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Old 06-22-2008, 08:58 PM   #1
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Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

Hey everyone.

This is my first post here. I've been reading the forums here for the last few months and I finally have something to say. But first, a little background. I got my bus back in March and have been slowly dreaming up plans, stripping out the inside and preparing for a roof raise (with a lot of space in between working and doing other projects). I've used other forum members buses as inspiration and example for how I'd like to do it (thanks to everyone who has done a project and posted pictures or information about it... it really helps a new guy like me). My question is about recommendations for size and shape of steel to use in supporting my lift. I'd like to go up somewhere between 18" and 24" (having been inspired by Millicent). If it helps to understand why I'd like to go up so high, my plan is to full time it in this bus house (I live in a converted greyhound at the moment but want something more personalized) and so could use the extra height for storage and comfort (and insulation space). Here are a few diagrams to help explain my thinking about the lift:

These are the dimension of the channel steel posts in the bus.


This is the first idea I had. I saw someone else had done a lift in a similar way. 1" square tubing inside of the channel, flush with the outside skin and then another 1" piece cut to fit into the gap in the original steel posts and welded in to back up the first piece. I'm a beginner welder (am practicing on some other less critical projects as I plan for this one) and so I don't fully understand the implications of having a small gap around the 1" square stock. The channel steel in my diagram says its approx. 1 1/8" across but after measuring it more accurately, it is exactly 1 3/16" across, so that leaves over 1/16" gap on both sides of a 1" square tube. Not being sure about that gap and looking at another conversion (Elliot's I think) made me interested in using 1" x 1 1/2" rectangular tubing and spacers.


This diagram doesn't accurately show what I'd like to do (which is exactly what I saw in the Millicent roof lift). What the diagram doesn't show is a third piece of metal, 1 1/2" by 3/16" to shim the gap in the width of the channel steel. I hope that makes sense, I'm new to working with steel and am just starting to learn what to call things. Oh, and I'm not sure how big a difference this makes, but the welder I have is a gasless wirefeed from sears that runs off house current. I've been practicing with .030" wire and was not sure if I should continue to use it on the bus or go up to .035" which I haven't tried yet.

I'm hoping to get some more perspective on this from people who have done it or know about this sort of thing. I'm not planning on moving the bus all that frequently (not that I could afford to anyways) but the reason I'm building in a bus is to have that option, so of course it has to be safe. The choice is made more difficult because while my local steel supplier has all the stock I need to carry out either option, he has enough slightly rusty 1" square tubing in his odd leftovers pile and will sell it at a deep discount. I'm inclined to take the discount and clean up the steel myself (seeing the price of steel these days) but I feel nervous and unsure about proceeding with the question of 1" square stock in 1 3/16" channel steel. I can afford to do the project either way and would naturally want to do it right the first (and only) time I do it. Knowing all that.. using 1" square stock is a lot more economical for me. I would love to hear some feedback. I only get on the internet a few times a week (as I'm not hooked up where I live) so there may be delays in my response. Thanks for looking everyone.

-Jarek
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Old 06-23-2008, 12:38 AM   #2
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

Hi Jrock...Click has a detailed description and a photo log of how I did my roof raise. The raise itself was not that difficult to do, re-skinning the bus takes all the labor. Welcome to the Forum and I look forward to seeing your progress!
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Old 07-03-2008, 12:06 AM   #3
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions


Another disciple! I'm gonna be rich!

You might -- could perhaps, maybe -- discover that the 110 V welder is inadequate. My friend Peter tried using his on Millicent, and got nothing but chicken scratchings. (I used a 220 V stick welder.)

I'm old and got dizzy trying to study your fancy drawings and detailed ideas, so I will generalize:

An experienced fabricator might jump right in with the 1" insert and pinch down the "hat section" and weld it up. But before you do it that way, make sure you fully understand how you are going to line everything up, and where you will be welding -- including inside the hat section on the hidden top and bottom of the inserts. A long overlap is probably more important than a perfect fit.

I added shims the full length of my inserts simply because it was the easiest way to get perfect alignment. In retrospect, I wasted a lot of shim material, because I could have accomplished almost the same with a short shim at each end. By almost the same, I mean the same fit, with only a tiny loss in strength.

Keep in mind that most of the strength in a structure like this is in the outer dimension of the piece, and not in the wall thickness. (See "long overlap" above.)

So... using only one 1" piece for the insert, would lose you a ton of sideways strength. I think I used 1" x 1 1/2" rectangular tubing, (plus shims), and that 1 1/2 is the big strength that will help keep the roof on top if the bus tips over, compared with just 1". Apparently, you understand that. Good.

Do you mean that you would slice some 1" square tube to 3/4" and add to a 1" for a full 1 3/4" insert? That would be terriffic. My only worry would be all that "ripping".

How about using two full pieces, for a 2" insert? Right.... The skin wouldn't fit.

I like the 1 3/4 idea, and then I wouldn't worry about the slight gap on the side. Clamp the insert into one corner of the hat section, and weld everything you can reach. Then pinch the third side in and weld that. Or stick short flat shims in there for neatness.

You may have noticed that I put some diagonals in Millicent. You might want to do that too, since you are going up so far.

And you know to build and use sturdy lifting guides, right?

Get to work!
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Old 07-03-2008, 03:30 PM   #4
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

I would look into finding or having a hat channel made that fits over the existing channel, use as much overlap as you can feasably get, then drill the outer channel close to the ends of the splice, both the existing bus pieces and the ends of the new piece then plugweld the channels together, finaly buy and fit a piece of flat stock into the hat gap between the body and roof then skin over the structure. I agree with Elliot that you should add some diagonal braces for good luck if not for structural reasons.

Question; Has anyone tried or thought about using metal barn siding or roofing to skin in a roof raise or window removal?
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:21 PM   #5
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

I spent many years Mig welding (wire-feed) for the railroad and stick welding steel and red iron for building construction. I own a 220-volt buzz box with leads I modified to reach projects that need welding outside of the shop such as my Bus. I have not turned that machine on since I purchased a 110-volt gas-less wire feed from Harbor Freight for $139.00. Just make sure that you run dual-shield wire (it has a gray coating) that is for gas-less welding and not the shiny brass or copper looking wire. I ran out about four small spools of dual-shield wire at about $15.00 per spool welding my bus up.

Good luck and have fun with the roof raise it is a fun project. When you complete it you may discover that it went a lot easier then what you may be anticipating.
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Old 07-06-2008, 11:41 AM   #6
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

As Elliot mentioned about diagonal bracing - keep in mind that if you are putting in a few "bulkheads" (for instance - a separator wall between bed and cabin, or walling in a bathroom) that you won't want to some day move.... consider making the wall framework out of metal tubing. It might help to stiffen the bus.

Now - I haven't had a chance to figure out if that would make the bus TOO stiff.... all metal structures have some give. Look at some of the semi trailers going down the road. I would hate to find that the bus starts tearing itself up on my extra bracing. Hmmmm.... maybe just overbuild it more than needed and it should be good? Since the load on a skoolie is much less in our usage than when they were hauling a full load of people (usually) and they are built for protection from more than just rain - it might have a better chance to avoid that. Just a thought. I know that I will be adding that type of bracing - but I don't get out on the road much!
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Old 07-07-2008, 06:51 PM   #7
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

I raised my roof 14" and didn't see the need for more then one diagonal brace (in the wall behind the driver's seat), the extra entrance door tubing sufficed for keeping things square on the passenger side of the bus. Between the additional tubing and angle iron used to frame in the door and window openings. The new 20-gauge sheet metal skin (with joints backed up with angle iron) and the interior framing (walls sheeted with plywood and pine) the bus is stronger then it was before I cut the roof off of it! If I was going up 23" as Elliot did, I would add something extra but for just a headroom raise of 6" to 14" (in my humble opinion) I wouldn't worry about it. One or two diagonals should be plenty to keep everything square as you rebuild the bus. It worked fine for me but I don't plan on doing any two-wheeled turns or jumps!! :P
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Old 11-13-2008, 11:40 PM   #8
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions


Heh, heh.... I drive such trailers. They actually don't have a frame AT ALL! There are frame rails at the rear, for the suspension to mount to, but the rest of the trailer is a unibody -- all sheets and ribs and rivets. Amazing that they don't break in half more often than they do. Millicent's new skin is trailer material. The white is wall material, and the bare aluminum is roof material. Both are around .050 thick, looks like.

Now, for a practical application of this trivial knowledge.... Methinks a scrapped semi trailer would be a good source of bus materials. We might do well to check with trailer repair shops -- they discard piles and piles of wrinkled panels.

Also, I remember Kevin had the idea of simply grafting a big chunk of trailer or cargo box onto a bus. Sounds doable to me, but you'd need to find an eight foot wide trailer. Most modern trailers are 8' 6".
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Old 11-14-2008, 09:24 AM   #9
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions

why not use a 8'6' wide trailer, it's legal width and take advantage of the extra width for insulation or floor space? cut the body at the back of the drivers window and remove everything, seats, windows, floor etc. size the rear portion of a semi trailer to fit, leaving some extra roof skin to pull down and blend into the front of the bus for a seamless one piece roof and then transition the bus sides out 3 inches to blend into the box sides. one wrecked or used trailer would have an abundance of material to work with and by adding it to a bus frame it would gain lots of structural strength.
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Old 11-14-2008, 11:12 AM   #10
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Re: Skoolie Newbie... Roof Raise Questions


Hey, good point! And now that I think about it, the wider trailer body just might allow a nice overlap with the bus body walls, for easy and strong installation. That is, keep the bus floor and some wall, and telescope the trailer walls over it.

So many possibilities!
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