Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shop Time

Today I started welding up the frame cross member and support plate. I Klecko'd the support plate to the trailer skin, then positioned the cross member between the main frame rails.

Once everything was in place, I tack welded the cross member to the frame, and then tack welded the support plate to the cross member. That made sure everything was exactly where I wanted it. After that, it was a simple matter of grinding the tack welds off the cross member and bringing the cross member / plate into the shop for welding up solid.

My shop is currently, how you say, a mess. Interior skins are piled here, belly pan wraps are piled there, j-channel strewn about with a liberal sprinkling of interior window frame trim to add to the chaos. Add in your normal household fix-up projects, and you have a real dump. What the heck. I'm building things in there, not getting the space ready for a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot. A clean shop is a shop that's not being used to it fullest potential.

Look at that stack of dimes. My little 110v MIG does a fine job of melting the metal. I could have welded 5 or 6 one inch welds along the seams and it would have been plenty stong enough, but I was having so much fun I decided to weld the entire seam up. I was talking to my friend Steve a while back about this little project (ByamCaravanner on AirForums), and he made a simple comment. He said something like "Metal does wierd things when you weld it". Well, Steve, you were right. The support plate developed a nice bit of warp from all the heat. Hopefully not enough to bother anything, but I'll find out when I go to mount it on the trailer. If I have to, I'll ditch my work, start over, and chaulk it up to experience. I know I can build this piece better, and better is the enemy of good enough.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Frame Fixin'

I'm working toward having my trailer campable by next June for the Wally Byam Birthday Bash in Central NY. I decided I better get moving or I'll never make it in time. So, today I got my butt in gear and got to work. This is where I left off after I cut out the rotten frame cross member and support plate.

I went to my local steel retailer, Steel Sales, in Sherburne, NY. They have a "drop room" that they'll let you poke around in. I was lucky and found a piece of 4 inch c-channel and a 24 x 12 inch piece of steel plate. Perfect! $17.00 later I was on my way. First thing I did back at the trailer was to fit a 2x4 piece of wood in where the cross member will sit so I could be sure to get the angles on the main frame rails set. The angle is 22.5 degrees, just in case anybody else is going to be doing this work.
Next, I transfered the angles from the wood onto the c-channel and cut it with the chop saw. This tool is indispensable for any kind of steel work. I cannot imagine making those cuts with a hack saw.
I was going to try to re-use the support plate, because it has so many holes that need to be aligned with the holes that are already in the skin of the trailer. Unfortunately, the plate was just too far gone. Also, I did not realize when I started that the plate actually goes all the way to the bottom of the c-channel and is not just welded along the top. In order to transfer the holes precisely, I tack welded the old plate to the new plate and used the old holes as a guide for drilling my new holes. Once I was done drilling, I carefully ground off the tack welds and I had an exact duplicate of the original plate.
Here is the almost finished piece, all mocked up. The next step will be to Klecko the plate to the skin of the Airstream, tack weld the frame cross member in place, and then once everything is lined up I'll tack weld the plate to the cross member. Then I'll grind the tack welds off the frame so I can bring the entire piece into the shop and weld it up solid. I don't want to weld it solid with it on the trailer, since I'm afraid the heat will hurt the aluminum skin. Once it's all welded solid, I'll do the final installation and welding of the new frame cross member / support plate onto the frame. Oh, I'll also cut the bottom inch of steel off the support plate that sticks down below the c-channel so it looks better. I needed a piece of steel plate that's 24 x 11, but the closest I could find in the drop room was 24 x 12. That's OK. I'll get my cutting wheel out and smile the entire time thinking of the money I save by not having Steel Sales cut me a piece to size.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

We Can Rebuild It.

This section of frame has been weighing on my mind. The weather here has been nasty, and work has been absolutely nuts dealing with the flu outbreak. Today, however, it was a beautiful day and I had some free time on my hands. Time to get at it. I spent some time building a brace to hold the shell off the trailer for when I cut away the support plate. Much to my surprise, the shell actually lifted up about an inch rather than coming down. The support beam I put in place fell once the shell lifted up, barely missing hitting a window. The Airstream gods were watching over me, I guess.

