Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What have you done for me lately?

Remember that song from the 80's?  Anyway, here we are, another beautiful week in NC, and the weather is messing with us once again.  Hubby took this week off, what with all the sunshine and heat we'd been having, he figured he'd have perfect working conditions to finish the inside of the Shasta.  Hmm.  Maybe not!  We've had a lot of wet weather, which we can sure use, but the freezing temps that came with it have been a hindrance.  One thing I love about that man - he doesn't complain about it, he just puts on another layer and gets on with it.  (me?  I'm inside typing this up while the heater in the camper toasts it up a bit!)

The good news is WE HAVE BENCHES!!! Yayyyy!!!  And the potty closet is almost finished!!!  The back interior panel has been replaced, and the hubster built a new nightstand/bookshelf and cover for the storage tunnel!!!  Yayyyy!!!!

Potty closet and rebuilt bookshelf/nightstand. The "box" to the left of the nightstand is a support for the gaucho which is hollow inside.  There is a full-width storage compartment that runs the width of the camper that is accessible from the storage door on the side of the trailer.  This was the storage for the awning poles or bunk poles.

We still haven't replaced the exterior skin yet - the weather is too unpredictable to untarp for any length of time.

Benches for the front dinette.  There will be lids that lift up to access the gobs of storage space these have.  We don't plan to replace the water tank that would have been under the right side bench, we'll keep the kids' bedding on the right side and our bedding on the left side.  Each bench is 24" deep, 14" high and 41" wide.  This was a test-fit, the bench on the left will be made like the one on the right side. 

A better view of the bench frame construction.  The lift-up lid will cover the open portion and be made of 5/8" plywood.  I think!

The plan for today is to dry-fit the benches, then put down the lauan subfloor, and put down the new tiles.  I had gone around and around about which tiles to use - inexpensive vinyl or use VCT.  I love the look and feel of the VCT tiles, and they aren't difficult to install, really.  The deciding factor was the weight, though.  We tow with a 6 cylinder, max towing capacity of 3500 lbs (a lot less once we factor in the kids and our gear).  We want to keep the weight down in this trailer, so that we are well within those maximums.  The difference in weight between VCT and vinyl was somewhere between 35 and 50 lbs.  So, we chose the vinyl.  It will also be easier to replace just one square if it becomes damaged. 

Well, it should be warmed up enough outside to get back to work.  I'll be dreaming of beaches and margaritas tonight, that's for sure!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big RV's versus Vintage Shasta

It's springtime here in NC, and there's a huge RV show at the fairgrounds that hubby and I go to every year.  In the past, we've always oooh'ed and ahhhh'ed at the big rigs and the cool features of the new RV's.  We get a lot of good info about campgrounds in the area, things to do and places to try.  We usually have to stand in line to look at some of the fancy Class A's in the $500K range.  We dream about buying a big new RV for our family and think about the features we'd want if we bought one.  It's a lot of fun.

Every year before this one, we've had the popup camper to compare the features to.  We see how much more room is in one of those big RV's and how much easier it would be to set one up compared to the popup.  But, we have a vintage Shasta this year.  Since we are renovating it, we were looking at the new RV's for features that we could incorporate into our camper.  We looked and looked for ideas.  We saw 32' RV's with 3 flat screen TV's, and an outside cooking area with another flatscreen.  We were amazed at the storage capacity of some of these behemoths.  We thought the kids would really like the RV that had a separate "kid's area" with sleeping bunks, a couch and a place to put a TV and gaming system.  We drooled a little bit, then came back to reality.

What would camping in one of those big rigs really look like for our family?  How would camping in one of those big luxurious campers enhance our enjoyment?  Would it improve our experience or detract from it?  What would the differences be between camping in our Shasta, and camping in a 32' RV with 4 TV sets?

My husband and I came to the conclusion that it would be much more convenient to have a place that the kids could hang out sometimes.  It would be nice to have a big bedroom area where we could watch TV and sleep in peace without kids tramping on us to get to the potty.  It would be great to have a camper with a big cooking kitchen and sink right outside, so we could sit around and socialize while preparing dinner.

