Camper comes together- windows and welds

In which, H.W. learns to weld, the camper gets its eyes back, and many sticks are thrown for the dog.

The Dog.

H.W. learned to weld real quick to install a system for the motorcycle to travel on the trailer.

  His talented friend generously encouraged H.W. to visit and learn, and H.W. made some very nice welds welding on the arch that protects the egg,  and that the bike ties off to, and some tiedown points.

This whole motorcycle mount project was a bit long and involved, as we were pretty much making up the design in the store based on what sizes of steel angle iron and flat stock they had.

I cut up the aluminum with a ‘cip saw and the pro did the more exacting aluminum welding to make the laddered channel.  We bolted that onto the frame with U-bolts.  In theory, that way it can be swapped out for a toolbox, etc, if the bike doesn’t need to be transported.

-Moving on to the windows>

Voila- the Little Green Bug, the Aphid, the Ameracauna Egg…

OMG, we got it back!  So excited!  It looks so good, all shiny and new.  I love it one colour and I love the colour.  It’s bright in the sun and much darker and more olive-y in the shade.

The body shop guy was solicitous, going over and pointing out all the flaws in their paint job, especially the ones they couldn’t help.  We kept telling him, we don’t have a Mustang here, and we certainly didn’t pay for a Mustang finish. It was a fabulous job, and we got it for a budget price, no question.

Another thing about painting fiberglass- it has some weird property that it can have micro cracks that only show up when it’s painted.  They were minor, of course.  Our giant side patch turned out so well.  I was so proud.  It’s the largest smooth spot on the trailer now, and it’s so close to perfect.  At just the right angle with the right light the outline of the former holes are visible.  But who cares!

We spent the drive home thinking up names for it and also catching glimpses of it in the mirror and having a jolting moment of “What’s behind us?!”

I’m a big fan of the Aphid.  It’s exactly aphid colour.  But it’s totally an Ameracauna Egg!  It’s a fiberglass egg – a green one.  Hahaha!

Eeny, Meeny, Miny…wait. Where’s Moe?

It’s sure been nice to have the camper off-site for a few days.  I love not seeing the project and freely being able to concentrate on other things.

We went for a bike ride and saw some ducks.  One slim mother duck with nine ducklings. Nine!  That seemed like quite an impressive brood. All little fuzzy puffballs but with speed, toddling around foraging in the grass at the edge of the lake.

I don’t know how she kept track of her flock.  She did though.  Whenever the count didn’t add up, she would stand up and quack, and eventually one duckling would come frantically cheeping from around the corner, or down the shore, streaking back to the momma zone.  Very cute, and mesmerizing antics, like most of them squirming through the chain link fence while mama goes around.

Iceland II preps

I’m getting mentally prepared to make Iceland 2.0 a reality.  We’re tentatively planning to go again in early autumn this year.

It’s a three pronged attack.

1.  prepare physically (plan is to cycle tour the Ring Road plus) by bicycle training and gearing up.

2. study hard at learning the Icelandic language (one of the more challenging of the world’s languages, IMO, up there with Zulu).

3. finish my travelblog(ue) about our last trip to Iceland (which is now quaintly dated but still rewarding and satisfying to revisit in memory as I work on it).  Really, it would be too embarrassing to not be done describing the last trip before embarking on the next.

Fortunately, I’m rabidly motivated to do all three.  My keyboard is set to Icelandic and my heart is tilting all my memory towards it.

Unfortunately, there is no time, there are more pressing agenda items, and, because of the long-term fruition, these are all things which are easy to get shunted for the projects that dominate the here-and-now.

So I’m dredging up old learned techniques for “finding the time”, like those pitched at new mothers.  “Set priorities; collect scattered moments; let the housework go; fit into existing routines”, etc.    Aside: one suggestion I’ve always remembered for its strange perversity is “Use your grocery basket to do bicep curls while you shop”.   However, all these techniques usually devolve into “stay up later”, and “get up earlier”.

Good advice about bike touring Iceland:

http://userweb.eftel.com/~wheelbuddies/iceland/

http://www.masterlyinactivity.com/ivan/iceland.html

Painting

After going over every inch of that camper with sandpaper and primer and filler, we knew the features of that shell like skin.  There are lots of flaws from the original molding that I’d never seen before.  After the intensive body work, though, it looked so much better to me.  Primed, as it were, to step into a new stage of life, renewed by paint.

We made one last stop on the way to dropping off the camper to see one more  rack of paint swatches.  That and we’d run out of primer.  We did our final priming and sanding touches in the parking lot of Lowe’s.

It was really tough to imagine a tiny square of colour over the whole camper, let alone how it would translate in the sunshine.  We were settled on a very tight range of tones in green, but there were still many hesitations. Was it too light?  Too pretty?  Too pastel?

The cost had made our decision to have it all one colour.  It was considerably more to have it two tone, so it was an easy choice to go one colour.  It will make it look more like a Boler.

Among the many other things I knew nothing about in the realm of automotive body work was something about paint.  Most cars are painted with a two stage process.  One stage for colour, then a clear coat.  This is more expensive (much more), and apparently it’s not the right thing to do on fiberglass.  Not everyone does the older style of single stage painting any more, where they mix the clear coat or “glossifying” agent in with the colour.  There’s more, about matching colour painted on plastic bumpers versus metal, and “side colour”, the tone of paint as seen from the side.  It’s a science.  We heard the dramatic price difference and sought out single stage please; one colour, sure.

