We’re Ready to Roll!

I am obsessed with this tiny stove.

I am obsessed with this tiny stove.

We cannot express how happy and excited we are to start using the trailer this season!  After spending last summer doing the bulk of the restoration (which we’ve been sharing with you retroactively), we only have a few more things to accomplish early this summer before she’ll be complete!  Since she’s in storage on our family farm a few hours upstate, we didn’t get to see her over the long winter – but over Memorial Day weekend, we had the opportunity to pay her a visit.  We’re happy to report that she looks better than we’d remembered, and we’re making plans to haul her out and camp in her in late June and throughout July and August.  While we have an awning we only had two poles, which wasn’t working for us when we tried to set it up last year, so we ordered new poles and ropes from Marti’s Awnings (thanks Marti!  We can’t wait!).  We’ve got our kitchen stocked with fabulous retro melamine plates and cups, we’ve got our floral enamel pots and pans ready for our tiny oven, we’ve got our 1972 tea towels on display and we’re ready to roll!  We can’t wait to do a proper photo shoot of the interior once she’s out in the sun.

Our dinette is looking fabulous!

Our dinette is looking fabulous!

We’ll keep telling the story of our restoration, along with adding updates about all the little things we have left to do – which is really just a little bit of wiring, and getting her painted!  We’re so close!  Here’s to summer fun – we hope all of you out there are enjoying your trailers, whether they’re still projects or they’re show-ready examples of vintage perfection!  We’re still in between – but we’re definitely close to the finish line!

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School’s Out for Summer!

Well, it’s June and summer is finally here again!  1972 was the year that Alice Cooper first introduced us to this summertime classic.  Here’s a live performance from that year – check out their groovy pants!  This was just another one of the tracks we listened to over and over again while doing trailer repair.

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The Only Trailer with a Black Walnut Frame

Cutting the curve for the streetside rear support.

Cutting the curve for the streetside rear support.

In our last post we talked about how we removed all of the rotten wood from the trailer with prybars and prayer.  Replacing the rotten wood would prove to be just as frustrating as everything else we’d had to do with the Shasta!  We were lucky enough to have an uncle with a wood shop nearby – and since he cut the replacement pieces for us using wood he happened to have sitting around, we wound up with some of our replacement frame being made of beautiful black walnut!  At least now we know she’ll hold up for another 40+ years!  (Thanks Uncle Ron!)

The taillight wires need to make a 90 degree turn in this board.

The taillight wires need to make a 90 degree turn in this board.

Actually, replacing most of the wood that we’d removed was relatively easy.  We’d taken careful measurements – twice – probably at least three times – and had the pieces cut for us.  It wound up being over 20 replacement beams, but nobody was going to tell us we weren’t being thorough!  Some of the easiest to replace were around the windows in the front and rear.  We used wood glue and staples, and filled in as many gaps as we could with a spray insulation to guarantee a secure hold.

The difficulty came when we were trying to replace the beams on the streetside rear of the trailer.  Removing the rotten beams had caused the trailer to sag slightly – and so even though we’d had the angles marked, we had an incredibly frustrating, multi-day process trying to get the back pushed and held into the proper shape so the skin would fit when we went to put it back on.

The streetside rear corner with the gleaming new boards in place.

The streetside rear corner rewired with the black walnut in place.

We would have one of us pushing the trailer into place with all our might while the other tried to secure the new wood in just the right spot.  We’d hold it – hold it – hold it – and then, once we thought we could count on the seal, let go – just to have the trailer sag again and the beams shift.  We got so frustrated we had to give up and come back to it the next day – and even though it took nearly a whole weekend just focused on the back corner, we FINALLY got everything level and square.  Again, this is why most people take the trailer apart from the inside, and leave the skin on.  We did manage to almost completely save the thin interior paneling by doing it this way – but unless you are, like us, devoted to salvaging as much of the original interior as you can, we’ll be the first to tell you we’re sure it’s much easier to do it the other way!

New plywood for wheel well corners

The new corners for the wheel wells look just a little better than the originals.

We did manage to finish it – and it was a wonderful feeling to step away from the trailer and, for the first time, have the entire thing free of rotten wood and water damage.  A new roof… new sides beams… now all we had to do was repair the actual holes in the aluminum roof and just… put it all back together.  That’ll be easy, right?

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Tools of the Trade

We used a lot of specialty tools while working on the trailer, but here’s a quick post about one we found invaluable – a pair of Amerimax Metal Bender Pliers – available on Amazon.com here.