But - that's just not for us.  We spend our family vacations at campgrounds so that we can spend time together AS A FAMILY.  We do get on each other's nerves when we have to be cooped up in the camper due to rain.  But, we figure it out.  We pull out games or a movie on the 7" video player, make popcorn and sit at the dinette.  We get up in the morning, start a pot of coffee, walk to the bath house wearing our PJ's and holding the kids' hands.  That's what we do.  That's how we are.  And no fancy RV is going to change that.

Yeah, I guess the big rigs will just have to sit this one out.  We'll be the ones with the vintage Shasta, parked next to that $500,000 RV.  Feel free to knock on the door and say "hello" - we'll have a cup of coffee waiting for you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Wings of Shasta...

(Edited 3/30/2011:  The wings have a new home! They'll be on their way tomorrow!)

Before hubby and I moved to NC, we bought a popup camper.  I had always wanted a camper.  So, with the good luck and naivete of two novices, we found a popup camper which had served our family well for several years.  Hubby fixed the roof a few years ago, and everything seemed fine, until one day last spring when we opened up the camper to discover mold and mildew and a giant mushroom growing inside it....yeccch.  We thought it was a goner!

I'd been looking for a small camper for most of the previous year, and I figured it was serendipitous that popup would die just as I found a 1971 Starflyte which had been gutted.  I proposed that we use the parts from the popup to rebuild the Starflyte to our needs.  So, we bought the Starflyte.  We bought parts for it, including a used pair of wings (she had no wings when we got her) and a used Bargman 66 door handle.

As Fate would have it, the damage to our popup wasn't as bad as we thought.  My husband was able to spend the better part of a weekend doing the roof over, and I was able to clean and remove the giant mushroom and mildew.  We camped in her several times last season, and had a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, the 71 Shasta sat in our yard, unused and lonely.  We realized that we'd jumped the gun in buying her, and she wasn't the vintage "canned ham" type that I had really wanted in the first place.  She just wasn't going to work for our family, and she wasn't the "one" for us. 

So, we sold her to someone who is going to turn her into a rolling boutique.  Great idea, and she'll get a new lease on life.

Now we're left with a box of parts that we'd intended to use to remodel that Shasta.  Some of  the parts we will be able to use on Frankie.  But, not the wings.  So, here they are.  I'm aking $200 pluys your choice of shipping, Paypal or a money order with a 10% Paypal deposit.  Make me an offer I can't refuse so they don't end up on Ebay.  (PS - a pair sold recently on Ebay in the $180 range, these are in really good shape.   I'm certainly willing to listen to offers, though.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beauty is not skin deep...

We will be working more this weekend, trying to close up the gaping back end of Frankie.  The weather is cold today, so hubby is driving cross-country (seems like) to get some birch paneling so we can closer her back up.

We live in a pretty large city (Raleigh) and one would think there would be lots of hardwood distributors around here that carry 1/8" birch.  Well, after many phone calls, we found a place on the other side of the city that carries "bendable birch 1/8" plywood.   So, hubby took the van on a mission to get some.  He came home and we looked at what they loaded into the van.  It's bendable, all right!  A little too bendable.  The original birch was 1/8" and had 3 layers - two birch exterior good faces with an inner layer of inferior grade wood.  The "bendable" birch that we picked up had just one face layer and a back layer of inferior wood.  Two ply, not three, and barely 1/8 inch thick.  It just won't work as paneling.  So, he's returning it to the store.  While he's gone, I'll bring this blog up to where we're at in this process.

Last week, hubby removed a gazillion rusted, painted over screws so we could remove the dinette windows and also open up the back end.  The interior paneling was shot, a PO had used multiple layers of polyurethane to cover up the damage.  We decided to completely redo the back end before we take her camping this season.  It looked severely damaged and we were afraid of the rot we'd find behind the skin, with good reason!!

So, we began the task of removing the back skin, taking off the lights first, which had gobs of silicone caulk on them, removing drip rails on both edges, and the rear window.  The offending screw was just the tip of the iceberg, evidently.  Eeek.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's my novel:

Eyebrow removed over the rear window, rear Hehr window removed.  The original caulk is still in place under the eyebrow.  It's different from the putty tape we'd expected.  It's more like plumber's putty, and it's still soft.

