Sunday, May 16, 2010

Advancements in lighting, switches and hardware!

Last week's post was exciting, due to the fact that I actually found the right vehicle for my build.  So now I can rest easy knowing that there exists a van with the perfect dimesions to set my sights on.  Beyond that discovery, which nonetheless represents a large block in the Roving Home pyramid, I can't say I made major advancements in the infrastructure.  However, this weekend I announce with pride that I, indeed, have earned extra credit. 

My new 12 volt receptacles - of the correctly sized variety - arrived in the mail.  Of course, the new ones took about 3 days, as opposed to the three weeks or more that my previously ordered, incorrectly sized ones took to get here.  I'm still dealing with the paperwork necessary for a product return to Great Britain along with a credit to my account.

 A word about the Net.

I have a peeve regarding internet vendors.  If the vehicle by which you market your company stems entirely from the web, then wouldn't you ensure that descriptions and pictures of all items that you sell reflect every aspect of the inventory?  I had one strange experience whereby the salesperson seemed to lose all interest in corresponding with me after I requested a telephone conversation, rather than to drag on our email exchange.  I guess she felt that if I didn't get it in two tries then I wasn't worthy of purchasing her product.  She ceased all further correspondence with me.

I obviously wasn't completely well versed on what I'd get for my $328.00 through pictures, alone.  Luckily, beneath the salutations in her emails, I found the company phone number and requested another phone sales -  I mean "customer care" representative who gladly walked me through all of the components that were a necessary part of my order.  My new phone sales operator agreed that the pictures and descriptions were confusing and he happily answered all of my questions.

Onto the fun stuff.

This is a cabinet door knob.  It comes in two pieces which I wasn't aware of, because the website photograph only showed the entire component, which looks like this...

What I didn't know was that the price only included the metal portion and not the remaining plastic pieces.  Silly me.  I thought that when you order a locking door knob you get the handle, the tumbler, the casing and the catch.  But, what do I know? 

When you push in that center circle, the whole thing pops out, unlatches the cabinet door and becomes a pull knob. 


Yacht designers have included this hardware in their cabinetry for quite some time, but only as of late have I seen them in RVs.  They're quite cool.  So, I ordered up a batch, once I got briefed on all that I needed to make these work. 

Here lies another example of poor internet sales product description.  This 12 volt receptacle has three separate components to it, although you may not realize it from the picture, which looked like this...

What the picture fails to show is that the unit consists of the rubber cap, the cylinder and the rectangular mounting plate.  I didn't want the mounting plate, so I jumped to my other bookmarked website and ordered the wrongly-sized 12 volt receptacle.  After that debacle, I defaulted to the rectangular piece because it was the closest thing to what I want.  I decided that I'd reluctantly "make it work."

Pleasantly surprised...

As it turnes out, the rectangular insert comes off!  Now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Jeeze, this guy is a nut job," but hear me out.  Everything in a home, be it a motorhome or a brick and mortar home is designed and built to look appealing and interesting.  Every element must be considered, especially with respect to small spaces.  In a small space the lines must be minimal and the composition, flowing.  I've looked at so many pictures and have realized this to be the case time and time again, whether it's a boat, rv, or even one of those cool modern minimalist homes featured in Dwell Magazine. 

When considering how to attach a 12 volt cigarette lighter outlet on the wall, along with multiple 120 volt a.c. outlets and three switches, I wanted them to fit nicely together and to feel right. 

Here's the outlet plate I started with.  And, by the way, you can't just get these at Home Depot.  This was a custom internet order, once again.


And, there's the finished outlet panel. 

This will be the electrical-needs-layout in the bathroom and the galley...

I think that the12volt outlet on the right would have looked horrible with a bulky rectangle taking up a large portion of that plate.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  But then again, there's no accounting for taste. 

My vanity light. 

Last time I made a lighting instrument for The Roving Home interior I received a fair amount of comments.  I'm pleased to announce the completion of my bathroom wall sconce, as converted from 120volts a.c. to 12volts d.c.  


I think it's pretty elegant.  As you can see, the scale is compact.  Size is everything in the world of 106 square feet.

I had to start by cutting off the globe base - one of those funky G9 ceramic types.  Why anyone thought that such a size would be a fabulous idea is beyond me.  But, whatever.  


I cut that thing off and slid on a piece of 3/8" gas pipe. 

Now, feast your eyes on this next step.  I wrapped the self-adhesive L.E.D. strip-light firmly around the pipe.

And, voila...

The tubing is hollow, so I ran the wires up through the middle and soldered them onto the ends of the L.E.D. adhesive strip-light.

So much fun.

Almost forgot.  My stovetop arrived...

Stainless Steel.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Stand Corrected.

I really do.  After all that whining I did last week about missed connections with step vans, I almost tripped over an opportunity.  No sooner did I post about all of the hurdles I've had to overcome during my vehicle search than I saw the best van drop from the sky --  thanks to craigslist.  It's a 1998 "Utilimaster," a name I just adore, by the way.  It sounds like the second level of the fourth degree in the discipline of functional observation, as taught only by the secret society of medievel Runic followers.  Yes, I've made it to the coveted level of...Utilimaster.

 At only 58,000 miles, the turbo diesel motor is practically brand new.  The body is 21' long with a 12' cargo bay. That means I have the minimal interior length I need and the overall length of a vehicle that can squeeze snugly into a public parking space in virtually any town in America. And, the best thing about it is that it's 6'8" tall and 7'6" wide. Basically, it's a monster. Or, as the tag line for the ill-fated Ford Pacer read, "It's the wide small car."

