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Tin top cabin sound insulation project
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:38 am    Post subject: Tin top cabin sound insulation project Reply with quote

There have been a number of threads that relate to the topic of deadening the sound in a Vanagon. One of the more notable ones is here:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=532900&highlight=insulation

There is a lot of information in those threads, some good, some questionable. Through those threads information found on the internet and from my own experiences in the past, it appears that the best approach to control noise is to start right from the bottom and work your way up. I'm not going to write a book about all of the various materials and methods out there since it is already all over the internet, but it appears that the consensus is that it requires multiple layers of varying products to be able to control interior noise to any significant degree. By themselves, each of these products/methods do a great job at what they were designed for, be it heat control, resonance control or the blocking or absorbing of airborne noise. However, all must be used in unison in order to achieve a truly quiet interior space. So that's what I did.

This is huge project, and one that I probably would not have tackled if I hadn't already needed to remove most of the forward interior to fix a rusty windshield channel and leaky heater core in a new-to-me Syncro. While everything was apart, I also discovered a slightly rusty section of floor, so it was a good thing no matter what.

With the rust and leaks fixed, I started by cleaning everything thoroughly in preparation for the first layer. With everything clean, prepped and masked, I sprayed down about 3 coats (one gallon) of Cascade Audio's VB-1X "Liquid Vibration Damping Compound". This was sprayed on every reachable surface from the lower edge of the windshield to the back sides of the wheel wells where it meets the rear floor. The only reason that I chose Cascade Audio for this product was because I could pick it up locally. Not knowing exactly how much material I would end up using, I bought three gallons and returned the two that I didn't use. I'm sure that other products would yield similar results.

I reassembled the dash so that I could drive this van with just the VB-1X installed and no carpet, just to see if I could tell a difference with just this one product in place. Even without any other insulation or carpet, there was a noticeable difference in the sound. It wasn't necessarily quieter, but it was much less "tinny"ůmore solid sounding. It was obvious that the product was doing its damping job.


Prep:

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Sprayed with a cheap schutz gun:

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Final product:

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The next step was just a little heat control. I don't have a picture of it, but a foil-faced, sticky-backed sheet product was used just around the radiator tunnel to help control the heat coming off the radiator. This was simply cut to shape and applied.

The next step involved the installation of 40+ sq. ft. of B-Quiet's Vcomp and Cascade Audio's VB-4. These two products serve the same function and both are created using "loaded vinyl mass barrier, and a foam decoupling layer which reduces road noise by impeding the passage of soundwaves." The only reason that two different products were used is because roughly 27+ sq. ft. of the Vcomp was already on had and I could buy the VB-4 locally to make up the rest. Truth be told, I like the B-Quiet Vcomp better simply because I feel that the vinyl is more tear resistant and it is cheaper. Both products are easy to cut and weigh about the same for a give size, but the vinyl on the VB-4 tears very easily, especially in a 90 degree corner. Both seem to do their intended job equally though.

The hardest part of the installation was making sure that all of the installed pieces either overlapped without being too bulky or butted up to its neighbor with a tight seam. From what I have read, and it makes complete sense since this is sound barrier, not a sound absorber, is that in order to achieve the best results you need to create the best "unbroken barrier" possible. In order to achieve this tight fit and to reduce the chances of wasting such an expensive product, many patterns were created and many hours were spent fitting and trimming the pieces. All pieces were glued right to the body (using 3M 1357 High Performance Contact Adhesive) with the exception of the left and right foot well pieces and the center piece that goes between the seat pedestals. These were left floating to help improve serviceability in the future. While not perfect, I'm pretty happy with the end result.

Just one of many patterns used. This is the pattern for the piece that goes between the door opening and the outer seat track as well as the front of the fender well. If you look closely at some of the final installation shots you will see that this pattern was eventually slit into two pieces. The reason was because it allowed me to do a much more efficient of "nesting" the final cut-out to help reduce as much material waste as possible:

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Shots of the final barrier installation:

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And finally, a new carpet kit was installed. I'm not overly impressed with the quality of the carpet kit, but I suppose the quality is inline with the price so I don't have too much room to complain.

The footwell pieces and the center piece between the seat pedestals were glued to the floating sound barrier pieces but not to the body and not to the other pieces of carpet. All other carpet pieces were glued (using the same 3M 1357 High Performance Contact Adhesive) to the barrier for a permanent installation.

