Thursday, February 28, 2013

Car(b) Talk…



This is a post of celebration!  Get out your streamers and put on your party hats because it’s time to party!!!

Yes, that is a picture of a car part.  A carburetor to be exact.  No, it is not our carburetor but ours looks just like that.  Just like that and a whole lot dirtier.

Let’s back up just a few steps.  We had three reasons for getting a van over our previously enjoyed truck-topper-camping setup.  One of those reasons was that we would have access to the driver’s seat in the event that we felt we needed to ‘escape’ something or someone.

So, what does that have to do with a carburetor, you ask?

Well, as it wound up, having a van for the reason stated above really didn’t quite work out as planned.  We’ve always had trouble starting her and unless you count ‘less than 1 mph with a chance of stalling’ as a quick get-away we might as well have still been locked in the back of our truck topper.

It did make for some great jokes about how if we felt threatened by anyone we would just kindly ask, “If you would please hold that thought for about ten minutes I’d really appreciate it.  I’ve got to start the van and let her warm up before I can get out of here.”

As of today though… the jokes over.  RIP Get-away Joke.

After much reading, video watching and conversing with some really great and patient guys on the forum, Nicole has successfully tuned our carburetor and turned Annie into a quick starting, tire squealing machine.  Well, she tuned the carburetor anyway!

So, who wants to party?!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Van Renovations – The Next Steps


Got to thinking that these posts could be confusing in terms of timelines.  So, we should clarify about the Van Renovation or Remodeling posts.  We are not currently doing all of the projects shown.  These posts are merely a series starting from the beginning (almost two years ago) up until the present.  Once we get caught up we’ll try to keep things more up-to-date and current.

At some point early on Nicole learned that the van was missing a key component.  Unable to track one down in an auto salvage yard she decided to create one.  This was meant to be temporary but it does the job so it’s still around.  Has curiosity gotten the best of you yet?

2011-09-15 Cup Holder
Yes, it is a drink holder.  The slots attached to the circles are for handled coffee mugs.  They also conveniently double as a place to put our phone.

And, back to the interior renovations stuff…

2011-10-04 Cabinets Going Up 1
When we hit the road the van pretty much looked like the above photo (plus upper cabinets and all of our stuff).  After living in it for a few months, we were able to make some practical decisions about what we needed in terms of more storage and everyday use options.

Since we were not using the rear dinette set-up, a countertop of some sort became priority number one.  So, we framed up a nice long one. 

 2011-11-22 Kitchen Counter 1
At close to 50” long it gives us plenty of space to leave our two burner propane stove out and still have room to do prep work for meals.  Here’s a shot of the completed countertop which is just OSB with a few poly coats.
Vedauwoo 2012-06-13
And here it is in place.
2012-10-13 GA Darlene's Folks (23)
It has passed our basic tests of holding up very well to everyday use.  It is spill proof and easy to clean-up.  Plus, if it ever gets to looking to bad, we can just sand it down and add a few more coats of poly.

While we also framed an area for our clothes.
2011-11-22 Bench Seat 1
Here’s our clothes storage / window seat with the sides on.
2011-11-22 Bench Seat 8
And put on the hinged top (same as our countertops).
2012-03-09 Bench Seat Top Hinged
For this task, we recycled one of the the piano hinges that came off of the original bathroom door.  Those little black spots in the next photo are tiny screws.
2012-03-09 Bench Seat Top Hinged
So, it opens easily and should endure many years of use.
2012-03-09 Bench Seat Top Hinged (2)

To be continued…

Monday, February 4, 2013

Van Remodeling - Continues

And so we pick up where we left off…

The wall and ceiling insulation are up and the floor is down.  It is time to start planning for the walls and to get started on the refurbishing of the original cabinetry and bench seats.

Oh… but in between all of that Nicole decided that instead of purchasing new non-slip rubber mat to put in the entry doorway (old one was torn up) she would make her own non-slip surface with things we already had.

 2011-09-14 Double Door Ledge Primed 1
                         Taped up, sanded and primed.
2011-09-18 Double Door Step Textured Painted 1
A few coats of Rustoleum with sand thrown in makes for a durable texture.
2010-07 Carpet Removal (0)
      The Before (above photo) and The After (next photo)
2011-09-24 Double Door Ledge Complete
2011-09-24 Double Door Ledge Close Up Texture
Close up of the final texture.  You can make it as rough (or otherwise) as you would like by putting extra coats of paint (with no sand) on top of your final layer of sand.

We’ve been very happy with the results.  Very durable, non-slip surface that is easily washed down.  Perhaps the only negative would be that a rag or brush is necessary if you get something on it that needs scrubbing since paper towels can shred on the texture.  But, for small dirty spots a little water and dabbing a paper towel have worked just fine.

