Monday, September 10, 2007

Heavy Metal Weekend

Work went forward this weekend, though with little observable results. We tore another hole in the floor, this time tearing up most of the wood at the doorway. I am realizing that while Rick is expert at the strength tasks like tearout, I am growing a talent for grinding metal--out rust, out bolts, etc. It's not exactly something I'd figure I'd be good at, but this restoration project always seems to make us aware of more unexpected capabilities.

Meanwhile, we also spent several hours trying to gain a new skill--welding. We'd bought a welding setup at Home Depot, but then couldn't find any classes in the area (save for a rather inconvenient metal sculpture class involving gas welding at a local art institute). So, we ended up reading and watching every intructional manual and video that we could find. Then Saturday, we strapped on safety clothing (long sleeves, jeans, hi tops, leather sleeve covers, bandanas, welders gloves, welding mask). Rick said I looked like a B-movie robot from the 50s! We set out some steel and checked that everything was correct. Westarted practice welding.

To be honest, the first time I tried, I was nearly overwhelmed by terror. There is a heck of a lot of power and danger in a welding machine--and you really have to trust the safety system. My first weld was downright intimidating to get started really represented a big mental leap for me to arrive at a point where I could keep composure, hold the wirefeeder and squeeze the trigger. I hemmed, I breathed deeply, I squeezed. It worked: I didn't go blind, get electrocuted or burned.

Sunday we had a busy day away from the trailer, but we managed to squirrel away a full hour to do some practice welds. This time we practiced on a flat surface, eventually grinding out old welds to lay down new ones. I started to get the hang of shifting the wire feed speed and started to watch the pool of metal (apparently critical for controlling the welding operation). By the end of the hour, I started to feel that I was making progress. My welds aren't great, but they are getting significantly better. Next week we're thinking of attempting practice projects. This could get addictive!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Getting Dirty Again

We got really cranking the past two days. We ripped out the rest of the front and kitchen area flooring and cut out a replacement pieces. For the right front section, we worked from a cardboard template Rick had made from wood he ripped out when he replaced the left side of the front. Work was easy, but laborious. I helped with the sawing, but Rick did most of the demo, then I followed behind cleaning (pulling all sorts of yucky stuff, including a rodent nest), washing, wire brushing and finally painting the frame. We haven't actually set the panels in, since we have bolts on order from Vintage Trailer Supply and also need to purchase insulation to fill in the belly pan. We have no reason to doubt that this will be accomplished next weekend.

I also attended to a couple of "housekeeping" chores. First, I couldn't believe the filth that accumulated on the far side of the trailer in just two years. Even my precious windows had mold on them! Well, I set to scrubbing them. It left us both with two impressions--that we really have to go ahead and purchase the metal cover structure we'd been thinking about--certainly before polishing. Also, we probably have to consider a full out and out washdown as an annual maintenance punch item.

Anyhow, the good end of this is that I think that I isolated the leak allowing water to seep into the kitchen area (where we removed the rotted wood). Mopping up one seam shed water on Rick's new floor--so it looks like that might be the bad one. I'll make cleaning that and recaulking it my weekday project.

Oddly, our frame had two hitches attached to it. A year or so ago, Rick pounded and ground the old one hitches off. That left a couple of places on the hitch exposed and gathering rust. Also, there was a bit of rust on the parts of the frame we exposed in our tearout effort. So, I pulled out the wire brush drill attachment and started to work. First step--I brushed all involved sections, washed (and pulled out lots of yucky stuff out from the belly pan) and finally painted the rusted sections. Which leads to my next feature:

Consumer Report: Battle of the Rust Sealing Treatments

I have used two kinds of rust treatments on steel pieces. Outside, I used the POR-15 and Stirling Silver paint combination favored by many in the Airstream restoration community. On the interior parts of the frame, I started using Eastwood's rust encapsulator paint. Two years of exposure have passed and results are starting to emerge.

On the parts painted with POR-15, distinct pinpoint rust marks are starting to emerge, though there is no sign of paint damage. No damage is showing on the admittedly more protected places painted with Eastwoods.

Evaluation: I think both are quality products and far superior to Rustoleum. Durability seems to be slightly better for Eastwoods, since the more exposed parts painted with that did not breech rust. POR-15 involves a complicated process of setting down two base coats of POR-15, then following with a third cover layer of another paint (POR-15 is UV sensitive, so must be shielded). Eastwoods gets a bit of advantage in my mind since it only requires applying a single layer of paint and is available as an aerosol spray, which is exceptionally handy.

Action: Since I have leftovers of both products, I cracked open a mini-can of POR-15 (I bought a six pack of sample sized cans, which is super, since a little goes a long way), applied a single layer of that yesterday and hoped to follow up with a spray coat of Eastwood's Rust Encapsulating paint in silver on the exterior. However, the nozzle failed, so I ended up using the Stirling Silver paint combination. I applied Eastwood's black paint on the exposed frame as with the rest of the frame.

Verdict: If you have any cans of POR-15 hanging around or recently applied it, feel confident that you have a high quality product on hand. However, if I need new supplies, I will probably prefer Eastwood's Rust Encapsulating Paint, since it is easier to use and seems to perform as well, if not better. Also, it's necessary to think of rotary brushing and repainting exposed areas as a normal maintenance activity.

So, the weekend is over. . .We have enjoyed some great food and stupendous weather... We've worked to the blues, crickets and cicadas...We are truly dirty and I have paint flecks on my wrist that may never come off. We are slightly sunburned and very, very tired... Together, that's all an exceptionally good thing. Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tale of a Hiatus

Well, I'd like to say that we've done tons of work on the trailer since my last post, but honestly, that isn't quite right. It really gets progressively harder and harder to pick up on a neglected project. At first it was a case of simply not having any spare time to make progress. Then I picked up a moonlighting job and Rick hung in as his work escalated and he finished off his degree. At a certain point, though, life changed again. I got laid off from my day job and made my moonlight job full time. Rick graduated and shifted jobs as well. We are both vastly happier with our new positions and though we are still busy, time was no longer completely unavailable. But then the challenge of making sense of projects abandoned two years ago was daunting and a point of mutual dread. While our intentions were high, ironically, it was the purchase of new living room furniture that put us back in action. While seemingly unrelated, the process of shifting possessions around our home left us realizing that we really needed to put the trailer back together and reclaim the basement bedroom that is currently filled with the furniture and parts from the trailer.

Our first effort was to inventory just where the different projects stood. That was a surprisingly timestaking effort, involving several evenings of making lists, organizing parts and tallying. This journal was also valuable in tracking what we'd done. There are still several projects we just aren't sure about, so things may get interesting as we move forward.

We hope to plug ahead this fall. Rick has a plan for redoing the plumbing so that we have a greywater tank (operated by a pump, to be installed next to our water heater). We may rewire, though that effort may be limited to merely replacing the wiring we expose (interestingly, we haven't had problems with the wiring, but since it's so old, we figure it's worthwhile doing). We also need to tear up the rear end flooring and weld in new metal there.

So, we got started yesterday, installing a new door handle. It's a small item--but getting started again gave us a sense of accomplishment. As usual, it took a big of fiddling, drilling in new holes, and frustration, but it got done (I didn't document it, but it wasn't really anything other than drilling out rivets, removing the old one, than forcing the new one into the old unit's place. Finally, we have the trailer secured (the lock was broken on the old one). Today we get into meatier work, cutting out flooring in the front and replacing it with new plywood (marine grade). Wish us luck!