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Old 08-21-2010, 08:02 PM   #1
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Screen Door Lexan Panel 101 - (Lots of Pic's)

Hi Fellow Sunline Campers

In case some of you may be contemplating doing this screen door mod, here is one approach on “How To”. This is my second one of these and naturally the 2nd time around goes a lot easier then the first….. This is a popular mod so I thought I would help document my approach for others to use or spin off ideas on how they can do it.

I did this on our last camper and we really liked it. It lets a lot of light in and you can leave the main door open on those cooler days. And you can easily take a panel out to let air back in. On our last campout Cindy reminded me how much we miss this mod as the time of year was perfect to use it. So that re-put the bug in my ear….

Oddly enough when we bought the T310SR we knew we wanted this mod as we missed it real quick. So about a month after we bought it I acquired the materials. Well that was October 2007…. This has been sitting in the shed ever since. There always seemed to be more higher priority mod’s or repairs needed. However today we hit critical mass and it is now all done ready to test out camping next weekend.

I’ll do this in pics to make it less wordy. So here goes.

The first thing is the material itself. Last time I used Plexiglas and it is good however Lexan polycarbonate sheet is better. I remember well when I was fitting one panel I flexed it and Poof! The Plexiglas cracked right in half. I must say after doing this this time with Lexan is by far better to work with and does not crack like Plexiglas. Lexan does cost a little more but is worth it.

I used 0.093” thick. Bought it at Home Depot. Lowes in our area at the time did not carry the polycarbonate. They may now.


Here is the camper before the mod so you can see the door layout. Sunline changed the doors over the years and yours may be slightly different on how the panels will layout. For mine I sunk the panels in the frame and on the outside to keep the dirt off the screen.


First is to measure the door opening on how you are going to place the Lexan. NOTE: measure each shape on both top and bottom and left to right on all sides. The door is not always exactly the same or square so you may have to cut the panels on a taper or use the smallest dimension. Once you have your numbers, next is cutting the sheet.

You can saw Lexan with any blades that cut wood but used fine teeth. A circular saw with a clamped on guide can work or even a saber saw. Here I used my radial arm saw. The deck is larger then my bench saw and even still you have to add on more deck on the infeed and discharge to hold the sheet while cutting it is so flimsy. Here is one approach. You need at least this much or it can kick on you. And this type of saw will really kick when ripping a sheet or board. I have enough lost barn windows to prove it… And always wear safety glasses.

The setup


After setting the saw do a test cut only about 1/8” long and check the setup. In this case measure 4 times and cut once.


Once the setup is right and to give you the clearance, I shoot for 1/32” max less then the opening. I can always make it shorter… Then push easy and use a hold down board as you push to help stop it from jumping/vibrating even if the guard is set and the anti kick back wheel is used. I used a short 2 x 4.





Now you have the width correct and can start the cross cuts. Again measure 5 times and cut once. Draw a line square the full width. You leave the paper on both sides when you work with the material


Then again just kiss the sheet and recheck the width is right.


You need a fine tooth blade. Carbide is better but a plain blade will work.


My saw will not do a full width cross cut so I need to make 2 passes.


And here it completes. You need to follow the line and make sure the saw is set up to cut square on cross cuts this wide. Again use a 2 x 4 to hold the sheet down while cutting. You can tweak a 1/64” in the play of the traverse to make the 2 cuts match dead on.


Do a quick test fit. Yup it fits good. Cool!!


Then measure the next piece. As the sheet gets smaller it is easier to work with. Again check 6 times cut once….


Cut and test.


Cool, 2 that fit! The panel looks a little off on the left as it is not yet notched for the hindge. Will get to that shortley.

On the top piece I use an erasable marker to trace the round corner. Keep the line to the part you are going to cut off so no marker is on the sheet you save. You will have to peel back a small part of the corner paper and can see thru the panel to the door curve.


Now the last small piece. Check 7 times cut once…. Cool this one fits too.


Now the corner. I taped the paper down across the corner and used a saber saw with a fine metal cutting blade. This fine blade does not rip like a wood blade.






You need to notch the panel for the door hinge if you are setting the panel inside the door frame.


Cut each end then go about ½ way in the slot area and blend into the cut out and go straight to the end cut.


Then put the blade in the already cut area and cut towards the other end.


I was rained out of my outside shop today so I had to take the door off and move inside for the fitting. It is easier on my back as well with the higher slide camper. Check the fit.


If the corner needs a trim, mark it can go cut again. The panels need to be trimmed so they just drop in and are not buckled under pressure. If not you may fight is each time you put it in or take out. Whittle now and save yourself the agravation later......


You can use a fine mill file and file it to fit too. This is a key advantage of polycarbonate (Lexan) you can even use the saber saw and trim off only a blade thickness with out concerns of cracking. This get's tricky with Plexiglass that you do not crack it while doing fine trimming.


Now that all the panels fit, comes how to hold it in. I went the screen door clips route. It takes a little more work but the end results are very good. I have heard some have use stick on Velcro and on real hot days the panel sometimes drops off. And I have had buddies use the Velcro and no problems. Do not know if it is a brand related thing or not. I bought these at Home Depot or Lowes, can’t remember which.


The you lay out the clips in a pattern and mark the holes.




I have a spring loaded center punch to mark the drill point.


Now you have to deal with the screw lengths. I wanted to use the white headed screws that came with the clips as they blend in nicer but they are 1” long and too long. So I had to cut them. To create threads in the aluminum, use a pilot drill the root diameter of the screws you are using. I had no 8 screws and used an 1/8” bit. Drill only into the hollow cavity, not all the way thru. Caution, do not push hard or you can go through. Let the bit cut.


Then use a short sheet metal screw to act like a tap and cut threads in the door frame. You can see here the tap screw might just break thru. So I added a flat washer on top when tapping so it would not go too deep.






When your done tapping use a hand countersink to just break the burr on the edge of the hole. Do not use one on a drill as it can go way too deep too fast and the metal is really thin.


After all the holes are tapped then you need to cut the white heads screws to length. They so not need to be very long as they are about 3/8” to 7/16” long to not come out the other side. Some by the slider panel are even shorter. I created a cutting jig to make cutting go quicker, easier and safer. Find an old thin washer, drill it, tap it and then screw the screw in the length to cut off. I used a air cut off wheel but a hack saw will work too. You do have to ahve a screw driver in the screw as you cut so it does not move. Then you and back out the screw and the threads will start in the screen door where you tapped threads in them.




Now you and ready to put the clips on. And take the protective paper off. Static has every piece of saw dust stuck to the sheet. Here are the cleaning instructions.


You may find you need a small thin washer under some of the screen tabs like around the slider panel as the frame is sunk in deeper then the sides. On the sides I could screw in directly no washer.

And the assembled door ready to go on the camper. I did screw in the clips by hand instead of the drill. Concerned they have strip out the thin metal.


And here it is on the camper.






And that’s it. Hope this helps someone in the future.

John
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Old 08-22-2010, 07:09 PM   #2
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Very nice job. Looks good!
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Old 08-23-2010, 09:11 PM   #3
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Thanks Bill. Since we will be neighbors in a few weeks I can show it to you in person. M & G time now coming up quick

Safe travels down

John
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