Saturday, June 5, 2010

Send Vulkem and Kleckos

Today I finished the street side belly pan curves and still had some daylight, so I decided to get working on the furnace hole cover. Since I'm not going to be re-installing a furnace, I needed to cover the hole where the furnace vent was. I used the original trim pieces and a piece of .040 aluminum to plug the hole. To this I will mounting the original furnace chimney for an original look. I'm not one who goes for non-functional decoration (you won't find spinner hub caps or under body neon lighting on any of my cars), but I think this is a better option than just riveting a new piece of sheet aluminum over the hole and hoping it's not very noticable.

I would have had this piece all riveted together and the furnace chimney mounted today, but I'm all out of Vulkem, that magic caulk which will seal the cover to the hole and still be pliable and working in another 50 years when the next guy takes my trailer apart. I could use a few more kleckos, too. Mine are all being used right now. Hey, Father's Day is coming up....maybe I should start leaving hints around the house.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bling Bling

When I replaced the front crossmember, I was planning to leave it exposed and paint it whatever color I end up using for the tongue. After looking at it for a while, I decided it need to look more finished. I wire brushed and painted it with rust converter, then got down to business.I used .040 aluminum and cut the piece I would use to cover the crossmember. This would then be slid between the exterior skin and the metal support plate.The lower support undeneath the front window was in the way, and since.040 doesn't bend all that easily, I drilled out the rivets holding the support and took it off. Plenty of room now. I'll just rivet it back on when I do the rest of the riveting. An extra 4 rivets is not a problem when I'll be doing a few hundred.

The sheet in place and held with kleckos. It hung down underneath the cross member about 2 and 1/2 or 3 inches. Just enough to bend back up underneath the trailer. A rubber mallet and patience is all it took to get it to bend the way I wanted to.

The finished product. Aluminum looks so much nicer than steel. I don't know if the trailer originally had aluminum there or not. I know that newer Airstreams did, I like the look. The best part is not having to wonder, when everything is all done and I'm camping, if I should have covered it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting Bent

It feels so good to be getting my trailer closer and closer to being able to take back out on the road. A few weeks ago, I was pretty nervous that I would not have my trailer ready in time for the Birthday Bash at Rob Baker's farm at the end of June. Well, these past few weeks I have been spending lots of time making sure I'll be ready. Today I riveted one piece of belly pan material to the trailer. I say "material" since it's only the curved piece that goes up underneath the trailer. A previous owner had cut the belly pan away, but left about 8 inches of the curved piece. When I'm done, I'll bridge the underneath of the Airstream with a sheet of aluminum so that I have an entire belly pan.
This is a new piece of belly pan material that I made. The original was just too banged up and coroded to use. I think it looks pretty good. I also used rivets from These are solid aluminum rivets with plain heads, as opposed to some rivets which have numbers stamped into the head. The heads are just a fraction larger than the originals, but not so much as to be noticeable without it being pointed out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trial and Error and Success

You may have notice that I am bloging pretty regularly lately. You might think that it's because I am making lots of progress and wish to document it here. The true reason is that I am trying to make up for all of the other Airstream restoration blogs that I enjoy reading. I am blogging about actual Airstream restoration here to counter-act all those other blogs that like to document boat rides, farm animals, and auctions. Anyway, on with the blog...

This post is intended to help those who will be doing a shell on floor replacement on the front half of their trailer. One of the problems I encountered last year was that once I drilled out all of the rivets holding the exterior skin to the old j-channel, the door would no longer close. In fact, the only way I could make it close was by pulling on the grab handle on the outside of the trailer, hard, while simultaneously pushing the door towards the back of he trailer, hard. I solved the problem with a piece of string to keep the door semi-closed for the past 8 months or so.
The first thing I did was to install the new j-channel just to the rear of the door. This part of the trailer did not move much when I drilled out the rivets last year since it's only about 3 or 4 feet away from some good solid rivets. I positioned the j-channel, screwed it down, then klecko'd the skin the the j-channel. So far, so good.

