Tips & Tricks on Fabricating Interior Skins
Back in October '16 we were fabricating new interior skins for our first Airstream, Gilda. This was one of the most difficult tasks we took on, and we swore to ourselves we would never buy another Airstream that didn't already have walls (aka interior skins). But, low and behold, our first paid project was an Argosy that had make-shift walls and required new skins be made.
So here we are again, one year later, with a bit of knowledge and experience under our belts. For the full on explanation of how we fabricate interior skins in an Airstream, go check out our blog post from October '16. For a few quick Tips & Tricks that we decided to use this time around, here we go!
Trick : For starters, we made stencils out of tracing paper. Tapping sheets of the tracing paper onto the interior ribs (smaller pieces that are manageable for one person). The tracing paper is so thin, it allows you to see everything like where the ribs are, rough-in boxes for your electrical, windows, wheel wells, etc. We drew out those items on the tracing paper then placed our new stencils on the sheets of aluminum. We then marked out the ribs and made cut-outs accordingly on the aluminum before placing it inside the trailer.
Tip : One thing we did differently this time that we liked - we installed the pieces of aluminum inside the Airstream horizontally vs vertically (ie. you'll do rows of aluminum from floor to ceiling), like how they were done originally (we just didn't know that the first time around).
Tip : Have some helping hands! These sheets of aluminum are large and awkward, having some help as you bring them in, lift them up and cleco them into place is key!
Tip : If you chose to use spray foam for insulation, make sure it is as smooth as possible! Any excess spray foam will deter your new skins from sitting flush, and you'll have bumps as you go along.
Trick : The first time around we probably over-riveted. This time we purchased the Rivet Spacing tool from Airparts Inc. and riveted every 3".
Tip : If your windows have frames, take notice of where the skins should overlap the window frame. If you come too short, the insulation and rough edges will be visible.
Tip : We like to start drilling rivet holes in the center of the aluminum panel and work our way either down or up and then left or right. This allows the aluminum to shift and adjust a little. Hopefully, once everything is attached, you have a smooth surface without waves.