Sunday, March 11, 2012

Third Time's a Charm

The insanity continues! Within 2 months of finishing the RR, I bought the Chiclet. And a few months before finishing the Chiclet, I bought number 3 - a 1947 Ken Skill teardrop! About a year ago, I was talking with some friends while sitting around a campfire. We were talking about our various trailer projects. I happened to mention that I might like to restore a teardrop. Well, just so happened that a friend of a friend had one for sale. A few phone calls later, I was bringing one home!
It is completely disassembled & missing all of the trim parts & wheels. But the basics are there: the frame with a new axle & reinforced with new angle iron, a sheet of 4 x 10 plywood for the floor, 2 sheets of 4 x 10 plywood already cut to size for the sides, all the original aluminum skin & 2 doors. I'll need to rebuild the hatch. The cool thing about restoring teardrops - you can buy reproductions of most of the parts. New trim pieces, windows, wheels, appliances & lights are all available online. I've already decided to keep it really simple - no electrical, propane or plumbing systems. I've found my little battery operated LED light fixtures are sufficient. I don't want to take up precious space in the "galley" with a sink, icebox or stove. So it should be just basic construction. Famous last words, huh?!!
My best camp buddy Marti completely rebuilt her teardrop. And my Dad could probably put it all together in a few days. Maybe I'll be able to get one of them to come & help me get it started : )
Since my trailers are getting smaller & older, I'm not sure what would be next. Guess I better get the teardrop started before even thinking about picking up just one more ...

Talk About Time Warps!

They say that email is killing the postal service. Well, I believe that Facebook is killing the blogs! Its much easier to post a few quick lines to FB than to sit down for an hour & write in my blog. But a rainy Sunday has me thinking it's long overdue ... about 25 months to be exact!
In these past 2 years, so much has happened. On a personal note, my dog Nani passed away. It was difficult to lose both of my dogs within 18 months. All my life, I have wished for a dog that could go everywhere with me - camping, hiking, working, hanging out. A constant companion. Well, that wish came true. June 22, 2010, I adopted Snickers from my local humane society. He is the most amazing dog I've ever had. I could write the entire blog just about him, but this is supposed to be about my trailers. Oh well : )
I'll start with my adventures in the RR. I have had so many wonderful camp trips that I can't list them all (or remember them all!). I have done my annual trip to Fallen Leaf Lake, several rallies each year, some excellent local camping & 2 more trips into Oregon. My final road trip took me up near Portland - almost 600 miles one way. My daughter is doing her graduate studies at Portland State. A good excuse for me to explore new areas & visit her at the same time.
So I said "final trip". Yes, I sold the RR 4 months ago. As I was finishing work on the Chiclet, I knew the RR would need to go to a new home. And thanks to Facebook, I connected with a wonderful couple who drove 7 hours to pick it up. Best part - they will be joining me for my Fallen Leaf campout in June, so I'll get to see it again : )
While restoring the RR, I worked on it every spare minute. If the weather was good, I was outside ripping out dry rot or prepping for paint. Rain days had me polishing trim pieces on my kitchen table. I was on a mission with a deadline. It had to be done for the Pismo Rally. And 2 months after that rally, I bought the Chiclet!
The Chiclet was a much bigger project than the RR. I was in no hurry & wanted to enjoy the process a bit more than just rush thru it. And when I adopted Snickers, he was just 4 months old. For 6 months, I did nothing but train my new pup - best investment I've ever made. So I worked on my little trailer every now & then. Slowly but surely, it got done. Fully insulated, all new electrical wiring, new plumbing for the sink, rebuilt door, interior light fixtures won on eBay & installed, refinished all the birch wood interior, polished all the hardware & window pieces, new counter & table tops, new flooring & 2 new sheets of aluminum skin on the lower rear side. During that time, I had also decided on my color scheme. My friends Paul & Caroline that sold me both of my trailers have the most beautiful Shasta. They painted it a soft yellow & off-white. So I decided to copy them. My buddy Rick the mechanic was happy to do the painting for me. I decided it was worth the money to have a nice automotive paint job instead of using rattle cans again! A bit pricey - $1,600. - but worth it.
I know I'm leaving out so many of the details of the restoration, but this is the best I can offer up at this point. The coolest part about my work on the Chiclet - I made mistakes, I learned a bunch of new things & my skills are improving.
A few weeks ago, I took the Chiclet on a maiden voyage. There are a few bugs to work out - had a slow leak in one tire (a bad valve stem), my corner jacks were too talk to fit underneath the trailer & I need to reorganize my storage spaces. This trailer is 3' shorter than the RR & is lacking the huge overhead bunk / storage cabinet. But overall, it is very sweet little camper & I love it!
I have the coming year already booked full of camping trips. The best part of restoring old trailers is taking them out & using them. As much as I love a good project, I love camping even more : )

