Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Upholstry & Zipper Tutorial

You may have seen our front goucho in the Ambassador already.  I upholstered this last year when we gutted the entire thing.  One of the things that I had done was measure every angle of the goucho and then took the measurements and drawings to the fabric store to figure out my material needed.  I always buy an extra yard just in case, especially on big projects like this. 

Well, after figuring my yardage, there were just a couple of yards left on the bolt and it was the only bolt with this material, so I bought it all.  I think I only had about four extra yards, but it is the wider, upholstry fabric on the big rolls.  I found my new fetish - the Mill End Outlet Store, which has the nearest store in Rochester, MN from us.  We made a side trip on our way out to South Dakota last year to pick out upholstry.  I was able to purchase all of the fabric for the curtains (including lining) and the goucho. 

As it turned out, I had enough fabric left to upholster the wall behind the twin beds in the middle too.  Needless to say, I still had a stash of the stuff in my closet, so when we started to talk about adding benches, I thought I MIGHT have enough to at least do the tops of the cushions with my fabric from the goucho.
Here's the finished bench.  I love the piano hinge that was used to lift the lid to the storage.  Mr. Airstream found that purchasing the hinge in the largest size and then cutting it in two to the size that we needed was less expensive than buying two different hinges.
Just a view of the open bench that we added.  (Those are the pedistals for the new table that will go here.)  Plenty of storage space for Mr. Airstream & I to put rubbermaids with our clothes in it for trips.

The first thing  that I did after finding the foam on the internet was to get Mr. Airstream to cut it the correct size for the space.  We purchase very firm 6 inch foam in two pieces (one was the exact size we needed and the other had to be split in two.)  We bought it from at the lowest prices we could find.

I then laid it down on the material to get the main top pieces cut correctly.  Some of the things that I try to do is to make sure that the fabric runs in the same direction as the rest of the couch.  In this case, I just was happy to get the top and then the side also going in the same direction.

I actually don't measure this part out.  I cut about an inch away from the foam.  Then I turn it to the next side down and cut another piece for the same cushion.  I was very excited to be able to get three side pieces and the top of the cushion cut out of my leftover fabric from last year!  I literally only had a few scraps left over.

I then laid the top and one back side of the fabric down on top of a coordinating vinyl for the bottom and back side of the fabric.  These sides won't show in the camper, but will come in handing for turning over for young kids to sit on!

Next, I took one side from each cushion to put a zipper on it so the cover can be removed for washing.  I chose the shorter side, because zippers can be costly and hard to find in really long sizes.  These two sides, I cut in half and then sewed back together using a basting stitch, leaving a half inch seam.  Press the seams open.

When I did the original goucho, we found this zipper by the yard and zipper slides and stops at the Mill End Outlet store.  I again had purchased just enough to put these two zippers into the cushions.  You just put the zipper slide on the zipper and add the stop at the  other end.

Next, pin the zipper down the center of the seam you just made.  You have to be real careful, becuase where the seam is will be cut open to reveal the zipper on the other side.  Be sure to put the right side of the zipper towards the back side of the the fabric.  (I know seems backwards, but trust me, the zipper will be revealed on the other side in the end!)

Using the zipper foot on the machine, sew along the edge of the zipper on both sides.  I like to leave about a quarter of an inch gap, just in case I am too close to that seam.  Now the fun part!  Turn the fabric over to the front side and use a seam ripper to take the basting stitches out.  Voila!  You have a zipper that works and is hidden!

To finish the cushion, I put the pieces I cut upside down and pin the sides on.  I take each pinned section to the machine and sew where the pins are placed.  There's no real science to this, you just want the fabric to be straight and tight on the cushion.  When you do the last piece, be sure to leave the zipper partially open, so that you can turn it right side out.  There is nothing more frustrating than having to rip out a seam because you can't open the zipper from the wrong side! 
Here's the new benches with cushions!  (Don't worry, that little hole by the drawers got a false front added later to make it look finished.   Oh  - and because I had all the materials for the cushions were purchased last year and left over, these two cushions cost me nothing.  Stay tuned for the table!!!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heater Installation

Because of the flooding inside the Ambassador before we purchased it, the heater had been rusted out.  The entire bottom of the heater that was located under the oven was gone to rust when we took it out.  There really was no help, for it, so it went directly to the trash.  This was not top on our priority list for fixing last year, as we really didn't know what we would do to replace it.  At the WBBCI flea market in Madison, WI last summer, Mr. Airstream was determined to find a heater.  After a few discussions with others in the Wisconsin unit, he had his heart set on a catalytic heater.  He found one while I was setting up my booth at the flea market and tried to get his hands on it, but was beat by another eager Airstreamer to get one.

