Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rolling around in the dirt like a hippo

I intended to do lots of things today but ended up doing just two. The first was to finish priming the two pieces of steel from the roller shutter assembly. After that, while the paint was drying I decided to remove the I-beam that the hillbillies had welded underneath the bus.
I'm still mentally designing the breaker compartment so going slow with it is fine. Aside from that, the existing hillbilly compartment does actually work though it is in terrible condition.

Thinking the beam would be heavy, I piled up some concrete squares underneath the end protruding from the end of the bus. It was then that I realised piling up the slabs further under the bus would be distinctly challenging with lots of trips underneath. I took a short cut and started the bus engine for the first time in a couple of months and moved the bus backwards about 6 feet. Then I piled up the next lot of slabs underneath the end again. 

There was more welding than I had anticipated on the rear bumper so I ended up with some interesting cuts. Having freed the back end, I moved under the bus and worked on the front of the girder. In all I went through 3 cutting disks and it took most of the day. 
Having removed the girder, with much rolling around under the bus, I carried it to the scrap steel pile. I have no idea how much scrap steel I have removed from the bus but I have removed a tremendous amount. I'd say probably close to two tons.

Visible in the photograph above is the reversing horn. Judging from the dangling wire that has been wound carelessly through holes in the chassis, this must have been the work of the hillbillies. It is something I will attend to in due course.
Doesn't the back of the bus look so much better without that girder sticking out? Getting in and out would be almost impossible now had I not foreseen this eventuality and purchased some folding steps in Walmart the other day. As it turns out they're a little low. I might have to get a bigger set of steps. 

After cutting the steel I reckoned the girder I had just removed would weigh something in the region of 50-70 pounds. It was definitely heavy and I certainly didn't enjoy carrying it!
These are the two blinds I installed yesterday. Worryingly, there's a dark spot on the top right of the right curtain. I don't know whether there was a grease spot or whether there is a slight leak. I will have to watch carefully to see what happens next.
In conversation today, my attention was drawn to a threaded hole in the caps of the drums I bought. It seems that they have a 3/4 inch thread. That makes life a load easer. I can see drums appearing under the bus fairly soon.

Removing the weight that I did makes a big difference. I feel happier and I'm sure the bus will drive more sweetly without that hideous thing lumped onto the back.

Ideally, I'd have loved to have had the bus before the hillbillies got hold of it. I'd have done it so much faster and better without having to fix or work around their disasters. It's almost as though a group of guys got together while blind drunk and decided to do the worst construction they possibly could. Their planning and execution was very poor.

I'm looking forward to heading to Canada at some point this autumn. My university Buddy, Eric,  might or might not make it there this autumn due to an operation he has just had. Only time will tell. Still, it'd be nice to do.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How much work was done today?

Well, it doesn't sound like a lot but decisions were made which makes for big advances. Physical progress was limited to derusting and painting two pieces of steel from the ends of the roller shutter assembly I dismantled a while ago.
The ends had been held on by two very rusty bolts. When I took the main steel from it, I didn't undo the bolts - I just cut the top of the steel fairly close to the ends and let the ends drop off. Today I had to remove the bolts. Rather than fight with them, I simply cut them off with the angle grinder. Then I derusted the ends with the rust/paint stripping brush in the pistol drill and painted them with Rustoleum primer for rusty metal. One side got painted anyway. The other side needs painting now.

That all followed on from an investigation I carried out earlier into the prospect of putting a small compartment to replace the rather large hillbilly compartment. I'll probably have to get some 1/32 welding rods as my 1/16 might be too thick to weld bodywork steel. I'll try with my 1/16th first though. There is some air conditioner ducting lying around and if I can successfully weld that then I can successfully weld the bus steel.

The plan is to put a much smaller door on the bus for the compartment. As far as electrical power goes with a small battery, I'm not sure that I really want to weld a compartment there. Instead I'm thining I might just put a couple of straps and strap a steel ammunition box underneath containing my previously mentioned solution of using AA batteries, battery trays and a charge regulator. Basically, I'm going lightweight with pretty much everything.

While I was looking around underneath the bus, I found the reversing horn and was intending to test it but never actually got that far. I did notice that there was a sign on the chassis that said "Do not weld to nor drill into the flanges". The body is held on with steel clamps. I looked at the I girder the hillbillies had put on. That was welded via a spacer to the flange on the bottom of a chassis cross member. That was really close to a very readable sign that tells people not to do that! Let's just say that nothing the hillbillies did surprises me! That girder must be removed for two reasons.

Firstly the girder is unlikely to make a good trailer hitch since it is tack welded to the rear bumper and to the chassis cross member which makes it rather unlikely to be all that strong. Secondly, in the event of a rear collision, the chassis cross member could get bent. That would be a horribly difficult and expensive fix.

I put up self-adhesive blinds in the bathroom over two windows. That was quite easy. I stopped off at Walmart later and picked up three more in order to finish putting blinds on all the windows. The bathroom door window didn't have enough room to put a blind so I decided to get some opaque shower curtain material and attach it with velcro. It was then that I realised I could do exactly the same thing with the shower curtain over the shower.

I considered looking at replacement plates and dishes but didn't because I'm not quite ready to go there yet. At the moment I'm finishing getting the inside 100% habitable and getting the breaker box compartment completed. I'll do a lot of welding for that and am hoping my exisiting long steel rivets will work to attach the new compartment. The compartment will be a welded unit, riveted into position. I figure it would be better for rivets to be sheared in a collision from the side than for steel supports to be bent. 

While I was out, I picked up a small set of steps. Those will be handy if not esential now that I have to remove the I girder. My way of ingress has to date been via the back door. The girder was in the right place to use as a step. Without that girder, steps will be needed and Walmart had just what I needed at a price I was prepared to pay.

Tomorrow the plan is to work toward constructing and installing the breaker box compartment. I will also press on with putting up the last of the blinds and consider putting up the shower curtain too. If there's time - which there could well be since I have to apply layers of paint then I'll probably have a go at removing the I girder. That's attached so poorly to the back bumper that cutting that weld should be very easy. The other end, I'll just cut the spacer as close to the top of the spacer as possible.