When we brought it in we got good reviews on our bondo work and were approved to drop it off.

It was a big step, dropping the whole camper off in the back lot of the body shop and leaving it behind.  Totally different than leaving the chassis to get work done.  We’d spent so much time with it lately, and now we were just going to drive away and wait.  On the other hand, it was a relief to stop vacillating about paint colours.  We’d cast the dye.

Last look at the camper in its vintage two tone.

 

Great body! Bondo and sanding

While the chassis was gone on its welding and powdercoating improvement journey, the egg was “up on blocks”, and its time for the body work.

We went out to get our supplies, and learning from the last stage, to do preliminary research on the cost of painting the egg after it was all prepared.  Insert parade of idiots and outrageous quotes here, and cut to a couple beneficent guys standing in stores with us giving us crucial instructions, and one angel of a guy at a body shop who broke down every stage of what we needed to do.

We had to clean it all with a scotchbrite pad and comet.  Giving it this “mechanical scratch” is enough for the paint to bond.  For our repair patches, we had to build up the bondo and sand it down, sanding and refining with a primer/filler, arriving at a grit of 4-600!  That sounded insanely fine to me, coming from woodworking, but for automotive finishes, 400 grit is not fine enough.

The hardeners were different colours. At this stage of the bondo, it was mixing pink. See giant patch almost blending with shell now.

Fiberglass is an unusual animal, and it turns out it’s not very well liked in the automotive world.  Too finicky.  It shrinks and holds paint differently, and it doesn’t bond with bondo (automotive filler) that same way. Over the fiber, there’s a gel coat that ages with exposure and gets dull, like old boats do.  He suggested that we could dispense with painting it and just restore the original surface by buffing out the gel coat.  “To preserve the original colours because they were so nice?” I asked.  No way was I doing all that work for 1970’s orange.

Continue reading Great body! Bondo and sanding

Upheaved

I’ve been gone on a long blog hiatus, as I sometimes do, but this time, I have a better excuse than usual.

Due to bureaucratic whim/circumstances beyond our control, we were suddenly required to uproot and completely relocate at the end of March.  Moving stock and barrel is rough at the best of times, but to have to do it quickly and unexpectedly, with no warning, is traumatizing.

We managed.  It was exhausting, frazzling, and affirming.  We got unexpected help and had wonderful things happen to offset the difficulty, but the whole experience was more or less on par with eating a solid dropkick.  I’ve been doing the emotional equivalent of  sitting and blinking like a lizard suddenly exposed to light ever since, but I’m recovering the faculty of movement, optimism, and the sense that everything is turning out for the best.  For a long while we were just telling ourselves and each other that it would surely turn out for the best, while the present moment was most definitely sucking.

Coming so soon on the heels of completing the barn reno made the title of this blog post cruelly ironic.  Since I’d expected to be able to enjoy the finished barn suite/home for at least a little while, having to leave it abruptly on the eve of completion was sad and painful.  Now our next fixer-upper is an 11′ long little project.

Now I live in the USA.  We are temporarily settled into a corner of the Pacific Northwest, staying with friends who are living and studying sustainable agriculture, so there is an abundance of poultry, mulch, and weeding to make us feel at home.

Forth!  Blogging on this channel will resume shortly….

Up and off: chassis welding and powdercoating

For the next stage, we had to separate the chassis and the egg.  Six bolts through the 1″ plywood of the floor and the fiberglass into the frame were all that held them together.  However, bolts attacked for years by road salts don’t have threads any more.  They were just little chunks of rust.  We got under the jacked up camper with a sawzall and cut them off.

Once the egg was free, it was so light that H.W. could lift one side of it at a time.  The frame and the egg have a step in them, and the form of the egg sits between the wheels.  Even with the wheel off, the egg still has to lift over the hub, and we weren’t thrilled about just dragging all the weight of the fragile fiberglass across the hub.  H.W. lifted, and I jammed in bits of lumber, and we levered and pushed and adjusted, and eventually slid the egg over the hub,  off the frame, and to its resting place on some pallets and plywood without incident.

There they are, apart.

The chassis looked awfully flimsy without the egg, and it sure bounced around on the highway, squeaking and crashing around behind us.  We drove it all over looking for advice and somebody to do some welding for us.   We wanted a bike rack made, some improvements to the frame, and possibly to have the axle replaced, before having it painted.

This stage of research was characterized by a lot of driving, wild goose chases, and a whole parade of idiots telling us what to do, punctuated by the occasional bright spot of clear and good advice.  Like, the guy getting into his truck next to us at yet another sandblasting place, after yet another exorbitant quote from someone else who wouldn’t be able to bring it in for “another couple weeks at least”, who said “Have you considered powdercoating it?  You should talk to this guy, just up the road, I’m on my way there right now, you should follow me over.”  We let go of painting the chassis then, and turned to powdercoating.

We stood in parking lots in the rain asking RV repair people and trailer people and welding people and painting people about what we needed done, and they threw out numbers I recognized as “I don’t want to touch this job with a long stick but if you’re stupid enough to pay me this much I guess I’ll do it” quotes.  Continue reading Up and off: chassis welding and powdercoating