Creative woodworking extends lives of vehicles

Posted June 04, 2010, at 8:40 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:47 p.m.

Living in Maine, you see some wonderful things.

Where I live, there are bald eagles, all kinds of birds and waterfowl and foxes, and occasionally a moose comes to visit. Isn’t it a wonder that more people from the flatlands do not come here? Thank goodness for those blessings!

A couple of years ago, I was in a parking lot at a Bangor store. I saw a wondrous thing. It was a small Geo Metro car that had been in a front-end fender bender. The sheet metal was rumpled and the lights were askew.

Unfortunately, the front bumper and bumper cover were lost somewhere.

The car owner had taken it upon himself (I am pretty certain that this project was driven by testosterone) to lash a piece of pulpwood to the front of the car with ratchet straps and bungee cords.

It was truly a thing of beauty. The work was so crude and wonderful that I stopped and stood there in awe of what is certainly Maine folk art.

Fast forward to the beginning of June 2010: My 1999 GMC pickup truck has terminal bumper cancer. Yes, this is the same truck that had the frame repaired after some scary-looking rust last autumn.

I knew the bumper was bad, but ignored the signs as long as possible.

It should have gone to the truck body doctor, but I have no truck body health insurance, and I guess I had high hopes that the rust would just congeal into an inert mass that would get me through another year. It finally rusted away with only a very thin chrome covering that punctured in the wind one day.

This seems like a great woodworking project. The truck was in the shop for brakes — again, a rust-related investment. While the truck was on the lift, my mechanic friend, Bob, removed the old bumper and remitted the remains for a civil burial aka recycling.

I have started the business of crafting the new wooden bumper. Fortunately, I have some experience in this area. Several years ago, I made a bumper for an electric truck out of a piece of six-by-six cedar. Cedar is light enough that it did not affect the way the truck sat, and the edges were chamfered for that classy professional look.

This bumper will be different. First, there is no cedar sitting around in my shop. Second, this bumper will be more like the original. We can mimic the original curve of the stock bumper with some carefully placed saw cuts on the backside of the wood that then can be filled with construction adhesive to lock them in place.

The wood will be pressure-treated lumber since we want it to last. This does create some issues since pressure-treated lumber now is mostly filled with copper solutions to keep it rot-resistant. The copper could induce corrosion on the steel parts it is in contact with. We don’t need any more of that.

I will attempt to isolate the steel from the lumber by the careful placement of Ice and Watershield.

We are in new territory here, but it will be a fun project.

I have done this type of project before with the older pressure-treated lumber that is now outlawed.

That material had less copper in it. I used it to build a wooden truck bed on an old Toyota truck. The bed was solid lumber with curved pressure-treated plywood sides. If I had painted it, it might have passed for a bona fide truck bed. Well, maybe.

Since the original cars and trucks of 100 years ago had wooden frameworks, maybe this is the way to make our vehicles last longer in Maine.

Goodness knows we have raw material that could fit the bill.

Hey, maybe I should use a piece of paper birch or weave some puckerbrush.

Oh, the possibilities!

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.

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