Sunday, December 9, 2007

Wait List Suprise!

Just a quick post to say that Julia and I were stoked to learn that we got in on the waitlist for next weekend's Eugene Holiday Market (Decemeber 15th and 16th)! This means another week of busy busy sewing and another week of non-bus related work. So for all of you wondering if we're still building the bus -- we are!....just not this week. =)

Though we haven't been doing any hands-on work in the last few weeks, we've been learning more about how the bus relates to the seasons here in Oregon. For one - there's moisture. Lots of it. We are going to invest in a dehumidifier pretty soon and turn it on every now and then to cut down on the condensation on the inside of the windows and on the ceiling. We are also planning on putting a space heater inside the bus for the time being and turning it on first thing in the morning along with our black-tea-and-mate ritual so that by the time we're ready to start work it'll be nice and toasty in there.

The bad news: the vent on the ceiling escape hatch started leaking. We caught it early and sopped it up with the usual towel-and-bucket routine. Fixing the leak is obviously the first thing on our to-do list when we start up on buswork again. The good news: The doors and windows are solid. My caulking paid off!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Holiday Market & Magic

Hey folks,

Erin here. J and I have been super busy this last month stitching together tons of new clothes to sell over the winter season. It's been difficult to put the bus work on hold for the time being and invest all our energy in a different direction. We are looking forward to getting back to work on the bus plumbing in the coming weeks.

Our two-week run at the local Holiday Market was a huge learning experience for us. Learning to be effective craftswomen is an ongoing process and we've been lucky to receive a lot of advice and encouragement from old-timers in the Eugene craftsperson economy/community. Lately, I've been struck by the magical quality of craftswomanship and the magical prowess of my fellow craftspeople. Handmade things are a novelty these days. They are unexpected, vital little anachronisms. The main reaction I get at crafts fairs is disbelief ~ "Do you make all of this?!" or "Is this handmade?!" and then, "How long does it take you?!" and "Where do you find the patience?!" ~ which to me indicates that what craftspeople do - or what craftspeople are - somehow blurs the lines of reality for a lot of folks. We are so used to being alienated from the magic of creation ~ not knowing how our homes are made, not understanding how our cars work, not knowing the name of the person (or persons) who made our toothbrush in China, not even really knowing how they made that toothbrush in China.

It's funny to think that the basics have become magical. The hand-knit sock is the new unicorn. Yeah, maybe you can find those in darkest India but here? In Oregon?!

A plug for a good book: I was lucky enough to find a book called "Women and Craft" at my local used bookstore the other day. It's a collection of short pieces (essays and stories) by a bunch of women from the 80's in the UK edited by Gillian Elinor, Su Richardson, Sue Scott, Angharad Thomas and Kate Walker. It was awesome. Everything I've been trying to rant about in the last couple years - gendered ideas about art and craft, magical crafting, women and making stuff and how important it is, the history of women's work, what it means to sell your craft - it was all there. Good luck finding it...looks to me like it was released in the UK only. Where was this book when I was teaching my section on feminism and crafting?! The UCSC library didn't think any book like this existed.

Warm holidays to all who read this. Check back for more bus updates later this month. More new clothes will be posted at The Patchwork Underground tomorrow!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Couch, cabinet and water pump beginnings

Along with all of the involved electrical work we've been doing lately, we have had a little time to start on building a few of our house fixtures. Much more on these to come.

Below are a few photos of the frame of our couch. Eventually it will have nice wood panelling and of course be cushioned, etc. Check out the handy hidden storage space within!

Below is our kitchen sink cabinet that is undergoing some refurbishment. We got this unit at Bring Recycling, and in order for our scavenged sink to fit in it, and for more comfortability, we decided to raise its height. We are planning on covering the mis-matched raised portion with tiles to match the counter top. Thanks to my Dad's extra big cabinet vices, it wasn't too hard to attach the extra pieces. Next comes putting the sink in and getting some water to it!

One last development - after discovering that our electric ShurFlo water pump was designed to use plastic Pex tubing, we decided to rethink our plumbing system a bit. We have been trying our hardest to use the least toxic materials and processes available throughout this whole project, so we weren't too fond of the plastic water pipe idea. We thought about doing a gravity-fed water system, but decided against that because we felt it might get a bit sketchy with a big ol' 55 gallon drum rolling around on the roof. Erin did some research and found a sleek all-metal and leather Fynspray hand-pump that we finally settled on. It's made for yachts. :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Energy from the sun!