Our first glance at the damage under the skin.
Here's the back lower skin removed, we tried everything to get this thing loose, turns out it just lifts off.  We see some damage, but it's not as bad as we feared....yet.
This is where the Shasta assemblers nailed through the exterior into the potty closet frame.
Streetside back end.
Curbside back end.  Lotsa rot.
We found this symbol stamped all over the back of the paneling - Made In Canada.  Eh?
Peeled away the insulation and you can see the problem right away. 
Left side.  Lots of problems here, too.  Don't worry, we'll fix it!

This is where the water ran down inside the wall from the nail that protruded through the skin.  There were a couple more pinholes near the window frame on this side, also from the roofing nails that a PO used to secure some plastic sheeting over a broken window.  The PO had covered this damage up on the inside with some lauan and some polyurethane.  We'll rebuild this whole area.

Here's the majority of the back end removed.  We'll finish tearing out the interior paneling from this part of the camper, and replace it with new birch, shellacked to match. 
Just a heads-up for anyone who is reading this blog and thinks that you would "see" damage right away and know if a trailer is in good shape before you buy it, or that you can take a seller's word for the condition of a trailer.  This trailer looked pretty good in photos.  The owners had done some cosmetic fixes, and we were enticed enough to drive an hour to look at it.  When we arrived, we did a more thorough inspection, and we were aware of what damage probably lay behind the walls.  We knew that the wrinkled paneling meant that water had gotten into the walls, and probably damaged the framing.  The owner told us she was "solid."  I'm sure that the owner didn't mean to mislead us, he was probably just not aware that these things will hold together and defy gravity regardless of the condition of the framing.  She certainly is a gravity - defying piece of work, isn't she?? 

We were aware that she would need a few months of work and quite a bit of cash to fix her.  We bought her anyway.  We'll make her strong and sturdy, and she'll bring many years of enjoyment for our family.  She may never be a showpiece, but she'll be a lot of fun!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Frankie's Butt Lift Begins

One of the major concerns that we had about the Shasta is that her back end shows a lot of water damage.  We discovered how bad the interior was after we brought her home and poked at her with a screwdriver.  The screwdriver went through the paneling into nothingness.  Eeek.  Can't be a good sign, right?

So, part of this renovation will be devoted to fixing her back end properly.  We planned to remove the aluminum skin from the window down to the skirt and replace the interior paneling and the framing.

One of the things that made me very angry about this camper is that a PO covered the windows with plastic and used roofing nails to secure it.  They drove the nails through the interior birch, the window trim, and the nails poked through the trailer in lots of places around the windows.  This caused not only immediate damage, but also allowed water to penetrate and destroy the paneling and the interior of the trailer.  Ugh.  Here's a good shot of the nail poking through the back skin by the window. 
left side of the rear window.  Nice nailhead poking through, covered by paint.
We removed the rear window, then hubby got to work removing all the screws from the eyebrow and the lower edge of the rear panel.   When we started this project, hubby bought a few new tools (gotta have new tools for a new project, right?)  He got a multi tool.  It's pretty cool and now I want one, too!  The screws on the exterior had rusted, using a screwdriver was impossible.  He used the multitool to cut a new straight slot in the phillips screws, then he was able to just unscrew them.  Smart guy....you'd never know he takes stuff apart for a living, right?

On the interior, the nightstand and the boxed-in area for long pole storage was removed.  I'm not sure if all of the 62-64 SC's had this box or not, but I haven't seen it on earlier SC's.  We discussed not replacing it when we're finished, but came to the conclusion that it would really be handy to have a 7' long storage area for bunk poles or other long items.  We'll replace it when we're done.  It's accessible through the side storage door that opens beneath the gaucho.  It ran across the entire back end and terminated behind the black water tank.  We removed the tank, but hubby will build a box in the potty closet to sit the portapottie on, so it will run the back length again.

The Brilliant Idea

If you have a Shasta, or possibly any other vintage trailer with birch paneling, then you know the little spiral shank paneling nails that are all over the interior, right?  If you've ever had occasion to remove one (or more) of them, then you know what a pain they are to get out, right?

Well, imagine having to remove about 80 of them to take off a panel that delaminated.  Ugh.  After an hour and a half of picking them out with little wire cutters that reminded me of cuticle nippers,  a pair of channelock pliers and a small pry bar, we had only removed about 2 dozen.  The PO's had sunk the heads below the surface of the wood.  Eek.  Dig dig dig dig, scrape, gouge, bruised hands, dig dig dig. 