Once the breaker compartment is installed, the rest of the old cable compartment will be closed up. Following that, I'll have to install the new power connector. I bought a socket box and some extenders for it. That way I can install the new power connector. I had thought of making my own socket box but don't really have a suitable steel box and am not that confident about my welding ability.

Actually, having all the stuff as light as possible has two benefits - firstly it puts less stress on the skeleton and secondly, if it broke loose and fell off then it's less likely to be such a disaster when I'm driving. There is a third benefit that it makes the bus lighter and thus less thirsty on diesel.

Out of curiosity I have been playing with old vegetable oil. For most of the last six months I've been pouring old used vegetable oil into a 5 gallon bucket. Looking at it the other day, it all seems to have solidified. Clearly not quite what it's cracked up to be and not quite suitable for use in a diesel engine. Still, I'll find a use for it even if it's just painting on exposed steel to prevent rust.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Plans and ideas

Remaining to do on the bus are:
1. The front door unlocking system. A quick and dirty solution would be just to add a standard door lock and wedge something under the door locking flap to stop it locking the door. That would allow me to lock it from the outside on my way out. Ideally though I'll continue with my plan for an electromagnetic solution. There's nothing to say that I can't use both solutions.
2. Waste water system. The bucket under the bus is a temporary measure that will work just fine though the goal is to plumb in two 15 gallon waste water drums. Even a single drum would be just fine though.
3. Fresh water system. Now here I had a brainwave. I clearly cannot trust used chemical drums for fresh water nor any kind of secondhand drums. The 5 gallon buckets from Walmart are a little small but several plumbed together could well provide enough water for a couple of days. I saw a video on YouTube about how one woman put leak-proof plumbing into a 5 gallon bucket. That gave me thoughts though securing such a small thing as a 5 gallon bucket will not be easy.
4. Carrying on with the 5 gallon bucket idea, it would be possible to put a copper tube looped through the bucket. Air could be blown through the tube. The bucket could be filled with water that's allowed to evaporate via the inlet. This would have the effect of cooling the air slightly. That could be useful for air-conditioning. Pouring water into a barrel will have zero cost. Blowing air through a tube using a CPU fan will use negligible electricity.
5. Ventillation in the bedroom is planned using a CPU fan to suck air from ceiling level to blow it out underneath the bus via an existing hole made by the hillbillies.
6. The cooking extraction fan will have to go through a hole in the side of the bus. Again, a CPU fan will be used.
7. The lights still need work to turn the school bus flashers into brake and indicator duplicators. The front reds will just be removed.
8. The reversing horn needs to be wired to a switch on the console. I'm not a fan of horns coming on automatically.
9. The drawers need padding and separators in those intended for crockery.
10. The breaker box compartment needs to be built.
11. I'm going one way and another as regards batteries. Currently I'm thinking that since I'm using solely 3 fans - maybe 4 if I put one in the bathroom. Other than that, all I'm using battery power for is charging phones etc. At most in terms of power I'd be using 20AH a day. That could easily be handled by 60 AA NiMh cells. I spotted 100 NiMh cells of 3000MaH on eBay. That seems to be better value than lead acid deep cycle batteries. NiMh have other benefits too in that they can be totally discharged with no ill effect. A battery compartment below the bus means the batteries performance might be adversely affected in cold weather but inside the bus there's a risk of fire left unattended while charging from solar panels. Thus, a small battery compartment under the bus could be ideal. Such a self-built battery would probably be best housed in an old metal ammunition box. That could even contain the charge controller and a voltage regulator.
12. Given that I'm now using gas, fitting a further compartment where a 20lb gas cyliner might be fitted could be interesting.
13. The bathroom vanity - now that I've decided not to use the vanity as a site for a gascooktop - does need a sink but I am still against plumbing in a standard sink. I'm considering a drop in-lift out enamel bowl with handles. If necessary, I could weld handles onto a standard enamel bowl.

The good news is that I should imagine I shall soon be able to work on the bus in the evenings on a weekday. The evenings are drawing out now to the extent that at 6pm, instead of barely being able to see my hand in front of my face, I was greeted by this scene as I left work.
Of course 15 minutes later it was pitch black but that'll change fairly rapidly. Currently we're gaining another minute of daylight every day. I predict that this will be the amount of light left when I get home by around the end of February. By then I hope I'll have done everything needed with the bus including getting the alternator belt changed.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Are rednecks my salvation?

Today the plan was to practice welding thin steel only that's not how the day unfolded. The day itself was fine - bright, cold and dry. Enthusiasm for welding was non-existent although I did trek into the bushes to find some suitable-looking steel. Hunting around the bushes here can be very fruitful when it comes to finding steel, plastic, old-style glass Coke bottles and abandoned household equipment. Thank the Lord for rednecks and their haphazard way of dumping stuff they no longer want.

Having scoured around the bushes, I realised I need to finish the inside - that's blinds and shower curtains. The existing hillbilly cable compartment does work - it just doesn't look pretty. The plumbing works though I do desperately need to put a hook to hang the bucket. That will have to wait until I can figure out a way of doing it well.

Thus, I headed inside and started putting up blinds. Cutting them with the angle-grinder requires a steady hand - which I developed as I cut more blinds. Needless to say, I'd forgotten where I'd put the brackets for one set of roller blinds and had to have a darned good hunt to find them. In the end, they were in a Walmart bag that contained a few bags of jelly-beans (my weakness).

The roller blinds take some getting used to as they very often need manual winding for the last few inches. Having said that, they're easily cleaned, easily removed and I prefer them to curtains for the bus. Curtains would, of course, have been cheaper. They could have been simply sets of bandanas. I'm sure that since the local football teams are the Gamecocks and Clemson that I could have got Clemson or Gamecocks bandanas for next to nothing in the charity stores.

Closed, the blinds do not look bad. These cost $4.95 in Walmart at the mounts were 97c a pair. Not too bad. The blinds in the galley are just privacy blinds - not light blocking. They can be seen through the window tint as lighter areas. I did get a room darkening roller blind but that was $6.95 so I got that purely for the bedroom.

