Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In the wake...

In the wake of the failure of my CPU fan based air injector to inject enough air to make a difference, I looked online and found a marine bilge fan that purportedly blows 135 cubic meters of air a minute. It has a very high power usage at 2.5A but if it really does shift that much air then there are two solutions.

The first is to replace both of my existing extraction fans with the new more powerful fans. This might involve relocating the battery pack to the back of the bus and reallocating the cable that runs the length of the bus to connecting the three solar panels in parallel. That should allow for fairly powerful air extraction.

The second is to leave the extraction fans as they are but to add an air injection system using force injected, filtered air powered solely from the front solar panel.

The problems as I see it is with extraction only, the roof vent at the front might drag wet air into the bus and pollens could be sucked in. With air injection, the noise level could be high. There's also a chance of moisture injection.

I definitely have to try to do something about the temperature inside the bus though. Anything higher than outside temperatures is unacceptable. Whatever I do though has to be powered from 35W of solar panels. There will be no additional solar capacity added.

Another option could be just to replace a single extraction fan with a more powerful alternative and see what happens. The aim is to remove hot air and replace it with cooler outside air.

Meanwhile, somebody asked me why I don't do Facebook. The answer is that I just don't find Facebook to be a pleasant and engaging experience. Rather the opposite in fact. I found my naively innocent responses seemed to result in angry and ugly words aimed in my direction. Then I'd find my feed would be swamped with generic reposts from accounts not in my friends list that would never be in my friends list either. Thus, since all Facebook did was raise my blood pressure, I deleted it. I've deleted Facebook several times in the past after other users rudeness and arrogance became too much to bear.

I can't honestly say I miss Facebook. Sure, there were a few people I knew on it but largely they didn't post either. The problem comes from the fact that in order to sell advertising space, Facebook has to have as wide a user base as possible. That means that the lowest common denominator has to be accepted and that includes those that have not yet learned to wear shoes, bathe and to not make messes in the house.
As I didn't want to become an alcoholic, dealing with the cruel things people commented on my Facebook postings, instead of buying ever more booze, I deleted the Facebook app. I've been happily Facebook free for ages.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Temperature differential

Its cloudy and midday. The temperature outside is 78.8 but inside the bus it's 86. That's a small difference though I'm sure it gets more on hotter days. At least it's not the 140 that I recorded two years ago inside.

I've rethought my ventilation unit. While I could patch what I have by increasing the tubing size or adding a second fan, what I've opted for is a radical redesign. This time I'll use a 130CFM marine bilge blower. That's a bit more powerful than my existing CPU fan. At least it's a dedicated fan!

Thinking more along those lines, because the fan I ordered is 3 inch (I should have gone for 4), I can still use my sink tailpipe as an inlet though I might want instead of using just one which is 1.25 inches in diameter, to use two. The surface area of one tailpipe is 3.927 square inches while the surface area of a 3 inch tube is 9.425 square inches. Having said that, since the whole of the tailpipe is not open, it could be worth using three or even four. That would allow me to spread my ventilation around the cabin and even into the cockpit. Alternatively I could just cut a square hole in the floor and after treating the bare edges, put a square vent with a vent cover.

The new fan which should arrive on the 30th is much more powerful at 2.5A. It might be all my front solar panel can handle. At a maximum 15W or more likely 10W, it would take about three times as long as the fan runs to charge the battery. As I found with my rear extraction fans, the best way of doing that is to use a small battery and thus increase the cycling. When the weather gets colder and the bugs have gone, I'll be able to get underneath the bus to install everything, including extra underbody cabling. I will probably connect the solar panels in order that the power can be better utilized.

As far as filtering is concerned, an increase in filter size is definitely in order. I'd been thinking solely about vehicle engine filters. Now I'm wondering whether Hepa air cleaning filters might be a better route since they're bigger and designed for faster airflow. Having said that, they do allow more garbage through and they're not as resilient. It's a toss up, to be honest. Rather than building a brand new filter holder from scratch, I'm tempted to return to my old idea of using an ammunition box to hold the filter. It wouldn't take much to cut some sheet steel, tack weld it into place and seal with silicone sealant. Nor would it take much to build a little trap to hold it in place. Suction from the fan would pull it more firmly into place. I'm tempted to make it accessible solely by going under the bus and changing it in the winter only. That way I can just have a straightforward ducted vent on the skirt with nothing heavy involved. Even the commonly available vent tubing is light weight.

Many people ask why I don't just put an air conditioning unit on and have done. Sure - I could do that. I don't want to though. I'd rather do it this way so I can avoid adding too many solar panels and or batteries. I do have a 120V plugin and I really don't want to put an AC unit in. They're big and bulky and I'm not too sure how good my structural welding is.

Speaking of welding, I started on my power supply unit today. The plan was to use an ammunition box as the base. As usual I started with complicated ideas first. The intent was to put an XLR socket plus a panel mount fuse for each of two batteries plus a switch. I was going to weld some holders to keep the batteries from slopping about in the box too. As usual though, reality sets in.

The first thing I did was to haul out my welder and weld a holder. Needless to say, the first weld was very strong but in completely the wrong place. My carefully inked line moved all by itself and the bar I'd welded was half an inch out from where it should have been. Disillusioned, I put my welder away and went with another solution.

I'd had plenty leftover plastic planking from doing the bathroom floor. They'd been lying in the yard for two years but that makes little to no difference as they don't decay or get attacked by bugs. A few minutes with my marker (this time I watched my line carefully in order that it didn't getup and move. These pesky lines are awkward like that) and then a few minutes with a hand saw and my pieces of plastic were cut.

Finding panel head screws was challenging but since I organized my screws and bolts better, it was significantly less challenging than before. If only I could say that about my tools! So, the next thing was to drill holes through the case and into my plastic pieces. That actually worked quite well.
The next stage was to connect wires, fuse holders and terminals to the batteries and the ammunition box. That actually went along quite quickly and I remembered my heat shrink sleeving. I'd never used it before but it worked remarkably well. I'm a convert! I'm not sure where I'll find heat shrink sleeving now that Radio Shack has gone under.
The fuse holders and in fact most of my useful electronics came from Radio Shacks going out of business sale. I spent $20 and got probably $50 worth of stuff though at Radio Shacks normal prices they'd probably have been $250 or thereabouts.

I've used banana plug terminals that also accept spade connectors. It's completed as it is but there are always add one that can be included. The main reason I didn't use my XLR connector was I needed to drill a one inch diameter hole and my biggest drill bit is 1/2 inch. My step drill bit committed suicide a while ago and I've not replaced it.

My next task will be to put the correct connectors onto leads from my charge controllers in order to use my new battery compartment. I've chosen an ammunition box because it's sealed with an airtight seal and is non flammable. My batteries are all sealed so they shouldn't leak or anything but a steel box should ensure safety. Any fire should rapidly smother itself. The ideal would be to install these batteries under the bus for safety, which I might do in due course.

The battery box is not currently in use but will be next weekend or even perhaps on Tuesday. Tuesday is not a normal bus day. In fact, it should be a work day but I've had to take the day off to go and visit the IRS. It seems my employer went and lost all their payroll information and thus false claims have been filed and I have to go and prove who I am. So, after that, I'll probably come home and do some bus work.

There are two batteries in the box. One is a 10ah battery that'll run my induction fan. The other is a 5ah battery that normally runs my extraction fans. Currently I've got one of my two 7ah batteries doing the job until I can put the right connectors together to connect the battery box to my charge controller.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Well, bugger!

Today I gave my ventilation unit a thorough test. I connected it to a 12v battery and put the unit on a box outside then set it going, with a ventilation tube running into the bus.
It seems that I need to pump more outside air into the bus than that is capable of. The beauty of my design is that everything was filtered and it didn't take up a window unlike my previous design. That design worked but definitely could have stood some redesign and improvement. I'd still like an underfloor design and I still want to avoid air conditioning.
I think the problem with my system (built strongly and over a couple of months) is threefold.
  • The Honda lawnmower engine filter just isn't big enough. Even with a CPU fan, it restricts the airflow. 
  • The 1.5 inch tubing used is not big enough (shown).
  • The CPU fan though blowing gallantly cannot override the other two issues.
After putting the newly built system away, I pulled out my old window based unit that I'd built from cheap battery fans and plywood. Although it's funky about which windows it'll fit into, it brought the temperature down from 95F to 91F fairly quickly.
It's not a unit I much care for but it does actually work. It's just two O2 cool fans from Walmart that I bought on sale a year or two back. The batteries had festered (Dollar General brand) but with some fresh Harbor Freight batteries it was up and running.

