Restoration

What a busy, productive day!!

We got up early and started working on the trailer.  Since we bought it in November 2014, we’ve had some minor leaks inside which are probably due to tiny pinholes on the roof (that are essentially invisible).  We’d patched all that we’d found but still had some leaking after heavy rains,  so we decided to do an all-over roof sealant.  Fingers crossed that this will fix it, once and for all…

 

By 10:00, Wayne had the first coat of sealer on the roof, and while we waited for that to dry, we drove over to the local landfill and had our car weighed; 4620 lbs.  The woman at the scale said it would be fine to come back later to get the weight of the car and trailer, so that became part of the afternoon’s plan.

16′ Scamps can weigh anywhere between about 2200-2800 pounds (or more), depending on how they’re equipped and packed, but the weight of our trailer has been a mystery since we bought it.  It was basically a shell before we started renovating it, and everything we built (counters, cabinet spaces, benches, permanent bed in the back, etc.) was made with 3/4″ plywood–certainly heavier than the fiberglass components that are found in traditional Scamps.  On the other hand, we only have an A/C in the front closet, and don’t have a refrigerator, stove, heater, water tanks, and other things that you’d find in a trailer fresh from the factory.

Last September when a friend had to tow our trailer home after our Toyota 4Runner broke down on our way to a campground, he said it felt really heavy to him–possibly as much as 3500 pounds!  Yikes!  It seemed impossible that we could have added that much weight with the wood, but we’d started wondering if we should try to make some modifications inside to make it lighter.

Our 2000 4Runner served us well (most of the time…) as a tow vehicle, but last August I bought a Kia Sorento with the intention of being able to use it to pull our trailer.  Rated to tow 5000 pounds, I finally had a hitch, wiring harness, and brake controller installed early this summer.  Since it was too hot (and WAY too bright!) to try to get the second coat of sealant on the roof during the middle of the day, we hooked up the trailer to the Kia to do a test drive.

The hitch on the Kia is much lower than the one on the 4Runner, so I got a 4″ rise mount and hoped that would be enough to keep the trailer level while towing.  Also, the new brake controller was different from the one on the 4Runner, and we needed to figure out how to use it.

The reviews for the Tekonsha Voyager brake controller were quite good, but after reading the manual, it seemed much more complicated to calibrate than the one we have on the 4Runner. Once we had the basic adjustments figured out (while still in our neighborhood), we made our second trip of the day to the landfill.

I could definitely feel the trailer behind me (these little single-axle trailers bounce like crazy…), but the car seemed to handle it without a problem.  Also, while we’d attached towing mirrors to the regular side mirrors on my car, I found I could actually see better just with the Kia’s wide side mirrors.  (We’ll probably try these towing mirrors again at some point before deciding, for sure, that we don’t need to use them–or that we need to buy a different style of mirror.)

We got to the landfill, waited until the attendant (a different person) waved us onto the scale, and explained that we’d like to get a weight on the car and trailer.  If we’d wanted an “official” weight with a printed receipt, there would have been a charge, but there was no charge just to have it weighed. Nice!  With a combined car/trailer weight at 6300 pounds, we were delighted to learn that the trailer weighs just 1680 pounds!  MUCH better than we’d anticipated.

Virginia law states that trailers over 3000 pounds are required to have brakes, but as people in RV forums always point out, it’s not just a matter of how much your vehicle can safely tow, but how much it can safely stop.  Since the brakes on the trailer were fully warmed up, we continued to drive around, making adjustments on the controller.  At one point when I felt the brakes “grab” when I was stopping, I turned the power down.  But then when I didn’t feel them activating quite enough, I moved the power up a bit.  After more back and forth tweaking, we finally we seemed to find the right degree of braking power.

I also wanted to check to see how level the trailer was, so we pulled into a parking lot to check the car, hitch, and trailer, and to take some pictures.  Seems to be quite level.  I’d bought a ball mount that offered a bit more space from the back of the car to the trailer because I wasn’t sure if a standard one would allow us to open the hatchback without hitting the jack on the trailer.  I think either would have been fine.

  

Wayne wanted to get a picture of me with the car and trailer, but oh my….  Yes, here I am making quite the fashion statement, still dressed in my early morning goofy painting garb. 😉

  

We drove for a while at highway speeds on Rt. 250 because I wanted to experiment with the “sport mode” on the Kia.  Many people recommend using this engine mode when towing a trailer.  (This model of Sorento has normal, eco, and sport modes.) At this point, I’m not really sure what I think of it; I’ll need to read more to see what the advantages are–and tow a bit more to see how the car responds–before knowing if it’s the best mode for us to use with this particular trailer.

