Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lots of discoveries...

First of all, I saw what I consider to be the perfect machine for my project.  It has style.  It's the size I'm looking for, with low mileage, and seems to be in great condition.  The unfortunate part is that it's somewhere way up in Canada and God only knows how much I'd spend on fuel, getting that thing home.  Also, there are customs decalarations to consider and all kinds of other potential problems, not the least of which are California emission standards.  So, the hunt continues. 

I think I'd leave the ladder on just for fun.  Maybe I'd park the van downtown during Friday night rush-hour, and with my reflective vest and hard hat I'd see just how much of a tangled mess I could make out of traffic control with my super-extended flashlight beacon.

Just a thought.

This last week, I received my third installment of the recessed lighting fixture demo.  I stumbled upon it last week while ordering another reel of the LED light strip and decided I needed to see this with my own eyes.  But, wow, I think I've landed on the one I'll be using for ambient lighting. 

It's super compact.

And, how cool is the fact that it pops right out of the housing for a quick change-out?

Very "Iron-Man."

And, it's only twelve bucks!  I think I'll buy a bag of them.

So, next, was my whimsical purchase of a 12 volt relay switching system designed for additional headlights that you'd add onto your car's bumper. 

I think that kids who have those little sportscar racers like to trick them out with this stuff, but I was thinking more along the lines of the ability to turn on and off a single fixture in the Roving Home. 

My initial thought was that I'd be able to use the relay switch in this kit to mimic the set-up in a house where you can control a light in a hallway from either end.  That way I could flip a switch in the driver's cabin prior to entering the living quarters.  Later, while in bed, I'd be able to flip another switch and shut the lights off, via the relay.  That would come in handy during the night, if I wanted to turn the lights on without first having to walk all the way through in the dark.  

As you can see, the diagram was a simple, easy to follow layout................................not!    

I had to spend a few minutes absorbing the nuances.

After I wired it to the car battery, I added a second switch, parelleling the first one, with the thinking that each switch would act as an independent remote.

Sadly, I was mistaken.  The switch that turns on the relay, I realized, is the same switch that must turn off the relay.  I assumed they were momentary, but in fact they're "on/off."  

The good part about the relay is that one can build into a system multiple switches that can turn on and off the same device.  So, if I find the need, I guess that'll happen, even if I'll have to make a double trip to each switch -- not that the Roving Home is a palatial spread that requires me to hop a tram to the south wing.  Though it is nice to explore the potential.  I think a wireless relay might actually do the trick -- with two remotes.

Next Discovery

In the Roving Home, solar will be an integral part of the electrical system.  And the panels I'm leaning toward will take up about one third of the rooftop.  That places me in a quandry as to how I will ventilate the interior because I am determined to display, as little as possible, any evidence of living quarters that may exist inside the vehicle.  

At 6 1/2" around, I think I've found a solution.


The black trapezoid on top is all that sticks out from the rooftop hole.

And, when opened up, it's like a sneaky little mole stealing a quick peek at the outside world.

Those are fan blades.  The lid is actually translucent.

Much better than a giant 14" square-top vent lid that seems to be the industry standard.  It also saves a ton of space.

And, finally...

...I decided that I'd better get a grasp on my work space, otherwise I'll never be effective when it comes time to begin this build.  The garage was a mess.  I read an article that Susie Ormon wrote about success in one's life, and clutter is a big culprit, in her eyes.  I agree.  This is my shelving unit, dedicated to storage and organization of everything related to my build.


The empty shelf is my make-shift work bench.  I had to keep pushing crap out of the way to get anything done.  I'll certainly be expanding the shop after the vehicle arrives.  But for now, I can locate everything I need within those clear boxes. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Moving forward - a bit sluggish.

Unfortunately, these days I don't have much free time on my hands, so when progress is made, it's at a snail's pace.  As soon as I'm confident that I've figured everything out, I'll acquire the vehicle and begin the build.  I really don't see any reason to buy something only to relegate it to the side yard.  Honestly, I haven't found exactly what I need, as of yet.  I've seen a few out there, but the prices are steep.  Patience is a virtue. 

But, what I have done, this week is to continue my switch plate assemblies.  As I said before, I'll need three 3-switch plates and three 1-switch plates.  So, the factory is up and running. 

First I measure...

Then cut...

And, the fun continues.

This week, another gift arrived in the mail - my USB / Printer panel adapters. 

