ready to install and get polished. There is some oxidation on the panel, but that should come right off with polishing.