When we got home, I had to back the trailer into the driveway.  Ugh.  While I DO understand how to do this–in theory–it is still a miserably slow process, even with Wayne’s patient assistance.  Finally, finally I had it backed up into the right place, and overall we agreed that we were pleased with the way the car had performed on this short trip out and about.

By late afternoon, it was time for the second coat of roof sealant.  Again we used painters tape and newspaper to make sure that the sealant stayed just on the top of the roof.  I guess this time it went on faster, but by the time we’d finished we were both sweaty, exhausted, and ready for Ibuprofen.

So after a few Scamp-centric days, we got a lot done!  The main body of the trailer is much shinier than it was (and hopefully easier to keep clean); the roof has been sealed and is now a very shiny, bright white; we know what the trailer weighs; we know that the car will tow it just fine; and we know that the brake controller will stop it.  Now to find time to actually GO somewhere with it! 🙂

Well, at least “shinier.” 🙂

Last year when we waxed the Scamp it looked pretty good, but the shine didn’t last long at all.  While we don’t know the full history of our 1995 trailer, we can assume that not much has been done to maintain the exterior over the years; any gloss or gel coat was long, long gone by the time we bought it.  The surface turned very “chalky” whenever we washed it, and the water we rinsed it with actually looked “milky.”

We cleaned it up last Spring for a quick camping trip, but by June it looked worse than ever!  There were green streaks on it, and an amazing amount of dust and dirt.  When we washed it again in early July, it literally took hours to get it clean.  WAY too much work…

We kept it covered with a large tarp after that while we tried to figure out what to do.  We were disappointed with how quickly the wax coating had faded, and weren’t sure we wanted to go that route again.

I’d read about people using Zep floor polish (!) to make old fiberglass trailers shiny again (and therefore easier to keep clean), and while some people don’t recommend using this because it has no UV protection, we decided to give it a go.

I didn’t take any pictures before using the Zep, but this is what the trailer looked like last April after we’d washed it for our camping outing–clean, but with a dull finish.  That’s basically how it looked after our most recent washing and scrubbing session.

So we bought a gallon of Zep and some microfiber towels (use white or light towels–we discovered that a yellow towel started leaving yellow streaks!), and started wiping on the polish on Wednesday, July 12th.  We didn’t notice much of an improvement after two coats, so we added a couple more coats.  Finally–as we reached 7 or 8 coats over the course of two days–we were able to achieve a nice gloss.

Having the trailer look nicer was certainly one of the goals, but from what we’ve read, it should be much easier to clean in the future.  Fingers crossed!

Oh, did you notice the blue painter’s tape along the roof line?

Since we’re still apparently dealing with some tiny, essentially invisible pinholes on the roof that have caused some leaks, our next project will be painting the roof with a sealant.  After that, we’ll need to reattach some of the hull liner and insulation that have started sagging inside as a result of the leaks. (!)

Before we fix the ceiling, however, we might try to get in some camping trips because the summer is going way too quickly, as usual.  I’ve finally got the Kia set up as a tow vehicle (same tow rating as our 4Runner, 5000 lbs.), but first we need to figure out how to set the new brake controller. (It’s much more complicated to calibrate, but it’s probably a better product than what we have on the 4Runner.)

We do love our little trailer, but it seems we’re still in a pattern of restoration–and then fixing the things we’ve already fixed!  Always something. 🙂

Wow!  My two sons and my daughter-in-law went together to buy us a small generator for Christmas!  We can use this while camping if we’re somewhere without electricity (it’s surprisingly quiet), and we can also use it at home in the event of a power outage.  This is a VERY cool and greatly appreciated gift!  Thank you!

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As an added “gift,” my son, Brandon, and my Grandpups (Harper and Yuma) made the long, long drive from Colorado to Virginia to be home for Christmas!  While he was here, Brandon showed us how to use the generator, plus he had another surprise for us. 🙂

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Over the years, he’s done a lot of camping in remote areas of Colorado.  He has the same generator, and he also uses solar panels to keep everything charged.  Since he’d upgraded his solar setup, he brought us one of his original panels and a charge controller for our trailer, too!  The solar panel should be able to keep the battery on the Scamp topped up all the time.