I'm getting some light-pollution problems on my phone camera at the moment. I think it's because I"m including the light source in my photos - the LED hurricane lantern. Anyway, in the photo you see my cheapo tablet and a very elderly 3 megapixel zoom compact plus my clock. After my Nexus died I figured it just wasn't worth spending a lot on a tablet since they're pretty well disposable. Indeed, I asked somebody how much they would charge to fix it and they wanted as much as my cheapo tablet cost!

Having done the main windows with blinds, there are the bathroom windows that have no kind of privacy whatsoever aside from tint and the other two half bedroom windows. Those windows I will put paper blinds over. I couldn't use paper in the kitchen because of the cooking aparatus. I needed something less likely to flutter in a breeze. The bedroom will get black, room darkening paper blinds. The bathroom will just get white privacy blinds.

I took the International logo off the front of the bus today - the grey paint around it was peeling so I removed the logo and sanded it down. Then I sprayed with the cheap, lighter paint. I'll probably slap some Rustoleum grey on it at some time. That's not a priority right now though. The priority is to get the bus operable as a motorhome which it pretty much is now.

Having done the shower curtains, I'll put separaters in the drawers and put my china in the drawers as well as giving the bus a darned good cleaning. The solar stuff can wait. That's not a priority. The breaker compartment needs to be done soon though. As far as an underbody battery compartment is concerned, I'm not too sure it's really worth bothering with one. It might just be better to charge a dozen or so AA batteries using solar power. Those could be used to power or recharge USB devices. Another thing I'll do is to mount my whiteboard on one of the walls. I have had that whiteboard for a long time and it does come in handy for things occasionally.

The whiteboard has an interesting history. At one time I was going to do face-painting and photography with really good posed photography - not the kind facepainters do. I interviewed three facepainters. One decided she didn't want to spend $3.99 on facepaints from Walmart and lied and kept lying about her facepaint order always going to arrive. Total timewaster. The second facepainter called to arrange an interview then called five minutes before to reschedule and after the third call to request a reschedule, I realised she was a timewaster too and told her that if she found it that hard to attend an interview at a time that she suggested then it was highly unlikely that she would ever turn up to work. She argued and demanded I didn't tell the welfare people she didn't show. I should have told them but quite honestly it would have meant extra work. The final facepainter suddenly announced midway through the interview that she was a lesbian and went on to talk about her girlfriend. That really had no place in the discussion but I glossed over and we agreed to work together. Needless to say that involved buying a whiteboard to write prices etc on. Then she never showed to any sessions. Again a total waster which is pretty much my opinion now of all facepainters. The redundant $6.95 whiteboard has come in very handy in my kitchen though and I expect it will

I thought long and hard about the underbody battery compartment and for the amount of power I'm likely to use, it's not really justified. I was thinking of putting a solar-powered extraction fan in the bedroom. That seems to me to be worthwhile. That'll keep the bedroom cooler in summer. That can pump air out underneath the body.

The less complications I build in, the better to be honest. This is why I'm aiming at simple, cheaper solutions. I've been thinking long and hard over the extraction fan in the kitchen. I know it's needed. I'm not sure whether to have a straight chimney with a cap and no actual fan with the chimney going up through the roof on one of the sides where it won't add to the height of the bus. Another solution would be an actual fan, drawing the air from above the stove and blowing it out through a vent either under the bus or through a vent hole in the aluminum sheet that replaces one of the missing windows. On the whole, as heat rises, it might be better to blow cooking heat and steam down and out. Nobody will notice an extra vent on the side of a bus!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's colder than a witches tit today!

It has been below freezing for several days in a row. It's highly likely that I won't be doing any welding tomorrow. Today was just plain miserable most of the day. It was made even more miserable by a stomach thing that fortunately cleared up by 4pm.

Thus, at 4pm I headed out to Walmart, being slightly surprised that my car battery actually started the car. It didn't want to but it did start. So, while the mechanics at Walmart changed my battery (which was free), I went shoppng and got 4 more blinds and 4 mounts for my blinds. The cheapest blind at walmart was $3.95 but these were $4.95 roller blinds. For the other windows - in the shower - I suppose I could use the $3.95 blinds but I haven't given that much thought. I'm thinking more in terms of how to attach shower curtains to the ceiling.

Looking around Walmart, I saw some very interesting things but my mission today was explicit - blinds and battery. If I don't stick to my list then it's likely that I'll spend too much. Income is not unlimited and the last paycheck I was given has to have special consideration as it was printed incorrectly. Apparently it'll be OK with the issuing bank because they know of the error. My bank might be another matter entirely though!

Of interest were another D cell lantern for $20 - mine works very well though with just one, lighting is limited to a small area. For the potential battery I looked at the EverStart Lawn and Garden battery for $20. It was interesting but did not state its capacity at all. Given that all I would need to power would be fans and phone/tablet chargers I really don't need much power. I could probably get away with a 20ah standard battery and use only 2-3 ah out of it. Indeed, I could probably - if the USB connectors would handle voltages that low - use a 6v battery. That could even be a DIY battery made of NiMh AA cells. Now that would be definitely worthwhile. I have a pile of NiMh AA cells that I don't use.

As it's perishing cold right now, I was looking at alternate heat sources for my bus and chanced upon a Coleman gas heater. The one of immediate interest seems hard to obtain. It's called the Coleman SportCat but nobody seems to stock it. It takes a different size of gas cartridge and offers 14 hours of continuous heat per cartridge. That's definitely doable.

I'm not too keen on having multiple standards of gas cartridge or indeed multiple standards of anything but sometimes it is necessitated by cost and availability. Apollo 13 discovered to their cost why different standards are a very bad idea when their spaceship had a mishap. It turned out that the lunar lander air filters had a different fitting from the command module filters. Thus they had to rig up a solution in order to make the wrong filters work in the command module just to survive.

Clearly I need to add some more fire extinguishers but that was always the plan anyway. I did wonder whether I should build a bay under the bus to hold a couple of 20lb gas cylinders. Plumbing for gas needn't be expensive or hard and is very possible. The gas cooktop could be installed above where the fridge or cooler will be situated. Indeed, I looked at coolers today and saw one that would do that was $22.

