Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More Progress on My McVansion

The wheels of progress continue turning, although, sometimes it feels like they turn all too slowly. But, last week and this have seen some more progress on turning My McVansion into my ultimate "bug-out" machine. 

Now, for those not in the know, I majored in Industrial Arts in college and was certified to teach some 15 areas of industrial technology (of the day) to kindergarten through 12th grade students. I satisfactorily completed my required student teaching with both 5th and 6th graders and with high school students. Of course, my main areas of interest were primarily electronics and secondarily the graphic arts. But, I held my own in various areas of design, woodworking, metal processes, plastics, textiles and automotive. A lot has changed over the past 45 years or so. Many of the skills I learned back then have changed dramatically as have the tools we had to work with. However, having that broad base of knowledge and skills has been considerably more than helpful throughout my life.

No, I never taught Industrial Arts in any school setting. I went on for a master's degree in Television and Radio and, of course, ended up making my lifelong career in the recording industry and several tangents of that industry. But, nothing that I learned during my four years of Industrial Arts education has gone to waste. The skills have carried me through every aspect of my professional and personal life since that time. And, it is those skills I'm employing as I'm designing and constructing my ultimate "bug-out" vehicle.

Primitive Pete and McGuyver

I have to be honest, however. There is a real difference between a fine craftsman or journeyman carpenter, cabinetmaker, electrician, plumber, etc. and myself. I'm more of the jack-of-all-trades and the master of none (other than in my recording field). One of my wood technology professors often referred to a caricature he called "Primitive Pete." While I can effectively design and use most tools to do woodworking (and other kinds of work), I often find myself relating to the "Primitive Pete" character. I guess I consider myself more of a "cowboy" or "McGuyver" type designer and builder of things. What I mean by that is that I tend to design things on the fly to meet the need and I don't build to a craftsman's standards. That being said, I also do my best to construct something sturdy and to make it generally pleasing in appearance, but I don't spend massive amounts of time in the finishing process. I'm pragmatic and my philosophy is that "form follows function."

An additional factor that comes into play with constructing something like my ultimate "bug-out" vehicle is that it's a trial and error experience. As noted in the last post about building in the van, this is my second attempt. After beginning the first time I decided to live with it a while and see if it suited. It did not. So, my graph paper, rule, drawing pencil and eraser reappeared as I began redesigning the concept. During that period, I also created areas at my base-camp (my friend's house) similar to that space I had in the van  to see how all of this would work. Even as I'm progressing currently, I continue to measure, modify and tweak my thinking and the design.

I should further point out that I have built offices, recording studios, voice-over booths, industrial work areas, cabinets to house various kinds of recording equipment and other miscellaneous wood projects (including in other vans) many times over the past 45 years. There have been situations where there were critical issues like fit and finish because it was a commercial site and not only needed to be functional, but also needed to meet local building codes and be aesthetically pleasing to the clients. In these instances, I would prepare very detailed mechanical or architectural plans from the designs I created. I would prepare a detailed list of materials and even specific processes, if necessary. I then contracted journeymen and craftsmen to do the actual construction.

The Vision Moves Forward . . .

So, where is My McVansion along its progress to becoming my ultimate "bug-out" machine as of today? Well, as you'll note in the photos, I've moved along in several directions.