It has been quite a while since our last (delayed) post, but that is not for lack of activity. Erin and I have been super busy finally putting the crowning touches on our electrical system, as well as trying to sew up a storm for the upcoming Holiday Market. But we finally made a breakthrough and got everything hooked up and juiced up - as Luna waits patiently out in the driveway, every tiny sun ray is generating energy! It is quite a feeling to truly be power-independent.

I have to say that at the beginning of this project, I was proud of learning such simple things as the differences between types of screws or lumber, but it was seriously a mental hurdle to now come away with a relatively competent understanding of electrical wiring and all the intricacies therein. Erin spearheaded the hard science learning and planning, and we are now blessed to have a working system in our bus, without any serious injuries along the way.

Above: our bus-wide master plan.

Below: detailed info on how the solar controller is hooked up. The solar controller switches the panels on and off depending on how charged the batteries are and does other mysterious things, too.

Our electrical gizmo "bay" which will be built into the wall under the kitchen table with a door to access it when need be.

On to technical details... The first thing we did was plan out our various AC and DC circuits and wired them into our respective 12 v. fuse block and 120 v. circuit breaker panel.

An example of some of our circuits - (DC) light to light and (AC) outlet to outlet. Library books helped us figure out how to wire the AC circuits. DC information was harder to find in print. We are going to cover all the wires with those little plastic sheath things.and paint them the same color as the ceiling (which is going to be a creamy butter color).

Our overly large but functional AC circuit breaker panel. We will try and get a picture of the wiring going on behind the scenes later. It looks pretty cool in there.

Our DC fuse block - room for more circuits if need be.

Next we installed our four 6v. batteries in their snug little box and wired them together - two in series and two in parallel to make a final output of 12 v.

This is how our battery bank is wired. We took pairs 6v batteries and wired them together in series to make 12v. Then the 2-battery units were wired together in parallel for more amperage.

One of the biggest hurdles in accomplishing this whole mess was figuring out the proper gague wires, connectors and all the other doohickeys that are used. It was hard to find concrete, applicable information for extreme novices doing such an obscure project at the library or on the internet. We also found that most of the various folks we talked to at the many electrical/RV/auto/hardware stores that we visited had divergent answers as well! We ended up contacting the specific manufacturers of our inverter, converter and solar panels to get the intended specifications. We also were able to track down a few folks at some stores who really demonstrated that they understood what we were trying to accomplish and had some awesome suggestions. (Like the people at Northwest RV Supply and Surplus and the Knecht's out on West 11th)

Anyway, after getting the batteries wired together with 4 gwa, we hooked our 1000 watt inverter in between our battery bank and our AC circuit panel. We used a heavy duty extension cord to plug into one of the AC sockets on the inverter and power our 120 v distribution panel. We took a lead from the positive terminal of the inverter and ran a 15 amp in line fuse straight to the DC fuse block and grounded it all from the negative terminal of the inverter straight to the chassis. After this was accomplished, we could actually turn on our DC lights, and plug into our AC outlets.

The inverter has a pleasant little hum when it is turned on.

Next came the final step: mounting the solar panels and wiring everything through solar charge controller. Luckily, the kind people at AM Solar in Springfield made things super simple for the DIY-er by providing clear instructions on how to wire everything together. When the first sunny day rolled around, we were up on our bus roof mounting the panels and wiring it all through the roof-top combiner box and down through the ceiling and into the charge controller. We got all the other wires hooked in and without one spark we now have power!

The two 100 watt panels basking in the Oregon shade. The combiner box with the whole down into the bus interior is underneath the right-hand panel.

The hub of it all: the solar charge controller.

Wires entering the battery box from the charge controller, inverter and engine batteries.

More holes into the floor of the bus.

We have to give serious thanks to our friends Yona and Zeke who were generous enough to come over and do a safety check and help us put the final touches on everything. It was all very exciting and quite satisfying to finally have that most crucial element complete!

We have decided to forgo the converter/charger element in our electrical system for now. We bought a huge old used 50 amp ferroresonant converter and we'll keep it around until we decide whether or not it's going to be a necessary part of our system. We didn't like the idea of a sparking, arcing box in the all-wood interior of our bus and we've started to hear there are other ways of going about charging the batteries directly with shore power without the need for a permanent box. For now the solar is meeting all of our electrical needs so we'll see how that goes.

On to the plumbing!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Battery Box!

The battery box construction, though it would seem to be a simple and unremarkable thing, was actually a super exciting and challenging endeavor. Erin designed an immensely solid box that involved salvaged angle iron, plywood, extra long and sturdy bolts and lock-nuts. We finally got a chance to test our true construction skills by sawing up metal and drilling fatty holes in the bus frame :)

We started by measuring out how much room the four batteries took up and the space we had to work with between the two L-shaped beams underneath the bus. We put it on the right side (facing the bus) directly in front of the wheel-well. We arranged it so it would be in a direct line from the solar panels and charge controller to minimize wire runs. Next we cut two strips of angle iron to be the two side supports that would hold the bottom of the long threaded rod that we would suspend the whole box from.

Meanwhile, I drilled a bunch of holes in the angle iron using our nice cobalt bit and my dad's old drill press. We cut up the 1/2" plywood sides to the box - two thicknesses for the bottom plus two strips of steel for extra security. Erin drilled a bunch of holes in the back piece for a vent. Then we mounted four pieces of angle iron to the inside bottom of the box that would hold the batteries exactly in place so they wouldn't slide around, and planned two pieces that would also run along the top sides of the batteries and be bolted down as well

Once we got the whole box screwed together, we cinched up three of the lock nuts - one underneath the box, one on top, and one that would go under the L-shaped bus beam. Then Erin sawed a square out of the side of the bus and we put a couple of hinges on it to make an outside door! We had also put a couple of hinges on the front of the box itself and a locking piece so that we can throw a pad-lock on there just in case.

Next came the tricky part - trying to hoist the massively heavy box underneath the bus and shove the long bolts perfectly into the pre-drilled holes we had made, with just two people. To say the least it was a challenge, but we got it in there and cinched down the last of the lock-nuts, the ones that will actually keep the whole box from falling out beneath us. We were quite proud once we have finally got it up there!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Electrical Part 1

Well we have been busy beavers since Julia quit her job at Tsunami Books! *yaaay* It has been so wonderful to have more time to work on the bus. Now that Fall has descended on Oregon it's not a minute too soon to really start crackin' at getting this project to the livable phase. We are trying to have all the main systems in before Winter so that we can flee further south for that dark and desolate time.

Our progress on the electrical system has been awesome these last few days!

First, I wired up all the outlets for 120v (there's 4 of them on 2 different circuits ~ 1 near the sewing machines, 1 near the table, 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the bedroom). I used Black and Decker How-To books that I got at the public library to figure out how to wire the boxes together. I have a surprise for ya - it was ridiculously easy, folks!! Really. We bought 14 gauge Romex for the job...this is the stuff you find in your looks like a fat white wire from the outside but it's actually a bundle of 3 wires all wrapped in a white casing. I already had a wire stripping tool from a garage sale. So there's three wires in there - one exposed copper wire (ground) and 2 other wires - white (neutral) and black (hot). We bought some outlets at Bring Recycling. Some outlets have little screws on them but we just got the kind where you push the exposed wire into a little hole and a spring inside the box holds it in place. Worked great. If ya get confused there's even little markings on the back of the outlet box that says where to put each wire. Figuring out how to wire together a couple boxes to share one circuit was beyond me but there were pictures of a whole mess of different configurations in my handy Black N Decker book so I didn't even have to think about it too hard. Sweet.

So all these wires are coming out of our 120v Circuit Breaker Box - at first we got the Mains Lug kind (no beefy off switch to kill the power coming into the box) but then we decided to go for a Mains Breaker Box for safety. Unfortunately, we could only find a ridiculously big one at Jerry's that's rated for 100 amps...way more than we'll ever use but whatever. Then we got 2 circuit breakers for it - one for each circuit, smarty! ;) They snap into place on the box.

The DC side of things is a little more tricky for us because we haven't been able to find as much information on how to wire it all up. We bought a 12v Fusebox and we have a bunch of 14ga AWG and all the nice little DC lights we could ever want for the bus (and the water pump and the composting toilet fan) but we're not 100% on how it all goes together. We have some guesses but nothing official. Our friend Spencer who wired his bus together successfully is on vacation right now so when he comes back we are going to pounce on him and make him tell us everything he knows about DC wiring.

In the meanwhile we got to work on our Battery Box!!!!