In mind today were the schoolbus flashers. The plan is eventally to intergrate them into the turn signal and braking light systems. The existing reversing horn needs to be tested and connected to a switch on the control console. That way I can switch it on when reversing and off when not which would also give the option of having it sound when necessary and not when it's not or not when it's dark and would unnecessarily cause noise. There's a lot of systems work that could be done.

The aim right now is to get the blinds and shower curtains up. That will get the bus pretty much ready inside. I would like to have the battery/cable compartment refitted but this is not essential right now. I think with the blinds and curtains in place, I will be able to reregister the bus as a motorhome. I will want to put a couple of extractor fans - one over the cooking area and one in the bedroom but those can wait a little while.

If it's a nice day tomorrow (which it should be) the plan is to install the blinds and possibly get started on replacing the battery/cable compartment. The compartment will take a while. I need to experiment welding very thin sheet steel because the aperture under the bus created by the hillbillies is way too big for the new breaker box compartment. The new battery compartment will be quite small as it doesn't now have to carry a battery big enough to power the cooking systems.

It's always a toss-up which way to head with design and one person's error could be another person's salvation. I don't like gas - never have and probably never will. On the other hand the cost of a battery setup capable of powering a microwave would need a battery capacity costing $500 while my electrical system will cost maybe $50. A small battery such as the one planned could be charged from a smaller solar panel. Indeed, solar in this instance would work. This is even cheaper than the generator system I had planned earlier.

The only issue I am likely to have with tomorrow's welding is that the bus is probably beyond the reach of just a single one of my two 20A cables. One cable has Nema 5-20 connectors at each end but the other has a Nema 6-30 on one end which won't connect to anything other than the planned connector on the bus. The solution there will be to start the bus engine for the first time in 3 months or so!

I can honestly say that I am looking very much forward to getting the bus completed and ready for action. I want to see if I can get it ready and reregistered in time for the Battle of Aiken so I can take it for the whole Battle of Aiken weekend.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Now I'm really getting there.

It might not look exciting but it is a significant step forward. The plumbing descends from my shower via a U bend to a bucket placed underneath the bus. It might not be very high tech but it does mean I can now claim my bus has adequate plumbing. The pipes are held in place by clips attached to the brackets I welded the other day. The aim is to install the barrels I bought the other day but this is dependent upon finding the right plumbing adaptor. Now that could be very hard to find so for the moment I'm sticking with a bucket. 

As you can see, the pipe comes down, ending in a cap that protrudes slightly below the skirt. This is not intended to remain so but is rather useful for locating where to place the bucket. One thing I will add is a hook to hang the bucket from so that it won't blow away. In summer, evaporation should see the level of the effluent reduce through evaporation.

When I went shopping the other day, I bought a little gas cooker and some cooking items. These will make a huge difference as the gas will take care of the biggest power drain in any home. Cooking uses absolutely the most power. I have not tried a raw food diet but I gather raw food involves no cooking. It does require refrigeration though which is a constant power drain.

It really is a nifty little gas cooker. The kettle is nifty too. I don't as yet have an extraction vent above the cooker. This, by the way, is the bathroom vanity and not where the cooker will be situated. I was thinking of having it situated there when I'm gas cooking and just leave the microwave where it's currently situated. Thinking about it, and in view of my adventures with the roller blind, it might well be better just to swop the microwave and gas cooker around as required. That way I could put just one vent.

The cooker had all kinds of wacky reviews, mostly centered around being unable to find gas cylinders and the price of the gas cylinders. They were right next to the cooker, in Walmart and were $2.40. The small print says 8.8oz of gas and the cooker says that a single cylinder can last up to 1 hour, 15 minutes. I presume that's on low. Given that most meals take 15 minutes or frequently less to make, that doesn't seem to be much of a probem to me. In any case, this bus is intended for electrical plugin operation, not off-grid though I'm making sure it can be used off-grid.

Going back to an old problem - the china I had was all 9 or 10 inch round plates. I found that they are now 88 cents each in Walmart. My solution to the china not fitting my drawer was to give my existing china to m'lady who sadly did not want the matching mugs that I'd struggled to obtain. In Walmart are some 8 inch square plates. I might get a couple of those and a couple of square dishes too. That way I have something that won't roll in the drawer.

Today I turned my mind to the blinds. I bought a single blind the other day. It was way too wide and I'd reckoned I might be able to cut it down with my angle grinder. Thus it was - I cut it down and it actually worked. The edge on the cut side is a little ragged but that really doesn't matter. I'd like it to be smooth but I'm not prepared to pay massive amounts of money to buy a smooth blind of the right size. It's way overlong but that shouldn't be a problem. I did think about mounting it but the light had already gone by the time I considered that. Funny how that always seems to happen when I get to the interesting bits.

If you notice, at the top of the picture are two of the wobbling flower solar decorations. I won't be carving those up as they were gifts but having seen inside one, the wobble is caused by a magnetic coil that's charged by the small solar cell built into the base. I looked at the coil and am wondering whether one taken from such a decoration could be the solution to my front door unlocking problem.
Areas of the paint had peeled on the outside of the bus. That has been referred to before. Today I pulled out a pistol drill with a paint removing brush. I brushed areas where the paint was flaking and found the flaking to be of a local nature. I suspect I'll have to spot brush the whole bus wherever the paint is flaking and reapply the paint. Eventually it'll all stick. I found some cheaper spray paint in the dollar store but it seems to be slightly lighter in color which might not be a problem after a couple of weeks weathering.

Today's big fail was Rustoleum self-etching paint. I tried it and it sprayed well for a second or two then started spraying lumpy paint. Then the nozzle suddenly frothed and it stopped spraying. No matter what I did, nothing helped the situation. I had a can of Rustoleum rust killer that did this a while ago. I'm not that keen on Rustoleum - its just not good paint. It's cheap and that's its only virtue.