A peek inside the trailer to see where we're at.

Next I repeated the process on the side forward of the door. Again, I screwed the j-channel in place, then I pulled on the door frame to get clearance for the door to close, drilled through the j-channel from the outside, and klecko'd everything solid. I stepped out of the trailer, closed the door, and THUNK. The door still was no where close to being able to close. I was a good 3/8 of an inch off. Great. OK. Time to try something different.
All I had to do was unscrew the j-channel from the floor while leaving it klecko'd into place. Then I shut the door from the inside (I had to kind of push and shove and shift the skin to get it to the point where it would close) and, with a little more pushing and shoving and shifting to get things into position, I screwed the j-channel to the floor. I finished putting the rest of the screws into the j-channel to hold it solid, and I opened the door to test the fit.

Success! One fingered door closing sweetness! What was actually a pretty simple process took about 2 frustrating hours. I hope when some of you guys finally get around to making the front end of your trailers as solid as the back end (I'm talking to you, Marcus and Whiskers), you'll remember this post.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Franks Trailer Works Is Awesome

J-Channel, or as some like to call it, C-Channel, is one of those things that you will need to replace if you're restoring an Airstream. There is no way around it. Sure, some of your sections will be salvagable. Most will simply need to be replaced. I'm at the point in my restoration where I need to do just that. My curved piece was (thankfully) in good shape, but all of my straight sections had deteriorated to the point that there was just no saving them.

I was talking to Frank at Frank's Trailer Works ( ) about the situation, and he said to send him the dimensions of what I needed. I sent the dimensions on a Thursday, and Monday morning I had a package delivered with a Frank's Trailer Works return address.

Tonight I pulled out some of my old pieces of J-Channel. I wanted to get a few images of what the originals looked like for posterity. Not good.

Now I'm all set to get these things fitted to the trailer and start riveting the exterior skin back into place. Frank, you saved me the headache of buying the tools and materials to make these myself. Thanks a million, my friend.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Laying Down Wood

This looks so much better than the ground and frame that I've been looking at ever since last summer when I got home from the Baker's Acres Family Camping event at Rob Baker's place and starting tearing into the front half of the trailer. I still have some crawling around in the dirt to do in order to install the rest of the elevator bolts, but psychologically this is a huge step for me.
Nice new waterproof plywood, rustproofed and re-enforced frame members, and a nice solid step hanging down there in the background. It was a good weekend for working on the Airstream.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Steppin' Up

Well, after taking the kids fishing this morning, then Laurie and I going to watch our daughter's dance recital this afternoon, I was finally able to get out and do some work on the trailer after dinner. I applied the final coats of wood preservative to the sub-floor plywood. It'll be dry tomorrow, and ready to lay down inside the trailer the next time I have a chance to work on it.

The winds finally died down enough for me to be able to get my steps welded in. They are solid as a rock, and work exactly as they should. It's a pleasure to be able to step on them and not feel like they are on the verge of collapse.

I chased all the elevator bolt holes with a 1/4 inch bit, and it's a good thing I did. All of the paint and rust converter I applied made them just a hair too small. It would have been a pain to have to do that from below. There will be enough crawling around on my back in the dirt in the next few days.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting Floored

The steps are all painted and ready to we welded in. I use a little 110v mig welder, and it's tough to use outside if the wind is blowing since the shielding gas gets blown away and the weld left is very weak. I was going to get them welded in today, but of course it was too windy. Maybe tomorrow...

I've spent the last few days cleaning up the frame and getting it ready to paint. Flapper wheel on the angle grinder, wire brush on the drill, and a good old fashioned hand weld wire brush took care of any loose rust. What a dirty, nasty job. Then I coated the frame with a Rustoleum brand rust converter. What's nice about this stuff is that you can get it in spray can, which makes getting into all the corners much easier than with a brush. I have used POR-15 in the past, with good results. I decided to use the Rustoleum product, as I used it on an old Land Rover frame years ago and it's still holding up great. Plus, it's about 1/3 the cost of POR-15. Finally, I top coated with flat chassis paint.

