Thursday, May 31, 2007

what's cookin' in the Kitchen? Part I

So, I've gotten lots of questions about this remodel. I guess there's more to that story than just using it as an excuse for not posting. So, I'll post on it a bit. It'll probably take a bunch of posts, but that's how it goes. My horoscope said that today I'd need to keep a positive thought because I would have negative energy today. Well, that was really true. I got my first bill for the first week of work and I had to sit down. Oi, this is expensive. So, in keeping with the bad news, I'll dedicate this post to all the bad stuff.

First, the brain center of your house is your kitchen. When you load out of your kitchen, certain organizational patterns just don't exist anymore. So, you miss a lot of appointments, practices, games, or whatever you have going on. This brings on the next really bad thing: trying to explain being late or just blowing the appointment. You start with "well, we're having this kitchen remodel done...". The incredulous look you get from everyone, and I do mean everyone, makes it worse. You can tell they're thinking "you blow off our date, and now you're throwing this 'Im so rich, Im getting my kitchen done' in my face again". Maybe they're thinking "I don't care about your stupid kitchen stop talking about it". Regardless, your organization goes out the window, and you miss lots of appointments and you don't have a reason that anyone cares to hear. That really sucks and it puts alot of negative pressure on all of your relationships.

Second, there's dust everywhere. Sure, you tape plastic to curtain off the area, but it gets everywhere anyway. Someone told me to just do a cursory cleaning after the construction is done because it takes up to 6 months for all of the dust to settle. I figure the heating vents will need a cleaning, the furnace will need a service and fresh filters will be necessary too. Wheee!

Third, you have no kitchen. Ok, that's pretty obvious, but after eating microwavable pre-packaged foods, or worse, bags of grease from the clown-restaurant, you really miss your kitchen. Your dishes are probably disposable. So, you have either the guilt of throwing dishes away, or you're washing plastic utensils in the sink (see more on that below). Rather than cabinets, you're dining out of boxes. You might read that and sarcastically say "aw, boo hoo for you". Yeah, well after 3 weeks of that, it looses its charm. Sure, we all have moved into a new apartment or house and had to live that way for a few days. Try 3 weeks and you're still looking at another 3 weeks before its over. Yeah - that sucks.

Fourth, for a sink, you use the bathroom. Ever had to shave for a job interview around a sink full of dishes? Probably not since college. Well, I did that last week. Fun. I got the job, though, but I digress. If you already had a crowded bathroom counter (like we did), add a bowl, spoon, and cup for every member of your house to that counter. Now add 2 more cups per person because no one likes washing a cup, much less the whole batch.

Fifth (and last), your house becomes a mouse-maze. I didn't really think about just how much stuff was getting boxed up when we prepared for the demo. Those boxes needed to go somewhere, and it couldn't be the kitchen. So, half of our living room is stacked up with boxes. We have a semi-kitchen in our front entry-hall, with a table on each side with boxes all around. The new cabinets are in our dining room in boxes. As a result, you can't go more than 2 steps without stepping around a box, or something else. Its a bloody mouse-maze, and it slowly drives you crazy.

Basically, you're disoriented because your house is running without a head. You're eating poorly, there's dust and boxes everywhere, and you can't find anything... oh, and it lasts at least 6 weeks.

I'll post some progress pictures and some positive thoughts next time...

Friday, May 25, 2007

no more training wheels

I realize its been a couple of weeks since I posted anything. Life has been busy with a job change and a kitchen remodel taking place at the same time. So, I haven't really had any time to do anything on Hapy other than look at him. With Camping season approaching, I realize I'll have a lot to get done in a very short window of time after the Memorial Day break if we plan on getting out much this Summer. Last Spring, the same thing happened. In fact, this story comes from last Spring when I was trying to get the auxillary battery operating the way I wanted it to: just power the interior lights. Electrical stuff always takes longer than you think it should, and this was no exception.

