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Aluminium, as they say across the pond.

This will be a brief post.  I promise.  As much as I enjoy writing, it has occurred to me that I have spent more time waxing eloquent about Sparta than actually working on her.  Yep, I am coming to the conclusion that work is one of those things I prefer contemplating – perhaps that’s why I’m allowing myself 18 months for this project.  I know myself.  But (AA cliche alert!) self-knowledge avails us nothing…one actually has to commit to change.  So I am committing to having the demolition work completed by the end of next week.  Except for the floors.  They will be torn out by the following Friday, May 27.  By June 1, there will be nothing but a gleaming aluminum shell awaiting a glorious transformation.  You heard it here first.

Jesus, that only took a paragraph, for one little commitment.  Didn’t I once promise you pithy?

Let me talk about aluminum – something I am developing a great appreciation for.  Until 100 years ago, it was a seldom used metal, difficult to refine and quite rare in its usable state – so much so that Napoleon preferred it over gold as the dinner ware for the most special of guests.  It is, interestingly, the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and amazingly versatile and useful as a building material.  Aluminum really came into it’s own during WWII, particularly in the production of aircraft, weapons that ultimately helped turn the tide against the Axis powers.  The reason?  Specific strength, also known as strength-to-weight ratio.  A listing of common construction materials when ranked from lowest to highest on Wikipedia reveals concrete at the bottom (a specific strength of 5) and Colossal carbon tube (55,000) at the top – think earthquake rubble versus Tour de France.   A spider web?  1069. Aluminum alloy?  204.  Oak?  125. Steel? 63.

In addition to its specific strength over 3 times that of steel,  aluminum has another admirable quality – it is basically rust-proof.  All metals corrode when coming in contact with air.  In turn, metals emit a layer of corrosion-resistant molecules to slow further deterioration.  Think of it like a callous on a hand subject to weathering and repeated friction.  While steel, a ferrous metal, develops a thick and unsightly layer of rust to delay corrosion, aluminum releases a thin haze of aluminum oxide as a defense.  While this process might take the shine off a once gleaming Airstream,  it does not undermine its strength and ultimately useful life as rust does to steel.

As an aircraft company, Spartan had a great deal of experience with and affinity for aluminum and used very little steel in its trailers (just the chassis, screws and hinges).  Wood was employed only for interior aesthetics.  (Except during the early ’50’s when aluminum was diverted to the Korean War effort and Spartans were briefly wood-framed).   This happy fact was made abundantly clear to me yesterday as I continued my demolition work and found the following: Rust in the front door hinge and termite damage in a two foot section of front door trim.

Since the under-carriage and tongue had already been treated for and protected against rust, this little door hinge is all I had to contend with.

One little can and rust is put to bed and a door hinge ready for a coat of paint.

Note extensive trim damage and pebbly termite waste. Has this old trailer been framed with wood as many were back in the day?

So, I masked off with blue tape both sides of the door hinge, sprayed on some Krylon and, boom, rust problem solved.

As for termites, they barely got past the front door before realizing that Sparta made poor nesting territory.  Thank you Reynolds!


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