Sunday, August 21, 2016

Overhead? No, over sink

We built and installed the overhead compartment (minus door).
The frame is made from 1"x.5" maple strips.
I made 3 axis box joints for each corner.

We also made wall coverings for above the window, above the cabinet frame, and for the hollow floor in the cabinet.
The floor is hollow because we are mounting a surface mounted over-sink light on the cabinet bottom.

It's still way to early for drinking, but all those pieces are really getting shellacked.

Got it all mounted up:

The door still needs to be built. It will swing down on a piano hinge, and have magnetic latches to keep it closed.

A better view of the panels above the window"

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sinking to new lows

It's been a while since the last post. We've been building the half bath's sink and cabinet, and enjoying getting interrupted by spending almost a couple of weeks trying to get the old stuck clutch out of my motorcycle.

Anyways, here's what we've gotten up to in Building Annie.

We took the panel previewed at the end of the last post, and mounted it:

Then we built a windowsill. First leveled out the sloped sidewall with a ripped 2x4. Glued and screwed to the frame.

Then made and mounted the maple sill.

We found a nice piece of melamine covered counter at a recycled building supply. Cut it to length. Dry fitting it:

It leaves a bunch of space behind the fridge. We decided that we could use it for a storage compartment, without screwing up adequate ventilation for the fridge compressor.
Starting to fit pieces of this jigsaw:

With the curvy window frame and van wall, nothing was straight. It took an excessive amount of time to cut and build up the odd shaped box walls.
We made dato'd corner trim pieces, and glued stuff together.

I was getting really frustrated with the slow progress, and was beginning to not give a hoot.
Fortunately we have a friendly neighbor who did give the hoot I so desperately needed.

With courage restored, I finished up the compartment. Eventually I'll be putting shelves in there.

Next, we built the rear wall of the area under the sink/counter.
An important goal here is to allow everything to be disassembled if we ever need to remove the furnace. Since it sits under a weight bearing support for the fridge (necessary to minimize wasted space), it's not possible to pull the furnace straight out like the manual suggests. Instead, we'd have to remove it via the bathroom.

Then we built a cover for the furnace and the cabinet's kick panel.
The cabinet will have sliding doors.

We cut the holes in the counter for the sink and faucet.

We had a piece of material left after cutting the counter down to size. So, after mounting the sink, we turned that remnant into a sliding shelf. We also incorporated the upper glide for the cabinet doors

The shelf has a push/push magnetic latch and some foam weather stripping to keep it from rattling around.

Made a cabinet shelf:

And installed the counter.
The counter shelf is closed:

And is open.

Reinstalled the throne:

Finally, the chairperson of the aesthetics committee checked out and approved the new chair.

Next up, we will put a small overhead cabinet over the counter, build the wall behind the driver's seat, and build the bathroom doors.

Monday, May 30, 2016

You should not bathe or shower in a half bath, part one

We are building Annie's half bath. It will hold our composting toilet, a counter with sink and faucet, and some storage.
Strangely enough, the counter will not have any arithmetic ability at all. So this will be a bath without a bath, a counter that can't count, and a sink that isn't floating in the first place. A very confused project. So I'll write about it in several section, just to help limit my confusion at any given time.

We've already set the placement of the toilet in an earlier entry:
for-when-ya-gotta-go. Now let's work on enclosing it.

The bath is forward of the fridge.  First steps are to close in the fridge and instrument panel walls.

When last we spoke of it:

Building out the frame to allow covering the support brackets. I used strips cut from 1/4" ply.

The walls will need to accommodate the cabling that runs to the instruments, as well as the depth of some of the instrument connectors. So, the top 12" or so will be bumped out about 1". 
On the fridge wall, this will be the rear of a storage cabinet. The instrument wall will have an access panel to get to the connections.

The lower walls are up. After a lot of discussion, the aesthetics committee decided on a darker 1/4" birch ply.

Preparing for the upper wall bump outs. This will bump the rear of the instrument panel space:

And ribs are added to the upper fridge wall and the instrument wall:

The 2 wall panels are mounted. The instrument bump-out panel is 1/4" maple play, same as the outside of that wall. Each has Thinsulate glued to the panel to minimize any cable movement.

The access panel is cut from the same ply piece as the bump-out panel, to match the grain pattern. Also has Thinsulate glued on.

The bump-outs are done. The hanging wire pair will power the under cabinet light. The bare unfinished wood on the left will be edge-banded in place. It will be where one of the non-bath bathroom doors are hung.

Next steps will be the passenger side wall and the counter, sink and cabinet.
Here is an exciting preview:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mounting panels below the fridge...a brief update.

I installed the panels below the fridge holding the power distribution/fuse box, the gas detector/alarm, the main furnace vent, and an A.C outlet.

This consists of a relatively permanent panel on the left, and one on the right that's removable for some storage and access to the gas valves.

The semi-permanent one has the fuse box and gas detector. I will eventually add a storage shelf accessible from beneath the bed. With all the wiring going to the fuse box, I don't want to be moving this panel very often. About the only reason to remove it will be if I need service access to the water heater or its gas and plumbing connections. Since it's an on-demand heater, antifreeze and a good blow-out should be sufficient for winterizing. No tank to drain, or bypass valve needed.

The right hand panel covers space where I plan to add 2 drawers above the heater vent.
One will be 6"deep. That leaves room for the heater flex hose behind. Another drawer, 12" deep will sit above the 6" drawer. Both will be on slides and removable. Not sure what will go in them, but it seems a shame to waste the space.
I may eventually make a door for those drawers, but at first, they will be hidden behind an easily removable panel. I can always cut the panel down to make the door, while maintaining the wood-grain pattern.