So, where now? Let's look at the list of options.

  • I don't want to use massive batteries, solar arrays or a generator.
  • I don't want an air conditioner of any variety.
  • I want filtered air blown in from underneath. 
  • I need air flow rather than cooling.
  • I have two solar setups to draw from totaling 35W. 
  • I did mentally design a ventilation system using a separate blower and filter unit.
Sitting here by my window unit I feel far cooler than I was before despite the temperature being only two degrees lower. The humidity has plummeted from 67% to 55% just in a few minutes. Clearly I need to push greater volumes of air through. 

I had been thinking of making filter changes easy by having filter access on the side of the vehicle. That, however, comes with other issues, the main one being the weight of the unit. Moving on from there, it should be possible given the steel just lying around nearby to build a big filter box or to obtain something similar from a scrap merchant. What I need is a 12v turbo fan to power it all.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Phwarrr! Watta scorcher!

I'm almost sad I didn't have to go to work today. At least work is air conditioned! I spent the whole day building the door or rather, building the skeleton of the door for my ventilation unit.

After a couple of false starts where things went awry with my first weld and I had to cut the two pieces apart and start again, things went well. It's not going to sound impressive but what took all day was welding 4 pieces of steel angle into a rectangle and then adding 4 pieces of flat steel as a flange.
The welding didn't take many minutes. What took the time was waiting for the previous welding to cool down to a point at which I could safely handle it and of course the fact I weld both sides. I had to fill in a couple of areas where I'd undercut my steel but that's easy enough. A few swishes of the welding rod is all it takes to fill a hole.

I tested my ventilation unit today. I simply placed the fan inside, powered it up and a reassuring roar of air came through. That roar was quite reduced when the filter was put in place but it still came though as a good breeze. I didn't measure how many seconds it took to fill a Walmart bag but probably it would not have been many.

It was ludicrously hot today. Inside the bus it was a scorching 104F. If it were not for my white roof and heat extraction fans, it could well have been much warmer.
I'm hoping that my air induction fan will lower temperatures inside to somewhere approaching outside temperatures. 

While I tested my ventilation unit, I also tried it with some corrugated dryer tubing. The air whizzed merrily out of a 5 foot coil. I'm probably going to use dryer tubing to connect the ventilation unit to the floor vent (which is a sink drain tube with a stainless steel strainer top from Lowes -hiss, spit). I'm not anticipating huge amounts of air being injected but with air being blown in and air being blown out, there should be much more airflow.

One thing I neglected to do was to add a back support for my ventilation unit. It's way too heavy to have it hanging off the skirt. In fact, it might be better just to hang the whole thing from the ribs and have the whole weight supported that way while it's bolted to the skirt for the inlet and filter access.

Another (simpler) design would have been to have the filter and fan units separated and the inlet just being a louvered pipe coming out of the skirt. As it is, I have a ten pound monster that would probably survive an atomic blast.

My welding is 100% better now that I can see what I'm doing. My auto darkening helmet has made an impressive difference. Though I wait for my welds to cool I also play safe these days (after more than a couple of burns) and use a non contact thermometer.
This model tops out at around boiling point. I could have paid more to have one that measured up to 2,000 degrees but honestly I don't need to know that. Anything over 90F is untouchably hot anyway. 

As I knocked off for the day, I had the most ferocious hand cramp. I'm guessing this has something to do with not enough fluids and a ludicrously hot day. Tomorrow, if I have time (it's supposed to rain) I might add supports to my ventilation unit and make a start on putting a hinge on the door and putting a louvered vent cover on.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Destination: Idiotville. All aboard!

I've been swanning around forums, trying not to hurt myself by laughing too much at the idiots using them. Seriously, some of their ideas are outrageous. In fact, I'd say so outrageous that it's unlikely that any of the posters actually own the busses they claim to be converting.

Forums are usually fairly decent places to get pointers for products worth looking at. I've been idly looking at instant water heaters. Needless to say when I mention low amperage water heaters, I get cries of can't be done and pointers toward solutions I don't want and to expensive solutions. Seriously - if I said I wanted a good black tee shirt, I'd get every color except black being offered and every size other than the one I wanted. It's as though people half read the question then come up with their idea of how things should be done.

It's like a fantasy land out there. People greatly overestimate what their bus conversions are worth. They're very often not worth any more than the cost of the actual bus itself. People seem to think it's worth throwing ten thousand dollars or more into a conversion. It's nuts. If one has that kind of money then one buys a real motorhome.

I'm working on powered ventilation for my motorhome conversion in order that I don't have to blow money on an expensive, bulky air conditioner. The first summer, the interior temperature was 140F. By painting the roof white and putting heat extraction fans, I brought the temperature down to 104F. When I have my cool air induction unit installed, the temperature will drop again. My aim is to match  outside in the shade air temperatures.

Today I installed my Harbor Freight solar panel. I'd thought of all kinds of fancy and labor intensive ways of installing it but in the end used 4 M5 rivnuts and M5 countersunk bolts. I passed the cable through a hole made behind the panel that I sealed with silicone sealant. Working outside in the heat was pretty exhausting!
As I'm sure you'll agree, it looks very anonymous, like a destination board. I had concerns about it cracking when I tightened it because the panel was warped. I don't know yet whether I'm in the clear or nit but it's looking good right now.

I won't be able to use the panel immediately because I still need to complete my ventilation unit (which will use its power) and because my extra charge controllers have yet to arrive. I do already have a mystery charge controller but it's nowhere near as informative as those I ordered (I should have ordered 3).

Several people aboard the idiot train were busily telling me how I'm completely wrong in the way I've installed my panel. Not one asked why I installed it vertically. It's never possible to underestimate the intelligence of those that use forums. When I last checked, that panel was producing plenty power. People don't seem to comprehend that my solar panels are there to provide power for my ventilation system with leftover power being used to charge phone, tablet and MiFi pad if necessary. Lighting is run exclusively from D cells which I can buy from a dollar store for 50c each. Given their 200 hour performance in an led lantern that's on for very short periods, running lighting from solar would be stupidly expensive. It would still be possible to use my solar D cell charger to charge lighting batteries though.

Not feeling too much like welding in the heat, my attention turned to the already completed portion of my ventilation unit. I pulled out the compressor and gave the unit a thorough blasting with sugar as the media. It worked quite well though as can be seen has provided ample food for the next week or two for the myriad of ants that live in the area.
As I still have some welding to do, I merely sprayed primer on my construction. I'll add a supplementary support to the back of the unit when I next weld. That will probably take the form of a U shaped bracket that I can rivet to the ribs to provide extra support as it's way too heavy to have this hanging off just the bus skirt. At my next welding, I expect some of the primer to catch fire and burn off. Then I can reprise those areas and paint a topcoat. As it is, it will prevent rust.

One of the other tasks was that I fed the wire from the panel along the side of the bus, inside, securing it with tape while applying silicone sealant to fasten it properly. That wire now feeds down to my mystery charge controller. Though it goes no further, that controller could well be used to run my induction fan, when I complete it.

Once the fan is completed and the wiring for the power unit completed, that'll be pretty much it aside from completing the re-wiring of the one socket. I'll have to get the brake pedal adjusted, the kingpins checked and then a good steam and grease. Eventually I'll want to put a water inlet, external 12v input (if I decide to put solar panels outside) and a few other equally oddball things. I'm hoping to get my bus retitled sooner rather than later.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The diagnosis has been confirmed

I contacted the seller of the panel and he said it was indeed a used panel. That begs the question as to why it was so expensive but anyway, the situation was amicably resolved and I got my money refunded. I'd buy from him again, since he seems a straight, honest dealer.

Yesterday on my trip to Harbor Freight, I got a couple of things including a 15W solar panel. Now that panel turns out to be much heavier than my faulty panel. Checking the screw holes, they're a bit big for an 8-24 and a bit small for a 1/4-20. I'll have to find something that fits. That's a trip to the hardware store.

As the panel will be supported by solely 4 bolts and the 14 gauge bus skin is quite thin, I need to spread the weight a bit. This means I'll probably end up with two steel strips with bolts welded to them, one for each side of the panel then rivet the strips to the bodywork. I can then fasten the panel with lock nuts.