We picked these pliers up at the hardware store while looking for something that we could use to straighten out the trim that wraps around the edges of the trailer.  The trim was severely bent in several places, especially where the tree had fallen on it.  We first tried a rubber mallet, but even though the aluminum is soft and relatively pliable, we just couldn’t get it straightened using a mallet.  This tool worked great for putting small sections at a time in between the plates – a lot of elbow grease was necessary while squeezing to help straighten out the edges, but the end result was better than anything else that we’d figured out!  They sold larger plates, but we made do with the ones that came with the pliers, just edging them down the trim and pressing as we went.

If you have a similar problem, get yourself a pair of these – while it wasn’t as good as going back in time and preventing the tree from falling on the roof, it was the best solution that we found!

Better than nothing!

Working to get the kinks out!

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Mandatory Screening

The window screens that came with our Shasta were a mix of fiberglass and aluminum, and a few had holes in them. Over the summer, we always tried take some repair work home with us, and replacing the screens was a perfect project. The windows were lying along a wall of the barn, and we piled them up in the back of the car in a few trips. The window on the door needed replaced too, and we just barely managed to fit it in and close the hatchback. We took the windows home in batches because there are quite a few of them in the Shasta, and we don’t have the biggest car!

We measured the width of the rubber spline that held the old screens in place (most of the windows on this 1972 Shasta 1400 were .125″) and then calculated the total amount of area we needed to screen. We decided that we wanted the classy shine from aluminum screen to complement the other shiny new parts, and we picked up a roll of screen at the hardware store. Removing the old screen was quick and painless, and after a few failed attempts, we became decently adept at installing the new screen. It’s important to leave some slack in the screen to prevent it from getting pulled too tight when the spline is pressed down– a couple of our early attempts were so tight that they warped the frame and had to be redone.

Mouse, spline, screen, and frame

This self-feeding mouse worked pretty well for installing the spline, but by the end, it was completely worn out.

Make sure you measure the spline width of all of your windows before you go to the store if you’re redoing all of the screens on a vintage trailer. The spline for the window on the main door was slightly smaller than the spline for all of the other windows, and if you measure everything first, you can save yourself a second trip to the hardware store.

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Stoney Ground

The Foundations had their love fall on Stoney Ground back in ’72, which is a sentiment we sympathized with many times while working on the Shasta. 1972 wasn’t always kind when it came to love.

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Bad Wood, Be Gone!

Replacing the ceiling had gone pretty darn smoothly. After a break to work our real jobs, we were back in the barn, ready to remove the rest of the rotten frame boards. In some places, just a board or a section of a board would need to be replaced. Other places, like the streetside rear, would need major reconstructive surgery. We sketched out the frame of the trailer from all sides and marked the boards that needed to be replaced, with rough measurements. After adding them all up, there were 23 boards that we’d need to cut. The frame boards were 3/4 inch thick pine, and ranged in width from 1 11/16 inches to 2 3/8 inches.

Removing the bottom board.

Here we see the elusive prybar in action as it deftly removes the board below the access door.

Since we wanted to keep the interior intact, we needed to remove the bad frame boards carefully– true to Shasta form, they were stapled and nailed to the finished plywood veneer. But, praise the trailer gods, they weren’t glued (for the most part). The pine frame boards were stapled to each other, sometimes with a quarter inch gap in between.  Clearly, they hadn’t been concerned about the boards fitting exactly together – this made us a little more relaxed.  Again, we were confident we’d probably do a better job than they had!

Frame Around Wheel

Guess what… staples!

The boards in the worst condition were the easiest to remove, since the staples rusted and the wood crumbled away. We had to use a lot of force on the boards that were only partially rotten and employed an assortment of pliers, hammer and chisels, and prybars to ease the pressure on the plywood paneling.

Bad wood removed from the frame

Rotten wood, may it rest in peace.

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Replacing the Ceiling

We had gotten the last of the rotted ceiling section out, and now we needed to find a board to replace it. We needed an 8′ x 4′ x 3/8″ sheet of plywood for the new board, a nice standard size. One of our uncles was in the barn working on a truck in the next bay over, so we asked the best place to go to buy the sheet. He looked around for a minute and pointed to a pile of boards a few feet away from us. “One of those should do, they’re the right size.” Sure enough, there was a huge stack of Lauan that was nearly identical to the piece we had just removed, minus the decay. As we would learn many times during this project, everything we needed was in the barn.

The original board had been installed as one single piece, with the front streetside corner cut out to allow for the refrigerator vent and a notch cut out for an electrical line. We couldn’t squeeze the new one into place as a single unit, so we decided to cut it into thirds and slide each piece into place– first the streetside, then the curbside, and finally the center. With the help of our uncle, we had the board cut and ready in minutes.

Inserting the first replacement ceiling piece.

Trying to wedge the ceiling board in place. You can see the plastic groove where this board meets the central ceiling piece.

