Chair Rail Welds
Another decision to make was whether or not to take out the chair rails. If we did, we could have a new subfloor that spanned the entire width of the bus. If we didn’t, we’d save time. Michael asked for advice on a bus conversion forum and contributors told him it was pretty easy to remove the welds that fastened the chair rails to the bus’s metal frame.
To take off the welds, we tried two grinders. One was a typical one seen at any consumer store. The other was a heavy mother-effer that only Michael could handle. Michael used this nylon strap as a sort of necklace that relieved his hands of some of the weight. It had belonged to his grandfather! Back in the day, factories made their tools out of steel, man! Not the aluminum and plastic we see these days! Anyway, Michael used that to get as many welds off as he could. Since his grinder was so humongous and thick, however, we needed to switch to a smaller, 4″ version to get in between the frame and the rail. And since he was pooped, he told me to do it.
The smaller one also let me do the job more carefully at the welds on the center chase side. Since we still hadn’t figured out which cables in the chase were important, we couldn’t afford to accidentally cut any tube. Michael warned that if I knicked the wrong one (e.g., the valuable cable that carries the gas from the tank to the engine), the bus could be rendered immobile! This added volumes of sweat to my already dripping forehead laden with humidity of a Midwest summer.
My Turn at the Grinding Wheel
Taking the welds off turned out to be not too bad of an endeavor, but it took some getting used to. I applied too much pressure and consequently caused the grinder’s engine to work harder. Michael would hear it struggle, give me tips on how to properly use it, and then give me a second-, third- and fourth chance at wielding it. By the time I finished the welds, I felt I had just gotten into a groove. It was a bit bittersweet when I looked around at what else I could grind off and found nothing! Demolition is addicting!
Dick once again gave great advice. He has converted 5 buses and one fire engine and knows some great tricks on doing things with less effort. Once we had pried off about 4′ of the track. We would bend it to about 45 degrees from the floor level and then swing it wildly from side to side. This motion used the weight of the freed portion of the track to pry off the next weld without our exerting ourselves!
Although I found the small 4″ angle grinder to be more agile than the relic found in Michael’s family farm, it’s not high on our list of recommendations. So here we present to you what we did use vs. what we would like to purchase as a Meyer Heirloom to pass on to our kids with pride.
The Chicago Electric 4-1/2″ Heavy Duty Angle Grinder that we used did the trick and we still use it for renovation projects around the bus. It’s very affordable and perfect for those on a budget or just starting out. Is it the one we covet? No.
What Michael wished we had money for was the Bosch bare-tool Cordless 18-Volt Lithium-Ion 4-1/2″ Grinder. Bosch is a good brand we personally trust – we have their cordless 18V driver and drill and their portable table saw. What really tickles Michael’s fancy is that it is cordless. He imagines himself frolicking around our future farm, grinder and torch in hand, ready to repair anything metal that needs mending.
Working on this bus has given me a clearer picture on how to combat rust. When I was first grinding it off the walls, I was trying to take it off completely. WRONG! My goal was to just expose a layer by roughing it up. Chemicals sold at our nearby Fleet Farm were going to stop the deterioration once we brushed a coat of it on the scruffed-up rust. We used the “Rust Converter” by Plastikote, which came out as a liquid and, after one day of curing, became this hard, black, impenetrable surface onto which we painted regular old spray paint. It was like the Magic Shell, but instead of covering ice cream, it covered rust.
We used any old spray paint lying around at the farm. The color didn’t matter because we were going to cover it up anyway. We went hog wild on any and all colors we could find.
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