I posted a photo of the problem areas of the solar panel online. Apparently it looks quite shot. The seller just refunded me and said he didn't want the panel back, that means I now have spare cable and connectors, which is very welcome.
Today was oppressively hot but I managed to reduce what's in the bus and in my car by two very large, very full bags of garbage. I'll try to reduce yet further in the coming weeks while I complete my conversion. Rain had been forecast so I didn't do any further welding nor any media blasting. Tomorrow may be more forgiving.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More solar tomfoolary

Yes, folks, having already been bitterly disappointed by this solar garbage, I blew yet more money on solar garbage. Everybody keeps telling me how good it is but my experience is it's just bloody expensive with little tangible benefit. My existing solar kinda sorta works just not as well as it does on paper.

Having found a pair of 10W panels with the aid of a battery and a charge controller will power a pair of low powered CPU fans I decided a 20W panel might run an induction fan. Siting that panel was a problem, however. As I drive large vehicles for a living, I know how often the roof gets scraped by hanging branches and how often the front top gets struck by branches. Now the cleverdicks who have never driven a big vehicle will all claim to have such miraculous vision that they can instantly see and be able to avoid such hazards (equally miraculously). The truth is rather different and while I strive to avoid branches on my regular route I frequently only know to avoid them after finding where they are by hitting them. Seeing and avoiding a branch is dependent upon light conditions, tiredness, ones own speed in conjunction with the position and direction of other vehicles, background distraction (try looking for a branch on a curve with a road lined by trees), wind and rain.

Looking at my bus, the only available place was between the sites of the former student lights at the front. Using an amorphous solar panel it would be possible to mimic a destination board while having a solar panel hidden in plain sight. Thus, I ordered a 20W amorphous solar panel from a seller on eBay. It wasn't cheap at $55 all told.
It looks splendid. I was even there to greet the UPS driver when he arrived with it yesterday. In great anticipation, I connected it to a volt meter while standing it in strong, direct sunlight. The voltmeter read... zero. I wiggled connectors and measured again. Again, zero. I pulled out a small fan and connected it. My 5W panel usually makes that fan spin merrily. I looked and... nothing.

As I was tired, I put the panel away to return to it the next day. Thus, today after work, I again tried the panel. This time, I had zero results but noticed flaws in the face of the panel. Quite a lot of flaws in fact and a sticker that declared the panel to be made in China.
In the middle of that picture is one of the many flaws. I believe this or another flaw has probably cut the connection, causing the panel not to function.

I contacted the seller for advice and had a pleasant email back. I'm rather hoping he just offers to send me a new one. I know the score with stuff from China. The returns are never shipped back - they're trashed because it's just too costly to return them. Resellers buy products from China so cheaply that shipping alone costs more than the content of a 40 foot container which at the last count was $4,000 door to door. A container will hold a lot of panels! If the seller prevaricates then it's easy enough to file against the, with eBay. I want them on my side though as I rather like the way my panel is put together. Only time in the shape of the next few days will tell, however.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

When things go pear shaped...

I generally find when things begin to go pear shaped, it's time to cut and run. That's pretty much what I did today.

My day started with a grueling food shopping marathon. I do live with 4 adults and 4 dogs in a small trailer in the backwoods of South Carolina. It's so backwoods here that the road is a dirt track and the neighbor down the road displays a Confederate flag in his yard. Anyway, the shopping expedition seems to last about 4 or 5 hours, once a month.

Returning to the bus, I was tired and hot. Still, I added a missing piece to the construction shown yesterday and fixed a few welds that weren't air tight. Then I set to and ground flat the welds on the side that will face the bus skirt. Now that's nice and smooth.

Then I started work on the retainer that will hold the filter in place. Immediately, it went wrong. Somehow my carefully clamped angle brackets shifted in relation to each other while I welded. Time to call it a day!

No picture today because quite frankly I've not changed anything enough to merit another photo. Mediocre progress but that's the problem with working in 90F. One other thing of note happened. I'd been thinking how to clean my welded ventilation unit prior to painting and decided sand blasting would work best. As sand contains silica - the major cause of silicosis - I decided to use granulated sugar instead. It's cheap, plentiful, biodegradable and non hazardous. Thus I bought a packet.

The next thing to do is to build the door for the ventilation unit then attach mounting lugs to the unit. After that it's a case of media blasting, painting and mounting.

The pipe I welded on is a little bigger than needed. I'm going to have a challenge fitting to a 1.32 inch tube. I'll sort it out though.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Whoopsie.... spot the silly mistake!

Today I looked into making a separate top for my ventilation unit and it transpired that doing so would have been a massive headache. Thus I built an included top. I mostly welded it with 6011 rods which spattered badly. Then I switched to 7014 and found a massive improvement. 6011 is allegedly a penetrating rod that penetrates into steel though I find it just sits on top like just about every other rod I've tried.

When it came to putting the outlet tube onto the assembled, I was going to use a stainless tube. My cuts didn't go straight which wasn't conducive to continuing. Then my eye alighted on some steel tube that had been lying in the yard. That, I believe, was something left behind by workmen that installed a disabled ramp. It was very thin so I doubted being able to weld it. I was wrong. As long as the welder was turned down low and I used a 1/16 7014 rod and moved it at a reasonable speed, it welded well. My new welding helmet makes a huge difference!

Cutting the tube was quick and easy with my angle grinder. Welding such thin steel was also pretty painless using my 7014 rods. Of course, I did make an elementary error... I put the tube on the wrong side, given my planned location. I still have a couple of gaps in the welds to patch and the final side to put on the top. Then it's a case of cleaning it up and priming with an anti rust primer. I still have the door to put together too.

Once the unit is completed, it'll be time to test it with a CPU fan in place. If that doesn't shift enough air, I might take the CPU fan out and put a small bilge blower in its place. My tubing is all 1.25 inch while the smallest bilge blower is 2 inches. That'll just accelerate the airflow a little, which is fine.

After a lot of thought, I bought another solar panel. I'd been wary about adding one on the front because I'm trying to maintain a buslike appearance. What I found is a solar panel that measures 3 feet long by 1 foot tall with a totally black appearance. Mounted centrally at the front of the bus, it should look like a blank destination board. It was expensive at $55 and low powered at 20W but it should power my ventilation fan and given a second tap, charge a battery pack designed to charge tablets, phones etc.

I had a look at plumbing bits with the thought of being able to fill my jerry cans inside the bus when I was out. As usual, the threads on things didn't match. I put that idea on the back burner for now. I want to get my ventilation unit sorted out. Then I can complete fixing my 120v system. I decided I'd just buy a length of 20A cable and redo the wire to the problem socket and replace the problem socket too.

Once that's all done and the solar system sorted out, I'll get the pedals fixed and the kingpins etc checked. I always think I'm so close to perfection. I'm wondering what the next issue will be though.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Have I got a target on my back?

Every mosquito in creation seemed to want to bite me today. I actually got out there to continue my welding today. Needless to say, being both hot and humid, the mosquitoes were out in force. In fact just about every insect was out there today from giant red ants to mosquitoes and large spiders. Feral cats were prowling the area and there were probably plenty other critters aiming their beady eyes on me thinking, tasty.

I welded the flange onto my ventilation unit - a task that took most of the day. I had to cut lengthwise down my steel angle as I needed more of an L shape than an equal angle. Then I tried to do a better job of putting the flange on than I've done of some of the other construction on my ventilation unit. My welding seems to be improving.
I realized that my ventilation unit is now pretty darned heavy. In fact, it's so heavy that supporting in from the skirt is now a daft idea. Thinking about it, it seems that now I will have to install a support for it. My idea thus is to make a big U bracket welded to the unit and bolted securely to the C section ribs under the bus. In fact I might be able to make use of my spare barrel hanger brackets that I spent so long making. Two of those should provide ample support.

I spent a good long time thinking about how to handle the weight or whether just to start from scratch. In the end I designed a new lighter unit and a unit that made use of what I already had. Then I decided to keep on going with the current plan and just add supports.
By the time I stopped work for the evening, my ventilation unit looked like this. The flange will support a door with a hinge. The door will prevent water entering and will hold the air filter in place. I'm as yet undecided how to keep the door closed. I have a bolt or I could use a screw.

Building the door should be straightforward as should installing the door. I might mount the flange on the inside of the skirt and just rivet through, once the U brackets are holding the unit in place. The top might be challenging. I have stainless steel to weld and I've never done that before. If you recall, I spent positively ages looking for a rod to weld stainless to mild steel. Now of course I find an ordinary bronze rod would do it. Go figure!

