...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: February 2020


Did I mention how much I enjoy bringing things back to life? Yes, I think it was in my intro to this site written 4 years ago. Nothing’s changed. In order to restore something to life it needs to have started of this earth – like wood or, even, metal. Plastic doesn’t have that quality. It’s a fake thing and has but one life and when it fades, cracks or breaks, it is done. Game over. Washed up on some beach. A sad reminder not to confuse lifespan with useful life.

That’s why restoring Spartans is so much fun (Sorry, Airstreams. You contain way to much polyethylene). Take the bathroom door mechanism I restored yesterday. It is an innoccuous thing but in the right hands can be made lovely.

63 years of grime
As the name implies, don’t breathe too much of this stuff.
In truth, that little white latch is plastic.
Nowhere but a Spartan could you find a pretty loo door

Alright, enough potty talk. I’ve other progress to show you.

Leading up to the latch.

Meanwhile, back near the ‘fridge I decided to create an open, reach-in cubby instead of another closet (confession: I didn’t have a spare door). I finished-out the interior and will need to put in shelves.

A place for plates, glassware, etc.

The search for flooring continues and has taken on a bit of urgency as it has to be done before the bed, range and toilet are completed/installed. I got a couple of cork samples but they don’t quite work. I’ve another sample on order. Will keep you posted.

Try, try again.

Spicing things up

The little storage space atop the copper wall can only be a spice rack but who knows what they had in mind circa 1957. Some of the original unit had fallen apart and the tracks for the sliding doors were missing. My fix was the same as I used on the bathroom vanity…small wood dowels.

The little nails are just temporary while the glue sets.
A long bead
Gotta love clamps
The original doors (still in use) were white. I just reversed them to see how black works. Cristina will paint them to add pizazz. And she has appointed herself knob-queen and pull-master throughout. She doesn’t like the original hardware.

I just have to keep knockin’ out these little projects to move in by 5/1/20.

Stayin’ put

Since I am not moving anytime soon I’m not so worried about wires rattling loose, cabinets shifting or other casualties of transit. So, I am proceeding with more trim projects.

Iron-on birch edging.

Since some of my handiwork was slipshod, I’ve resorted to iron-on birch edging. Most of my seams are tight, but there are a few gaps and this is one fix. Cut, iron, stain and poly.

Not perfect, but it’ll work.

My little spice rack even gets a facelift…more of that Baltic birch edging I’m so fond of. Although I am striving for a modicum of authenticity, I can’t help putting my personal stamp on things.

Note to future trailer renovators…get these handy little clips in multiple sizes.

Another thing that needs to happen before I take occupancy on 5/1/20 is footings. During the heavy rains of late 2019 (seems like so long ago as we settle into another drought pattern), my ajustable jacks have sunk in the mud. After I get the floor installed, the stove in and the toilet seated, I am going to raise Sparta up a bit to better maintain level and take some load off the tires.

I am debating. Should I have 4 or 6 of these?

This stuff is fun.

Eureka 2

Hi Guys. Although it’s not a permanent fix (is anything ever?), I have found a home for Sparta and it was sitting right under my nose, er, tongue (as in hitch) all along. She is staying where she is in a rustic and bucolic Sonoma County setting. This makes sense on so many levels. For one, I need a place to live in the northern Bay Area during the 5 month catering peak season. Rents here are astronomical ( north of $2,000 minimum) and it simply doesn’t make sense to put down that kinda ‘dough year round for a seasonal domicile. I have negotiated a sweet deal with my landlord that contains a two-step rent, higher for when we’re in the trailer and lower when we’re not. The Spartanette moves to Quincy, first chance I get. I can now travel to Italy to see my son, Quincy to see my daughter ( where we will restore the ’48) and wherever else for extended periods without hearing that huge sucking sound back home. Whew, what a relief! Also, with my axle problem, moving Sparta right now isn’t a great option. Finally, Sonoma County has a nice, moderate climate and with a portable air conditioner we’ll get through the summers just fine (I will have access to power to supplement my yet-to-be-installed solar system and water to refill my 63 gallon on-board water supply).

View from the observation lounge

So there is a hell of a lot to do before our 5/1/20 move in. In no particular order:

  1. Buy and install propane oven/stove combo.
  2. Install lighting
  3. Raise trailer onto semi-permanent blocks.
  4. Make and install curtains.
  5. Install and vent wood stove.
  6. Finish cabinetry (interior shelving, knobs, slides, etc.)
  7. Buy furniture (sofa bed for guests, mattress for us, dining table, odds and ends)
  8. Run propane system (original is shot).
  9. Finish electrical closet.
  10. Begin solar install
  11. Install flooring.
  12. Yikes, I nearly forgot composting toilet!

