Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Let the polishing begin!!!

"Hi, could you pass a chocolate donut and juice box, please?!

I must be crazy to start a polishing project now!! Polishing a trailer takes many many dozens of hours. At a time in the project when we need to see some rapid action, I choose to polish. What am I thinking?

I justify my decision to polish by looking at the two tone colors from our panel replacement.

Just my opinion, but looking at the new aluminum makes the corroded, gray aluminum look really sad. We don't want a sad trailer, we want a sleek airplane looking trailer. A head turner.

I have polished one trailer already and I do know what I'm getting into. I placed an order for fresh supplies and expanded my arsenal of polishing tools a bit. Armed with a pair of polishers, fresh wool and some polish, my Dad and I got to work.

We started out on an absolutely beautiful Seattle morning. After giving the trailer a bath, I began removing exterior lights and locks - Dad got to work on the polish.

Dad helped me remove the door. It needs adjustment to close correctly, so we did a little straightening of the hinges. Comfortable with our prospects of getting it mounted as good as original, it came off so we could polish it and around the door more easily.

Emmett came down to help. He loves his 'Bapa' and can't be more than a few steps from him. I turned around and the little guy had crawled through the sunroof with his 'Dad, look at me!!' smile.

Polishing has a way of really dragging you down. The results are so rewarding but so slow and draining.

Progress comes slowly, so we work one panel at a time.

Pretty soon, it's looking really good. I've chosen Nuvite F9 for the heavy oxidation removal. Comparing the Flying Cloud to Norm and Mary's Overlander, we have a serious amount of age to cut through. Their trailer has a clear coat that has been applied over the polished aluminum. So you can still see your reflection in the skin. Our trailer did not have a clear coat, so all the years of weather have deposited a really thick layer of corrosion. It looks more like galvanized sheet metal.

On the left, you can see how heavy the corrosion is. On the right is clean aluminum:

We work and work and slowly the silver shows through.

This panel took approximately three hours with F9:

I washed a small area with paint thinner and applied the next grade of polish, G6:

It helps get the scratches out of the skin that the F9 leaves.

Finishing up the shell work

So it's been a while again since I've posted. Too long, I know. We're at the mid point of the project and trying to keep the energy level up. Driving on the freeway, I'm seeing more snow birds coming home from winter in warmer lands. More RV's are heading out for weekend-long adventures. Our trailer is lagging behind, in the shop, begging for attention. There is so much left to do and the weather is getting really really nice outside. What we need is focus to keep at it and see it through to the end.

We're enjoying the process still - very much in fact. But it would feel really good to see light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it's just a little bit of light...

Now that the shell is back on, there is a little more weight to help get the axle seated. I torqued the bolts to around 150 ft. lbs. as the Dexter manual said. Since I was to be rolling around under the trailer, I might as well hook up the brakes too.

I installed new wheel well trim. The old stuff was plastic and had deteriorated severely, so I bought some new aluminum trim from the flooring and laminate place down the street. The old rivet line was too close to the edge, so I had to trim the skin -- old and new.

Once trimmed, I installed the trim. Takes lots of cuts of the back side of the trim. Heat from a torch gets the aluminum trim pliable enough to make the curves. Drill and Cleco the trim in place, then rivet. Using 1/8" rivets looks really good in this application.

After the trim is installed, I added the original stiffener to finish the job.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bucking Rivets

Now that the shell is snugly resting on the trailer frame, we get to use aircraft rivets to keep it in place. For this project, I've recruited Ted and Wilson. They graciously drove up on Saturday night from Oregon to participate in our rivet marathon. I am really indebted to them for this one. It was a long day and a ton of work.

Buckmeister Wilson as seen through a hole in the side of the trailer:

Ted and Wilson have both used blind rivets (pop rivets), but never the aircraft rivets used on Airstream trailers. They both have 1970's Airstreams. Both of their Airstreams need rivet work. I sense I will be helping them both with their rivet projects in the future.

We decided to start off the day with the wheel wells. All the existing rivet holes lined up, so we spread a bead of Vulkum sealant between the trailer skin and wheel well.

