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Old 05-20-2008, 10:26 AM   #1
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1963 30' Sovereign
Des Ruisseaux , Quebec
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Rivet 101

Hi...

My Airstream trailer has been sleeping for two years since the purchase and I'm ready to start... now please tell me if I am out of my mind, so here is what I plan to do: (I'll be doing this on my own)

Install trailer on blocks, remove the banana skins and inspect frame. Get a welder to solidify weak spots and cover frame with very thick coat of rust inhibiting paint, check axles and wheel wells, do what needs to be done and close everything up. My goal is for my trailer to be roadworthy and leakproof. Esthetics and appliances are all phase 2 projects.

So there are two questions here:

Can the same tool remove and install rivets? (Yes some of you may sigh and roll eyes. I know nothing absolutely about rivets)

Is it a wise decision to do a frame job, close everything up, and then slowly replace flooring plywood section by section later? Here is what motivates my decision: Once I can get my baby on the road, I can actually take it to the US myself for a few weeks and get an experienced friend to help work on the rest with me.

Thank you. I know I can do this with your help!
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Old 05-20-2008, 10:30 AM   #2
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I'm no expert of frame off restorations, but it would seem to me that if you're going to gut the trailer to work on the frame, you might be better off taking the shell off for the frame work, then putting a new floor in when the shell goes back on instead of piecing the floor back together.
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Old 05-20-2008, 10:41 AM   #3
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You might find someone local and knowledgeable to go over the rig with you.
Removing the belly skin is straight forward but you need to buy the proper rivets and tools. Old rivets are drilled out and you need to use the correct size drill so as not to make the holes too big to re-rivet when you're done. Take some time and read the threads on this forum and you'll get an idea on what you're getting into.
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Old 05-20-2008, 11:15 AM   #4
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Bob Fowler, yeah, I am trying to avoid that, because it plain and simple means I'll have to give up. I am nuts but not that nuts! I've been reading the threads and seeing the pictures, and removing the shell is way beyond my scope.

Excella, it's really hard to find anybody who knows anything about airstreams in my latitudes so finding help here is not an option, I have looked. I will go and find the specifics about removing rivets.

Full restoration can only be done in implements I'm afraid, so although not ideal can it be done?
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Old 05-20-2008, 11:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northerngal
Bob Fowler, yeah, I am trying to avoid that, because it plain and simple means I'll have to give up. I am nuts but not that nuts! I've been reading the threads and seeing the pictures, and removing the shell is way beyond my scope.

Excella, it's really hard to find anybody who knows anything about airstreams in my latitudes so finding help here is not an option, I have looked. I will go and find the specifics about removing rivets.

Full restoration can only be done in implements I'm afraid, so although not ideal can it be done?
Sure, anything can be done... I guess the biggest issue you've got to face is the condition of the frame (not to mention the running gear). If you can get the frame in good shape, and if the axles are OK, you'll be off to a good start. For ease of installation, I'd think you'd want the banana wraps and belly pan off while putting in the new sub floor though.

As for drilling rivets, I seem to recall seeing a tool somewhere that acts as a guide for drilling out the old. For the life of me, I can't recall where I saw it, but if I run across it again, I'll be sure to post a link.
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Old 05-20-2008, 12:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northerngal
Bob Fowler, yeah, I am trying to avoid that, because it plain and simple means I'll have to give up. I am nuts but not that nuts! I've been reading the threads and seeing the pictures, and removing the shell is way beyond my scope.

Excella, it's really hard to find anybody who knows anything about airstreams in my latitudes so finding help here is not an option, I have looked. I will go and find the specifics about removing rivets.

Full restoration can only be done in implements I'm afraid, so although not ideal can it be done?
Take a look here for information on floor replacement with the shell in place: 1956 Flying Cloud - Restoration

Bill
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Old 05-20-2008, 02:49 PM   #7
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OK here are the basic basics: The main body rivets are solid (they have a vertical cross section shaped like a mushroom) and were put in with access to the back side of the panels. To remove them drill down the center of the head with a drill the size of the rivet shank. Once drilled through the head you can insert a small punch in the hole and break the head off or simply use a putty knife and a hammer and snap it off. Then push the remaining shank on into the trailer. Replacing them is done with with a variety of "blind" rivets or "-pop" rivets that can be set from the front side with a riveting tool. For Airstreams the correct blind rivet is called an "Olympic" rivet and can be fininshed to look like the original solid (bucked) rivets. Olympic rivets are larger and require that the hole be enlarged. Areas that have no access to the back side originally like the belly were blind riveted to begin with. Those rivets are removed the same way with a drill through the center (easier because of the small center hole). Replace with a similar pop rivet or a special one with a larger "pan" head. If the panel your are working on needs to be watter tight, use some polyurethane (Vulkem) sealant on the seam and the rivet heads. This will also add strength. Pop rivets come in a multitude of sizes and grip (thickness) ranges and are cheap. As with many projects_think twice, rivet once!
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:39 PM   #8
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Hey thanks for the encouraging info. Might need a stronger drill, though!
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Old 05-20-2008, 07:07 PM   #9
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What you are about to do is not for the faint of heart. Sorry to be the voice of reality. Too often you will be encouraged, my impression is that, that might not be the right thing to do in your case. Curse me if you want.
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Old 05-20-2008, 08:45 PM   #10
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Here's a taste of my initial experiences with drilling out rivets. http://www.airforums.com/forums/f381...vet-41526.html You will also find references there to the rivet removal tool. Do listen to the voices of reality. Repairing a frame, even one with a little damage, is a huge project. Graduate level really. On the other hand...it can be quite an adventure if you're up to the challenge. Do think twice before passing go. Good luck and do post lots of photos if you decide to continue the journey!
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Old 05-20-2008, 08:52 PM   #11
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For a first airstream project you may be taking on a lot. Other owners who have done this extensive a rebuild have faced a project which took a few years and thousands of dollars (more than a couple) Unless you see signs of decay such as spongy floor, wrinkles in the skin around fender wells and where the skin meets the belt line you might consider living with it a while. One problem I would be especially concerned with is floor rot where the floor meets the walls as Airstreams are monococque constructions. A weakness at these points may result in more extensive damage from towing. Consider where the trailer lived. If it was in a damp corrosive environment exposed to the elements it is more likely to have frame rot. I have 2 mottos: first if it's not broke don't fix it; second I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
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Old 05-20-2008, 08:53 PM   #12
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I agree with 62overlander. This is way over your skill level. Needing a "stonger drill' isn't the problem.

Unless you've worked on several similar projects of increasing scope and complexity, and are very used to heavy work, rigging, safe jacking methods, and have at least one helper this is not your project.

Put it on a low-boy and send it to an experienced shop.
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:26 PM   #13
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He he I'm glad I asked. Removing rivets seemed like such a simple job!

One thing for sure, this baby has been in the snow 6 months a year for a while. It's surprisingly sound but I am still scared about pulling it around. I won't until I'm sure that it is in sound shape under. The voice of reality will be considered. I'm not that good with a drill so much thanks to all the appreciated comments, and the links, and the reality checks.
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Old 05-21-2008, 05:34 PM   #14
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While the topic is rivets 101, I have a 1972 31 foot sovereign that has bad axles. I did not release this in the beginning and the forum for helping me to learn. The bad axles have caused things to pull apart, room dividing walls, some of the interior wall rivets, and the top and rounded corners of the door. My question is.....When I replace the Olympic Rivets in the door, is it a good idea to put washers on the rivets from the inside?
thanks in advance, Bill
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