Bad, bad rot. It's amazing what the tin worm can do.Tuesday I'll head to Steel Sales and buy replacement steel and begin fabrication. I have a few other small holes and weak areas to fix on the frame in other spots, too. I should be able to get that all fixed up pretty easily, then I'll POR-15 the frame and be ready to put down new wood for the sub-floor.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heavy Lifting

I've got all of the floor pulled out of the front of the trailer and the frame exposed. Now the fun can begin. I have discovered that the front half of the trailer is a little bit more complex than the back half was, and is in pretty poor shape to boot. There is a lot of thin steel on the frame, the front cross member with it's support plate has deteriorated to the point of being scary, and the step out riggers are just about gone. Replacing all of this won't be too complicated, but making sure everything is fixed properly is critical. Unlike in the rear of the trailer, there is no "fudge factor". If I want the door to close and the steps to work, I'm going to have to be very precise.

With the entire front half of the trailer gutted and the back end still complete, the tongue does not have enough weight on it to allow the trailer to be cranked down to level where I need it to be. The trailer would balance on it's axles with the tongue jack off the ground. 250 pounds of barbell weight took care of the floating tongue.

Thin, thin steel. Strange that the plywood just above this section was solid and showed no signs of rot. It will be a process of welding additional steel underneath this crossmember to make it solid once again.

Both step outriggers look like this. I'll be replacing them with new ones, and also buying a new step for the trailer. The step that's on there has rust holes through the tread and the studs that ride in the track are just about worn away. I just hope I can find a step that looks right on a 1961 Airstream and not one that looks like a take off of a new SOB trailer.

That front cross piece? Yeah, it's bad. I'll be cutting it out and fabricating a new piece to go in there. The support plate is welded to the cross piece. The trick is going to be getting everything back in the exact same location after I take it all apart. That's okay, I enjoy a challenge.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Moving Day

After getting the carpet out, I started pulling all the cabinetry out to get it ready to send to Frank. It's amazing how much easier it was to get this end of the trailer apart than it was to do the back end. Having already experienced it once, I was able to get the screws apart with minimal frustration. I knew which screws would be a bugger, and I knew how to handle them. All of the furniture came out without damage, and will make great platforms for Frank to work his magic on.
The cabinets held up quite well, considering the fact that they are nearly 50 years old. Here's a couple tips for anyone who will be pulling their old furnace out: 1) Make sure there are no active wasp nests living in the exhaust shroud. 2) The furnace exits the trailer through the cut in the skin, and not through the door.

I have 2 spots of floor rot. This one was hiding behind the pantry cabinet in the galley. I will be pulling all of the old subfloor back to the wheel wells, and possibly pulling the piece between the wheel wells. Further investigation with my screwdriver will tell me what I need to do.

All of the cabinetry is out of the trailer and taking up space in my garage. I'll get this flooring replaced, then get the trailer over to Don Stanton's for Zolatone, and in October get the cabinets to Franks Trailer Works for rebuilding. That will give me through the cold of winter to get the cabinets installed, and springtime to get ready to camp.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let Me Take Care of This...

When Rob and I picked my Airstream up in Cape Cod in February of 2007, one of the first things I noticed when I walked inside was this piece of plywood up where the Astrodome should be. Funny how over time my eye has stopped noticing it. Well, I was in the trailer doing some work the other day, and a drop of rain landed on me. I looked up and saw the wood, and decided it was time to do something about it.
It doesn't stick out as bad from the outside. Must be something to do woth the fact that it is a good 3 feet above eye level.
I don't have an Astrodome, but I do have a sheet of aluminum. I measured the opening, but the sheet to fit, and drilled it for rivets. I tried to do as much work in the shop as opposed to trying to do the entire job while standing on the roof of my trailer.
It doesn't look as good as when I will have an Astrodome installed, but it looks 100% better than it did.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Beginning of the Front

After spending all that time and energy getting the back half of the trailer looking good, I decided it was time to do something about the front. The back half still needs lots of stuff to be finished, but it's mainly detail work, trim, and some veneering that Frank's Trailer Works will be handling. However, the back looks good enough that that front now looks worse than horrible. Last night, after the rain storms blew through and brought the temperature down from about 90 to a more survivable 78, I decided to get to work.Originally, my plan was to get rid of the goucho and build a dinette. After spending a weekend camping with it, we have decided that we are going to stay with the goucho. We'll be eating outside, and the goucho is actually in really good shape. In fact, most of the front end is in really good shape.
I was expecting to see floor rot in the front end corners like I've seen in so many other trailers. I also have a very rusted cross piece on the frame right underneath the front window which led me to believe I would find "issues" up here. This was a pleasant surprise.
Walter of Wabash. Cool.

