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mat_the_cat
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Other things have got in the way of this somewhat over the last few months, but life is a bit less hectic at the moment so progress has been made. First up was quite literally a shitty job.

Very few photos early on, as I didn't want to be handling my phone. But the toilet had been bodged to 'seal' to the black tank below, in a pretty poor way. This is the opening in the floor, with the tank underneath, threaded inlet visible.

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What should connect into this is a corresponding threaded flange, which is then screwed to the floor to prevent strain being taken by the tank. Like this (did I mention that I love how spares are still available?)

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The base of the toilet (basically a flanged tube with a ball valve at the top) is secured down with T bolts, which I'm temporarily using to clamp a piece of wood to, in order to twist it.

On the old part, the flange had been cut away leaving just the threaded part. This then fitted loosely inside the toilet base tube - I'm talking 5mm or so clearance kinda loosely, and the resulting gap filled with thick yellow grease. The toilet was then screwed directly to the floor with 4 wood screws, which had pulled through the ply.

After cleaning everything up, I could put the new flange in place. The ply had started to delaminate slightly around the hole, so I've used wood hardener to give it a bit more strength, also PU adhesive to bond it to the floor.

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New gasket on top:

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And the base of the toilet could be bolted up. But first I needed to overhaul the flush valve, which operates when you press the pedal.

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Fairly straightforward; you can buy new but around £60 vs a few pence worth of O rings which I already had in stock.

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Also, the seal at the bottom of the pan, which although still functioning, surely wouldn't last much longer.

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New gasket and seal arrived...

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...and were fitted, so that the toilet could be refitted.

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The foot pedal also operates the ball valve with the flush. The ball is still smooth, and I've smeared it with silicone grease to lubricate the initial fry operation.

The ceramic pan (weight saving not on the design brief) was then clamped on top. 

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Followed by a new seat, again easily available although at a cost. £70 for a loo seat!

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It had better be comfortable! It's yet to be tested, but I'll spare you the photos of that...

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It's not going to be a quick job, but today we've started the polishing process!

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Probably around 2-3 hours work, and I've done the band extending to the edge of the door. This is just the first pass too, with coarse polishing compound. But it's exciting to make progress at last!

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I'm not going to clog this up with loads of slightly different polishing in progress shots, but after most of the week on it, it is starting to get there.

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I've read estimates of between 4-8 hours polishing per linear foot, and so far it looks as though we're at the longer end of that range. And it's 26 feet long!

As this is still just with the coarse polish, you can see the swirl marks up close. Hopefully with the next pass these will disappear. 

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I've spent another couple of days on it now, and the door is now done, and the lower part of this side to the LH edge of the window. As a bit of a break to that, I've fitted a radio inside, as wiring was already present. I also wanted to replace the speakers, which had gone a bit crumbly. Radio in:

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Unsurprisingly, this pre-dated the ISO connector, so one was duly added. I pinched the rear set of speakers from the LT to fit here, as I'm using this as an excuse to upgrade the ones in the van 😀 

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And with the original panel back in place, you'd never know!

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I might swap the head unit for something a little less flashy, or at least tone down the display colours. But it was a spare I had so will do for now. Sounds much improved!

Nor sure whether I mentioned, but my wife has christened the Airstream Dixie, as she was thinking of it anyway - then saw the previously unknown to us Dixie cup dispenser in the bathroom. So that seemed like a sign!

I don't tend to name vehicles, but it was agreed that Dixie needed a nameplate so we wondered about just getting a numberplate made up.

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Didn't look right to my eyes, so I suggested an American-style plate. Obviously all states have their own variations, but found something fairly generic looking, with options to include a registration date and state name.

Eventually this arrived.

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1968 is the date of the Airstream, and Meirionnydd is the area of Wales in which we live. Much polishing needed before I can fit it though...

Less positive news is the fact that the vacuum breaker on the toilet is leaking, so I've had to take that all out again. And one of the freshwater tanks was weeping slightly from the outlet, so I started to see whether it could be nipped up further. At which point the threads stripped, 70 litres of water started draining onto the floor, and I almost started weeping too. 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

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A bit more positivity now. I've replaced the old tank outlet connectors, of which two out of three had started to leak.

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Whilst they seemed to hold water last autumn, I think that the problem is because the sealing face inside the tank isn't flat.

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This is despite the outlets coming with the tanks, so seemingly not fit for purpose. I bought a replacement for the stripped thread one, and torqued it by fingers only. Still a dribble, so tightened it more still just with fingers and it too stripped before halting the drip.

So I've replaced all three with brass  versions.

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So far so good! Back onto the toilet leak - a replacement vacuum breaker arrived.

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Connected it to the garden hose to test for leaks, and all was good. 

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Finally, I was able to reinstall the toilet and test it out. Well, not a complete test but the principle works!

 

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I'm swinging between utter jealousy of you owning this but then save myself by looking at the polishing pics and the numbers mentioned! I only have 1 child to enforce slave labour upon too....... so that wouldn't work.

