Mar. 29th, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
I am approaching the end of the first month with the bus. Progress has been slower than I'd like, due roughly equal parts to my own laziness, sparse class offerings and a scheduling snafu at TechShop, first drafts of some of the projects not being acceptable, the bus being crowded with stuff due to lack of storage space, and slow delivery time on some of the components. I'm hoping to address at least three of those things in the very near future and speed things up a bit, due in no small part to having received my first parking ticket last night. The nominal reason for the ticket was a street sweeping violation, but they tacked on my lack of license plates. That triggered the start of a 21 day deadline to get it registered and avoid a $121 fine. Despite all of that, I am still making progress, and the space is starting to feel slightly more comfortable with each improvement.

The solar charger seems to be working, despite my not having a way to monitor the battery yet other than a multimeter. I managed to drain the batteries from 25.4V to 25.0V with all my gadgets running overnight, including the lights and fans for a few hours, and it was back up to 25.5V when I checked it after some sunlight. Note to self: Get a low battery alarm.

I built a prototype for the kitchen. It doesn't fit/work well. That's detailed in my previous post. I got most of the rest of the connectors to assemble the whole thing, wherever it ends up going. That included the foot pump for fresh water, the propane regulator and hose and adapter for small bottles, and a few other things.

I partially removed one of the window frames so that I could get behind a wall panel. A significant fraction of the window frame screws are seized with galvanic corrosion (steel screw into aluminum frame). I stripped a couple, and drilled one out. I gave up when I needed to drill out a second one, and will return to that experiment when I have a screw extractor later this week. I did get enough of the frame unscrewed that I could pull it and the wall panel away from the wall. That gave me a glimpse of one of the structural extrusions that I want to use for the table and bed frame mounting. Knowing where that member was allowed me to cut a small hole in the wall panel to get direct access to it.

Good news, the structural member below the windows seems to a similar extrusion profile as the ones in the ceiling holding the handrails. Bad news, it's oriented such that the load bearing channels face up and down, not toward the interior of the bus like they do for the vertical members between the windows. There's an ancillary smaller channel in the useful side of the extrusion, but I don't have nuts that fit it. I've ordered some that might, and will probably end up machining them down to fit. In the long term, this means I need to machine or waterjet cut some adapter plates to make solid mounts to the underside of those members for strong connections, and machine some T-nuts for the smaller channel for lighter connections. In the short term, this means I'm drilling straight through the side of the channel and using screws, effectively treating it like a 1/8" thick piece of angle aluminum. I feel better about this plan given that at least one of the existing installations, the rear upper level retaining walls, also used this connection method for one of their four attachment points.

I bought steel for the table, shower frame, bed frame, etc. I went with a variety of sizes (20ft each of 1x(1|2)x0.125 bar and 1x1x0.125 angle and 1x(0.5|1|2|3)x16GA square tube) which might leave me short for a couple of the final products but gives me plenty to practice with and make prototypes. I got some 1.5x1.5x18GA perforated angle for prototyping connections between my steel tubes and the bolts into the extrusion railes. I also bought a bit of lumber for the table, some 1x2 for the edges and 0.75 plywood for the tabletop.

I built a wooden tabletop and it came out pretty nice. Better than I expected for my first try, not nearly as good as I'd like for the long term. I didn't finish or paint it, and might not if I'm only keeping it for a month or two. I ended up using a lot of small screws to semi-permanently attach the table to the wall, rather than the temporary attachment I need in the long term to use the table as an alternative bed surface by lowering it. I need to investigate attachment methods for the next attempt at a table, since off-the-shelf door hinges aren't going to work as well as I had hoped. I'll probably just buy a commercial restaurant tabletop to replace my prototype eventually, for increased durability and finished-ness. For now, I'm happy that the prototype table is installed and usable. Having a place to sit and work on my laptop or with tools has made the bus feel a lot more home-y.

One side of one of the supports for the roof hatch has started to break. I may have been opening or closing it more forcefully than I should, or maybe it's just dying of old age. I've made a temporary fix with gorilla tape. A less-temporary fix with strapping tape or maybe an epoxy is probably warranted. Eventually I'll want to make replacements for those supports out of metal, once I'm a lot better at welding and a little better at machining. For now, the hatch still opens and closes and stays closed, so there's no rush unless I start going up there a lot more often.

I've ordered a Laveo Dry Flush toilet. I ended up choosing this one despite its higher up front and ongoing cost because I anticipate a guest needing to empty it and wanted to make that as painless as possible for them. This was the only option where the emptying process involves no exposure to human waste.

I received the hardware that I ordered for the overhead rails but half of it doesn't fit. I'm back to shopping around looking for the pieces I need, or cannibalizing parts from other rails already in the bus. I'm probably going to cannibalize in the short term, and then swap out for replacements later so I can put the original parts back where they belong.

I've also ordered a stack of white cardboard sheets big enough to cover the windows. All of the windows have grooves in their frames that I should be able to slide panels into if I can get them cut to the right size. I may do it by hand, or I may do it on the shopbot if I can get my hands on a drag knife or even if I can't, or I may get certified on a laser cutter if TechShop has one big enough. Regardless of how I cut them, once they are installed I'll have privacy at night with the lights on, and nice big white surfaces that I'll need to find a friend to artify for me.

Next steps: Decide where the kitchen is going and buy a commercial cabinet to cut down to fit in that space. Install the sink and stove in that cabinet. Continue shopping for shower pan, and design the shower/toilet enclosures/curtains. Finish short term upgrades to overhead rails. Black out the windows with cardboard. Hang a less temporary curtain at the front of the vehicle, and disable the one overhead light that shines in that section. Make a more permanent set of supports for propping the windows open. Install some sort of temporary stuff storage. Shelves, stacked bins, etc.


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