Caution – suggested nudity, implied whiskey, and some old-fashioned Scottish engineering to liven up the day.
Now that I have your attention:
Saturday morning came and it was time to start stripping down to the bare essentials (hence the first part of the title, suggested by SB).
After an evening of pulling everything out of the wagon (the first time it has been absolutely bare in over five years) it was time to commence preparations for the move onto the new trailer. This afforded me an opportunity to really look over the entire structure for movement, wear, water damage, etc. and to make changes if necessary. Happily, the structure has held up quite well considering the many thousands of miles and the extensive off-roading I have put it through. Examining the roof, walls, and under sides, the only water marks discovered were those from some seepage through the tongue-and-groove on the front wall from several years back. High-speed driving through torrential downpours really test the tightness of any wooden vessel. As I already knew about this, there were no surprises.
The exterior ledge bracing, storage boxes, and some trim pieces had to be removed to facilitate the fit on the new trailer bed. Stacey hunkered down and puzzled out how they were all connected and spent several hours turning nuts, removing bolts, and unscrewing screws, forming a mighty pile of wood, filling buckets with hardware, and pitching out old fasteners.
After a thorough examination for wear and damage (we found none), screw holes were filled and a fresh coat of oil paint was applied to the nether regions as some parts will become difficult to access once on the new trailer.
I sprinkled a half dozen Simpson Strong Ties around the frame for strength and safety; all recycled from the original wagon and an old barn project. The vardo will be fastened directly to the steel frame as well but when it comes to this sort of safety “too much is never enough.”
Although no major injuries were discovered in the 20,000 mile check-up, a lot of little issues were dealt with while we had the opportunity. It really drove home to me how much of the original build was done with salvaged lumber and recycled hardware. I have been slowly replacing standard fasteners with stainless, especially below the water-line; this gave me the opportunity to continue this practice (expensive but far-sighted).
While Stacey continued her exterior work, I crawled around underneath disconnecting bolts and steel straps to dismount from the frame. A handful of these could no longer be accessed from inside and had to be persuaded with a Sawzall.
How did I remove the frame? Not owning a forklift or other heavy machinery I used the simplest method I could think of. By using the tongue jack and some concrete blocks I was able to first lower the front, thus raising the rear-end. While the rear was up high, I stuffed the blocks and wood under the body to hold it at an appropriate height. Raising the front then disconnected the frame from the rear and allowed blocks to be placed under the front. My only fears revolved around the overall strength and stiffness of the body; would it take the stress in places the appropriate places? As I lowered the unit down, freeing the trailer, I was relieved to hear no creaks or see any flex anywhere.
Now for the Eureka moment…
Over the past couple weeks I have racked my waking brain for an easy and safe way to move the box from one frame to the other. It was at 3:30 in the morning a few days before the move when it came to me. Knowing my wagon fairly intimately, I knew that it was very close to neutrally balanced (i.e., the balance point was very near the center of the body) and this might be used to my advantage. If I could load the back end with enough weight to counterbalance the structure, the body could be cantilevered by 50% or more, like a big kid on a see-saw. The only concern I had then was the overall strength of the vardo body after the steel frame was removed. The fulcrum point would bear a lot of strain.
To sum up this rambling explanation, YES, it dis indeed work!
Voila! I felt like a stage magician levitating his beautiful assistant for an audience full of suckers; in this case, a dog, cat, and a slew of poultry. The old trailer was pulled away to be sold on Craigslist.
I secured about 400 pounds of weight near the door allowing the front end to float while we prepared to maneuver the new gear into place.
With the early winter sunset I decided the next step would have to wait for morning. Don’t worry, I re-jacked the front end overnight for safety sake. I didn’t want a crushed dog should the worst occur.
If you are looking for Part 1 of the rebuild/addition then CLICK HERE.