This week we finished assembling and sanding the cabinets so that we could move onto the best part: Shellac! We have decided to use Zinssers Amber Shellac and Clear Shellac, 3 coats of each. The shellac really brings out the grain of the wood.
Originally we planned to use the “French Polish” method, however it did not cover well and left lots of blotchy areas. We quickly switched to using very nice stain brushes and the coverage was much more even.
Jeff’s dad will be back in 2 weeks to help us install the cabinets. We will also start building the walls. We may have the shell of a trailer soon!
Jeff’s dad, Randy, was once again kind enough to take time out of his busy retirement to come help us for several days. This week we built all the cabinetry! The original cabinets were damaged beyond repair, so we had to start from scratch. Thankfully, we were careful in the disassembly phase and removed all the old cabinets intact so that we could use them as a template for the new ones.
We used birch and poplar for the framing, and birch plywood for the faces of the cabinets. To make cupboard doors we had to biscuit and glue birch boards together to get the proper width.
Each part of the framing was both glued and screwed together. We used a pocket jig to sink all the screws. We also rebuilt the drawers from scratch.
So it’s been a while since we updated the blog. A few reasons for this: 1) We took a break for a few weeks to spend time with our Great Dane, Bella, during her last days on earth, 2) Lots of planning and ordering of parts was necessary for the next steps of the restoration. 3) We got a new puppy! We have been back at it for the last several weeks, so we have lots of updates to share!
When we left off at the end of March, we had completed the subfloor and frame of the trailer. In the middle of May we finally got started on laying the floor tile. We choose to use vinyl tile in a traditional black and white checkerboard pattern. The tiles came in 12 x 12 inch size, but we chose to cut them all down to 9 x 9 inch, which is the size of the original tiles.
We used Armstrong Tile Strong Adhesive to adhere the tiles. Funny thing is that you have to special order a specific trowel for the glue, even though you can buy it at several home improvement stores! The trick with the glue is that you want it to be nearly dry before you lay the tile, as it is activated by pressure.
After laying the tile we applied 5 coats of wax to seal the floor. Now it’s ready to be a rolling dance floor!
We had a very busy – and productive – week here. Jeff’s dad, Randy, flew into town for 5 days to help us with the trailer project. He has a lot of experience in working with trailer and car frames/axles/etc. Jeff also took several days off of work to focus on the trailer. Last week I mentioned that we were planning to take the trailer to a professional welder for repairs. Due to a series of unforeseen events, the welder was unable to get Dottie into his shop (his truck broke down in front of the shop, blocking the door). So Jeff and his dad decided to tackle the welding themselves. They did a great job, and it ended up saving us a lot of time.
After cleaning and prepping the frame, we applied POR15. Over that went the primer, then the final paint color. The entire process took about 2 1/2 days.
The new axle, complete with brakes, finally arrived! We thought we were going to have to custom order new leaf springs due to their unique size, but we were lucky enough to find some locally at the last minute. The jack was also replaced.
The last big project for the weekend was to build the new floor. The floor is a sandwich-style construction, with a middle layer of framing and insulation. To protect the underside of the floor from moisture, we painted it with Flex Seal Paint (basically liquid rubber).
The floor is now mounted onto the frame. Next step will be to tile the floor, then start rebuilding the body! We’re taking next weekend off so we likely won’t have a new blog post for a couple of weeks.
Not a lot of actually physical work has been done on the trailer over the past 2 weeks. Now that we have it down to the frame, we have been able to fully assess the welds. A few of the welds are completely sheared off, and others are just cracked. We will be taking the frame to a professional welder for repairs. We will possibly add a bumper and hitch to the rear of the trailer. We will also be replacing the axle of the trailer once the welding work has been done.
The wheels have been out for powder coating for the past 2 weeks, leaving us at a bit of a standstill. To fill the time we built a work table to help make the cabinet and wall-building a little easier on our backs. Shout out to Larry at MobileTec for the suggestion! We have been learning a lot from Larry’s great how-to videos and online class for trailer restoration. Check out his site at http://www.cannedhamtrailers.com!
Deciding on the color palate for Dottie was pretty easy for us. We have always been suckers for the traditional sea foam green and white combo. We knew our options would be somewhat limited by what was available for powder coating, so that’s where we started with our color selection. Looking at any type of sample color on line is so difficult, because you know the true color is going to be very different. We highly recommend ordering samples of any material you are planning to use, so that you know it is exactly what you are looking for. We narrowed it down to 2 very similar colors, and in the end we chose the Pearled Turquoise.
We have also been working out the details for the interior of the trailer. We plan to go with the amber shellac on the birch paneling and cabinets. We were lucky enough to find some vintage new old stock handles and knobs for the cabinets at a local salvage shop. We also found a vintage stove to fit into the kitchenette. We will be sending it off to be re-enameled, along with the sink.
The original countertop had a neat blue background, with a gold pattern. We would love to keep it, but it is too damaged and brittle. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find the same pattern to replace it. To keep with the era of the trailer, we will likely go with a boomerang pattern. We like the daisy pattern as well, but the flowers are too large for the small space.