((A note to RVers and buspeople of the Eugene/Springfeild area - avoid KC RV Supply like the plague!! I was told they have the best prices but I could not believe how rude, hostile and condescending they were in there...and folks, just about every time we go to buy anything for this project we hear "do you have a permit for that, little girl?" about 2 or 3 times in 2 or 3 different ways so you come to expect a bit of bullshit but KC RV Supply really took the cake for a result, I took my business to The RV Store in Springfield instead and they were much more helpful/respectful. It's a bit further to go but I didn't notice any price difference between the two places AND The RV Store had a heck of a lot more stock. ))

Ok back to the Battery Box. So I bought 4 6v Interstate Deep Cycle batteries at The RV Store. It set me back about $380. Of course on the way home one of them ^%$ing tipped and spilled acid in my trunk. (First thing written on the top of the batteries? DO NOT TIP) We're hoping that it's still good. We built a nice underbay vented box for them with hold-downs and a locking front out of plywood, angle iron and steel stock. We haven't bought our inverter yet but we hope there's going to be room for it on the side of the box. I was excited that we finally got to use the bed frame I got out of the Goodwill dumpster down in Santa Rosa! We were able to scavenge the plywood for the box, too. Our next post will go into more detail about how we made the battery box, so stay tuned!


UPDATE: For additional safety, we switched out all the push-in type outlets and switches with the screw-on type. These are better suited to withstand the vibrations of the bus.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Pics

Step 00: Level the bus. This took a couple tries to get the right number of odd pieces of 2x4 under each tire. The tiny-ness of the pieces is bad for the tires because it puts too much pressue on too small a part of the tire....but we're replacing all the tires anyway so it's all good for our purposes...please don't do this to your good tires, though! In the future we're going to make a little elongated 2x4 pyramid and roll up on that instead.

This is what she looks like when you walk in right now.

Detail showing how we did the side walls. We used all 2x4s because our insulation is THICK. Two long metal screws secure the longer piece to the wall along the rivet line~ make sure you don't hit the rivets...gotta go in between them. Then two wood screws to hold the little piece of 2x4 onto the bigger one. Then a long 2x4 over the top and a long one along the floor.

Some closeups on how we did the walls. We looked all around the internet and no one had closeups or very detailed explainations of how they did theirs....I imagine there's a couple different ways. Wood-to-metal screws didn't work in this situation (not enough bite in the thread of the screw?) so we used metal screws. Pre-drilling was key. I think we're going to put an extra 2x2 along the inside of the outer-most studs to give them a little extra support. We don't really know how "real" walls are made so we kinda made these ones up....they do work, though!

The box over the wheel well that will support our range/oven and our fridge. Bathroom to the right.

The super overbuilt beefy box over the other wheel well that will support our woodstove. It's bolted into the floor and the top of the wheel well. I think we're going to put cement board over it and the surrounding walls and then bolt the woodstove to it.

I can barely read this....drats. I'll put another copy on here soon. This is the wiring diagram Spencer helped us draw/figure out. More on this to come.

Mess 'o wires near the dash.

Bi-fold door for our bathroom! $10 at Bring Recycling with all the hardware for it, too!

Scavenged this door from a remodel a few streets down. Free! This is going to be our front door.

Water pump. It's smaller than I imagined it would be! Came with a wiring diagram and all sorts of useful info.

Our barrels. I LOVE the red....not that it will show or anything....just saying...RED! Note the molasses all over it.

Another Bring Recycling find....talked them down to $10...think it was originally for a bathroom but I like it for our kitchen just the same. We're going to build the top up a bit so that we can fit our scavenged pull-out cutting board and double-basin sink on it...we're going to do a nice tiling job for the counter.

My new treadle!!!!!!!!!!!! She's a Singer Red-Eye born in 1931. I love her. I replaced her belt and she runs LIKE BS plastic parts either....perfect as a back-up machine in case we get left with no power. Our friend's mom didn't want this baby anymore so she generously passed it onto me in exchange for some baked goods. WOW! I'm so thankful for this machine....can't stop looking at her most of the time....

