Mar. 6th, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
I've been mulling over a lot of options while traveling. Now that I've got my hands (and tape measure) on the bus, I've started to narrow down the possibilities. I don't want a typical tinyhouse/rv style renovation, for both stylistic and practical reasons. I do want open space, lots of seating and sleeping room, and the necessities for living as well as for registering and insuring it as an RV.

Here's what I've got in mind right now:

The bedroom will mostly fill the rear section, which has less headroom than the rest of the bus. This is the space I am least decided on, even for a first-draft approach. Both of my current plans require getting checked out on the metal shop and mig welders at Techshop. Plan one involves a steel-framed variation of the dual/trundle bed system from Hank Bought a Bus, which provides two twin beds and plenty of under-bed storage, and converts to a king plus a twin by sliding one bed into the aisle. Plan two involves facing "day bed" style seats, with fold-out cantilevered support across the aisle for sliding both mattresses down and together to span the whole section. I'm also still brainstorming other options. The bedroom will probably be the last step in the first pass of renovation. Prior to that, while I'm doing everything else, a mattress on bins will do as well as it always has.

The kitchen will be above the wheel well behind the driver, comprised of a sink in front of a camp stove. I've got a stove that might work if I can flip the propane feed to the other side, and even a small aluminum-box oven to go on it. A frame for the stove and sink will also be made in the TechShop metal shop. The pantry will be above the other wheel well, with some storage compartments and a cooler. That area will probably be made from wood in the short term, possibly indefinitely. Both wheel wells have a bit of dead space inside them, above and ahead/behind the wheel. One of those four spaces is occupied by a fire extinguisher in a recessed housing, and the other three might be reclaimable space. I can probably put my propane tank(s) in one of them, with some custom metal or fiberglass work.

The shower will be opposite the back door, relatively large and doubling as (bike?) storage. Its floor will be raised 4-6 inches and contain the grey water tank (pending a smell-blocking solution). The shower probably won't have solid walls, instead having floor and ceiling shower curtain rods for a wrap-around curtain. I saw a small on-demand propane water heater at a camping event a couple of years ago; I'm going to investigate how small those can be.

The position for the fresh water tank(s) for the shower and kitchen is TBD. I'm torn between putting them down low and requiring power or foot pumps, or putting them up high and letting gravity do the work but also having much more catastrophic failure modes. I've heard good things about some small powered pump+spray devices which might make my mind up for me. Either way, for now I'll be going with 5-7 gallon carryable containers, rather than needing to rig up a fill hose.

The front area between the wheel wells and rear door, the "living room", will have the original six folding seats, four normal seats with a table between them, and lots of open floor. Some of the original overhead bars will remain, some will be cut, many removed. In the long term I'll probably remove all of them so there's more room for hammocks, an aerial sling, etc, but for now I'll keep them because they are so much fun to climb on.

A key aspect of this plan is that it retains an unimpeded sight line across the width of the bus from the front to the rear, except for the pre-existing wall behind the driver's seat, which contains a power distribution panel that can't be easily moved. I really like this aspect of Hank's design, and I'm hoping to stick with it. I will add curtains or folding partitions for privacy, but their default position will be open.

I'm going to be removing the sandpapery flooring material and haven't decided what I want to do with the floor yet. Wood seems like a popular option for bus conversions. I like how it looks. I don't like that it usually requires an under-floor layer, which will eat into my precious headroom. I might take the easy out for round one and just put down carpet and padding for most of it, and whatever the modern equivalent of linoleum is for the areas around the doors and shower.

The exterior is... a big project. I'll be cutting out or covering up the advertising text ASAP. I'm probably going to keep the giant human spine art for a while, because it looks cool and keeping it is easy. Eventually I might want to cover it with a new custom wrap, or have it painted. That's another project for another month (year?).

The interior walls are mostly going to be left as-is until I decide I need some insulation. I'm not even sure that I need curtains on the windows that currently have decals on them; I'll be investigating how see-in-able it is in daylight and nighttime once it's sitting still. The doors need some work for security reasons, but I don't think I'll be doing anything decorative or design-y with them beyond that in the near future.

This plan gets all the necessities out of the way ASAP and leaves me a very open and flexible space for ongoing usage and improvement. Ten seats is plenty for most of my travel plans, and beds and hammocks will bring the sleeping capacity up to match, both very early in the process. I could be doing ten-person day/weekend trips as soon as April. The process won't be as impressive as a raw-to-finished-in-one-step renovation, but I think this plan fits well with my short and long term goals.


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