Since my job has now gone from being 05:45-8:30 and 13:30-16:45 through 05:45-16:45 to 06:30-16:30 and now started giving me fridays off, I might get more done. The prospect of a 3 day weekend could herald more work being done.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Touching hot electrodes

Touching hot electrodes with bare fingers is not to be recommended! After I'd ground the edges of my welded contraption down to be significantly less blobby, I was left with plenty holes in my seams. That meant filling them was in order. Thus my first idea was to dribble molten solder into the holes. Thus I got some high tin solder to use with my butane torch. Well, the first attempt didn't work. The solder went into nice little balls and rolled away.

As an interesting aside, the towers of Tower bridge in London are 40 feet high and are not primarily there for the bridge. They're actually shot towers back from the days when lead was melted and swung around in a big frying pan with holes drilled in the bottom. As the lead went through the holes, it would form a ball as it fell. It would take 40 feet of falling before it would be cool enough to catch in a tank of water below to harvest as ball ammunition for rifles and pistols. Being cast this way meant there would be no mold marks and the balls would be perfect.

The second attempt was a patch. I'd read about somebody filling a space with an oversized welding rod and welding that into place. I tried a compromise of soldering it using solder and my butane torch. Well, that didn't work either and unthinkingly afterwards, I picked the rod up to discard it. Ouch! It was still hot! Thus I burned not just my finger but a very sensitive area of my finger so now my arm feels like it's on fire - even though I immediately pressed a lump of ice on the burn to bring the temperature down. Putting ice and holding it there for at least 5 minutes stops internal burning from continuing and reduces the burn. I still have a painful mark that'll take a while to vanish though!
After that I went back to welding rods and my old method. This results in very pixelated welds. I drag the rod quickly over the hole repeatedly until enough deposit builds up to fill the hole. Leave the rod for a hair longer results in the surrounding steel burning away in a shower of sparks. Having filled the holes, the next task is to attack the holes from the other side. Now the steel is built up, its possible to let the rod linger a while longer to build up body. Needless to say, today I'm not having too much difficulty in starting and maintains an arc!

I'd finished filling holes from both sides using a 1/16 6011 welding rod when I began to hear spots of rain. By the time I'd packed up and put everything away, it was raining quite well. That was the end of the days work, sadly. Sure, there's other stuff that needs doing, particularly completing redoing the under cabinet wiring. That can wait though until the galley floor is clear enough to lie on.

There are still two pinholes in my welded seams but by the time the whole thing has had antitrust primer and white paint, they'll be filled. Then I'll run some latex seal around all the inside angles. That'll make the whole thing good and airtight. The next stage is though to clean flush, the mounting surface for the as yet to be constructed top of the unit and to extend the mounting flanges I welded on a week or so back. That will allow me to bolt the top on using a pair of 1/4 inch bolts.

Anything thing to be done before putting the top together is to weld wide mounting flanges on the sides of my box. I have angle bracket for that but it'll need to be cut severely. I'll also have to make a door that'll press my air filter nicely into place. I'm still thinking on the design for that one!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Getting my weld on

Today was remarkable for two reasons. The first is that I finished the school year during which I have been driving school busses daily. I'm now quite comfortable behind the wheel of a school bus. That's quite useful because I own a school bus! The second is that I found the auto darkening welding helmet I bought at the weekend works well.

After returning home somewhat early today, the last day of school being a half day, I pulled out my work and commenced welding. I have to say that being able to see what I'm doing makes a massive difference. Today's welding didn't go brilliantly though. I was having a terrible time trying to strike and maintain an arc. A few times it went well but it didn't seem to matter whether I used thin or thick rods. It was just one of those days.

Pulling my work out, I could t find the side I'd cut for it so I had to cut another. This actually went better. The previous side had been way undersized. This worked out better. I'll have to finish welding some gaps but uts now looking good. I'll also have to grind off excess welds and try to tidy up the edges. It's looking good. It's heavier than I thought it would be so I'm thinking of adding a support to aid the skirt in carrying the weight.

No photograph today. Not because I didn't think about it but because my work looks very similar to the last photo albeit with a new side installed. The next stage will be to fill the holes, grind it to a prettier shape then add a flange in order to mount it to the skirt. Back bracing will then be needed nit to mention the hose connection.

Now I can see to weld, progress might accelerate.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Welding blind

I've had it with my cheap Walmart welding helmet. I can barely see the work to weld so I end up burning holes in metal sheet, dragging the rod across things I don't need to drag it across and welding work that has shifted during welding that I could have seen shifting had I had a better mask. Looks like since I have to rush off for chicken feed tomorrow that I might as well pick up a decent auto adjustable welding helmet. I've jibbed at the cost for a year but I really cannot bear to use that horrible Walmart blindfold any more. I might as well be welding with a cardboard box over my eyes!

Having said that, today I cut more of the old steel table top and made a back, bottom and a side for my ventilation unit. The back and bottom are one piece of steel that I folded by hand. Some of the welding needs completing and some needs tidying up but it's beginning to look quite recognizable now.
My CPU fan goes in the top and a lawnmower engine filter goes in the front. And yes, I was photobombed by a big yellow spider. Heaven knows how venomous that one is. Most things in South Carolina seem intent on doing humans in. Perhaps it's an Isis spy?

The plan is to complete the welding, put the other side on and make a removable top that will attach to the air tubing. Then I'll have to put some flanges on the unit, a door with a vent and mount it on the skirt on the bus. The floor of the compartment is sloped so that ingested water can drain out.

I had a look at the steel from my old microwave. Aside from being pathetically thin, it's pretty rusty. Looking at it, that microwave screams cheap. It was $50 and lasted about 2 years. It took 15 minutes to cook a plate of food so it wasn't exactly speedy. I can't say I was sorry to see it go. I'm surprised how poorly made it is though.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rain stops play... again!

This weather is ridiculous. Hot and sunny one minute then pouring with rain and thundering the next. How am I supposed to get anything done?

The sum total of today's work is nothing much. I went over some of my welds again with a different rod. Then I filled in the two screw holes I drilled yesterday using my welding rod. Then I ground my welds smooth and drilled better placed holes to attach my CPU fan. I only drilled two holes because it's not a high stress application. I added a pair of brackets to the CPU fan mount that will allow me to install a separate top on my ventilation duct.
Then an epiphany struck me. Instead of making a square box structure, I could take a piece of flat steel sheet, weld it in place at the bottom then bend it upward to make a natural curve that would ensure ingested water would find a way out. Cutting the sides would be more interesting but welding shouldn't be any harder. Of course, by the time I'd grabbed some steel sheet to cut, it had begun to rain and I had to hurry indoors.

Talking about ideas, I looked into water heating. For $100 approximately, it's possible to buy an electric instant water heater. It takes 27 amps but my breaker boxes could be readily rewired to 50 amps. I have a 20A cord that could be replaced by a 50A cord. There's nothing remotely challenging there. I'd been thinking of adding a water inlet anyway. There's nothing to say hot water has to be supplied to the handbasin and not just ported in a jug from the shower.

Similarly, I've been considering a flush toilet rather than my current dry toilet. I'd have to install a septic tank but now that my welding is getting better, I see no reason why a modified beer keg could not be used. I rather suspect that whatever I flush into a beer keg would be far better than what was in it originally.

There is no limit to the upgrades it's possible to do to a motorhome. This ventilation system was unplanned but given the 100F inside yesterday, seems necessary. Once it is done, I might have to add more solar capacity. It's something I'd been thinking of anyway. 

For the moment, the plans are thus...
1. Install ventilation unit.
2. Fix 120v wiring.
3. Wire wiper switch.
4. Get the bearing steamed and greased, the kingpins checked, the pedals sorted out and work the short out of the electrics.
5. Retitle as a motorhome.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Harbor Freight didn't have it!

No Saturday is complete without a trip to the hardware store. Today it was a trip to Harbor Freight to look for some 309L welding rods. These are barrier rods that allow me to weld stainless steel to mild steel. Harbor Freight had only 6011, 6013, 7014 and 7018, each of which is fine for its purpose but not for what I wanted to do. They did, however, have a multi pack containing two grinding disks, three flap disks and 5 cutting disks. That proved a valuable find!