Oh and while we are on the subject, we had some carpet padding left over from our home renovations and used that for the front of the van until such time we could decide what we wanted to do in that area.  It’s been great for a whole year.  Sweep-able and obviously can’t take a whole lot of abuse but it was just sitting in the garage and the garage was getting sold with the house.  They say you can’t take it with you… but, if you put it in your van and drive off, you can!
2011-10-07 Carpet Padding Front Seats
Oh, and having now lived in the van for a year with this for our front flooring we’ve decided that we will at some point paint this area with our favorite Rustoleum brand paint and then place some mats under each foot area for temperature control.  Again, easy care and management are primary objectives.  With the engine of the van literally right between the driver’s legs and the passengers legs things heat up quite a bit.  The use of a heat resistant paint is a consideration but not financially prudent at this time.  We’ll also at some point re-do the underside of the doghouse and create a few more heat shields around the engine.  But those projects go in the ‘Exterior Renovations’ file.

OK… so on to the walls.

Well, almost on to the walls…

Before we could put up the walls we needed to figure out how we would frame up the windows.  We are aware that many people who renovate vans with the intent of living in them prefer to cover up the windows for either stealth reasons or to provide them with more wall and thus cabinet space.  This was not an option for us.  One of our biggest draws to the van was all of the light from the windows and the amazing nearly 360 degree view they provided of our environment.  Since we were not using the original design of ‘floating’ walls and windows that were trimmed out with plastic, it was important to frame the windows to match the depth and curve of the van’s internal ribs.  Here’s what we came up with.

2011-09-10 Window Framing
Well that’s the sides, top and bottom for two of the five windows.
We decided to paint the window frames with (surprise!) black Rustoleum.
2011-09-13 Window Frame Painting 2
                     Before (above) and After (below)
2011-09-13 Window Frame Painting 3
It was difficult to get a good shot to truly show you the line of the new frames with the ribs but here’s a reasonable one.  It was more obvious once the walls were put into place.
2011-09-20 Window Frames Done 1
And, yes, we had to re-cut our pink insulation to fit around the larger window openings.  This all worked in with our desire to get as much out of our windows as possible.  The original design closed them in right around the frame.  Our design gave us a much more open feel that made the windows and the view feel larger.

Finally… the walls!

We used a basic Lauan with some poly coats on it for all of our new wood surfaces.  The Lauan was flexible enough to withstand the curve we wanted to obtain and the poly turned them into a resistant and easy to clean surface.
2011-09-29 Walls Up 1
We primarily used the vans original ribbing to secure our walls but where that was not possible (example in the above shot we were meeting two boards together on one rib) we curved some blocks of wood and attached them to the rib to increase surface area of attachment points.
2011-09-29 Walls Up 2
Knowing that we were not going to cover our screws, their placement was painstakingly mapped out in a symmetrical and eye-pleasing orientation. 2011-09-29 Walls Ceiling Up

On to the cabinets…

We knew that we were going to keep the framework of the original upper cabinets and bench seats but needed to get rid of the 1988 paneling that was flaking and peeling.  There were also some unwanted access doors and holes in them from things we were not planning on keeping (like the rear AC unit).  So, we stripped them down to their basics and created new coverings.
 2011-07-15 Bench Seat  Before 1
                                  Bench Seat Before
2011-07-15 Bench Seat Frame
2011-07-15 Bench Seat Rennovation 2

Our new design for the van meant that we had room for one more small upper cabinet on the driver’s side (which was where we were relocating the sink).  So we put our framing skills to work and created one.  Original cabinet on the left and our homemade version on the right.
2011-09-22 Upper Cabinet Single Build 2

The old cabinets were primarily supported by the floor to ceiling walls that we were not planning to replace.  The fiberglass hi-top had support ribs that could be screwed into but the only one that matched up with the depth of the cabinets was in the rear of the cabinet.  So, we got creative.

2011-10-09 Cabinets Framing Supports 3
This ‘tray’ was left when they cut the van top off to put on the hi-top.  It made a great channel for runs of wires and (after we made these angled pieces) made a great lower attachment point for the cabinets.  As mentioned previously, we knew that the van was going to shake and shimmy and that, since we had eliminated the floor to ceiling stability of the previous design, our cabinets were going to rock and roll, for sure!  So, we came up with this super stable option for the top attachments.

2011-10-09 Cabinets Framing Supports 12011-10-09 Cabinets Framing Supports 2
                     A view of the support beam before and after installation.

2011-10-09 Cabinets Going Up 42011-10-09 Cabinets Going Up 3
And the left and right cabinets all secured into place.  Eventually we got those hanging lights back in place too.  Although LED lighting is a choice for most folks these days, we are not big power users.  The rig also came with a bunch of spare light bulbs.  Thus, continued use of the original lighting made more sense for now. 
2011-10-19 Lights Installed 1

We decided to keep the original oak cabinet doors but removed the paneling from the center.  We also sanded their yellowish color down then added some stain and poly.  A year later we still have not come up with a final concept for what we want to replace the paneling with.  To be honest, it isn’t on our ‘important’ list.  It is easy to get most things now without opening the cabinets and the lip from the door keeps things from falling out when driving.
2011-10-22 Cabinet Door Refinishing 3

Well, surely we are over our photo limit for this post so we’ll send it off to be published.  Keep your eyes peeled for continued posts to get you up to date on where we currently are with interior campervan remodeling projects.