Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: February 2018

Ohm’s Lawbreaker

Well, I wish I could talk about walls, but I’ve run into issues…electricity.  Ealier I noted how, at every step of wiring (both 12V and 120) I would take time to test each section to ascertain  its working status (call it rookie hypercaution).  Every circuit worked so I proceeded to insulation with confidence.

I’ve finished the ceiling where some of the Romex lays buried but before slapping down walls I decided on another test for good measure.  First circuit tested was the rear bedroom area and I plugged in my 12 v power source and…nothing.  My tester light remained dim and useless.  For the past few days I’ve been racking my brain, scouring the Internet and wandering the aisles at the hardware store.  I even broke out an extra car battery, charged it and still…no dice.  I can’t imagine what could’ve happened between my original tests and now – unless a carelessly wielded insulation knife severed a line.  It may be time to call in an electrician, but….

There is a facinating, older documentary on PBS called “Alone in the Wilderness”, an amazing story about a man who set out to build a cabin in Alaska alone with his bare hands.  This man, Dick Proenneke’s, story began as a lark and ended up a 30 year adventure.  Call him a hermit, a kook, an H. D. Thoreau wannabe, whatever.  I found his story inspiring and it convinced me that I want to accomplish something in this life that I did alone – with nothing but moxie, ingenuity and, yes, stubborness,  I don’t need no stinkin’ electrician.

Every scene he fimed alone on a tripod – 16mm

Well, at least I did it myself

Things are lookin’ up

So I lifted myself up off the floor and raised the ceiling.  There is nothing quite like a sense of purpose and resolve to bring me back to my senses.  As I had hoped when I undertook this project,  Sparta has provided me impetus which, though occasionally interrupted, helps pick me up off my ass before I can start feeling sorry for it.

I must say, the ceiling looks magnificent.  If you have ever taken a picture of the Grand Canyon and felt disappointed with the result, you will understand how I feel about this picture, but I will share it anyway:

From stern to shining bow

You will notice to the middle-left an unfinished void.  I am still debating how to deal with that area, the bathroom.  I installed an exhaust fan, but there will still be moisture issues.  I may use birch with heavy poly-coat on both sides or perhaps Wonderboard with a faux tile veneer or laminate.  We’ll see.

For those of you still paying attention (meaning you haven’t tuned me out due to the sordid details of my personal life), there are a few ceiling-related takeaways you may find useful – some previously mentioned but they merit repeating:

  • Use 1/8″ birch up top.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to work with.
  • Apply the poly on the ply laying flat.  You can lay it on thick and two coats will do.  I painted one vertically and it ended up Jackson Pollock-ish.
  • Proper birch selection is key.  Don’t mix red and white.  The one piece of white birch I finished with Harvest Oak looked like baby poop.
  • The use of rubber weather stripping was really helpful in avoiding a wavy result.  Screw tension can be adjusted to account for underlying contours.

 

Ok, so that’s all for now.  On to Walley World.

Visitations

I had a pretty nasty relapse last week.  I never much cared for that word.  Lapse means “temporary failure of concentration, memory or judgement. “.   So I guess relapse means to fail, once more, at those things.  Seems sensible enough, but it so grossly understates what really occurs when I pick up a bottle.  Bringing it to my lips (yeah, I’m that kind of drinker) feels at first like kissing the idealized woman I lost years ago – a woman whose taste, smell, sparkle and sex-appeal remain undiminished with time.  The first taste is magical and she is as enticing as the day I met her. The seduction seems inevitable.  Then I have a second drink, put some Rachmaninoff on the Victrola and return to offer her a cocktail.  She declines.  I forgot.  She never touched the stuff.  Someone has to be in control here.