I continued my hunt for welding rods but while Northern Tool had 308L and bronze rods, no 309L. It was the same story at Home Depot and Lowes (hiss, spit). In the end I didn't find my 309L rods but I did find some 312 rods at Tractor Supply. They were horribly expensive!

Back on the ranch, I pulled out my stainless tube and found a spare stainless sink tailpipe. The tube screws into the tailpipe. My idea was to weld the tube to my ventilation box. Things are in constant flux though. As I cleaned up my blobby welds I realized there are various alternatives to my plans. Of course, if I'd built the thing from plastic planking, I'd have been done and dusted a while back! I decided to go durable though and that means steel and welding.
Looking at the stainless sink tailpipe, I realized I had found my ventilation inlet. All I need do is to make a 1.5 inch hole and pass a new tailpipe with a nut through the floor. It's straightforward then to put a tube between the two tailpipes. This could even be as simple as a piece of large diameter Pex hose pipe held on with jubilee clips.

The holes for the fan didn't go in the right place, sadly. I decided to drill two holes rather than 4 because it's not a high stress activity. As the nuts for the number 8 bolts are somewhat small, it's not possible to weld them in place. That had me redesign my vent a little. I am designing it so I can replace my fan if required or even remove it and replace it with a small but potent bilge blower. Today aside from the two holes (which I might redo tomorrow), I decided to add a flange to the top of the unit that I can screw a top onto. I prepared all the surfaces and will get onto that tomorrow. The bottom also needs to be removable in order to also facilitate easy fan replacement.
The temperature outside the bus was way cooler than inside. Inside it was 100F while outside it was 80 or 90. When fresh air is coming in, the temperature will be much cooler. The shower tailpipe will be a great ventilation inlet as it can be stood on without issue and can be laid flush with the floor. Indeed, when I next visit the hardware store I might get a larger diameter tailpipe for the bus interior as I feel I might yet end up with a bilge pump.

In my redesign of the top of the ventilation unit, I decided to make the top removable in order to make access to the fan easier. That allows me also to upgrade the pipe at the top of the unit to a larger size by simply making a new top plate. That will allow for an upgrade from 1.5 to 2 inches for a 2 inch bilge blower.

I was beaten today by the heat, humidity and mosquitoes. Thus, after planning my flanges I headed indoors. Tomorrow I shall weld together the rest of my filter box structure, weather permitting, and make a start on the top and bottom. The door is going to be very simple. I'll just solder a nut to the back of the flange

that I'll install on the edge of the filter box. Rather, four nuts. Once the door is bolted on with lock washers, all should be fine. For security, I suppose I could use 1/4 inch torx bolts. The door can be very simple - a rectangle of steel with a single vent and a rib that presses the filter into place.

One of the other things I got today was a set of small grinding wheels for the pistol drill. Those will be handy for cleaning blobby weld on the inside of my frames. I'll try to clean those tomorrow too.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Welding again

Today started with a plan. Yes, I have them occasionally! Anyway, the plan was to work on the ventilation system. Had I the bravery to put roof vents into my bus, a powered ventilation system would be unnecessary but I'm not going to poke holes in a perfectly good roof fir whatever reason!

I started by welding a small square of angle together. I felt really proud when I'd done it. Then I noticed how warped my creation was and then how one angle wasn't right and I couldn't even fit the CPU fan the box was designed for. So, out came the angle grinder and version 2 took shape. Now the reason it was off kilter could have been due to the angle maker I bought from Harbor Freight. While it gets the 90 degrees right, the horizontal hold can slip a little.
Above, you can see the fan holder beginning to take shape. The plan is to have the fan at the top and the filter on the front of my ventilation unit. It's done this way to try to keep water out of the mechanism. The next challenge will be a vent and filter changing door. For that I'm leaning toward a removable door that presses the filter into place and just screws on.
That's the unit so far. I was wondering how to attach the fan. I'd been thinking of a spring clamp. Then somebody suggested making the bottom removable and using ordinary screws. Well, I could do that but M5 is way too big for the holes in the fan. 10-24 is also too big. I'll have to try smaller bolts. The best solution would have been roof vents but as my bus was not equipped with emergency escape hatches. Thus I have to do what I can. This might not be the full solution but it should help. The white roof and the heat extraction fans have already helped. If necessary, I can always upgrade the extraction fans to something more powerful. For $30 each there are CPU fans that claim 200 cubic feet per minute. My bus interior is 24 feet by 6 feet by 7 feet approximately or around 1,000 cubic feet though it'll be less because of stuff inside. That'd take two fans at a combined 400 CFM around 150 seconds to expell all the air in the bus. For the mention though, I'll go with what I have planned.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bring me some wine!

Today being wet and arc welding not being the sort of activity those desiring a long life expectancy should carry out in rain or wet weather, the plan was to work inside the bus. Originally the idea had been to work underneath the counter and fix the faulty wiring on the one socket. The rain and general dismal nature of the day killed that idea though. It wasn't really possible to see. Mind, I am also exhausted after the working week. Driving school busses for a living really takes it out of me. It's the kind of day for a jug of wine and something not too complex.

As the bus badly needed tidying inside, I set to. Rather, I would have set to but needed containers for all the loose bits and bobs that have been floating around in cardboard boxes. The bus looked like cardboard city inside! A trip to Dollar General was in order where they had two packs of three plastic food boxes. Just the ticket! Needless to say, I also had to stop for fuel. My little SUV isn't bad at 19mpg but 18 gallons (which is what I usually put in) doesn't last more than about a week. Thank heavens fuel was only $1.95 a gallon!
I set to, filling plastic boxes with bits. I decided one box would hold metal and wood screws, another metric stuff and another imperial. Most of my metric stuff is M5. I had another box for odd stuff like brackets and hinges and yet another for unsorted random bits that were lying around. After a while, I was amazed. I could actually see a patch of countertop. Well, I threw out a couple of boxes of absolute junk. A couple of dead bugs, plastic packaging, dull razor blades etc.
This tidying lark is definitely not for the faint of heart. Once I've done tidying, I'll have to go through everything in the bus again. I'll have to decide which clothes to keep and which to donate. The same for a lot of other stuff. I'm overloaded with a lot that's just plain junk. It's very different from the day I arrived in this world with not a stitch of clothing or the way I arrived in America with just one suitcase! The aim though is to clear up construction debris at the moment. I need to be able to see what still needs attention.

As far as I know, things I need to do are to add a forced air ventilation inlet and complete welding the ventilation unit together. Then there could be security bars added to the back window. I need to touch up the outside paintwork. The wiper still needs to be wired correctly at the switch end and I need to check the kingpins, steam and grease. The last part, steaming, greasing and checking thevkingpins probably needs to be done by a real mechanic. Not a work mechanic who's doing it as a favor but somebody interested in being paid to do it. It costs more but the results are far more satisfactory. I learned a long time ago people doing things as favors etc do a half assed job - the same as those miserable trade deals.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Today was horribly hot at 97F inside the bus. I made the mistake of wearing jeans which didn't help either! Put simply I didn't do much as I spent the day feeling the effects of the heat.

I have had various ideas about putting an outside air intake into the bus. One was to put an intake under the bus. That would have been simple for installation but not for changing the filter. Another was to put the filter and fan inside the bus skirt with air being drawn through a vent through the skirt then pumped through the floor. That all seems a lot of work though!

The latest idea is to copy the existing vent in the side of the bus and pull air in through the side and pass it into the cabin through a filter. After looking at the existing intake, it seemed rather much of a challenge to use it but that might be possible. It merits further investigation.

While I was out today - being my birthday I had the day off from work - I browsed Lowes looking at things for my ventilation plans but ended up buying nothing. I looked casually for plumbing parts but decided not. In the end, the only money I spent was $2.53 in Starbucks for some very mediocre coffee.

Returning home, I cut some more angle iron ready to weld together to hold a CPU fan but did no welding. It was just too hot. Maybe the weekend will be better.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Moving swiftly onward

The other day, in the store, I looked at water solutions. I'd been thinking about plumbing supplies in order to put a simple faucet inside the bus connected directly to a mains inlet. There are so many plumbing parts on offer that the whole thing is looking pretty darned confusing. I decided to let the matter rest for the moment or at least until as I wrote this, I wondered about putting a 5 gallon bucket with its lid securely attached, connected to the water supply but with a float so it acts as a cistern. Water can then be pumped out as needed with the advantage that if the float failed or the water pressure got too high, the lid would pop off the bucket rather than flooding the bus.

