Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trailer

...ask your questions in the appropriate forums BUT document your build here...preferably in a single thread...dates for updates, are appreciated....

Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:53 pm

Thanks for the tip, Dancam, and ya in hindsight I should have made the pictures bigger, you see I browse this forum on my computer and the pictures look fine on the 50" big screen tv, but I see on a smart phone they are pretty darn tiny. I was mistaken about the DOT certification the lights just say SAE on them so maybe you are correct about needing reflectors... I'll follow up with the supplier.
Today, the clamshell was framed and test fitted for final mounting and weather sealing. Folks, I dunno if I'm just plain lucky or what but magically I continue to amaze myself at what I can accomplish! I actually framed the door well! And I had no room for error - the aluminum pieces were only about 1/4" oversized. I got the frame really close to perfectly where I wanted it, so it forces the clamshell square now when closed. The vertical framing is 1/8" thick 1/2" x 1" U shaped aluminum, and the horizontal framing is 1/8" thick 1" angle. I got the miter cuts to line up really well using a chop saw and multiple test fits. And the clamshell actually shut right into the framing as expected... I was worried I'd mount it too tight and the door wouldn't shut, but I got it on the first try. Just temporary rivets for this test fit, they will be drilled out and a bead of sikka will be laid down first and then re-installed. I took a picture of the weatherstripping in the third pic - it fits coincidentally perfectly in the u-tube and will mount on the aluminum angle just fine too. Its going to make a fantastic seal I can already tell, only worry is that since its bare aluminum on the other side it might tear into the weatherstripping, because its soft, supple, and really elastic but perhaps as a result a tad delicate. I should probably cover the grinded aluminum with hockey tape or something but I have little clearance as is so whatever is done it can't be thick.
Still thats the last tough task in this seasons build! Got about a week more to get this thing on the road, I know so many times I have said it was only a few more days, just a few more days. Well by golly now for sure it is a few more days! And we go the scale and put a photo of the ticket on this forum for everyone to see. Up on deck is electrical, and in the hole is mounting the fenders. I can see the end of the trail for this season.. but still hoping the weather stays nice as I have no choice but to keep working everyday.
The clamshell looks so much better from the side and behind with nice framing! I am so happy with my accomplishment here, just very very relieved. My oh my has this door ever added heartache to this project. But I wouldn't have it any other way! Happy weekend, friends - here are the pics:
tnttt_108.jpg
clamshell framing showing with the door closed, and yes, the whole corner weight of the cabin is only resting on that one foot section of 3/8" aluminum
tnttt_108.jpg (103.39 KiB) Viewed 821 times
tnttt_109.jpg
too bad this got overexposed, still if you look closely you make out the u shaped vertical piece, and the miters to tie in the corners for water drainage when the door is open and its raining
tnttt_109.jpg (104.59 KiB) Viewed 821 times
tnttt_110.jpg
placed the weather gasketting in the u-channel stuff to show how nice it fits and how well this weather stripping is going to seal (its 3/4" x 3/4" D shaped ie. flat on the bottom)
tnttt_110.jpg (87.52 KiB) Viewed 821 times
Last edited by ssuuki19 on Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:38 pm, edited 5 times in total.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby dancam » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:29 pm

My private messages dont appear to be sending. Have you gotten 2 from me?

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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:29 am

