Saturday, September 23, 2017

The old bag gets new bags

Fortunately for me, Annie has a good sense of humor about post titles like that. Besides, at 2 years old, she knows she is hardly an old bag. But she is a mobile bag, holding us and our traveling needs safe and comfy.

But her rear end was getting a bit saggy with the batteries and water stored back there.
An unladen extended Transit has a 12deg departure angle (at least based on the euro drawing I found. That works out to about 16" ground clearance at the rear bumper.

When Annie gets fully loaded, not only does she slur her words, but her rear is down to about 12" or less clearance. We don't want her dragging her butt on dirty rough logging roads. Really tears up her pants.
So we decided she needed a butt lift. But, her butt should have a variable butt boost. No ifs and, or buts.
We want to normally travel with her rear just a bit down from unladen stock, but for steep transitions, ditches, etc. we want to temporarily raise her butt enough to get her clear.
So, we decided on airbags rather than helper springs.
Additionally, we want to use the bags as a leveling device, which means we want to inflate or deflate each one individually.
Airlift makes a version of their LoadLifter 5000 specifically for the Transit. That seems to be the only one out there specifically designed for our van.
The bags replace the stock jounce bumpers, so we ordered the Ultimate version, which has integral bumpers as a backup if the bags ever spring a leak.
We also got their dual manifold and compressor with wireless remote. That's the way  we'll get individual bag control.

There's not much to say about the installation, the instruction manuals are very good.
But, I should note that there is a potential for drilling the wrong hole size if you just follow the compressor' mounting template. It calls for 1/4"  holes, but that's really if you are not mounting to a closed frame member. DAMHIKT.

We have a trailer hitch with B+ power only when ignition is on, so we are using that as the power source for the airbag system.

Since the manual is very good and Transit specific, I'll only post some picks of the final assemblies.

The compressor and manifold are mounted to the rear of the driver side spring, tucked well out of the way of debris and mud. There was hardly any dirt up there before I started the install.

Here's a mounted airbag

Each bag has a manual fill Shrader valve. Also useful for manually checking pressure, although the remote has a pressure readout. I mounted the valves through the rear bumper plastic shroud, and routed the passenger side lines along and above the hitch.

Right now, fully loaded and with 30# pressure in each bag, Annie's rear is at 15" clearance. At about #60 pounds, I'd guess that about 90% of the rear body weight is on the bags, not the OEM springs. Clearance is about 18" at that point.
We are allowed to inflate to 100#, so it looks good that we'll have a 9-10 " improvement in clearance at the temporary extreme. I haven't had the nerve to drive at that pressure yet. At 50#, the ride gets kind of harsh.

And finally, for something completely different, I got the OBDII Torque Pro app up and running on an old phone.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kitchen FixtureUppers (I watch too much HGTV)

In order to process food into our bodies, it is useful to have a temporary storage unit. We call that unit a mouth. A mouth contains food storage/processing assistants, such as teeth and lips. Without those assistants, food would fall out of your mouth whenever you moved.

Similarly, when preparing said food, it is useful to have temporary food associated storage for tools such as pans, dishes, glassware, etc. So, we're building those into Annie.
People would look at us funny if we said we were building Annie's mouths, so let's just say we're building her kitchen cabinetry. We've already built the  counter and lower cabinet.

In this entry, we build and install Annie's upper mouth kitchen cabinets.
There are two cabinets over the counter. they are 13" deep at their base, and 13"high at the front. Since the wall and ceiling are sloped, things narrow down toward the approximately 12" deep and 11 3/8" high.

 The frames are made from box-jointed 1.5"x.75" maple.
Test fitting the frame:

Both frames are built, and floor is test-fitted:

Test fitting the rear box.

Rear box, its bottom and rear panels ready for poly finish.

The rear box is mounted. The box is supported by screwing upper frame members into the wood rafters running the length of Annie (described in a much earlier blog entry). Those rafters are also the attachment points for the ceiling bead-board.
The front facing upper frame also holds the door piano hinge.
The rear box also screws into the side wall. Can't do that with the front box, because the wall is made of no-drill-zone boron steel around the sliding door. Turns out that the rear's wall screws aren't really necessary anyways. Neither box is going anywhere.

Base panels and light are installed.

Repeating the process with the front box. The boxes are identical, except that I added an aluminum sheet to the bottom of the front. It sits over the hob, and the aluminum should make splatter cleanup easier.

Building the mouth lips cabinet doors. These are shaker style. The rails and stiles are the same 1.5"x .75" as the box frames. The panel is 1/4" maple ply.

The doors are mounted. We're using a 100N gas strut to hold it open, and a pair of neodymium magnets to hold it closed. 

The finished product:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Using Annie

Annie's build is not finished yet, but enough is done to go camping.

We just came back from a (very) short trip in the Mt. Baker National Forest on back roads both east and west of Baker Lake.

So I figured a trip report might be in order.

Here are a few pics of our mini-adventure, with some commentary occasionally thrown in.

Unlike a 300 picture slide show of Aunt Martha's ocean cruise, please feel free to leave as soon as you have the slightest twinge of boredom.

A beautiful camp spot with nobody around for miles. And almost no bugs!

Lots of wildflowers




The exploration thereof

Going on hikes

Taking time to sniff the sniffable

And great traveling views

Saturday, May 20, 2017

All around good bedside matters

Another very short update.
We've been finishing up work around the bed...under it, behind it, and at the sides of it.

For starters, we added some equipment mounting at the end, and figured out how the storage underneath will go.
We've packed a pretty full toolbox (the silver case), outside rocking chairs and ottomans, leveling blocks, an axe, a bow saw, a crowbar, fire extinguisher, hoses, rope and the awning crank.
Still lots of room down there.

Next we added touch operated dimming reading lamps at the headboard.

And a master switch for them above the closet.

Then power points for tablets, phone, and currently imaginary 12V things.
These pics are of the driver side ports. Passenger side is similar.
Main difference is that the driver side also has a master power switch for  both sides. The USB adapter has an unreasonably bright blue LED that draws about 20mA. No reason to have the ports live if we're not charging anything.
Added some carpet to make things cushy,
 and these bits are done.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Stepping up our game

I've mentioned before that my spousal unit is somewhat disabled. This meant she had some real trouble getting in and out of Annie without dragging out some step-stools.
So we decided to install an AMP Research Powerstep. It automatically opens and closes with the doors.
It works great! She can now enter and leave Annie all on her own!

I won't describe the installation, because the step is specific to the Transit, and comes with excellent instructions. But I did take some proof of concept pictures.
The step is almost invisible when closed:

But you can see it fine when opened:

Then she experimented with entering and leaving:

It even gets the aesthetic committee's seal of approval!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kitchen cabinet outside door

Yet another quickie entry.
We built the kitchen Cabinet to have some storage access from outside Annie. For storage of stuff like Kya's (empty) water bowl.

I installed a shelf and the outside door. The shelf can be removed if desired.
The outside door latches with push-to-open magnetic latches. It seems to hold over bumpy roads.

Trimmed the whole thing with some cushy weatherstripping. In case this cruel world starts throwing slings and arrows at it.

Some pics: