Thanks for all the feedback everybody. We successfully got the first side skin riveted in today. It took about 3 hours from start to finish to have everything riveted. I used the Astro pneumatic hydraulic rivet gun (which btw is way better than the HF). I stood outside the bus on scaffolding while my wife stayed inside and put 1/4” steel washers on the rivets where they’d fit (per Ross Taylor’s YT vids) and helped make sure everything was aligned.
Also, Flipmode, when I picked up the skins from skoolie.com in Hendersonville, NC one of the founders Luke told me they use a jig nearly identical to the one you made. Only difference was he used a table saw to cut a slit in the wood itself for the sheet to slide in. Everything else was the same. Great idea if you’ve gotta do it by yourself. I’m glad to have help but will definitely be pursuing this if I’ve got to do any alone.
Here’s pics from the day: https://imgur.com/a/0f0D8LU
I’ll explain what we did below.
My wife and I lifted the skin into place using brute strength, expletives, and some suction cup holders from Home Depot (I was told by the skoolie.com folks that the HF ones aren’t enough to support the skins). Check them out:
We dropped the skins in between the bus body and the rub rail. At the top they were positioned between the drip rail (not sure the proper name) and the back of the hat channels/the galvanized pieces between them. Pilot holes were drilled with a 1/8” cobalt bit and a liberal amount of cutting oil. I experimented with a 1/4” step up bit but found it to be no more efficient than the three step method with reaming to larger sizes. Occasionally I used #12 self tapping tex screws in place of the 3/16” but for their holding power, especially when things like the rub rails were out of alignment. These holes got stepped up to the final F bit size, then deburred, and given a cleco.
Sadly our clecos weren’t long/strong enough to keep the drip rail from bowing out once it was secured. They’d just get immediately yanked out by the force of the bent rail. My solution was to use a 6mmx30mm socket cap with a washer and nut. Tightened them down with an impact which brought the skins into better alignment I did these every other hole going zig zag down towards the hat channel (see pics^). When it came time to rivet I just filled in every other hole with rivets. Then one by one took out the hex screws and replaced with a rivet and sealant.
Lesson learned: I only had six hex screws. I needed to have all hat channels screwed down so the whole thing could be in plane. Doing it one at a time brought the drip rail down at an odd angle which misaligned all the holes by about 1/8” or so. A lot had to be re-drilled while mid way through the riveting. Not fun.
I had planned for that thankfully and hope the washers mitigated an oblong hole. Everything feels stressful when working with a actively curing sealant right? I wore a tool belt with the rivet gun, dozens of both lengths of rivets, spray bottle of degreaser, drill with a deburring bit, drill with an F bit, a rag for cleaning debris, and then had an upside down plastic cup held magnetically to the skin with a dollop of sikaflex on it for dipping rivets. Felt like quite the construction bada$$ for a bit lol. Feet hurt like hell after standing on scaffolding for 5 hours though. Worth it.
So two skins now done. About 8 or so to go. The door will need to be addressed somewhere in there. Currently planning on reusing the Jack knife door to make it rigid and outward opening. No clue how I’ll do this yet. Need to do more research.
I’ll keep posting as this progresses! Love everyone’s input and feedback!