Rounding the Corner (Almost): We start putting stuff back in!

Forward seat backs removed, ceiling removed to first rib, floor prepped for paint.

Up until this point, our bus build has been one enormous demolition project. My daily routine has been as follows: show up to the bus, open windows, crank up the generator, put on some loud, fast crossfit-esque music on our Bluetooth speaker, break out the pry bar, grinder, sledge hammer, skill saw, etc. and DESTROY. I came up to a surprisingly threshold over the last two days of work when the an alarming thought popped into my head, “Maybe I don’t want to remove this next thing…” Shockingly, I had arrived at the point where I felt like we could start adding material rather than mercilessly gutting the old bus interior. Definitely a big day in the project.

Disgusting rotten plywood floor coming up! At this point I was really curious about how bad the rust would be underneath.
I began the floor removal by just trying to rip up as much as I could with a hammer and pry bar but it made a horrible mess. I resorted to the tried and true skoolie method of making lots of criss-cross cuts with a skill saw set to about 3/4 inch and dividing the gross plywood into manageable, stackable square chunks.
After clean up, a nap and a shower: all the flooring is up and plenty of surface rust. I did find some deep deep pitting around old bolts and nails but thankfully, no enermous gaping holes in our sheet metal floor.

After our rotten plywood and vinyl floor was totally ripped up, I set to work dealing with the rusty floor. I picked up several cans of rustoleum Rust converter from home depot and a surprisingly expensive wire wheel cup ($19.95!) for our 4 1/2 angle grinder and set off on what was to be the most filthy task of the project so far: Getting rid of the floor rust. A good set of gloves, some goggles, long sleeves, boots and a quality respirator are highly suggested for this task. As soon as the wire cup hit the first patch of rust, I was engulfed in a giant orange cloud of dust, rust particles and broken-off wire wheel wires. Time to open more windows and turn on an air mover or big fan if you have one (I didn’t).

Grinding the rust off the floor created an enormous pile of dust and coated every surface of the bus with fine rust particulate. A broom works fine for getting the majority of the rust up but here’s where the vehicle’s air brake system comes in really handy: under the driver’s side there is a large pressure tank that holds air pressure for the brakes and is filled by the engine-driven air compressor whenever the engine is turned on. On the pressure tank there are multiple ports to drain water out of and should be a couple of ports that are plugged on top. One of these ports on our bus had an accessory fitting to plug air tools into with a valve. If your bus doesn’t already have this fitting installed, you should definitely take advantage of this unlimited supply of compressed air and install the $10 quick-connect fitting and valve.

Air Brake pressure tank with accessory valve. As long as the engine is running, you’ve got at least 100 PSI at the ready!
Harbor Freight air gun and hose. This set up makes cleaning dust, dirt and god-knows-what off of walls, the overhead, cracks in the floor, the dash and yourself immeasurably easier. I also have a inflator wand I can hook up to this air hose and top-off our tires with.

After wire-wheeling and cleaning up the rust dust, I broke out the air gun to clean all the nooks and crannies and prep for rust converter. The paint can recommends washing with soap and water before painting but I was afraid of just adding to the rust by doing this so I just continued to clean with the air gun until I could wipe the floor with a rag and it would come up clean. Three spray cans of rust converter later, all rust spots from the driver seat to aft of the wheel wells were covered. I then took some sheet metal from the old ceiling, took the flapper disk on the grinder, lightly ground both the front and back of the metal to give it some “tooth” (ruffed-up so that paint and adhesive will hold better) and used the electric shears to cut the sheet metal into about 50 1.5×3 inch strips plus a handful of 3×3 inch squares. The strips are for the holes left by the seat mounts and the squares are for covering larger random rust spots. After out rust converter cured, I set to the fiddly task of gluing down a million little bits of sheet metal with JB Weld to cover the holes. As much as I wanted to continue into the night, I had enough fun after the first 20 or so patches and called it a solid day’s work.

Rust converter and patches in place. Not too glamorous, but sort of exciting: its the first material we’ve added to the bus rather than ripped out!

Getting rid of trash is sort of an issue for us currently, our work yard doesn’t have a dumpster and the nearest dump is about 35 minutes away (in the opposite direction of our condo) so, we’ve had to stash all our trash inside until we can take an hour and a half out of a workday to get rid of it all. What that means is about 1/4 of the bus is just filled with trash at the moment and I’ve got to shuffle around old floorboards and old seat back foam filled with detritus before I can work on a particular area. [I would greatly recommend to anyone doing a skoolie conversion to get a little dumpster for the first portion of the build.] With that being said, most of the 9 foot area aft of the wheel wells is just storage for trash and tools and I’ll have to continue the process of once we make a trip to the dump or I complete the forward floor paint and can shuffle the trash forward. Not ideal at all but we’re working with what we’ve got!

Charlie loves all the space up front now that the seat backs are gone and so is most of the sickly-sweet smell of wood rot. Also, he just wants me to throw his ball and doesn’t care at all about old school buses.
More bus fetch.
“In Transit” coming along nicely.

One thought on “Rounding the Corner (Almost): We start putting stuff back in!

  1. The built in air compressor is such a score! I can see a portable air jack and impact wrench being invaluable when you get on the road for flats and repairs, etc. Sweet!!


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