Suddenly, my husband disappeared into the garage, and returned with a drill.  I thought he'd finally given up and decided to just drill the heads off.  Nope.  He put a drill bit into the drill chuck BACKWARDS, and then put a #12 countersink bit on the end of it.  So, the contraption looked like this. 
A little blurry, but here's the drill bit and the #12 countersink on the drill.  He moved the countersink to the end of the drill bit shank, then pushed it out a little more.  The nailhead fits inside the blades on the countersink, and the nail head hits the end of the bit when the countersink has dug out enough wood.  Kind of an automatic depth stop.

This is what the contraption does.  Now, just use a pair of dikes or a needle nose plier to pull the nail out. 

Nailheads ready to be pulled.  

We finished the rest of these in a half hour.  We needed to keep the panel intact to use as a pattern for a new one.  The PO's had removed a layer of the birch and then used polyurethane on the glue base.  It was rough and not very sturdy anymore.  The side with the door was coming apart in layers as well.  After pulling all of those nails out, we discovered that the paneling was glued very securely to the frame of the closet.  ugh.  More pounding and scraping....  Hubby smoothed the frame down with a wood plane, removing bits of wood and glue still stuck to it.   Our goal was to save the frame so we (actually my husband, the Woodworker) could rebuild the closet without having to remake the curved frame to fit the roofline.

This closet is for the potty.  Hubby is replacing the panels on both sides of the potty room, and he'd already removed the kitchen to rebuild the cabinets.  So, I asked him, just out of curiosity mind you, how hard would it be to make the potty room just a teensy bit bigger?   He got out the tape measure and we checked where the drawers will fit if the closet wall is moved forward.  We figured out that we have at least 6" to spare of kitchen length, after accounting for the current 36" of cabinetry and the new cabinets that will be built for the microwave and refrigerator.  Everything should fit perfectly.  It's not going to add much time to the project, since we'd planned to replace the panels already.  He'll need to cut two extra framing pieces to move the wall forward toward the wheelwell about 5 or 6 inches.  Believe me, that will make a huge difference in how functional that potty room will be.  It will be nice to be able to turn around and lift the lid without having the door open!!

Yay!!!  I'm thrilled!!  I keep telling him it doesn't take much to make me happy.  hahaha. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Faster we go, the Behinder we get!

The weather has been mild for a few days, so more work has been done.  The "plan" was to get moving on the dinette benches once the flooring was down.  Ahem.  Looks like we're moving in a slightly different direction!

While debating which way to cut the lauan underlayment, I made the comment that it might be easier to put down the underlayment if we took out a small strip of wood that remained on the floor by the kitchenette, where the PO's had taken out the stove.  It was just an 18" piece of 1 x 2 that was screwed to the floor.  Really.   Very small.  Very simple.  Right??

The offending piece is just out of frame on this photo.  It runs in front of the wheel well, at the bottom of the picture, part of the cabinet framing that was screwed to the floor.  One little piece.  I figured one little cut, and a few screws, we'd be golden.

So, with the sun high in the sky at lunchtime, I departed the homefront to go pick up our little boy from preschool.  I was gone about 20 minutes, tops.  I came home just in time to see the dear husband walking from the garage to the Shasta gripping a Sawzall.  Eeek!!

Inside the camper, this is what I saw:

See that ugly brown fiberglas tank?  My sweet husband decided to remove it while he was at it.  Ahem.  OK, so maybe that was my idea, I'm not sure where "the plan" went awry, but pulling that nasty thing OUT became the priority for the day.  So much for getting any work done on the dinette.  I think this is becoming a trend....

We cut the vent pipe off, then moved a few more pieces out of the way so the tank could be removed.  Behind the tank, there was plenty of evidence that mice had made their home there - shredded paper, plastic bags and wood chips.  Oh, and POO.  Lots of poo. 

Mouse nest behind the waste tank.  Pretty hole in the floor. 

The offending blackwater tank, removed.  The flange broke off (rusted out) while hubby was wrestling with it, and the emptying valve was stuck closed. The tank itself is filled with dried excrement and a mouse nest.  I will NOT miss this thing.  Yecccchh.  We'll use a blueboy for the sink water if we aren't at a campsite with sewer connection. 

Mice have eaten a hole through the back wall of the potty closet. 
Lots of rotted wood.  We'll replace this when we tear out the back end.

