Monday, June 30, 2008


My rear frame piece has been done for about a week and I've been waiting for my welder to come and attach it. My 110 welder is OK for small jobs, or larger jobs when I can position the piece for easy welding. However, I cannot get it to produce a good weld from below, or even on a vertical face most times. So I contacted a guy I know, worked out a time, and then he did not show up. Twice. I have been pretty bummed out, number one because I had to ask for help which I hate to do, but also because the welding was the "next step". I have other things to do, but until the welding is done I can't finish POR-15'ing the frame, can't get the wood flooring on, etc.

So yesterday, I went out and tack welded everything in place. It's still not really solid, but at least it's out of the shop and on the trailer. Psycologically, this is huge for me. I can move forward.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Le dimensioni per il canale

Frank Yensan is going to bend me some c-channel to replace my corroded originals. These are the dimensions he will use to replicate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ready to stick on the stinger.

The rear frame is all built and ready to be welded to the original frame. I had some trimming of both the old frame and the new piece to do to make sure that everything ends up square. If I'd been more precise about cutting the old one off and building the new piece, I could have skipped that. Oh well. Live and learn. I had to jack up the body to get enough clearance to get the new piece in place and lined up.
There she is. In place and ready for the heat.
The gap between the rear skin and the frame had me concerned. Since the dimensions are exactly the same as the day it left the factory, I'm sure it's proper, and when I rivet the skin to the c-channel everything will come out alright.
This picture does not do justice to the absolute mess I made of my shop. It felt like I was walking around on sand from all the steel fragments generated during the cutting and grinding of steel. At least I didn't get anything in my eyes when all the sparks were flying. I've heard that can be bad.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby Steps

This is the end of the frame that I have modified so that I can have the bumper bolted on instead of welded on. This silly little piece took me about 6 hours to make. And I had to make two of them. It probably would have taken me half an hour to make them both, but I seem to be in the habit of working on the Airstream for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Between helping with the garden, running errands for the Missus, pulling splinters out of feet, lighting the grill, eating dinner, giving my daughter a bath, and myriad other things that come with being a father, husband, and slave. This is the (almost) finished piece. I still have to weld them to the frame, but it was after midnight at this point, and I was whipped.

OK - step one: Tack weld your steel plate to the frame. Find the center where the hole will be drilled. Well, this is step two. Step one is to rummage around in my pile of steel bits and pieces to find a couple chunks of metal that will work with the minimum amount of cutting, grinding, and sweating. These ones just needed a little trimming and they were perfect.

Next step: Drill a hole for your bolt to fit. Since this bolt will be holding a heavy bumper to a frame, it needed to be pretty big. Which means it would need a pretty big hole. Which means that, since the whole thing is too big to fit in my drill press, it would be a bitch to drill with a hand drill. Do this twice.
Step 3 (4?): Put your bolt in the hole, put the nut on it, and weld the nut to the plate. Make sure not to clean up the weld before taking pictures so that it looks like metalic seagull poop on camera rather than a good, solid weld.
And here's what you get. Clean, simple, and if I tweak my bumper pulling out of the driveway, I can easily remove it to repair the damage. Like Wally said, "Make no changes, only improvements".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Frame Work.

Last night after work I got back out to the shop for a couple hours. I had to take a break when my son came to tell me that there was water coming out of the ceiling below one of the bathrooms. Seems one of the boys was experimenting with hydrodynamics and wave theory during his bath. Nice. Oh well, it'll give me a good story to tell around the Thanksgiving table in years to come.
This in one of the welds, half ground down. My welder is only working on 110 volts, but I was able to get good penetration for a good, strong weld.
Weld all fininshed. It's not perfect, but if there are any imperfections that are visible after it's all mounted on the trailer, I'll fill it with lead and smooth it out.
Harbor Freight tools rock!
Don't forget to wear a long sleeve shirt when you weld. I earned myself a nice sunburn on my left arm. Sometimes I'm stupid.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Makin' Sparks.

I measured the steel that I cut out of the frame and headed to my local metal store. They had the exact steel for the frame rails, but they would have had to fabricate the cross member. That would have cost around $150 for the labor alone. I made an executive decision to use the same material for the cross member that I'm using for the frame rails. It'll weight a little bit more, but it'll work.
I'm boxing the ends of the frame rail that will be visible behind the bumper. That's how Wally did it. One change I will be making is to weld some captive nuts inside this cavity that the bumper will bolt to. That way I can remove the bumper if it gets damaged without having to grind off welds. Another thing I'm considering is to use a late model aluminum bumper instead of the heavy stock steel one. That should offset the added weight I put in there with the beefier crossmember. If I do use the newer bumper, I'll have to shorten it to make it fit.
That's better. I had to get to work by 6:00pm tonight, so I've still got some welding to do and lots of sanding of welds. I made sure I had time to put my tools away and snap some pictures for the blog before I had to leave.
Oof. That bumper definately needs work. Anybody have a spare aluminum bumper laying around that they'd like to donate to the cause?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cutting out the cancer.

