Roof Raise of The Old 38!!!
After a long absence, we are back with an update! Things are progressing quite nicely and the roof raise is in progress. Technically the roof has been raised but the list of things to do to tie it all together is beyond extensive so in reality the roof raise has just begun!
NOTE: I apologize in advance for the couple of sideways or upside down photos. I cant seem to find a simple solution. They were straight when I imported them...
The Plans and Prepping
The raise has begun! We used scaffolding to support the roof, which worked like a charm. We took 2×6’s and used metal screws to mount them to the ribs on each side of the ceiling running the length of the bus. The top “feet” of the scaffolding would push up on these once we cut the roof free. We made reinforced places on the 2x6s for the scaffold to seat into. There were a total of 5 scaffold ends, all with jack feet that offered an extremely stable and accurate method of raising and lowering. The only problem with that method is it made working in there a challenge. Totally worth it though in my book. I highly recommend “Associated Scaffold”. Super cheap. We used 5 (5×5) end pieces, 3 sets of 7’ spreader bars, a set of 5’ spreader bars and 10 jack feet all for less than $100 for a MONTH!
We are keeping the original windows so once we had the roof supported, we went around and removed all the rivets that would allow the rib sections that would be cut free to raise up leaving the sheet metal down. We were careful to drill out the rivets and pop the heads off without damaging the sheet metal since we are reusing rivet holes and don’t want to risk a leak in the future. The windows and windowsills would go up and the rest of the sheet metal would stay down so there were also a bunch of sheet metal screws that had to come out for those pieces to be freed up. Those were all too tight to be backed out and all had to be slotted with the angle grinder in order to back them out with a flathead bit on the impact driver.
Another challenge was the side-door frame. In order for the top of the frame to go up it made the most sense to free up the bottom of it and just raise the whole thing up. It would be hard to explain the complexities involved so I won’t try. I’ll just cut the doorframe and bring the bottom back down later and fabricate the middle section at a later date. Once again quite a few rivets and metal screws held that all together so once they came out it allowed for it to be raised. We plan on reusing the side door with a bit of fabrication to make it tall enough to span the new height.
We are going to end up with a front and rear transition so figuring out where to cut over the top took some figuring, and in the end I think we could have done it better but its not a problem that cant be fixed easily. Also, since the front window (and rear 2 windows) will remain in the original position, we had to cut and free up the frame steel from the rib below the windowsill . The rib had to go up but the sill couldn’t. This brings other issues to deal with in the future though since the front window wont go back in with the new steel splice in the normal configuration. But we have a plan for that.
We used a Skillsaw (with a metal cutting blade) to cut the ribs under the affected windows. We staggered the cut so not to form a week “fold point”.
The minimum overlap with the spliced steel is 6” on one end and 10” on the other end. Since we didn’t raise any sheet metal, we used a scrap piece of steel to slide behind the ribs when we were cutting them to protect it. Once we had them all cut, we cut over the top in the front between the ribs above the first window and over the second to last window in the back.It was a pretty cool moment to cut across the top…the point of no return.
So we had it all cut and all the rivets and metal screws removed. We started to crank her up. We were hearing popping sounds that made us a little nervous till we figured out there was a bead of 22-year-old adhesive holding the windowsill to the top of the sheet metal. I went around with some flathead screwdrivers to pop them free. And up she went. We raised it up 14 inches, which puts the center height of the bus (metal floor to bottom of roof rib) at 7’8” before insulation! Pretty stoked to be able to raise my hands over my head in there.
We planned to use a custom hat channel but to make a long unfortunate story short, we had trouble getting that made. We ended up finding “Metal Supermarkets”. They run a great operation and are used to dealing with the public, as opposed to many machine shops who usually deal in huge quantities and large corporations. They couldn’t do the bends to make the hat channel BUT we came up with another solution. We ended up getting custom angle iron in a slightly higher gauge than the existing hat channel (12 gauge). Each existing rib would get 2 angle pieces, one on each side to form the wall and “brim” of the hat. And another flat piece will be welded in to connect the 2 angles (top of hat) to more or less fabricate a custom hat channel. They made the angle iron in a matter of a couple days.
To be able to check to see that each rib had been raised the same amount, before cutting we had marked a line one inch on either side on the planned cut.
This ensured that even if our cuts were crooked or off center (which they were) we were able to precisely measure how far we had raised the roof. So once the roof was at its determined elevations we started welding the angles in place to support the roof. This is where the feet jacks on the scaffolding really shined. We were able to tweak them to get each section exactly where it needed to be (within 1/16th of an inch). This took some time since I was working mostly alone and getting around the scaffolding was a challenge, but over a couple days I got everything welded in place (minus the top of the hat that hasn’t been purchased yet). Once that was done I lowered the scaffolding and removed it all. Once they were all out it was an unreal feeling to walk through the bus. Before the raise, part of me kept wanting to tell myself that a raise wasn’t necessary but after the scaffolding was out, I’m extremely glad to have taken this project on and the results will be totally worth it!
Now that the bus will be open for many weeks (months?) she sleeps under a big ass tarp.
In addition to welding the supports in, we are also using titanium Hi-loks, which are kind of like permanent bolts with a rivet style head so they can be used through the skins and through the ribs etc. We have to have them all installed before we put the flat steel pieces (top of hat) in place otherwise we couldn’t access the inside of the channel because of the skins on the outside of the bus.
Things on the rest of the roof raise list?
- front and rear transitions
- front and rear window support solutions
- Side door fabrication
- Side doorframe
- Hi-lok the supports
- Weld in top of hat and additional hi-loks
- Sheet metal sides
I cant resist posting another after shot of the current state of the raise!!
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"Aint nothin' to it but to do it!"