Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Airstream Roadshow!

Well, just back from a super weekend up in New England! While we arrived too late at Antiques Roadshow for filming our valuations, I may be appearing on public television stations around the country next winter extolling my excitement over my dear, beloved Rubic's Cube. Yay! In the for what it's worth side of this blog, here are my tips for your next Antiques Roadshow appearance:
  1. Try to get early entry tix. The experts are all on a race to claim airtime, so filming slots go fast.
  2. Avoid bringing paintings or glass items, unless you are convinced they are really valuable and willing to stand in line forever.
  3. You will not have a long wait if you have an ancient antiquity--however, Roadshow rules forbid coins. The antiquity guy needs more business!
  4. The most familiar experts end up being the friendliest and most helpful. The dirt I got is that the newbies tend to get nervous about finding items that will get them airtime, not getting customers or supporters.
  5. When I mentioned our trailer to the experts, most gave very envious sighs. Airstreams are really desireable to dealers, who have to tote their stuff around the country and have a sense of style.
  6. Going to Antiques Roadshow is a blast (and we loved Noel Barrett), even if you don't make TV!
So, it's a crunch this week. Rick's going to pick up a new jack. I'm going to try to get everything clean in the house so I can do some woodwork after work the rest of the week. Yikes, but things are, in their very haphazard way, coming together.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Airstream Physics

It's a low week as far as the trailer is concerned. We're expecting house guests in a week--and I'm about to head off for a weekend in New England. Part of that has meant getting trailer stuff out of the guest areas in the house. Why is it that the stuff that fits easily into a 20'x8' (160 square feet) area requires about 1000 square feet of house space? There must be some kind of unique laws of physics that only occur in Airstream trailers--the way these items expand when remove from the trailer defies logic. I don't know if Wally thought of these, but here are some rules...

1. Things fit better in an Airstream than any other space...always
2. Outside the Airstream, tough, well built cabinets become rickety and delicate.
3. Things appear smaller in an Airstream, unless you have to repair them.

Well, by clearing out a closet, we were able to get a nice, neat place for most of our tool boxes. We still face moving all of the other stuff in the guest bedroom--I think it's going to end up making our basement pretty much a warren.

Meanwhile, there is the continous campaign for acquisition management. We received an order yesterday from Airstream Dreams. As I expected, the skylight cover looks nothing like the previous DIY job--and we are especially happy that it has a sealed in metal plate for riveting it in. As I suspected, the new bulb seal (what I had previously called the windows' "mystery gasket" is a whole lot more durable than the foam weatherstripping I had used when working on the windows. Slowly, I'm going to start replacing these. The package rounded out with a pair of tee shirts and (eeek) a tub of coarse aluminum polish. Someday soon, I will start down that evil path too...Another package brought a new can of Por-15's Stirling Silver and Marine Clean. Now, if Rick gets a new hitch and I track down more Fornby's, we'll have most of our supplies for the forseeable work (except plumbing, which seems to always be a figure as we go case).

But meanwhile, I'm off this weekend to New England. Highlight of my trip will be going to The Antiques Roadshow in Providence, RI! Sadly, they don't value vintage trailers on the Roadshow (nor, according to the instructions on my tickets, vehicles of any kind). Not that the Toaster is ready for the Keno brothers--we still have a lot of work to do. Rick's going to study while I'm gone, since he has final exams all next week. Unless I can find a night off for trailer work, I probably won't be posting much news until after June 26. Then we're bringing on the heat and getting cranking (as we face the summer heat)!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ode to Working on the Trailer When it’s 90° with 100% Humidity

Restoring an Airstream
Isn’t always a pleasant dream,
It always seems that something unexpected bites me in the butt,
Leaving me irritated and occasionally in sobs.
I know if I get myself out of this darn rut,
I may finish up all these bleep bleep bleeping darn jobs

Rotozips and sawzalls
Leave me dog tired so I know well
A dream trailer is hard won when sauna conditions put me in a snit.
Yet, when I really want to unwind,
When summer’s heat leaves me truly unfit,
I wonder is it really the weather or do I just have beer on my mind?

Mind Over Matter... Just Think it's Cold Outside

Refinish my brain, please

Remove that adhesive in two applications! Hahahaha! That darn wall took three hours of endurance scraping and endless reapplications! They really used fantastic glue, back in the day. Tough part is, it is a truly purgatorial task to remove it. But eventually, persuasive treatment with steel wool prevailed. Then I managed to eek out two cabinets of refinishing before running out of Fornby’s furniture refinisher. Now I have to find more of that stuff—they don’t sell it at Home Depot any more, so I’ll be shopping hardware stores this weekend. Still, I think I’ll be able to finish the rest of the woodworking in fairly fast fashion, though I know how this blog will start to sound:

Day 1: detailed description of refinishing the furniture

Day 2: discussion of some of the discoveries of refinishing the furniture

Day 3: rant about frustrating elements of refinishing the furniture

Day 4: poetry about refinishing furniture

Day 5: hey, I’m working on refinishing the furniture, but doing this darn task has me utterly bored, so let me tell you about the crazy things I’m thinking about while refinishing the furniture.

