Thursday, December 31, 2009

Radiator shouded

First, I hope everyone had a happy healthy holiday, and I wish you the best for the new calendar year. Any NewYears resolutions? This year, I again resolve to have my bus moving under its own power by year's end. Ok, I have made that resolution pretty much every year for the last 3, but I think it might actually stick this year. I've been fortunate enough to have had the last week off (without pay). With this open time, I've been able to clear off some honey-do-list items and still get something done on the bus. Since its NewYearsEve, I thought this would probably be short-ish, but if you've read my blog you know I'm not exactly brief. This one is no exception :)

With any stretch of time off, there are going to be home projects to be completed. My house is no different. I had to move a few bookshelves (and all the books) from one floor to another, and tear down the indoor Christmas decorations. We re-arranged our bedroom a bit, but otherwise, the list was pretty short. I did have to re-clean the garage, though. It seems with all of the packages at Christmas-time, the rubbish just gets thrown into a heap in our sub-sized single-car garage. I think I ended up with 2 55-gallon drums worth of recycling out of it. Crazy.

One Fan
Once the garage was navigable again, I started poking around my shop bench. I didn't want to jump into the shrouding right away because I knew there was a hardware store stop blocking me, but I couldn't remember all the things I needed. So, I set to mounting the low-profile high-volume fan to the underside of the radiator while my coffee kicked in. The mounting instructions and hardware were perfect, and I had the fan attached without much trouble at all:
Set the fan where you want it. Make a little space with a thin nail between the fins to make room for the mounting sticks at points where holes in the fan housing align with space between the radiator runs. Then, thread through the fan housing, then through a foam spacer... through the radiator then through another foam spacers and finally through the keeper/foot. Last, cut the extra off the mounting sticks.

I set the fan to the rear, thinking I will add a second (slightly smaller) one on the front end when I get another $100 lying around. Since installing the fan is so easy, I see no reason to jump into that immediately. The wiring runs straight out the back, and consists of 2 wires, so it should be easy to wire it up. You can see from the picture on the left that the inlet/outlet is longer than the fan is thick. You can also see there's a little space between the fan and the radiator - this space is created with foam spacers to protect the radiator from the fan, and vibrations. These same spacers are on the feet on the other side.

Shrouding the Radiator
After the fan was on, I dashed to Lowes for the nuts and bolts I needed to mount the shrouding. Wrestling the shrouding onto the brackets took longer than I expected it to. In the end, I was able to get both sides bolted on. I think I'll have to do something across the underside to help hold the sides in. I was planning to re-use a furnace grate, and I think I still will. This would perform 2 functions: protect the underside of the radiator/fans and hold the sides against the radiator.

I bought about 20' of black vinyl irrigation tubing when I was at Lowes. My original thought was to use this tubing to protect the edges of the engine lid. I figured I wouldn't get cut a much, and it might help insulate the opening. I cut a slit along the tube and wrapped three sides of the "hatch door". I think it just might work. I took this idea to the radiator shrouding too. In my last post, I mentioned a concern for what happens when the radiator bounces up and hits one of the "junk tubes". Hopefully, this vinyl tubing will help reduce any bad breaks. Now that I see how it fits, I'll let it sit for a few days to get used to its positioning and then glue it into place. I'll be waiting on the hatch door until I'm ready to paint it before gluing it.

That's it for today. I hope everyone has a nice NewYearsEve.

top - vinyl tubing along the "hatch door".
top mid left - low profile fan showing standoff space.
top mid right - fan disposition: near inlet/outlet end of radiator
lower mid - shroud mount point at front left corner
lower - shroud sides done. vinyl tubing on top. note fan mounting feet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Radiator test-fitted

Lots of stuff going on. First off, I got a request to quote from my blog, but the requester didn't leave me an email address or a way to contact him/her. If you want to quote from here, that's totally fine, but please leave a link to the original post when you do. Anyway, today's post covers the progress over the last 10 days. I got the holes drilled, the radiator test-hung and started working on the radiator cowl / shroud.

