Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Great Build -- Day 2

It took tens of years and cost thousands of lives, but the great Roving Home rose from the ashes of a crippled civilization.  Yes, a little dark humor coming your way from southern California.  I think we're due for a "big one," if you know what I mean.  At least, that's what's been floating around the media circles as of late.  Scientists have stressed concern over the frequency of quakes throughout the southland during the past few months, yet we'll never leave.  It's either bear the quakes, or  the tornadoes,  the hurricanes, blizzards, flooding or God knows what else, depending upon where it is that you call home.  My house will be quake proof.  So with that covered, I'm more than happy to call sunny SoCal, home.

When I bought the truck, I asked the owner about the bulkhead door, because only a thin frayed bungee cord held the thing against the wall.  Absent were a track, lock, floor guide and wheels.  Well, actually there were wheels, but not very good ones.

That one is the good one.  The other ones lack ball bearings and rubber.  My first instinct was to call the stepvan parts website to figure out what I need to hang this thing, until I realized that the website has no phone number.  So, basically you have to know exactly what you want, because you're getting zero customer service from those folks.  I don't know about you, but if I ran a store, I would make sure that my customers were happy with their purchase, including assistance with their problems.  But, what do I know?  They lost business from me because I didn't know what I should order. 

There's a gap in the door that's supposed to have something in it.  I think it's the locking mechanism.

I have no idea.

Is that the back side of the door or the front side?

I was clueless.  So I called Utilimaster, left a message with their parts department and never heard back. 

Off to Ace Hardware!

The knowledgeable guy directed me right to the sliding door aisle where I found this track, suitable for 60 pound loads.  I wasn't sure if my door was 60 pounds, so I first stepped on my scale -- YIKES -- then stepped on it again with the door in hand.  Low and behold, 41.9 pounds.  Woohoo!

So, here's the door, back in action.  The angled piece actually guides the spring lock into place.  As you slide the door, the guide squeezes the spring lock downward until the lock reaches the end of the line.  The lock then pops back up, thereby securing the door.  Pretty basic mechanics.

From the front, in the driver's cab, you just push your finger through the hole, lower the hook and slide open the door.


From inside the Roving Home, you just lower the hook.

Anyway, I'm yawning just talking about this.  Probably should have just left it out, except for the fact that I spent all weekend putting this together.  Let's not forget the floor guide, too.  It just so happens that two identical pieces of angle iron worked out perfectly.

Each bag there represents a trip to the hardware store.  Whew!

But wait, there's more!  Before I start my framing, I have to finish that door.  It's going to be blocked in as soon as I build my walls, so I have to do the finishing work now.  I had to take a deep breath and switch gears, for finish carpentry requires a whole different attention to detail and focus. 

I figured I'd kill several birds with one stone and do a bulk lumber purchase to get a good start out of the gate.

Stocking up!

Heading out!

Looks like she plays well with the rest of the cars.  She minds her own business, and they mind theirs.

So, the front side of the bulkhead door will remain rough and industrial.  I'm rather partial to that look...

 But the rear must remain civilized and will be finished appropriately.

A little light gluing...

A little light clamping...

And we'll let all that fresh wet and sticky lumber dry out over the week -- preheat truck to 115 and leave for 5 days in the baking sun.  That'll do it.  

Until next time... 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Desire To Create

My girl and I shared a glass - after we each polished off our own personal glasses - of our favorite locally brewed craft beer, "California Black," made by the Dale Bros Brewery here in Upland, California.  The temperature hadn't peaked out as high as it had earlier in the week, but I sure did welcome that frosty mug of "Barley Pop," after a long day of scheming, testing and fantasizing about my future.

Anyway, we both agreed that a driving passion in one's life adds much fulfillment to our days spent away from work.  She's embarking on her first book, and I of course, have taken upon the task of building an entire house in 92 square feet - nutty.  But we're both excited about the potential.  She's already filling up her notebook with one-pot campfire meals, and today I reminded her of the small propane oven made by Brinkman that could accommodate her Sunday morning scones, quite nicely.  We clinked our glasses in honor of good times ahead.

From a computer rendering to the real thing -- pretty cool.

We spent the weekend in collaboration, as the seeds of the Roving Home have finally begun to bear fruit.  My application of blue tape on the interior walls of the van brought the vision to life. 

Prior to that, I'd often watch as her eyes would glaze over while I espoused the merits of AGM batteries and MPPT solar charge controllers. 

But now, our exchange was lively.  We analyzed and contemplated where this and that will go in order to appease each of our individual desires -- as if you can have any sort of individuality in such small living quarters.

I spent most of the weekend simply translating my perfect world vision into the reality of what I have to work with.  As I began to tape off the walls and partitions, the oversights became glaringly clear.

I panicked, at one point, after suddenly realizing that the 12 volt receptacles might just stick out further than my slim junction box backing. 

Sure enough!

It's fine.  I'll cut a hole in back because within the wall, I've got two inches total to work with.  I think I alleviated any more sleepless nights. 

Another concern of mine, as of late, is whether or not extending the wiring to the switch on the hot water heater is such a brilliant move.  The thing runs off of 2 D cells.  Yet, it still has all of the components of a normal water heater. Too good to be true? 

Since the system only runs on 3 volts and I want the switch to be about 5 feet away, I thought it best to do a test, rather than to spend a painful weekend installing the plumbing system only to realize later on that the voltage drop would be too great to fire the thing up. 

Here's the switch now -- not a handy place to work with.


I recited a quick prayer.



A wave of nausea suddenly overcame me.  What have I done?

I added about 4.5 feet of wire and crimped on some terminals...

A new switch...

And it worked!  Holy mackerel!  The burner fired up ( you can see the propane tank in the background).


