Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: May 2018

Moving Pains

Back in October 2016 I explained, in a post entitled “I’s feelin’ near as faded as my jeans”, several reasons for buying a trailer.  Primary among them was that, by owning the shelter and the land upon which it rests outright, I would avoid being subject to the decisions of others.  Nearly two years later, Sparta and I are being displaced due to unilateral actions made by my landlord.  What’s worse, in his greed and haste he issued a one week notice to vacate so that he and his henchman realtor could list the property by Memorial weekend.  The terms of my lease were not honored, no month-long notice to vacate was offered per the lease agreement and their heavy handed efforts to oust me included having my trailers red-tagged and threatening me with arrest by the sheriff.  Of course, all of their efforts were baseless and futile and I malingered (yes, some spite was involved) for a few weeks while they bitched and moaned.  But alas, I am moving and not without major inconvenience.

It is difficult to find land upon which to place a trailer whose beauty may not be universally appreciated.  Spartan Aircraft learned this costly lesson 70 years ago when they found not everyone wanted a trailer (perhaps even less its inhabitants) as a neighbor.  Originally built as alternative housing for returning veterans, Spartan trailers suffered lackluster sales, in part, because of trailer-phobia.  Even now in Northern California where the “tiny” house movement has takenroot there is a reluctance to embrace old trailers.  An RV storage facility just down the street refused me due to their “no trailer over 20 years” policy.

Thankfully, I ultimately found a spot to take my girls and the process of moving them began this week.  I struggled with the question of using a professional to tow my prized possessions.  Although I have plenty of experience towing boats (under 20′),  I had doubts about managing a 45′ Imperial Mansion – especially because of the tight corners and steep slope involved in the move.  In the end, my thrift (cloaked as rugged individualism) prevailed and I chose to tow them with my 2004 Tundra.  The Spartanette move went smoothly and without incident and she now rests upon a grassy knoll next to a rusty vintage pickup truck.

Postcard perfect

Unfortunately, the IM had other ideas.  The initial hookup and tricky reverse out of my pasture went fine, though multiple attempts to clear the 10′ gate were required.  As I pulled onto the highway the trouble started.  Nearing 30 MPH I heard a nasty thump and the Tundra lurched to a stop.  Looking into my rearview mirror I saw a sight nearly as sickening as bone protruding from flesh – my left front trailer tire sticking out horribly from the trailer now resting upon it.  Sitting smack in the highway center, I had no choice but to drag this wounded hulk to the right shoulder amid squealing rubber and smoke.  My initial suspicions were confirmed…sheared lug nuts.  Damn!!! I walked down to a nearby tire shop and got one of their guys to help pull the tire out from under Sparta.  This revealed another problem.  Low pressure in the remaining tire resulted in the suspension having at most a one-half inch clearance from the pavement.  Fearing the arrival of law enforcement and their discovery of an unregistered vehicle, I did the only thing I could.  I carefully drove Sparta off the highway and onto a sidestreet were she would draw less attention while awaiting further heroics.  Before pulling to a stop, the trailer settled even more and the suspension began grinding on the blacktop…

Things started out innocently enough

“I can’t believe I am moving the whole thing”

Backing out. Easy does it.

YIKES!!!!

A rusting hub the culprit, no doubt.

I am seriously F’ed

A port in the storm

Movin’ on down the line

Looks like I finished my interior birch panels in the nick of time.  My landlord is selling out, deciding to unload his 2.5 acre parcel in the Santa Rosa city limits.  This may be the time to do it as last fall’s fires resulted in a glut of vacant lots now coming on market.  If I could afford to buy this spread I would.

It appears I have found a new home, though, for my two girls.  It is just a mile away, semi-rural with two cement slabs and the freedom to continue work at my leisurely pace.  I will provide more detail next week as I relocate my Spartans.

In the meantime, here are some more panel pics:

Working with 1/8″ panels in rounded corners which also lean away from the floor was very tricky. Initially I attempted this with a single piece but finally had to admit it was beyond me. I used two pieces.

Using my hand to improve the lighting for this shot. I think it turned out pretty good.

Now it is time to attempt the restoration of old cabinets.

This may tax my skills to the limit

Panel Ponderings

As promised, to follow are a few lessons learned from installing birch panels in Sparta’s interior.  This might prove helpful if ever you should undertake such a process.  I made several mistakes which could have been avoided had I known better or just planned a bit more.  Thinking this through will save you time and money and may result in a more beautiful trailer.

  1. Birch selection – Picking the right supplier of birch is essential.  As I noted in an earlier post, there are three different shades of birch – white, yellow and red – and each receives the stain you choose quite differently.  Also, grain quality varies as does its repetition.  For example, you can buy 4′ X 8′ birch which repeats the pattern on each panel either three or five times. I suppose this has something to do with how the panels are milled and the costs therein.   Obviously if you buy the latter you will see more redundancy, resulting in a “Hall of Mirrors” effect.  I prefer the three image panels which are less “busy” to the eye.
  2. Timing of staining – To avoid the mind-numbing process of continuous staining/finishing and to spread the costs of panel purchases over time, I proceeded incrementally.  In other words, I would buy 4-6 panels at a time, finish and then install them.  I even bought from different suppliers (3 to be exact).  Big mistake.  Although it was less monotonous to buy, finish and install in batches, it produced inconsistent results.  If I could have a Mulligan I would buy all the panels at once, make sure they were red birch, from the same supplier with the same 3 section pattern.  Ideally you could special order with these specifications in mind and insist that all 30 panels (10 ceiling 1/8″ and 20 wall 1/4″) come from the same lot.  You should even think about time of day and temperature when applying poly.  Some of my early morning efforts – when the poly was brushed in colder temps – did not result in the same smooth sheen,  I suppose because the product was tackier and harder to apply.
  3. Pattern of panel placement.  Had I to do this all over (and I may someday), I would pay more attention and take pictures during demolition.  There was a method to Spartan’s madness when the wood was originally installed and this had to do with how the ribs to which the panels were affixed were spaced.  Some rib spacings were a perfect 48″ and others that varied between 42 and 46″.  Clearly, better planning would have resulted in fewer cuts and seams AND also where the seams resulted.  For example, seams that matched up with the sides of doorways and windows had shorter runs to the floor and ceiling,  resulting in less use of trim strips.  While I don’t mind a few strategically placed trim pieces,  I think the fewer the better.  Also, better planning would have resulted in more economical use of wood.  I have lots of odd pieces left over.

So there you have it.  I am proud of Sparta thus far and accept her for her imperfections which, I alone, am responsible for.  Her interior walls are a bit kaliedescopic, with colors and trim running higgly-piggly.   But what the hell.  I still love her.

 

 

 

Fly the Coop

Last week Cristina and I moved out of the trailer and into an apartment and already the disagreements have begun. Where should the couch go?  Should the TV be mounted over the fireplace? Does she really hate all my old furnishings from my prior life?   These are questions that never arose while living in a trailer. Then it was: Where should I empty the piss bucket? Who said that’s the man’s job? If I sprint to 7/11 will I make it? Is my massive reading audience tiring of potty talk?

No worries.  When I get a minute I will share all that I have learned and mistakes I made while installing birch panels – a lengthy and arduous process.

The empty, temporary nest.

 

Much more civilized

…and the sheets go on…