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The end results of this stage of the project? Some will be disappointed to hear that I did not record any before and after data. My reasons for not doing so are that I'm not all that savvy when it comes to electronic stuff like that (my phone doesn't even have the capability to load those apps that some have used for recording) and quite honestly, I don't really care what the numbers say. I am more interested in what my ears have to say about it. My ears tell me that there was a significant reduction of road noise. I discovered that there is a very tiny wind whistle coming out of the left wing window. That is something that I never heard before, even after a 1500 mile road trip. I can hear things in songs through the speakers that I could never picked up on before. I can also tell you that almost all of the remaining noise is now coming in through the rear part of the van. When facing straight ahead, the source of the remaining noise is hard to discern, but turn your head to the right so that you have one ear facing forward and one facing back and it becomes very obvious that the noise is definitely coming from the rear. The rear is next on the list, but it will have to wait for the funds and time.

This was a time consuming and expensive project, but it was truly was worth every bit of it. I won't claim to have the quietest van on the planet, but it's darn quieter than any other van that I have owned.
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greebly
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It looks great. Where did you acquire the carpet? Did you reutilize the cork padding as well or did the foam replace it?
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice job, chris! this is a project that i've been contemplating for awhile and have started amassing supplies and making plans for. i will certainly benefit from your experience, as i imagine many others will as well.

a few questions and observations....

i have been considering using a decoupled MLV layer over the wheel arches as you did, but have been concerned that the outer edge of the barrier material (the edge that you are looking at when you open the front doors) would be visible under the carpet. from your pictures it looks like the carpet covers the barrier pretty effectively. how thick is the barrier material you used there? would you mind providing a close up pic?

i have also been thinking of wrapping the seat pedestals in barrier, but was concerned that the extra layer would cause a pre cut carpet set to not fit. do you think this was part of your fit issue? what carpet set did you use? do you have any photos that show the fitment issues you experienced?

when i spoke with the owner of cascade audio, he seemed to think that the 3m contact adhesives would not work well with the neoprene decoupling layer in the VB4 type products. did it seem to work well for you? he suggested "loctite power grab panel adhesive" as a water based alternative.

for reference, CAE also sells an architectural product that is supposedly almost identical to VB4 but created from "less sexy looking" (to quote their sales rep) material. it is only available in 90sq ft rolls, but even after paying 80 in shipping, the cost per square foot was less than half of VB4. needless to say i will probably have some left for sale after my project is done, though! both products are on this page.

thanks again for the great photos and for lighting a fire under me to give a second try at resealing my windshield so i can get started on the front interior stuff!!


Last edited by phlogiston on Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice job Chris. Very inspiring.
Have Fun, David C
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[1] re: "many patterns were created and many hours were spent fitting and trimming the pieces"

- there is a market for someone who would program laser cutting of the VB-4 to sell to people at retail

[2] it looks as if you did not do the F. door (?) - that would add a lot I expect

[3] I also see some 'open' seams in the pics above where pieces meet - those could be taped

[4] subjective testing is worthwhile; best would have been a double blind test with another person driving the Van, but that is even more time consuming, and sometimes an effect is so strong that you are certain it is real
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

greebly wrote:
It looks great. Where did you acquire the carpet? Did you reutilize the cork padding as well or did the foam replace it?


The carpet came from a common retailer of interior bits. I don't think that it is really fair of me to throw them under the bus since the low price seems relatively fair for what you get. I had some issues with the carpet that may not be normal (described below), so I can't say that every kit has these issues.

Yes, I kept the factory yellow foam both under foot and in between the seat pedestals. The biggest reason for this is because they contribute to the contour of the floor. Without them in place, the floor is much less even. Besides, I'm sure that it does contribute to the effect of the sound deadening.

phlogiston wrote:

a few questions and observations....

i have been considering using a decoupled MLV layer over the wheel arches as you did, but have been concerned that the outer edge of the barrier material (the edge that you are looking at when you open the front doors) would be visible under the carpet. from your pictures it looks like the carpet covers the barrier pretty effectively. how thick is the barrier material you used there? would you mind providing a close up pic?


Ah, good question! I meant to photograph this and forgot. I also meant to comment on it above and forgot.

The spray-on Cascade Audio VB-1X is pretty thin. Even so, the area right next to the door opening was masked about 3/4" back from the edge where the end of the carpet mates to the sheetmetal.