Drillin' holes
The 1972 Westfalia is a little unusual in how the underside is arranged. Unlike the later years, there are belly pans along the sides, running from front to rear wheel between the mid rails and the edges. The center section between the rails is (mostly) exposed to the floor. Within this center space is where we're playing.
After first looking at off-setting the radiator to the driver side of that middle space, I discovered that I couldn't make it fit. Between the tubes that carry the emergency cables,the clutch cable tube, the accelerator tube, etc, there's a lot of junk in there. I was only able to get it up high enough in the center, so after some wrestling, I marked spots with some chalk and bored 1/4" holes in the rear beam. The picture here shows the right side hole.

Chain of Fools
I tried to hang the radiator to the holes I drilled, but I had to reverse the brackets to make a test fit happen. I want the holes to be parallel to the floor and had initially thought that they would be much closer to the floor, but the thickness of the drill made that impossible. I discovered, after I got the brackets reversed, that I had to flip the radiator over because of junk tubes blocked access to the coolant inlet / outlets. Argh. So, now the inlet / outlet point down as does the temperature sensor on the front. This is the orientation that TurboBus uses, and he doesn't have issues with air in the system (my biggest concern with the in/out pointing down).
I was able to get the rear end suspended from the holes with the use of simple eye-hooks, and a few links of 600lb-test chain. For the front end, I was able to use a couple of holes that were already in the cross-beam. Each is next to a hole that is used by the emergency brake cables. The picture here shows the eye hook / washer / nut combination that I used. Suspended from that eye hook is 8" of chain to the front edge of the radiator bracket. The net resulting install leaves the front lip just 4" below the belly pans. That's better than I planned, in terms of clearance, but I'll be copying the TurboBus model for "scraping" air with a down-pointing lip. I think his install grabs as much air as hanging the radiator, but without the risks.
The picture to the right, here, shows the test fit hanging by the chain. I am able to move the radiator a few inches side to side and slightly front to back. In theory, this should help prevent damage to the radiator if something pops up. Since the front lip is now only 4 inches below the belly, the front beam and front axle are both lower to the ground.

Cowling Corner

After the clearance picture above was taken, I grabbed a cardboard box and started cutting a template for the cowling. It took a few times of test fitting, but I was able to make a decent template that worked for both sides. At least it seems that way. From the template, I marked cut lines on sheets of HVAC zinc-coated steel. Some quick work with some tin snips, and then back to test fitting. The picture to the right, here, shows one side cut, riveted together and in-place. I was able to get to the same point with the other side, but I didn't get a picture of it.

I'll be finishing up the cowling / shroud next. The riveted steel sides need to be bolted to the radiator brackets (bolts so they can be removed for maintenance). Then, I'll be test-fitting the radiator again. If it fits well, I'll run some kind of closed-cell foam insulation along the top of the shroud - to reduce the possibility of the edge cutting one of the junk tubes as well as reduce the air leakage over the top. After that, the cabin heater will get installed and routed, and the coolant lines will be run. Lots left to do just on the coolant system, but I can feel the wheels moving. I should get more time to work this next week. We'll see.

top - drilled hole for rear mount.
middle top - eye hooks with fender washers, lock washers and nuts for front body-side mount
middle bottom - radiator hanging on mounts
bottom - left-side shroud fab'd, in-place, ready for bolting to bracket

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FedEx Ground -v- USPS

With the holiday shipping season upon us, this post is dedicated to a bizarre series of events I experienced while trying to ship a box of presents to my sister's family in San Diego. Ultimately, the box did make it onto a truck that is headed for California.

It all started after my wife left town. We had found the last of the gifts just before she left. I wrapped them up on Friday night and went scrounging for a box that would fit. Now, I've sold lots of bus parts over the years, and I always have a few empty boxes lying around for when I get around to selling more of the accumulated parts. Friday night, I found an empty Mirror Pond case box that was in perfect shape - no tears, no rips, and never wet. The presents slid in perfectly, so I didn't have to add any paper padding. Now, that's just dumb luck. I've never had that happen before. Anyway, by the time I got through the mayhem of single-parenting, it was 9:PM on Saturday night. FedEx is closed then, so off to the all-night USPS shipping station.

