Friday, June 8, 2012

Fools rush in

I’ve never let lack of knowledge stop me from getting in over my head on a project.  Occasionally that works out but usually I live to regret my impulsiveness.  Time will tell in this case but I’m betting on regret sooner rather than later.

The frenchy-bus is getting pretty tired looking.  A large part of that is that the clear coat needs renewing which I think is easily within my capabilities.  The part where I get quickly over my head is trying to do some necessary body work before I do  the recoating with clear. 

At a distance cracks like the one in the picture above aren’t too visible but up close they are alarming.  Clearly we need to deal with them while we still can.  I have seen estimates in the $20-30,000 range to have the work done professionally and the day after it was done the bus would still be worth whatever it was worth the day I drove it into the bodyshop.  So that isn’t going to happen. 

I don’t have any bodyshop experience but I do have some experience with West System epoxy which, as near as I can tell anyway, is probably the ideal material to do the necessary repairs.  Since I’m not particularly busy this summer and the work is kind of enjoyable I’m treating it as a learning experience. 

The problem with this kind of work is that you have to make one hell of a mess before things start looking better.  As you can see with the two photos above, the initial crack doesn’t look nearly as bad as the patch.  The theory is that eventually the finished product will look much better but so far that’s just a theory. 

So I started out by grinding out the crack as far as it extended and then roughing up the surface surrounding the entire length of the crack.  Then I laid several layers of fiberglass cloth into the crack, ground it back, built it up with resin, smoothed it off, etc etc.  Tomorrow we are going into Regina where I expect to find a large quantity of sanding discs waiting for me.  I refuse to pay local retail charges for stuff I can buy off ebay for at most 30% of local pricing when all I need to do is wait a few days.  Between ebay and Princess Auto I am spending as little as possible but it still adds up. 

The other problem we have to deal with is popping rivets that are blistering the surface of the paint.  Along the beltline I have already dealt with this problem by re-riveting the full length of the coach with decorative washers backed by nylon washers at each rivet.  That seems to be working well but we still have some spots out in the middle of the side panels where rivets are popping beneath the paint.  My intent is to deal with that through a combination of grinding and filling as well as some more rivets.  In the photo above I have ground out the filler over each rivet beneath the window and refilled the holes with West System epoxy thickened with colloidal filler.  That ends up being kind of a super-bondo which I suspect will outlive any use we will make of the bus and likely will outlive the life of the side panels.  I’m just not excited about tracking down every rivet, grinding out its bondo and refilling the resulting gap.  And then sanding and painting the blotches that I create.

The one bright spot in all of this is that it is acting as an excuse to buy tools.  He who dies with the most tools wins so it is never a bad thing to have to buy tools.  Last weekend we came home from Saskatoon with a 20 gallon twin head compressor.  I picked that up at Peavey Mart.  Marilyn was skeptical because it didn’t come with any operators manuals which I must confess seemed a little odd to me too.  But how hard could it be?  So we brought it home, wrastled it off the truck, I plugged it in, hooked up an air 90 and tried it out.  About 5 minutes into the exercise I had pretty well run out of air.  That seemed bad but what did I know?  Maybe the air tool was too much for the compressor, although I had checked the ratings and it didn’t seem like it should be.

I let it run for a while but it didn’t seem to be gaining.  Even with the tool disconnected it wouldn’t make any more than about 40 PSI.  It seemed like it was making a lot of air noise too.  So I shut it off and sure enough, there was a loud sound of escaping air which turned out to be a broken fitting at the back of the air regulator.  On closer inspection it turned out that the fitting in question was plastic and ………………… wait for it ………………… its hard to believe that any business would try to pull this ……………………… the fitting had been previously broken and glued together.  Evidently the glue held long enough to build initial pressure because the compressor had run up to 120 and cut out when I first plugged it in. 

I was more than a little pissed off.  It was Sunday afternoon – I had work I had been looking forward to getting started on and I was going to have to take the stupid compressor back to Saskatoon.  The gas alone for that trip would have been 1/2 the price of the compressor but it occurred to me that there is a Peavey Mart store in Yorkton.  So I phoned the store which was open and after a bit of back and forth we confirmed that they did in fact have this model of compressor in stock and that all I needed to do was bring in the defective one and pick up another one.  So that’s what we did and it turns out that even though the new one has the same Peavey Mart SKU it is in fact built by a different company with a slightly different plumbing arrangement to the regulator.  And no glued fittings.  And it came in a box with an owner’s manual.  All is good.  But I’m still a fool leaping in.  I’m just a fool with some pretty good tools.

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