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 Living on the Road :: Wothahellizat Mk2: Construction Diary : #04

Sun 3 Jun 2007

Today I've spent most of my time building and installing a window frame and some of the bracing in the main frame

I designed the basic frame some time ago and have already built some parts of the lounge room windows. But having a small one like this on the workbench caused me to have a really good think about how everything is going to work.

All of these frames have shutters and most also will have fly screens that must be able to open with the shutter or remain closed when the shutter opens. The whole lot has to be water proof either open or closed, and the shutter has to be able to be opened without opening the fly screen.

After some deep thought I've modified my design slightly, more about it later when I start building the shutters. Fortunately the modification doesn't affect the work already done.


The window frame ready to install.


Some detail of the window frame.

Mon 4 Jun

Went shopping today, normally I try to duck in, grab what I can carry, and get out. Sometimes I have to use a basket, but this time I need a few things so have to push a trolley. What is the world coming to.

I've been told about an ACCO sitting on some land up at Woodford, about 15k away, so while out in the car I figure I'll check it out as a possible spares machine.

Following my directions I find a property straight out of "Deliverance", with derelict houses, sheds full of junk, and old half-cars strewn everywhere.

I park part way up what I gather is the driveway and walk. Before long I'm met by two dogs. I give them a pat and a tickle behind the ears and the three of us continue to what has by now become plain is the main residence.

There's an old woman at the gate. "You'd better watch those dogs" she says as one of them rolls over for a tummy rub, "they're vicious".

She reckons that she doesn't know anything about an old ACCO, but I have the name of the owner who it seems is her son. Maybe she could give me his phone number.

While she is inside I continue placating the killer dogs with more tummy rubs while scanning the landscape.

I see the truck in question parked under a shelter just a few metres away, and when she returns with the number I ask if I can have a look. No chance, not without the son around.

By now the dogs and I are firm friends but I must take my leave. I'll ring the son and see if I can organise a look at the truck.

On my return to the workshop I decide that the body should come off but that before I do that I'll drill the extra holes in the legs so I can lower it in 50mm steps.

Having done that I realise that the jack stand needs a modification to be used with the new 50mm regime.

Tue 5 Jun

I drop the body back onto the floor and spend the day adding bracing to the right side of the frame and also filling in some of the Luton peak's side with some w-bracing.

At around three I run out of Argoshield gas for the welder, so decide to have a cuppa then go into town for a new bottle. While boiling the water I also run out of gas for the cooker, plus I forgot some things yesterday, so I may as well get everything while in town.

Thu 7 Jun

For two days now I've been working on the first shutter. I've decided to complete one before I continue with the body because it may affect the way I've been doing things.

As the shutter for the nook is small and almost at eye level with the body on the ground I'll do that one. The nook is an alcove in the kitchen that primarily is used to store the bread maker and as a spot for making coffee. We had one in the last truck and it worked well, however I always felt that if it had a shutter we could get some more air into the kitchen area. Hence, in version 2 the nook will have a shutter.

The shutters were one of the best features in the previous body, in the heat it was fantastic to be able to open the house up to the breeze. But there are a couple of things I want to change.

They leaked. The use of a simple continuous (piano) hinge meant that there was no practical way of making them totally water proof. They were OK when closed, but would often have annoying drips when open, and it's very common to have rain on a hot and muggy day when you would like the shutters to be open.

Some were too big. This was good for ventilation but bad for maintenance. It was impossible for one person to lift them and to remove/replace them required lifting machinery. Smaller shutters will make us more independent.

Fly screens. To adjust the position of the shutters we had to at least partially open the fly screen. This was annoying but also, late at night, gave the hitherto locked-out bugs a brief window of opportunity to enter.

This time around I have some new ideas.

If you have ever seen an old house or shearing shed you may have noticed the way the shutters work. They pivot some way down the shutter, not at the top. This causes the top portion of the shutter to move inwards which in turn means that it is overlapped by the wall and intrinsically waterproof.


Fig 1. A typical shearing shed shutter, closed (a) and open (b,c).

