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  • Writer's pictureSusan Byers

Starting from the Pole Position

Hi there. Remember me?

I know, it’s been a very long time since I posted a blog, and shame on me. Sometimes, life just gets in the way! And because it’s been so cold, we haven’t been able to work on the floor in the camper anyway (the planks can’t be installed if they've been below 50 degrees for several hours, too brittle, I guess). But we did fix an interesting problem recently.

While on a visit to check on the camper during the cold weather, we noticed something odd: the long slide (13 feet) was bowing, both top and bottom. The top center was curving down, while the floor was raised in the middle. We didn’t know if it was because the furniture had all been taken out and the lack of weight allowed it to curve, or because the wood trim around the slide had been removed—or both—but it was distinctly bowing. After a chat with the guys in service (you’re the best, guys!), we determined that we needed a support post. And to put it in, we needed a pole jack—a contraption that's a pole within a pole with a screw mechanism; you turn the handles (drooping down in the picture) near the top and the top goes up or down.

Now, the slide is under six feet at the low end, and just a few inches higher at the high end; in the center, it should be just an inch or so over six feet, but because of the bow, it was a little less. Most pole jacks, we learned, are six feet or more fully retracted (usually not a problem, since most ceilings are well over that). We went to a couple of rental places before we found one that would squeeze into our slide.

At Home Depot (we are getting to know the HD near the camper REALLY well), we found a red cedar 4x4 post. We chose cedar because it’s very lightweight, and, in a camper, weight is everything.

Okay, not everything, but it’s really important.

We also bought a bracket base for the post, an L bracket to attach the top at the back, and a flat plate to attach it at the front. Len used black Rust-oleum Universal Hammered Spray Paint to transform these and the screws from plain metal to “iron.”

But first, we had to set up the jack to ease the bow out of the slide. It wasn’t exactly another I Love Lucy moment, but close. Fortunately, nobody got hurt! It was surprisingly easy, once we finally figured out how the thing operated, to crank the bow back to level (but it took both of us, so no pictures). Well, almost level. The floor continued to have a slight bow to the left of the post, but once we have furniture on it again, it should flatten a bit more.

Next, we positioned the post and marked the spot so we would know where to fasten the “iron” base, then put the post back and attached it.

That was easy enough. But this slide is several inches taller at one end than at the other, so there’s a very, very slight slant from one side of a 4x4 post to the other, and I did not do well in geometry. Plus, we had no way to cut anything that thick (okay, we could have used a hand saw, and been there all day, but we're weenies). So we had the post cut at HD and bought some shims to make sure both sides were tight. Artfully applied trim can cover a world of little things like that (this will be a recurring theme, I am sure).

The next step was to replace the fussy old trim with reclaimed wood; that had to happen before we could finish the floor, as you'll see in my next post. We had, miraculously, found wood just the right size (1/2 inch by about 7 inches) at Community Forklift, a wonderful resource for used building materials of all kinds. The wood had been lying under our deck for months, waiting for this moment. Of course, getting 15 foot boards to the camper was ... interesting.

A neighbor had recently put up a new fence, and we begged some of the hoary old boards from the installer as well (I think they thought we were nuts). That turned out to be a good thing, as we apparently hadn’t done the numbers right, and we didn’t have quite enough of the 7-inch stock to do all the trim—but two pieces of old fencing was almost exactly the same width, and the split was really not too noticeable. I'll hang stuff on there and no one will be the wiser.

We stacked the wood under the camper, since we'd be working with it over multiple days. This was a really fun project, with Len bumping his head to pass it down to me stacking boards on my belly under the the camper ... I mean, me on my belly stacking boards!

No, you don't get to see me on the ground under the camper, just my tidy stack of old wood.

The next day, we went to work putting up the new trim. This time, we couldn't shim to adjust for that angle, so we cut boards an inch long, then marked them ...

... on each side.

We used a circular saw to cut the angles (figuring it out on the miter saw was just too confusing). Finally, the "header beam" went on.

On the other slide, we still had to get the corner blocks from the old trim off ... loads of fun, since they were screwed in from the back. We brought the slide halfway in and tried to unscrew them. Yeah, no, not happening. They wouldn't budge. Okay, we'd muscle them off like we had on the other side before we figured out they were screwed from behind (the second one on the other side unscrewed just fine).

Then we measured, cut and put up the trim on that side. And finally, it was all up and looked just the way we'd hoped--old and rustic!

Of course, that post was lookin' kinda ... naked. Like really, really new. So Len went to work with a hammer and drill ...

... and I helped a little with a hammer and chisel, adding the “age” the post would need to blend with the reclaimed wood trim.

Finally, Len sanded and stained the post to match.

What a difference!

Now to finish that floor.

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