Since I couldn't do any welding today, I took my daughter to Lowes and bought some 19/32 plywood for the subfloor. I cut it to size while my girl slept, and she woke up disappointed that she wasn't able to "help" me use the power saws. Maybe next time. By the way, 19/32 is the exact thickness of the plywood that was in the Airstream originally. When I did the back half of the trailer, I was at first concerned that it was too thin. Once the shell, frame, and floor were all riveted back together everything was as solid as a rock. I understand that Airstream used different thicknesses through the years, but 1961 Ambassadors used 19/32. Tonight I'm going to treat the plywood with Thompsons Water Seal to help ward off any future rot.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Step at a Time

I stopped by Daryl's place, Pharsalia Metal Fabrication, today to pick up my steps. Daryl is the same guy that I had build my stainless steel black tank last year. I had intended to just have him make me up some new outriggers with the slots that the step slides in, but when I talked to him he told me to bring over all of the parts to the step. He called today to tell me it was done, and when stopped by to pick up my job I was very excited to see that he had assembled everything into one unit that can be welded right to the trailer. Very nice! The studs that ride in the slots were replaced with new, new bolts, new outriggers, and all welded together for $100. A good deal in my book, especially when you take into account that these parts are no longer available anywhere, for any price.

Somewhere on my computer I have the "before" pictures of what I brought over to Daryl's place, but I'll be darned if I can find them. That he could make such nice parts from such poor original patterns astounds me. I have great respect for craftsmen like Daryl.
I still need to clean up the step parts and get it painted before I mount it. The steel tread is also rusted through in a few spots, so I'll be welding a new piece of diamond plate over the old. When it is ready to mount it will look as good as new.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A week at the spa.

The furniture in the front half of our trailer was in a real bad way. It was functional, but there were some changes that needed to be made to work better for us, plus they had 49 years of wear, tear, dirt, and grime on them. There was never a question in our mind how we would undo all of that shabbiness. We would send them to Frank's Trailer Works in Baltimore for him to work his magic.

If you live under a rock, you may not know that the Mid-Atlantic Region has been slammed with snow this year. While I feel bad for all those "Southerners" (Baltimore is below the Mason-Dixon line), it worked well for us. Frank currently has a big project going on that he is rushing to finish for a client. It's a big project that requires Frank to work outside of his shop, but when the snows came, he was forced inside where he could get cracking on our job.
In the picture above, you are looking at a drawer that we are having installed in place of the furnace that was originally there. We're not big cold weather campers, so the furnace was not needed. Being a family of 6, additional storage was needed. For heat, we'll be installing 2 catalytic heaters in the trailer, one just inside the entrance and one in the bathroom.

Nice deep drawer. Just right for pots and pans, strainers, maybe even a spare Mexican lime squeezer for those time we camp with folks who enjoy a good Mojito.

Ooooh, nice! The wood is a cherry veneer, similar to what we used in the back half. Frank's flourescent lights wash the color out, but he assures me that it is nice and rich. Once he gets done finishing the wood it'll be very classy. We can't wait to get those cabinets home and installed. You can see the work in person at The Airstream Founders Birthday Bash in June. The event is sold out, but you can be placed on a waiting list or bid on the one remaining spot (with procedes going to Roots and Wings food pantry in Chenango County, NY).

Do your cabinets look this bad? Well, call Frank. He is absolutely amazing when it comes to all things Airstream. Thanks Frank. Now get them finished.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Critical Measurments

My cabinets are currently at Franks Trailer Works in Baltimore getting all fixed up and made beautiful. Problem is that my stove is in central New York, and Franks needs a measurement. I'm posting this picture to show the dimension I measured. I love technology!

The measurement, from the outside of the flange on the right to the outside of the flange on the left is 22 and 5/8ths.