I looked again at the hillbilly cable compartment. The cable comes down on the left, very close to the front of the compartment. As I'm not needing to carry a big battery now, I looked at the compartment and looked at my massive construction and decided I could get away with a much smaller compartment. I will have to build a new, smaller compartment. 

Looking at the body ribs, I'd been worried about putting rivets in case of water ingress. Looking at the construction, they're not sealed at the ends anyway. The only question is how thick they are. I'm going to assume they're 15 gauge like the rest of the body. I can probably weld that quite satisfactorily. I think building the new compartment which will be purely a breaker box compartment with a plugin either underneath or on the side, I won't build it completely then try to weld it on. I'll build it in pieces, welding each piece into place. It won't have any great weight to carry which is a huge bonus.

Thinking about batteries again, the only thing I really need batteries for is to charge my cellphone, tablet and or a mifi pad. That could be achieved by simply charging cellphone charging batteries from a small solar panel. Those are cheap enough and put in a tin box insulated against fire, I could charge a couple.

I can't really see needing to charge much else. Charging my camera could be interesting. It's probably time to change camera systems. I suspect my 10 year old monster is not as good as a secondhand 5 year old marvel of technology. The thing holding me up there is that it's paid for and would barely fetch a single peanut on the secondhand market. My income wouldn't result in donation being a worthwhile tax deduction either. In fact last year I got back more in tax refund than I paid in tax!

The huge hole in the side of the bus will have to be filled. I'll have to see what I can do about that. I want to do something better than just rivetting a patch over the side but I suspect that's going to be the most expeditious solution.

The big news though is that today I consider it worth sending off to get my bus registered as a motorhome. I hate to think how much money I have spent on things I didn't end up using in my conversion process. Still, that's probably the same for everybody. Not everybody gets it right first time, particularly when there's nobody else in one's immediate and trusted circle doing the same thing.

I need to finish doing the blinds, to put something over the bathroom windows to maintain privacy and to put up a shower curtain. As far as the blinds are concerned, I can either put pairs of trimmed blinds over the windows or put cloth curtains with velcro attachments.

Looking at the paintwork today, the pain was peeling in the middle of the logo that said 3800 DT466. The first logo just came off very easily using just finger pressure. The second - on the other side needed a screwdriver and broke as it came off. They're off now. I might give the same treatment to the International logo on the front. I cleaned up where the logos had been and sprayed grey paint after filling the attachment holes with rivets. I don't know about my readers but I just don't like carrying other peoples' advertising. It's like shirts - if a shirt has a logo on it advertising some company or other then that shirt had better be free if I have to wear it for work or if it's outside of work then some company had better be paying me to wear it.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Final Solution or when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!

Today was a mission day for m'lady but since I was out (even though I had to go on a second trip). I had ideas about attaching the would be water tanks under the bus body and plumbing them in but decided against chains as they would put too much stress on small areas of a thin-walled plastic drum. I looked at nylon straps but didn't get them immediately which as it turned out was rather a good thing. Looking at plumbing fittings, I couldn't find anything in Lowes (hiss, spit) that remotely fitted. There were adaptors that were alleged to fit but which didn't really. They were an incredibly sloppy fit which was no good whatsoever. I did manage to get an section that will join my long pipe after I cut it and which will serve to lengthen it. Cutting accurately will be somewhat irksome, of course.

My next stop was Walmart where I spent the majority of my time. There I picked up a roller blind that looked interesting. I'll have to see if I can cut it down with my angle grinder. It only needs to be 26 inches wide. It's currently 37 inches which is too narrow for two windows and too wide for a single window. I'll also shorten it since it'll be way too long. If the experiment is a success then I can work on putting two together for the other windows. That could be an interesting experiment.

While in Walmart I picked up a bowl and a jug which should be excellent for the bathroom/kitchen. Waste water can simply be dumped into a bucket underneath the bathroom vanity. In a similar vein, since I cannot currently find an adaptor to feed the waste water tanks from my waste pipe that actually fits anything, for the moment the plumbing will revert to my original idea which was to have the pipe going down to the bottom of the bus skirt with a stopper that can be removed prior to use.

Thinking about the electrical system, I noticed something very interesting. It was a rechargeable USB cellphone charger. Connected via a charge controller to a solar panel that could totally eliminate any need for a house battery for the bus. That makes me think more about redoing the battery compartment I've been building to make it smaller and lighter. As it is, it won't accommodate a full-sized battery thus it's way over built. Instead, I could do something a lot lighter and less complicated, replace the huge door the hillbillies put in with a smaller door and simply rivet aluminum sheet over the rest of the aperture. Basically, make it into purely a breaker box compartment. I might also include in that bay, a space to charge USB batteries. I don't want anything that flammible inside the bus despite having now got a gas cooker. At least a gas cooker I can attend while it's working but a solar charged battery I cannot.

Another thing I did was to get some truly independent kitchenware. There was a gas cooker with auto ignition for $18 that contained a small gas cylinder. That was well worthwhile. It was a single burner but it'll do to demonstrate independent cooking ability.

The refrigeration will be non existent other than a cooler. I grew up without a fridge, freezer, car, telephone or television. I'm well used to what many would be considered privation. There will be no television, of course. I do have a small pocket radio, my tablet and my phone (which can act as a wifi hotspot). I'm thinking a lot can be achieved with small solar panels.

Today or rather last night, it rained heavily. Walking inside the bus today I noticed or rather didn't notice any moisture. That means that my seam sealing was a success. I just hope the rest of my work will be as successful.

I had a look to see if I could find a 12v fan. That could be combined with a solar panel to keep the body cool during summer, extracting the hot air and blowing it out under the bus.

Returning to the underbody compartment, I've considered a smaller, lighter compartment many times before. Certainly a smaller, lighter compartment would be that much easier to attach with that much less risk attached if it fell off. Definitely food for thought. By using the compartment as it is does rather trap me into the hillbillies bad ideas. 

One thought is how to charge camera batteries. I've had the same camera for ten years so all the chargers etc are off the market by now. As it has a unique lithium battery, it's hard to find the correct charger. I'm wondering whether it would even be possible to find a charger that would work off solar these days. Phone batteries would be easy to charge off solar. Interesting thing to think about. Of course, I could consider donating my old camera and buying a newer (secondhand) model.