Yes.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:19 pm

Today the clamshell seal was applied in the manner Dancam mentioned. Lots of surface prep, it was a sunny warm dry day, a perfect day for the install. Didn't have IPA but washed the framing with mouthwash, then with hydrogen peroxide, then glass cleaner, and then the adhesion promoter. The surface was sanded with 120 grit wet/dry sandpaper and maybe some 220 grit was using up some old stuff in a drawer. A hair dryer was used in between each step to ensure bone dryness. The seals were cut and pre-fit, and the red adhesive side was pre-heated with the hair dryer and then applied immediately thereafter. That adhesive is damn sticky only twice did I accidentally peel the strip too far where I hadn't set the strip fully into the channel and it grabbed on to where it touched almost immediately. Luckily these two spots were very small like 1/4" and just a tad of the strip.
All in all the install went well, unfortunately I didn't leave enough space in the door fitting to allow the seal to evenly compress all the way to the bottom. Had I been less concerned about tolerances and left a 1/4" gap on the clamshell door to the frame, it would shut all the way to 90 degrees. But since I didn't leave enough space when I installed the hinge, the seal is just too big to squish 'as much as required' to get the door to shut all the way like in the pictures I posted previous. Also because so much pressure builds up along the top seam right at the corners because there's too much seal and not enough space, when I test shut the door it actually forced the hinge up a bit literally bending the hinge up a bit at both sides, and the roofing (just at the corners though).
Now there are some positives to this mistake - #1 - its my first door and it still shuts enough to fully compress the seal around the perimeter, its just that it only shuts to like 87 degrees when I ratchet strapped it shut, so its not parallel to the framing like in the pictures I posted before the seal. So at the top its going right into the u-channel but at the bottom its just squishing the seal but not getting right into the channel. #2 - and most importantly I made the piano hinge a 'floating hinge' - only at the edges was the hinge tied into the frame and thats why it bent up there. All along the middle the hinge was only riveted to the roof so it just pushed up the roof a bit. It was just the edges of the hinge weren't floating so thats why they pulled the roof from the frame. Point being, at a future date I can drill out all the rivets that hold the piano hinge to the roof, and 'back the piano hinge out' about 1/4" and then re-rivet. If you recall my post about test fitting the piano hinge this will make sense - essentially I shouldn't have pushed it in all the way.. backing it out should provide the needed volume to allow the clamshell to shut parallel to the framing, for a cleaner look.
Its tough to see my first big error/oversight in the project, but its really not critical as the seal is still working, its just aesthetically there is an issue, and the pressure on the edges of the hinge pushing up the roof skin and probably loosening up those few rivets there. [Edit: since this is largest outlier of the whole project, this will be re-worked as its structural (and aesthetic)] If I just calm down, knowing to tackle the re-work at a future date, I can for sure fix the clearance issue and not have to see the stress being put on the edges everytime the door is shut. Alternatively if I put in a much smaller seal, might not have to re-rivet the hinge, but the thinner the seal, the greater the risk that there could be a leak.. then again, the tolerances on the clamshell in the frame were really close so maybe a smaller seal could have done the trick. Better too error on too big I guess..
Well a really long post, I'm feeling a bit frustrated but also have to remind myself, everything I've been doing is a first. If I were to construct another cargo door I would have no problem 'building in' that required gap. Its the same error I made with the windows and the RV door.. they were all fit too tight because I didn't know one is actually supposed to fit them loose!
So no show stopper, but a lesson learned, perhaps it may help another builder working on their galley door. Anyways it functions, no more need to tarp the hinge anymore! After the seal I started on the fenders and included a test fit to show you what they will look like. Here are todays pics:
tnttt_111.jpg
3/4" x 3/4" seal installed on the perimeter framing
tnttt_111.jpg (121.96 KiB) Viewed 741 times
tnttt_112.jpg
top edge of seal went wonderful but unfortunately its compressed a little too much up there, just need a bit more volume/clearance re-work to fix
tnttt_112.jpg (107.57 KiB) Viewed 741 times
tnttt_113.jpg
test mount of the fender with about 2" clearance, not sure how much clearance there should be but guess at least 2"
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Last edited by ssuuki19 on Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:00 am, edited 3 times in total.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:27 pm

Worked on the fenders all day today. So many ways to mount them - I went with a simpler and strongest approach knowing that because of the side rails on the cabin, the fenders (looks like .090" roll formed aluminium):
-don't tie in to the cabin because of its sliders on the outside, and so the trailer can be used as a flat decker
-must be removable to check alignment and even for loading the cabin makes it easier (forgot the door hinge sticks out the most, no biggie)
So I used .040" 1 1/2" aluminum piano hinge and 1/8" 1 1/4" aluminum angle and 3/16" large dome head alum alum rivets, no sealant this time going for metal on metal strength as its outside the shell. It was mentioned I could have hidden the angle inside the fender but I chose not to because its simpler, a bit stronger, and the orientation of the angle makes it really easy to mount the fender led lights and route the wiring on the front and the back. A lot of work today making up the method to do this task, so it started really slow, picked up near the end when I got the tools and the layout better.
So only got to the test fit today - they could easily be welded and/or riveted, but for removability might go with rivnuts and machine screws again, 6 per side should tie those fenders in pretty well. [Edit: no, stainless steel stuff was used, see below] Gussets can be added at a later date too I guess. We'll have to see how they hold up. They feel really light, just a few pounds each which hopefully helps out with the strength part. I forgot to mention that side panels will be added to these fenders...
Here are todays pics:
tnttt_114.jpg
test, test, test fit
tnttt_114.jpg (118.32 KiB) Viewed 709 times
tnttt_115.jpg
this is the view from the front - showing the clearance needed for the cabin sliders to pass
tnttt_115.jpg (112.09 KiB) Viewed 709 times
tnttt_116.jpg
angular view of the fender, it is a structural, floating, spring (picture an upside down leaf spring)
tnttt_116.jpg (120.29 KiB) Viewed 709 times
Last edited by ssuuki19 on Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:54 pm, edited 5 times in total.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:30 pm