It was a warm Spring day, when I discovered I had a couple of hours to devote to chasing one of the pre-Summer projects on Hapy. The lawn had been mowed, the roof had been swept, even the gutters were clean. I had not completed the installation of the 1979 Westvalia interior, so I wanted to focus on that. After much thought and discussion with friends, I decided that the little early baywindow bus alternator would not be able to support the demands of the late baywindow electric refridgerator. "Ok, so no fridge," I thought. "who cares?" In fact, the wiring of the whole secondary circuit assumes that the only thing that second battery is going to power is your fridge. Even the water pump for the sink ran to the primary (starter) battery through the main fuse panel. I thought it was really stupid to have all this extra wiring just for a tiny fridge, so I figured no big loss. I traced the lines on the wiring diagram and spliced into the line that was carrying the juice to the refer. I routed this to a small fusebox that I buried in the cabinet behind the fridge. The fridge would now be used to hold bottled water. I ran wire from that fuse block behind the cabinetry and inside the ceiling to the dome lights. I ran more wire behind the stove to a 12V power jack I installed into the stove. All of ths took me about 2 hours, and sets the stage for the real story taking place outside the bus.

As I mentioned above, it was a beautiful Spring day when all the kids in the neighborhood are playing in the street. We hadn't had many yet that year, especially on a weekend, so it was rockin'. My 2 boys were riding their bikes around the street with a couple of the neighbors and there were a few others shooting hoops. I had been working inside Hapy for about half an hour when my younger son (4 years old at the time) came up to me and asked "can I borrow a grinch?". Hmm.. I'm thinking. I wonder what a "grinch" is... "Of course," I respond. "Help yourself." He climbed up into the bus, pawed around in my toolbox, and set off. I didn't really notice what he'd been doing as I was up to my armpits in wiring. About 15 minutes later (and not much further along with the wiring), the corner of my eye spotted some movement right outside the window above the fridge. It was my 4 year old riding by on his bike - without the training wheels. In the time it took me to figure out which wire was the "hot" wire, my 4 year old had learned how to remove his training wheels, removed them, replaced the nuts and learned how to ride a 2-wheeler. By the time I finally gave up on my re-wiring attempts that day, he was riding the bike off the curb.

The wiring is still not perfect, but the dome lights run off the accessory battery, as does the water pump for the sink. The 12V accessory jack is powered that way too, and all of them run off the shore-power when I plug it into an outlet. All that's left is running a car stereo off that battery and I'll be satisfied. As for my 2-wheel riding 5 year old, he rides his bike down stairs and off rocks now that he's 5. He bunny-hops his scooter too, but that may be best left for another day.

More next time...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What a treat: a $10 seat

With a big kitchen remodel project just starting on the house, and my current contract coming to a close, I guess I've left the blog a little thin lately. Sorry. I haven't been neglecting the bus as badly. Between interviews, lacrosse games (older son's team), piano lessons and trips to Home Depot or wherever looking at backsplashes, I scored a few new-to-me things for Hapy.

First, I found a pair of front seats on craigslist for $20. Sound cheap? Heck, yeah, but they are almost complete, they match, and they're from a '74. "So what?" you say, "what makes them so great?". Well, first, there's the price. I mean, come on, you can barely buy a pizza for $20. Then, there's the fact that they are actually more comfortable than the original ones. In 1972, VW still was installing the seats without headrests. Mr. Nader came along and helped change the law so we wouldn't all be walking around with those whiplash collars. So, by 1974, the seats had headrests, so for $20, we have more comfortable seats that will actually not be a pain in the neck if we crash. Great. Now, if there was only a way of protecting my knees in a crash.... I'll be re-stuffing and recovering the seats eventually, but its not necessary yet, so I'll wait on that. Oh, you noticed that big tear on that one seat. Yeah... about that. Hmm... Throw a towel on it and call it good until after camping season. We're not going to let a little thing like that get in the way. Have you seen my old seats? I'll put a picture up eventually. They were unsupportive and unpleasant.

After the seats, I found some of those retractable seat belts. Sure, by 1972 the inertia reel seatbelt was as fresh and new as the vacuum-tube, but VW hadn't quite caught up yet. Apparently, the VW Bus was termed a "truck" at import, so retractable seat belts weren't necessary. As I mentioned in other posts, VW would do whatever was necesasry to save a dime, and interia reel seatbelts apparently were expensive, or at least more expensive than those unforgiving stock belts. They can be expensive now, if you only shop in stores. Online, a pair of retractable seatbelts can run $200. That's alot of beer. Back to craigslist we go. In my searching, I learned that most German auto manufacturers would outsource their seatbelts to a handful of companies. So, if you want retractable seatbelts, you just need to find a suitable donor. Audi? sure. BMW, Porsche, Mercedes.. You get the point. I found a guy parting out a 1985 Mercedes Coupe that hadn't been in a wreck. That's the other important thing - seatbelts are basically a one-wreck only part. Once they've been activated in a crash, the webbing stretches and isn't safe for re-use. Remember that the next time you're fixing your sled. Anyway, $40 and a drive to Aloha and I have a full set (4 belts). I'll be installing the front belts once I get a spare moment. The only advice I can give beyond what I've already said is to take a picture of how the belts are originally oriented in the donor car so you can get the proper action on reinstallation.