The B-Quiet Vcomp was used in this area and it is about 3/8" thick with the vinyl being 1/8" and the foam being 1/4". I had the same concern about the bulk impeding the fit of the carpet, so I beveled the edges of the foam before I glued it down. The bevel was about 45 degrees which allowed the vinyl to taper down at the edges. I did this beveling procedure where the vinyl met the seat tracks and all along the edges where the carpet edge would overlay. It worked out perfectly! The only issue that I ran into is that even with the bevel, the seats a bit more challenging to install and slide because the carpet with the underlay underneath builds up just high enough to rub on the seat pivot parts. However, this isn't bad enough that I would change doing it that way.

And here is the same photo shown previously. If you look carefully at the area in question, you can see how it all tapers and fits together.

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Here is the best photo I can manage that shows how the center of this particular strip of carpet is humped up in the center but tapers down toward the door opening.

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Quote:
i have also been thinking of wrapping the seat pedestals in barrier, but was concerned that the extra layer would cause a pre cut carpet set to not fit. do you think this was part of your fit issue? do you have any photos that show the fitment issues you experienced?


Another great question!

The answer is yes and no. While the addition of the underlayers did cause some fitment issues, I knew that it would and I tried to account for it as much as possible. However, this is obviously a self induced problem that the makers of the carpet kit are not responsible for. I test fitted the carpet several times before, during and just prior to the final installation to get an idea of how thing fit and to try to figure out what I could do to minimize the fitment issues. On the last dry fit, I made marks to let me know exactly how to position the piece once the adhesive was in play. All of these multiple fittings really helped in working out how to position the carpet in such a way as to minimize the issues caused by the the added bulk of the underlayers.

My comments about the kit have more to do with the fact that some of the seams came apart (without much prompting), the edging came apart from the carpet (again, without much prompting on my part) and some of the pieces were just generally sloppy in their fit, even without the addition of the underlayers. I have done a fair amount of interior work and I fully realize that there is some stretching, shrinking (steam), pulling, etc. required to get everything to line up and fit properly. The things that I have an issue with have nothing to do with this. I think that many of the issues that I encountered are the result of fairly poor quality material combined with slightly less than stellar assembly.

Given the price of the kit, if the seams/edges had not come apart, I probably wouldn't have commented on the fit of the carpet. If I had paid more money for a better kit, I would have expected it to fit better, so the fit of the kit isn't really a complaint but rather an observation.

Quote:

when i spoke with the owner of cascade audio, he seemed to think that the 3m contact adhesives would not work well with the neoprene decoupling layer in the VB4 type products. did it seem to work well for you? he suggested "loctite power grab panel adhesive" as a water based alternative.


The 3M 1357 works great with the CAE VB-4. I should mention that I used a cheap spray gun to apply the adhesive. Using a brush on the CAE VB-4 worked okay, but the foam on the B-Quiet Vcomp is different and brushing didn't work all that well.

Quote:
for reference, CAE also sells an architectural product that is supposedly almost identical to VB4 but created from "less sexy looking" (to quote their sales rep) material. it is only available in 90sq ft rolls, but even after paying 80 in shipping, the cost per square foot was less than half of VB4. needless to say i will probably have some left for sale after my project is done, though! both products are on this page.


Good to know! I didn't even look into that particular product since I already had a roll of the Vcomp. However, when I get to doing the rear portion of the van, I will definitely keep that in mind.
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Quote:
[1] re: "many patterns were created and many hours were spent fitting and trimming the pieces"


- there is a market for someone who would program laser cutting of the VB-4 to sell to people at retail


Yep!

Quote:
[2] it looks as if you did not do the F. door (?) - that would add a lot I expect


You mean the front doors? Yes, those will be done in the future.

