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. 


  1. Excellent choices, glad to see you are "planning twice" and "buying once".

  2. As the old adage goes, "measure twice, cut once." Sometimes I get the feeling that if I manage to make it to the other side of the tunnel with this project, that I will have acquired the means to build my own house -- a lot to consider!

  3. Hey Rob, Looks like you have it figured out well. If you are still open for ideas on it, I made my cover plates out of wood and I really like the way they came out. I will get pics when I get everything stained. It was part of a bigger project involving my flat screen TV install. That little saw is great! I don't think you are going to want to use it for SS though. I spent most of my life fabricating and welding the stuff and I can tell you it is horrible on cutting blades. Not only that, it work hardens very quickly while cutting if the process isn't quick enough then the blade is toast. Cutting SS with tool steel is better as a high pressure low speed operation. With a high speed tool, you would want an abrasive cutter usually. Check the folks that make the bits for that thing though, maybe they have a cobalt bit or something similar that will work. Hope that helps your pursuit a bit :)

    97 Roadtrek 170P "Taj Ma Trek"

  4. Hey Mike,

    I thought about wood, but then I knew I wouldn't be able to give it that high quality finished look with the rounded edges (or really just don't want to spend the time with a router table). Also, thanks for the heads up on the metal cutting. I really didn't see any options on the packaging for metal cutting, so I'm going into it with reservations. I figured I'd try a metal bit and see what happens. I'm not going to use very thick stock.

    I'd like to see your wooden plates, though. I'm an info junkie.

  5. love your blog and what you're doin with your life. so very groovy. check me out at

    cheers, and good luck!

  6. Thanks for the nod. I'm heading over to see what you're up to.