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 Living on the Road :: Wothahellizat Mk2: Construction Diary : #03

Wed 23 May 2007

Today I started working on the spare wheel carrier. The spare wheel and an extra tyre will be housed behind the cab on the right hand side. I've designed a method of hanging them that also uses the majority of the void space (inside the wheel hub and spare tyre) for storage. More about that later if it works.

My workbench-on-wheels (left of shot) I made before starting on the project is working well, I can wheel it around to be next to the part of the truck I'm working on.

Marking out one of the steel pieces used to make the spare wheel carrier. Note the dividers, these are invaluable for transcribing measurements from one place to another, typically the chassis to a piece of steel or vice versa.

I had some of the circular pieces of steel cut by a local engineering firm because the radius was too large for my gear. Unfortunately the heat has caused one of the pieces to warp and it has taken me a while to straighten it.

Also I had to fix one of my own stuff ups. I'm sure I must be numerically dyslexic because I seem to always transpose numbers. For example, today I measured the distance between two holes on the chassis as 289mm but drilled the matching steel plate with holes at 298 centres. And yes I did measure twice.

Fortunately with steel this is usually just an inconvenience as it's easy to fill the hole with the welder and redrill.

Fri 25 May

Today has been a very frustrating day trying to juggle various generators and pumps. The power and water system here requires constant monitoring to ensure things are working properly, and today things aren't, working properly that is.

As rain is forecast for the next few days I thought it prudent to pump water up to the top tank from the main storage tanks. This will free space in the main tanks to accept the imminent rain.

So I start the small generator and start the pump. The generator has a fuel leak so I stem the majority of the flow buy clamping the filter bowl with a hose clamp and put a container underneath to catch the rest. Everything else looks fine so I get back to work. After an hour or so I decide to check how things are going.

The pump is making a noise and so I assume it's pumping. However the main tanks are overflowing which implies that the top tank (on top of a nearby hill) is back flowing into the main tanks. I switch off the pump and the sound doesn't change. What is happening is that the back flowing water is running the pump in reverse.

I recheck all the circuit breakers and cannot find any problems so walk back down to the pump the turn it back on. Sure enough it starts. Ok whatever, it's working now.

I return to work.

After another hour I check again to find exactly the same thing happening again. Aargh!

I repeat the process of cycling power but this time hang around to try and sus the problem.

Eventually I decide that the pump does not like the power provided by the small generator, at $1300 for a 5kva generator one has to wonder about its quality, and in fact I've been suspicious of it for some time now.

My theory is that the power is unclean and this causes the pump's motor to overheat and throw it's thermal cutout. That's why it starts up again after I muck around with things for a while.

It looks like I have to start the big generator. At 6.5 litres an hour fuel consumption I'm loathe to run it unless absolutely necessary, but we have to pump water. I do need the large gennie to do some welding with the three-phase welder, but that will only take half an hour or so.

I start the generator and restart the pump. After ten minutes the tanks stop overflowing, yes, I'm finally on a winner.

I get back to work.

A few hours later I ride up to the top tank to check the level. It's 700mm from the top, that will take about 80 minutes to fill and as I have to go back into town to pick some bolts in an hour and a half that should work out well. I'll shut everything down before I go.

Meanwhile we're getting almost no battery charging done because the charger keeps throwing its circuit breaker. So at approx $7 an hour I'm only getting water pumped when I should also be getting all the batteries charged. And now the battery charger doesn't appear to be working at all.

Such is life. I shut down the generator and go into town.

On my return the first thing I hear is the pump running. Bloody hell, it's been running for an extra couple of hours, there will be flat batteries and water everywhere. I stop it and check the level of the main tanks. They have gone down as one would expect, so I assume that the area around the top tank is swimming.

I ride up to check. Not only is it dry around the tank but the level has dropped to 1300mm from the top. I am now at my wits end, both tanks have dropped and there's no wet patch in the middle. Where has all the water gone?

It's a very steep track up to the tank and on my way down I bash my foot on a protruding log. I'm really starting to get pissed off.

So, after all that, and about $40 in fuel, both the batteries and the top tank are at approximately the same level as they were first thing this morning. Ain't life grand.

Never the less I did manage to achieve something today, I've made some progress with the spare wheel carrier.

The spare wheel carrier propped in place on top of a jack.