Even though there's no "waterproofing" to speak of it's intrinsically fairly water proof because the gaps are overhung as in Fig 1b. However it is susceptible to driving rain when open (c) and water running down the wall when closed (a), and of course does not seal against insects either way.

Drawing from the shearing shed example I've come up with a similar design that, hopefully will overcome the shortcomings of the above.


Fig 2. My version has the hinge area boxed in and a fly screen.

The top of the shutter lands behind the wall when closed, and the bottom of the shutter lands in front of the wall, thus everything overlaps and unless we get some strange capillary action it shouldn't leak.

Driven rain can still enter the top but I have a small gutter at the front of the box to drain any water away.

The fly screen stays in place when the shutter is opened by an as-yet-to-be-designed mechanism. However the fly screen can be opened if there are no bugs.

Fri 8 Jun

Naturally it's not as simple as that. It's one thing to come up with a simple drawing, another to arrive at an accurate design, and yet another to get something working.

The hinges for the fly screen and the shutter must pivot around the same point because at times the screen will be attached to the shutter, and if it doesn't pivot around the same point the two will move in relation to each other which will make it difficult to join them together.

The reason we want the two to be opened as one at times is that often there are no bugs and we want maximum breeze. This means a totally open window, as fly screens obstruct the breeze more than you may think.

Now let's look at the accurate design.

Steel
These are the various pieces of RHS and angle that make up the shutter and window frame. Most of the thick black lines are also steel.
Hinge
This depicts the hinge for both the shutter and the fly screen. Because both must pivot around the same point one hinge is directly behind the other in this cross section and therefore only one is visible.
Gutter
Any water that does get in should be caught by this gutter. It will drain through the frame on one side.
Screen bkt
The fly screen resides under the steel frame but must hinge above it, hence the bracket to connect the frame with the hinge.
Screen frm
The fly screen frame.
Cladding
The body's aluminium cladding.
Lining
The interior lining of the shutter, material as yet undecided
Insulation
The shutter's insulation, probably 19mm closed-cell foam.

The requirement for the screen and shutter to be independent at times and connected at others does cause some complication, most notably the strange hinging arrangement for the screen. If the screen opened inwards this would all be a lot simpler.

So why not open the screen inwards? Two reasons, firstly if you wanted the "window" to be totally open you would have to clip the screen to the ceiling or somewhere.

Secondly you would have to move anything that was placed inside the window out of the way before you could open the screen, in the lounge room this would mean the chairs, in the nook some coffee-making stuff, and in the bedroom the bedding.

You could of course remove the screen, but where to put it?

All this would get very annoying very fast. Better to spend some time getting the design right.

There are some neat roll-up screens on the market, but last time I priced them they were $700 or more, and I would be worried about the price and practicality of replacing the wire when it tears or just wears out as I have seen them do.

Sat 9 Jun

This morning I'm working on the left-hand side of the bedroom. It's exactly the same as the right-hand side and as such not very interesting to me.

As a kid I used to make model bridges out of match sticks. Some of the structures were fairly impressive at several feet long and high, but I hated doing the same thing twice and so would change the design half way through the project. As the span changed shape midstream, and terminated in pylons entirely different from those on the other side, it made for some interesting if somewhat unlikely designs.

Fortunately I have resisted the urge to do the same with the bedroom. Both sides are the same.


The bedroom frame. Note the rag tied on the end of a piece of steel clamped to the bracing to stop it pulling as I weld. It's good workshop practice to flag things poking out where you don't expect them, especially when they are at head level as this is.

I also noticed that part of the frame was out of square, the area around the window had pulled at some point by nearly 10mm. It takes quite some time to cut the frame at several places and pull it back into line with a chain.


Re-squaring the frame with a chain, the stay in the foreground was added once the frame was square.

Sun 10 Jun

It's getting pretty messy in the workshop, to the point where it's difficult to work, so I've allocated a couple of hours for a bit of a tidy up.

After that I decide to get stuck into the old body. I hadn't planned to do anything with it until Peter and Marie return and want their workshop back, because until that time it makes sense to do work that requires shelter.