Today started with my looking again at my wiper system. The motor was jumping and clonking at one point in the cycle. That, I identified as a bolt that was fouling the rotor arm. A few adjustments later and the bolt was correctly fitted and the arm was no longer being fouled. While I was st it, I adjusted the wiper orientation so it is now identical to the other wiper. There is one tiny fault in that my wiper shaft is not quite horizontal. It's not far off and it does work so I'm not too bothered.

Having done that, I briefly considered fixing the one 120v socket but as it was a fine day, I decided to leave the socket for a rainy day. Thus I thought about the steel angle and steel flat stock that I bought from Tractor Supply. It being a fine day,  I pulled out my angle grinder and my welder. The plan was to make a start on my forced air ventilation system.
In Harbor Freight on Saturday, I'd picked up an angle clamp that would hold two objects together to be worked on and keep them at right angles. I was very careful, welding. I just tack welded since the material then took it out of the clamp in order not to destroy the very lightweight clamp. Once I'd removed the work, I clamped it to a steel girder to complete welding the angle. I had to wait for it to cool before rotating to weld the other side. Each angle was two welds and two sets of waiting. Thus, it took quite some time. Eventually though I was rewarded with a completed frame, even though it was very slightly but totally usable warped.
As can be seen, my little Honda lawnmower engine filter fits very nicely inside, as intended. The plan is to mount the engine filter behind a louvered door on the bus skirt then put a CPU fan behind the filter to blow cool, cleaned air into the cabin of the bus via plastic plumbing piping.
Now you should be able to grasp an idea of the concept. My next problem will be to locate a funnel to reduce the tube cross ection to 1.25 inches in line with the size of pipe I wish to use. I'm choosing that size because that's the size of my hole saw. Bigger hole saws just cost money and I'd really prefer to speed up the air flow anyway, which is what the funnel will do.

Now, I'd been thinking of a door but as I wrote this, I realized I don't need an actual door. A single louver could just hinge upward and be secured by simple screws at the bottom. The only thing I'll have to wait on is installing my ventilation unit. That will be dependent on my forthcoming front solar panels and my being able to get underneath the bus again.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Wiper working

A few days ago, I bought a bronze roller bearing. That, I slipped into the wiper transmission and over the 1/4 inch bolt. The wiper system worked and the wiper even self parks. I'll have to carry out more adjustment because the motor arm is in the wrong place so the wiper clunks badly. It's just minor adjustment of the motor arm and a bugger adjustment of the wiper arm. This is what they look like right now.
While I was out, today, I bought some steel angle to weld together to make a holder for my Honda engine filter. I'd been looking for a ready made door that I could put on the outside of the bus but it seems I'll have to build that too. So, I got a few other bits to help me make the frame etc in perfect proportion. Welding is always tricky! I have enough steel from old fridges to make a decent housing.

In Lowes (hiss, spit), there was a length of 10-3 flexible cable. That will easily carry 30A so I bought the offcut in order to use about 8 inches to fix my one malfunctioning socket. That, I'll probably get to after I've satisfactorily completed work on my wiper setup. That's almost right but not quite. It's just a case of keeping making adjustments. I'm not an expert - this is the first time I've ever done this and I'm learning as I go along.

I wasn't originally going to do any more welding since my welding isn't that great. I'd thought of riveting aluminum parts together to make my new air intake but I think it's going to be better if I try welding again. What I need is a mount for the air filter with a mount behind the air filter for a CPU fan then a door in front of the air filter that presses the filter securely into its mount. Keeping the door closed will be a challenge. I'm considering using a simple slide bolt and fitting a spring behind it to keep it closed. I'll have to modify the bolt slightly in order to make it more usable - unless I encounter a better idea!

The plan with the air intake is just to build the intake with the door, fan and filter then attach it securely to the bus but to leave installing the ducting and the power cable until the critters have all been cleared from under the bus.

As the air filter is 6x4 inches, I'll use a 4 inch diameter fan and put a little funnel to concentrate the air flow into a 1.5 inch tube. That will increase the speed of the air and also allow me to use my existing hole saw to make the new hole in the floor for the air ducting. That might not sound too generous but the bus is small and running consistently, this in combination with my extraction fans will reduce interior temperatures down to around the same as outside temperatures in the summer.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Working wipers

Yes, readers, my wipers are now working albeit with a few caveats.

What was meant to be a quick half a morning job turned into a complete weekend. As mentioned before, the wiper motor that was condemned by the mechanic from work turned out to work. It looks to have a 3 wire connection like that of a Jeep Wrangler. Those connections are fast, slow and park except that it doesn't seem to park. No matter!
I started off by mounting the motor semi horizontally instead of down the hole to the left of the motor. Anyway, it was an all day fight to get this far. It was a case of constant minor adjustments until the system worked.

After I thought I'd finished, the power cables that work my door motor came apart. Those are the same cables that worked perfectly until the mechanic took an interest and adjusted them by adding spade connectors. That took a while to fix.

I ran the wiper off a small 12v battery very successfully. The cables from the console didn't seem to do anything, I didn't have time to check the switch or console wiring today. I suspect I'll have to do more wiper adjustment and replace the wiper switch.

One thing I definitely have to do is to buy a 1/4 to 5/16 bush. The $40 wiper pivot (which I had to modify) has a 1/4 inch bolt connecting the connecting rod to the pivot. It really needs a 5/16 pin but if I put a bush on the bolt, it should work just fine.

It was so nice to see the wiper moving for the first time ever!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

An extremely odd week

This has been a very busy bus related week. I've not had anything stunning enough to be able to write a good blog entry about though. The highlights were...

  • Multiple visits to Radio Shack with their 90% off closing sale. During this I bought a couple of duffers in the form of reed switches that didn't work the way needed and hence the buzzers also purchased were redundant. I bought far more fuse holders and switches than I'll probably use in a lifetime. Then when I went back for more fuses, they'd boxed up their electronics and shipped them to another store, leaving a pair of 5000mah D cell NiMh batteries that looked good value. After I got them home I found they were really repackaged C cells going online for half of Radio Shacks full price. Having said that, they'd be usable in my 4 D cell lantern if I can get another pair.
  • A couple of visits to Carolina Fleet that ended up with my buying a used wiper motor for the bus. That turned out not to be such a bargain as it worked only on high speed and intermittent. Then, playing around, I found the old wiper motor that had been condemned by the work mechanic and which had been lying in the dirt and the rain on the ground outside for the past couple of months actually worked when sprayed with WD40 and powered up.
  • Thus far I've been unable to identify where the brake pedal plunger goes and given the black widow bite of a couple of weeks ago, I'm wary of going under the bus to look.
  • Extra connectors for my ammunition box power supply are on their way. Those were ordered via eBay.
  • While I was at Carolina Fleet, I looked at replacement convex mirrors to replace my clouded mirrors. They had none that matched my vehicle so I looked online. eBay was by far the most expensive place with ridiculous prices. I found I could get a pair, which is lucky because both are bad, for less than $20 though shipping was $15. That price can't be beaten by eBay or Amazon.
  • Work (I drive schoolbusses for a living at the moment) offered me a contract for more work starting in August. My current contract expires at the beginning of June. Clearly I'm worth reemploying but given the low $12 an hour pay for a 30 hour week that's not paid during holidays, it's barely worth returning. Basically it's not a good idea to return unless there's nothing better to do. My sole  goal from working for the school district of learning how to drive my motorhome has been accomplished.
Today I started work on the new wiper system. Given that the motor appears to work, I'm using it. The other motor could work but only if I redrill the mounting holes. One might be mistaken for thinking nothing is happening when I sit around, looking at things but in fact I'm working out various ways of doing things using available tools and supplies.

The hillbillies had used some very thick aluminum which would make an ideal spacer for my wiper pivot. I started by measuring and drilling the aluminum after cutting it to size. Then I had a disaster and broke one of my tools. This is not unusual, given that I'm working in challenging conditions with no vice nor a drill press etc. Fortunately, I don't think it's a tool that absolutely has to be replaced. 

My first attempts prove I'm on the right track. My biggest issue is not having a drill of large enough diameter for the new pivot. Without trying it in the hole on the bodywork I rather suspect I'll have to enlarge that hole too. That'll definitely need a bigger drill bit.

Thinking about the pivot arm being longer, that'll just shorten the wiper stroke a bit. That doesn't particularly worry me. The different connectors is what gives cause for concern. It would be possible though to use a short bolt instead of the pin on the original that's missing on the new pivot. 