This is the bottom of the closet after removal of the waste tank.  Our daughter thought that we'd just leave the hole in the floor, park over the sewer connection at the campground, and we'd have "indoor plumbing."  I thought that was pretty funny!!  Nah, we're going to cover this mess up to make a floor for the closet and keep our port-a-potty there.  Clever idea, though!!

At the end of the day, we were finally able to get the luaun cut for the floor!!  Yay!!
The first piece of underlayment going down...yipppeeee!!

The lauan is cut to fit, but we won't adhere it to the floor until I've pulled up the vinyl tiles and leveled the floor a bit more.  I'll take care of that today, once it warms up outside.  I'm also going to return the black and white self-stick tiles I purchased last week and order Armstrong VCT  from Lowe's.  After talking it over with the hubby, we agreed that the difference in cost really isn't that much, and the end result will be much better with VCT.  He's so schmahrt!!

We had to remove the door (again) to fit the underlayment and tiles under the threshold.  The door is in very sad shape, all the parts are there, but the PO tried to fix it, and the pieces just don't fit properly.  It really needs a rebuild, but that isn't on the short list - yet.

Still to be done:
Remove self-stick tiles, adhere underlayment, lay new tiles.
Lift and remove the lower half of the rear skin from the window down.
Replace and rebuild the lower half of the rear section - new framing, new paneling, rebuild closet walls, repair nightstand. 
Build dinette benches
Build table
Rebuild kitchen cabinets, build in new area for microwave, fridge, hw heater and dishwasher (just kidding!)
Replace weatherstripping/seals on windows
Repair ceiling - remove all PT supports that PO put in!!  Fix with fir/oak framing, replace ceiling panel.
Order foam for dinette.
Sew dinette cushion covers, sew curtains.
I'm sure there's more, but that will be enough for now!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Revelation

I just discovered SHELLAC.  Oh, my, gosh, where have you been all my life??  I put a coat on the cruddy Home Desperate paneling that hubby cut out for under the side windows, and it went on "like buttah."  (yeah, I had to get a Paula Deen reference in here somewhere!)

You may remember this photo - the panel that will be "shellacked" is the one on the left in the photo.  The terribly splotchy finish on the front curved section is the result of the PO trying to "fix it up."  Most of the wood in the camper is equally garbled. 

Here is the curbside panel with a single coat of shellac after sanding with 180 grit.  I brushed it on, trying not to get too many drips.  I was really amazed at how easy it was to lay on. 

TA DA!  Two coats.  Easy, peasy!  Seriously, this stuff is NOT hard to use.  I was intimidated at first, and did make some mistakes, but I was able to level everything out for the most part using the 2nd coat to dissolve any imperfections in the first coat.  *(see the amber-colored section on the old birch?  That was me.  I'll sand it out later so it blends better.)

And the streetside panel - 2 coats.  Done.  If these were "permanent" panels, or even if they were just good birch ply, I'd use another coat or two.  But, they're only temporary until we do a complete rebuild, and it's cruddy HD 1/4" plywood.

The streetside panel was much easier to do, since I was able to remove it and lay it on the floor to coat with shellac.  Note to self:  Apply finish BEFORE installing panel!!

While waiting for this stuff to dry between coats, I looked a little more closely at the finish on the rest of the interior.  I knew it was awful, but after comparing it to the shellac, I realized just how terrible it looks.   I really want to remove all the doors and drawers and sand them down so I can refinish them with a couple of coats of shellac now!!  

The PO's put a coat of polyurethane over EVERYTHING in the camper (including knobs and hinges).  The worst part is that they didn't even clean the surfaces first.  There are at least 6 or 7 big 6" splotched areas under the poly where someone threw what could only be rotten fruit at the walls and cabinets.  Yup.  I sanded a few of the areas, and there are SEEDS embedded in the finish.  Ick.  Talk about "preserves."  hahaha.  Overall, the finish has runs and drips, dirt and mold embedded under it.  It is a reddish-brown, not the pretty amber of the shellac.  I'll be glad when we can remove the walls and fix her right.

Hopefully tomorrow we can put down the lauan over the existing floor.  That's the goal, anyway.  And get started on the dinette benches.  Hubby has at least one day off, we'll see what we can get done.