The printer receiver end will mount to a plate on the wall, by the dinette.  That way, I'll be able to plug a very short printer cable from my laptop, right into the wall.  In the wall, the cable will work its way over to where my printer is.  Then, it will connect to another adapter that will actually hook directly into the final cable.  The whole USB to Printer adapter cable has to always flow from one type of connector to another in a certain way (from what I've recently learned).  If you just try and go USB to USB, there's no guarantee that you're not crossing the polarity at some point.   I know it sounds complex, but think of it as series of male to female adapters.  They always have to connect in a certain order.  That's the simplest way of explaining it. 

And, here are the backsides of the adapters...

They're small and efficient in size.

And, next week, I'm hopeful that my 12 volt receptacles will arrive so that I can show you the completed faceplate configuration for the entire electrical system.  It's all very exciting -- to me. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cheers, to the little guy.

I don't know why I didn't just go straight there, because the place is only three blocks from my home.  I'm guilty of contributing to the rise of corporate America and the demise of "The Little Guy."  But, don't we all want things yesterday?  I find it humorous to hear people blame Barnes and Noble and Borders for the downfall of the neighborhood bookstore, especially when no one tells us where to shop. 

I'll be the first in line to fess up to the fact that when I want something, I really don't care to waste my time shuffling from local store to local store, only to hear that they're out of stock and won't be getting another one in until next Tuesday.  So, what do I do?  I go to Home Depot! 


...the uniqueness of the item warrants a trip to True Value or Ace Hardware.  Sure enough, moments before pushing the send button on another internet purchase, I thought I'd try the lumber shop down the road - a division of Ace Harware.  Low and behold, there were my face plates.

And, they had a pile of them!  I bought eight.  They're the old dark brown bakelite faceplates.  I shook my head with embarrassment.  I slinked up to the register with my tail between my legs, hoping no one saw my car at Home Depot earlier that day...

...and then promptly dashed home for another fix of my Moho jones - but not before stopping by the auto parts store.  I found these puppies in the 12volt aisle. 

There are a lot of different kinds of switches out there.  You can find them at Radio Shack, Fry's Electronics and at various auto parts stores.  But remember one thing.  They cannot be 120vac switches for 12 volt applications, and vice versa.  This is the kind of label you'll want to see.


Considering the highest amperage draw at any time will come from my water pump, which is 7amps, I'll be just fine with these switches.  And, at less than three bucks a piece, I can set them up all day long. 

And, here's my finished switch plate.  


I won't need more than three on a plate in any one area, so I'm good to go.  I'll have two more of these plates, one in the bathroom, one at the dinette and one at the galley.  I'll have single switch plates beside the bed and in front of the closet. 

The plastic is super thick and dense.  My rotozip didn't exactly buzz through it like butter and it was plenty noisy cutting out all of that plastic.  But they look super pro with a finshed manufactured quality.  The measuring is the only thing that takes time.  I wrapped the surface in blue painter's tape and marked the holes with pencil.  That way I didn't have to ink directly on the plastic and ruin it. 

They were $.49 a piece.   


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hurry up and wait, please...

During my formative years, I spent hours looking through catalogs.  I pored over Edmund Scientific and JC Whitney, Sears and dare I say, Neiman Marcus.  Yes, my mom received the Neiman Marcus catalog after she purchased probably the least expensive item she could find during her single visit there.  I remember one holiday issue that offered a doll house, large enough for a toddler to play in, for a paltry $15,000.  A virtual steal!

I was partial to the custom automobile interiors. 

What I hated about ordering from catalogs was the wait.  Pure agony.  After sending off my mom's check, via good old fashioned snail mail, I'd spend every afternoon in class daydreaming at my desk while Mr. Moore would scribble math equations on the chalk board.  I remember that I could hardly absorb a single fraction as the image kept cycling through my brain like a broken record -- my arrival home from school to a brown box at the foot of my doorstep with the iconic United Parcel Service label.

The catalog said "4 to 6 weeks for delivery," and I checked off every single day on the calendar that hung on the fridge, as I painfully awaited the delivery of my battery-operated cable-controlled hover craft. 

Well, I'm feeling that way, now.  And sadly, I'm going a bit stir crazy. 

It seems as though every single thing I need for my current project is either "out of stock" at my local stores, or "back-ordered" from the vendors I've sought out on the web.  I guess our economy is finally bouncing back...or something. 

But, in a nutshell, here's the jist. 

