Monday, October 22, 2012

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was Strictly Awesome!

Set up in the Artists Area at Banjo Stage
Warren Hellman
photo by  Ron Baker
As was posted a while ago, my little trailer was asked to become part of the set backstage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, one of the country's largest (if not the largest) free multi day music festival.  HSB as it's known, is a Bay Area treasure which along with the Treasure Island Music Festival and Bridge School Benefit makes October a very special month for music here abouts.

Created 12 years ago by the late Warren Hellman, the Bluegrass loving Billionaire and antidote to wall street greed and inhumanity, to introduce his beloved San Francisco to Bluegrass music, Strictly Bluegrass evolved from a 2 day 3 stage affair to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass a 3 day, 6 stage, multi genre music extravaganza that well over 100,000 attend each year. To give you an idea..Here's the line up from this year.

I had spent the better part of the last 3 weeks getting Aguadream a new paint job and generally cleaning and spiffing her up to be ready for her big debut.  I'll back in another post on the painting process soon.  Towing her over to San Francisco and into Golden Gate Park was fun, but really that was just the beginning. My friend Ed Valenzuela is in charge of decor at the Banjo Stage, the main stage where my trailer was situated.  I had left a guestbook for folks to sign, but he said not to keep my hopes up.  But he also quickly said that he thought it was likely that my trailer would become the backdrop for many many pics taken over the weekend.

Little did I know that Jay Blakesberg, one of the areas go-to rock/music photographers was soon to fall in love with my trailer and use both the in and outside for pics of everyone from bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley to music icon Elvis Costello, not to mention my favorite Emmy Lou Harris and many others. To say that I was thrilled is an understatement.  What seems more accurate is to say that I now believe my trailer to be enchanted with the spirit of music and will endeavor to live up to the kharma brought to it by some of the best musicians on the planet.  The music was spectacular, the weather perfect, and the opportunity to be so close to so much music and goodwill priceless.  All photos copyright Jay Blakesberg, please do not use or reproduce without permission.
Emmy Lou Harris

Buddy Miller and James Lauderdale

Elvis Costello

Tim OBrien

John Reilly and Friends

Steve Earle

My enchanted Trailer

Friday, October 5, 2012

Days and Days and Days of Painting!

So as you know I have to get my little trailer painted in time for Hardly Strictly Blue Grass the first weekend of October.  I decided to roll on paint using the $50 dollar paint job method that is very popular for both cars and trailers.  If I had it to do over again I would probably try to spray cause it took so long!

Soni Bergman
 lends a hand

Getting Started--Primer Day 1
[image] [image] After maybe 15 hours of prep work done over the course of a week, my fellow vintage trailer friend Soni came over the lend a hand for the day. We finished up the prep and taping by noon. Followed with self etching primer--2 coats with wet sanding between and after. Then laid down the first top coat with a roller...Ace Rust Stop (basically rustoleum) paint (tinted to Benjamin Moore Mexicali Turquoise) thinned 50% mineral spirits, but no hardener. I'm thinking maybe too thin, and need to go ahead and pop for hardener (Japan Drier is all they have at HD and my local paint store) which I'll never use all of, just so that it dries in a reasonable period of time for more coats. It's been 3 hours and it's still wet. 

with the first coat of color on the bottom , back is still just primer at this point--blech...hope it gets better looking with more coats

note to others who may be using this as a tutorial....START ON THE TOP! It makes things easier, even if it's not as satisfying.

Day 6 progress
I am managing to get 1-2 coats on per day, with wet sanding in between. I think I am up to 6 coats at this point. 

On Monday I decided I had to do a bit more prep and sanded down some edges where I had stripped for the z stripe. I am much happier but it cost me a day.  

[image] I have settled on the following mixture which seems to work pretty well.
1 part paint
1 part mineral spirits
Hardener according to directions

Paint should take 3 full seconds to start making individual drips when a paint stick is pulled out of it.

In California the ONLY hardener that you can purchase is Japan Drier. It's maximum is 4 oz per with a quart that's like 3 teaspoons per quart so I am doing about a half teaspoon for a day's paint.

[image] Don't know if you can tell from these pics, but it is building up quite a shine. I may be done with the bottom color at this point (maybe one more coat on the sides). On to the top tomorrow.


DAY 10
Happy Day....all that's left is putting the drip caps back on and painting the stripe on the propane tanks and hitch!

Here's how it ended up
Paint-- ACE Rust Stop Quarts ( used just over a quart of each)
7 coats of BM Mexicali Turquoise
5 coats of Ace Sand Trap

Thinned 50/50 with Mineral spirits and a spritz of japan drier (the only hardener you can buy in Ca)
Rolled on with micro fiber roller, wet sanded with 400 grit between coats.
Primed with self etching and bare metal primer.

