If you’ve ever renovated an old trailer (or an old anything really) you’ll be aware that the renovations never seem to end. In 2017-18 we renovated our 1975 Boler travel trailer to make it safe and comfortable (you can read about that journey here), but there were, and still are, a few things that need doing. For example, when we took out the furnace from the kitchen cabinets it left a large hole in the cabinets.
We camped with the Boler like this for most of the summer and we found that when we were travelling to and from the campsites dirt and dust got in the lower cabinets through the vents. We wanted to keep the vents because they let out the heat from the fridge but a lot of the road dust was getting into the rest of the trailer because of the large hole in the cabinet. Also, it doesn’t look very nice does it?
I could have made a door almost exactly the same as the other one but I wanted to do something fun and different. I had a conversation about it with people at work and the suggestion of lattice came up. I loved that idea, but I knew that the door wouldn’t block much dust with a bunch of holes cut out of it. After a bit of brainstorming, we came up with the idea of using a thin opaque plastic glued to the back of the door. I work at a Maker Studio which has a laser cutter so I started creating the design for the door and then used the laser cutter to bring my design to life.
That’s right! I used little Bolers to create the lattice! So cute and amazing right?
Once the lattice was cut out I attached some cut pieces of wood and trim to make the two doors match.
Then I primed and painted the door the same colour as the rest of the lower cabinets. I attached the door using matching hinges and added the door pull. I also added a door catch so it would stay closed while we were on the road.
All that was left was gluing on the sheet of plastic.
I’m glad I added this because you can really see the little Bolers with the contrast.
Here it is. What a difference! I love it because people don’t usually notice the little Bolers right away so it gives them a nice surprise when they do.
It’s been a whole camping season since the new door has been attached and it’s still holding up! I need to cover the gap around the fridge as a little dust still gets into the trailer through it. That’s a project I’m hoping to get to this spring along with a few others and I’ll be sure to share them as I go!
Hello and welcome back to my tale of Boler rebirth! If you have missed the earlier parts of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
We left off with the Boler coming back after getting some fibreglass work done in late June 2018. We’re going to pause our story here and and fill in some blanks from the previous winter. I mean, just because I didn’t have the Boler with me didn’t mean I couldn’t keep working on it! Believe me, there were still many things to keep me busy.
For instance, do you remember me telling you about the cushions? The rotten worm-filled cushions? The ones with the covers that disintegrated when I tried to vacuum them? Here they are with the covers removed.
Pretty gross right? I needed to keep them to use as templates for some new foam. I soon found out that foam is really pricey! But luckily my parents had a foam mattress from Ikea that they weren’t using and they let us have it. I traced out the old ones and cut out the new pieces with my bread knife.
I did end up keeping the two cushions that are used on the bunkbeds. They were still in really great shape since their old covers weren’t made of vinyl. Any water that leaked on them ran right through instead of pooling in the cover and creating the perfect place for rot. I washed them in my bathtub and let them air dry in my basement.
Once I had cushions I needed new covers. I looked up as much reupholstery information as I could find, dusted off my old sewing machine, bought some fabric, zippers and upholstery thread and got to work. Here’s the first cushion I completed:
There are nine cushions in a Boler. It was pretty time consuming but I worked my way through it over about a month. Halfway there!
All nine done! The most difficult ones were the two that fit along the Boler walls because of their unusual shape.
The boys wanted to try them out. Quality check? I think they approved.
While I was working on the cushions / covers I was also thinking about curtains. There are six windows in the Boler which is great for light but not so great for changing your clothes without the entire campground seeing you. I was looking at buying fabric but I hadn’t seen any that caught my eye yet. Then one day while getting groceries at Superstore I happened to see some over-sized tea towels on sale!
They were perfect! They were nice and dark (not see-through!) and they were big enough for the largest window. I bought everything they had and then went to a different Superstore and bought a bunch there as well. Then I went to Ikea and bought some curtain rings with clips and that was that! I was also pretty happy to not have to add more sewing to my list.
I needed some new pulls for the cabinet draws and doors for the kitchen area and the closet. I bought these from Amazon which I love.
