By Sarah Naron
GRAPELAND – Six students in a Grapeland High School Ag class recently completed their first gooseneck trailer, which will be shown at the Houston County Fair and also at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Ag Mechanics Show.
The students began the project shortly before Christmas and received the trailer back from the paint shop Thursday, Feb. 22.
“It’s a 24-foot gooseneck lowboy,” explained GHS junior J.D. Martin. “I’m pretty sure it’s 3x3x3/8-inch steel for the frame. We just laid it out and built it from the ground up.”
The opportunity to construct a gooseneck was one the students were eager to take.
“We wanted a chance to build one before we graduated, so Mr. (Gary) Graham let us go up and build one for him,” Martin said.
“It’s been a good experience,” he said of the project. “It’s going to be a stout trailer. We hope to see it rolling on the road from now until the day we die.”
According to Martin, the most challenging part of the project was constructing the neck of the trailer.
“We got one up that we thought was going to be about the right length and the right angles, but after putting it up there, we found out it was just a little bit too short,” he explained. “So, we got it down.
“It took us a long time, but doing things right isn’t always the quickest,” Martin pointed out. “You find that out quick in here.”
The students persevered and designed another neck, this time succeeding in their efforts.
“We pulled it to paint, and it pulled real good,” Martin said. “That’s the hardest part – just making sure everything’s lined up; measured twice; cut once.”
Martin said this will be his second year to show a project on which he worked.
“I learned the first year that you’re better off just getting it right the first time rather than getting counted off a couple points for missing,” he said. “Be as detailed as you possibly can, and just everything along those lines.
“Take pride in your work pretty much sums that up,” he finished.
Sophomore Conner Jordan also worked on the trailer and said his favorite part of the experience was working on the neck.
“The neck was not the funnest, but it was the most challenging, for sure,” he said.
Rather than painting the trailer, the students used a technique called powder coating.
“The powder coat is way tougher than the paint,” explained Jordan. “They blast it with metal BB’s. Then, they send it to another little room, and they spray it with some alcohol stuff.”
The trailer is then heated at 350 degrees for 30 minutes before being sandblasted.
“After they spray that alcohol stuff on it, nobody can touch it,” he said. “They spray the powder coat on there, and then, they heat it at 450 degrees for about 40 minutes.”
The end result of the process is a glossy finish superior in durability to paint.
“The amazing thing about this powder coating is when they spray it, it’s actually what it says,” explained instructor Gary Graham. “It’s a dry powder. It looks like black flour.
“They spray that thing at a really high pressure, but the whole trailer is charged electrically on reverse-polarity. In other words, it acts almost like a magnet,” he continued.
According to Graham, the axles and any wiring or grease cannot be present on the trailer while the powder is applied due to the high temperatures involved in the process.
“Once they put that powder on it, it looks like it’s just covered with black dust,” he said. “It’s hanging on a monorail, because you can’t touch it; you can’t move it. If you walk up and just (barely touch it), when it dries, your fingerprint will be in that paint.”
While in the oven, the powder is melted into the metal of the trailer.
“It’s a lot more durable than paint,” said Graham of powder coating. “It won’t scratch near as easy; it won’t come off near as easy. It’ll last a lot longer, and the finish will last a lot longer.”
Powder coating is also more cost efficient and can be done more quickly.
“That’s why we done it,” he said. “Taking it up to that powder coating (facility) freed up some of our time where we can start another project.”
The project is the first at GHS that has ever been powder coated.
Martin and Jordan were responsible for all welds on the trailer, which Graham praised as being “really good.
“For a show project, I try to limit the people that are welding, because one of the things they look for is consistency in the welds,” he explained. “So, if you have 10 different people welding, the welds are not going to be as consistent, and that will cost us a few points.
“I think they done a really good job,” Graham said of the students’ efforts.
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.