Herding Cats

August 2013

It occurs to me while writing that I have been remiss. I have not addressed a significant amount of work done at various times. Remember that I mentioned the frequent summer showers that South Louisiana is known for? Being only a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, prevailing offshore winds brought in lots of moisture which almost daily turned into sudden, mini-floods. Of course this happened with little or no warning, which meant a mad scramble to gather up tools and pull the tarp and fitted cover over the trailer before the wall of water struck. Great fun!

Obviously, heavy downpour means no work on the camper itself, but there was always something else to grind away on.  The window frames, cabinet edge trim and other shiny metal bits all needed to be polished, so I spent many hours hunched over a Harbor Freight buffing motor bringing a shine back to tons of 53 year old parts. Polishing is not difficult, but it IS dirty, messy work, and has to be done if you want the ‘look’.  I can also recommend most highly using a heavy duty cordless drill with buffing wheel, to get into smaller areas.  If you are buffing stainless, you will need buffing compound made for stainless as well as the torque of a buffer motor to get a mirror shine. Aluminum parts will polish out quickly with the drill/buff wheel and a good general metal polish. I use Blue Magic.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES The Princess stove after painting,  and the cooktop, while being polished.

Our trailer has aluminum edge trim along the outside seams and we wanted that to be shiny also, so there was a really tremendous amount of metal to be polished. Like everything else, take your time, work on one piece and make it look great before going to the next one. It is WORTH it.  Some of the edge trim was banged up pretty bad, so I bought several sticks of new trim, in order to have a smooth uniform appearance, and also because it did not have a half century of oxidation, black gunk and other crud all over it.  When you shop for edge trim–sometimes called “J rail” but in reality J rail is a different product entirely–you will find it is sold in extruded lengths of 16 feet. HOWEVER, the freight carriers will only carry parcels of 8 feet, so you will either have to pay a freight trucking company $$$ for the full length, or settle for 8 foot lengths and have UPS bring it, in addition to a crating and shipping fee.  Yeah, I know. It sucks.

During this same time frame, while I was working on all the abvementioned tasks, Melinda was getting upholstery farmed out, finding vintage barkcloth in an atomic pattern for the curtains, and doing a lot of the work getting interior items pulled together.  After weeks of searching on Ebay she finally found some really cool vintage barkcloth in an amount big enough for our needs, and won the bidding war to get it. She also found a pair of 50’s atomic styled double cone wall sconce lights which were a perfect fit for the look we wanted!


Dinette table in place, bench in place and new sconce lights installed. Note all the new birch panels. Umm…yes, the gaping hole in front HAS been repaired by this time.


Here you see exterior shot of new curbside panel and door frame. The rest of the trailer had been insulated and vapor barrier in place.


Front view showing new panels and framing, side window is in place to test fit.

About this time is when we finished up the exterior insulation. Originally  it had a 1/4 inch of fiberglas  (really??  a whole 1/4 inch??? )  insulation…this is the golden tan colored stuff you see in some of the pics. Of course we upgraded with Owens Corning pink insulation R-13 rated, and put two layers of heavy millage plastic sheeting over the insulation for vapor barrier.  There are different ways to do this of course, I have seen restorations where the liquid insulation that expands and turns to  foam is used, and then trimmed flush with the framing lumber after it has cured, and in fact as we found out a year later, if you have to remove a panel and work on something its better to have insulation that can be moved out of the way too.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Most of the insulation done.

The extra insulation really paid off later on when, in January 2014 we were camping at Fredricksburg, TX and an unexpected Arctic front blew in, temperatures falling to 13F. With a small ceramic heater in the camper we stayed warm enough, but all the water froze and caused problems. More on that later.

The flooring was another issue we dealt with at this time. Original flooring was a truly institutional putty/beige drabness and it had to go.

Or maybe not.

You see, much flooring fifty years ago used asbestos, and we all know now what  asbestos can do. So rather than scraping up all the original flooring and creating asbestos dust, we left it in place and used Armstrong VCT tiles to cover in a butter yellow/white checker pattern.  The interior color palette was butter yellow, turquoise and amber, with a lot of shiny metal accents. Yep, VERY atomic age!


Mocking up the new floor tiles for orientation. You can see the hideous original tiles underneath.  Appliances are in place, but I have not yet painted the new Frigidaire refrigerator, seen at right.

Allow me to brag a bit.  Melinda took it upon herself to do the whole floor project, from selecting and ordering thousands of color samples to actually cutting and installing the tiles. IMHO, she did a world class job, especially as it was her first time doing anything like this!

Things were starting to get exciting now. We could sort of visualize what the whole would be like, and this is hugely inspirational.  It was finally ALL COMING TOGETHER.


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