Paper Dolls

When I was little, I would entertain myself making paper dolls. I’d make them out of anything I could get my hands on, comic books, newspaper ads, magazines, I would cut out things that caught my eye. I had a file full of women, men, animals, tools, dishes, and sheets straight out of catalogs of fully or partially decorated rooms. Rainy afternoons or winter evenings, I would set up a TV tray, pick a setting from my room collection, and start to assemble a scene to play with. Turns out, I still play with paper dolls.

When you want to make a full scale model of something, you need a cheap and easy material to work with that can handle some abuse. Thanks to the lovely people at SCRAP, I found just the thing. SCRAP winds up getting all the signage from conferences at Moscone (and probably other places I’m not aware of). That means they are usually swimming in sheets upon sheets of foamcore. Not just any foamcore, either. The stuff they have is 1/2 inch thick, and surfaced with a thin plastic. This stuff is meant for holding up to being stumbled into and knocked down. Perfect for cutting and pinning together with 8 penny nails. We taped together some larger sheets and cut out the side profile, then cut the pieces for the shelves, counters, and cabinets. Today, we pieced them together. The plastic coating has a satisfying snap and the 8 penny nails make a nice squeaking sound as you punch through. All the horizontals are placed, so the next step is to grab the mattress out of the current trailer, throw it in the mockup, and see how it feels spacewise. At this point, we can decide on things like “Do we want to modify the headboard or scrap it completely?” “Should we lower the cabinets?” “Will a shoe and blanket shelf fit in the footwell?” Since it’s just foamcore and nails, we can pull the nails and move things where we want, and compare how the different placements feel.


For now, however, we found the balance point, and suspended it from a hanging bike rack in our loft. This way, we’re not walking into and/or around it all the time, but we can still pull it down to work with it. We still want to do things like determine cooler tray placement, stove rack, dish storage, food and water storage, and the like. (yay, using paper dolls to figure out fiddly details ahead of time!)


Next up are a few camping trips. I’ll go into prep for those here a little later on to share and enjoy!

Grease Burrito

I really didn’t intend to spend much time at the shop that day.

It was Friday the 13th, I’d just left a message for a potential employer that I hoped would call me back, and I had just finished up drilling some holes and test-fitting the suspension. Then I sat down with the pages of instruction for the suspension and noticed the specific wheel bearing grease mentioned. I’m not going to do anything with the dry bearings sitting over on the shelf, but I might as well make sure we have the right stuff. We have a grease gun with some sort of red automotive bearing grease in it, but we use it only every couple of years on the old trailer. About all I know about it is red, which I’m reminded of every time I have to clean up the big mess in the toolbox where it has once again found a way to leak all over the place. I’m also not really sure if there’s much variation between brands for ‘red automotive grease’ but it shouldn’t be a big deal to check out the label on the tube. So I unwrapped the grease gun from the several layers of greasy plastic wrapping and with a handy shop towel for leverage I was able to get the top off. Barely any mess at all. I put the head down and held the body and was able to coax the cylinder out a bit, enough to see that it has some sort of NLGI rating but was still having trouble seeing enough of the label to know what exactly I had. So Pull on that plunger, let go and …


The grease gun shot a 5 inch cylinder of red grease into the air. And I’d grabbed it with my cleanish, right hand.

So there I’m standing, with a grease burrito (smaller style, not a giant San Francisco Mission Style burrito, only 2-2.5″ diameter) in one hand, the greasy body of the gun in the other, a ear plug in the good ear that I’m not going to be able to take out for a while, and my cell phone in my pocket that I sorta hope doesn’t ring, now.

Well, when life hands you a grease burrito, there’s nothing to do but pack bearings.

This was the grease that we bought for redoing the bearings in Shorty, so while I can’t tell you what the various specifications are, I can tell you that it probably just fine and is definitely going on those bearings over there. And since I’ve done this by hand before for Shorty, I almost know what I’m doing. I did consider wandering around American Steel to see if someone had the tool for doing this but I’m not going to be able to use this handsome grease burrito in my hand if I go do that.

Grease is the word!

Once that was done, I spent a good 15 minutes washing layers of grease off my hands til I got to the point where I could pull the earplug out of my ear. We took Lava to the shop today.

(I did get an email from the potential employer later.)


Watching Paint Dry

What do you do after priming a trailer frame? You paint it! Then, you watch it dry, flip it over and paint it again. Once that dries, you flip it and paint it some more. Paint, dry, flip, paint, dry, flip, noticing a pattern here? We’re using ultra high gloss paint, so even after it dries, it’s got quite a bit of shine to it. Ideally, I’d like for it to have a nice Bakelite look to it, we’ll see how the final version turns out.


Optimus Prime

Bad pun, I know. Blame Roy.
This weekend, we smoothed out the few remaining burrs on the frame, brushed it,  knocked the rust off and cleaned it, then gave it a coat of primer.
Flipped it on it’s back, primed the bottom and sides, let it dry. Came back the next day, flipped it right side up, primed the top and touched up the sides.
It was sweaty, stinky, and somewhat tough because it was so nice outside, but it’s done now. Left a wet paint sign on the front and called it a day.

American Steel

At some point, we were asked “Wait, don’t you guys live in San Francisco?” Yes, yes we do. “Where do you find space to up and build a trailer in San Francisco?” The answer, my friends, is Oakland.


The Studios

Roy and I went in with some friends on a space at American Steel Studios in Oakland, and so far, we’ve been really happy with it. It’s the old American Steel complex on Mandela Blvd, which used to be the Cypress Structure before the Loma Prieta earthquake. After they tore down the structure, it became Mandela Blvd, with a park and path through the middle. It’s a great space to work in, with really interesting neighbors in the complex. You can find fine artists, industrial artists, commercial vendors, and just about everything in between. The complex is packed full of people that make things. I’m still not quite sure where we fall on the spectrum, whether we’re industrial artists, or closer to the neighborhood of craft work. Doesn’t really matter right now. I’m just happy we found a studio to call home.


Where the toast happens.


Frame plan meets the enemy

I was somewhat surprised that our plan wasn’t significantly changed after contact with the enemy. I’d realized after closely examining the Timbren Axle-less Suspension and documentation that we’d probably need to move the crossbar near the middle a bit, and had never really been too sure how the transition from the a-beams to the coupler was going to work. Luckily we had some expertise at Desert Metal in Lovelock, NV to show us the way and make things happen.



Actual Size

Actual Size



This weekend, we paid a visit to our friends Debbie and Randy of Desert Metal Products in Lovelock, NV to weld the frame. (And hang out. And play Qwirkle!)


It was a full, but super productive day! We couldn’t tow the trailer back home with us, no VIN#, no plates, and since we were driving so far, we opted to rent a cargo trailer, load the frame onto it, and drag it back home. It worked great, and we were able to unload the frame at American Steel yesterday!

Next up: Shop day to clean and stage the shop, then to clean and paint the frame! (Should also figure out how to make a public calendar to share dates!)