I had hoped to get the wiper motor working and installed today but that looks like being a little elusive. In order to get it done tomorrow, a shopping trip to buy drill bits of the correct sizes was in order. Thus, since it was too late in the day to head to Harbor Freight,  I visited Lowes (hiss, spit).

Returning from Lowes (hiss, spit) with an extraordinarily expensive drill bit that cost an unbelievable $20, I quickly set to work and drilled a 3/4 inch hole with my ludicrously expensive drill bit and two 1/4 inch holes. With that, I beat a hasty retreat due to swarms of mosquitoes surrounding me in the dusk.

Tomorrow I shall cut a steel shim to fit over the aluminum. That will build the swivel up to a usable height. After that it'll be time for a trial fitting. Then I'll either need an extra shim or to drill a couple of final holes. It's coming along very nicely! Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to include pictures.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Done some tidying

Although there are things I want to do, I ended up doing only some tidying and nothing much else. If you remember, I took advantage of Radio Shack's sale and bought a pile of fuse holders, switches and so on.

It transpires that the reed relays are normally open. I'd thought they'd have been normally open one side and normally closed the other. As it is, they're useless for my door alarms. That's a shame but I did find they're incredibly loud when connected to a 9v battery. Enough to waken the dead so great for a door alarm!

One of miladys chickens had laid an egg in the middle of the pen where it would be impossible to reach. Rather than leave it there, I decided it would be best broken and then the chickens could eat it. Thus I hunted for my aur pistol. Hunting for the pellets took quite a while, proving just how much sorting and tidying I need to do. I saw plenty stuff kept that would probably be best in the garbage and that's without trying on all my clothes, many of which are too small now. Anyway, the end of the story is I found my air pistol and the egg literally exploded when shot with a .177 pellet. After that I played around, shooting cans before returning to the bus.

I'm still going through phases when I have a feverish temperature. I'm not fully over the Black Widow bite yet though the red patch on my back is fading. The black spot in the center is new and intreaguing but not yet a cause for concern. In any case, while I can afford health insurance, I cannot afford the copay needed to use it!

I looked at the components I'd bought from Radio Shack and could not really see what I had. Everything was wrapped in nasty plastic pouches, obscuring the items and crucially wasting space. I spent a few minutes slitting wrappings with a razor and dumping things into a cardboard box. I'm sure I have far more that needs similar treatment. I removed a full carrier bag of plastic trash from the bus.

The interesting thing is that almost all of the Radio Shack fuse holders have non standard connections. They have 3/16th inch blade connectors as opposed to the normal 1/4 inch connector. The Radio Shack batteries have the same narrow connectors. As luck would have it though, I bought a pack of Radio Shack connectors that actually fit. They're non insulated which I do not like but it is what it is.

My new plan for the console is to put fuse holders into the console and to use some of my new Radio Shack switches in place of my Walmart shiny steel switches. The newer switches have blade connectors and some are illuminated to show they're on. Some of the new fuse holders are illuminated to show when a fuse is blown. That's useful!

Looking at one of my ammunition boxes I realized one would do really well under the bus as a housing for my air intake. With a closable lid it will be far easier to replace the filter. It should even be possible to use ordinary PVC piping as ductwork from the side of the bus and through the floor as an inlet. That would work well for me but it would have to be installed after black widow season is over!

The brake pedal had my attention today. It definitely needs to be lowered. I'm wondering whether somebody has switched it out at some point for a short one. It definitely didn't come from the factory like that. The adjustment is probably going to be at the Master Cylinder. As that's underneath the bus, I'll be leaving that alone for the moment.
I looked but could not see the other end of the brake push rod under the hood. It's probably obscured by the engine.

I think the priority right now is probably cleaning and tidying inside, sorting out and finding tools then sorting my clothes. I know there are a ton of documents relating to an unpleasant court case that I'd been keeping for reference though now that the other party is deceased I doubt there's much point. I've kept lots of other documents too such as sales competition winning certificates from when I did retail. My last employer used to shower me with certificates, most of which I just threw away, fortunately.

I'll have to look into getting normally closed reed switches. The switches etc are upgrades. They're not necessary for normal bus operation. Actually, I'm having new thoughts about the battery position for the rear vents and about adding front solar panels as well as the air induction system. For the moment they're not priorities.

Priorities are to get the pedals correctly adjusted, the short out of the electrics and the underbody steamed and greased. That'll be a mechanics task. The windscreen wiper motor etc I can do myself. That's simple engineering. I'll have to take the hood off the transmission and trace that strange white wire I found a few weeks ago. I would rather have a speedo that's 2mph out than use some add on speedo that's been badly installed. I could also do the installation properly! Things to think about. Retitling I feel I should concentrate on though.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bitten by a Black Widow

When I worked under the bus on Friday last week, something must have crawled onto my overalls. When I sat inside the bus, doing my last blog entry I felt something crawling on my back, inside my overalls and reached up to brush it off. I felt a sharp pain and thought nothing of it.

The next day I didn't feel particularly well and my back hurt where whatever it was had bitten me. Sunday I did one or two completely insignificant things in the bus and was exhausted. I grabbed my thermometer out of interest and came up with a temperature not far shy of 100F. It was later confirmed I did have a temperature. In the evening, the bite mark was spotted. Two indentations quarter of an inch apart in an inch diameter very red, very hot ring with a white center. Looking at pictures of various bites, only the Black Widow was an exact match. That would tie in with the fever and the fact I still have the mark a week later.

Even today, 8 days later I'm not feeling so good. I've worked all week but as work is 3 hours in the morning then 3 hours in the afternoon with a nap in between, it hasn't been too bad. Today I went to a work meeting then shopping. When it came to putting stuff away, I was shattered and almost unable to perform even that simple task!

Today's shopping was pretty simple and consisted solely of Harbor Freight and Sportsmans Warehouse. Harbor Freight had shrink wrap cable sleeving, cable conduit and another steel ammunition box. Sportsmans Warehouse had some interesting water jerrycans but they were far more expensive than Walmart. They did, however carry plenty pistol ammunition so I stocked up with 9mm and .357 Magnum, 9mm is ok for general fun on the range but .357 is my self defense caliber.

Thursday and Friday after work I'd been to Radio Shack where the closing sale was up to 90% off. So, on Thursday I bought a few small things including some reed switches but mainly, two 7ah lead acid batteries. Those will fit an ammunition box and will work as a portable power pack for charging electronics. The reed switches will work with a battery and a buzzer. I had a buzzer already and discovered it was very loud when used with a 1.5V battery. To switch them on and off, only the presence or absence of a magnet is needed. Thus, putting the switch, buzzer and battery on a door frame and the magnet on the door produces a very nice door alarm. I figure an alarm for the back and side doors. The front door would benefit from a lamp that comes on when the door is opened.

No photos. I'm just too exhausted. I just hope recovery isn't going to take too much longer! And before you ask, I have health insurance. I can barely afford the premiums and cannot afford the copay to actually benefit from it. So, no - can't afford to visit the doctor. I just have to tough it out.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I moved it

Yes folks, the battery box has been moved. It was in the closet at the back of the bus near the fans and the solar panels. It made sense at the time. It's now moved to the cockpit where it also makes sense. With the long length of cabling I have taken the liberty of adding a fuse, just in case.

Today I connected all the wires that I'd installed on Friday. Then I ported the battery box to the front and tried to get it working. Oops, nothing happened. Then I noticed I'd reversed the battery polarity at the charge controller. Fearing a blown controller I set the wires right and it started working. Now that was a relief!
So, after all that it was a case of sweeping and moving boxes back to the closet. While I moved them I looked inside. All clothes. I had no idea I had so many clothes! I'll have to have a sort out. There's precious little point in donating to charity and using the donation as a tax deduction. I did my taxes this week and ended up with no tax to be paid and a refund despite the fact that until October I'd been paying zero tax. I don't think donations would have raised that refund any. Mind, I don't think they actually charge tax on incomes under $10K.