Total cost of paint and supplies
2 quarts of each finish color $10 each= $40
6 cans of primer $5 each=  $30
1 gallon mineral spirits- $10
Tape, wet dry sandpaper, plastic, brushes, rollers etc= $40
Total $120!

THIN PAINT, think low fat milk
Almost dry roller...all bubbles should pop after a minute or two
Wet sand between coats

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It was a lot of work. Probably about 100 in supplies. 8-9 hours prep, and probably about 10 hours of painting. If I did it again which won't be any time soon I can assure you....I might borrow a compressor and HVLP spray gun.

Z stripe is just bare metal after
the tape is off, need to polish
and clear coat
Plan to clear coat after the paint cures. Here are the pics


Read more:

Finished with 48 hours to spare! Here is a picture of her all painted and headed off the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reupholstering Dinette Seats

I consider myself fortunate to have retained the original dinette bench seats complete with springs.  These are very comfortable both to sit on and sleep on but the original vinyl after 56 years was showing it's age.   Time for a facelift.  Estimates for a custom upholstery job...ran upwards of $700 for both seats--so DIY was definitely in order.  Readers of this blog know I had been considering up-cycling vinyl saved from convention signs.  I even went so far as to pick out sheets of vinyl.  Several factors kept me from proceeding.

  • Not much experience sewing vinyl and a home sewing machine.  
  • Fear that the pattern would have detracted from the overall look
  • Concern that the ink on the vinyl might bleed upon interaction wtih sunscreen.
So I decided instead to go with Sunbrella fabric (found for $13/yd with free shipping, job required 5 yards) for it's durability, water resistance, UV protection.  For my seats I'm using Glacier Blue with a Kiwi Green piping.  Very simple, and hopefully not so light that every spec of dirt will show up.  

Out with the old. 

Here's the process.  
1.  Demo the old seats, RETAIN the fabric, springs and  frame.  Discard old burlap, horsehair and cotton batting.  Unfortunately these all had been home to numerous small furry friends over the decades. 
Zig Zag base spring, Cover with Burlap, Painted coil springs remounted with U nails
2. Clean and disinfect springs and wood with soap and water followed by a dilute bleach solution.  All of the original springs were then given a coat of rustoleum to protect them from rust for another few decades.  The springs were all in great shape.  Replacing any would have been a pain but doable, and I would say still well worth it.  Cover the base with new burlap, stapler.  U shaped nails are used to secure the springs to the frame. 
 This is a close up of the hinge that helps the cushions work as a seat of a fold down bed.  You can also make out the u-nails that hold the springs to the frame.

 Burlap on sale $1.49 per yard, requires 3 yds.

See how muslin is attached at
center of seat?
2.   Cut out fabric for seat covers using the old seats as a template.  If you aren't experienced/confident with sewing this may seem really intimidating....but really it's just mostly sewing straight lines, and taking your time to think each step through.  Unfortunately I didn't take too many pictures of my own along the way.  I do recommend buying a welting foot, it makes putting the welting on go much easier.  I don't think a walking foot is necessary.  However you should use the longest possible stitch length, a size 16 needle, and make sure to get the tension right.  One unusual part of these seats is a flap of muslin sewn across the line separating the top from the bottom seat.  The front is a continuous piece of fabric.  the muslin will be stapled through the joint onto the frame.  If you don't have these seats this will no doubt be confusing...I'm working on a way to explain it better. You can sort of see it in this picture on the right. .
 There are many videos on sewing box cushions which is basically what these are minus the bottom. I particularly learned a lot from watching the upholstery videos from this fellow.  Very easy to follow.

The videos from Sailrite (above) are also quite good here's an example.  most are quite short and they have them for most of the products they sell.

Here's one on how to make continuous bias cut welt-- for mine I used the same size as below and it was plenty.  If you want more just stick to the proportions.

3.  Cut foam and batting, upholster with muslin lining. I used 2 inch high quality foam called Everflex V44  (Density: 2.9 lb/ft3) guaranteed to last 15 yrs of regular use without dipping flattening or softening (so I suspect that will be much longer). I want these to last.  (You can also do it the traditional way with cotton batting and horsehair/coco fiber instead of foam but it's actually more expensive.  It was hard to find the fiber so I went with foam).

 Cut the cushions about 1 inch longer and wider than your finished cushion will be.  Foam compresses, and this is one of the tricks to keeping your cushions from sagging.  Then cover the foam with a layer of Dacron. Dacron will protect the foam from being "sawn" by the fabric and help it last longer.  Dacron also helps fill out any gaps. Use muslin to stretch across each of the top and bottom.  Use a staple gun to attach the muslin and stretch it onto the frame so as to compress the foam most of the way you want it to go.