GVTrailer wrote:Cool build and nice bike. I have a '02 KTM 300 MXC.

Thanks GVTrailer! I believe that machine was an '05 250. I dream about the 350 exc-f.. but unfortunately if I keep up this hobby I'm going to have to buy a pickup or a van, build or buy a shop, etc... down the fabricator watering hole, err rabbit hole.
Its a large volume trailer.. if it were built on a steel chassis or beefier 3" square tube aluminum, it could carry a sled or a sportbike. Found out the closest scales are all the way into the city, so its still on the must do list, just might happen when I'm on the road. When that happens who knows it was supposed to be weeks ago.. still its on the event horizon of possibilities now that the fenders are on and the brake lights will be wired up tomorrow.
The trailer frame is light enough that I can flip the whole thing 'end over end' and have it upside down - great for working on the wiring and the fenders, and for future weld inspections, and hardware changes. [Edit: of course the fenders need to be removable to flip a trailer properly so the tires land on the opposite side]
Last edited by ssuuki19 on Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:42 am

Today the fenders were tied in with angle brackets and 1/4 20 stainless hardware. No washers, just went with 1" bolt, lock washer, nut. I noticed the nuts have a marking on one side. I didn't go for torque on the stainless hardware, when it all binded up I just went a bit more. Its all going to be assembled and disassembled many times. Thats a part of my design approach.
So using the surfaces available for the fender beams, in the design I tied three brackets to cross reference the load. Only two of the brackets per corner are installed and its pretty darn solid. The third set of brackets are cut and grinded, ready to mount. I'm glad I spent 30 bucks on stainless steel, that was a tough decision at the hardware store.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:49 pm

Finished the fenders today. With the triple bracketing approach they feel really solid. They are square, thus I am happy. Started running wire today I had a bin with what I believe to be more than enough wire. Pulled 18-4 direct burial from the tongue just for the 4 mini-led lights on the fenders. I saw a yew tube video that showed cable routing using plastic clips and riveting them with 1/8" rivets, so I tried it out today and it worked out swell! 1/8" rivets are definitely now my choice for tying in zip ties, or cable ties. The key point I'd mention is that I dialed down the pressure on the compressor to about 50psi, and the little alum rivets like it way better, they just set much more predictably. Might even try a bit less psi these rivets don't need much power to set, makes me wonder about the size smaller!! Thats 3/32 rivets I've seen them at the hardware store.. I'm going to buy some and try them out for fun.
Anyways the look and lines of the trailer takes my mind off the cargo door hinge/seal situation, which I have decided must be fixed before I go on a road trip. It just must be done I realized today. Bought a bicycle tube and some 3/4" alum flat bar to re-locate the hinge and seal it, so thats on deck.
So the trailer has great looks, its raw, the printing is still on the aluminum angle, I don't really mind the raw manufactured look, its my structural design work, and that makes me feel proud to realize that I can visualize the whole fender approach, and it worked! The hardest part was fishing the ss bolts into the frame using an access hole and a pipe cleaner. Here are todays pics: (sun already down and this cameras flash isn't powerful enough)
tnttt_117.jpg
fenders closer to completion, the piano hinges allow the fenders to 'flex' with the frame
tnttt_117.jpg (107.6 KiB) Viewed 658 times
tnttt_118.jpg
inside view of fender & bracketing & pre-wiring going through the frame & how the u-bolts are hangin' on for dear life
tnttt_118.jpg (120.63 KiB) Viewed 658 times
tnttt_119.jpg
typical view of the current state of affairs on the trailer
tnttt_119.jpg (110.14 KiB) Viewed 658 times
Last edited by ssuuki19 on Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:25 am

"I just want you to know that my little 4 x 8 woody only weighs 450 lbs and I can lift the tire off of the ground with my 84 year old back. 1/4 inch plywood sides, 1/8th inch roof and similar cabinetry will attain the light weight you are looking for, probably even better."

