Monday, March 24, 2014

Blog Refreshed

I applied one of the standard boilerplate templates that blogger offers to the blog. Everything is still where it was otherwise. I started this blog in January of 2007 and hadn't done anything to the general look and feel since. Now that I've moved to one of their current templates, it will fit into their newer offerings a little better. I don't know what those are, exactly, but I didn't want to be on the very trailing edge. I figured at some point they were going to force me to move. My apologies if you don't like it, and I'm open to suggestions for something that's better format-wise.
Thanks again for following along.

as long as you're here...
In my last post, I mentioned that I had an adventure getting the MDF into my Jetta. Here's the rub: 7' is longer than you'd think, and 14 year old cars slowly fall apart. My first challenge was with the putting the rear seat down. The Jetta has a 1/3 - 2/3 split seat, and the 1/3 side has been intermittent lately. While in the Home Depot parking lot, it completely failed. The handle on the top of the seat works the unlock mechanism with a ~6" long pin that's about the thickness of an old transistor radio antennae. This pin clicks into a round hole within the seat-back that controls the latch. The end of the pin slowly fatigued until it no longer stayed in the round hole. Rather than design this such that the pin pushed against the controller, the pin clicks in from the top and then pulls up to unlatch. Not well thought. In the parking lot, without any tools, I set to getting the seatback unlatched.

My first stop was to push through the trunk looking for things that could be used as tools. No flashlight. No pry-bar, but I did find the headrest and a pair of big springs that look like they're part of some big brake system. With these tools, I ripped the pull handle out of the top of the seat, and then broke the pin off the handle. I shined my iPhone flashlight into the hole while trying to spear the hole with the pin. I failed to spear the hole, but did succeed in dropping the pin into the seatback. Awesome. At least it was a beautiful spring day... with lots of car and people traffic in the parking lot. This made cursing a disallowed means of venting frustration. Grr.. After a few minutes of growling, I just starting looking at the area around the controller with the iPhone flashlight. I grabbed the weird spring from the trunk and started trying to hook the hole with the curl on the end of the spring. After a couple of minutes, I actually got it!

Once the seatback came down, I started trying to fit the sheet of MDF into the trunk. The hole made by putting the seats down is only just barely 3' across, but the space from the rear of the trunk to the rear of the front seats is more like 5', not the 7 I needed. I was about at the end of my patience. I took the front edge of the MDF, and pointed it at the ceiling, pulling the sheet into the car. I went around back, jammed it in and shut the trunk lid. I couldn't see out my central mirror, but the MDF was in. I crawled the car out of the parking spot (cite: lots of kids running around, swivel-headed drivers looking for parking spots, couples talking about improvement plans and not looking around, etc), and headed home. This whole encounter lasted under an hour, but it was smack in the middle of my Saturday afternoon. Still, I was able to cut one door card after I got home before calling it a day.

Thanks for following along, and this may be the only time I've ever posted twice in a single day. Wow, the end-of-days must be upon us.

A Couple Cards Short

Totally focused on bus stuff today.  I spent the weekend loving on the bus, mostly focused on cleaning.

Interior Plan, or Lack Thereof
In Setting and Resetting Expectations, I set a few goals for the Spring, including getting the front doors sealed up.  Before going too far down that path, I should have a plan.  Well, I really don't.  Still, there's lots of pre-work, so I focused on that while I thought about how this should go.  First, it's gotta be clean.

Goof Off and Rub
The inside skin of both front doors were gummy, and dirty.  Years of poor sealing plastic film allowed moisture in, destroying the original door cards, and leaving nastiness on the steel.  So, I started my Saturday with a tin of Goof Off and a roll of paper towels.  The driver door took 2 hours of effort, but the results are fantastic.  While it doesn't look like it was freshly painted, it does look better than most of the inside of my bus had looked up to that point.  The passenger door wasn't as bad, and only took about 90 minutes of effort to get to a better state.
native state
While taking the passenger door bits apart to clean up, I discovered a few things that were not on the driver door.  First, around the window crank, a small piece (about 1-1/2 inches by 3 inches) of foam was glued to the door.  I figured that was to keep drafts out.  Then, between the crank handle and the foam, I found a small plastic ring (pn 111-837-595A).  Our friends at and BusDepot have them.  Neat.  I'll need another one of those for the driver side.  Maybe I'll get a new crank too, since my driver's one is kind of broken.