Yes, I actually saw it, walked through it, sat in the driver's seat and even heard the motor purr with delight.  She's certainly not quiet, but I picked up some sound dampening pointers from a discovery channel episode about the Rolls Royce factory.  More from that, later.  Perhaps I'll get a couple of those headsets the firemen wear.  You know, they're voice activated and have an automatic volume adjuster for the stereo signal when you start to talk.  Wouldn't that be crazy?  

In a nutshell, I have found exactly the kind of vehicle I need.  This is the one.  The big white Freightliner from my last post had some nicer lines in the front end, as this one is a bit boxy.  However,  I later found out that the Freightliner has a cargo bay of only 11 feet.  That would have been a bummer, indeed.   I'm still holding out for the perfect one.  I can definitely rest assured that it will present itself before summer ends.  

A little frustration to spice up the mix.

I purchased these 12 volt receptacles to use for my 12 volt appliances (i.e. blender, coffee maker, cell phone charger, girlfriend's hairblower).    They're super streamlined, flush mounted, protrude with a low profile and they're cheap, at only $6.00 a piece. 


Now for the hilarious part...not!  They're "din" sockets, basically the size of a candelabra-base at the end of light bulb.  Silly me, I didn't scroll down on the website far enough to see the "12 volt lighter" socket.  Basically, trying to stick a cigarette lighter into that thing is like trying to stuff a basketball into a tuna can.

I have been corresponding with the company from Great Britain for about a month now, getting updates on the back-ordered part.  Finally, the 7 pieces arrived in my mailbox, at which point I briskly tore into the packaging for a glimpse at my long awaited incorrectly ordered items.  At this point, I have to download a form, fill it out and repackage the sockets for their trip home to Great Britain. 

I bought a new set of sockets from a boating supplies vendor, but the receptacles probably won't sit flush in my metal mounting plate like I want.  They're a totally different design.  And, there must be a warehouse loaded with pallates of these things, because my order has already shipped out, according to Amazon.  The Chinese manufacturer probably can't get rid of them fast enough. 


They'll work, but they won't have a nice finished look.  Perhaps if I mount them from behind the plate, they'll look cooler.  I'll have to play with them when they get here.   

I also received a wall sconce that I dug up from the bowels of a lighting website.  The specifications for the bathroom application are very precise and compact. 


I think this will look really nice with the LED strip lights wrapped tightly around a central core.  I can easily fasten it to the base with some hardware.  Or, if I can find a G9 12 volt lightbulb I'll be set, because that's the receptacle size that's already in the fixture.  There's a store here in L.A. that carries a crazy lightbulb selection for architectural, scientific, medical and entertainment applications.  I'll have to check them out and see.  Luckily, they're right in Hollywood, so I won't have to travel far. 

The metal base is a bit heavier than I anticpated, but my electrical box will be mounted to the wooden studs, as in a house, so I think I'll do alright.  The top part is real glass.  If the thing falls off while driving around then I guess I'll have to change it.  But I love the style and I'm going to run with it.  "Adapting to change," is the operative mantra one must utter while negotiating the treacherous road that leads to The Roving Home.    


Monday, May 3, 2010

My Tortured Life

It's like when we're searching for a new apartment or for our first house, or when we're anxiously mining the Sunday classifieds for that exact model of camera week after week, only to watch it slip right through our fingers because we didn't get to the phone in time, or because we were short on cash, or were outbid on ebay. 

We're devastated.  "That was the one," we say.  "I'll never find another."  I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me.  And, sure enough, it's happened, again.  I'd found the perfect van so many times over that I think my ups and downs will soon get the best of me. 

I need to chill out. 

Today's found-then-lost vehicle.

It's a turbo diesel with only 82,000 miles (nothing for a diesel), a 12 foot box (exactly what I need) and is super tall.  At 6' I need to be careful what I buy, otherwise I'll have to sit down in the shower which would be a major bummer and something I really don't want to have to do.  My shower pan design is shallow, but it still needs some height to be effective at routing water.  And, with an insulated roof, those precious inches above and below begin to close in pretty darned fast. 

This is truly rare.  And, it's a Freightliner -- very TOUGH. 

The floor is solid oak and can be resurfaced to a luxe finish that would certainly rival any downtown loft. 

With my ceiling spot lights and dark wood cabinetry this thing would be the Ultimate Roving Home, indeed! 

So, now the rub...

The van is located in New London, Connecticut.  And, the guy wants $6,000.  Tack on $400 for air fare, $1,200 in fuel plus lodging, food, etc, just to get it back to the west coast and I'm looking at nearly $8,000 without putting a penny into the build.  No can do. 

But I was tempted.  This is the only vehicle I've seen within the length I need that also has the height.  Add a killer fat black rugged roof rack for the solar panels, paint it a cool lifeguard yellow, add some stainless steel doors to access the electrical panel and the folding bicycle drawer and this thing would rival any sportsmobile on the road, minus the gigantic price tag. 

But, I really need to keep the vehicle purchase under $5,000.  I was fantasizing, for quite some time, that I'd be able to get something suitable for $3,000, but now I'm not so sure.  With all of the time and energy I'm investing into this project, not to mention the money, I really can't sell myself short by placing an awesome living environment onto a substandard foundation.  So, $5,000 is my new price range.

--Another added allure --

Some friends of mine here in L.A. who have been keeping up on my shenanigans have entertained the notion of owning one of these for themselves -- pending an open house of the guinea pig, of course.  Now, that's a fun concept to kick around in my brain.  

But, then again, talk is cheap....One never knows.