Skoolie Roof Raise - Part 3

Oct 16, 2021
Bussedamove - Skoolie Roof Raise - William J. Sims on front transition

Skoolie Roof Raise Part 3

     Step 5 & 6 

Hopefully you already saw PART 1 and Part 2 of the roof raise blog. In those, we covered everything from the spreader jacks and the actual raise to how to prepare the bus to rebuild with sheet metal. 

That was Step 1-4. Let's move on to step 5 and talk about sheet metal. 

Step 5. Sheet Metal:

We had seen so many roof raises with wrinkly sides and transitions. I'm sure those are fine and people are happy and comfortable in their builds. My goal was to have our build be very strong and to look sleek and as close to a factory build as possible. To achieve this, we chose 16 gauge sheet metal. You can hardly dent it with a hammer so it wrinkling with rivets wasn't even an option. 

The 16ga metal was heavy and hard to work with and took a lot of effort to get into place. Once in place, it looked so great and we were proud to have made that decision. We started at the back and worked our way forward. Our thought was that the overlaps would shed water while driving if we did it that way.

We rested the bottom edge of the sheet metal on top of the rub rail. I wish we had pulled off the rub rail and made the sheet metal joint be under the rub rail after the rub rail was reinstalled. We did what we did so our new panels would stay squared up. That worked like a champ considering how heavy they were in the 12 foot runs. There is definitely a way that we could've fought for a slightly cleaner end result. I'm proud of what we did though. We have a phrase that we started saying that has become a mantra of sorts around the barn. That phrase is. "The second bus will be perfect."

 In the picture above, you'll see part of our process. This was an assembly line that took 4 people. One person was in the bus to install the glue and drill. Two people lifted the sheet into place. The fourth person pulled their weight into the 2x12 that you see pictured. Once the 2x12 was pushed into the sheet metal on the stud lines, the person inside the bus would drill the pre drilled holes in the C Channel caps that we detailed in PART 2 and through the sheet metal that was being squeezed up against the side of the bus. When the hole poked through, one of the 2 people that lifted the sheet into place would dab glue onto a pop rivet and install a rivet in the new hole. It's a process but nothing worth having is easy. Fight for it!

Attention to detail was important to us. We looked for little ways to put some extra style and craftsmanship into our build. An example of this was to copy the angled line in the sheet metal surrounding the air intake. When everything got painted up, it's hiding right there in plain sight and gives a subtle hint of a factory design. 

Another subtle touch that gives a factory touch is the way that we measured our sheet metal out and mitered everything just right so that you don't see a joint until 12 feet back on the bus. We made sure that we avoided the panel patch work that you see on a lot of bussed toward the front. We wanted clean lines everywhere that we could get them and this little detail allowed that to happen for us. 

Step 6. Front Transition:

So how do you make the curve and the angle for a roof raise front transition? We asked this many times while trying to figure it out. I happened to be driving by a mechanic shop one day and they had a few box trucks in the parking lot. I started noticing the joints in the box. They were all squared and boxy with little, rounded end caps. I wondered if we could make a jig template of the curve and roll a strip of our 16 gauge sheet metal to match the jig. 

We cut some kerfs into a piece of 1x1 steel angle and then bent it to the curve. When the curve jig was established, a weld bead across the kerf lines fused it solid so we didn't accidental at extra curve or flat to our template. A trip to the local metal shop and $50 later, we had perfectly curved raw end caps. We paid for a whole hour of the machinist's time but he had them ready for us in 15 minutes. Craftsmanship and the time of a craftsman that possesses a skill or a tool, or both in our case, that you don't is worth whatever they're asking. 

We were responsible for making this new curve fit the bus. It was paper template time. We squared our paper to the outside angle brace and then scored it over the top with a sharpie. Treating our new sharpie line as the square point, we were able to use a speed square to mark the flat cut out above the door and the driver window. That paper was then able to lay over and square up to our new end caps on the workbench.  It was then time to trim the metal to match our paper template. When that cut was made, we had a perfect fit to the connection point at the lower side of the end cap. From there, we measured the the connection location on the lower end to the same spot on the upper end. We pulled that same measurement on our freshly cut end cap pieces every few inches through the curve. A simple kid's game of "connect the dots" was implemented to trace the curve onto the upper end. When that new line was trimmed, we had a perfectly sized and cut end cap piece.

Once in place, the piece was squared up to the same brace that we pulled the template from. It was ready to lock in once the sheet metal was cut and trimmed to that same line on the brace. We put the sheet metal in place first and put the end cap over it for watershed purposes.   

Once everything was locked in down the sides, a few kerfs were cut into the sheet metal overhang on the upper end. After a little heat and encouragement (hammer) were applied, the original metal laid right down over the new stuff. When the folding and hammering were complete, the same 2x12 from the sheet metal install was brought in to force the curve from the inside out so that the end cap could be clamped and riveted into place. It was then just a matter of getting the middle 2 panels cut and installed using the same technique. 

Sealer was the last step. When the sealer was applied, we had a perfectly water tight transition with clean lines and strength for days!

Our Glue/Sealer in the unsung hero of our build. What glue did we use? It is a product called M-1 by Chemlink. It's a flexible curing construction adhesive. It's the the strongest substance I've ever known. 

Side note: The glue that we used was a flexible construction adhesive with hardly any VOC emission if that is important to you.

In the next post, we'll discuss the read transition at the back of the bus. If you want to see the transitions, feel free to check them out on our Bussedamove YouTube Channel. We have a roof raise playlist with very detailed conversation on the topic.

Bus Love,



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