Mourning his loss, he continued on his search for another one, with no luck.  Meanwhile, another Wisconsin unit member, who knew Mr. Airstream's plight, found one for $30 and snatched it up for us!  We were astounded and elated that he took the chance that Mr. Airstream hadn't found one!  Of course, Mr. Airstream, has been carrying this thing around with us since then, trying to find the perfect spot for the most covetted Catalytic Heater in Wisconsin (or possibly the world!).I wanted to give you a glimpse of the installation underneath the refrigerator.  He used gas grade flexible gas line.  The extra is for a reason, to be seen in a minute.
Now you know the structure that we used to hold up the  refrigerator.  It was similar to what Airstream originally used, but much sturdier now.
Ta! Da!  The perfect little spot - except one little thing!  With the heater attatched and running in this location, it was pointed directly at our bed!  Not a problem for me, but Mr. Airstream likes it cool at night.  There is also the entire rest of the 28' of the Airstream to heat, too.If you hadn't already guessed, we attatched the heater to hinges so that we could swing it around and face it towards the back of the Airstream as needed (most of the time!).  A reason for this location, besides the oven space was that the gas was run in this location for the refrigerator, so it made sense.

Let us know what you think.  We are expecting to use this on our trip to the mountains in May, so we'll update you then too!  We do expect to use a small ceramic heater back in the bathroom for extra heat.  I'm trying to convince Mr. Airstream that we need another one of these in the bathroom....We'll see!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Bed of Our Own

The original bed plan in the Ambassador was two twin beds in the middle and a somewhat small double pull out goucho (couch) in the front.  We had several issues with this set-up, the main one being that we have too many people in our family for four beds.  (I'll be showing you soon what we did to the goucho to make it comfortable for the two of us to be in the same bed at the same time.)  I think most people who order these Airstreams with the twins in the middle don't actually sleep together.  After 15 years of marriage, I find that I enjoy sleeping with my husband, and after spending a few years in our Clipper, where we couldn't stand sharing a tiny bed in hot weather, our goal for this "new" Airstream was that everyone would have a bed of our own. 

We tend to be purists with the Airstreams.  We talk about all the changes we might make, but find that we are very loyal to the way it was originally - to a fault!  So with that being said, if I sound like I am trying to justify these changes, I am trying to just convince myself that it's not sin to change it!All that being said, we went first with what we knew, and that was our 1953 Clipper bunk bed.  Mr. Right copied the base of the bunk in the Clipper in structure and built two of them.  We planned to use the space above the twins, where the cupboards were beyond repair from water damage (yes that was a justification).  We wanted them to fold up, since it would take up extra room at the ceiling level to have the beds in the down position.
Here was our next plan, a way to make the beds stable when kids are in them without putting too many holes in the camper.  After much discussion about the ability of the ceiling structure being able to hold up the bunk (I know, many of the bunks that were originally in the Airstreams were hung from Elephant Hooks from the ceiling.).  Another trip to the hardware produced and great find of Angle Aluminum.  This we bolted to the walls and closets that are on each side of the beds. 

The passenger's side did not have a big enough wall to hold the bed in place when someone was in the bed like the driver's side did, so when a child would climb into the bed, it would tip out of place.  We didn't want to attach the other side to the aluminum wall or put in hinges so we could flip the bed up.  (Mr. Right cringes at putting holes in the aluminum, something about all the holes he's had to fill with rivets already.) 

To fix this unstability, we used aluminum pipe on each side to act as legs between the upper and lower bed.  A plumbing filange was used to hold them in place.  When the beds are up, we just put the pipe in the upper bunk to store them.

Now to the storage of the bunk while moving down the road and during the day.  We figured that a hook and eye would hold it in place, but found after our first trip that the motion and weight of the bunk was too great for this simple fix.  Instead of this, we drilled a hole in the wall under the bed and inserted a thicker bolt with a cotter pin to hold it in place.  (Yes, another trip to the hardware store.)  This pin is taken out and put in a drawer (where little mechanics can't find it) when the bunk is in use.Here's another picture of the bed in the up position.  The bunk hangs about 2 inches into the window, but we felt that it was worth the extra sleeping space!

Please let us know what you think of our beds!