However I have a buyer for the old body and he's driving over from Adelaide as I write this. He should be here tomorrow and will want to put the body on his truck. As he has a 4x4 with a 14-foot tray it won't fit as is, so we plan to cut the lounge room off and probably some of the front under the bed room.

He apparently has several days off work (it's his company so I guess he can do what he likes) but he still doesn't want to spend any longer than necessary, so I will do some of the work before he arrives.


Stripping some of the aluminium and wood from the old frame so I can cut the lounge room off with the oxy.

I also have to drill holes in the under-floor storage bins, they are obviously well sealed and have collected all the rain we've had recently. A couple of years ago we spent $500 for bladders to store water in these bins now I'm wondering if we need have bothered, we should have just pumped the water under the floor.

Naturally I don't want to use an electric drill under a foot of water, so I get out the air drill, it works a treat even when completely submerged.

Mon 11 Jun

First thing today I decide to finish the job on the old lounge room. After thirty minutes or so it seems that most of the steel has been cut so I put the forklift tines under the main part of the body and lift.


Mostly off, I break the back with the forklift so I can cut the remaining steel that was on the ground.

Looks good, I haven't been able to cut the very bottom bits because they were on the ground, so I lift a bit higher and fire the oxy back up.

I also drive the fork around the other side to try lifting there, but promptly get bogged in the wet ground. It takes quite some time to get out because there's no room to get a run up, so each time I dig the machine out and get going I have to make a sharp turn and it bogs again.

With one piece of steel to go I tackle it from above while kneeling on the floor, with a thud the lounge room hits the ground.

I use the forklift to pick up the front of the body and drag it away a couple of feet.


After dragging the main part of the body away I feel a bit like those ship dismantlers working in that ship graveyard in Bangladesh.

That will do for now, so I return to working on the bedroom.

The bedroom floor is just a few lengths of 25x25mm RHS which, no matter how much you weld it will not be very strong vertically, so I decide to brace it using a technique have I used before.

By adding a 50mm standoff and running four straps made of 8mm round bar to the corners I effectively have a 75mm thick floor which is much stronger than the original 25mm version and hardly any heavier.

But there's a trick. If you just weld the straps in place the floor will still sag, firstly because you probably won't be able to get them dead straight, and secondly because they will stretch a bit when the load is applied.

I get around this problem by bending the floor upwards before welding the straps. Then, after welding, I release the floor and it sags downwards tensioning the straps as it goes.


Fig 4. A plain floor (a) only 25mm thick has no chance of being very strong. Adding the straps while clamping the floor flat (b) will be strong but only after sagging (c). By preloading (actually it's probably pre-unloading) the straps before welding (d) the floor sags back to level and tensions the straps (e) resulting in a flat and strong floor.

It's after dark and still no sign of Brian, the fellow driving over from Adelaide to buy the old body. He rang about lunch time to say he was running late but still expected to be here today despite a few problems like the exhaust falling off and a huge leak in the front diff that requires him to regularly stop and refill the diff with oil.

At around seven the phone rings, it's Brian and he has broken down just outside Goondiwindi, a blown radiator hose and the resultant water caused another problem I couldn't quite understand due to the bad connection. He hopes to get things fixed and arrive tomorrow.

Wed 13 Jun

Brian is still delayed in Goondiwindi so I start the day by filling in some of the kitchen framework.

Then I get a call, he is still waiting on the mechanic and doesn't expect to be here any time soon. He's been delayed for a couple of days now so I decide to do some more work on the body so at least when he gets here we will have less to do.

According to our measurements, as well as removing the lounge room I also have to cut off the small area that was behind the cab.

So I get the forklift, oxy and assorted tools out and make a start.


I lift the front of the body and place it on stands so I have better access.

To get as the steel I have to first remove some of the aluminium cladding. I start as before with the air chisel, lump hammer and pinch bar, but some of this cladding was adhered with Sikaflex not the VHB tape, and this part is proving extremely difficult to remove. Time for some mechanical help.


I fit an 8" G-clamp to the aluminium, chain that to a fork, and lift.


It works a treat.

Then I have to remove as much wood as possible and cut all the steel, taking care not to cut any of the bedroom floor as Brian will presumably heed that.

