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Old 11-17-2016, 02:12 PM   #1
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Material for roof raise!?

Hey everyone,

I'm having the most difficult time finding material to extend the ribs on my bus. It's a 2001 Thomas and the ID of the ribs are 1 1/8" wide which is impossible to find square giving that side. They are also 1 3/4" deep which makes it an odd size obviously. Recreating the ribs seem to be tough to because there are 4 bends and dimensions are tight.

If anyone else has run into this problem and found a solution id love to hear about it!

Thanks!
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Old 11-17-2016, 04:07 PM   #2
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I checked a few places that I know deal in metal tubing but no one has that size.... I'd be willing to bet it's probably gonna be a special order item (at a premium price, no doubt).

Maybe something you could do by proxy.... get some U channel steel with an inside dimension that will just fit around that tube steel and cut to the height of your window opening after the raise, and weld it in place? Ideally it would need just a tap or two with a hammer, that way it will stay in place while you weld it. May not have the strength that the tubing would have but as long as you keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down it should not be a problem right?

Just a thought.....
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Old 11-17-2016, 04:29 PM   #3
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nat_ster, myself, and I believe a few others here have removed a sample section of the hat channel (ribs) and had a local shop fabricate custom pieces to fit over the factory stuff. I initially balked at the higher cost as compared to using square tube, but I have to admit that the fit is excellent (much better than I could have hoped for with off-the-shelf tube of any size) and in the grand scheme of thousands of dollars of bus conversion cost, I'm glad I ponied up the extra $250. I saved time in assembly and I feel better about the final result.

Just now I remembered one of our members did report a bad experience having channel made. It seems there was a misunderstanding with the metal shop about the dimensions and the pieces were made much too large. I suggest submitting a rough drawing for quote purposes, but deliver an actual sample of your rib material before beginning the job and clearly state that the acceptance criteria is that the custom pieces fit nicely over the sample.
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Old 11-17-2016, 05:50 PM   #4
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Hate to ask the obvious...but...have you checked with Thomas? Some Skoolie makers sell "repair sections" for ribs and others sell full ribs. I know for a fact that Blue Bird only sells full ribs (they are one piece that runs from side to side). You can however buy full ribs and cut out what you need. That's what I did when I raised my BB 19". I then used the arched sections to create the new "outer" roof.
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Old 11-17-2016, 06:40 PM   #5
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I always wondered: how do they ship those big one-piece ribs? LTL freight with that thin little piece stuck on an absurdly big pallet?
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Old 11-17-2016, 07:03 PM   #6
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They probably stack enough to build a complete bus on a pallet and stretch-wrap or otherwise tie them together so they don't separate in transit.

Not sure what they would do if you're only ordering a few...
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Old 11-17-2016, 07:05 PM   #7
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Yep. That's pretty much the picture I recall.

Blue Bird only uses one piece ribs, but from what I understand, many manufacturers use three or more separate segments that are either bolted or welded together. No idea how the Thomas's are built.
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Old 11-17-2016, 07:08 PM   #8
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I'm thinking the same thing. Seems that for just a few, the only economically feasible thing would be to buy them "at retail" from stock on hand at a local Blue Bird dealer/shop who orders in full pallet quantities.
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Old 11-17-2016, 08:21 PM   #9
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But... Is something from the manufacturing company going to be 'exact material' or 'oversized material'?

In my mind for a roof raise... You'd want oversized material. Otherwise, you're going to have butt joints where the ribs are extended.
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Old 11-17-2016, 08:53 PM   #10
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I would go with two custom formed channels.
One would fit over the existing stubs at the lower portion and the raised portion. From inside the bus. And the old and new welded together.
The second formed channel would be sized to slide over the channel legs of the new outer channel from inside the bus.
These two new channels would be lap welded vertically creating a rectangular tube. From below the sill all the way to above the window opening if possible.
This additional thickness between the windows might render the original windows a bit to wide for the finished rough openings however.
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Old 11-17-2016, 09:59 PM   #11
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I used readily available steel – a rectangular tube and two sizes flat stock. Put together, they fill the “hat” channel.
It would be stronger to install something equivalent on the outside of the “hat”, but… gosh… do I need it to meet Pupil Transportation standards? I added a few diagonals in the walls, and two diagonals in an X across the “forehead” above the windshield, for good measure.