Sunday, February 28, 2010

One cool trailer

Well, that "real" winter weather that I mentioned in my last posting - it is still going on. Lots of rain & stormy conditions. I love it! But it makes it a bit tough to get work done on the Chiclet. Glad I have no time frame to get 'er done.
A few weeks ago I wanted to see if I could tackle the interior electrical system. I had already gone to my local Tru Value Hardware & purchased everything I needed (plus some extra stuff "just in case"). So I got out my bag of goodies, spread it out on the floor & quickly realised I had absolutely no idea how to begin. HELP! I put in a call to my buddy Rick the mechanic. Not only did he take my call, but he said he would be happy to work for me again. Cool. I would rather ask for help then mess things up - electricity & propane are not something I want to take any chances with. Plus, Rick is willing to teach me as he works. A perfect situation for me!
I decided I wasn't going to waste a perfect day without rain ... I could get started on the insulation. I took some quick measurements & ran over to Home Depot. I purchased a bunch of sheets of foam board insulation. I have heard other vintage trailer owners say that the insulation makes a huge difference in the comfort level of their trailer. I'm not worried about getting cold - its the heat I can't stand. And since the Chiclet is completely skinned, I might as well do it right.
This was going to be a fairly straight forward project - cut the boards with a utility knife & fit the pieces into the wall spaces. I knew it would be tedious - the curb side wall has 23 small areas to fill in. But at least it was easy to access - the roof was a whole different story. The top skin isn't attached. I have it just "resting" on top of the Chiclet for lack of a better place to put the large piece of aluminum. This means if I need to put an insulation board up there, I have to brace the skin up. Argh!!! To make matters worse, none of the sections were completely rectangular. For example - it might be 72" long but vary from 15" down to 14 1/2" in width. Plus, on the lower front & back areas, the curvature of the trailer is such that I had to "score" each panel so it would fit correctly under the skin. I then covered each score cut with duck tape - I don't want any drafts getting through. It took a lot of time & used up what little patience I had that day, but I got 3/4 of it done. I will wait to do the street side after all the wiring & gas lines are in place. With all new insulation in place, the Chiclet should be nice & cozy when I take my afternoon camp naps : )

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dead of Winter

For the first time in a few years, Sonoma County is actually having a real Winter. In between the cold snaps & the downpours, I've still been able to work on my trailer.
I have mentioned many times how much I enjoy doing the woodwork aspects of the restoration. And the more I do, the more confident I become. My work might not be of the highest quality, but I am pleased with the results so far. Without good "bones", even the most beautiful of trailers would just fall apart.
Since the corners had already been rebuilt, the hardest part of the framing job was behind me. Now to reinforce & replace the cross members. Here again, I took 1 section at a time. I removed any boards that were weak or showed signs of dry rot. I was finally able to use that table saw I bought a year ago! I ripped new 1 x 2 pine to add strength to the roof areas. Near the roof vent, the aluminum was sagging noticeably. Some new lumber, a dozen Simpson ties & the top skin leveled right out.
The interior birch paneling in the front & rear lower areas was either completely missing or severely damaged. I had learned on the RR, the easiest way to replace those panels was to do it before the new framing was completed. I went to my local high-end lumber yard, Mount Storm, & purchased some sheets of 1/8" birch. I also picked up a 1/2" sheet to use later when I will reface some of the cabinets.
I started at the front - the curvature of the trailer would be easier to duplicate than the rear. I measured & cut the panel to size with my jigsaw. I attached the panel to the lower edge of the window framing. Then I started adding the new cross framing. With each new cross member, I would gently curve the paneling into place. I went inside & used tiny 1" panelboard nails to attach the paneling to the framing. I was relieved to see how easy this task was. Then on to the back. The rear of the Chiclet has a much more severe teardrop shape. I just hoped that the paneling wouldn't snap like a dry cracker. I repeated the same process that I had done on the front. It worked like a charm. Whew!!!
I did a bit more framing reinforcement. More lumber & more Simpson ties. I have probably added several hundred pounds to the weight of the trailer - no worries tho. The Chevy can handle it!
With all of the exterior woodwork completed, I can now more on to some of the more intimidating aspects of the restoration - the electrical & propane systems. I'll need to wait until I have a day when I feeling super confident ... or super brave : )

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Leaps and bounds!