Much Progress

This post has been a long time coming...sorry to leave everybody hanging! We have our subfloor screwed down now. Feels good to walk on something solid. Before we put it down we actually decided to paint low-VOC Safecoat metal primer over the whole rusted mess....this is a partial solution that felt right to us. Our friend Anna was a sweet heart and helped us do the whole floor. Our walls along the sides are all framed in now and so are the walls to the bathroom and one wall to the shower. They look awesome! We couldn't put the final shower wall in without blocking off access for actually getting the shower into it's spot so we're waiting until we have that aspect of the plumbing job more finalized and planned out. =)

We went to AM Solar here in Eugene the other day to chat it up about our plans for solar panels. Looks like we'll be buying our assorted solar panels accessories like wiring, battery bank, controller box, combiner box, inverter, etc later on this week (Friday) and waiting to get the panels until AM Solar's panels go on sale at the end of this month. We're planning on doing all the house wiring later on this week too. We've planned where we want all our outlets and switches and our breaker box and all. Right now it's just sharpie marks on the walls but pretty soon it'll be actual electrical stuff. More on the details of that later. Luckily, our friend Spencer did all the wiring for his bus and he's happy to help us out in exchange for canned goods and babysitting. We sat down with him a few days ago and clarified a lot of our electrical grey areas with helpful diagrams he drew on the bus' subfloor.

In the purchases category ~ we bought 2 used 55 gallon food-grade drums that used to be filled with mollasses for our freshwater tanks/veggie tanks. They still need to be cleaned out but at 6$ a pop we thought it was worth it. We also bought a standard shurflo pump on eBay for $65 including shipping. We also bought a ton of 2x2s for framing in the walls ~ unfortunately, we couldn't find too many reclaimed/recycled ones so we had to go with new ones. We did find a bunch of recycled 2x4s, though, and that's what we used for framing in along the sides of our bus. Looks like today we might hit some junkyards around River Road and look for stuff like side-mount propane tanks (spencer told us that forklifts have them), 12-volt lights and those shore-power placket thingies that come on VW buses and other stuff like that. AND a bench seat! We want a bench seat ASAP. =)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Joists are down!

Yay! It's so exciting to see visible progress on the bus - esp. after all that tedious prep work! We put our joists down with fatty self-tapping wood-to-metal screws. Those suckers went in real nice - we didn't have to pre-drill or anything. We did, however, break our drill towards the end. We brought it back to Jerry's and they gave us a new one. =)

Our skyboard got delivered, too - and they gave us a pallet to boot! I think we'll be able to use the pallet as a support under our raised bed. Awesome.

Bought a $20 pair of heavy-duty nippers to cut the staples off the recycled tounge and groove floorboards. I nipped while J and Lara washed and dried them.

Fresh delivery - dig the free pallet...

Julia resting after putting in the last of the joists!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Skyblend subfloor coming today!

Our subfloor is getting delivered today! Before we go and meet the guy, I wanted to post about this's 1/2" particle board that doesn't have formaldahyde in it. It's made from 100% recycled wood...pre-consumer but still better than nothing...and it's made here in Oregon! Neato!

You can check out our all the nifty stats about our new Skyblend subfloor here. I don't mean to advertise but I'm so excited to have found this stuff after being told by so many hardware store folks that it didn't exist.

Lara got rid of her twins for the week ~ she's celebrating her newfound freedom by coming over today to help us take the staples out of our recycled tounge and groove floorboards. :)

We're hoping that we can put down the joists and subfloor today and maybe even get some of the T & G down....I guess we need to rent a floorboard nailer thingy? More research needed - I'm going to look that up now.


Sunday, July 29, 2007


A sea of tiny holes all caulked over....

Here's that "little loop" I was talking about....note that there is no heater box in sight.

Here's that grinding attachment thingie before and after grinding...

Here's the awesome low-toxic, non-smelly, non-lightheaded caulking we got!! I heart this company....

A mountain of cotton denim insulation! These bags are heavy and awkward to move but very comfortable to lean against. We got 4 but I only see 3 in this picture for some reason...

OK, enough about the bus - Here's some totally off-topic pictures from the ever distracting and inspiring Oregon Country Fair!!!!!!

Me and J at our campsite in the 8!

Me loving my hyper-real fakedreads...

Main stage!!!

Me learning to juggle clubs in Chela Mela! Awesome!

I studied this guy's set up in energy park long and hard - its a foot powered skillsaw that really does work ~ and FAST! Now if I could only have a dual-use foot-powered saw/sewing machine....

J working at the fruit booth in Community Village!


Stay tuned for more updates - we'll start putting joists in on Tuesday!!