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Fabricating Interior Skins

When we purchased our airstream, we didn't really know what to look for when evaluating our new project, so we towed this old beaut home with nothing inside. She had no interior skins, no electrical, and no appliances. With only a rotted subfloor, a homemade desk and a bed frame, we figured she provided us with the blank canvas of our dreams. If we had known what we were getting ourselves into when we began to fabricate our new interior skins, we may have thought twice about purchasing the trailer we did. It was an expensive, and labor intensive process.

We initially purchased aluminum sheet (5052 .032), for the lower portion of the walls, from Bend Heating & Sheet Metal, a local supplier, but ended up using a thinner aluminum (5052h32 .025) for the majority of the job. Sold by the roll, from Airparts Inc., we thought the thinner aluminum would provide an easier way for us to fabricate our new walls, starting on one side then going up and over to the other. Going with a thinner aluminum wasn't really a concern since we gained structural strength from the spray foam insulation. We rolled out the aluminum and measured the locations of each window, fan opening, door frame and wheel well. Based on the total length and width of aluminum we had, and where each rib fell, we decided where each piece would begin and end. Taking measurements as a reference point, we replicated, best we could, the location of ribs with a ruler. This part was especially tricky, as many of our ribs were bent, needing repair and some seemed to end for no reason. We used electric shears to make these cut-outs, a long ruler to mark the rib lines, and then marked rivet holes every inch and a half along those lines. While 2 people held up the newly cut skins we began by drilling a few marked rivet holes, hoping our measurements traced the ribs, and installed some clecos to hold it in place. The clecos held the aluminum to the curves of the rib and allowed us to more securely and accurately drill and rivet the entire new interior skin pieces in place. It's a close your eyes and hope the drill hits the a rib kind-of-process, otherwise you have to measure the rib lines all over again. This process was, by no means, quick and easy. Several lines had to be adjusted mid-drilling and more than one rib caused us frustration. The end result wasn't perfect, but it gave us a huge sense of accomplishment.

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