We decided to mount the controller inside of one of the front dinette benches.  This meant that Wayne had to drill a small hole through the shell of the trailer to run the wires from the battery to the controller.

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One wire connects to the battery, and the other one attaches to the solar panel.  Once everything was connected, the blue light came on to let us know that the panel and controller were working properly.  For now (with the trailer sitting in the driveway for the winter) we have the panel on the south-facing end of the trailer.

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What wonderful, Scamp-related gifts, and what a wonderful visit!

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It’s so nice to have ONE project on our Scamp finished!

We can put all the cushions down to form a single bed….

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And the addition of a table pedestal (using a recessed base), also lets us use this space as a 2-person dinette:

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We’re pleased with the way it turned out!  🙂

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Unfortunately, we’ve seen some small leaks again at the front of the trailer–IN the dinette area (arggghhh….).  While we’ll make sure that the front window is well sealed, it’s possible that we have some more tiny holes on the roof that are allowing water to get in.

This wasn’t a huge issue when it happened before when we just had the insulation up, but now that all of the marine grade hull liner is installed, it could be much more complicated to fix.  Not sure what we’ll do, but we’ve been considering painting the roof with Durabak, which is often used as a truck bed liner.  Guess we’ll figure it out….

July was a challenging month. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we weren’t able to get anything done on the trailer, didn’t go camping, and didn’t even go on any day trips.

Things improved by August, and we were able to do a one-night camping trip on August 7-8.  After a quick stop at the grocery store to get some ice and snacks, we were on our way!

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Our destination was Sherando Lake in the George Washington National Forest near Lyndhurst, VA.   We didn’t have reservations, so we knew it might be iffy getting a campsite because the campground is very nice–and also very popular.   Fortunately, we were able to get the next-to-the-last open site in the section with water and electric, and a trailer right behind us got the last site!

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Our site was wide and level, and it didn’t take us too long to get set up.
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When we checked in, the ranger at the gate told us that they’d had trouble with bears recently, and when the camp host came to greet us, he also warned us to make sure that all our food was securely stored.  They have big, steel bear-proof storage containers on each site in this part of the campground.

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After getting settled, we drove down to the lake and enjoyed some time in the sun and the water.  SUCH a pretty place!

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When we got back to the campground, we stopped to admire our sweet little trailer sitting exactly where little trailers are supposed to be–in a campground and not just in a driveway! 🙂

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We explored a trail along the creek that borders the campground, and checked out the amphitheater.

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Wayne always seems to run into someone he knows when we’re out and about! 😉

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We’d brought soup from home, so we heated it up on the camp stove and also got a fire going in the fire pit.

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Even though the temperature was quite pleasant–especially for a night in August!–there’s just something so relaxing about sipping coffee while sitting by a campfire….

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Once the crescent moon set, we could see so many stars!

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As clear as it had been that night, however, we were surprised to wake up to rain….

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Without an awning or canopy, our plans for cooking breakfast outside weren’t going to happen.  At least we had coffee!

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After a while, we hitched up and rolled on home, thankful that we’d been able to enjoy beautiful Sherando lake and campground the previous day and evening!

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Now that we’re both back in school, the work weeks are super busy and we don’t have a lot of time for all of our trailer projects.  To be better prepared for rain while camping, however, we recently purchased a 10 x 10 canopy that was on sale Labor Day weekend.

And despite our crazy schedules, we’ve managed to do a bit more work on the trailer:  Wayne installed the recessed base for the pedestal table in the front dinette (no pictures yet), and I finally completed the cushions that will allow the dinette to convert to another comfortable bed!

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We really hope to get in at least a couple more camping adventures before winter!

After Wayne finished building the benches for the dinette, I put a couple of coats of stain on them using the gloss version of the American Chestnut color we’d used on the rest of the wood in the Scamp.  I really love this deep, rich color!

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Towards the end of May we’d ordered a 30″ x 70″ sheet of 4″ foam, along with upholstery grade polyester batting.   To get started on the cushions for the dinette, we placed the top of each dinette seat onto the foam, traced around them (they were slightly different in shape/size), and used an electric carving knife to cut out the pieces.

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We then sprayed upholstery adhesive to each piece of foam and attached the batting.