I’m going to stop and jump to step 5 (oh, heck, if inspiration strikes, I may even do step 4). It isn’t as if refinishing the furniture is any stupendously mysterious process. It’s the same darn process everyone uses with Fornby’s (rub in the stuff with steel wool, following the grain until its clean).. Here are the tips I have learned—wear a sealed respirator, lots of protective clothing and wield a big fan. Crank up NPR and get working!

Meanwhile, Rick removed more of the doodads on the hitch. He got everything off except the coupler, which will probably be an epic adventure.

Tow vehicle?

I ended early today at 4 pm to catch the end of my neighbor’s block party. Actually, the party ended up making our trailer efforts a bit of a tourist attraction. A couple of folks came up and started asking me questions—which I couldn’t respond to while wearing a respirator and goggles. I”d try to lift the respirator and sputter off answers—but fortunately Rick saved me and I got back to work. One guy actually came over to try to get Rick to sell him our old '49 Chrysler. Rick’s seriously considering the offer, but I do hope we still can trick it into my dream tow vehicle! Anyways, the block party was a fun take-in and we learned that there may be another vintage Airstream in Vienna.

Mandatory Work Break!

It’s exceptionally nice when a messy job requires taking a break! Today is fume day—I’ve set up a big fan in the trailer (mostly for ventilation purposes), strapped on my respirator (outfitted with new filters) and I’m doing the solvent dance! Presently, I have a half hour break while the adhesive remover gets working. Because of the fire danger (this stuff can spontaneously combust), I’m dividing my work into two sections, so that will mean two breaks. Then I get to work with the really nasty stuff—Fornby’s refinisher. Goal: Get all the woodwork cleaned and refinished today. It sounds like a big order, but I am excluding the cabinetry we removed, the panels I intend to replace—plus, it’s pretty easy when I don’t have to worry about drips!

I am not quite certain how to remove the doors from the overhead compartments. They are a bit complicated, but I’m sure once I get my head up into them, I’ll figure it out.

Yesterday, I bounced between working on the trailer and going to a Toastmaster’s convention. I’ve been a Toastmaster (a group that helps adults learn public speaking and leadership skills) for the past three years and as it turns out, the convention for all the clubs from Virginia up to Canada occurred three miles from my house. So, I changed clothes three times over the day and bumped off to various sessions! One minute might find me scrubbing aluminum, but a half hour later, I’d be sitting in a session dealing with, say, the finer points of motivating volunteers!

Friday I made it out to my local powdercoat specialist. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, this operation was HUGE! They do everything from small motorcycle parts to battleship hulls! Still, I can’t say how nice these folks are. The owner came out, looked at my range and told me that he couldn’t safely coat the stovetop. Now, I know other folks have had this done, but he explained to me that really, the paint is only good to 400 degrees and that even the high temperature paint would not stand the heat of a gas burner. He suggested going to an enameller, but indicated that he didn’t know of one, and that the fellow who used to do it locally closed shop. Anyone know of a decent enameller near Virginia?

Afterwards, I headed off to the local trailer parts shop, to pick up parts for overhauling the hitch. We plan to add in a new spare tire holder, move the propane bottles and possibly replace the coupler.

Before Changing the Hitch

Earlier in the week, we had a fun time cutting off the old bottle rack—I had my first experience with a sawzall. I’d been rather afraid of them, but Rick persuaded me to give it a try. Once I got started up, I had a great time cutting—why the heck was I afraid of this? My fear was utterly irrational (considering I’m not afraid of other saws). It wasn’t even hard to handle. Anyways, we ended up joking around afterwards and celebrated frosty cold cokes on a warm summers evening…

Donate blood today!

Ok, well, it’s time to get scraping that adhesive remover off! I’ll check in later!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Neatening Loose Ends

Most of my window epic is resolved. I spent a couple of hours grinding and polishing, then I installed the lexan panel in the frame. Why lexan? We did this since it's the front window and we don't have a rock guard covering for it. Eventually, we hope to fabricate a covering and return glass to the window.

Meanwhile, reinserting the window went smoothly. I cut away the bottom (not showing) part of the gasket in the corner, filling the gap with Parbond caulking. The result is fairly acceptable, as shown in the photo below.