I re-read this quote from Roly, when I first joined this forum, and it still sticks in my mind. 1/8" plywood would be awesome, 1/4" some say is better but thats a lot of extra weight if I could get away with 1/8".
Today the weather was sunny all day - it dried up all the moisture on the driveway so I was able to tackle the re-work on the clamshell. Removed some l-track and sidewall insulation pieces, removed the last roof battens to remove the ceiling panel. Then drilled out all the rivets, and banged the hinge out. Lowered the door to a dolly using ratchet straps and l-track, disconnected the straps and the door was ready to roll around to get out of the way. Took very little time I was surprised.
After staring at the framed area long enough, scratching my head and looking around at materials, I figured out how to structurally tie in the roof to the frame using 3/4" 1/8"th aluminum flat bar. I inserted the bar into the spot where the hinge was and I've decided to move the hinge to the top of the roof because the holes are already drilled. In this manner moving the hinge raises it a bit, but then backing it out a bit farther lowers it back down. Now when the hinge is riveted to the roof it will be structurally tied into the frame. Second time hopefully is a charm. Also I'm going to ratchet strap the door shut first and then see where the hinge wants to be. Ended tonight after sun down just getting the flat bar piece riveted in. Good weather in the forecast which is great news. Here are todays pics:
tnttt_120.jpg
view of the door frame looking more standard with the clamshell removed
tnttt_120.jpg (115.19 KiB) Viewed 593 times
tnttt_121.jpg
just showing the line of rivets across the top there to structurally tie the roof into the frame
tnttt_121.jpg (100.32 KiB) Viewed 593 times
Last edited by ssuuki19 on Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:41 pm

Today was sealing and electrical day. The sealing involved masked beads along the outside perimeter of the door framing, and beads on the inside and outside of the roof line where it now mates up to the flat bar. Now she's sealed up and structurally tied in all around. The hinge spacing is still at this point a guess, but its the second data point guess and I learned a lot from the first hinge location and how much pressure was put on the door, I really don't think the pressure should ramp up until the door is around 80 degrees shut or so. Tough part is I'm doing this all by myself, thats why I need to get creative with the ratchet straps and whatnot.
The electrical day went really well, chock full of firsts. But I did tons of research, like a hundred hours at least, so thats why my wiring looks better than a typical beginner. I went with simple single crimp connectors, and multiple sizes of heat shrink tubing to make all my connectors and they worked out great! I will take some pictures tomorrow morning and post them.
Just like with anything new for me I always feel really un-comfortable 'diving in' and just making mistakes and learning the tools, and the method, etc. So it took me the rest of the work day to connect the 4 led lights to the wiring and route it all nice 'n pretty by cutting off the slack and tucking the wiring in strategically so its essentially holds itself, even without the final plastic cable ties or whatever will be used. The angle used for the fenders worked fantastic for the wiring!
Lastly, this work was completed with the trailer lifted up from the tongue and standing up against the south wall of the house. It makes it easy to work on the 'underbelly'. Sorry no pics today.. just syllables conveying the wonder and love of pursuing the art of fabrication in its many ways, shapes, and forms. For example today it occurred to me that the winch should be on a lockable swivel, that will make it far more easier to use it for other purposes.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby dancam » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:45 pm

Nice. For wiring using a volatge drop calculator for every run, good crimpers and 'double wall' heat shrink makes for a long lasting system. As does dielectric grease on non-heat shrunk connections but im not sure if its that improtant on aluminum like it is on a steel frame.