I may still be a month or more behind schedule with writing my blog, but I have accomplished a lot on the Chiclet. Now to see if I can remember everything I have done ...
I knew that my first line of attack needed to be addressing the issue of dry rot. As with the RR, I could see daylight thru the lower rear part of the trailer - usually not a good sign. I figured I would just remove the rear window & some of the trim pieces & pull off the bottom sheet of skin. Should be simple enough ... NOT! That lower section of aluminum wasn't original to the trailer. It looked like a piece of aluminum patio siding attached with rivets. LOTS of rivets. And the window & trim pieces were attached with #6 (tiny) flat head screws and equally tiny upholstery nails. I knew I'd be replacing the piece of patio siding so I felt justified with just ripping that son-of-a-gun off of the trailer. No big deal that it got torn up. But then there was the issue of the tiny screws used to hold the rest of the trailer together. Each screw slot was packed with the remnants of the 5 coats of paint. Once I was able to scrape the crud out of the slot with what amounted to an ice pick, then I could try to turn the screw with my flat head screwdriver. About 25% of the time the head would snap off. Down right frustrating. LONG story short - it took me 2 hours to do what might have taken 15 minutes on the RR. I had to remind myself - I have no deadline & I am choosing to do this project. Argh ...
With the rear window & several sheets of skin removed, I could see the extent of the damaged framing. To form the teardrop shape of the Chiclet, the builders had laminated about a dozen thin strips of wood together to make the curve on the outside edges. Well, this wood had turned to sawdust. Huge pieces of it crumbled to the ground as I lifted the skin. Oh boy - was this gonna be fun to try and replace! The RR was easy to reframe - all the angles were straight lines. How the heck and I going to reproduce the sliver-moon shaped pieces??? I wrote down my measurements & headed to Home Depot.I didn't want to use plywood - the layers would separate when I drove new screws in from the side. I needed one solid piece of wood. The best idea I came up with was to use pine shelving. I grabbed several of the largest shelves, some screws & and bunch of Simpson ties & went home to try & figure this out. I won't go into detail, but my first 2 attempts were a disaster. Then it struck me - I can use the side skin panel as my "pattern" for the framing edges. Third time was a charm. I traced my pattern, cut it with my trusty jigsaw & attached it to the Chiclet. Yea!!! It was very solid - exactly what I was looking for. I want this baby to last 50 more years!
I knew that I would need to reframe the remaining 3 corners & possibly some areas below the windows. I was on a roll & feeling confident ... so I went ahead & removed ALL of the skin except for the roof panel. As I disassembled my trailer, large amounts of rotten wood bits would fall to the ground ... I knew there was no turning back. (I won't bore you with the statistics of how many hours it took to remove the screws & pull the nails ... or how many Advil I had to take to ease the pain in my wrists ... but we are talking big numbers here.) Then it was like - OMG - what have I done??? The Chiclet is bare naked!! But it was actually pretty cool. The construction is very simple. It is basically a bunch of 1 x 2 pine with a few 2 x 4's thrown in under the windows. Essentially, it was like a house made of sticks! I replaced the remaining corners & some of the cross framing. And I found that just as with the RR, I really enjoy doing the wood work. There is something about the smell of freshly cut lumber. And even better is the feeling of taking an old, cast aside trailer and breathing new life back in to it & having a great time in the process : )

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shopping in Oregon!