The plan for tomorrow is to complete the plumbing and to look severely at the hillbilly cable compartment. I had a nasty thought that the compartment I've built might be too long to fit the space. I'm coming more to the conclusion that less is more.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

That was bloody exhausting.

After today's exertions, I am absolutely exhausted. Heaven knows why but I find welding very tiring. I suppose that could be because it wasn't particularly warm today but it was very dry. I didn't complete everything I would have liked to have done but I got closer to completing a lot of things.

The first task was to climb up on the bus roof to reseal one of the seams. That took a complete cylinder of silicone sealant. Ideally I'd have used something other than silicone but since I've used silicone everywhere else and it seems to be working, I've stuck with silicone. This motorhome will only ever be a 20 year old vehicle. It will never get younger so imperfections aren't that important.

After that, I thought about my plumbing. I decided that for the moment I'll plumb for a bucket under the bus. It should be straightforward to add underbody tanks. The plumbing didn't go quite as planned as it was the last thing done today. Needless to say, I cut the tubing too short after having previously cut it too long. It's currently an inch too short after being an inch too long. Having said that, this is what it looks like.

The long horizontal is an inch too short. It would be usable with a small block placed between it and the attaching point. The jubilee clip I bought to attach it turned out to be way too small. I'll have to buy a couple of bigger clips. Now the attachment point was the first thing I made this morning. Basically, it's two steel brackets welded together. 

Welding was where I made great progress today. I started using 6011 rods rather than 6013 and started getting an arc every time rather than having to fight to get an arc. Most things needed a second pass to get the weld to look good but I burned through fewer sticks and had better welds. I ended up making four tube mounts. Two are to hold the downpipe and two more to hold horizontal pipes when I get the tanks installed.

This was part way through my welding progress. Welding small stuff was way easier than I thought it would be. It was important to keep moving the rod though as I did burn the edge of one of the brackets away a little in one place. 

This is how the mounts looked when completed. After welding them and clearing the slag off the welds, I sprayed them with cold zinc plating. Now that's quite expensive but if it stops rust then it's worthwhile. One is already installed but the second isn't yet as the battery in the electric drill expired before I finished drilling the second hole.

Another task completed was to weld the two parts of the roller shutter top that I'd previously cut into two pieces. I welded with 6011 rods both at the top and the bottom of the join. I did several runs with the welding rods in order to make the welds look good. In between runs, I wire brushed the slag off the welds.

After brushing the slag off, I sprayed with my zinc spray. I would have liked to have cut the construction to fit the battery/cable box but I didn't have time. After I'd worked on the plumbing, it was just too dark. The sun had escaped from me again. I'm just hoping it appears again tomorrow!

I have concerns over whether my underbody work will be too much for the skeleton. I might complete what I'm building for the underneath and then ask my mechanic for advice and maybe get him to weld the underbody stuff. I really don't want stuff dropping off as I'm driving!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lesser achievements but achievements anyway

No photo today. Sorry - it was dark before I'd really done enough to merit a photo. The day started off with my planning to do the plumbing under the bus. Thus, I played around with my plumbing bits and found the S bend I'd bought wouldn't fit anything else that I had so I coupled together a few bits and bobs to make a strangely shaped U bend. The problem is that I've bought bits from Lowes (hiss, spit) and Lowes (hiss, spit) seems to specialise in non-inter-compatible fixtures. 

The resultant U bend looked pretty good and was glued together. Then I realised I should - since it was a fine day - get up on the roof to finish off the final seam with silicone seal. Oops... The silione seal had dried up. There weren't quite enough plumbing supplies either. That and the fact m'lady's chickens were out of feed meant a trip to Tractor Supply.

Before I left, I had a quick look underneath the bus. The barrels will fit very nicely between the main chassis members and the side of the bus with enough room for my plumbing parts. I judged I would need 4 more right angle bends and two T sections plus some kind of faucet. Making a quick list, I headed out. Half way down the driveway I had inspiration and went back and grabbed a stopper from one of the barrels.

Arriving at Tractor Supply in glorious sunshine, it took a while to find a cart to carry 100lbs of chicken feed. That 100lbs should last the chickens about a month to six weeks. Then on the shelf I spotted some galvanizing paint. That, apparently is 98% zinc and should protect my fresh welds very well from rust. Then after getting the plumbing parts I wanted - aside from the faucet, I saw something interesting - a great big T junction with threads. Out of curiosity I tried my stopper from the barrel into the T and it screwed in perfectly. Then I found the male mate. I picked out two - one for each waste water barrel. 

When I looked underneath the bus earlier, I found two barrels could be fitted very nicely between I section girders. That means I can use simple bolts to attach the straps that hold the barrels. That makes life considerably quicker and easier. The whole plumbing operation can be carried out simply and painlessly. The sections that screw into the barrel are way big in the center and need to be stepped down to fit my pipework. Needless to say Tractor Supply didn't have the correct parts.

Leaving Tractor Supply, the next stop was Walmart for silicone sealant. Tractor Supply had it but it was 50% more expensive than Walmart so I picked some up. While I was there, I looked at the camping gas cookers and saw a very nice dual burner cooker with wind shields for $35 and a set of cooking pots for it for $30. That was very interesting and it seems a pair of gas cans are $6. According to the blurb it seems that on full blast with both burners going, 16oz of gas will last about 90 minutes. That sounds very doable.

Leaving Walmart, I visited Lowes (hiss, spit) to see if they had anything I could use as a faucet or to step the big pipe down. Needless to say, they had rack upon rack of irrelevant stuff. As I studied the racks an announcement came over the speaker to the effect the store was closing in 4 minutes and that I should proceed to the registers. So, not having found anything I headed to the door and left.

It transpires there's a better plumbing store on 378 so I might visit that or the plumbers supply in Lexington later this week. The plumbing looks like it'll be a load easier than I thought. I didn't get plumbing straps nor any means of attaching them to the chassis but that doesn't sound that hard. Everything has been a case of working out how to do it. I'd been wondering how to stop the barrels from sliding but having seen the space available, there shoudn't be a problem. I could probably use two straps per barrel but I'll probably use 3 for safety.

