One of life’s painful lessons is committing to something and then discovering you should have chosen differently. I think we have all been there a time or two. My little tale starts with my wife. Wait… its not what you think. You see, 28-years ago, I married a truly amazing woman. Things were great when we started out, and they have become exponentially better over the years. Earlier this year I began giving some thought to what I might get her for Christmas. She loves hiking, and camping. So I set about determining what I might do that would involve her “likes”. I was drawing a blank until one day, while perusing ebay, I came across someone selling a Tentrax offroad camper.
Bingo! She & I love to go offroading, and if I could couple that with her love of camping it would be the perfect gift. I began bidding on the camper. My newly formed plan to acquire her Christmas gift was moving towards fruition when a few days later she found me in the Man Cave about to bid $3,000 on an $11,000 camper that had never once been used. Before I could casually hide what I was doing she saw it and told me, “I had better not be trying to buy something like that until we had new flooring”. DAM, I hate it when reality enters my world. I reluctantly agreed and had to watch as someone else got the deal of a lifetime. Ultimately the camper was purchased for a mere $4,000.
I was not deterred, just slowed down. I began quietly seeking a similar opportunity. Several weeks later, once again on ebay, I found a VentureCraft TrailBlazer offroad camper. I discovered an auction, which had ended without the reserve being met. I sent the seller an inquiry and discovered he still had the camper and was interested in selling it. He made me an attractive offer.
Unfortunately, I had to deal with a number of issues. We have two sons in college and their fees had just come due. After paying their tuition I no longer had readily available funds. I began quietly moving money around till I came up with the necessary cash. Next I had to deal with another issue. The trailer was in Virginia and I am in Kansas. I made a few calls and arranged for a coworker, back East, to pick up the camper and keep it at his place until I could figure out what I was going to do. Not only did he pick it up but he also found me reasonably inexpensive transport to get it to my town where I then hid it at a friend’s house.
It is pertinent to this story that you know the friend’s house, where I was hiding the camper, has a fully equipped garage with radiant heating in the floor (very nice in the winter). He builds custom cars for a living, and he has a serious “Tool Habit”. He loves tools and has nearly every tool known to man. Additionally he builds, reconditions and sells Superchargers to people all over the globe. He would be an incredible mentor if he could tolerate having people underfoot. He has always worked alone. For some crazy reason he puts up with me and teaches me whatever I want to know. YES, it is awesome to have a friend like him.
Okay, so with the camper at my friend’s place, I start visiting his garage every few days. My wife began laboring under the belief I was assisting my friend with several of his projects. I never told her that, but I haven’t corrected her either. She has been pleased I have been enjoying myself while learning new skills.
SANDBLASTING – Cool, Boring yet Satisfying
I began determining what I wanted to do with the camper. I decided that when Spring arrived I would paint it to match my Detonator Yellow 08 Rubicon Unlimited. With the painting figured out I started examining the camper and quickly realized that with a white or yellow camper I didn’t particularly like all the external hardware fittings being either dull aluminum or chrome. I decided that all fittings should be black. This left me with a problem and an opportunity. If I wanted everything to become black I was going to have to remove everything and sandblast the pieces prior to having them powder coated black.
I mentioned to my friend that I was going to remove all the hardware on the camper and take it all to be sandblasted. He told me that in the back corner of his garage he had a sandblasting cabinet. A sandblasting cabinet is a relatively simple device. It is essentially a box with an internal light source, a viewing window, and two holes for your hands/arms. Quite often the holes have permanently affixed gloves like you see on a baby incubator. Here are some photos of a relatively inexpensive (~$300) Sandblasting box. Harbor Freight has a Sandblasting Cabinet like this on sale starting January 1st, 2011 for $199.99.
You will also need an excellent air supply. Beyond that you don’t need a whole lot more. If you don’t feel like buying a sandblasting cabinet you can build one fairly easily. All that is required is a sealable box large enough to hold whatever you wish to work on. It must have a pressurized air line in it as well as a media (sand blasting material such as glass beads, walnut shells, sand, etc…) supply line. It must also have a grate in the bottom to allow the blasting media to drop out, be recollected and fed back into the cabinet. Finally, you will also need a light and a viewing window. Keep in mind that you can buy a commercial unit such as the one displayed in the previous photos for less than $300.
Before going any further I should state that if you are going to be sandblasting fairly delicate parts you should carefully experiment to make sure you don’t over blast, and hurt, the parts. You can pit, or scar, metal without too much trouble. Practice will really help. I should also state while sand blasting is relatively easy it can also be somewhat tedious. However, stick with it because the results can be amazing. I used very small grain glass beads for my sand blasting. They are inexpensive, easy to work with, and don’t tend to hurt smaller pieces such as the aluminum parts I was blasting. Here are some “before and after” sandblasting pictures where I then went on to powder coat the pieces in satin black (more on that a little later).