Quote:
[3] I also see some 'open' seams in the pics above where pieces meet - those could be taped


As I said, I realize that it's not a perfect fit everywhere, but I didn't feel that taping those small gaps would add enough to make it worthwhile. I could be wring about that.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that looks impressive,I often wonder if some of the products used on "your side of the pond" are available over here,dyna mat is available but pretty expensive especially the amount needed for a full fit out of a van
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that looks impressive,I often wonder if some of the products used on "your side of the pond" are available over here,dyna mat is available but pretty expensive especially the amount needed for a full fit out of a van
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that looks impressive,I often wonder if some of the products used on "your side of the pond" are available over here,dyna mat is available but pretty expensive especially the amount needed for a full fit out of a van
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for the detailed response, chris. that extra photo you posted was exactly my area of concern.

i had been thinking that i would need to have an upholstery shop custom-make a new carpet for me, but now i have renewed optimism that i can use a cheaper precut one.

how do the seat belts fit with the extra thickness under the carpet? it looks like the end on the outside of the seat fits well, but i was curious if the inside piece (with the buckle mechanism) would still be able to rotate at all. the size of the unthreaded shoulder on the mounting bolt seems designed only to accommodate the thickness of the carpet... did it torque down properly with all the extra material? did you use a spacer?

once again, thanks for documenting all of this! i plan to implement a pretty similar setup, and have already taken baseline acoustic measurements to quantify the improvement.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

a small mic near the open slits where two pieces of material leave a gap might be instructive on whether taping would be worth the effort

BTW - there are places that will custom mold sound control materials - forget the name, but a Vanagon aftermarket supplier might benefit from some web searching -- maybe a place that supplies custom hotrod builds?

If you live in Bend, you might see if an in person visit to Cascade Audio would convince them to mold up some purpose designed items

also, they have a new material (3.5? 4.5?) that is highly moldable (tho highly expensive as well)

Good Luck!

PS - I'll be interested in seeing what you do with the area that VW used foam on near the rear of the vehicle underside...
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice work, as usual. I added foil-backed butyl roofing material to my front doors, and it really cut down on the wind drone and gave them a satisfying thunk when closing.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lookin' good.

Enjoy the new Syncro.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow Chris. This is exactly the right way to do it IMHO. After doing the testing in my setup, it was pretty obvious the front of the van was the place to start..assuming a later model insulated engine bay. It's never too late for a test, so pm if you'd like to replicate my tests..it would be an excellent comparison, and would only take 5 minutes to do. No question all the work you've done will show up well in front seat testing.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:09 am    Post subject: Re: Tin top cabin sound insulation project Reply with quote

Christopher Schimke wrote:
In order to achieve this tight fit and to reduce the chances of wasting such an expensive product, many patterns were created


I am thinking of copying your work on my van since I currently have the dash out to do some work on the heater. I wonder if you would be willing to make these patterns available. I know that I, for one, could really use them and would be willing to pay for that use.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

randywebb wrote:

PS - I'll be interested in seeing what you do with the area that VW used foam on near the rear of the vehicle underside...


This being a Syncro, I do not plan to pull the fuel tank any time soon. My plan for the rear is more of the same - vibration damper layered with mass loaded vinyl. I plan to do this to the floor, "firewall", engine bay floor, rear hatch and both sides including the sliding door. This will give me as complete of an encapsulation of the interior as possible.

phlogiston wrote:


how do the seat belts fit with the extra thickness under the carpet? it looks like the end on the outside of the seat fits well, but i was curious if the inside piece (with the buckle mechanism) would still be able to rotate at all. the size of the unthreaded shoulder on the mounting bolt seems designed only to accommodate the thickness of the carpet... did it torque down properly with all the extra material? did you use a spacer?



Yeah, I was concerned about those areas too. I ended up just punching holes in the insulation that were about twice the diameter of the bolt holes, then just bolted everything down like normal. The seatbelt anchors near the door openings went together pretty easily since they already have (or should have) a spacer under the metal tab from the factory . The seatbelt receivers on the sides of the pedestals were a bit tougher to get the bolts started, but once started, they tightened down all the way and they still pivot just fine. Mine still had the large diameter plastic escutcheon washers and smaller diameter plastic washers in place so that helped smash the layers down and gives the metal brackets something to ride on. If that didn't work out, my plan was to buy new bolts and cut spacers to add to the assembly.


Zeitgeist 13 wrote:
Nice work, as usual. I added foil-backed butyl roofing material to my front doors, and it really cut down on the wind drone and gave them a satisfying thunk when closing.


Yeah, although I haven't pulled the door panels off yet, I think that the previous owner may have already installed something similar because the doors close with a pretty solid "thunk" already. I know there is already some of that peel and stick, foil faced stuff installed in the rear area, so it makes sense that it would already be in the doors as well. My plan for the front doors is to install new rubbers all around, check/change/install the situation with the damper material and install a sheet of Cascade Audio's VB-2.

denwood wrote:
Wow Chris. This is exactly the right way to do it IMHO. After doing the testing in my setup, it was pretty obvious the front of the van was the place to start..assuming a later model insulated engine bay. It's never too late for a test, so pm if you'd like to replicate my tests..it would be an excellent comparison, and would only take 5 minutes to do. No question all the work you've done will show up well in front seat testing.