Once the plumbing is done, I can work on the battery compartment. Having cleaned and painted the metal that will be the floor of the compartment, I expect that the first fine weekend I shall be welding the floor to the compartment. 

The front door remains a problem waiting to be solved. I'm going to keep the door as a concertina affair. I just need to work more on a way of getting the latch to lift. If I had air brakes then I could simply tap into the air cylinder for a simple plunger and use residual pressure after bleeding the tanks. On the other hand that would mean I'd need to pressurize the tank every time I opened the door. It is, of course, possible to put a small air tank but I don't think I will.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A rainy day

I blundered today. When I went out to the bus, it was dry. While I was inside, it began to rain. I had hoped to derust the other side of my steel plates then to paint them ready for welding tomorrow since tomorrow is alleged to be going to be a dry day. We all know the weather forecasters speak with forked tongues though!

While I was in the bus, I sat down and completed my second 20A cable. The one terminates in a NEMA 6-30R which will plug straight into the NEMA 6-30C when the battery compartment is completed. Construction in failing light was not easy but was completed fairly swiftly. I have to say it doesn't look at all bad. It was confusing that the hot/cold pins had no markings other than X and Y which meant I had to look it up to see which wire should go where. I'll doubtless get the same issue when I wire the NEMA 6-30C.

Meanwhile, since the lottery is now up to $900,000,000, m'lady wanted a ticket so I headed to the store and bought two tickets. I don't so much believe I stand a chance of winning but I'd love to see somebody win $1,000,000,000 and be a billionairre for a day - before the IRS takes 50% and the state takes their 20%, leaving them with probably $400,000,000. It'd be hard but I'm sure that by economising they could just about live on that money! For myself, I"d be happy with any amount

When I went out I planned to stop off at a place where barrels were on sale. Oops... I was in thick traffic and missed the turning so I carried on to Lowes (hiss, spit). There, I realised I'd forgotten the piece of tubing I'd cut to take to Lowes for sizing! Still, I had a look at various plumbing bits. Then I looked at hooks from which I could hang my bucket. Looking at them, they would have had a difficult job coping with the lip inside the skirt on the bus. I passed on buying a hook. That was fortunate as it so happened.

On the way back home, I passed the sign where used barrels were on offer. The actual place was a long way down a lane. Down the end of the lane was a downtrodden looking mobile home. In the yard, a big dog barked noisily while some 15 gallon barrels stood to attention. The fellow must have seen me arrive and opened the door as I approached. He was very pleasant and didn't have change for my $20 so rather then buying two of his $8 apiece 15 gallon drums, I bought 3 with my $24.  They had contained some kind of brownish liquid wax. That was slopping about inside the drums so I made very sure the caps were screwed on firmly in order to avoid spills. Clearly the fellow worked where such barrels were used. I'm very happy with my barrels. I suppose I could put 3 grey water tanks or two grey and a black just in case I decide to put a flush toilet some day.

30 or 45 gallons of waste water is a very attractive idea because that puts me squarely into boondocking territory. I can carry fresh water in jerry cans and to be honest the risk of tampering with fresh water supplies accessible from the outside is low but nice not to have. Indeed, with the waste water, a faucet could empty that into a bucket or a hosepipe.

Looking around the bus today, I noticed a tag from a conversion company. I've never noticed it before but it looks like it was Tennessee hillbillies that did the conversion. Clearly some kind of professional hillbilly conversion.

Now that I have the barrels, all kinds of possibilities open up for plumbing. Of course, the things I would have liked to have done didn't get done. The path is there to go way better than just a bucket.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Retitling forms

A few days ago - before I hurt my back, I picked up the form to retitle my bus as a motorhome. This is South Carolina DMV form 4038. Looking at it, it seems that they're mainly interested in the purchase of components for kit vehicles. They ask for receipts but somehow I think they won't be interested in receipts for lumps of wood and tins of paint.

The main thing they're probably going to be looking for is whether it looks like it will be converted back into a bus while nobody is looking. I gather a minority of bus hobbyists will buy a bus, register it as a motorhome and then put the seats back in, taking advantage of cheap insurance.

Needless to say, I've recycled some of the stuff that came with the bus and obtained other bits elsewhere - Lowes, Tractor Supply, Home Depot, eBay and been given a pile of stuff too. Largely though, it's been wood, paint, fittings and so on - nothing in itself all that expensive. Had I paid somebody to do what I did in my own spare time then the bill for the work done would be many thousands of dollars. I'd say the most expensive things have been the tools I've had to buy such as my welder, sander, angle grinder etc.

I could probably get away with the bus as it is save for putting up window blinds and shower curtains. For the blinds, there are some very cheap folded paper blinds that look very usable. For the shower curtains, Walmart and the dollar stores look possibilities too. Aside from that, I need to do a massive tidying up inside the bus and weeding through my stuff.

One of the things I saw while in Walmart was rectangular plates. The crockery set I have is usable but the round plates are a bit too wide for the plates drawer. My mistake - I measured correctly but forgot that the floor of the drawer would have thickness. Thus, the drawer is the thickness of the drawer bottom too short. Needless to say, I didn't have my tape measure with me last time I was in Walmart. The existing plates are nothing special - they cost me theprincely sum of $10 for the set! I bought a set of 4 but the reality is that I only need two plates - one for me and one for m'lady.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Things I have learned during the progress of construction..

1. My carpentry has improved greatly but needs further improvement. It's perfectly functional but I need to learn how to make proper joins in wood rather than relying upon steel brackets, bolts and OSB panels screwed to the beams.
2. Internet forums are completely useless, full of asinine opinions, dangerous suggestions and aggressors that call my carefully constructed motorhome all kinds of names - when they're not being abusive to me personally.
3. US plumbing sizes are rather fictional. I measured a 1.5" right-angle tube at 1.75" with my tape measure - and that was the inside diameter. To find plumbing bits that fit, it's necessary to go in and try things rather than to rely upon what's written on the item itself. 
4. US electrical systems are reasonably straightforward though the electricians that install things are not to be trusted. Better to look up how to do it and to do it yourself.
5. Rustoleum (Hammarite in the UK) produces the world"s most useless paint. If it can be avoided then do so.
6. Latex paint is for ceilings only.
7. Silicone sealant works but nothing sticks to it - way better to use latex sealant.

