Monday, March 2, 2009

Frame work, weekend II

Lucky for me, I had a big helper on Saturday. His work is good and he works for donuts and chocolate milk (Starbucks across the street!)

Three big projects to finish up this weekend: holding tanks, fix the step and build a spare tire holder. Three things don't sound like a lot, but they require brain power in a field that I don't usually work and my helper doesn't like loud noises (but does like sparks.)

First thing to do is get the workshop set up. I do all this Airstream restoration in the loading bay at my work. I try to tuck tools and supplies away at the end of the weekend. During the week there isn't much time to work on the trailer anyway, mostly planning materials and rationing time out for weekend projects.

The holding tanks came on Friday afternoon. Getting them here proved to be a big challenge. I wanted to get two really durable tanks made in a rotomold process. There are hundreds if not thousands of tanks to choose from. There are nearly as many manufacturers to choose from as there are tank stiles. Since there are so many tank shapes, the manufacturers only make them when they are ordered. The hardest part for me was getting two tanks to fit our needs in a week or less. I had hoped I could rely on the resources of a local RV shop to help me select and rush them here, but it ended up not working out that way. All their suppliers take seven days to produce the tanks plus four to seven more days for shipping.

I found a manufacturer in California who will charge a rush fee of $20 per tank to make them the next day. Their customer service rep took my order immediately upon calling them and did me a favor by getting them made during the current days run. That was Monday morning, the tanks on their way to me Tuesday by UPS. Friday afternoon, I had a couple of tanks begging to be put to work.

Emmett and I placed the tanks in their approximate position on the frame. Since the frame is upside down right now, we could lay them there and talk over the plan of how to attach them. We made material lists for the tank mounts, step reinforcement and spare tire carrier. Off to the steel yard!

By the time we got back with steel, the supervisor and his guard dog had arrived for lunch.

Keeping my baby warm...

The big challenge for me with the holding tanks is to not overdo the mounts. I want to hold the tanks well. If full, the gray tank will hold up to 32 gallons and the black tank will hold 18 gallons. 50 total gallons of waste water weighs about 400 pounds. We don't need either tank coming loose on the road or damaging the frame or anything else.

I had gotten some advice on the Airstream Forums on what to do. Air forums allows you to search past threads to read what had been done before and writing to people who are doing the same thing I am doing now. That really helps me clear up questions of my design and decide what to do on the weekend.

I ended up reinforcing the existing cross members with 1" x 1" x 1/8" angle iron wherever I could. I decided to fabricate one using all new angle iron. It is heavier than the originals, but adds strength behind the axle and is plenty for the big holding tank.

Both tanks will be blocked down from the bottom of the plywood. The black tank will have 1 1/2" spacers screwed to the plywood. The gray tank will be blocked down 1 1/2" or 2". Not sure on that one yet. I'll wait to fabricate the steel straps that will hold them to the bottom of the trailer until next weekend. After the axle brackets are mounted (later this week I hope) and frame is painted (Friday night?), we'll flip the frame over for the last time and mount the plywood subfloor. Then the blocking can happen and tanks strapped in place.

Last thing to do on Saturday is to finish mounting frame members near the tongue to allow for a spare tire. I'm not crazy about having the spare tire under the front of the trailer, just because of how far down it hangs down. But we need the weight up there to help balance the tanks. Plus, it's gotta go somewhere.

Sunday morning I got to work on the spare tire carrier. I like the one I made for the old trailer. I modeled it after the kind Airstream has been making since the 1970's. It's really similar to the ones on new Airstreams too. Ran out of time on Sunday, so I finished it on Monday evening.

The step was fairly straight forward. The day we bought the trailer, the step was frozen in the open position. The pivot on the tire side was frozen, but the other one was fine. I had to use a loose tongue jack as a makeshift hammer to beat it closed. The more we looked at the step after sandblasting, the more it looked as though someone had left it open and driven it into something. It must have happened a long time ago, because it bent enough of the step that it must have been grinding pretty badly. That torque took its toll through the years. A bunch of metal had worn away. The loose pivot had mushroomed out enough that we decided to replace it. I helps to have a friend look a problem to give suggestions. The original pivot point is some kind of riveted assembly. I didn't want to cut it apart and replace it. But talking to Fred about it, replacement was inevitable.



Much smoother operation. By welding washer and locknut to the outside of each side of the frame, the step can be removable (not that I ever want to take it out). Hopefully, the 3/8" cap bolt I am using as the pivot won't cause problems later on. Also added a piece of angle to stiffen the floor at the front step. I want the first step you take in the trailer to feel really solid. Forever.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work & excellent helpers... though I think the 'supervisor' is a bit too smiley ! Nice solution for the spare wheel. Since I have to change the tongue & hitch for EU regs, I'm going to stash the spare behind the propane bottles on the front. Good modification to your step - in the 53 Flying Cloud its just a lower step in the floor, no fold-out, so a bit simpler to fix. Nicely photographed, keep it up.