Saw the stripped threads and would've shouted brass fittings too - I just do not get why suppliers don't just use them out of the box and prevent possible negative reviews in this day and age.

This thing is absolutely fantastic looking - just amazing. I'd be over the moon just to have that to look at in my garden!

Once it is available for rent - would kids/pets be welcome? I only have the former for now - but wondered on your thoughts on who will be using it after all the hard work.

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We're only gearing it towards couples, as there will only be the one (fixed) double bed. In theory you could sleep a child on the sofa, but I think we'll probably just leave it at two. Not made a firm decision on pets - we do allow them at the house for a £15 charge.

But the worry is, with relatively fragile fittings, in a confined space, is it really pet-friendly? Damage would be a worry, and potentially a loss of income if we can to cancel bookings (worst case scenario) waiting for parts.

Actually, damage is a bit if a worry as it is. To open the windows for example, you have to release a catch *before* cranking the handle to pivot the glass. I can well imagine a mechanical numpty just cranking the handle without releasing the catch and smashing the glass. Not available new, and a variable radius curvature so a nightmare to get custom made. If you can find a second-hand one you're looking at £3-400, plus postage, if you can find someone willing to ship from the US!

It's things like that which make a beige static caravan seem more appealing...but then you look at it and think again.

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About half-way through the coarse polish, excluding the fiddly bits around the lights/windows etc. So less than a quarter of the way through, and I'm working on it probably 4-6 hours a day.

Still, at least I get to lay down on the job :lol:

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As a bit of geeky interest to a materials engineer like myself, the aluminium they used is 2024 alloy for strength, with a layer of pure aluminium on the surface for improved corrosion resistance. And because it's softer, better 'polishability'.

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Any idea how long the shine will last?  Is there a way to preserve it?

I envisage someone  rejecting a less than shiny van somewhere down the line, having viewed the 'as new' photos.

I'd be tempted to fix the windows closed and fit do not open notices. They will get broken.

Is it possible to make and fit  flat or perspex replacement windows now, and store the unobtainium ones? or just remove the catches.

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It's probably a yearly job, but should be significantly quicker keeping on top of the shine rather than dealing with neglect. A light buffing with the final stage polish should be all that's required, although weather is going to limit when I can do it! We're thinking of painting the roof with a heat-reflective paint, as they do on modern Airstreams. You can get stuff to slow down the deterioration, but the flip side is that they then need removal before polishing.

Good point about the windows - I may just allow the front and rear windows to function. They are flat pieces, so at least possible to get toughened sheets made to suit without requiring a mould! Those, plus 3 roof vents, and AC should keep the inside well-ventilated and cool enough. It is possible to replace the curved windows with a polycarbonate sheet, but it's a bit too flexible really.

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https://bilthamber.com/product/auto-balm/

Maybe sealing it with some sort of wax would help matters, try it in one area over a few months first? Ally starts to oxidise within minutes of you cutting it back. I've been using their speed wax over the last couple of years and it's brilliant. I also sent an email off about UV protection as my old mans 350Z was going to spend time in Portugal. The MD of the firm replied 2 days later.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've not been able to do much more polishing, as the weather has been against us, so focus switched to the interior. We'd been scratching our heads for quite some time on how to fix a shower curtain. The ceiling is curved in two directions, and just to complicate matters, neither is a constant radius curve! Plus the bath is also curved, although not as critical to match the curvature precisely. 

The solution was a section of aluminium rail, which with careful heating I was able to form into the required 3D curve.

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The other bit of fun with variable radius curves was the mattress; fortunately my better half is a design engineer, so made a drawing to get a mattress made. It arrived in a worryingly small box, but only because it was vacuum packed.

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Remove the packaging and wait...

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Not yet tested it, but feels good! Still need to build up around the top and bottom edges so there are no gaps.  The curtains are now all complete too, and blinds for the kitchen and bathroom windows are on order.

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FFS. The new mattress has a sticker on it saying that it's only fire retardant to BS 7177.

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This is despite ordering (and paying for!) Crib 5 fire rated fabric for commercial use. Sometimes it feels like we'll never get this finished! I just hope the manufacturer can sort this quickly, as there was something like a 6 week lead time for the mattress.

At least it has stopped raining, so I can continue with the polishing.

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On 24/05/2022 at 13:33, Scruffy Bodger said:

The MD of the firm replied 2 days later.

I emailed them a while back about a potential data leak/security risk on their website and had the MD back to me in under 24 hours, and his web developer a few minutes later. Issue resolved within 2 days. Impressed.

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4 hours ago, Crackers said:

I emailed them a while back about a potential data leak/security risk on their website and had the MD back to me in under 24 hours, and his web developer a few minutes later. Issue resolved within 2 days. Impressed.

Mine was just a query about UV, yours sounds much more involved?

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8 hours ago, cobblers said:

I hope they don't want you to put it back in the box to send it back 🤐

No way in the world is that going back in the same box!