This picture is being included to increase my degree of Airstream Into-It-Ness. I didn't want anyone to think I just sent my trailer away to Colin's to get this stuff done. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Look at those beautiful old tiles. I would love to have seen this trailer back when it was new. To have seen it before it was filthy, and the Zolatone had been painted over with white latex, and the floor covered with carpet. I wish Airstream would make a model like this new today. Simple, no frills, utilitarian, function ahead of form. I would buy one in a heartbeat. My trailer will be better than new in every way when I'm finished, and built to my tastes with the wood, fabrics, and flooring that we choose. I still think it would be awesome if Airstream offered a "camper" you could buy off the showroom floor rather than rolling luxury apartments.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bakers Acres of Chenango Family Camping get Together

This past weekend my family and I took a break from working on the trailer and hauled it 8 miles over the hills to my good buddy Rob Baker's place. We just got our awning last week, so Laurie cleaned out the trailer, we loaded up our camping gear and went camping. No propane, no 12V, no refridgeration, no running water (but we did have a toilet), and we went boondocking in our aluminum tent. Pictured above are the trailers of my friends Steve, Frank, and Rob, with mine in the foreground.
Laurie had a wonderful time. It was our first rally, but we felt as though we were members of a family, the Airstream family. Laurie is hooked on Airstreaming. That's good, since I'm eyeing the purchase of a water heater, fresh water tank, lots of plumbing bits and pieces, paint, upholstery, and lot$ of other things for our silver palace.
Me and my buddy Frank. I met Frank through our mutual friend Rob about a year and a half ago. Seems like I've known him my entire life. Some people you just click with. Thanks for everything Frank
Here she is, awning deployed and set up to camp. Water was supplied by 5 gallon jerry cans, lighting was via kerosene lanterns and candles, and coolers kept our perishables cold. We may have been lacking a few amenities, but I can tell you we were not lacking in the fun.
Go to a rally. I highly recommend going to a WDCU rally if you can. This was our first, and I am so sorry I have missed out on so much from years past (like the rally I heard about at Camp Hatteras where one member was pelted by a number of bras when he made a comment about women's liberation). Thank you Rob and Zoe for this event. My trailer is about to undergo further surgery which will render it immobile for a while, so our next rally may not be until the Bakers Acres event next year. The thought of camping next to my friends on the field will keep me motivated, I am sure.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's been a while since my last post, and even longer since my last post that had anything to do with my Airstream renovation. I had taken pictures of my wardrobes, vanity, and couter top all "dry fitted". For the past month I have been working on getting everything riveted and screwed into it's final position.

Daryl at Pharsalia Metal Fabricating contructed this wonderful black tank out of stainless steel. It was not cheap, but my original tank had deteriorated beyond the point of repair. I could have had a tank made of plastic or tried to find an original fiberglass tank in better shape than my own, but this tank will outlast our grandchildren and I'll never have to worry about it falling apart.

Ahh, boxes of stuff. New toilet from PPL, valves and flanges from PPL and various Ebay sellers.
The toilet looks good to me, and even better to my family. I still have to plumb my trailer, but it's usable if you have a bucket of water to flush with! It'll be a shame to hide that beautiful black tank with the cover that I have to build, but then again some things should be hidden from view, no matter how nice they are. I'm happy with the toilet. The bowl is china, and it has a vintage look that goes with the trailer. The seat and cover are a cheap flimsy plastic, but I'll have my eyes open for a suitable replacement.
The back half of the trailer is coming together quite nicely. The front half of the trailer, however, is a different story. I'll be ready for the rally at Rob Baker's farm the 2nd weekend in August, though. I hope to have an awning by then, and I have to make a place for my wife, our daughter, and me to sleep. The 3 boys will be outside in a tent for now. Hopefully there will be indoor berths for all 6 of us in time for CBR 2010.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Lovelution. My spell check program is telling me that I have mis-spelled a word. Evidently my spell-check program has not been married very long. Lovelution is what happens when a man and a woman have been in love for a long time. In the case of my wife and I, close to 20 years. We began dating in 1993, we married in 1995, and we’re still together today. Living in a nice house that seems to get smaller all the time, due mostly to the fact that we’re proud parents of 4 beautiful kids who are in the middle of growing up fast.

This very small synopsis of the life and the love that my wife and I share is woefully incomplete. To say that we have been in love all that time, while correct, does not tell the entire story. It does not tell of the richness that a love attains over time. It does not tell of the deep knowing of your partner. It does not tell of all of the ups and downs that serve to strengthen the fibers that make up the tapestry of our love.

I have been extremely lucky to find a woman like my wife, Laurie. A good, Christian woman, devoted to family, smart, funny, and extremely attractive. Loving this woman is easy, and I count myself extremely lucky because I know that I am often difficult to love. I spend too much time at work, pay too much attention to hobbies, let my temper get the best of me at times. Through it all, Laurie is there for me. Tenderly bringing me back to the center of my life. Encouraging me to express myself, challenging me to be a better person.