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As a relatively new “sewist,” I had some serious concerns about my ability to make cushion covers, so I decided to practice by first making sewn-on covers from sheet material.  I placed each batting-wrapped piece of foam onto a folded piece of thin white fabric (“wrong” sides together–not that I could tell which was “right” and which was “wrong”) and traced around it.  Then I drew another line 1/2″ beyond my traced line for the seam allowance.  When I cut through both layers, I had the top and bottom piece for each cushion.  Next, I cut a long strip of fabric that was 5″ wide for the sides of each cushion, calculating 4″ tall cushion + 1/2″ + 1/2″ for the seam allowance on each side = 5″.

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It was interesting to learn how to keep things reasonably even when sewing around the curves.   By making small snips along the raw edge of the side panel, it could be gently pulled to align with the curves on the top and bottom pieces as it was sewn together.  As a final step, I put the cushions inside of the covers and hand-sewed the seams closed.

I’m glad I took the time to make the practice covers.  Having some clue as to how this worked gave me a bit more confidence when I started on the real covers!

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The “good” fabric–a sturdy, durable outdoor material in Kiwi green–had become quite wrinkled since we’d purchased it, but I learned the hard way that it shouldn’t be ironed!  Whoops! Lesson learned, for sure….

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But once again I put a folded piece of fabric on the floor (wrong sides together), placed the cushion on top of it, traced around it, and then measured and drew another line 1/2″ beyond the traced line for the seam allowance.  I cut long 5″ wide strips for the side pieces, but I also cut two 5″ x 32″ side pieces to make a zipper panel for each cushion.

AND I cut a 1-3/4″ wide long, long strip of fabric, folded the strip in half, and sewed in what seemed like miles of cotton cording to make piping.  Crazy as it sounds, I really do enjoy learning how to do new things (even when it’s challenging), and I figured if I was learning how to make cushions, I might as well learn how to do piping and zipper panels at the same time!

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After I (finally) finished the passenger/curb side cushion, I *thought* it would be easier to do the second one.  Nope, I actually had more trouble with that one, and I had to take it take it off the cushion, turn it inside out again, and sew a wider seam allowance on the bottom panel to make it fit more snugly.

So were these cushion covers “easy” to make?  No, not really; at least not for me.  I understood the whole process in theory, but especially by adding the zipper, AND the piping, AND by having curves to work around, it was all pretty challenging.   They certainly aren’t perfect, but you know what?  They actually turned out pretty darned well!

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We still need to design and make the table, plus I need to make two smaller cushions that will be backrests and/or the rest of the mattress, depending on whether the front is used as a dinette or as a single bed.  For now, though, I’m very pleased to have the big, curved covered cushions DONE! 🙂

Wayne got a lot done on the front benches for the dinette!  He finished putting the paneling pieces around both of them, and he also got the trim installed.  This looks really, really nice.

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Next, he measured and cut the piece that will fit between the benches when the dinette is converted to a bed.

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He tested it, and yes, it’s do-able as a single bed–but isn’t somebody supposed to be making the cushions?!  (Oh, yeah, that’s me….)

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We still have some decisions to make regarding how to best make this center piece between the benches work as a table, too.  It can’t be the full back-to-front length, because it would be too hard to get into the seat on the driver’s side.  But it’s so exciting to see everything that Wayne has accomplished over the last two weekends.  (In addition to being a fine craftsman, he’s also an artist–and it shows. <3 )

The foam I ordered for the cushions arrived this week!  On Saturday afternoon we used each bench seat top as a pattern to trace around on the foam, and then we used an electric carving knife to cut out the unique shapes for each dinette cushion.  (We purchased the carving knife from Goodwill last summer, and used it to cut the Memory Foam mattress for the bed. It’s come in handy!)

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We *think* we have enough foam left to make small back rests, which will also cover the table when the dinette is converted to a bed. I’ll probably make some pillows to fill in, too.

After we got the foam pieces cut out, Wayne reinforced the bench frame with another support piece, and took measurements for the paneling that will cover the sides of the benches.

It was really hot in the trailer (close to 90 degrees by afternoon!), so I quickly sealed up the area around the A/C with aluminum tape, and turned it on.  MUCH more pleasant working conditions! I sure wish we’d put it in LAST summer when we were doing so much work inside….

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On Sunday (before it started raining–again!), we sanded the bench seats.

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When he was looking for a large drill bit to make a hole in the “access cover” section of the seat, Wayne found one of my Dad’s old hand drills, and it still worked well!

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As I was drilling a hole through the top of the second bench top, I couldn’t help but think of how my Dad would love to be helping with all of these projects….  While my Mom was a somewhat reluctant camper, my Dad greatly enjoyed having a tiny home on wheels.