This panel also provides access to the front of the furnace. We will be putting a (GFI) outlet in the bathroom, and this point is right on the route. Since there was room to add an A.C. outlet, I did. So there. Maybe use it to plug in a vacuum.

Preparing the panel for cutout:

Test fit the panel and added the outlet:

  And buttoned everything up (minus the trim work).

Since I don't have any urgent need to use the drawers, I'll build and install them later. 

So now we're ready to dive into the john. Maybe I should rephrase that to say that the next step is completing the john (walls, counter sink, cabinetry, etc).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For when ya gotta go: I compost a blog entry here

We installed an Airhead composting toilet.

Fair warning...this will probably be the crappiest topic we discuss, and I will approach it with a rather pissy attitude.
Further, in an attempt to use as many euphemisms for peeing and pooping as I can possibly squeeze out, the introductory section may fail to meet the brevity standards of the aesthetics committee. In other words, I may be sitting on the pot too long before getting off.

Introductory section:
Practical RV toilets come in two flavors, chemical based black holding tank & cassette types, and composting types.

We early made the decision to try a composting unit. Several reasons.
All chemical systems  mix #1 and #2 with chemicals. The chemicals are there in a desperate attempt to control odors. These systems require emptying the resulting lumpy chemical stew at an RV disposal site.

We didn't want to deal with the complexity of building a black water holding tank system. Valves and roof vents and under chassis tank mounting. A pain in the ass to design and build into a one-off limited space camper. A waste of the limited supply of perfectly good drinking water to flush after you use your aforementioned ass for its intended purpose. Then you need to lug around the flavorful mix until you find a socially acceptable dump site.

Cassette systems are pretty much mini, removable black holding tanks built into the throne. They may have their own flushing water reservoir. Dumping still should be done at RV dump sites. You need to allow adequate space in the bathroom to maneuver the cassette tank in and out of the pedestal. Tank size is limited to how much you can lift or roll in and out of your RV. The holding tank is typically much smaller than a normal RV black tank. Maybe 5 gallons vs. 20 or more. Some cassette toilets are designed to remove that tank through a hole in an outer wall...not viable for Annie's design.

Once we eliminated black tank and other impractical options (for example, litterboxes, underwear, etc. also have limited carrying capacity), we looked into composters. At least while they were empty, we liked what we saw.

Composters were designed to biodegrade waste into usable, non-toxic things like fertilizer. They come in 2 varieties: separating, and non-separating.

Non-separating units were #1 on the scene. They are typically quite large, and require significant ventilation control. Reason is that the stored organics are wet, the composting process is largely done by anaerobic bacteria, and the anaerobic byproducts include ammonia and other nasty smellies.

Separating units were dumped on the market as an improved way to address the size and odor issues. I'll leave it to the reader to conclude what gets separated from what.
They use  material like peat moss or coconut coir to mix with the solids, and along with some airflow through a vent, help dry them out. The chemical reactions are primarily aerobic, and (theoretically) almost odor free. Since this is also a drying process, the storage efficiency goes way up. The #1 design criteria for this to work is for one to divert #1 into its own bottle.

When the storage fills up, solids can be allowed to fully compost and eventually spread in places like flower gardens (NOT veggie beds). Or they can be plopped into a garbage bag and dumped into the trash. Liquids can be diluted and dispersed, like against a few friendly neighborhood trees, or just poured down a standard toilet.

To be clear, we have yet to actually use the composter.
All the reviews and discussions we've read indicate that a separating composter is the best choice for Annie's use.
Well, more accurately, for our use inside Annie. Annie doesn't have an independent biological digestive tract.
We will learn if this was a wise decision once it's too late.

Installing the toilet:
We're starting work on the bathroom. (walls, counter, sink, cabinetry, etc.)
The bathroom is a pretty small space.
We felt an urgent pressure to install the toilet now, to make sure that we had adequate clearance to move around, build the walls, etc. without finding out later that the toilet was unusable because of space issues. As I mentioned earlier, litter boxes were not a viable options.
Once the john was installed, it is easy to remove to do construction, and to put back if any space issues or questions arose.

There are two brands we considered: Air Head and Nature's Head. Both are probably very similar in capacity and effectiveness. We went with the Airhead for 2 space related reasons: the overall footprint is smaller, and it's possible to remove the pee bottle without needing to tilt back the main body. That means we can mount it closer to its rear wall.

Here is what the installed unit looks like:

First thing to do was establish the location. We had rigged up some cardboard as counter and door substitutes. Then we moved the AirHead around till we found the best position.
The unit is mounted by 4 floor flanges. (Say that fast 10 times.) Two for the main body, and 2 for the pee bottle

Marking the main body flange locations:

Next we located where the vent will go. We chose to vent through the floor, although wall or ceiling venting are also allowed. That way, with enough methane build-up under Annie, we can use a spark igniter to give a jet assist as we go over a large rock.

The bell shaped housing holds the exhaust fan. The gray pipe doohickey has an insect screen, and uses some of the supplied vent tube to screw into the bell.

Drilled the hole:

I made up a through the floor vent tube with some 1.25" sched40 and a bandsaw cut piece of 1.25" coupling.

Painted the hole from top and bottom, filled it and any gaps with Great Stuff, and dropped the tube in. Cut clearance for the flange out of the vinyl flooring, and glued the vent down with gorilla glue. Removed any of the Great Stuff from the inside of the tube. Added more Great Stuff at the underneath where the vent comes through the van body.

Wired in the fan, and screwed down the bell and (previously marked) toilet body flanges:

Installed the toilet and made sure that the vent hose fit properly:

Then, using the mounted toilet, attached the pee bottle and marked for the pee bottle flanges:

And completed the effort by removing the unit and flanges, just leaving the screws:

I hope that you all are properly moved after reading this entry, and that it wasn't too hard going.