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Old 01-06-2018, 12:23 PM   #1
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rivets - advice from and for the non-mechanical

So wanted to share what I learned from removing wall panels and ceiling from my Bluebird. There is some great advice out there, but assumes experience and makes it look easy (it is not). Here is how an inexperienced person with borrowed tools (buy your own bits, saw blades, chisels, etc. as they will be getting beaten up).

So 3 sizes of rivets in my bus - for the small ones which ran horizontally along the walls they could have the center drilled out with a bit (you will go through at least 3 of them - 3/16th I believe is what I used). Then I hammered them out pretty easily with a chisel. The vertical rivets on the walls were bigger and drilling didn't work as the metal is too hard. I did these with a metal saw, making 3 cross marks in each rivet and then pounding them out, but this was very hard to do. I recommend what I finally did with my ceiling and that is using a borrowed air hammer and a larger air compressor - good to have friendly neighbors. Now for "inny" rivets I did use the pointy air chisel and pop out the center, but 85% of the rivets were flush and there is no way to gain a purchase - the air chisel just bounces all over. So I took my cheap angled air bit from harbor freight and ground it sharp. If you do that every 1/2 to 1 row of rivets you will have a much easier time as the bit dulls quickly. You can remove the panels by yourself as the rivets get a mushroom head and so you have to do some pulling and pounding with a crow bar to loosen them from one end - they don't just fall out.

My ceiling was the perforated type, so probably lighter than the solid metal, and more easily damaged. Please note that for Bluebirds at least, you have to remove the metal panels just above the windows before you can remove the ceiling and this was tough as they are held by a fold in the metal ceiling. Getting them to clear the top of the aluminum window sides was tough and I had to hammer a few back into shape. Possibly I am wrong and doing these second would allow you to slide the sides up thereby not damaging the windows? Might be worth doing one to see.
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Old 01-06-2018, 12:41 PM   #2
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Pulling your interior panels is about the most frustrating job I can think of. That was until I started sanding the exterior.

I broke an air chisel half way through my rivets. It does take a lot of resharpening. The sad part is about the time you get really good at removing rivets, you run out of rivets.
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Old 01-06-2018, 04:56 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
The sad part is about the time you get really good at removing rivets, you run out of rivets.
There are always more buses, Robin.

It seems I'll be working on my bus and come to some really crappy job I finish and think, "well, that's as bad as it will get". Until the next worse crappy job. It's one after another. Sanding did suck. Painting did suck. Dropping the fuel tank...
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Old 01-06-2018, 05:36 PM   #4
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That is so true Rusty, endless supply of hard jobs that keep being eclipsed by a new one. I have thought "that is the worst of it" on several occasions. Still the brawn part intimidates me less than the brains part that is yet to come. I had absolutely NO idea what I was letting myself in for, or how extensive the knowledge required to redo a bus the right way, rather than my original intent to just slap in some cabinets. Glad for this site and all its great info.
My temporary fits of discouragement can't stand up to my determination.
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Old 01-06-2018, 07:04 PM   #5
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My ceiling panels have 50+ rivets along each seam, about 1" apart, on my 1999 TC1000. They are solid panels, so I am thinking they are structural with so many rivets. I think there are 11 panels total, by memory (I am not with my bus now). I was trying to convince myself that I wanted to tear-down and insulate, but now you are scaring me.

And the wall panel rivets? I think I will hang army-surplus wool blankets along the walls when cold, and throw a silver tarp or two over the roof if it gets that bad. Or drive elsewhere...that's why I got a bus!

BTW, I love your mid-sized TC2000. I did not know they made these. Do you have a wheelchair door or another emergency door on the passenger side at all? I assume there is an emergency door at the rear? I really wanted the door behind the driver, but never saw the bus like that shorter than 40-feet.
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Old 01-06-2018, 07:08 PM   #6
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My ceiling panels have 50+ rivets along each seam, about 1" apart, on my 1999 TC1000. They are solid panels, so I am thinking they are structural with so many rivets. I think there are 11 panels total, by memory (I am not with my bus now). I was trying to convince myself that I wanted to tear-down and insulate, but now you are scaring me.

And the wall panel rivets? I think I will hang army-surplus wool blankets along the walls when cold, and throw a silver tarp or two over the roof if it gets that bad. Or drive elsewhere...that's why I got a bus!

BTW, I love your mid-sized TC2000. I did not know they made these. Do you have a wheelchair door or another emergency door on the passenger side at all? I assume there is an emergency door at the rear? I really wanted the door behind the driver, but never saw the bus like that shorter than 40-feet.
They are structural. However, a school bus is a massively strong structure, with or without the ceiling panels. If you roll the bus you will be in far more danger from things not properly anchored, than you will be from the roof deforming.
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Old 01-06-2018, 07:10 PM   #7
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I am interested in as many tips and tricks as I can get from you all. I'm about to get a group of two or three guys together to remove rivets soon.
Has anyone tried removing let's say four in a row, leaving two in, remove a few more and try to pry it off the wall with a crowbar?
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Old 01-06-2018, 07:25 PM   #8
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No don't be afraid to remove the rivets Mountain Gnome. I am an old lady and did 400+ rivets in 6 hours, so just takes determination and some muscle ache. It was the condensation when I ran an electric heater and worked in there that convinced me I had to remove the ceiling, insulate properly and avoid bridging of metal to metal. Better to do it before you remodel than have regret (and you can read lots of posts about regrets) and do it after you build out your bus. Trick is to keep your air chisel sharp. Plus bonus is now I can see exactly where my leaks are. Removing the side walls also helped me see where the windows were leaking.

Yes I wanted a smaller bus (it is 27') for taking on forest service roads. It has a wheelchair door, one in back and a side door to boot.

I removed wall panelings and will fit 2x4's under the window sill and right at lip screwed through the rivet holes, then run 1x2 flush with window and put cedar tongue and groove under that to top of lip running vertically and screwed into the wood. Will use rock insulation in the wall, as it is in my floor. I wanted to leave access to the lip for securing built in furniture. I built up my floor and screwed the 2x4's to the wheel well boxes (insulated before sealing), which I bolted to the lip so didn't have to put a single hole in my newly patched metal floor to secure sub flooring. Figuring all this out is the fun part.
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Old 01-06-2018, 07:32 PM   #9
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Thomas1985 - The rivets in my ceiling were VERY strong, you would tear the ceiling metal before the rivets would come out. Even after shearing them all, it took some leverage to pull the panels from the mushroomed tips of the rivets. If your rivet centers are inset, then pushing those out with the pointy air chisel first does really help. I also thought the angled air chisel in the longer length was a help.
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Old 01-06-2018, 07:44 PM   #10
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I had the best luck with the "V" shaped chisel when it's sharpened right. I didn't try that one until I'd broken the other chisel. This was all with a neumatic air chisel because these arms aren't going to pound off nearly 2000 rivets.
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