Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: March 2019

Cosmetics

Fit and finish. The final touches. This is where the real fun is. Seeing my long-held vision coalesce is truly satisfying, even though I’m still a few months from driving Sparta off her hilltop perch. No, nothing’s perfect. The bathroom wall still lists slightly. The repurposed cabinets accepted the stain begrudgingly and woefully few surfaces are either parallel or perpendicular. That’s OK. My early perfectionism has slowly given way to the reality that, if I ever want to use and enjoy Sparta, I had to let go. Sometimes perfect can be the enemy of good.

Here are a few pics:

Skeletal cabinets ready for mounting.
Lovin’ the copper reincarnation. Rust’oleum Metallic “Copper Rose” with primer. Two coats that went on smooth and just shiny enough.
Copper Rose. A tad more pink than the original but close enough. I am starting to use the word “close” more often now. Progress.
Upper cabinets with original knobs – cleaned and polished. They are ceramic.
And the laminate that is perfect for the occasion – loud, tacky and as 50’s as a Marilyn pin-up. Formica’s “Lacquered Linen” in green.

Road trippin’

I am just checking in with a couple of developments. Last week I spent a few days checking out potential Sparta homes – you know, more or less permanent resting spots where we both can live out the back nine, as it were. I need to get this right as I don’t plan on dragging her about from place-to-place looking for that perfect location. Not to be too melodramatic but I feel like I have one shot here. You may recall I considered getting property within view of Mt. Shasta (still an option) and I continue to await word on where my daughter settles after grad school as I may want to be close to her. But this recent search concerns a couple of SoCal destinations – Anzo Borrego Desert and Julian, Ca.

So Cristina and I took the long drive south with the intention of viewing the once a decade “Super Bloom”, where the wildflowers blow up after a particularly wet winter. We were not disappointed.

Amazing poppy bloom enroute to Julian (near Lake Elsinore)

Pinecrest Retreat in Julian, Ca (45 miles east of San Diego) is a nice option. At about 4500 feet in elevation it has the benefit of four seasons, including some snow in the winter. It has lots of acreage, rents by the year and provides water (and electric for $700 more per year). There is a clubhouse and a pool and it is run by a very nice couple. Of the nearly 140 trailers onsite, they say about 70% are vintage.

These are used as rentals by the day.
I have my eye on this more private and wooded spot. $1,850 per year. A great deal.

So Julian made my short list and the next stop was Desert Sands Vintage Trailer Park in Borrego Springs, Ca.. Located about 25 miles east (and 3000′ below) of Julian, it is truly a desert location.

A Spartanette in Anzo Borrego…Iconic.
Desert blooms

I have concluded that Anzo Borrego is a bit too severe an environment. As much as I enjoy the desert, I’m not a rat. Besides, the park is full.

So, back in Santa Rosa I resume cabinet work. For those of you still paying attention, my takeaway here is this: The original cabinet frames on Sparta were finished with a paint-like wash that is rather difficult to remove. Even after using a wood conditioner, they do not receive stain uniformly. As a result, there is some blotchiness on final finish. I am OK with that. Its kinda rustic.

Two coats of Poly and I will drop this kitchen cabinet into position.
This little spice rack is covered with clips because the veneer was peeling. I am gluing it back into place. Note to restorers – have lots of clips of various sizes.

Old and in the Way*

As I near the home stretch on Sparta’s restoration I do find myself cutting corners. These shortcuts are driven by cost, speed and an almost obsessive desire to reuse old parts. The cost and haste motives are pretty easy to explain, but the determination to bring back to life things that might best be retired is more complex. Take these hinges, for example:

reusing all the old cabinet hinges

Obviously they had to be removed. But why save them? They were dirty, bent and seized with time to the point where buying new, better-looking ones might have been the wiser choice. But no. I soaked them in TSP, scraped off old varnish, bent them back into shape and liberally applied WD-30. Hell, I even saved the old brass screws. One could easily argue that this was not a time-saving step. So why?

I mentioned in a old post my fear of aging (more than dying, really) and it has to do with infirmity, pain (which I feel more of every day) and, most of all, a quiet passing from the scene. A drifting into irrelevance. I am starting to hear those awful verbs applied to older people. I don’t work – I tinker. I don’t apply myself vigorously – I putter around. I don’t walk with determination – I amble. Shit! When did this all start?

So when I salvage old stuff – even something as insignificant as a hinge – I am actually just saying, “older things matter”. They are useful, have stood the test of time and they deserve a new life. Corny right?

In an age where even Walmart has abandon the familiar “greeter” (once considered the last sure thing for an elderly person seeking employment), I feel good about using this old stuff. Here are other examples:

Plastic wood goop
Glob lt on and sand it down
Yeah, OK, not the best looking but filled with character
Just awaiting hinges and knobs
Drawers ready for Senior Corps

*just one of the biggest selling Bluegrass albums of all time