Monday, 29 July 2013

Sewing the new cushions

My wife and I picked out some good outdoor upholstery fabric with a nice Seventies print.  It was great -- Fabricland had everything 50% off store-wide, so we bought 4" thick foam, thread, zippers and curtain material too.
Out with the old, and in with the new!  (This is the old stuff, by the way.)
The first step in making the new cushions was to cut the foam to size and shape.  I used a cheap "boning" knife that I bought at Dollarama to cut the foam, and it worked quite well. We lay the old cushions on top of the new foam and traced around it using a felt tipped marker.  Bolerama had a link to a pattern for the rear cushions and we double-checked the accuracy of our tracing against the dimensions on the pattern.  We cut the front bench cushions using just the outline of the old ones.
Preparing a section of "boxing" that has a duvet zipper in it.
The sewing took my wife several days to do.  She hadn't done much sewing in the last 10 or 12 years, but she had a good how-to book on cushions, slip-covers and simple upholstery.  I think she did an excellent job.  Unlike some cushions we'd seen on some Boler restoration web postings, where they kept things simple, we chose to do piping on all the edges.
Joining two pieces of boxing.
This meant a lot of extra sewing -- several times around the perimeter of each cushion.  I think she made 40 yards of piping.  Her sewing machine conked out on the second day, and she had to take it to a repair shop for a $100 cleaning and adjustment.
The cushions all look great, though, including "the banana", which I think is the proper name for the skinny bolster that sits behind the upper bunk when it's folded down as a front bench.
"The Banana": no zipper and no piping on this one.  It was tricky getting the foam into the cover.  Just a couple of jokes about stuffing the banana in the dining room.  Middle aged humour, I guess.
I'll have to post pictures when the cushions are installed in the trailer -- they're done now, and they look great, but they need some visual "context".  Stay tuned.

Interior Doors

After much discussion, my wife and I settled on painted panel doors for the interior cupboards.  I would need to build the three upper doors, two lower doors, one closet door, one panel to cover the opening in the rear bench where there had been a drawer, and one more panel to cover the two openings in the front bench where drawers had been.  I didn't like the drawers in either location because they didn't hold much gear and they made it impossible to stow stuff in the corners of these benches.
Upper cupboard doors.
I bought 12 feet each of 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 clear pine, and one small bundle of "beaded" tongue and groove wainscot pine. The 1 x 6 was cut to length and ripped lengthwise to 2 1/2" widths, and the 1 x 4 was cut to length and ripped to make 1 1/4" wide strips.  These made the rails and stiles of the panels.  I cut 1/4" dado grooves in each stick, and then cut 1/4" tenons in the ends of each rail.  The wainscot material was about 1/4" thick too, so it all came together pretty well with a little glue and some clamping.
The closet door, unpainted.
The doors needed sanding and then priming.  I used more of the Zinsser 1-2-3 primer/sealer for this.  It took us a while to get the right colour for the finish coats -- we had picked out a nice taupe colour using our set of Benjamin Moore paint chips and then went looking for a suitable durable base paint.  Home Hardware had a good one, and they were able to call up the "recipe" for the Benjamin Moore paint on their computer.  But after two applications of this stuff it was apparent that the tone was far lighter and had more yellow in it than we wanted.  So we set out to get proper Benjamin Moore paint.  The only local store that carried it was closed that evening and so we found ourselves at Home Depot doing the computer search once again.  We went with a CIL melamine-like base paint and it's pretty close to what we wanted.  So now most of the door fronts have 5 or 6 layers of paint on them.
Oh, and the inside face of the main door got painted, too.  I just used the same acrylic latex paint that I used on the Ensolite.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Electrical Work

I spent about a week messing with the electrical system, including planning and execution.  In its original state, this Boler had a 120 volt system for the interior, and it had the usual 12 volt running and signal lights connected to the tow vehicle through a 4-wire connector.  My new system includes a charger/converter and a number of 12 volt fixtures for the interior.  So I actually have three systems on board: the tow vehicle-controlled 12 volt system, the battery-powered (charger-powered) 12 volt system, and the 120 volt system.

My charger/converter, located below the front bench.