One rivet hole at a time, Ted removed the cleco then drilled out the hole to accept the new rivet. I placed the rivet in the hole and Wilson held a bucking bar against it. As he gave me the 'ready' call, I used the air riveter to vibrate the rivet in place forever.

The vibration from the tool combined with the pressure between myself and Buckmaster Wilson causes the rivet to mushroom and lock the metals in place. Ear protection IS required.

When the rivet is bucked and cleaned, we repeat. Many, many, many times. As you work from rivet to rivet, the work is dull. But as you look at the growing line of finished rivets, it gets exciting to see that you have accomplished something that looks good and will last.

Later in the morning, Norm came by to inspect the work and watch the technique.

It was not long before everyone was in on the rivet action.

Now I'm remembering that Wilson was on the bucking bar for every rivet and didn't get to work the air tool. Next time, Wilson!

She's looking like a trailer, again!

After getting a lot of rivets in place, we turned our focus to replacing two panels. The most important panel to replace was at the front curbside.

A previous owner must have had their tail gate down as they turned sharply. BAD CAN OPENER! A patch had been applied and it looked pretty bad. So, we drilled it out.

The second panel to replace was the front one under the window. The water filler had been removed and a large, uneven patch had been applied. It started getting breezy inside!

We laid out the new Alclad aluminum on the shop table and traced the pattern on from the old sheets. Next, we drilled out the rivet holes with a small drill.

I can't say enough about the five-in-one tool. I hear the seven in-one-tool has a bottle opener. Hmmm.... Maybe for my birthday?

New panel was fit in place, drilled, then clecoed.

Next, we pulled the clecos one seam at a time and applied Vulkum. The clecos were put back in every other hole to hold the panel tight. We riveted the empty holes, pulled the remaining clecos and riveted again.

This went on and on until everything was in place. We were ready to call it a day! Or night as it turned out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Time to put the lid back on the frame!!!!!

It's about time we finish up all the underbelly projects and set the shell back on the trailer. One of the projects to finish up was painting the wheels. I picked out some auto paint that looks good with our future Zip Dee awning color, Tuscan. The awning is a dark orange color, so I picked a strong orange for the wheels.

As usual, it took longer to sand and mask the wheels than it did to spray.

I really like the color I picked, which is not usual for me. More often, I labor with the decision I'm making and immediately second guess it after it's done. Not this time. I've taken some ribbing for the orange, but I know it will look good with baby moon hubcaps and bright polished aluminum...

Saturday morning E and I headed to the shop to assess what needed to get finished up so we could get 'shell back on' party started. He'll keep an eye on the truck while I get to work...

Frame is looking good!

The last piece of belly skin to install is the front piece.

Like with the rear sheet, I needed a specialist to pull off the curve.

With the belly skin finally installed and fully riveted in place, we installed the axle.

Really not the easiest thing to bolt in place, but it eventually go. Fit like a glove too!

After dinner and helping my mom get the boys to bed (thanks, Mom!!), Katie and I returned to the shop. Roughly two months of steady work, we are ready to set the shell back into place.

After rolling the frame under the shell, we got it secured blocked in place. Next, we moved the weight of the shell onto the trailer frame and removed the sawhorses.

As we were getting ready to lower the shell, Norm and Jeff showed up to help. Jeff had brought Norm and Mary's '59 Overlander up from San Diego earlier that day. It was great to have some extra hands.

There was some trimming of C channel just like the original.

All in all, the shell was fitting pretty well. We voted to call it a night on the trailer and find a watering hole in West Seattle.

The next morning, Fred dropped by to lend a hand. We decided to rock the shell to one and cleco shell to the curbside wheel well. Then we set the other side down and basically wedged the other side in place. Took some wiggling, but it worked out really well.

Emmett was so happy, he danced a little jig.

More importantly for him, it was time to stop working on the trailer and go the the Mariners game with our family and Fred's family. What's better than baseball...

...and cotton candy...

...and your little brother...