You will want to leave stretching/compressing to be done by the finish layer of fabric.
muslin stretched and stapled to each piece

4.  Final layer of sunbrella fabric.  First step, pull your muslin center pieces through and staple to the frame.
From here it's just a matter of pulling and stapling. Start with the center of the fabric and center of the frame on length and width. Don't pull too hard on the corners or you'll bend the foam down too far.

Muslin which was sewn to the hinge of the cover
gets stapled to each box frame
Then the corners.  Then bisect each staple for the next staple pulling and smoothing with the flat of your hand as you go.  You may need to pull some of your original staples as things get tighter as you go.  Stand back and check with your eye every so often to make sure it looks and feels the way you want it to.  If not all you need to do is remove staples and make adjustments.  Loose Dacron works great for filling in areas to take away puckers.  I still need to do a bit of work here to get rid of the ones that you can see here.

The finished products: 

Cost of Materials
Sunbrella Fabric 5 yards at $12.95/yd  $65
Muslin  6 yds @ 1.99/yd                        12
Burlap 2.5 yds @1.49/yd                         4
Dacron 10 yds  @2.99/yd                      30
Foam (ouch)                                         118 
staples                                                      3

Total                                                     $232
Pro Job for comp                             700-800
savings                                              ~ $500 
Time probably about  6-10 hours

Sunbrella Fabric-- everywhere on line.  Look for sales.  I found a great deal at
Muslin, burlap, dacron widely available
Foam  don't buy cheap foam it doesn't last.    I like the folks at, and for me they happened to be local so I just went and picked it up.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Strawberry Fall 2012

Just got back from the 2012 Fall Strawberry Music Festival.  Gorgeous weather and the exceptional line up more than made up for the much more crowded camping scene.  Below is the "road"  the first line of Strawberry that begins before dawn on the First Day of the Festival as 4-5 miles of vehicles await entry and then an orderly but urgent scramble to obtain their cherished campsite.

 The line:  We were about a mile back even though we pulled onto the road well before the stated 6 am line up time.  That's us in the middle, and then a miles long line behind us.

We ended up with a fairly nice campsite, nearby our usual spot.  We did have a fairly cozy relationship with a rather large tree branch.  The new door and screen door worked out brilliantly!

Ben wasted no time hopping on his bike with all of his climbing gear to find a suitable spot to set up an anchor and rappel.  He spent hours scrambling on the big granite outcropping along Sunrise Trail.

But what we really come to Strawberry for is the music, and it did not disappoint.  Top Act in my book, none other than KD Lang, here singing the song that brought the entire festival to their feet mid set..  But the lineup was top to bottom awesome.  I especially liked new bands (to me) the Honeycutters as well as Birds of Chicago. Videos of both bands below.

The Honey Cutters.

The Birds of Chicago

The Birds of Chicago

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guess who's going to be at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass?

Aguadream will be featured as part of the backstage set at Banjo Stage, the main stage, at this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (fondly known as either HSB or Hardly Strictly).  HSB is perhaps the worlds largest free music festival, held each year the first weekend of October in Golden Gate Park.  You can learn more about HSB and the legacy of it's founder and benefactor, the late Warren Hellman at  Apparently this years theme is Travel America, including a huge "Mt Rushmore" featuring the faces of some of the legends who have passed this year including Hellman, Doc Watson, Hazel Dickens and Earl Scruggs. 

Of course, this will mean a flurry of activity to get her looking her absolute best.  I've been reupholstering the dinette seats, and this weekend is Painting!!  A few finishing touches after that and she'll be the belle of the ball.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Really any color I want?!!

I have been a little obsessed lately with paint.  Now that the doors are "almost" done (still need to hang it) I am turning my attention to the most obvious undone aspect of my restoration....exterior paint.  There are many options here...most of which have their own sub options.
  1. The first decision was DIY or send it out or a combination.
    • Send it Out
      • Maaco $500-800 depending on the amount of prep required.
      • Higher End Resto/Paint shop $2-3K or more
    • Combination
      • Do the prep myself-- send it out/hire
      • Hire the prep out -- paint it myself
      • Either of these probably comes out to costing around the price of Maaco
    • DIY-- great resources and discussions at these forums Rolled On   or the Vintage Shasta Trailer Forum(VSTF)
      • Rattle Cans--believe it, some very nice paint jobs have been done with rattle cans, this link is to a video by a VSTF member
      • $50 paint job--  with Rustoleum or equivalent Alkyd Enamel  
      • $150-400 paint job -- same options but with more expensive paint such as marine urethanes (Interlux) or expensive automotive paints. 
  1. Color-- 
    • With tractor paint, rattle cans, and some others you are stuck with pre-mixed colors or combining pre mixed colors to create a custom color.
    • Custom colors--bring in your chip and the computer does a color match.
After much research, I've decided to go full DIY using Ace Rust Stop custom tinted in Benjamin Moore Mexicali Turquoise.  