Part of my concern with testing is that the rear of this van is very loud due to a loud exhaust and the fact that all of the overhead A/C bits (including the rear) fell down on the trip home form picking up the van. I'm in the process of putting all of that back together and once I do that and install a quieter exhaust, I may consider it. However, didn't you guys do your testing with a phone app? My phone won't let me download apps.

uther wrote:
Christopher Schimke wrote:
In order to achieve this tight fit and to reduce the chances of wasting such an expensive product, many patterns were created


I am thinking of copying your work on my van since I currently have the dash out to do some work on the heater. I wonder if you would be willing to make these patterns available. I know that I, for one, could really use them and would be willing to pay for that use.


Unfortunately, I foolishly cut up some of the patterns for use as other patterns and some of the patterns were only partial patterns for the areas of difficulty. That makes it hard for the end user to know what to do with the rest of it.

I will share a couple of tips about pattern making though.

Avoid using corrugated cardboard if possible. It's too hard to cut accurately and is too bulky. Use either chip board or poster board.

It is not always the fastest or best to make the pattern all out of one piece of board. Often times it is better to cut out a rough pattern that is about one inch smaller than the final product, then add to it with smaller pieces until you have a complete pattern. This lets you lay down a sheet that covers most of the area but leaves the edges needing refined. Then cut a bunch of 2" wide strips of poster board. Use these strips to define and cut out the exact perimeter of your pattern. Use masking tape to attach the strips to the main area of the board. Working with these smaller strips is so much easier and faster and if you do it right, you will end up with a more accurate pattern. Sometimes I even use masking tape to refine an edge by simply masking the edge and then doubling or tripling up the layers of masking tap to make it more rigid and easier to trace around. If I use masking tape for the edge, I always turn the pattern over and add a layer of tape to the other side so that I don't have a sticky edge to deal with.

When making a pattern for a compound curve, just make one cut in the center of the area(s) that want to bunch up, then let the this area overlap until the perimeter of the pattern is refined and finalized. You can even tape these overlapping areas down in an effort to keep the pattern consistent between fittings and trimmings. With the perimeter perfect and the pattern still in place, use a razor blade to cut through the center of the areas where two layers overlap. Once the pattern is laid out flat, this area will open up and give you a perfect wedge pattern to cut out the exact amount of material to allow the piece to come back together perfectly once installed.

When trying to mark out a difficult contour, I will often cut the pattern so that it is about 3/4" longer/larger than necessary and then use my finger and fingernail to push the board into place and make an indent into the paper that helps me see where to cut. This method can also be used to define an edge that may butt up against another pattern. You can use your fingernail to not only feel where the edge of the other pattern is, but to also score a mark where you need to cut. This method does not work well with thicker chip board but works very well with poster board.

Never assume that two sides of the vehicle are identical. Always check the pattern on the area before cutting out the actual material and always recheck the piece that you cut out against the vehicle before gluing it down.

If you plan to use the same pattern for a left and right piece, make sure that you place the pattern correct side up on the material that you want to cut. Otherwise you could end up with a piece that would have to be installed upside down in order to fit. Mark the pattern as "Right side up" and "Left side up" if you have to.

Using a silver Sharpie to trace out the pattern on the dark vinyl works great.

I didn't use it this time, but sometimes it can be very beneficial to use a spray low-tack adhesive to help keep the pattern in place while fitting and trimming. The low-tack adhesive allows you to reposition the pattern as necessary, but also keeps it from sliding around while you are working on it.
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randywebb
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have some ideas re do's & don'ts on the doors when you are ready on this thread or a new thread...
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

randywebb wrote:
I have some ideas re do's & don'ts on the doors when you are ready on this thread or a new thread...


I'm all ears! The front doors will probably be last on the list, but I would love to hear (?) your ideas so that I can change my plan accordingly if necessary.
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hans j
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread makes me want to pull apart my interior even more! I have sooo much work to do, at least it will be mechanically sound by the time I get to this point. Great work and keep taking photos!
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