I'm trying to figure out how to design and align my electrical outlets and switches.  For the few appliances that require household A.C. power via an onboard inverter, a standard wall outlet will be fine.  But I'll need 12 volt power for most of my appliances.  So that means I'll have to find a place to put one of these...

...alongside one of these.

But of course, no such face plate exists.  So, I'm going to have to manufacture my own.  The closest thing that I can use to accomodate the receptacles is this...

...which is on back order, of course.  You can't find this exact plate (in dark brown no less) at any local or chain hardware store to save your life.  But, on the web, there is a company that sells it.  I'll just drill a neat little hole for the 12 volt power outlet and screw it right in.  It'll be seamless and pro.  But, as I said, the plate is on back order.  


I need a switch plate.  But all of the switch plates I've found have inconsistent design elements.

These are cool, but there isn't an A.C. household socket that matches.

And, this one's cool, too, but I need it in a three switch variety, along with a household A.C. socket to match.


  They're all interesting, but I really don't want a whole circus of plates and switches in such a small space.  It's just too much to look at. I'm a sucker for uniformity.  Call me crazy.   

So, to match the plate that I'm using for my outlets, I've ordered brown face plates that are used to cap off unused circuits.  Believe it or not, the brown ones are hard to find.  And it's nearly impossible to find a brown one that isn't the, "Preferred 3/8" larger!"  What the heck!  I just want a standard plate!


I'll cut three rectangles and align my rocker switches.

And this will match the bathroom and galley plates that will house the receptacles.

They will both be in dark brown.  So, I hope I haven't lost you all to total boredom, but I have no pictures of anything I've done, because all I've done is research and order.  Although I did buy a most excllent spiral saw tool, today.

It's the bomb for cutting shapes in plastic and wood.  I hope it works well with metal because I have a stainless steel piece I need to craft for a hide-away service plate at the dinette.  It will have A.C. power, 12volt power and another back-ordered item...

 ...a USB hub for my computer to link to my printer that will be in a nearby slide-out drawer. 

I stay up at night, wondering just when my packages will arrive at my doorstep.  I don't want to grow up. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gotta have music!

I love music.  I need music.  Music will set the tone and create the necessary ambience for an evening in the Roving Home.  After all, this will be my safe haven within the city -- my urban oasis.  By the way, I will have 2 inches of insulation all the way around, so time spent inside will be quiet and buffered from the downtown hustle bustle.

Now for the fun part.

As I've said before, in the world of the Roving Home, size matters.  And believe it or not, smaller is better!

The music dilemma lies in my desire to take my 300 strong CD collection with me, on the road.  Now before you yell out the obvious, I'm well aware of the modern technological wonder called the "Ipod," and I'm one step ahead of you.  But, where does one place the Ipod while spending time in such a small space?  I don't want unnecessary stuff on the counter, all the time.  I definitely don't want to hassle with wires draped all over the place.  And, clutter in small spaces is uncool!

Meet the Iport.

The Iport is a wall mounted, recessed docking port for the Ipod.  It's designed as an interface for a home sound and theatre system -- fancy high tech gadgetry.  The drawback is that it operates on an infrared signal, uses CAT-5 for data and operates on 120 volts A.C. 

But it's so darned slick-looking!  And it solves all of my problems.  So, I decided to buy just the face plate and adapt a desktop docking port.  


The plate is designed to snap onto the Iport electrical wall housing.  The whole unit costs about $599.  This plate costs around $20.

Next, I had to find a docking port that I could easily cannibalize.  The cool thing about this one is that from the one attachment on the front, I can pull power and music from the rear.  I just needed to get to the circuitry inside. 

After taking apart a costly $30.00 unit from the Apple Store, I realized that I just wasted $30 at the Apple Store. 

Although the mounting pin is just what I need, all of the circuitry is built within that cast aluminum housing, which does me no good.  However it's a testament to Apple, because the engineering is pretty solid.


I got this Belkin docking port for half the price!

And this is what I found inside!


With this circuit board, I can mount the Ipod plug adapter any ol' way I want to.  On the other side of the board, you can see the silver Mini USB power plug on the left, and the tan Mini plug for the headphones on the right.  

I pushed the circuit board up through the opening in the black plastic Iport cover. 


I had to make the hole a bit bigger to accomodate the circuit board.

And, for demo purposes, I just used a bit of electrical tape to secure it from the back side.

And, there you have it.  Through the wall, I will run all of the necessary cables from my stereo to power and play my Ipod sound gadget with my 300 CD library.  No mess. no wires.

Super clean and super efficient.