The color is a bit lighter but in the same range as the aqua color in my awning.  I'll be going with the classic bare metal Z stripe the width of the wide frog tape.  And I am toying with the idea of a smaller z pin stripe in lime green above and below the Z. just for fun.  

Maybe something like this......but not quite so bright!

But First:  Lots of Prep work
1. Clean-- removing all the last bits of silicone (DSR 5 best remover out there and worth every penny) around the J Rail, and removing and reattaching the top rail.
2.  Seal the seams and rails with Trempro 635 urethane paintable sealant
3.  Sand until all loose paint is removed.
4.  Repair bigger obvious dings and dents (don't go overboard)
5.  Sand again
6.  Mask all windows and other things that won't get painted, remove eyebrows
7.  Prime unpainted area with self etching primer

Then I get to paint it shiny!
Probably 3-4 coats with wet sanding in between each coat with finer and finer grits (600, 800, 1000)
Buffing with turtle wax or some other car polish.
The mix recommended in rolled on forums for rustoleum is 4 parts paint, 3 parts medium automotive reducer, 1 part mineral spirits, and 0.5 parts hardener. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Been working on some more of the final touches in preparation for painting.  The door and screen door on my old trailer were really a mess, but I'd been putting off doing anything about them out of some weird psychological blockage that if I took off the door and couldn't fix it I wouldn't be able to camp again.  So I had suffered with an exterior door which only closed with a gentle nudge at one corner and a screen door that took so much fighting to open and close that it had been nearly torn apart.  So when our July 4th camping trip fell through (not happy about that) I decided to put the time to good use and tackle the doors.


Long story short so far it's been pretty straight forward.  Taking apart the doors was easy.  I used the old ones as templates and got to work.  The aluminum trim was shot so I took them down to the local sheet metal shop to get new ones fabricated.  They will be ready sometime next week. I built out the frame and added a new birch interior skin, and will add pink foam insulation.  I forgot to put water seal on the framing but will add it before closing things up and will add some butyl flashing on the lower third of the door to protect it from water damage.  I sprung for a new interior lock set from Vintage Trailer Supply; the old one was just too junky.

I am thrilled with how the screen door has turned out.  I picked up birch 1x2s, flat screen molding, and some fiberglass screening for the project. I also used some 1/4 " birch ply from the dinette cabinets for the sliding door panel. Using the old door as a template I built the frame using dowels and gorilla glue. I made a couple of changes --  the center panel is wider so that the door handle will work better.  I also decided to add 3 vertical rails to protect the screen from dogs and kids and to add some interest to the door.  The screen is fastened with 1/4" staples and covered with screen mold.  For the slider I used screen mold to create a lip for the sliding panel, and leaves a nice 1/4" reveal on the outside part of the door that I like.

Both the screen door and the new birch panel for the main door were finished with zinsser amber shellac, the finish I've used throughout the restoration.  Previously, during early spring I'd used just straight shellac and found it a bit thick for building up color.  So upon the advice of one of the Vintage Shasta Trailer Forum folks, I tried thinning with 50% denatured alcohol.  Unlike the rest of the country that is sweltering right now, I applied this with temps in the low 70's in the shade and found that working with a old t-shirt as an applicator that is was perfect.  I was quickly able to apply about 10 coats of shellac with very even coloration.  I did a light sanding then with 150 grit and an orbital sander to get the surface flat.  I then used the french polish method to give it a nice hard finish and good shine.

July 28th Update.  The doors are done!!!  Had to do a bit of adjusting and finagling to get everythign to fit but I can now open and close the door and screen door.  Cargo doors are also done.  I'll post pics tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fallen Leaf Lake Casual Vintage Camp Out

Fallen Leaf Lake near Tahoe  is a wonderful campground, and the site of an informal annual gathering of vintage campers organized by Kathy Lebs.  All in all about 30 folks and 20 trailers and numerous four legged friends of various vintages sizes and states of restoration showed up for a few days of relaxing, hiking, and potlucks.  Unlike trailer rallies, this was much more organized tours or clinics...just a bunch of friends enjoying the natural surroundings and each others company and common interest in aluminum homes on wheels.  My son Ben was off on an adventure of his own for the weekend, so Lucy my Lab and I enjoyed a grown up weekend.

 A couple of firsts:
1.  Hike to Cathedral Lake in Desolation Wilderness...stunning, and an 1800 ft gain in elevation.
2.  Wahdingers-- a campfire treat of biscuit dough baked on sticks (dowels) and then stuffed with goodies, yum!
banana boats