A close up of the front plate. Note the four welded pieces, these act as spacers to set the wheel hub away from the plate and also reinforce the mounting points. Note also the cuts in the plate, I did these the other day to allow me to straighten the warped plate, then decided to leave them in place until I've finished the heavy welding so the heat from the welds won't warp the plate again.

Exploded view of the spare wheel carrier.

A Chassis rail.
B Chassis plate and gusset: A piece of the old chassis is used as an easy way to get a L-shaped piece to wrap around the chassis. This gives me somewhere to weld the strengthening gusset.
C Circular back plate.
D Backing ring: Sets the location of the tyre.
E Drum with internal gusseting at the location of the top two wheel mounting points.
F Spare tyre: Has a spare tube and rust guard inside and is held in place by the backing ring on one side and the spare wheel on the other.
G Front plate with captive nuts: This is what the wheel bolts on to.
H Spare wheel.
I Cover plate: Allows me to use the centre of the wheel hub for storage.

Of course there's a lot more to the carrier than is shown in the above drawing, I'm just trying to illustrate the main parts.

I still have to devise a method of getting the tyre and wheel up onto the drum. Currently I'm using the forklift but we won't be taking that with us I suppose, although A-framing it might not be a bad idea, it's a very useful piece of kit.

Sat 26 May

Still working on the spare wheel carrier. I've welded the captive nuts and the internal gussets on to the rear of the front plate. All this is done with the carrier bolted to my spare rim, firstly to ensure that the nuts are in the right place, and secondly because the rim will keep the plate held fast so it shouldn't distort with the heat. I also welded the four cuts I made the other day.

The inside of the drum showing the captive nuts and gussets.

The drum bolted to the spare wheel.

Having finished with the main parts for the time being it's time to look at some details.

As mentioned the carrier will double as storage with access through the large hole in the centre. I kept the piece that was cut out to create the hole, and will use it as a "lid".

But cutting some notches in the front plate and making some matching tabs on the lid I have created a sort of bayonet fitting whereby I insert the lid and rotate it to hold it in place. To lock it more firmly there is a cross bar that is tightened using a bolt with a handle.

The lid with crossbar and tightening handle. By tightening the handle the lid is pulled against the back of the front plate and held firmly.

The handle is made with a short length of 6mm round bar that has been bent to shape and welded to the bolt head. The bolt in turn screws into a captive nut welded on the inside of the lid.

The handle is asymmetrical which stops vibrations from rotating it. If you have a symmetrical handle that is nicely balanced vibrations can cause it to unwind. This handle's weight should be more than the enough to resist any rotational forces.

In theory at least the lid could also rotate, and I have a modification in mind for the crossbar to fix this.

I'm keen to get the structural parts if the carrier done so I can hang it from the chassis and put the wheels on to see how it looks and works. However once I weld the back plate on it will be very difficult to do any more work inside the drum, so these fiddly bits have to be done now.

Sun 27 May

Finally I get to hang the tyre and wheel on my invention. It's a bit of a fiddle and in fact I think it's harder with the forklift than it will be when I build a dedicated lifting device because the forklift is in the way.

Anyhow the whole thing doesn't come crashing to the ground which is always a good sign.

Mon 28 May

I haven't finished welding up everything yet so I remove the wheels and unbolt the carrier.

There's two small gussets to add to the back and I have to run a few more lines of weld just so I'm happy there's enough. ThenI paint the back part with that red oxide undercoat.

The back plate, chassis plate and gussets.

The two gussets are in line with the two inside the drum and should increase the strength considerably. Check out all the holes, I'm only using four to mount the carrier, the rest were already there. The chassis plate is actually an old piece of the chassis with the bottom flange cut off, and it looks like this piece came from the area where the axles were connected, hence all the holes.

While that's drying I return to the winch sheave block (pulley block) at the rear of the chassis. I've decided to add a cross member right at the end of the chassis in between the Hammerloks and under the sheave block. This will counteract any lateral force if we ever use the recovery points (ie stop the chassis from bending inwards) and also strengthen the bottom plate of the sheave block.

The rear of the chassis showing the winch sheave block and new cross member.

The ACCOs have a mid-mounted winch that can be made to pull both ways, the cable emerges from between the two central sheaves, then either continues for rear recovery, or goes around the left hand sheave and along the chassis to emerge through the front of the cab for front recovery.