More Sound Dampening
note black mat near front
foil-insulation in the middle
I had previously put vibration matting into the driver door and a few other areas around the bus (see More Sound Killing).  I have used 2 different types, they work pretty much the same, and they do work.  When I did the driver door a few years ago, I still had some of the foil-backed stuff.  By the time I got to the passenger door this weekend, though, I only had the McMaster-Carr stiff rubber sheet.  Still, I covered over half the steel with one or the other.  On top of that, I glued closed-cell shiny-foil insulation I got at Home Depot (like this) with spray epoxy-glue.  While it doesn't really have an R-value, it is effective at keeping noise down, and keep direct sun-heat down.

Roll Your Own Door Card?
Once the doors were clean, and sound-proofed, all that remained was applying the plastic and putting in the cards, right?  Well, what if you don't have any cards?  Or, in my case, just one ratty card?  Back to Home Depot for a 3' x 8' sheet of 1/8" MDF.  I had an adventure getting the sheet into the Jetta, but I'll go into that another day.  I simply laid the sheet on the garage floor and traced my ratty old card with a pencil.  With my Dremel, I cut along the line.  I should have used a different attachment, but I got it cut, and the primary holes (door pull, window crank & latch) created.  It took me about an hour, but I still need to place the mounting holes.  I could buy a pair of pre-cut MDF cards from BusDepot for $55 plus shipping (link here).  In the end, it will cost me more in time, but just barely.  I think the numbers really become interesting when I look at all of the missing interior bits.  BusDepot offers the full set of MDF for $200 plus shipping (link here) and shipping to the PacNW is quoted at only $15 by their site.  Compelling, but that shipping amount couldn't be right.  I may have to wait while I pull together the cabbage to do the full set.  Even then, the full set doesn't have bits for the sides in the storage area, so I'll be making my own with the leftover MDF I got at HomeDepot.

That's about all I have time for today.  I drove the bus to work today, and he ran like a champ.  The rains return tomorrow, but today, we can smile in the sunshine.  Thanks for following along...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Front Bumper (part 4)

As much as I wanted to run a full test of prep and paint on the bumper, I simply ran out of patience.  Today, I'll wrap-up the bumper through install.  I may return to it while on-bus, or even pull it to finish later, but I gotta get behind the wheel and drive it again.  There's a zen or inner calm that comes with steering an old bus that just isn't reproducible in anything else.  It's been too long.  On the shortened completion.

Final Wet-Sand
assembly supplies for 1 step
The paint was finally ready for wet-sanding after a full week of drying.  The $50 paint job guy talked about how thinning the paint would shorten the dry-time, but the articles I read didn't call out the more obvious: if its really cold, no degree of thinning will help Rustoleum cure faster.  I think the curing really took the warmer weather (low's above 40*F, high's above 50*F) to settle in and be present for a week.  Like the prior wet-sanding adventures, I used a bucket of soapy water and worn 600-grit sandpaper.  Unlike the primer, though, the thinned paint didn't dust as much.  The 600 grit took out most of the brush marks pretty quickly.

Final Paint
I decided that I over-thinned by going 1/2 and 1/2 paint and mineral spirits the first coat, so I thinned 2/3 paint to 1/3 mineral spirits for the second coat.  I also heated the garage with a recirculating oil heater before I started.  Just be bringing the ambient temp (and the surfaces to be painted) up to closer to 70*F made a very big difference.  The paint didn't run nearly as much, covered a little better, but the thinning held the brush marks at bay.
If you do this, remember two key points: first, always keep a wet edge.  If you try to cover such a broad area that you find yourself applying paint into paint that has become tacky, your paint will not cover right.  Always apply into wet paint.  Second, if you're using a brush, draw your paint-loaded brush from the unpainted area into the already applied wet paint.
While still drawing the brush horizontally across the surface, pull the brush off.  This will minimize brush marks from forming in the first place.
seal held w/blue tape

The paint was hard and dry in a few days, but I chose to not color sand.  Rather, I decided that I'd been without the bus long enough.  At some point, I'll do the wet-sanding, and polishing.  In fact, I bought all the needed supplies (1000, 1500 grit paper, polishing bonnet, polish) and a cheap polisher at Harbor Freight for when that day comes.  I figure I'll practice on the bumpers before I try it on the main body.