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Working Water Heater

This was hard to show in a picture, but there is a real flame going in the water heater, and better yet, nowhere else!  Everytime we used the water heater, it worked fine, except there were flames coming out of other places than the pilot.  We were having black stains up the outside of the Airstream.  After much searching, we could not come up with a new regulator for it, which Mr. Right was positive was the problem.  A search on the internet, came up with the idea to take the entire thing apart, clean it, and reassemble it to fix the problem. 

That's exactly what Mr. Right did, he took the water heater components apart, cleaned them and reassmebled them and Voila!  It works just fine with no extra flames!  The best thing, it was a free fix!  That's something that doesn't occur very often!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seal and the Door Works!

For those of you that are married, you might relate to this dilemma - Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right) can get something to work, but you never can!  You know, how the car makes that noise and he never hears it, so therefore, you must be crazy and need to deal with the problem!  This has been the case for our door handle on the Ambassador since we took it out of the junyard!  Don't get me wrong, Mr. Right did "work" on it and tune it up, but for some reason, he has the magic touch and can open and shut the door with ease, and more importantly, knows the trick to lock it.  When it works so easily for him, and myself and the kids keep slamming the door (why do slamming doors never bother children but drive parents crazy?) and it won't stay shut, it gets frustrating for all involved.  I can't tell you how many times we got yelled at for not closing, slamming, or not locking the door!

Well, Mr. Right found a way to really fix the problem (our problem, not his!).  He rasied the door latch by adding an extra piece of metal under the original latch.  It's the shiny piece under the old catch.  Like a miracle, we now have a door that shuts with ease, and hopefully the kids will remember not to slam the door.

Another part of the door that was looking pretty bad was the door seal.  Here is the before picture, as you can see, there wasn't much to it.
In theory, changing a door seal isn't a lot of work, but it was just one of those things that just didn't done in the rush to get the Ambassador down the road last year.  Of course, after awhile, we were quite tired of it too, and just wanted to enjoy.  The adhesive was pretty badly stuck onto the door, but Mr. Right found that paint thinner took it off easily.
I don't know if you can see the results (check the picture with the door lock for a close up.)  Such small things make me happy!  While Mr. Right was working with the door, he realized that it was bent and not shutting near the bottom edge very well.  Upon further inspection, several rows of rivets were missing along the bottom edge.  He replaced those, and found that the door was a lot more sturdy than before!  He's afraid the wood inside the door, holding the structure together, may be rotted out, but for now, this improves the overall use of the door.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Lights

We took our first year of travels with the Ambassador with the original lights on the front (Mr. Right will have a real name for those lights, but I'm too impatient to wait for him.) not working and all. 
As we are getting everything tuned up and ready for our vacation, this was one of the many thing we knew needed to be done before leaving.  Unfortunately, the originals had faded and the wiring was bad, so we had to replace everything.Mr. Right spent a few minutes with new wires and new lights and got them attached in no time!  I love having a Mechanical Mr. Right!  Don't they look great?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bed Restoration

Here is a before picture of the door side of the beds.  The fabric on the beds and the walls seem to be original along with the mattresses.  This was the junkyard dogs house, so bother were thrown out right away as they smelled and looked horrible.The other twin bunk on the driver's side was just as grosse.  The board you see in the the foreground is the tv tray - a much advertised inovation of the time in 1963!This was the procedure that we had for all the stripping and staining.  I would put the stripper on several of the pieces at once and then go back over them and scrape them.  I would used steel wool to touch up any smaller places or hard to remove paint.  Believe me, it was very rewarding to see all that grey looking paint come off the cabinets! 

After a washdown with paint thinner and a day of rest, I stained all the pieces with Red Mahogony stain.  We knew this was a sort of risk in the "Vintage Airstream World."  But we liked the look of the dark wood the best!We started getting the frames in for the cupboards and beds without the walls (they weren't finished yet, but we were excited to get things done.)  It still seemed pretty big without all the furniture in, so we were really excited at this point!Here the drawers are back in with the frames.  As you can see, we haven't veneered the drawer fronts that were ruined yet.  That was the very last thing that we did, as the veneer was a pretty penny and hard to find.Finally, the doorside bed, with the uphostry of the couch on the back of the wall is in. I found these great blankets at a rummage sale for $2 for both!  My friends that as were with me thought I was crazy with the bright color, but I knew it matched my couch perfectly! Stay tuned for the bunk beds that we installed over the top of these beds!  Hope you enjoy!

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