I spent quite a while in the Lowes paint section on Sunday selecting a stain that I hope will reasonably match the color of the existing wood trim in My McVansion. This is challenging on several levels. First, the lighting is different in a huge warehouse store than it is in a van with colored interior. Second, the kinds of wood I am using may differ from the kinds of wood the stain manufacturer used for its samples. Third, the wood in the van is heavily coated with several thick coats of glossy finish polyurethane that will impact the final appearance of the wood. Fourth, the stain and polyurethane in the van may be from a different manufacturer than the one I selected. So, I believe I have selected a stain that will, after application and coating with polyurethane, look reasonably similar to the original wood in the van. Time will tell. The panel you see leaning against the inside of the passenger (right) wall of the van is destined to be the counter top for the galley very soon. 
This is a view from the side access door on the right side of the van. I used a flash to enhance the lighting in this photo, so you will see somewhat of a change in the color due to the change in lighting. I believe I could have made a living as a coffin maker in the old west. Of course, the bunk looks less like a coffin and more like a bunk with storage space when the mattress is in place. 
While I was working in the van, I decided to take down the front wooden trim panel over the cockpit and remove the small 13" TV. I will never use that TV in My McVansion. Any video or TV I care to watch will be provided by my computer. I haven't even tested the 12 volt DC TV to see if it works. I've just added more storage space and may have provided myself with an easy way to ceiling mount certain equipment for the cockpit. Also, from this photo, you can see the glossy finished darker trim wood in the interior. The small doors covering the storage cubbies are stained a lighter color for accent. 
In this photo you can see that I've replaced the memory foam mattress on the bunk. The paper on the floor is there for obvious reasons. The main things to notice in this photo are the two plastic storage units I bought from Walmart. They are sitting in the location that will soon be occupied by the galley. The black trim unit will actually be under the galley counter to hold utensils, dry/canned foodstuff and cooking essentials including a RoadPro 12 volt DC lunch box cooker, a couple small pots and pans and a  few other essentials. The white trim unit will be the clothing/personal toiletries (and such) chest of drawers. It will be located approximately from where this photo was taken. I have three more of the large drawers at the base camp and I will add at least two more of the deeper drawers to this tower. I tried and returned two other units I considered for this purpose. They just didn't work out the way I wanted them to. So, I'm using the units I had originally planned to use in the first place. I'd really much prefer a wooden chest of drawers and under galley counter storage. But, these units are inexpensive, easy to use and easily removable and replaceable when and if the time comes to convert to wooden storage units. 
What's Next?
So, next is to build in the storage areas for the workstation (not shown in any of the photos) and the clothes and other necessities of life. Those will be on the passenger (right side) of the van. Then will come the galley area, which will have a stand-up height counter (the panel I'll make the counter from was in one of the photos) and have a 2.7 cu. ft. refrigerator and a small, 700 watt, .7 cu. ft. microwave under the counter. There will also be the one black trim, plastic storage unit under it and likely, I'll have space for a gray water container. The top of the galley will have some form of sink in it that has not yet been determined. The counter top and supporting wood structure will be stained to match the rest of the interior and then have several coats of polyurethane applied to make a hard, sealed surface. I found the precise container, 2-gallon capacity, I want to use for water in the galley area and I will be able to mount it perfectly over the sink area. Walmart comes through again. The galley will be located between the end of the bunk and the driver's seat on the left side of the van. If all works out, there will be enough space behind the driver's seat at floor level to store two 2 1/2 gallon jugs of water.

The only built in item left to install will be the Visa flushing porta-potty with a 6.3 gallon capacity holding tank, . It will be built into a cabinet with a hinged top and hinged front for easy access. That cabinet will be located directly behind the clothes & personal necessities chest of drawers. More precisely it will be across from the driver's end of the bunk between the chest of drawers and the workstation on the passenger side (right side) of the van. Since it's primary purpose will only be for convenience when public or other facilities are not readily available, its location will not be a prominent one. There is another ramification of this configuration that I'll explain in a later post.

After looking at the photos of the stained bunk, I've determined I probably could have made a living back in the old west making pine coffins for boot hill burials. At last, I've discovered my calling. Alas, it's too late. With all the regulations and laws on the books today, I'd never pass muster. 

So far I have pretty much figured out and have most of the main construction components for the actual build-in of the permanent wood structures. Still to be determined are the electrical system that will be based around a battery bank at the rear end of the van under the bunk. From there, both 12 volts DC and 110 volts AC will power the various appliances and electronics features of the ultimate "bug-out" machine. I have to consider battery charging, possible (hydrogen) venting if I use 6 volt golf cart batteries (which seems like a real probability),  how much solar power I can practically and reasonably install, consideration for carrying a gasoline generator to charge batteries during periods of short sunlight or inclement weather days. Another consideration is how large an inverter to install to convert the 12 volts DC from the battery bank to 110 volts AC for those requirements. Also, I have to determine how I'll set up 110 volt AC shore power to power the AC requirements of the van when shore power is available.

There some other considerations I'm also working on now, especially since some of them have to be installed during the construction phase. These include blacking out two of the large van windows - the rear passenger side or right side behind the smaller of the two right side access doors and the front drivers side or left side window directly behind the driver's door. Also, the window in the smaller of the two right side access doors will have its window blacked out. I was checking out Reflectix for insulating these windows, another, yet, consideration. I will have portable covers for the windows in the rear doors and the rear left side large window. Another consideration is ventilation. Currently, there is little air circulation in the back of the van when there is no breeze. I'm strongly considering installing or having installed, a Fantastic roof vent and fan. I'll see how brave I am about tackling this project myself. A leaky roof is not desirable, so this installation has to be done absolutely correctly. I am also considering installing a small window air conditioner in one of the rear door windows. The A/C unit will only be valuable and can only be used when the van has access to shore power, but it may very well be a lifesaver.

Final thought, since I took the photos yesterday (Monday) evening, I've applied the first coat of glossy finish polyurethane to the bunk and workstation that I stained last night. Most of the surfaces will only receive one coat, however the desktop surfaces of the workstation and the galley counter will both receive several coats to build up a hard, durable surface. More progress is coming in the next post about My McVansion.  


Tinabeane said...

Looking good! Have some great ideas and like the layout.


Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thanks! I've been tied up since I got most of this done with the annual retreat I run each year for a group of veteran speaker friends of mine - this year was my last year. I've turned over the reins and I'm now back to the completion (will it ever really be complete) of My McVansion.