Bumper Assembly
The early / low-light bay has a 3-part bumper: the main bar plus a step that wraps around to each of the front doors.  The step bolts to the bar with 3 bolts, and a simple seal runs in-between.  The seal fits around the end of the bar with the long edge running behind (rear-side).  When I removed the old seal, it was clearly held firm by the bolts.  Re-assembly is tricky with a single pair of hands, though possible.  I held the seal in place with blue painter's tape while I set it in place with the bolts.  I strongly suggest getting the replacement bolt set from Wolfsburg West.  It made reassembly much easier and the finished product look much better.  Unfortunately, the 1972 bumper steps are held to the body by 2 bolts a-piece and the bolt kit only provided enough for one bolt each.  I will be buying 2 bolts at the local hardware store, but otherwise, it was just what was needed.
rubber step button and tab
The rubber steps go on in the reverse of how they came off.  If you're like me, you probably didn't exactly remember how that went.  First, slide the 4 square tabs that run along the outer edge into their corresponding slots.  From the inside, pull them all the way in with a pair of needle-nose pliers.  Then, wrap the step over the step and press the round buttons into the corresponding holes.  But don't do the one closest to the rear yet.  Next, pull the front edge of the inner lip over the inner edge of the step.  By sliding your finger along the inner edge of the lip, the rest of the lip will seat, until you get to the rear point.  There, you will need to pull that corner out and around the inner lip as well as the corner where it meets the outer edge of the step.  Once you've gotten that around, press that last button through the hole.  It looks sweet, eh?
Once the steps are bolted to the bar with the seals and rubber step in place, we add the frame mounts.  I mentioned in the last post about the appearance of rust where the mounts met the bar.  To reduce the probability of that happening again, I dug into my plumbing supplies and grabbed 4 orange sink washers.  I put the washers around the bolts, between the bumper bar and the frame mounts.  Once the nuts were torqued down, it had no impact on the location of the final mounting or the find-ability of the bolts-to-holes.
sink washers between
frame and bumper

Bumper Install
I would recommend finding a friend to help for this part, if you haven't been able to sucker anyone into helping you yet.  My kids were all playing on their skateboards, and Boo was sleeping off an early morning shift, so I was on my own with my radio.  I set plastic tubs under the spots where the steps mount to the bus frame and carried the bumper assembly over.  I placed the bumper against my quads, squatted down while holding the frame mounts so it wouldn't bounce off the deck nor the front of the bus.  Fun.  I set the steps on the plastic tubs and slid the bumper into the general location.  Then, it was a matter of holding the bumper in the air with one hand while lying on my side and fingering-in bolts.  It was important to get the bolts in just far enough to hold the bumper up so I could make sure it aligned properly.  I then moved to the step-bolts, and threaded them in part-way.  With a tape-measure, I confirmed that the bumper wasn't crooked and tightened the bolts down.

Last, install your license plate, and you're done.  I will be getting new license plat
e hardware so it matches the rest of the new stuff.  The old rusty nuts, washers and ugly bolts just seem out of place with the rest of the bumper.  Truth-be-told, the rest of the bus looks a little out of place with the nice bumper.  Or, maybe, the bumper looks too nice to be on that bus.  There's clearly something not quite aligned.  Anyway,  I still have to solve for the smashed tow-hook (I kinda forgot about it), and finish the 100%-ing of the bumper anyway.  I can say, though, that I can now see every blemish on the front of the bus.  Great.... :)
That's it for today.  I intend to ride the bike or drive the bus to work tomorrow, weather depending.  It seems wrong to hope for rain, here where the rain seems like a constant, but I'd really like to get the bus into the daylight.  Thanks, as always, for following along.
mounted and ready to go