With around 30 bolts holding this lot together it's a bit of a job. Some were already in place, some have to be inserted through holes that don't quite match, and some have to have new holes drilled for them or old holes re drilled.

Note: The trick here is to get all bolts in place but not tightened until the last one is in place.

The top of the cross member has three bolts that tie it to the bottom plate of the sheave block. Both members have three holes, but they don't quite match up, so I weld up those on the cross member and re drill them in the right place.

The cross member also has four holes in its bottom flange and these are supposed to match holes in the bottom chassis flange. This is all slightly different from the standard ACCO, and even if it wasn't we've moved everything, so I have to drill more holes.

Yep, more hole drilling in the chassis, and these are in the bottom flange which makes them the worst kind of holes.


After ten minutes of being showered with red hot shwarf I'm done. Are we having fun yet? The original location for the sheave block was on the end of the chassis much like it is now, however on the standard chassis the end is only a single rail, not double as we now have because I cut the end off. This means that some of the bolts are too short and I don't have any of the correct length, so I'll drop this job for today and return to the spare wheel carrier.

The paint is dry so I bolt it back to the chassis, properly this time though with all bolts fully torqued, and remount the spares.

The spares in place. Note the water, despite level 5 water restrictions and the worst drought in 500 years it does nothing but rain here.

Close up of the rear of the carrier

Tue 29 May

Today is the day, I'm going to put the body on the truck. I've been waiting to get the spare wheels in place because the body has to be built around them and I'd rather do that in situ, mostly because things often become much clearer when laid in front of you with everything in place.

But first I have to properly weld all the kitchen frame as it was only tacked when I put it together the other day.

Eventually the body will be mounted 150mm (6") above the chassis, so to simulate that I place two pallets on the chassis, then position the truck in in line with the body ready to be backed under it.

The truck lined up with the body ready to back under it.

I fire up the crane and spend some time positioning the slings so the body is perfectly balanced. When done I realise that the chains are too long and go to lower the hook so I can shorten them. The crane makes a weird noise then stops.

I check the main switch board and sure enough the crane has tripped its breaker. I reset it but the same thing happens, weird noise then nothing.

It's time to phone a friend.

The friend in question is Dave, the fellow who shortened the chassis. I ring him not because he's about the only person I know around here, but because in a previous life he actually serviced this very crane when it was also in a previous life.

Just before sunset he arrives, we fiddle with the crane for a while but eventually he decides it's an electrical problem. So what did he do when he was servicing the crane before? Once he determined that the problem was not mechanical he called the electrician.

Unfortunately I don't have any electrician friends to call.

Fortunately I have a plan B.

Wed 30 May


Yep, that's my plan B, Wothahellizat 2 is going to get some legs.

For some time now I've been thinking that it would be good to be able to remove the body without too much trouble, not every time we pull into a campsite, but maybe if some major work needs doing on the truck or something.

It seemed like a nice idea but until the crane failed I didn't have the incentive. However, being stuck with no way of lifting the body reinforced how dependant we are on this level of technology. So I'll make the legs.

Unlike my original idea though they won't be integral to the body, they will simply bolt onto the outside when needed. We may not even take them with us when we get back on the road, I'll see if they can be made to fit somewhere out of the way.

I do want to be able to remove the body a couple of times at least while I'm building it, but after that it may not come off again until we build Wothahellizat 3 (joking).

So a simple set of legs, operated by a standard jack, and sliding inside a tube (trousers?) will do.

Legs: in theory
The trousers are bolted to the body and the legs inserted into the trousers. The trousers, and hence the body, is jacked up by 100mm (4") then pinned and I move on to the next three legs. This procedure is repeated 14 times until the body is 1.4 metres in the air, at which time the truck is driven under it.

Animation showing the jacking principle.

Why only jack 100mm each time? It would of course be quicker to jack a greater distance each time as this would mean fewer iterations, but every time you jack a leg you create stress on the body because the other three at a lower level. Therefore I've decided to do a lot of small increments rather than fewer large increments. I'm still not sure that 100mm is small enough, we'll see how it works out.

This problem can be solved by only having three legs, but there's no obvious spot to mount a third leg as it would have to be at the back of the body. With four legs I can mount two on each side.

What does the jack sit on? For the first increment the ground, thereafter on a support that hooks over the same pins that support the trousers on the legs. Thus the support moves up with the trousers. Because the support hooks and unhooks I only need one and it is moved around with the jack.