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Each summer when I was a kid, vacation meant a road trip along the East Coast, (or to the Midwest or to Canada), with a small travel trailer following along behind us.  And yes, a lot of my desire to have a trailer now stems from the wonderful memories that were made when I was young, traveling around the country with my parents. 🙂

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Anyhow, by the time we called it quits on Sunday due to the rain, both bench seats (with access panels cut out and functional) were secured to the frames:

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Paneling to cover the front and side of each bench was cut to height, but not to length; we’ll need to make a template out of cardboard to figure out how to cut the curves….

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We also rough cut a scrap piece of Formica and put it on one of the counters, just to see what we thought.  We were both surprised by how much brighter the area instantly became with an off-white counter instead of just with the stained wood.  This isn’t a high priority project, but it’s certainly something to think about.  We’re also still looking at potential back splash options.

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And in the meantime, I’m watching dozens of video tutorials about making cushions, and trying to decide if I want to complicate matters further by making piping to go around the edges of the cushions!

Yes, cushion-making will be a challenge, but almost exactly a year ago I bought my very first sewing machine, and I was really struggling to learn how to sew well enough to make simple curtains for the trailer.

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Well, look where that new interest led! 😉

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So you never know!  I was never interested in sewing when I was younger, and I had no idea that Wayne and I would find ourselves in the process of converting an empty fiberglass trailer shell into our own comfortable and functional tiny home on wheels. Life is full of surprises!

UPDATE: Monday, May 30, 2016

Wayne got some more work done on the benches.  He put in more reinforcing upright pieces, and then he used cardboard templates to cut the first two pieces of paneling to start closing in the bench seat frames.  Looks great!

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I’m not sure how well this unfinished paneling will take stain, but that’s the plan right now–staining to match the other wood in the trailer. 🙂

It’s been one of the wettest Springs I can remember, and that’s made it hard to get a lot done on the trailer.  Without a workshop or garage, all sawing or sanding has to happen out in the yard.

Today was one of those rain, sun, rain, drizzle, sun–nope–rain kind of days, but Wayne had just enough time to get most of one bench and bench seat modified for storage access.

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With the seat in place, he reached underneath to trace a line for the area that needed to be cut out.  (Prior to this, he attached two of four support pieces to the upper bench frame. You can see the side pieces in place, after the center was cut out.)

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He’ll make a small hole in the top of the seat so that it can be opened–and do the same thing for the other bench.

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In the meantime, I’ve ordered 4″ medium-density foam which will be cut to match the shape of the bench seats:

We’ve also bought outdoor fabric at Jo-Ann’s for the cushions. After thinking we’d opt for a dark blue, we decided to get a green that will coordinate with the green in the curtains, and yet would go with other colors if we’d decide to switch out the curtains for a different pattern at some point.

For either camping or for more project work, we’re ready for some dryer weather!

 

 

 

I’m pleased to announce that our bench frames have been screwed to the floor, AND that they can be sat upon!  We made a template to get the curves for the seats accurate (which wasn’t particularly easy….), and then Wayne cut sheets of plywood to fit each side.  Beautiful job!

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Right now the tops are just resting on the frames, but our plan is to permanently attach them after cutting openings in the top to allow access to the storage space underneath.  An online friend who did an incredible job with the restoration of his “Haunted Mansion” did something similar.

Now that I have a template for the bench tops, I need to figure out how to make the cushions for the seats.  I want to use 4″ medium density foam (since the dinette will sometimes be converted to a bed), and I’m probably going to opt for a solid royal to navy blue color, which should look okay with the (busy) curtain fabric.

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The last time I was at Joann’s, I briefly looked at the outdoor fabrics, so that might be a good option.  I don’t think I’d go with a regular, heavy-weight upholstery material, although duck cloth might work.

I’d like to put zippers in the cushions on the hidden side, and this could be interesting since the hidden side is also the curved side.  (But as a side note, I am so NOT intimidated at the thought of sewing in zippers; I just kind of jumped into that when I started making purses.)

In addition to the cushions for the seats, I’ll need to make two cushion pieces out of the same foam to serve as back rests AND to cover the table when the space is used as a bed.  Since the benches are fairly deep, I might need to fill in with some throw pillows.

There’s still a lot to figure out (with ALL of this), but I’m ready for the challenge! 🙂