That's about all that's happened bus-wise this past week. The kitchen has been demolished, so we're eating cold food off of paper plates, but I'm sure it will be worth it. We'll just pretend if its not. I'll walk through the seat belt install when I get it completed.
More next time...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Rust Never Sleeps

It was a beautiful day here in the Pacific NorthWest on Sunday. The kids were playing in the street, lawn mowers were humming and I was trying to find something on Hapy that I could putter on while really just enjoying the weather. Now, I could have opened the garage door and started the process of tracing circuits and plugging things in on the new engine. That would have been too productive, though. Clean the garage? Reorganize the shop area? Nah... How about tearing out the front carpets in the bus? Well, that sounds like making more work for myself later, so... lets do it!

The "original-to-me" carpet was attached to the floor with sheet metal screws. "Interesting idea," I sarcastically thought. The carpet itself was a striped orange/brown indoor-outdoor carpet, so even finding the rusted heads wasn't easy. Once located, it was clear the most of them has rusted in place. A hammer and chisel quickly took care of that, and the carpet was no longer attached. Under the carpet was the original rubber mat. It looked a little worn along the edges, but otherwise, it looks serviceable. I'll be reusing it. Under the mat, though, was clear evidence of neglect: rust, and it looked like lots of it.

I'll post the pictures I took with my cell phone later, but for now, lets just say that there was a nice dusty pile of rust under the rubber mat. A few minutes with a dust-buster, and then a dust broom, made me feel much better. It didn't look nearly as bad. After wire brushing the rust to get the loose stuff up, I cleaned it with some soapy water, and dried it with paper towels. The "wire brushing" was just hand-scrubbing a handled wire brush, not some power tool, by the way.

There's a commonly available substance called Naval Jelly that's great for getting rid of rust. No, it is not the distant cousin of Toe Jam, it actually eats the rust. I blobbed a lot of Naval Jelly onto the rusted sections of floor and spread it around with a paper towel. it was about this time that the kids wanted to shoot some baskets, so I spent the 20 minute waiting period showing off my dunking prowess on a 7.5ft basketball hoop. Yeah, I got the mad hops. hehehe...

I kinda lost track of time, but fortunately, one of the neighborhood kids discovered the garden hose and started spraying everyone. That's when I remembered the Naval Jelly cooking my rust. I took control of the hose and turned it onto the inside of the bus. The incredulous looks on the faces of the kids when I started blasting the water into the bus was truly priceless. It did, however, get the Naval Jelly off the floor. After squeegie-ing the water out, I dried the floor a second time with paper towels. In the pictures, you can see the places where the rust was completely consumed - its a dull grey.

Once the floor was completely dry, I poured Eastwood's Rust Encapsulator onto the treated areas. Rust Encapsulator converts the rust into an inert chemical, seals the rust away from air/water and serves as a thin primer. After 24 hours, it can be painted with any automotive paint without concern. I spread the paint around with a piece of cardboard. Yeah, I could have bought a case of disposable brushes from Harbor Freight, but the finish didn't need to be pretty, and I just wanted the product in contact with the right areas. When I was done, the strip of cardboard can still be recycled. I left the crank-out windows open and the poptop up over night while the paint dried.

I was lucky. The floor had been ignored my all of the previous owners and yet I didn't have any rust-through. In fact, the rust was mostly cosmetic, and wasn't really very deep. The pictures look worse than it really was. I need to paint over the Encapsulator with something to protect it. The Encapsulator scratches easily, and shouldn't be used as a topcoat. I have lots of different cheap rattlecan paints, and I'll probably pick one at random. Ultimately, those sections of floor will be covered with sound deadener, then the rubber mat and then a new carpet, so the color is pretty much insignificant. As I complete those steps on subsequent beautiful sunny days, I'll post on it.

The progress on the bus will come to a stop for a few weeks while we get some projects completed on the house. As I get tiny windows of time, though, I'll be completing some of the camping interior install from 2 years ago that were left unfinished, and reassembling the front floor. Camping season is about a month away, so I have to maximize what little time I have.

until next time...