Not exactly perfect, but at least fairly inconspicous damage

The frame is pretty much done, except for one side (not showing). I ran out of gasket and I'm waiting for Airstream Dreams to send me more to do that last edge and one final window.

After finishing with this, I spent time organizing tools and cleaning up the trailer. Looking at the whole situation, I realized I didn't want to deal with refinishing the woodwork, so I took on a different project, cleaning the stove. It's actually indoors now, since we took it out of the trailer. I was amazed at the layers of crud covering it. Right now, the outside surfaces are clean, but the inside still has more grease than I'd like under the cooktop (though I tried to clean that, too). Right now, I'm hoping to get this powdercoated--it would allow me to change it to a bright turquoise (look at my interior shot here and tell me it wouldn't look great) and as a bonus, would cover the chips in the enamel (not really visible in this photo). But the local powdercoater isn't sure he can paint this one, so I'm going to bring it by his shop Friday for the verdict.

It's nice what a bit of elbow grease can do...now if only it were turquoise!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Window Epic Resolved...

Good news! The window mostly fits in the opening. Mostly--because the channel it hangs from was filled, but I can file that gunk out. However, it fits the space, so we are both breathing a lot easier!

Removing the old vent involved drilling out 46 rivets

This weekend, I only have today available for working on the trailer, so it's a busy day. Rick finished installing a fantastic fan, I installed windows. We planned to try to re-seal our skylight, covering the cracks with a layer of epoxy. However, when Rick removed it, we quickly realized that what we have is a bad replacement job. The skylight is not original, it's not fiberglass, it's comprised of two badly cracked pieces--and most critically, it doesn't appear to fit correctly. So, plan to put it back up and send off for a new reproduction skylight from Airstream Dreams.

Yesterday, before getting to my main task of the day (painting), we headed out early to the lumberyard and on a supply run. We made our first ever trip to Harborfreight Tools and bought a bunch of specialized power tools--their prices are exceptionally inexpensive, so we were both happy with our respective purchases. In our minds, so long as these tools last through this job, we figure its worth paying 75% less.

Well, since I don't have to worry about refinishing the skylight, I'm going to get a little more time in refinishing woodwork. It's a very nice day out, so it's a good time to do it.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Window Epic, Part II

I'm a bit late writing this, so pardon the delay! This weekend, I worked Sunday and Monday on the trailer--and I practically have finished the windows…but my efforts have led to a bit of a crisis…

You see, a cautionary tale hangs there. Late last week, I started readying the window that I had "alumiwelded"--and noticed that the joint was moving. Before I knew it, one side had broken off. Cussing, I pulled out my torch and started to heat the frame to reapply the solder. However, before the alumiweld soldier stick melted, I noticed the frame started to melt. I stopped quickly, before it completely dissolved. I called around to parts shops--but it seems that the window frame is irreplaceable. I was advised that if the damage was small, it could be coaxed to workable condition.

Not knowing quite what to do, I took it with me when I made my second attempt to get to Blaine Window Hardware in Silver Spring. Apparently, the Blaine family had sold the shop off to one of their staff. A very kind Caribbean man served me.

Unfortunately, he could not match the window operators from his own stock, but he assisted me for an hour, giving me advice on fixing the windows and on repairing the melted frame (they could not do aluminum repair, unfortunately)--all this in exchange for a somewhat overpriced tube of Vulkem. I didn't get what I hoped for, but the trip appeared to be worth the effort.

So, on Sunday, I spent three hours drilling, auguring and grinding the frame into the profile that the window. After I finished, the melted portion of the frame looked identical to the undamaged part. Tuesday Rick took the frame to a TIG welder with precise instructions for the repair, based on the advice I got from the window repair shop. He was assured that they would do the work extremely carefully and according to directions--and that it would cost about $35.

Needless to say, the welder completely ignored my precise instructions and Rick got a $70 bill.

Results: The frame channel is completely filled with aluminum, so much so that there is no place for the glass to sit (I can fix that). The exterior profile has been destroyed (I think I can fix that). One side of the frame is 3/16" shorter than it was before (I cannot fix that).

It's been raining since then--I don't know if I can remount this window frame to the trailer, much less if the window will leak by consequence. If I can just get it to mount correctly, then I think I can maybe compensate for the missing 3/16" with a bit of creative gasketry and pass the leak test.

If it won't mount, our options will be very difficult.

One option will be to try to find a replacement frame from a salvaged trailer. This will be our best, though most difficult solution, since it will be tough to find a parts trailer with the correct age and of size window frame available. We would also find a wrongly sized window frame and weld in replacement segments to the existing frame. Our last and worst alternative will be to take out the entire window frame assembly and replace it with a modern window.

Have I learned a lesson? Yes, the service vendors in this area STINK like rotted rat puke.