So I need some steel, specifically 50x50x4 and 40x40x4 RHS (box section).

The 50x50 will become the trousers, it doesn't really have to have a 4mm wall thickness as it's not handling much force, but that makes it's internal dimensions 42x42 which is a very nice fit for the 40x40 legs.

I'll probably have to wait a couple of days to get the steel, but at least I should get into town early and get it ordered.

I arrive at Reibelts Engineering. Mick the owner says "Yeah there's plenty of that in there, there's a cold saw, just cut what you need".

This is good, because I can cut the lengths into shorter pieces they will fit in the car and I can start as soon as I get home.

The trousers will bolt to the body with captive nuts that will be welded directly to the frame. When I do the cladding they will be covered, however if the idea is a goer I will cut appropriate holes on the cladding so the system can be used later.

By the end of the day I have the captive nuts in place and have made the trousers. I'll leave the legs for tomorrow, it's a job I'm putting off because each leg will have fourteen 12mm clearance holes drilled right through the RHS, that's 56 pilot holes, 56 7mm holes, 112 10mm holes (with the smaller sizes I will drill right through the RHS, the larger sizes I do from both sides), 112 12.5mm holes, and finally 112 countersinks to be drilled.

Thu 31 May

The other day Dave borrowed my torch to have a look at the crane, and I haven't seen it since.

For two nights now I have been torchless, which has made it a bit difficult to negotiate the workshop on my way to bed. I keep forgetting to ring Dave and ask where he put the torch, so to get around the problem I've been using my mobile phone. It actually produces quite a lot of light from its screen.

This morning I finally remember to phone Dave. It seems that he put it in his work jacket and for two days he's been reaching for it when his phone rang.

So I've been using a phone as a torch, and he's been trying to use a torch as a phone. It's a funny old world.

OK I suppose I have to drill all those holes. To make life easier I've knock up a jig using a $12 drill stand. Of course the ideal tool would be a proper drill press, but I'm really trying not to spend too much on tools.

Drilling a gazillion holes in the legs.

The legs have been designed for my large jacks, but smaller jacks are easier to work with (fewer actions for a given lift for example) and all that's needed at present.

Small jacks are, well they're smaller, so I've knocked up an adaptor.

The jack support, leg and trousers with and without the small jack adaptor.

I have also decided to make some wheels for the legs. As I'm by myself and there's very little clearance between the fuel tanks and the legs I think it will help me align things as I'm reversing the truck.

Fri 1 Jun

I measure the height of the truck and realise that I should have one more hole in the legs so I can go 100mm higher, just to be on the safe side.

Now it's time to see if this lot works.

Legs: in practice
I start at one corner and just keep going around and around.

The body at the 900mm mark, so far so good.

At 1400mm and ready to reverse the truck.

The truck half way under the body.

And finally in place.

It takes a while but the system seems to work well. I was right about the 100mm spacing on the holes, I would have felt better incrementing by half as much. I may have to drill more holes.

As the legs get longer things get a little bit wobbly but there are no dramas. As to how it will work with a complete (read heavier) body remains to be seen.

Sat 2 Jun

Last night, while checking out the TV times, I saw that Murphy's Law was on. That's strange I thought, it's not normally on Thursday nights. Then I realised it was in fact Friday, and I had planned to go to the shops on Friday.

No matter, I'll go on Monday.

Instead of shopping I work on the Luton peak (AKA the bedroom) and the framework behind the cab.

The beginnings of the Luton peak.

I planned to do quite a lot of the frame while the body was on the truck but I'd forgotten what a pain it is to work on something so high. Apart from the constant need to be careful, I'm forever forgetting something like the tape measure and having to climb back down to get it.

No wonder it took three years to build Wothahellizat 1.

I do want to get the basic outline in place though so I'm sure it all fits. So I'll do the basic frame then put the body back on the ground.

To do this part of the frame I have to settle on sizes for a couple of the kitchen cupboards, one of which will hold my beer supplies. I get some empty bottles out to measure the space they need.

A 7x9 matrix of beer bottles.

Sixty three bottles, that should be enough. As we do batches of 30 that allows for two batches plus a couple of spares. We stored 90 on Wothahellizat 1, but we are having to make some sacrifices in a smaller body.

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