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Old 11-18-2016, 11:37 AM   #12
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I cut a piece of the rib out and took it to a local metal shop so I could get square tubing that would fit inside. I had them cut me 20 pieces, each piece being 46 inches long. I raised my roof 20 inches and I bolted the tubing in. It is really solid. I paid just under $100 for the steel tubing. I also got 4 x 8 sheets of 18 gauge cold rolled steel for skinning the bus and each sheet was $30.25.
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Old 11-18-2016, 12:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elliot Naess View Post
I used readily available steel – a rectangular tube and two sizes flat stock. Put together, they fill the “hat” channel.
It would be stronger to install something equivalent on the outside of the “hat”, but… gosh… do I need it to meet Pupil Transportation standards? I added a few diagonals in the walls, and two diagonals in an X across the “forehead” above the windshield, for good measure.



This is exactly how I did mine as well. So far it's been rock solid and my bus has done about 5 or 6k miles since I raised the roof... No swaying, rocking, buckling or any kind of movement at all...
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Old 11-18-2016, 12:25 PM   #14
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About bolting the extensions in.... I will definitely bolt mine in next time. Mind you... this will have to be done properly, and I'm thinking...:

High grade bolts -- at least Grade 5, maybe Grade 8 -- no unmarked hardware store bolts.
Matching grade nuts. And definitely self-locking nuts -- at least ny-lock, but better the crimped all-steel nuts that practically weld themselves in place if you run them in fast with a power tool.
Hardened washers on both sides.
And install these on very solid steel -- at least 1/4 inch walls, or better with a spacer inside, so the structure being clamped by the bolt does not give under the pressure.
Bolt diameter... 3/8 ought to do.

Two of these at each end of the extension, several inches apart. Drill and bolt with the insert clamped tightly to the bottom of the hat channel (the top of the hat).

Dang, that ought to do it!
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Old 11-18-2016, 12:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slaughridge85 View Post
This is exactly how I did mine as well. So far it's been rock solid and my bus has done about 5 or 6k miles since I raised the roof... No swaying, rocking, buckling or any kind of movement at all...
60,000 miles on Millicent so far.
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Old 11-19-2016, 12:20 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elliot Naess View Post
I used readily available steel – a rectangular tube and two sizes flat stock. Put together, they fill the “hat” channel.
It would be stronger to install something equivalent on the outside of the “hat”, but… gosh… do I need it to meet Pupil Transportation standards? I added a few diagonals in the walls, and two diagonals in an X across the “forehead” above the windshield, for good measure.



I was thinking about going the route you did. It looks like you've got it to fit perfectly! Do you remember the dimensions of your ribs and rectangular tubing you used? Looks plenty strong too
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Old 11-19-2016, 02:56 PM   #17
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The box tubing is 1 x 1 1/2. Wall thickness measures a bit over 1/16, so that's probably .065.

One flat stock is 1 x 1/4.

The other is 1 1/2 x 3/16.

This adds up to 1 3/4 x 1 3/16.
This went inside the hat with the factory skin still on the outside of the hat -- the visible strip of skin between the factory windows (against the work bench in the two photos).

Then I figured out to remove that original strip of skin, since the new skin goes there. Of course, the difference in fit is trivial unless you are a rabid perfectionist.

But removing that strip makes it possible to insert the... uh... inserts horizontally, instead of jacking the roof up several extra inches to insert the new material from the top, and then lowering the roof again.
And if welding, you get to weld inside the hat, which improves strength considerably.

I fabricated all 30+ inserts before I began cutting the roof free.

Edit to add:

Be sure the inserts are all the same length, and that you have even stops at top and bottom so the roof winds up level. On Millicent, there were already bolts thru the hats at the top.

Next time, I plan to let the inserts protrude thru the roof skin, to form mounting points for a luggage rack and/or deck. This also eliminates the extra roof jacking for insertion there.

Of course, this creates nasty water leak points, but I figure this can be handled with diligent caulking and painting, and annual maintenance of same.
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