We bent the first board to fit into the plastic tracks and with a lot of grunting, slipped it into the grooves. Huzzah! But when we tried to slide it sideways into place, it wouldn’t budge. We tried smacking it with the heels of our hands, then hitting it with a rubber mallet, then butting a scrap board against it and whacking it with a bigger hammer, but it barely inched along.

We brainstormed for a few minutes and decided to pull the board out and lubricate the ends with a bar of soap. After grabbing a bar and applying it to the edges, we managed to pop the board back into place.

Soaping the edge of the board.

Fresh and clean!

We were very happy to see that the board slid with much less force, and we banged the first board into place.

First ceiling board in place.

Fits like a Lauan glove.

The second board also went in without too much effort, and we just had the center board to get in.

Second ceiling piece in place.

This piece slid into the plastic grooves on three sides.

Two out of three ceiling pieces in place.

Two out of three in place. You can see the large cutout in the first piece for the refrigerator vent.

We had the thickness of the sawblade as leeway between the boards, and after we strained to bend the final one in place, we slid the other two to sit as close to it as possible so there wouldn’t be a visible gap. Finishing nails every few inches held the Lauan to the thick pine ceiling beams.

All three pieces in place

That’s a much sturdier looking ceiling.

We couldn’t believe that we had replaced the rotten board so quickly, but only about an hour after tearing out the bad one, we had the replacement board installed. Maybe this wasn’t such an impossible project after all! Ha, ha, ha.

A job well done.

Easiest part of the entire project accomplished.

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A Horse With No Name

We still haven’t named our Shasta – we’ve tossed around a few possibilities, but nothing has stuck.  Maybe we should just call her “A Horse With No Name” – released in the U.S in early 1972, this was another song that kept us company all summer!

Categories: Songs of '72 | Leave a comment

Tear the Roof Off

With some help from our family, we had just gotten the roof off of the Shasta, and it was time to dig in to that rotten ceiling. Since we live about three hours away from the barn where we worked on the trailer, we had to go home to our real jobs and visit our cats during the week, while we stewed over the next work we had to do. It was usually a blessing to be out of sight of the Shasta (it was never out of mind, no matter how hard we tried), and we had a break between when the roof came off and when we breached the water damaged ceiling.

The soggy ceiling was the main problem we had set out to fix, and the one problem we’d know about for sure when we bought the trailer, but by the time we got to it, we already had a dishearteningly long list of repairs and just a few more weekends before Labor Day. The goal had been having it out in the field to camp in for the holiday. The work so far had taught us to expect worse than the worst, and we tried to figure out how they were going to throw more rusty staples at us.

Looking at the trailer from above, we cut away and pulled back the thin fiberglass insulation and saw the water damaged ceiling boards from the top. It was a relief to see that they looked like plain old Lauan, and not some exotic material. The ceiling was made of three of these boards, and only the one towards the front of the vehicle showed water damage. We checked the thick pine supports that ran horizontally across the roof, and were also very relieved to see that they weren’t rotted at all– just the one piece of Lauan towards the front of the vehicle needed replaced. If the pine boards had been bad, we might have called the whole thing off. They’re shaped to fit the curved roof and carving out a new one to fit precisely would have been a project on its own.

Damaged Roof from Above

That’s a lot of rot.

From the inside of the vehicle, the peeling vinyl wallpaper was all that held the soggy Lauan in place. When we’d bought the trailer we’d used white duct tape as a short term fix to hold the ceiling paper up and seal the damp areas. We just hadn’t wanted to deal! But it was finally time to see what we had been putting off. After tearing off the duct tape (and some of the wallpaper with it) we pushed through the remaining wallpaper and up through the damp Lauan with our bare hands. To our surprise, some truly horrid water and debris dropped down onto us. The trailer hadn’t been out in the elements in a year and it still had water accumulated in the ceiling!

Taking out the ceiling

Tear the roof off the sucker

We put on gloves and face masks and started pulling handfuls of squishy rotten ceiling out, throwing them in a large trash can. It was kind of unbelievable how damp and awful the plywood was, and we felt better with every handful we removed. Daylight shone in, and the ceiling gave way to the expanding hole. This was pretty fun, actually. We enjoyed tearing the ceiling out.

Shasta roof partially remove3d

Hey, did it just get brighter in here?

It became more difficult to remove the board as we reached undamaged areas and got closer to the edges. It was especially difficult over the cabinets and over the wall that separated the closet from the main living area, since the Lauan was pinched against the pine crossbeams.

Pulling out the bad ceiling.

The ceiling gives up the funk.

We used pliers, prayer, and brute force. The Lauan was wedged in a little plastic lip that ran along the edge of the roof to support it and hold it in place. At least it wasn’t stapled. Eventually we had the entire board removed, and enjoyed the new view.

All bad roof boards removed

That last curbside corner over the cabinets took major effort.

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