In summer 2014, I acquired the remains of one light-duty utility trailer from my father, with the intention to clean it up and restore it, and modify it as needed to be a small boat trailer. I want to be able to carry one kayak, canoe, or small sailboat, along with gear. I decided I would also document this project in HTML and JPEG, hence this website.

Phase 1: Wash and dis-assembly.

From now until "completion" I will try to add a paragraph or two each week about what's going on that week, along with photos now and then. I can't promise to remember every little detail, especially when the work gets tedious, but this should give a good overview of the progress.

Week 1: October 18, 2014

With the Scouting event over, I cleaned my garage thoroughly. I moved the trailer in and began the dis-assembly. The first thing off was the old tongue. Remember that the original was all bolt-together. The high-school kids had welded several parts, but the tongue was not among them. With the tongue on a work bench I removed the wiring, coupler, and safety chains from it. The coupler was so rusted I needed a breaker bar to get the nuts started. Those nuts, bolts, and washers will be replaced later.

At four feet long the tongue did an excellent job for a utility trailer, but if I am going to put 16-foot boats on this, and not have 80% of the boat hanging off the back, it will need to be longer. Accounting for the swing of my tail-gate, putting the center of the boat just forward of the axle, and the amount of tongue overlapping the trailer frame, I calculated 9 feet and change. So call it 10 feet. I gave the bare metal bar that was the tongue to my friend Tim, who "knows people." I don't know what that means and I don't care. But in a few days I will have a 10 foot bare metal bar, with identical cross-section and drilled at the ends exactly like the old.

Week 2: October 25, 2014

I pulled the frame out of the garage, hosed it down, and went to work with a bucket of hot soapy water and a car-wash bristle brush. The dirt came off. The bird stuff came off. The pine pitch did not come off. I actually went all the way around twice- wet, scrub, rinse, repeat. I looks a lot better, but the rust spots and pitch spots stand out more now. As for the pitch, I tried a dab of Goo-Gone and a razor scraper. It looks like it will work, but by the time I found this out my time for working was over.

After washing

I have noticed that the suspension is another thing not welded to the frame. So I have decided to remove it with the wheel and axle during the phase. I am also going to remove all the lights, but I won't disconnect the wires. When I get around to painting again in a couple months, I'll just wrap paper around them and secure with masking tape.

Week 3: November 1, 2014

Spent more of this weekend on house work than the trailer. I got the axle and suspension off, though with much more banging and levering than I thought it should have taken. My mistake was dropping it on the left side, then the right. This twisted the connection on the right and jammed them up. When it goes back on, it will be forward bolts first, then rear-ward bolts. With it off, I can see that the underside of the axle is the most in need of cleaning and brushing off some rust.

I also started looking at the wiring and the fact that I will need to extend the front section to account for the soon to be longer tongue. I was hoping there would be some thing that would splice a flat-four wire to another all at once. It turns out I am going to need to separate the wires and splice one at a time, so I purchased a package of heat-shrink crimp splices. But now that I have these, I also want to re-do some of the older splices, especially the ones using the guillotine-style, to make this thing as weather resistant and stable as possible. So I've changed my mind on that- the lights are coming off completely. I'll leave the wires in place, but like I said before, mask them during painting so as not to obscure their colors.


Week 4: November 8, 2014

I'm not sure I need or want the vertical stakes the high school students added. But they are there, and welded on. For sure the front two will interfere with whatever boat I try to put on it, so they have got to go. I have removed them with a reciprocating saw, and also went to work on the axle with a wire brush on a drill. As a result, I am noticing that the wire brush does a good job not only on chipping paint and rust flakes, but also on the pine pitch. Thus, thankfully, no need for the goo-gone and scraper, since I am going to wire brush this thing from stem to stern anyway.

Week 5: November 15, 2014

It was snowing and cold outside. It was warmer in my garage, but not by much. I had also found the garage lighting not as good as I need to do this work. Also, having to leave my Jeep outside in the snow and ice was not desirable. This was enough to put just the right bee up my backside and think. My basement workshop is fully heated and well-lit. I took some measurements and found that yes, I could move the now basically dis-assembled trailer frame into the shop, and only have to take the door from the garage to the house off its hinges (which I did when the laundry machines arrived three years ago, so I know it's no big deal).

I will be able to lay it down, but for now I have it propped up on jack stands to keep weight off the sides of the fenders, leaning over, basically up-side-down, with blocks of scrap wood under the ends of the stakes. Here is the basic view from each of the four corners of the shop.

NW corner SW corner
SE corner NE corner

Thus, not much real work on the trailer this week. Mostly, cleaning up, re-oganizing my tools and scrap stuff lying around, and ultimately man-handling the frame into the shop. Lesson learned: get a friend to help when it's time to move it back out!

Now that it's inside, I have actually removed all the lights, and all the old splices.