Perhaps the most comforting thing about our love is knowing that it is something that I can always count on. God knows that life is completely unpredictable, but the love that my wife gives me is constant. I live my life fully aware of that fact that The Lord has blessed me through my wife.
I love you Laurie. I can’t wait to get this trailer done so we can hit the road together and explore. Side by side, hand in hand, heart in heart. Thank you for being you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I was lucky to get some time away from work yesterday. We were closed on Monday, and that usually means that our next day that we are open is a zoo. I went in to work, hung our for a while, and once I saw that everything was under control I headed over to my storage building to get out my vanity and bed frames. I was driving my old Land Rover, and I wish I had taken pictures of it all loaded up with Airstream furniture. The vanity fit in the back as though it had been designed to fit. The bed frames went on the roof rack and I lashed them down. It was nasty getting them up there. If you go back in this blog you will see that the curb side bed had the mother of all mouse nests between the sleeping platform and the top of the drawers. I cleaned it out before I took everything apart, but never really cleaned it good. Well, in order to get the beds on the roof rack, I had to turn them upside down and hold them up over my head. This, of course, made every loose bit of mouse nest and mouse turd that was left over cascade down upon me. It was really nasty, let me tell you. Anyway, I got the bed frames in the garage, waiting for me to look them over and decide if I'm going to tackle rebuilding them, or if I'll do the easy (smart) thing and send them down to Frank in Baltimore. Take a look at what all of his work looks like dry fitted and I think you'll understand why I'd like to have more of this quality work done for my trailer.

I was asked to take a better picture of what my cork floor looks like. It is strips of cork running lenthwise in the trailer. It was a very nice texture; not too rough, but with lots of grain that you can feel underneath your feet. It is finished to give it a nice matte finish, and should hide dirt very well and be easy to clean.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Updates have been few and far between lately on this blog, and if you have been waiting to see what's new with my trailer, I apologise. Work has been progressing, however. Most of it has been done without me personally touching a tool, though. Last update I showed my new paint job done by Don Stanton, and Frank Yensen of Frank's Trailer Works has been doing some amazing woodworking for me. Let me take a minute to talk about Frank's Trailer Works. Frank Yensen holds a Master Degree in Fine Arts, and is a true old world craftsman in absolutely everything he does. I met Frank through our mutual friend Rob Baker, and my life has been blessed because of it. Frank is one of the most genuine people you could ever hope to meet. If you ask him a question, he will give you his opinion and will not care if it is not what you want to hear. This is something I appreciate immensly, especially when it comes to doing business with someone. There were times in the planning of my cabinets and flooring when I had made up my mind about what species of wood I wanted, or the shade of paint I wanted to use on the walls. For the most part, frank thought my ideas were good ones, but on a few occasions he let me know that my choices just would not work. He was gentlmanly about it, and did not make me feel like an idiot about it, but he was certain to make sure I knew his opinion of my choices. Being that I am a pharmacist, not an artist, I always deferred to his opinion. Without exception I am glad I followed his advise. It is a wonderful feeling to work with someone as technically capable at the physical aspects of building, and all the more when that person has an eye for beauty and asthetics. I am very happy to have Frank's Trailer Works working with me on the rebuild of my Airstream, and the pictures speak for themselves.
After getting the floor prepped, I started placed the tub and black tank and then started clicking the flooring together.
Then I tried to get the wardrobes through the bulkhead in the galley. No go. These trailers were built from the back forward, and when I took the old wardrobes out they were in pieces. Out came the screwdrivers and off came the wall next to the sink. Looks nice and roomy.

Wardrobes placed where they will sit. I will have flooring underneath the entire wardrobe. When Frank built these, he asked me the the thickness of the flooring planks I would be using, and then he shortened them by that amount. 11mm in this case. They fit perfectly.

Below shows the beautiful wood we used, and the contrast between the cherry wood and cork floor. I absolutely love it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Colors

I picked up my Airstream from Don Stanton in North Norwich yesterday. After a horrible attempt at painting the interior myself, I gave up and decided to have a pro do the job. It's nice to have my girl back home.

The pictures don't do the job any justice. Don also painted Rob Baker's trailer, so I had him copy the color that he used. The base is Desert Camo beige. Great color for a Marine's trailer.

Don did a remarkable job. Great price, fast work, excellent results. If you need any painting done, Don is the man. Now that the paint is done, I can lay the floor, install the cabinets, do the plumbing, then camp. It'll be a while, but things are finally rolling again after a long winter break.