Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rehabbing the Trailer Dining Benches

Our vintage trailer remodel is at the mercy of Portland weather.  Last weekend, we did some minor demo of the interior of our 1954 King Vintage Canned Ham trailer.  At this point, we can either start replacing the floor and walls of the trailer or begin restoring/replicating interior cabinets, benches, appliances, etc.  To work on the floor and walls, we will need to remove the exterior skin (metal part) of the trailer, exposing the interior to the elements so we need a full 2 day weekend of 100% clear skies.  This weekend predicted a mixed bag of rain, clouds and wind- not a good set up for outside work so into the garage it was.

Andy began his weekend, carefully taking apart the old Martha Washington stove (more to come on this in a later post).  I decided to begin tackling the two front dining benches that fold into a twin bed.  
Dining area table and benches.  Table folds down and benches lay flat to make a twin size bed.
I wasn't sure, going in, what I would be able to reuse and what I would have to rebuild so using a punch, hammer and pliers, I carefully removed the millions and millions of staples holding the upholstery to the frame.
Back side of bench
Back fabric removed to reveal staple nightmare
About half way through the first line of staples, Andy casually looks over from his table of stove pieces and comments, "Wonder when the family of mice will come running out."  Dick.  Now I am terrified but the work continues.

Under the upholstery and decades worth of mouse poop, padding covered well preserved springs.  This springs were attached by even more staples but after careful excavation, I finally had one bench in pieces.
Staples removed
Springs which I labeled with blue painters tape
Sinuous Springs
At this point, I decided to only take apart one bench at a time so if my careful labeling and pictures were confusing, I could look at the intact bench to get the whole thing back together again.  Overall, the wood framing was in pretty good shape and I felt good about filling holes and sanding.  Mr. Rain On My Parade, Andy glances over.  "No, those are getting replaced."  Grr.
Old Frames
Off to Home Depot we go to get 5 2x2 boards to replace the bench frames (we went ahead and got materials to make new frames for both benches) as well as an assortment of hardware for the now-in-a-million-pieces stove.

Once at Home Depot, I had to begrudgingly admit that Andy was right when I saw the price tag for the 2x2s.  $5 for new frames is well worth the price.
2x2 boards are 82 cents each
Car carts are not made to cart serious supplies
My task done, I entertained 3 wild animals in the hardware department while Andy tried to match 60 year old screws, nuts and washers.  An enormously frustrating task.
My drivers
Trying to find hardware
Once home, we got to the task of cutting the 2x2s into lengths using the chop saw.  Andy taught me a great tip for this:  measure the first length and cut then use this board as your template for all other same-length cuts.  This makes sure all your boards are a consistent measurement.
My first cut board on top so I can measure the bottom board
For the 2 benches, each with a seat and back, I cut 8 35" lengths, 4 20" lengths and 4 16" lengths.

Next step was to create a lap joint at all of the corners.  A lap joint is a stronger joint since it gives you more surface area to connect with glue.  Andy did this step for me on the table saw.  Despite his excellent teaching, I am terrified of this saw and am a shorty-mc-shorterton who can't reach the length of the saw while keeping even pressure on the wood.  If you'd like more information on how to set up a table saw for a lap joint, check out the video at the bottom of this post!
Making a lap joint on the table saw
From here, we went to drill press to pre-drill holes into each corner.

Holes prepped, each board got glued up and screwed.

When making a 90 degree frame, it is incredibly important to make sure the corners are square.  By measuring corner to corner diagonally, you can check the measurement and make any adjustments needed if the diagonal measurements are not the same before the glue dries.

Finally, Andy made two corner supports for each frame to put in opposite corners to keep the frames square.

Glue dried, we are ready to put the old springs onto the new frames.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Getting to the Restoration of Gidget

So... looking back at that last time we posted, we are epic failures!  We get asked constantly how we get so much work around the house done with 3 kids and the proof is in the puddin'.  Sometimes it takes us a REALLY long time.

We bought our little canned ham trailer at the beginning of December, excited to dig into some restoration.  Flash forward 2 months and we haven't touched it.

We have no trepidation over this project, we just haven't had a good chunk of time to dig in.  Honestly, we have been so awestruck by beautiful weather, which has lead us to some fantastic hiking in our new city.

Silver Falls State Park
Finally, last weekend we decided it was time to buckle down and dig into Gidget a bit.  We have tons of home renovation knowledge but our trailer knowledge is zip so we have been referring to a really helpful site for some information on process and what we might expect as we start to tear into this thing.  The author of the site, Mobiltec is incredibly knowledgeable and a true restorer (really, to an extreme at times) but is THE resource for anyone doing this kind of restoration.

After consulting Mobiltec's videos, we learned that it is incredibly important to not just rip everything out at once- even if you plan to eventually replace/repair everything.  These vintage trailers were originally built from the inside out so if you go into tearing it out from the inside out, you will be essentially screwed and not be able to get it back together again.  The key is to work from the outside in, one side at a time.

Beginning of the day.  Eager and not yet covered in mold spores. 
To prepare for this careful excavation and then restoration, our first step was to do some careful tear-out of some of the fixtures inside the trailer.  You don't want to rip out floor to ceiling cabinets/walls at this point since these help with the overall structure of the trailer.  We plan to reuse/rebuild what we can and copy what we can't, so we carefully documented and measured all pieces coming out.  We ended up removing the dining benches, cabinet doors and hardware, light fixtures, the stove and kitchen base cabinet as well as the carpeting.

Front of camper: Dining area with fold down seats
Structure boxes under seats which we took careful measurements of before removing
As always, Andy's tools of choice for any demolition are a screwdriver, small pry-bar, hammer and respirator.  Don't ask him how many different types of screws and nails he found- it's a touchy subject.

The work was slow going and dirty but by the afternoon, the bulk of the interior demolition was done.
Our cheerleader
Removal pile.  About half of this ended up on the bonfire.
Old carpeting 
Finished with a good Shop Vac
We took measurements and drew templates of pieces that we would have to remake and labeled all pieces we would refinish and put back in.
Traced outlines of pieces we plan to replicate
So now we are onto the meat of the project- replacing/repairing the flooring, framing and inner skin (wall) of the trailer.  We plan to start with the flooring so need a full 2 day weekend with clear weather... which is nearly impossibly during an Oregon winter.  Until then, we hope to do some restoration of the original Martha Washington stove and start rebuilding cabinetry and benches.  Until then, this is what we are left with.  We aren't running for the hills yet, which is a good sign.

Kitchen area

Kitchen area looking back into bedroom
Bedroom area.