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Old 06-05-2014, 11:46 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
Baton Rouge , Louisiana
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 1
Rivets & Skins Questions

Hi, my husband and I were recently basically given a 31' 1976 Airstream Sovereign. Problem is, the Airstream needs a bit of work and for the most part, we're going to try tackling most of it ourselves. I have a couple basic questions that I'm hoping can be answered here...

1. I know what a rivet gun is and my husband owns one, however, when is a rivet shaver necessary for an Airstream? I'm assuming only on the outside? Since they run a bit pricey could removing and replacing the windows so they can be revealed be done without one?
2. We have a small hole in one of the front curve panels from the previous owner. We plan on replacing/repairing the panel with an aluminum sheet from Vintage Travel Trailer... Has anyone else had experience doing this? Any tips?

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Old 06-06-2014, 09:32 AM   #2
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,619
There are three kinds of rivets:
1) Solid, or "bucked" rivets
2) blind or "pop" rivets
3) Olympic rivets (which are essentially a fancy pop rivet that is used on the exterior, and always has to be shaved)

You can install blind rivets, Olympic or normal, with the same rivet "gun." Solid rivets require a completely different gun, that looks like a typical air-hammer, and a bucking bar. To install bucked rivets, you have to have access to both sides of the Airstream's skin, as you will have a person on the outside with the rivet gun, and a person on the inside holding the bucking bar against the back of the rivet. Olympic rivets are installed on the exterior on occasions when you need to the rivet to look like a bucked rivet, but don't have access to the interior. Olympic rivets are not as strong as a bucked rivet, and they tend to be leaky as well. They have to be shaved in order to look bucked. Shavers are expensive, but one of the suppliers (Air parts inc, or Aircraft spruce, or VTS), will "rent" them out as well.

I'm not sure about your question about removing windows, and why. Anyway, if you want to remove the entire window frame, and then reinstall it, you could use Olympic rivets to make the job look as though the window is bucked in--but the rivets have to be shaved. I'm not understanding why you would want to remove the frame, though.

Flat aluminum sheets on an Airstream are referred to as "panels" and the curved ones at the front and back are referred to as "segments." On a 70's Airstream, all of the curved segments in the front and back are formed, and have a 3 dimensional curve to them. If you want to replace an entire segment, you have to buy a new or used segment from a dealer or used parts supplier--you can't just get a flat sheet and try to bend it to fit. If you are dealing with a hole--you can just put a patch on it and rivet the patch on with Olympic rivets. Replacing an entire segment is a big project, and is best done by bucking it back into place. I wold recommend a patch over replacing the entire segment, if you can get away with it.

good luck!

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Old 06-06-2014, 09:33 AM   #3
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,619
Oh, and welcome to the Forums!
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Old 06-06-2014, 10:32 AM   #4
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1966 17' Caravel
Newport , North Carolina
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,286
I bid you greetings or as we say in nc howdy! First may I recommend that if you have a digital camera buy a few extra memory chips and start taking CSI type pictures no matter how boring the shot may be it can be used later as a reference for just how the hell was that mounted in the first place! Also posting pictures with your questions will give all a point of reference in answering your question. Congrats on the arrival of your new passion and reason to invest in aspirin and jack in the gallon size! We will all be here to help or confuse you when ever you need and yes you may cry when needed we all have! Okay I have not but I am pretty sure everyone else has! Again welcome and find a better place for your aluminum source like aircraft spruce or another aluminum supplier!
Gotta get busy! Have a great day! Now where did I put those revits?
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