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.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dad's New Toy

My Dad stopped by work this morning after church to show me his new car. Nissan GT-R. What a machine. 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. I drove it around the block. If I ever drive it again I'm afraid I may end up in jail.
Nice car Dad. You deserve it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Good Day to Work

What a wonderful day I had today. 85 degrees, kids in school, daughter and wife taking a nap, and me with my Airstream. I backed the Land Rover up to the trailer so I could listen to Opie and Anthony on XM while I worked, and I was able to get a good bit done.
I was lucky and my rear piece of c-channel was in good shape when I took it out, so I was able to get it lined up with the original rivet holes and clecko it into place. I've got a few more bolts to put in around the perimeter of the floor that will go through the c-channel, and this allows me to make sure I will have everything in the right position when I bolt it all back together. I'll be using most of the c-channel that Frank Yensan made for me, as most of the rest of the original channel is pretty much gone. Once the c-channel is all installed and bolted down, I'll be placing an order to Airparts for some sheet aluminum and begin riveting the structure all back together. I should be on the road by Rob Baker's installation rally in October.
The rubberized coating stayed pretty flexable, so I went ahead and installed the L-brackets. The more I work on my trailer, the more I enjoy it. It's thrilling getting things back together, and I'm in a zone right now, thinking about how I will do this and how I will do that. It's an absolute joy for me to be outside or in my shop, working with my hands and building something that my family and I will be able to enjoy in the, hopefully, not too distant future.

Making a Part

This little bugger ties the floors to the frame along the edge of the Airstream. It provides a little bit more "meat" than the aluminum c-channel alone. There are two of them in the rear portion of the trailer, but I lost one somewhere when I was taking everything apart so I had to make another one. Sound familiar Frank?
Of course, nothing is ever simple. I had a piece of angle iron laying around the shop, but it was about 1/2 inch too long and 1/2 inch too tall. As I was too cheap and lazy to go to the hardware store for the size I needed, I decided to cut what I had down to the proper size. First, I cut it to match the length of the original. Then I cut 1/2 inch off each flat with my angle grinder with a cutting wheel. No sparks got into my eyes, but I did get a nice hot spark in my ear. Not in the canal, thankfully. I need to be more fastidious in my use of protection. Eyes, ears, face, and feet. Keep 'em covered.
OK, cut down to the correct size. I next had to mark where I would drill. Sure would be easier if I had a set of transfer punches. It's next on my list, right after a new welder.
Once the holes were marked I drilled. Sure would be easier with a set of drills that weren't dull as a butter knife. New drills are next on my list. Right after, well, you know.
Since I don't have any of the sticky mastic stuff that Airstream used to keep the steel away from aluminum to prevent electrolytic corrosion, I sprayed the parts with rubberized autobody undercoating. It should work great if it keeps it's elasticity once it dries. If it dries hard, I'll have to go to an autobody supply house and find some of that sticky gray stuff.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Godspeed, Powermig Astro Power

This is my welding machine. It's just a little 110vac mig welder. Made in Italy with the fantastic name "Powermig Astro Power". I got it back in college when I was still racing cars. I had never welded before, but I had a racecar that wouldn't pass technical inspection without having something welded, and I couldn't find a welder. I decided then and there to learn how to weld. I bought this little guy in 1991, and learned. Well, I think I killed it this past weekend while working on my frame. I had been welding for about 30 minutes straight when it suddenly started making some horrible noises, like plastic gears that had stripped and were running past each other. Just terrible. The wire would still feed, but I could not strike an arc. No spark, no heat, no melting metal. Sad. I'm going to see if I can figure it out, but I fear it may be time to look for a new little welding machine.
Here's the last thing we were working on together. I had cut the frame to level it, then I welded it back together. I decided to weld a steel plate across the cut, just to add more strength since I've had to do so much cutting and welding on this area. The weld on the right was done first, and it looked pretty ugly, so I turned the wire feed speed up a hair and layed that pretty weld on the left. What a shame. I was finally starting to get the hang of welding with my little red buddy.