The next task will be to secure the batteries in my ammunition box and to add plugable connectors. Yesterday I visited Radio Shack and took full advantage of their 80% off going out of business sale. I spent a massive $7 but this time rather than air-head electronic garbage (the kind of stuff that the high school electronics classes I had tell me would be good but rapidly turns out not to work), I got practical stuff. Some blade fuses and some connectors. They're allegedly XLR audio connectors but the look like they'll handle the small amounts of power I'm using. 
I had a look at my windscreen wiper pivot. It looks very much as though with modification of the original mounting bracket I can install it. The pivot arm is too long but that's what angle grinders are for! I will probably have to weld something to the original bracket but that's really not a problem. Getting it square is going to be the biggest challenge!

I still have plenty to do.
  • Fix the right hand wiper
  • Check the kingpins
  • Lower the brake pedal
  • Install forced air ventilation 
  • Install a water inlet
  • Clean
  • Toss out junk
  • Clear out I'll fitting clothes
I think after I've finished fixing up the battery box, fixing the wiper, lowering the brake pedal and checking the kingpins, it's time to retitle as a motorhome. At the very least, it's time to send off to get it retitled. After I've sent off, I can always work on forced air and the water in etc.

One of my thoughts with the battery box has been to put a second battery box. The first contains two batteries. One is 10ah and one is 5ah. My solar panels at the back are both 10W combining as 20W. Powering fans directly they were pretty good. With a battery and a charge controller they don't go as strongly but they're more consistent. I'm reasonably happy with 5ah.

The air induction fan needs to shift more air. I might be better with a more powerful fan. I don't want solar panels at the front that look like solar panels so I will have to try to find some of the black looking panels. I've seen some 30W panels and if I can put two of those in place I might be ok. One could feed the 10AH battery and the air induction fan. The other could feed a second power box containing the same 15ah but with a double USB charging socket mounted. That would allow me to charge my tablet, phone and a MiFi pad.

Thinking further ahead, it might be an idea to use my Peltier module and to get more Peltier modules so that when plugged into a 120v supply I could have air conditioning. Peltier stuff is horribly energy inefficient but that's on paper. 10 x 12V Peltier elements in series with a bridge rectifier should run well off a 120v line. Each unit consumes I believe 60W for a total of 600W or 5 amps. Building the forced air unit with the option of adding Peltier coolers would be a good idea.

In terms of cost, 10 Peltier coolers plus 20 heat sinks plus heat sink grease will cost more than a standard AC unit, uses more power and performs only 20F of cooling. Having said that, its way more compact and totally maintainance free. On the other hand this could be air-head highschool electronics surfacing 33 years after I left high school. I wonder how many of my old teachers are still alive. I remember the science and electronics guy was Mr Pugh.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Heat exhaustion

Yup. I went out in the heat to work under my bus. It was very hot and I was quickly tired so I worked under the bus then sat inside and drank tea. I alternated like that, most of the day. It was only when I was doing the final work inside the bus that heat exhaustion turned into dizziness.

The upshot of the day is that the cable conduit is now fully secured underneath the bus and a troupe of Japanese Sumo Wrestlers could perform acrobatics from the cables without them coming adrift. I also installed a wire that reaches the solar charge controller. That wire passes through the floor and connects with the extra wire that I put through the conduit under the bus.

No photos today. Fastening conduit in awkward places took most of my time and though there's not much actual work there, the majority of time was spent wriggling into position, contorting my body into position to drive in self drilling screws then to remove the screw, attach the cable clamps with the cable held in the clamp. And did I mention getting a spider bite in the process, battling several wasps that wanted to build nests and trying not to roll on cactus plants that seem to be sprouting everywhere?

So once that was done I put the cable to my charge controller. That was a non urgent thing but as it was allied to what I'm doing anyway, it made sense to get on with it. Tomorrow I might move the battery box to the cockpit, thus freeing space in my storage area. As I was out of conduit, I went back to my old method of attaching cable. I taped it then secured it with silicone seal. By tomorrow the silicone seal will be dry.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Looking wheelie good

On the way to ICU today, I popped into Carolina International Trucks to look for my front mud flap. They found me a mud flap that was the wrong size and then located the right one on their catalogue. Sadly, it was in another branch. Undaunted, I bought the one they had intending to make it fit.

The patient in ICU was looking very much brighter and much more alert. Thus things are looking brighter on all fronts. Leaving the hospital I called in at Lowes (hiss, spit) and purchased a 3/8 inch wheel nut that I can use to secure the neutral cable onto the battery. Now there is absolutely no reason why my batteries should go flat. I can simply disconnect the cable. Though it's not as fancy as using a switch, it's more reliable and cheaper than buying a new switch.

Returning home, I dealt with more wasp nests under the bus. This time I sprayed with Raid as opposed to black paint. It might be abt and roach killer but it seems to nail wasps well enough. That allowed me to get into the wheel arch to measure. The bolt holes turned out to be 1/4 inch and as it so happened I had some 1/4 inch bolts and plenty washers. The nuts were harder o find and I'd all but given up on finding them when eventually they appeared.

The concept was simple enough - cut the mudguard to the right size and bolt it in place. Cutting a quarter inch thick reinforced mudguard however, took an angle grinder. As it was, I cut to width perfectly. Length I had to cut twice as I was too conservative with the first cut. The holes were then drilled after holding the mudguard in place and marking the sites with a drywall screw.

It took a couple of hours but the results are not bad. I have a mudguard and it is bolted into place. Mark one item off my list of things to do!
Also on my list of things to do are four essentials (after I go underneath tomorrow and finish clamping the cables instead of wussing out because of wasps). They are...

  • Finish fixing the wipers
  • Eliminate the short in the right 120v socket.
  • Check the kingpins
  • Lower the brake pedal about 2.5 inches.
After those there are the things I'd like to do which are non essentials....

  • Install a forced air intake
  • Install a water inlet
  • Move the battery for the fans to the cockpit.
  • Install another solar panel
I'll have to have a good clearout too. I have so many leftover screws, bolts, hinges etc that it beggars belief! I'll also have to retitle the bus as a motorhome once the essentials are out of the way.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Almost there!

Today was meant to be a day when a lot got done! As usual, little was achieved but for very different reasons. The holdup this spring break has been somebody going into ICU in the hospital. Not me, I hasten to add!

So, today I went under the bus, removed the old non functioning reversing horn, installed the new one but in a better location and completed wiring and attaching conduit. In the photograph it looks a jumble and there is a connector visible that has no wire going to it. That, oddly enough, is by design. I figured a spare cable might come in handy. I'm already thinking of re-siting the battery for the extraction fans to the front of the bus!
I have two conflicting ideas for the extraction fans. I can either power them from my 5AH lead acid battery and keep the battery at the front or leave it where it is or the second idea is to replace the lead acid battery with AA NiMh batteries. Since the charge controller is programmable, that might be a good solution. I'm waiting for my rechargeable AA NiMh batteries in my door lock to run down so I can test the low voltage level in order to set the low level on the charge controller. Once I've charged the batteries, I'll know what the full level is.

Meanwhile, my work under the bus was halted by the discovery of a hornet building a nest. I don't particularly want to be stung by a hornet or a wasp or any other insect for that matter. America has some rather vicious insects though fortunately nowhere near the variety Australia has. The hornet nest is visible in this photo. The mud spatter is due to having no front mud guard. That's another project!
A few days ago I bought a 10ah battery on eBay. It turns out sadly that it's just too big for my needs. My panels produce such puny amounts of power that it takes forever to charge the 10ah battery though it roars away for hours, powering my extraction fans. Still, that'll be handy for future expansion. I've been thinking of running an air intake, taking cooler outside air and blowing it inside with the fan powered by the sun.
Also, a few days ago, I encountered a strange new light in Harbor Freight. It's an LED worklight with an adjustable angle. Being magnetic, I can stick it pretty much anywhere. I was thinking for underbus work, initially. It's so much brighter than most of my LED lanterns that I'm now thinking of putting some kind of non scratch covering on the magnetic foot so it won't harm my paintwork and busing it for lighting.

The new idea for progress is once the right hand wiper is working, to get the underside steamed and greased by the real mechanics who will at the same time remove the hornet nest and will inspect the kingpins and lower my ridiculously high brake pedal by at least 2.5 inches. The accelerator could probably use work too since it takes a lot of travel to get it above 5mph.

At some point the bus must have been hit by lightning. I noticed an ionized smell in it a few days ago.  Today I found 4 blown fuses. I replaced them. Most things seem to work though I'm having to charge the batteries again. I suspected the kill switch was bad. I've  been hunting for other explanations but none seem to work. Of course, the battery box is close to the hornet nest. What fun! I'll have to go for the original method of battery isolation and simply remove the cable!