As it relates to #11, here are some floor samples in vinyl that I am considering compliments of www.greenbuildingsupply.com.

Terra cotta
Green Melody
Asian Tiger

So, clearly, I have some work to do.

The House that .Tom built

Say what you will about the Internet – e-commerce has destroyed bricks and mortar retail, the oxymoron “social media” has lured people away from actual human interaction, our privacy is now forever compromised. Perhaps all true, but I will say this – without it I don’t think I would have successfully (thus far) restored Sparta.

Let’s talk about the ways that the Internet has enabled my trailer adventure and please forgive Captain Obvious his description of things many folks now take for granted.

Research – I didn’t even know about Spartan Trailercoaches until I began my online investigation four years ago. Sure, I knew about Airstreams (my daughter was restoring one) but until I started nosing around online in the iterative process where one thing leads to another, I had no clue. The Internet opened up a fascinating new world to me and led me to visit Lawson’s Landing, a boneyard of Spartan dinosaurs by the dozens rotting in the salty air and begging for restoration. I was hooked. My next move was to get back online and find a suitable candidate upon which to bestow my nascent love. Finding a trailer would prove to be one tiny part of the battle. Once acquired, I was facing a knowledge gap so deep I dared not leap. Internet to the rescue and my steady ascent up the learning curve thanks to the University of Tube. Everything you could want to know about anything is online. Unfortunately, that includes instructions on how to make a gun with 3-D printing. But in my case youtube helped with everything from researching asbestos risks in my make and model, seeking alternative solutions to spongy floor spots, to learning all about Formica installation. I simply could not have gotten this far without the vast information sources online.

Seek and restore – Sparta was patiently waiting for me in Fresno and in March 2016 Craigslist.com brought us together. Although only 40,000 Spartans were made, thousands of which are now landfill, many can be found online in various degrees of decrepitude – from the “haul-away-for-free” flowerpot to the shiny and expensive jewel.

Taking root and still $2,000 on CL.
Where to begin???
Probably around $60,000. Nothing left to restore.

Mine was somewhere in between – sitting in a vacant lot with near-perfect body and trashed interior. Once purchased, this 45 foot beast required transport and a place to rest while in chrysalis. Again, credit goes to the Internet where I found an affordable transportation option to get Sparta to Santa Rosa (uship.com) and a plot of leasable land (the ever ready Craigslist). Rather than bore you with more narrative, allow me to list just a sample of helpful online merchants that enabled this project:

  • https://www.cabinetmakerwarehouse.com/ (Formica)
  • westernanalytical.com (asbestos testing of floor sample)
  • woodworkerssource.com (fine Baltic Birch and specialized trim)
  • amazon.com (Rotfix floor epoxy, Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure). ad infinitum.
  • Homedepot.com (Galanz retro ‘fridge)
  • Nextdoor.com (retro chairs and full bed slats)
  • Landwatch.com and Zillow (as yet unsuccessful search for land)
  • https://www.coppersinksonline.com/ (self explanatory)
  • and of course the very useful https://www.vintagecampers.com/ (Bargman L-66 door lock)

Anyway, you get the idea. The world is your oyster.

Fellow Fanatics – When in need of inspiration, fellowship or moral support of trailer junkies, you just can’t beat the Internet. There are several Facebook groups out there solely devoted to the love of Spartans. I belong to two – Spartan Travel Trailers and Spartan Trailercoaches- A Vintage Travel Trailer Group. Both groups are very welcoming and helpful.

So there you have it.

Trim bits

Nothing major to report. Just a few trim pieces installed. The stove pedestal is done except for the copper heat shield on the wall behind it.

I bought some pine trim pieces (“L”-shaped corner guards) because the local lumber yard does not carry them in birch. I stained them twice so they wouldn’t be as light up next to the birch ply. It worked OK – not perfect.

Also, after doing a little on-line research, I decided to use Hardi-board to place behind the stove and flue to protect the wall and cabinet from heat. The stove will only generate 15,000 btu’s max. so 1/4″ backer board should do the trick. We’ll see.

Hardiboard heat-resistant material
Pedestal trim and door done. Original knob.
Pine corner guard will be fine.
A closeup of trim detail

I like finishing trim installation with brass screws despite two disadvantages – they are very soft and if I try to screw in too deep they shear and they are f-ing expensive. But they look good.