What started as a joke has become an indispensable piece of equipment.
I had been stalled for months with completing the belly pan, which meant I also could not attach the lower interior skins, since the C Channel on the floor/deck must be exposed in order to buck rivet the belly wraps to the Airstream properly (buck riveting requires access to both sides of the thing being riveted).
The original banana wraps (the curved pieces that go at all four corners of the belly) were extremely beat up. I had a lot of trouble finding new ones, as I didn’t want to use the black plastic ABS banana wraps that are now being utilized on new-build Airstreams.
I made several attempts at smoothing out the original banana wraps with rollers, sandbags and hammers, etc., but nothing was making them look like they needed to. I started researching English wheels to shape sheet metal, but they are incredibly expensive.
The aluminum banana wraps are quite soft (which is a huge part of why they are so banged up), so I knew I didn’t need a “proper” English wheel used to shape and form steel. Thus, I started thinking about what I had lying around that might work in a similar way.
I have these huge, ancient casters that came from my grandfather’s farm. I always thought they’d end up going on an industrial style coffee table or cart, but I realized they would be great for flattening aluminum. As a bonus, they are made from really hard rubber, so they don’t cause creases or dents at the edge of the wheels like hard metal might. I had an extra vice laying around, so I cobbled together this contraption:
It worked! And while it wasn’t perfect, I was able to get the job done.
For this job, I placed the weights in the following picture over the wheels to get the pressure I needed, but a second vice on the opposite side of the current one will obviously be a more elegant solution.