As you might expect, the Lake Grove postal station is not exactly bubbling with activity at 9:30 on a Saturday night. I didn't have any competition for the machine or drop box, so I ran the box through the process. It cost $12.50 to ship a 5 pound box via general delivery with a tracking number ($.80 extra). The shipping estimate was 6 business days. That's a little close to Christmas, but within tolerances, I figured. Besides, it wasn't going through or to snow country.

On Monday when I got home from work, the box had been left on my doorstep. A handwritten note was taped to it stating "no liquor boxes". Apparently the "P" in USPS stands for "prude". In order for me to use that box, it would either have to be cut at the seams and re-taped so the plain inside was now the outside or I would have to tape brown paper to the box so you couldn't see that it once carried beer. Sensitive much? Fine. So, I cut and taped brown paper all around the box, avoiding the 2" x 3" shipping stamp and the large white address label. It looked pretty ridiculous. This morning, I visited the same Lake Grove station. The empty office that greeted me a few days ago had been replaced with a DMV-like experience. The line of frowny-faced postal customers for the 2 glacial-paced clerks was out the door. I watched for about 15 seconds and concluded that I could pay someone else to ship this box for the amount of wages I'd lose just by standing in the line. So, off to the FedEx office I went.

The FedEx shipping center for the south side of Portland is right by the I-5 freeway on ramp where the towns of Tigard, Tualatin and Lake Grove meet. This is the ramp I take to get to work from home, so stopping at FedEx isn't going very far out of my way. The trick is to get there when they're open (8-6 weekdays, not sure about weekends). I took my brown paper ensconced box over to the counter and asked "do you require me to hide the fact that this box once held beer?". He gave me a puzzled look, so I pointed to the brown paper. "We prefer you don't wrap them". Ahh... 30 seconds filling out a form, another 45 seconds getting the box scaled and paid for, and I was out the door. No line. No frowny faces. No glacial pace. The box will arrive by this Saturday, and it cost me $11. The tracking number and guaranteed delivery were free and they recycled my brown paper.

Net net
Simply put, I won't ship anything via USPS again unless there is just no other alternative. It was cheaper and easier to ship via FedEx. I honestly don't know how the Prudal Service will be able to compete in the future. Once consumers realize that FedEx Ground is faster and cheaper, that DMV-like line will disappear.

bus-stuff: if the rain subsides tonight, I'll slide under there with a drill and start working on the radiator mounting. If not, I may do it anyway as I won't have a shot at working on him again until next week otherwise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

tucked in, and ready

Today, I'll briefly touch on where we are with the bus, and the health of the in-laws.

Hapy Hath Moved
With the help of my 11 year old son, Hapy has moved from the driveway to his designated spot alongside the garage. Saturday morning we had a fortunate break in the weather. The cold snap gave way to thaw and the rains that tracked behind the cold hadn't started yet. My son and I took that as an opportunity to get Hapy moved. I picked up a cable winch puller (aka come-along) from Harbor Freight during the week, so we had the tools. With a trucker's chain wrapped around a fencepost and then hooked back on itself as the brace-end, I hooked the cable to the nose-end tow-hook. Moving the bus about 4 feet at a time between re-configurations, we were able to creep the bus across the sidewalk, over a step and up the incline within an hour. My son sat at the wheel, holding it steady or re-directing as needed. He also helped push from behind when the cable puller seemed to be at its max. We were able to hand push the last 5 feet or so. Now, he is out of the wind and 2 steps from the garage side door. I can route heat, light and even music pretty easily. The only thing that's missing is a carport roof. Ah well. At least its level and well-draining. I hope to get drilling on the radiator mounts this week or this weekend. I have some other commitments (it is the Holiday season after all), so getting an hour or so may be difficult.

In Law Health
Unfortunately, even after a week long visit, my wife doesn't have much in new information. We can confirm that her mother has some form of lung cancer, but we don't know what kind. They will be running a scope to see what they can see next week. Marianne hasn't been very forthcoming about her condition so far, so we are skeptical that we will get straight answers from her. We figure my wife will have to go back down there, but we are't really sure when or for how long yet.
Her brother Tom, however, has been undergoing radiation treatment for the cancer they found in his spine. He is getting some kind of care review tomorrow when he should learn how effective the radiation therapy has been. I haven't heard anything about his liver (where the doctors believe the cancer started), so I'm not sure what the treatment plan is. His prognosis is not terribly good, though.