I've been tossing around the idea of just how I'm going to get all of the outlets I need at the dinette to work efficiently and aesthetically.  I want to have A.C. power, D.C. power and a USB connector to the computer printer.  The whole point is to avoid a spiderweb of wiring all over the place.  I just want to be able to sit at the dinette with my laptop and plug it into the wall for charging and have print capabilities from the cabinet beside the dinette.    

Here are the components.

I started by drilling some holes with the new press.  Man, a drill press is where it's at!  Let me tell you.  I can't believe I didn't buy one sooner.  Whew!

Just line it up...

And, there you have it.  I did, however, have to do a little bit of fine tuning with the hand held rotozip. 

I went O.C.D. on the unfinished look of the U.S.B. hole, there.  Back to Home Depot for the fourth time, today. 

Ahhhhhhhh, that's better.

So, that happened. 

Next was a little test of the recessed light fixtures.  You've seen these before, if you're one of the 5 people who regularly view this blog. 

They're 1 watt and they're crazy bright.  But, I called the manufacturer and asked them if I could buy the cans that they mount into.  The guy said you just need to drill a hole where you want them and stick them into the ceiling, springs first.  I wasn't so sure about that.  It didn't seem right and I needed to verify. 

There's the test hole.  I know I've done better jobs with the rotozip, but it's only a test.  Pretend it's perfectly round.

Pulling the springs back, I carefully inserted the housing, and WHAM, the springs slapped down onto the wood, locking the whole lamp into place.  Who would have thought?

And, for those of you who don't remember, the housing pivots. 

Talk about "groovy," right?

And, that was my weekend. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Let the games begin -- DAY 1

Big week, here.  I received a few goodies in the mail.  First, my stereo speakers. 

Years and years ago, I replaced the factory speakers in my brand new "off the showroom floor" Toyota Tercel with Pioneers, and they sounded pretty fab.  So I'm going with them, again.  Also, it seems as though Pioneer is the only company that makes speaker covers that don't have a "dance club DJ" statement to make.  I really don't need a screen that looks like an alien robot eye bursting through my ceiling.  And, if you've shopped for speakers within the past few years, you'll know what I mean.  It seems as though every manufacturer wants to make a techno-statement with their car speakers, and they accent them with either bright alloy colors or loud architectural styling that seems more appropriate in a Japanese street racer than in the Roving Home.  However, Pioneer still carries the old-school torch.  So, I'm sticking with it.

I stopped by Home Depot for a few accessories.


My favorite is that super slim plastic junction box.  That'll work nicely within my 2 inch walls, especially in plastic, since I'm running two different power sources to the same box.  I also bought some zip ties and parts for my A.C. circuit breaker hub.

After pulling my rig from the storage lot over to the shop, I took my first real look at the interior and surmised the road ahead.  I pulled down a bit of the aluminum drop-ceiling and scoped out the liner -- of course, the old fashioned stuff.  Not very efficient.  How times have changed.

This was the standard in 1997.  Under direct sunlight, the ceiling was scorching hot to the touch!

So, I began by stripping the whole thing down to the framework. 



Grinding off all of the rivets was no special treat.  But, at least it went quick.  How bad could anything be in an 8' x 12' space, right?

So, here's the deal with insulation.  We've all been a bit misinformed as to how the new ultra-thin metallic stuff really works.  I spoke with a company in Houston last week.  They sell this stuff to contractors all over the country who build metal structures, and this is what Gary said:  

You actually need two layers with an air gap in between.  The first layer touches the metal of the wall or ceiling.  The second layer gets pulled taught between the studs, 1 inch away.  Another air gap should exist between the second layer of insulation and your inner wall. 

I told him I'm counting on 2 inch walls which he said were very deep for an RV and that with my design plan, the insulation will be, "everything you could ever hope for."  

Most people slap this stuff right up against the metal, but the radiant heat is still going to bake your interior.  It's the air gap that really slows down the penetration  of heat.  I know RV manufacturers couldn't care less about this stuff, and that's part of the reason I've decided to build my own vehicle.  They could easily design those interiors, minus an extra inch on either side, in an attempt to reduce the need to blast a generator all day long for A.C.    

That, right there, is 500sq. ft.,  $179.00 with shipping.  Not bad at all, and worth every penny.


Now for the fun part -- designing the build.

Two inch painter's tape will serve nicely, considering my walls will be constructed of 1" x 2" lumber. 

To the left is the bathroom with a shower.  Beside it, up onto the wall is the outline of the galley counter.  You can't really tell from the perspective of a point and shoot camera, but the shower space is actually quite comfortably sized.  So, I guess I imagined that, correctly.

Here's where I'll have to reconfigure.

The wheel well sticks up right in the middle of the dinette.  My girl suggested I build the table a bit larger in order to accommodate a chair and a stool.  That way we can sit 90 degrees from one another without banging our knees together.  The stool will tuck under the table in transit, to be pulled out for a meal, and one half of the dinette will remain as a built-in.  The chair will be as high as the stool but will be built on top of the wheel well.  Problem solved! 

 A little homage, once again, to "old school."

How can you not love the brown paper bag from the local hardware store where the old guy who knows where everything is will tell you exactly how to use everything in the store!  And, it's three blocks from the shop -- lots of return visits during the next couple of months.

I also took the opportunity to remove a waste water tank that came with the vehicle.  Too bad it only holds 32 gallons and doesn't fit in with the undercarriage design. 

Pulled that puppy out!

I told my girl that if she has nothing better to do during her time off, then perhaps she could find some entertainment value in placing an ad on Craigslist during the week.  I figure 20 bucks is worth it.  It's in perfect condition.  After she gets no calls for 20, I told her to drop it to "free." 

Must keep the supply line moving!  The trash builds up fast.