My new axle includes electric brakes, so right there I had to switch from a 4-wire trailer connection to a 7-wire system. My Honda van already had a 7-wire hook-up so that was no problem.  I had already decided on locating my charger/converter below the front bench, next to the door. I bought a length of cable and a trailer-end plug, and brought it through a hole in the front floor alongside the frame.  I used a terminal block to make connections between the interior lines and the cable to the tow vehicle.  I had a length of 6-strand cable salvaged from the original wiring, which I used to extend the running, turn signal and brake connections to the rear of the trailer.  And I used a bit of salvaged heavy-gauge 3-strand cable to go from the terminal block forward to the battery.  The converter and the terminal block are mounted in such a way that they are kept separate from the contents of the front bench storage space, although I will be able to pull the whole thing into the open space below the right hatch if I need to get to it.  The vent fan of the converter will be up against the bench wall -- I will cut a circular hole in the wall and put some sort of a grille over it.  Maybe an automotive speaker grille.

This shows the terminal block and the 120 V connection
The 120 volt system was pretty straight-forward. I cut a hole in the sidewall of the trailer next to the refrigerator vent and installed a "motor base", which is an odd name for a standard U-ground male connection port.  It fastened neatly to a rectangular receptacle box below the sink, which I used then as a junction box. One line went to the outlet box at the front of the lower kitchen cupboard (which I think was standard on all Bolers), and then branched off to outlet boxes in the two dinette benches.  Another line went to an outlet box in the fridge space and then on to the charger/converter beside the door.  I installed a new outdoor receptacle in the exterior wall, just above the wheel well, inside the closet.  
Here is the back of the fridge with its 120 volt and 12 volt supplies.
I used lengths of plastic "split loom" to keep all my wires neatly contained.  Because the body of the trailer is fiberglass, ground wires had to be run from each fixture.  I chose to run separate ground lines for some circuits, which meant that I was using two strands of primary wire for each.  In a few places I used small plastic hooks, fastened to the fiberglass interior wall with double-sided adhesive tape, to keep the cable looms off the floor, and to keep primary wire close to the walls.
Wiring for the right brake/turn light, and side marker.
Here is the left brake/turn light.
If you look closely you can see the small plastic hooks.
An LED light fixture, flush mounted to the closet wall.
In most places I used Marettes to make my 12 volt connections, but they end up being pretty conspicuous.  I think they'll be less so once I have shelves inside the closet.
"PowerFist" LED tail/brake/signal light from Princess Auto.
Exterior "porch light" -- the wiring is inside the closet.
Beside the water inlet, I mounted a 120 volt outlet.
One tricky thing about the wiring was keeping the positive and negative 12 volt lines straight in my mind.  In residential wiring, the black wire is "hot", but in most 12 volt automotive systems, red is hot (or positive) and black is used for the ground.  I had bought 100 feet each of red and black primary wire thinking that it would help me to be consistent.  But some of my lights had black and white leads.  I ended up with several black-to-white connections and black-to-red connections.  Just in case, I attached tags to some of the wires to indicate polarity.
If I have time tomorrow, I will connect the trailer to the van and see if the brake and signal lights work.  I can't install the dinette benches yet because I haven't finished the plumbing that runs beneath them -- so I can't finish the 120 volt connections and test them yet.  The plumbing is next.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cleaning and polishing all the exterior aluminum parts

The 40-year-old aluminum really looked dull. So I bought a couple of buffing wheels, some polishing compound, and some steel wool.  I started with the drip guard above the door.
Drip guard before cleaning and polishing.
Underside of the drip guard.
 The drip guard was bent out of shape and really dull.  Removing it required drilling out the centres of the rivets, which left the backsides of the rivets trapped between the fiberglass shell and the Ensolite.  First I removed the remaining butyl tape from the underside.  Then I installed a cotton buffing wheel on my bench grinder and applying a layer of Mibro #3 polishing compound.  It was slow going, and the shroud on my grinder got in the way just a little.  But after a few minutes the dull oxidized surface was cleaned away, and the shine started coming out.  I probably spent over an hour working on the drip guard, but I also tried to re-shape it.

The jalousie windows were next.  I couldn't maneuver them around the bench grinder, so I put a 4 1/2" buffing wheel on my electric drill and then I was able to reach most of the exposed surfaces.  But they required a little more work than the drip guard.  The insides of the frames had to be scrubbed with fine steel wool.  I couldn't get the buffing wheel anywhere near them, so I finished them off with Never Dull, which is a cotton/wool substance impregnated with a liquid polishing compound.  The exterior exposed surfaces cleaned up well with just the buffing wheel treatment.  In a few places I had to give the outer surfaces a rub with fine steel wool also.
The exterior aluminum surfaces are really dirty and dull.
The screen frames and the inside window trim were fairly easy to clean up and polish -- they hadn't been exposed to the elements in the same way as the exterior parts had been.  I worked with the drill mostly, and each took about 10 minutes.