Support System
I have discovered a few things this week with my wife away.
First, I have some amazing kids. I didn't realize just how far removed I am from their daily lives and rhythms until I'm directing all the traffic. Having been deeply embedded with them this week, I have really connected with them, especially my younger son, in a way that I really hope remains and even continues to strengthen. This picture to the right was taken during a trip to the Portland Fire Boats as a part of his Cub Scout Den field trip. That red thing is a boat-mounted water cannon from 1946. The boat is still commissioned and used on large dock/pier fires.
Second, we have some pretty great friends. When we discovered that my wife had to bail out of town, our friends lined up to watch the boys for a couple of hours each afternoon. We have had meals dropped off, cards, calls of concern and more offers to help than I have managed to count. To all of these helpers and well-wishers, I offer my most sincere thanks. If I didn't taken you up on an offer, it was helpful to just hear the words that you were there, and you were thinking of how you could lighten the load.
Last, my wife is pretty great. Heading down to visit her sick mother and brother required a vat of compassion and willingness to put up with conflict that I can't really imagine. The emotional toll of visiting hospitals, and watching her mother's energy slowly drain while negotiating with doctors, forms and insurance folks must have been incredible. Fortunately, she is coming home to a clean house with the laundry done and a fridge full of food. I hope she will be able to decompress and relax before the holidaze hits and the return trip needs to be taken.

That's it for today. I'll update the post with a picture of Hapy in his new home. I didn't take any while we were working. It was still kinda cold, and I didn't want to lose my helper. The picture at the top was from before he was moved.

top - Hapy with his coat on, before he was moved alongside the garage
bottom - 8 year old son visiting the 1946 Portland Fire Boat

Sunday, December 6, 2009

holding pattern taking hold

First, my Thanksgiving was great. I hope yours was as well. Today's post covers some highlights of that trip, a bus update and looking forward.

My family has a rare opportunity to use a friend's vacation home in Sun River, and we took some other friends with us. There was snow on the ground outside the house the whole time we were there, so the kids spent just about every waking minute outside. This left me and Mark able to watch the Lions and Dallas games as well as all that college football on Friday.
We hit Mt. Bachelor on Saturday. Although the folks back in Portland and the people we met in Sun River were saying the crowds would be unbearable, I thought it was unbelievably easy. The workers on the mountain said it was a busy day, but I don't remember waiting in a line for anything for more than a few minutes. The snow was dry and fast. I played with my younger son on the inner tube slope while my older got his first runs of the season on his snowboard. Good times.

Bus Update
On the bus front, though, there has been no progress. I was able to hit the hardware store for a bunch of washers and nuts, but I haven't had any time to focus on fabrication. Besides that, we are in the midst of a cold snap, bringing the overnight lows down into the teens and the daytime highs around freezing. Once the wind chill is added in, the temps drop down another 15 to 20 degrees. Not exactly the kind of weather I like to spend under the bus. Instead, I have spent the last 2 days clearing English Ivy and raking up the leaves in my yard. I like having the leaves gone before snow hits, and there was talk of snow for early this week. Yikes. I was able to get all of the other yard tasks completed, though, so I can move the bus once I either borrow or buy a come-along so I can pull him up the incline. I hope to do that next weekend.

My wife leaves to visit her mom and brother on Wednesday. With her departure, our Christmas becomes very uncertain. We don't know how serious either of their respective conditions are because they haven't been terribly verbose with their descriptions. Maybe they don't know either. Regardless, my wife will probably be extending her stay, and we are planning for a just-before-Christmas return at best. The kids and I will busy ourselves with Christmas decorating and such, but it won't be the same. I don't sleep very well when she's not around, so I'll probably have nights to work on the bus if the temperatures would cooperate.

I'll post more when there's something to post about. I'd like to either get the radiator mounted or the bus moved or get the shrouding constructed or some combination of those 3 things before Christmas. In theory, there is time. It is converting that to practice that always seems to trip me.