I have worked 8 days in a row now. No big deal, but what bothers me is that I have not been able to get out to work on the trailer in all that time. Last night I decided I'd had enough. I needed to get out and work with my hands. It's therapy for me. No cranky customers, no needy employees, no doctors waiting on the line to talk to me. Just me, my tools, some tunes playing, and, if I'm lucky, one or two of my kids will come poking around looking to help. Here's what I did during my therapy session. Out came the sawzall and off came the back eighteen inches of frame. I had a boy on each end of the bumper holding it up as I cut. That frame section and bumper is heavy! I didn't realize it until I picked it up to bring it into the shop.
I had thought about just rebuilding what I've got, but since the bumper has to come off for the repair, I have decided to build this entire section out of new steel. You can see the cancer in the far frame rail. It's bad. Sorry about the crappy picture. It's about 10:00pm at this point, and I normally go to bed nice and early. I think I got tired.
The bumper is free from the frame. I used a cutting wheel on my angle grinder to cut through the welds. I'm thinking about making up an arrangement so that the bumper bolts to the frame when I get this all back together. You never know when you might snag a stone wall with your bumper or something pulling out of your driveway and have to repair it.
Everything marked so I know where things go next week when I build the new piece.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Back to business.

Today I spent most of the afternoon and evening getting busy on the trailer. Since I don't get another day off for the next 12 days, I figured I'd better make the most of today. I got the rest of the old flooring out, the banana wraps off, the c-channel out, and I started cleaning up the frame to get ready for welding and application of POR-15. When the kids got out of school, my youngest son, Josh (Old Reliable), came out to give me a hand. He's such a help at 7 years old, I can't wait to see what kind of projects we can do together when he's 13 or 14.
I'm going to cut the frame off on both sides about 15 inches in from where it attached to the bumper. It looks like I'm going to have to fabricate this entire piece of the frame from new metal. It will be better than new when I'm done, and stronger too, as I plan to mount my spare tire on the bumper. The rest of the frame is in very good shape, however. I will have patch some holes that were cut in the frame where some PO ran plumbing, but other than that it's just a wire brush and POR-15. I'm going to have to talk to Frank about how he mounted his grey water tank and copy what he did, which means modifying the frame a little bit.
Don't worry Jenna. Daddy knows how to weld!
The ubiquitous "water heater replacement patch". At some point in the past the propane hot water heater was removed and a residential 10 gallon unit put in its place. Then the "craftsman" used sheet metal screws to attach a piece of aluminum to cover the hole. I'll have to decide what to do here once I decide what kind of hot water heater I'm going to use. Anybody have a TwinTemp unit they want to sell cheap?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cash Cow.

Please excuse the interruption. This is the 1968 Triumph that I just finished building. I picked it up as a project last summer and have been tinkering with it ever since. When the Airstream came along last February, I knew I had to finish the bike soon or else it would never get done. So for the past few months I have split my time between the Triumph and the Airstream. Now that the bike is finished, it will be going up on Ebay to generate some cash for the trailer project. I've now built a couple of these bikes and it is very theraputic, and also quite profitable. I made many parts for this in my shop, including the piston tail light, fender, kickstand, battery box, killer crossover exhaust pipes, seat mounts, brake and shift rod, re-worked fork internals, and much more. I'll be sorry so see it go, but then there's that georgeous Airstream behind the shop that needs my lovin'.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A different kind of first cut.

Cutting and getting the plywood out was really much more easy than I had anticipated. Once I had the cut made with the circular saw, I pulled up one side, lifted it out, then lifted the 2nd side out.
The rear section of plywood was a little bit more challenging, but still not bad. There was one elevator bolt that I had missed, and a few screws still in the c-channel that I had to undo, but once they were out the wood came right out as nice as you please. The rear streetside section of wood was pretty far gone, but I think I should be able to use it for a template without problem.
I was left with a pretty good mess to clean up before I get to work on the frame. I still have to detach what was left of the banana wraps, take out the old ducting, and clean all the dirt and debris out so I have a comfortable working environment. Oh yeah, I also have another piece of plywood to get out; the one that goes up between the wheel wells. I'm taking that out so I can refurbish the frame up there and also so I can fit a nice grey water tank. There was no time to do anymore tonight, since the kids (and one of their friends) were pretty anxious to get to their little league game. Family first, right?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Original Zolatone that was not painted over. Dirty but restorable.

The original Zolatone paint in my trailer was painted over by a previous owner. It seems like they used a latex paint, but I'm not sure. I tried a paint stripper, hoping that it would soften the paint and not affect the Zolatone, but it did not work that well. Actually, as a stripper, it worked very well meaning that the Zolatone came off with the latex in some spots. I next tried a Scotch Brite pad in a drill, and that worked a little bit, but again in some spots the Zolatone came off as well.

Does anybody have a tip that will allow me to restore the original finish? If not, I'll be making an appointment with Don's paintgun at Chevy Ave Restorations.