The Dome is Reglazed

It was a little while in the planning but finally we have managed to get the Dome reglazed.

This was a complicated job that was achieved thanks to some very impressive work from some very skilled craftsmen.

Fibreglass template of the panels with a single panel to act as the cutter guide

I had some lengthy chats with Ollie (the previous owner) about the dome. He had carried out the reglazing around 14 years ago and had learnt a few lessons in the process. The key one was to not use screws into the panels. The cracks that appeared over recent years had been caused by the expanding and contraction of the panels with the weather conditions and the screws did not allow for this without the cracking to occur.

I approached the same company who manufactured the panels 14 years ago (J&A Kay in Darwen). They remembered doing the job previously and were happy to assist. In the process they have also fabricated the panels for the trailer roof (these are yet to be fitted).

I drove up to Darwen and gave J&A Kay the fibreglass template for them to use. At the same time I dropped off a couple of glazed panels from the trailer roof.

J&A Kay then produced the 8x curved panels for the dome, plus 2x smaller straight end panels that connect up with the cinema.

This was not a simple process and took around 5 months to go from briefing to then producing the finished panels.

These were delivered and the next challenge was to find the right person to do the fitting.

I use Ward Jones Commercials (in Cryers Hill) for all mechanical work on the cinema. They have also carried out much of the restoration of the trailer. They are a highly experienced team and when challenged for the right person to do a specific job, they always come up trumps. In the case of glazing vehicles, they unanimously said Laurie Prentice from Bucks Windscreens.

The stripped back done revealed a heap of issues.

Laurie was aware of the Vintage Mobile Cinema, having seen it on the TV a number of times and was more than willing to undertake the challenge of refitting the dome.

He started work as soon as was permitted. He built a scaffolding tower around the dome so he could work unhindered.

First job was to remove all the external beading and clean it up. Then remove all the old plastic panels, and the old rusty screws in the process.

This revealed a certain amount of rust and rotten wood which had been responsible for the leaking of water whenever I drove in the rain.

Our friend, the carpenter Brian Francis (who has built all the skirting on the trailer) replaced the old rotten wood and Laurie sanded down the steelwork, treated the rusted areas and then repainted the frame.

It’s times like this that you watch in awe as someone with so much experience, make the job look so easy. But it was far from that!

On inspection, Laurie realised the J&A Kay’s panels were not quite wide enough and the only solution was to add slightly wider aluminium strips over the top of the steel frame. This also gave a much smoother surface to adhere the plastic panels to. This was a great solution but we certainly learnt a lesson in the process. Next time round, J&A Kay need to leave a certain amount of ‘bleed’ and allow the fitter to do the final trim. (I suspect Laurie will have retired next time round!)

Riveting the wider aluminium strips to the frame of the dome

Adhesive layers were laid over the top of the new wider aluminium strips.

Time was ticking at this point. ‘Audreys’ next scheduled event (down at the Tolpuddle Festival) was only a matter of days away and there was still a lot of work to do. I am massively grateful to the work that Laurie put in over the next few days which included a couple of all nighters to ensure we were ready for this next booking.

Then came the applying of the panels. This was very much the moment of truth. This had to be done with huge accuracy and this time round no screws were to be used in the glazing.

The dome with the adhesive strips and the glazing nearing completion.

Laurie worked methodically round the dome and fixed each panel in turn.

He hadn’t slept when I came to pick the cinema up on Friday morning to drive the cinema down to Tolpuddle. Not surprisingly he was very tired but thanks to him, a large group of people got to see a load of wonderful films over the weekend.

On the drive down to Dorset, the heavens opened and the rain teemed down in what was the perfect test of Laurie’s craftmanship. Over the last 5 years, a journey like that, through such heavy rain, would have resulted in me mopping up sections of the ceiling and catching drips all over the dome. Not on this occasion. There was not a single drip on the inside. When I arrived at Tolpuddle, I sent a simple text to Laurie… “No Leaks!!!”

His relieved reply said “Fantastic”.

The job was a huge success. In truth it was close to twice as expensive as I’d hoped and that has eaten into the trailer restoration budget. But it was worth every penny. I suspect I have 10 years of life in the dome before I need to start thinking about replacing. Next time round, I suspect we will need to replace the steel frame as well. Having gone through this experience, I actually feel ready for that challenge now.