There were also a few more unnecessary but fun items I picked up as well. For instance I found some great pillows at a thrift store:
And some dragonfly LED string lights at Michaels (I might have had a dragonfly theme going on):
And I machine embroidered some dishtowels:
It was a little difficult for me during that winter and spring to have to wait to be able to work on the Boler. Having these projects to do really helped. If fact, there’s an arm chair in our master bedroom and I piled a bunch of the items for the Boler on it once they were completed so I could look at them everyday and feel excited about camping in the Boler that summer. Like a Boler mood board!
Hello again! I’m very happy to you’re here and ready to learn more about the amazing, some call magical, transformation of my Boler. If you have missed the earlier parts of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.
When we last left off, I had stripped the Boler of everything that was rotten, grimy, or broken. The problem was that there were parts of it I couldn’t see and they were pretty important parts. Like the frame.
Bolers have a simple A-frame with the fibreglass body bolted to it. If the frame cracks or is rusted right through it could break and that would mean some very serious damage to the Boler as well as the tow vehicle. Not to mention the driver and passengers. So we decided it would be a good idea to get it inspected.
I asked for opinions on the vintage trailer forums for a good place to bring the Boler and many people recommended Rock Alta Trailers. It’s owned by a wonderful couple who have been repairing trailers for years. In fact, Kevin’s dad ran the business before he took it over. It is on the absolute other side of Calgary from where we live, but after speaking to Kevin on the phone I was convinced that this was where we should take the Boler. This was in December, it wasn’t too snowy yet and we wanted to get the Boler in before the roads got icy.
We called James in for some help; remember, we hadn’t yet pulled the Boler with our vehicle. We were pretty nervous. We weren’t even sure how to hook it up! James came and showed us the ropes and off we went for our very first time!
It was terrifying.
We didn’t know if something was going to break off at any second. The worst part was as we were stopped at a light a guy in a truck pulled up beside us and yelled out “If you take that on the highway you’re gonna have problems!”. Not very helpful. We asked him what he meant by “problems” and he answered back “your wheels are going to fall off!” and then he drove away. Yep. Terrifying.
Despite all that we drove slowly and carefully and made it to Kevin’s place with all our wheels intact (take that super unhelpful dude!) and left it there to get the axel, wheel bearings, and frame inspected and replaced or fixed if need be.
It turned out the frame was in great shape! There were a few Bolers made with a weak point in the frame but not ours! Ours was solid (knock on wood). The wheel bearings needed to be replaced but everything else was pretty good.
During the time the Boler was at Kevin’s I was looking into where we could take it to get the fibreglass repaired. The large cracks in the back (and a few more small ones on the rest of the body) needed to be fixed up before we could use it and to be honest, I didn’t want to mess them up by trying to fix them myself. The biggest crack had started folding in on itself and was changing the shape of the body. That was going to require tools and equipment I didn’t have.
It wasn’t easy finding someone who was willing to work on it. But luckily there was a company called FIB-R-F/X in Airdrie (a small town north of Calgary) who had worked on Bolers previously and was more than happy to do it. In fact, Dieter, the very nice man who we met there, told us he already has another Boler that was missing its door and if we let him use our door as a mold he would repair all the small cracks for free and only charge us for the two large ones. Sounded good to us! We made plans to pick up the Boler from Kevin’s and drop it off at Dieter’s to avoid putting it back in the garage.
When we went out to pick up the Boler it started to blizzard. No joke, it was snowing like crazy. We got to Kevin’s and hooked up the Boler but as we were driving down his very long driveway Jonathan remembered that we hadn’t done a light check (rookie mistake). James and I had made sure the electrical was working properly before we had dropped it off but something must have been knocked loose (the wiring was very old, I was planning on replacing it myself when we got it back from Dieter) and the lights weren’t working. At this point it was snowing very heavily and visibility wasn’t great. Pulling the Boler without lights would be dangerous (not to mention illegal) under normal circumstances but in this snow no one would see us until it was too late. There was no room on the driveway so we pulled out onto the road and as soon as we could we turned around and went straight back to Kevin’s. He tried to get the lights working but there was a connection broken that he just couldn’t figure out at the time, so we asked him if he could replace all of the electrical, he said sure and we called Dieter and let him know what happened. Off we went home a little disappointed but mostly relieved.
Fast forward to the end of March. Kevin finished the electrical system and boy am I glad we let him do it! He replaced all the old wiring, put in new LEDs and set it up for us to hook up a 12 volt battery to power the lights and the fan I had installed.
Jon and I had a lovely drive to Dieter’s. No one yelling at us that our wheels were going to fall off, no blizzards, the lights were working… really, what more can you ask for?