The underside of the belly band had a thick build-up of what I assume was aluminum oxide -- it resembled the kind of mineral deposits that can accumulate inside plumbing parts.  These I had to use three grades of steel wool to remove before buffing with the wheel on the end of the drill.  Each of the two belly band pieces required over an hour of work.
Polished and unpolished parts of the belly band -- a huge difference.
The awning rail and the small crank-open window that goes in the door were each fairly easy to clean up.  And that completed the job.

Here is the jobsite -- buffing wheel on drill, steel wool, and Never Dull.
Drip guard and awning rail re-installed.  Now they shine!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Getting to the interior

I've made progress during this first week of the summer holiday.  And I had a minor set-back, too.  So here is how it all went --
The first  big job, following the exterior painting, was to fill the Ensolite seams with caulk, and then to paint the walls and ceiling.  There was quite a bit of residue from past caulking jobs in some of the seams, and little bits of seam tape to be removed.  Most of the caulk residue was silicone, which proved to be difficult to remove.  I looked for a paintable caulk that contained no silicone and would retain its flexibility over time.  I chose DAP Dynaflex 230.  Wherever I could, I "injected" it into the seam, and where there was very little gap, I ran a very thin bead over the joint.  Then I textured the surface using a damp paper towel.  The texturing wasn't perfect, but I think the finished product is superior to the look of seam tape.
Adding texture to the caulk using a wet paper towel.
Then I applied a coat of primer.  And this is where I made a big mistake.  I used a product by Zinsser called "BIN", mostly because I'd had good success with it inside my house, and I still had some in a can.  The problem with it was that it is shellac-based, and when it dried it was brittle and flaky -- exactly the opposite of what a soft surface like Ensolite requires.  Now, in fairness to myself, I had tested the BIN on a strip of Ensolite that I had removed from the dinette table mount, and it showed no sign of flaking.  I had wondered if the tackiness I had noticed in the Ensolite right from the beginning was actually a residue of cleanser that interfered with the paint adhesion, and maybe my test strip simply didn't have that residue.  I had cleaned the Ensolite with detergent and rinsed it with water, and maybe since I did my rinse using a sponge I didn't get all of the detergent out of the "pores."
The flaky Zinsser BIN prime coat, scratched with the paint brush handle.
So I did my best to scrape it off (having painted about 3/4 of the Ensolite by the time I realised my mistake) and then I used a power-washer to remove the rest.  It was a huge mess, it took a long time, and it saturated one part of the Ensolite where water got in behind.  Thankfully I hadn't installed the new subfloor, so the water drained onto the ground.
When it dried, I applied a coat of a different Zinsser paint -- something called "Bulls Eye 123".  The label said that it retained flexibility, and would adhere to just about everything, including PVC.
These are the paints and the caulk that I used.  Warning: don't use BIN on your Ensolite.
 Of all the choices at the hardware store, it seemed to be the best.  I applied it with a brush so that I could work it into the pebbly surface, and it took quite a while.  Then came the top coat.  My wife chose an off-white called "Wedding White" (Premier, from Crappy Tire.)
Here you can see how the caulk-filled seams aren't as obvious as the old  taped seams.
I think it looks pretty good.  I used a 4" wide roller, having cut in around the windows using a brush.  You'll notice that I left the holes from the curtain rod brackets unfilled.  They were filled from the outside just in case I chose a different kind of mounting hardware, but as it turns out I was able to find pretty much the same kind of bracket at Home Despot.  But more on that later.  I'm eager now to re-install the cupboards and benches, and to get going on the kitchen.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Back From the Paint Shop

Hmm.  It looks okay.  It's not exactly the colour that I had intended.
1972 Boler, freshly painted.
Well, maybe it looks pretty good.  The holes that needed patching are patched, and the trailer is ready for all the interior work.  Again, the reason I wanted to have the exterior painted first was because I will be using stainless steel bolts instead of aluminum rivets.  Paint doesn't adhere to stainless steel very well, so my finished exterior will include unpainted bolt heads.
My wife and I used Benjamin Moore paint chips when we chose our two colours.  We settled on Eucalyptus Leaf and Bavarian Cream.  My body shop guy got us something closer to a pea-green and a very white white.  Here are some more pictures:

My body shop guy had difficulty installing the front and rear Lexan windows-- it was too tight a fit, and he couldn't insert the lock strip.  He told me he thought the person I bought them from must have cut outside the line he traced from the original, rather than inside. So, I'm going to borrow his trailer lights and take the Boler to town and get the windows re-sized and installed properly.