After about an hour I think I have everything cut, attach the forklift with a chain and pull. There's some groaning of metal but it doesn't give way.

Another half an hour cutting and bashing and I try again.


It's free.

Thu 14 Jun

Brian arrives this morning and after a look around he starts dismantling the tray on his 4x4 ACCO.

Fri 15 Jun

We've organised for someone to come out with a crane truck to lift the body into Brian's truck. The crane truck driver lives locally so the plan was that he would leave work early, do the job on the way home, then drive into work the next day in the truck.

Unfortunately that plan would work well on any work day of the week except Friday. On Friday however he won't want to go with that plan because it will mean having the truck at home all weekend and being without his car for two days. Not to mention the Friday after-work drinks he'll miss.

The upshot of all this is that he is coming out this morning, and we still have work to do on Brian's ACCO before we can put the body on.

So we set to madly trying to remove all the timber from the tray before the crane arrives.

We've got most of it off when the dogs go nuts, indicating that someone is coming up the track. Sure enough a few seconds later the crane truck arrives.

While Don (the driver) and I figure out how to sling the body, Brian finishes off as much as he can on his truck. Then it's time to lift.


The crane handles the front of the body and I use the fork to assist at the rear.


It's on, and a rare sight it is to.

Don leaves and we start work on fixing the body on to the tray. Before moving it into the workshop however I chain it down because it's sitting a bit precariously on the very edge of the tray.


The new creation in the workshop.

At about this time Mark and Gail, two motorhoming friends of ours, drop in. Mark takes one look at the strange combination and christens it "Wothahellwazat".


Brian wonders what to work on next.


Then elects to grind something.

Sat 16 Jun

We work all day on Brian's truck. The first job is to weld the body onto his tray. Then we use some jacks to reposition the pop top and make some straps to tie it down.

After that I get the bright idea to put the storage bin doors on the body rather than just put them in Brian's rented trailer, it will make the body look more finished. I cut the hinges when I took them off though, so we just screw them to the body.

We then spend some time loading the deck pieces and various other odd and ends that belong to the body onto the trailer and we're done. Or at least I'm done, Brian spends another hour or so packing his stuff into his new motorhome.


Wothahellizat in two parts.

He'll leave tomorrow and I can get back to working on my motorhome.

Sun 17 Jun

With the old deck and various other bits strapped to the trailer Brian is ready to go.


The truck and trailer are packed up and ready to hit the road.


I get a quick photo as he drives out from the workshop...


Brian drives Wothahellwazat along the track from the workshop.

Then I drive ahead and show him the way to the highway, pulling over when we get there to wave him on. As the old Wothahellizat body disappears around the corner I confess to getting a bit emotional. It is sad to see it go, but not as sad as if it had gone to and scrap yard. Hopefully Brian will resurrect our old house and we will see it on the road in future.

On my return to the workshop I get stuck into the body framework again, specifically the utilities area which I get largely sorted by the end of the day.

Mon 18 Jun

Today I get stuck into the poptop, I've had the design on computer for some time so I bring the laptop out to the workshop and start building.

By the end of the day I have a more or less functioning poptop skeleton.


The poptop in operation with a piece of clamped-on hinge.

As you can see we're going for a much simpler and lighter poptop design compared to the previous body. It will still weight 30-40kgs though so I will have to figure out how to apply some gas struts to make lifting it easier.

NOTE: I estimated the weight of the old poptop to be around 300kg, plus the weight and complexity of the hydraulics to lift it. We've made quite a saving here.

Of course we no longer have a full-height roof, but that is a small price to pay.

I haven't yet settled on the design for the sides, but it will probably be a metal frame with canvas and/or fly screen infills.

Tue 19 Jun

In order to get things going I originally intended to weld some gate hinges to the poptop as I have some to hand. However, on looking at the job I decide that a stainless steel continuous hinge is the most appropriate way, and as I don't have any this job will have to be put on the backburner for a while.

I've also pretty much run out of RHS steel, so I think this is an appropriate time to change tack and return to the chassis work.

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