7 hours ago, Back_For_More said:

The renting out forcing certain rules on you?

Yes - BS 7177 would be fine for domestic use, but for hospitality use has to pass the stricter Crib 5 tests. It makes sense, especially in a caravan where there will be cooking in close proximity.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This week has been dry, sunny and warm so I've made the most of it on the polishing. 4 days to get from this:20220601_222219.thumb.jpg.bb30663b75937e19b343ebe757962950.jpg

Via this:

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To this:

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It's got to the stage where I close my eyes, and all I can visualise is the buffer, spinning in front of me. It looks better from a distance; close up you can still see the fine scratches which will (should!) be taken out by the second pass.

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I still need to go over the bits above window level, but am not going to polish the whole roof. Partly because I'm lazy, but partly because I want to paint it in heat-reflective paint as is done on modern Airstreams. This may also cure the odd water leak which we've yet been able to trace.

It seemed a shame to get rid of the old stickers, but have taken a few photos. 

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Today has been rainy as usual, so back inside. The original control panel had a set of lights to indicate the fresh water level.

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However, this was what I had at the tank end.

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Given the number of wires I was reasonably sure that it would be connected to a set of conductivity prongs, rather than a variable resistance sender. And as luck would have it, the gauge in the LT got damaged, and the replacement came with this which was now surplus to requirements! 

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This was easily fitted in the top of one of the tanks, so once I had worked out the functions of each wire, I could connect up and test the system.

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So...moment of truth!

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  • 1 month later...

Yay! I finished the first pass of polishing! Not only that, but started on the second, given the recent dry (although HOT) weather.

Finished just before the rain:

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And today, I made a start with the finer polish.

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It's actually starting to look good. Not perfect, by a long chalk - there are pits and deep scratches in places, but for 55 years the odd blemish is understandable! 

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I've been putting a fair few long days into this recently - when the weather hasn't been suitable for polishing I've been building up around the new mattress. We could have ordered the mattress to fit the space exactly, but it's already more than long enough, and there's the risk that folk would bang their heads underneath the bottom curtain rail/window sill. So first I built a lightweight framework on either side.

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It looks like it'll be far too flimsy, but by bonding on a plywood skin with PU adhesive, it's actually really stiff.

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This is the finished result, after finally getting the correct fire rated cover on the mattress. 

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The first time, they made it with the correct fabric but the wrong label! Looking forwards to having a night in it to test it out properly! 

The weather has been very un-Welsh, so I've made progress on the polishing too. The second pass is now complete on one side, although I still need to work on the edges around the windows. 

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It's taking less work than the first pass, so I'm feeling a bit more positive about the task.

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32 minutes ago, paulplom said:

Could you clear coat it with lacquer to prolong the finish?

Lacquering polished ally buys you some time but makes the problem much bigger down the road - You can't get a lacquer that will stick very well to it, so while it stops the minor degradation in the short term, eventually the lacquer fails, water gets under and it looks a lot worse than some minor tarnishing. Then you've got the massive job of somehow stripping all the lacquer off and repolishing the ally

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I hesitate to say it's finished, as I *still* need to tidy up a few smaller areas, and clean off the polishing residue with white spirit, but the end (and winter!) is in sight 😎 

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I've also replaced the rear lights - a low priority really but they finish it off nicely. Sadly the originals were well past it.

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But I found some similar looking UK replacements.

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On the bathroom window I've added some privacy film, so you can shower in privacy. 

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But if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of one way glass, installed a blind in the original location - fabric chosen to match the original decor.

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There was deliberately some extra material on the blind, which we removed to trim the access panel behind the toilet.

Moving into the kitchen, there was a gap above the replacement fridge. Seeing as there was no cutlery drawer, it made sense to fit one there. I had a few offcuts of timber (one even painted in the same colour as the rest of the kitchen!) so apart from the runners, the cost was zero.

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To make it neater I've added a plywood panel as the drawer front, and will add some vertical trim to hide the gap between cooker and fridge.

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Back onto the water tanks for a moment. They are all linked at the outlet, so I thought that the fill hose, linked to the first tank would equalise between  all three. It may do, but so slowly it's of no use while filling. So I had to put a much larger hose between the tanks to allow sufficient flow.

Access was tight, so I abused an electric ratchet for the task of drilling holes.

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This is the end result.

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Note the cock-up with the RH tank. I already had some hose, but barely enough. But it was flexible enough to form into a U shape and link the tanks - I'm limited to where I can drill as I need a suitably large flat area on the inside of the tank to seal against. However, my spare hose was 40mm, and the fittings 1.5" (38mm) and not quite close enough to prevent a drip. So I ordered some 38mm stuff, food quality stuff, only to find it was far too rigid. So I had to blank off and re-drill...

Non toxic? I should hope so!20220903_134653.thumb.jpg.ce74cb90bc7a4bd79530cb8750b7732f.jpg

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