Dieter unfortunately was down a man and he didn’t think he would be finished until July. We were ok with that and figured the long wait would be worth it.
It was! Here’s the Boler when we got it back at the end of June (a little early!):
It doesn’t look like much but all the parts that are yellow are where he did fibreglass work. It was amazing! We also purchased a new tongue jack with a wheel from Dieter.
Because of this wheel, Jonathan and I could now easily push the Boler! We have done this so many times to get it into campsites. Bolers really are a wonder.
Welcome back to the epic saga that is the renovation of my Boler. Have you been waiting at the edge of your seat to hear more? Of course you have. I’ll stop teasing you and get to it. If you have missed the earlier part of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1.
Where were we? Oh yes! My parents had just brought home the Boler from my Aunt’s house and I was feeling some doubt. In fact I’m pretty sure when I swallowed you could hear a loud “gulp” like a cartoon character. But like I said earlier I had some friends to help me out (virtual and in real life) and they gave me the confidence I needed to get started.
A fun fact about Bolers is they will fit through a standard sized garage doorway if you let air out of the tires, so moving it into the garage was the first thing we needed to do. Having it in the garage would make it much easier for me to work on the Boler over winter. Unfortunately, our driveway is very steep and neither my husband nor I can navigate a trailer up a steep driveway, into a garage door while backing up. A not-so-fun fact about Bolers is they are notoriously hard to back up. They end up at 90 degrees with the tow vehicle very easily due to the short yoke. Luckily our friend James is extremely skilled at backing up trailers because otherwise I have no idea how we would have gotten it in there. In fact, James still comes by once (or twice) a year at the end of the camping season to help us put the trailer back in the garage because we are still pretty bad at backing it up. I swear the man is some kind of wizard. We pay him for his help with beer and sometimes fresh bread. James is a good guy.
Once the Boler was in the garage stuff started coming out. I had decided that I did not want any propane. I would of had to check all the lines to make sure there were no leaks, and if there were I would have had to replace them, but I would have always worried about it. The fridge and furnace were broken and expensive to replace. It just didn’t seem worth the effort or the expense. We have a camp stove to use outside and the Boler is so small that the four of us create more than enough body heat to warm up the space, so to save money and for my own peace of mind, out came the stove, fridge and furnace. Then out came the cushions which were very very rotten. The leak I mentioned in Part 1 had gotten to the cushions and they were beyond saving. I tried to vacuum them and they disintegrated. I got rid of the covers but I kept the foam to use as templates for new foam and new covers. I pulled out the old linoleum and I took out any rotten wood I could find and replaced it. One of the biggest problems I had was with rusted screws. Once the heads broke off they were very difficult to remove. I spent hours on the floor of the Boler that winter swearing at many a broken screw.
The most time consuming and difficult task was removing the paint from the ensolite. Like I mentioned in Part 1, the ensolite was painted with an oil based paint which didn’t allow moisture to pass through it. This caused mould to grow between the paint and the ensolite. I worked on scraping that paint off from October to February. I made sure to wear a mask for safety and once I had cleared an area off I would spray it with a mould killing cleaner. You can see my progress in the next few pictures. The paint is white and the ensolite is green.
Since Bolers are made almost entirely from fibreglass, there is a risk of the roof sagging if it doesn’t have the right support. The support is provided by the closet, a bar attached to the wall beside the door, and a metal rail that holds up the cabinets and is attached to the countertop. My Boler was missing that rail so that was the first purchase I made for it. You can see it through the doorway in this picture. Oh right. I also took the door off because there was a crack which was leaking in the door frame.
I also temporarily removed some rusty vent covers as well as the bar beside the door to clean them up, remove the rust and paint them.
The 9 x 9 inch roof vent was the cause of most of the water leaking into the Boler. I removed it and ordered a new 14 x 14 inch fan which runs on a 12 volt system (which I didn’t have set up yet). With James’s help we cut a larger hole in the roof and installed the new fan. I used many layers of butyl tape to make sure there would be no leaking!
The worst and best removal of all was the removal of dirt and grime. I cleaned every nook and cranny of that Boler and it was both satisfying and horrifying. Everywhere there were spider egg sacks, old wasp nests and other skin-crawling surprises. Some of them crawling more than others:
B.C. has much bigger spiders than I’m used to here in Alberta!