As we settle back onto the settee, I notice that her lip-stick has smeared and her blush had been haphazardly applied -looking garish and doll-like.  I also catch a better look at her once lithe thighs, now poking out through the runs in her fishnet stockings.  I shake my head, take another long pull from the bottle and try to blink away the vision.  She fires up a smoke.  The voice I once recalled as so calming is suddenly shrill and her snaggle-tooth cackle sets my nerves on edge.  The record skips.  I cannot move save for bringing the vodka to my lips and drinking it dry.  My last semi-conscious thought is of imagining her dragging two screaming brats through the Walmart checkout,  shrieking at them while embarrassing the poor clerk.

After a lost day or two – more drinking, empties littering the floor and not one memory of the preceding 36 hours – I come to.  Slowly I open my eyes, not fearing the hag I once coveted, but to do a full damage assessment.  Dog, check.  Four intact limbs, check. No major blood loss, check.  No broken furniture, check.  Ok, physical calamity has been averted.  Whew!

But that’s the easy part.  Because as I look in the darkened corner of my trailer I see them.  Menacing, ever-present and over-shadowing.  The hideous Four Horseman: Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration and Despair.  They never miss the morning after and for the next week or so (provided I stop drinking), they will torment my soul.  This is my punishment and it all happened because I traded the illusion of fleeting happiness for the reality of this nightmare.

Breathe

It’s too cold to work on Sparta right now, so I thought I’d add another blog entry in the toasty coffee house nearby.  While wrestling with Birch issues, my bathroom ceiling fan showed up from www.etrailer.com.  I will be using the existing roof vent but, outside of that,  the whole thing is a hokey work-around – buying parts at Home Depot I made it to fit.  Check it out:  12 volt naturally and only 200 cfm.  OK for all but the worst blowouts.

So far so good. Well, except the elbow’s upside down.

Plenty of Polish bondo, a piece of old screen door to cover the top opening and plenty of insulation material. And away go odors, up the drain

You say Burch, I say Birch. No way I’m calling this off

I cannot over-state the importance of careful wood selection.  I mentioned earlier that birch ply can be found in three shades – white, yellow and red.  I prefer the latter.  The difficulty lies in finding a consistent source.  For example, I found 1/8″ 4 X 8′ ply (I need two more sheets to finish the ceiling) and 1/4″ to begin the walls at the same high-end lumber yard.  Problem was, the two different thicknesses were dramatically different colors.  Have a look:

These are two unfinished sections and the color difference is dramatic.  I was hoping with a little stain and poly-coat that the difference would brush out – giving me the option of having walls a slightly different but compatible hue than the ceiling.  No such luck!  Yuck!!   The color contrast is even greater once treated and offers no match.  I should have known better.  This is Crayola 101.  You add green stain to red wood and you get brown – green to white you get green.  Pretty basic stuff.  I guess I learned that in Kindergarten.  Buy Carefully!

Stack side-track

Due to my usual lack of foresight, ceiling work has stalled while I await delivery of some fixtures from etrailer.com.  Specifically, I ordered recently a bathroom ceiling exhaust fan and light.  I want to have the fan in my hands to better determine what the ducting will need to be and to install it around the insulation already in place.  Again I had placed the proverbial cart before the horse.  Such is a maiden trailer restoration project.  Next time I will proceed more thoughtfully.

So while I wait,  how about salvaging the old furnace stack to use for the fireplace?  Though heavily rusted, the stack appeared to be solid, but a POR – 15 treatment was in order.  POR is the best stuff ever to stop rust dead in its tracks and to prevent further degradation.  it is a four-step process but well worth the effort.  Check it out:

Continue reading

Ceiling Ad Nauseam

Ceiling work continues and, working alone, it is slow going.  I was very proud of myself for completing the most complicated cut to date and managing to cut holes for lighting that were spot on.  Plus, I hung the panel on my own.  Check it out…

For the rounded corner I had saved an old piece of trim to use as a template. Keep that in mind when demo-ing your future trailer.

Smaller hole for the wire (surface-mount spots) and starter hole for the can lights (finished along the Sharpie lines with jig).

Fingers crossed!

YES!!!!