I finally have a rain day & can catch up on my blog - I'm an entire month behind! Seems to be my "norm" lately.
Four days after the Rally at the River, I packed up the RR again and headed out for a 10 day camping adventure. I had originally planned on going to southern coastal Oregon. But a guy named Hugh from Klamath Falls, Oregon, had posted to one of my vintage trailer groups that he had some appliances from a '57 Shasta that he was replacing. I jumped on that one like a cat on a mouse! His icebox and oven/stove are the exact same ones that were in the Chiclet. I was never able to test my propane systems because the lines were all crimped. And Hugh had taken his stove to a RV center & had it cleaned & pressure tested. I figured it was well worth the change in plans to go & purchase these hard to find gems.
I broke up the 410 mile drive with a 2 night stopover in Mt. Shasta. I figured the name of the town was enough to make it worth exploring. I camped at the KOA - not bad for urban camping. I did a bit of looking around, but basically caught up on my rest & reading.
The drive north from Mt. Shasta was wonderful. The views looking south back toward Mt. Shasta were amazing. The landscape is volcanic - covered in scrub & rough tumbles of lava rock. Very stark with the snow capped Shasta in the background. Beautiful!
I met up with Hugh & his wife (I'm SO bad on remembering names) in Klamath Falls. The appliances were in much better condition than the ones from the Chiclet. I was happy to pay them the $100. I got to see their Shasta - they are doing a complete restoration. Once again, I love meeting new people who share the love of old trailers.
With my new treasures packed in the truck, I continued north for 33 more miles to Collier Memorial State Park. I remember camping here as a young child & my parents said it is still one of their favorites in central Oregon. Sounds good to me! I was lucky & scored on of the best sites in the campground for my week long stay. There was a '65 Aristocrat in camp - of course I took the opportunity to say hello & talk trailer! Most of the rigs were large & modern ... what a surprise. But I still met some really nice campers.
Collier State Park is home to an outdoor museum of historic logging equipment. My parents have pictures of my brother Ron & I climbing on the old wagons when we were kids. This visit, I settled for just looking around & taking pictures! The campground is also bordered by Spring Creek & the Williamson River. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen in a long time. Large groves of quaking aspen mixed with tall pines, the fast waters of the creek mixing into the gentle flow of the river - very cool. I even saw a coyote & 2 bald eagles - a major bonus. I had 2 days of blustery weather & rain showers. I was warm & dry in the RR, content to enjoy a cup of tea & a good book.
I went into nearby Chiloquen for groceries & found a wonderful used book store called Fine Books. The owner, Richard, has a collection of over 80,000 books on every subject from the latest in fiction novels to auto repair manuals. I explored the shelves for over an hour & came out with a big bag of books for my future camp trips. I even scored a hard to find western novel that my dad had been looking for!
A highlight of my time in Oregon was a drive up to Crater Lake. It was bitter cold & an approaching snow storm was set to close down the area the following day. The views were incredible. I would love to go back when the weather is a bit more tolerable & do some hiking & exploring ... perhaps next year??
During my time on the highways in Oregon, I was amazed at how many vintage trailers I saw -- sitting in side yards or abandoned out in a field. I counted about 15 of them - all in desperate need of restoration. Naturally, my head goes to the thought of .... maybe I could just move up here, buy a tiny piece of land with a big barn on it, collect some of the old throw aways & make a business of it. Perhaps if / when my time as a gardener runs out & I'm in need of a new career!
As always, my week flew by in an instant. I had the most fantastic time - I explored new places, saw some wonderful sites, met a lot of really neat people, read a stack of good books, took a ton of pictures & came home with a good story to tell.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bare metal!

I'm about a month behind and slightly out of order with this posting ... but such is life. Just before the Rally at the River last month, I finally finished stripping the paint from the Chiclet. It took me a total of 35 hours and cost $200. in chemicals. No joke - I kept track! Needless to say, I have now perfected my paint stripping techniques. My lawn is covered with a kaleidoscope of paint chips to prove it! And mark my words, I'll NEVER do it again!!!
The coolest part of getting all those layers of paint removed is that I could see the original stripes etched into the bare aluminum. This trailer has the most unique pattern I've ever seen. I knew this design would be like a fingerprint - it could tell me more about the identity of my little treasure. So I used blue painter's tape to trace the original lines. I took pictures and sent them off to Juergen for his opinion. He wrote back with an enthusiastic "Yes, this is definitely a '52 Honorbuilt Romer. It is the first year they were in business and yours is a very rare trailer." So it is not a homebuilt "kit" trailer after all - it was actually manufactured by the Honorbuilt Company. Now that I know how rare the Chiclet is, the pressure is really on - I better do it justice!