Today was a shopping day so it was a trip to Lowes (hiss, spit). I came to the conclusion that despite the fact that Lowes is unbelievably dishonest, since the nearest Home Depot and Tractor Suppy are 8 miles further and hence (even at $1.67 per gallon) an extra $1.50 to get there and an extra half hour in insane South Carolina traffic.

So, the upshot was I got enough cable to complete 60 feet of cable from the power post to my bus. I also got sufficient plumbing supplies to complete the plumbing underneath the bus. The termination in my plumbing will be a simple stopper screwed into the bottom of the line. That's just going to be there in order to stop critters from crawling up when it's not in use. 

Before I did any of that, I cleaned up the steel plates that will be welded ito the battery compartment using an abrasive brush in the pistol drill. That removed most of the rust. Then I slapped Rustoleum primer for rusty metal. If that kills the rust as well as primes, I'm happy. I rather suspect it'll be just as worthless as the rest of the Rustoleum product range.

The plan is to complete the plumbing, continue working on the battery compartment in the background, reseal one seam on the bus roof, work on the peeled paint, install shower curtains and blinds over all the windows. The battery compartment isn't 100% necessary right now as long as the cable compartment that's currently there for the moment though it has to be replaced. The priority is to get the above completed and get the retitling process under way. Longer term plans - well, the sky's the limit!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The mother of all videos!

The quest continued today, despite my back injury to build the front door unlocking mechanism. There were plenty frustrations today! I'm in no way going to throw the towel in on this one. Even if what I come out with costs way more than anybody else's solution, I will perservere.

Today was fraught with difficulty. Yesterday or the day before, I'd reglued the end of my wire to the brass tube. After I'd finished winding the coil, the damn glue failed again! So my nicely wound coil suddenly sprang loose and ended up looking more like a slinky than anything else. Wrapping tape and spraying glue ended up with a loosely wound coil that's definitely not to my liking. I might re-wrap that coil another day.

Next, I connected a pp3 battery clip to the two wires. That was a challenge as the enamel on the wire was extrordinarily thick. Normally it's easy to burn through with a soldering iron. This was most definitey not easy and had to be scraped off.

What I'm trying to do is to rig up a method of lifting the latch that holds the front door closed without going to extremes such as electric garage door openers that require the door to be both opened and closed electrically or other severe methods such as replacing the entire door assemly. This is such a simple thing to do yet is proving to be extraordinarily difficult!

The upshot of today's work (which I'll probably have to redo) is that I did manage to make a rare earth permanent magnet move out of my coil. It had little to no actual power behind it which is a major problem. I'm currently running it off 6v. I'll have to try raising the power to 12v but this is not currently looking promising. I have found that I was correct in using a permanent magnet with my coil however. I suspect I might get more luck with more power and possibly extra coil windings.

As you can see - it's not that powerful even though it is spectacular. It looks to have the right amount of throw to open my latch - just not yet enough power.

Friday, January 1, 2016

No wonder I'm depressed....

Today turned out to be yet another dull, grey, dreary day. No rays of sunshine to lift my gloomy mood. The one thing I love about the US is the way there are many more sunny days than cloudy days. Cloudy days just sap my strengh and my will and frequently (as today) give me a distanced feeling as though I'm not really here. I believe it's called Seasonal Affected Disorder.

Despite this, I went to the bus to install my new vanity top and promptly broke the tip off my drill bit, rendering it useless. That meant a trip to Lowes (hiss, spit). There, I picked up a couple of packs of 3/32 drill bits just in case. While I was there I also picked up a 5-15 plug to make the other half of my 20A extension cord. I don't want to get the 30A cable yet - I'll stay cheap right now. Then while I was there, I looked at plumbing supplies but as I didn't know exactly what I have, I didn't get anything. It turned out from investigations last night that the second part of the downpipe from the shower isn't needed - the plastic fittings I have will clamp onto the first section very sucessfully. It seems that I can simply take an off-the-shelf fixture to fasten the bottom of the tube to the side of the bus. There are some rather nice valves available to use to close the end of the pipe off when it's not needed to empty. They're somewhat stiff which means they'd definitely need to be secured very firmly. Thus, for the moment, I'll stick with my screw-in bung.

Returning to the bus, I screwed the countertop down that I'd been working on yesterday then sat in the bedroom with a cup of tea and my tablet for a few minutes. What with the dreary, miserable weather I'd taken to playing a game called "Boom Beach" and without funding the programmers drug habit by buying game credits with real money that's hard to earn, it was increasingly hard to continue. Thinking about it, while watching the dwelling I'd just errected commencing its count down to 5 hours before it could be used, I came to the inevitable conclusion that the game was as the Americans euphamistically say, "a crock".

Having deleted the game, I set about cutting some more steel for the battery compartment only it wasn't that simple. The angle grinder needed a new disk so that was installed. Then I had to find the adaptor in order to connect the grinder to my TT30 socket. That was a hunt! It was eventually discovered, hidden underneath an immense pile of Christmas stockings.

I cut the steel and then tried to straighten an angle out of the steel. It's showing progress but the work is very slow. I suspect that this might take longer than I want to spend on it.

Meanwhile, I looked at the DMV form to retitle the bus and it needs photographs of the inside plus details plus the original bus title. This is a totally different form from the one I was shown before. It looks way more likely as a form so I suspect I probably have the right form this time. I have a lot of tidying to do inside the bus before I take photos. 

I believe I'm pretty close to having it in retitlable condition. As far as I can see, I can just run it as an electric motorhome and pop a portable generator in for the inspection. Water - aside from plumbing the waste pipe properly, is already done. The shower curtains, blinds over the windows and a front door unlocking gizmo is all that's needed. Everything else should work just fine. The whole bus needs a darned good cleanig and spruce up but that should be it!