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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:11 pm

Thanks! I'd say my connections are very water resistant, and thats good enough for the start. The point was after if it all works out, I'll solder all the connections and add another layer of heat shrink to streamline the harness.
The 18-4 and 16-2 speaker wire is only going to 4 bright but small led lights and thats it, its a bit much for the setup, but I learned a lot doing it. The interior of the cabin will be easier to tackle when I get in there later on this week.

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 8:22 pm

Almost finished the re-work on the clamshell today. First I 'shaved' down all those rivets in the last picture there to 1/16 or so, then laid down a thick layer of sealant that entirely covered the rivets. Then the hinge was re-mounted on top and riveted in the alternating spots through the flat bar, and into the frame using .375" grip rivets. Tacked it in backed out about 1/4" with two rivets, then closed the door and ratchet strapped it shut from the inside using 4 ratchet straps mounted to the l-track. Then I drilled out the two tacked in rivets to 'see where the hinge wanted to be'.. it moved a tiny bit out even more, like another 16th of an inch, so I decided hey why fight the darn thing if thats where it wants to be thats where its going to be. Plus the door was very close to parallel in the framing and will surely settle in once the gasket gets used more.
So after this method was completed, then I ran all the rest of the rivets... it looks terrible from an artsy perspective, theres holes all over the hinge and the rivets are barely laid out in a geometric manner, looks like a kid went nuts with a drill :) but it doesn't matter they are going to be hidden by the bicycle tube that will cover the entire hinge. Thats on deck tomorrow. So no pics of the clamshell, because it basically doesn't look any different except that it seats into the seal much better! And it is structurally tied to the framing as well as the roof - far, far better, designwise.
What I did take pics of end of day was my first foray into wiring on the trailer frame - here they are:
tnttt_122.jpg
drivers side fender from below showing the wiring routing and connectors with shrink tubing
tnttt_122.jpg (100.09 KiB) Viewed 491 times
tnttt_123.jpg
passenger side fender from below showing the mirror image of the wiring method (this fender was shipped bent, no biggie cant really see from above)
tnttt_123.jpg (73.52 KiB) Viewed 491 times
tnttt_124.jpg
my approach to making a 2 connector (now i notice the heat shrink needs to be re-done on this one, but you get the idea)
tnttt_124.jpg (86.9 KiB) Viewed 491 times

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby ssuuki19 » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:19 pm

Went to the bicycle shop today, spoke to the guy at the desk and he recommended I use a mountain bike tube, its like three times thicker than the cheapo one I bought, its really beefy, I'd say looks like at least 1/8", at least thats what I'm guessing the compressed thickness is. I used large dome alum 3/16" .250 grip rivets to tack in the gasket, then I grinded all the dome heads down until they are like 1/16" or so. This gets them even with the rubber as they compress the rubber in the spot where they are. So next is to put the 3/4" alum flat bar over the line of rivets and rivet the bar through the shell in the alternating spots with regular 3/16" .375 grip alum rivets. I don't know what to say except if there are leaks after this install I am genuinely going to be surprised. The only way to get a significant leak is for water to make its way under this gasket tubing and then perhaps find a spot in the seal where its not sealed well, and it will have to do that from the edges now. If I can get the drip line worked out on the edges, that should hopefully not happen.. time will tell.
Of course eventually there is going to be another sealed frame within this door frame for this very reason. Redundancy, when it comes to water sealing, especially for this beginner is a must. Air compressor had to go out on loan so couldn't finish the job today. I did finish tying in all the trailer frame wiring except for the main line which will tie into the pollack 6 pin connectors eventually but for now might skip that part and just use the 4 pin connector setup as currently my car has got like an eight foot lead on it.
Thats all for today, here are the pics:
tnttt_125.jpg
tube stretched across the frame and top line tacked in with 5 rivets
tnttt_125.jpg (113.74 KiB) Viewed 441 times
tnttt_126.jpg
bottom row of rivets tacked in and all rivets are shaved down ready for the the flat bar to go on top
tnttt_126.jpg (94.73 KiB) Viewed 441 times

How does sealant get on my triceps and then my car seat?? more than once??
Aluminum is almost as fascinating as wood.
Link to my build thread: 4 1/2 x 9
User avatar
ssuuki19
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Re: Build Journal: All Aluminum Bare Bones Tiny Travel Trail

Postby dancam » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:32 pm

Was that just one tube? How long is it?

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