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Old 05-30-2016, 07:43 AM   #1
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1970 31' Sovereign
Lynn Center , Illinois
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Interior Aluminum HELP

We have taken out the interior vinyl/aluminum in our 31' Airstream Sovereign (1970), and need to purchase new aluminum for the interior. I do not know where to even begin or look. What type of aluminum is best, easy to work with (we are rookies). Where do I purchase from? I need a guide/step by step instructions, so if you can help at all it would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you.
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Old 05-30-2016, 09:31 AM   #2
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1973 21' Globetrotter
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Step 1: Consider seriously why you want to replace all of the aluminum. If it is because you want a shiny interior, then I would caution you to think about how you will keep every fingerprint from becoming an unsightly smudge. The factory uses plasticoated aluminum, which can be ordered from a dealer, but it is profanely expensive. Anything you buy uncoated will need to be coated in order to protect it. Clear coating aluminum is not trivial.

Step 2: Select an alloy. Well, if you want something that is cheap and easy to work with, try 5150 in a .40 thickness. It is relatively soft and will not end up looking ripply. It is not terribly corrosion resistant, and will need something put on it to fight the fingerprints.

Step 3: Find a local supplier. I re-did the interior of my 21' Globetrotter, and as I recall, it took 9 or 10 4'x12' sheets. There is a fair amount of waste because of the wonky shapes of the interior parts, and the need to get the "grain" of the metal finish all going the right direction. You could order it online from Airparts, Inc., or Aircraft spruce, but for the quantities you will need, a local supplier is going to be the way to go.

Step 4: Draw out the shape of every piece of your interior oriented in the proper direction on a piece of graph paper, to scale, so that you know how many sheets to order, and can optimize your purchase by getting as many parts as possible on a sheet. Don't just wing it!

Step 5: If you still haven't thought better of the effort, order your material. It will probably show up on a trailer on a big long pallet. You will need a place to store many sheets of 4'x12' aluminum for a couple of months while you cut out your new parts. Pay the extra few dollars to have each sheet protected with a sheet of clear PVC plastic. This isn't permanent, it is just there to keep the metal from being scratched while you work it.

Step 6: Build a giant work table that can be broken down easily. I used two pieces of plywood and three wood sawhorses. It needs to be big enough that you can lay a sheet of aluminum on it while you cut your pieces out.

Step 7: Get to work. Cover your work table with something like moving blankets so it doesn't scratch aluminum. Lay the sheet with the best side down. Place the parts you are reproducing face down and trace around them. Cut the piece out using some electric or pneumatic sheet metal sheers. Now, put the original piece on the new piece and drill through the first rivet hole. Continue matching the holes and fasten the two sheets together with Clecos as you go. Once you are finished, deburr all the holes from the front side.

Step 8: Reinstall your new parts. Get a pneumatic pop rivet gun. The cheap ones from Harbor Freight work fine. Remove the plastic wrap stuff from the holes before riveting. Wipe any fingerprint off immediately.

Step 9: Some months have gone by at this point....If you are lucky, you haven't lost your mojo and sold the trailer for scrap. You might even be done, and have a shiny new interior. Now, you have to decide what to do to keep it shiny. I tried a clear coat that claimed to be everything I could hope for. It literally cost as much for the clear coat as for all the aluminum. It turned out to be a disaster. Not happy about it at all.

Good luck!
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Old 05-30-2016, 02:18 PM   #3
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1970 31' Sovereign
Lynn Center , Illinois
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Thank you!

I greatly appreciate the feedback. We replaced the aluminum due to holes, bad previous repairs, and mold. We are going to live full time in our airstream, Arrowhead, and wanted a fresh start from what it previously looked like (a hot mess). We live on a farm currently and have a barn that is dedicated to restoring our home so the help with the working station will be in full force!

We have a rivet gun from Harbor Freight and it works just great for getting the old rivets out to take out the old aluminum.

We are also going to paint the aluminum white. Any suggestions on that?

We hope to get this project done by September (our wedding date) so we can move in after the wedding. Thanks for the good luck and the help. It is much appreciated.


Thank you and have a good day!
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Old 05-31-2016, 08:30 AM   #4
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Painting the new aluminum white should be no problem. Just be sure to use an appropriate primer. The big problem with trying to clear coat the aluminum is that it quickly gets a layer of invisible oxidation on it that reduces the paint's ability to adhere to it. If you can use a primer, then you can overcome this problem, but there are no clear primers.

I found the effort to replace my interior aluminum to be much more of a project than I had imagined it would be. My reason for doing it was to go for the shiny interior, but in retrospect, I could have avoided literally many weeks of labor had I just cleaned up, reinstalled, and painted the original interior. The clear coating also ate up a bunch of time for me because the stuff I was using was humidity sensitive, so I had to wait for just the right conditions to apply it.

good luck!
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Old 06-10-2016, 09:46 AM   #5
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1973 31' Sovereign
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Hi there! When you reinstalled your aluminum how did you get the old rivet bodies out of the ribs? When I drilled out, I'm having a hard time getting them out, even with a punch. Maybe some lubricant?
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Old 06-10-2016, 09:35 PM   #6
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A tool that will help with many of them is a spring-loaded center punch. That little impact will snap many of them out. For the other, more uncooperative one, I just drilled them out.

Good luck!
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Old 06-10-2016, 10:51 PM   #7
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Aluminum

Quote:
Originally Posted by cdmeece View Post
We have taken out the interior vinyl/aluminum in our 31' Airstream Sovereign (1970), and need to purchase new aluminum for the interior. I do not know where to even begin or look. What type of aluminum is best, easy to work with (we are rookies). Where do I purchase from? I need a guide/step by step instructions, so if you can help at all it would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you.
cdmeece, Have you checked out what size sheets of aluminum they carry at Milan Surplus in Rock Island? Also you may want to check with Alcoa Aluminum in Bettendorf to see if they can put you in touch with a retailer that can order the size sheets you want to install. There is also Aircraft Spruce, as well as some metal distributors in Davenport, Iowa that may have what you want. Ed
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Old 10-07-2016, 05:30 PM   #8
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1971 31' Sovereign
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to rebuilt all the inner skin of my 1970 sovereign, i've bought a big roll of aluminim skin (about 264 lb for all the innerskin, endcaps included), same thicknes as exterior.
make sure to be 3 or 4 people to help to manipulate the biggest pannels, and cut the windows when the pannels are in the correct position (hold with clecos)
good luck!
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