It has taken us several weeks, but we have finally found some vinyl that we like for the dinette cushions. It is a marine vinyl, but has soft cloth backing, so it isn’t so stiff. We plan to do a 2 tone pattern, although we are still working out the final color selection.
The trailer frame will be heading to the welder this week. Also, Jeff’s dad will be visiting to help us build the cabinets and start framing the walls!
Another busy week in the Hudson household! This week we removed Dottie’s cabinetry and the walls.
The walls are completely supported by the cabinetry. We left the front upper cabinet in place until right before we were ready to drop the walls, to help keep the whole trailer from collapsing in on itself.
The walls came down easier than we expected. We had done the hard work of removing most of the hundreds of twisty nails and screws over the previous 2 weeks, so there were only a few still holding the walls in place. To help stabilize the walls so that we could remove them in one piece, we screwed a few long strips of scrap wood horizontally across the wall frames.
We were careful to remove the cabinetry intact so that we can rebuild it exactly like the original.
Bonus: We realized that the floor was only attached by 6 carriage bolts, so we removed it too! Most of the welds are either damaged or completely broken, so we will be taking the frame to a professional welder for some repairs before we start the rebuild. It’s amazing Dottie made it on the road for this long!
We were very productive this past weekend! The main goal this week was to remove the exterior skins.
The skins came off quite easily, thanks to all the work we did the week before removing the screws. We had also removed the J-rail previously.
As we peeled off the skins we were able to fully evaluate the extent of the water damage underneath. Interestingly, the front of the trailer had a lot of rot along the street side, but the curb side was pristine!
After removing the skins we removed the roof. We are saving the skins and roof to use as a template when applying the new skins we ordered. We then got ambitious and removed the entire roof!
This week was also all about taking measurements. As we dissembled, we sketched multiple views of the trailer so that we can put it all back together correctly.
A few interesting finds as we removed the skins: A promotional banner and an old large wrench!
First order of business in starting the demolition of the trailer was to remove all of the excess screws. There were a lot of them. Like hundreds….
The exterior of the trailer had several rows of screws, which had been added at some point after the original construction. Given the prior hail damage, we speculated that extra screws were added by a previous owner to help stabilize the damaged skins. As the trailer had several layers of paint, we needed to use a wire brush on a drill to clean the screw heads. Then began the tedious process of removing each screw, which often had to be done by hand. As we cleared away layers of paint, we found that the trailer had originally been butter yellow, and later bright green, gray-green, and the current brown shade.
The interior of the trailer was also full of screws. The couple we bought the trailer from had added rope lighting and an extensive sound system. We removed 14 speakers from in the interior of the tiny trailer!!! Unfortunately, in order to install the speakers, holes had been cut into every cabinet. Sadly, none of the cabinetry is salvageable because of the damage.
In the process of disassembling the interior, we found evidence of several color changes: White, black, aqua, mustard yellow, tan, and even peach! There had been at least 2 tile changes: the original dark yellow and olive green checkerboard pattern (probably asbestos tiles), and the newer black and white checkerboard vinyl flooring. We even found some vintage wallpaper!
By the end of the weekend we had succeeded in stripping the trailer inside and out. Next week we plan to remove the skins!
On the surface, Dottie’s interior looks pretty good. The previous owners of our trailer had good intentions of restoring her, but had only gotten as far as a cosmetic upgrade inside. They went with a 1950’s car theme, complete with checkerboard tile, fuzzy dice, and a serious sound system. The entire inside of the trailer has been painted in a black and white scheme.
The kitchenette still has the original icebox, sink, and plumbing fixtures. Unfortunately, the original cabinet hardware has been replaced with dice-themed drawer pulls. We will be searching for period correct replacement pulls. We are debating about whether to install a refrigerator conversion kit, or keep the icebox as is. The dinette cushions have been recovered in black vinyl, although the original mustard yellow upholstery is still visible underneath!
When we first acquired our camper we lived in a ranch-style house with a low 2 bay garage. We removed the roof vent, tires, axle, and exterior plumbing to make Dottie as short as possible. We spent a frustrating weekend attempting to get the camper indoors, but in the end she just couldn’t squeeze her way into the garage. Fast forward 1 year, and Dottie is now nestled inside our new extra wide 3 bay garage. We removed the tires and dropped the camper onto rolling dollies, so we can easily rotate and move it around for better access.
As you can seen from the photos above, the original paint scheme has been replaced with a cream stripe on one of the most ugly shades of brown ever. Not sure why anyone would paint their camper that color. Our theory is that a previous owner had some leftover exterior house paint that they needed to use up. The original wooden screen door is thankfully in good shape, so we plan to keep it.
The skin of the trailer is pretty rough. It looks like Dottie went through a few hail storms. The original tail lights and side lights are intact, but need to be rewired. The windows are also original and in good shape. The brows have been repainted several times, so we’ll be using a lot of elbow grease and paint stripper to clean them up.
Later this week we’ll give you a tour of the interior. Stay tuned!