Category Archives: benches/bed

A Trip to Ohiopyle and Fallingwater (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Our first night actually was fine, even if short.  The back of the bus faced the east, which meant that the sun streamed in through the trees in all the windows.  The new bench-platform bed fit a queen-sized foam pad with room to spare, and the pre-made bedroll made putting the bed together easy.  After a pot of espresso was brewed up on the stove, we started to unpack and find what we needed.

The new awning in place and rolled up.
The new awning in place and rolled up.

As a light rain started and slowly got heavier, I opted to put out our new (to the bus) awning, both to insure that we would have some dry area alongside the bus and because the awning had not been unrolled and exposed to a nice cleaning rain in over a decade.  It came out easily and I was able to use a cloth and the rain-water to clean the supports of the dirt and grime it had accumulated in the under-building storage it had been in.

One thing to note here was that we were in our first extended-stay non-electric sites.  Given that we’d be moving and wouldn’t be able to use the solar panels, I didn’t even bring them, and we opted to use the fridge (which had chilled on before we left and had been running off the inverter on the way down) as a cooler, opening it as little as possible to conserve cold.  But it was nice.  We still had lights with the DC when we needed them, and there was no buzz from the inverter.

A nice soft, safe spot for a dog.
A nice soft, safe spot for a dog.

The Ohiopyle Campgrounds were really nice.  There were lots of little streams and big rocks.  (Our dog liked nestling among them.)  There were tons of trees and plenty of birds, though not many animals that we saw, though we were in one of the two dog-friendly loops.  The other loops are not pet friendly, and you aren’t even allowed to walk your dog through them.  If there’s a trailhead in one of those loops, you have to drive your dog there to take them on the trail.

And there was no excess light pollution after dark.  It was really nice to be able to see the moon and stars amongst the clouds from our bed.

The bench platforms in place. Basically all the space under those middle panels is storage!
The bench platforms in place. Basically all the space under those middle panels is storage!

After a hearty breakfast, we set about some organizing.  We drove down to Ohiopyle with the bench-platform in place, and the height of the platforms means that all of the plastic totes that we have used so far slide right underneath it.  This is great because the open space is about 60 inches by 42 inches, which is a ton of space where the totes can’t bounce around in the far back of the bus.

One of the issues we had in arranging was that I haven’t yet built the under-counter storage, so everything was tucked away in the bathroom area, and we needed to be able to tuck it all back there the next morning, as we needed to take the bus to Fallingwater the next day (Two miles away as the crow flies, but eight by road) as we couldn’t leave our dog at the campsite and we didn’t bring a toad or chase vehicle.

As the day progressed, and the rain worsened periodically, it also became obvious that we needed better pre-planing.  I had checked the weather and noted that it was going to be cold and grabbed winter gear (coats, gloves, hats, scarves), but not rain gear, and the weather was still relatively warm.  Luckily the spotty rain cut out often enough that it wasn’t a big problem, but when our friends on a different loop stopped by and our son wanted to go and play with them, he didn’t have rain gear to take ‘just in case’.

(So, we’ve determined that we need a better pre-trip list, and currently everything that was packed away in the bus is now out for cataloging and sorting.)

But we were fine.  We hosted the kids from our friends’ site (they had a total of five kids) as their son remarked that we always had good games with us.  Boss Monster was the game of choice, and much fun was had by all (except the heros, of course).  But we also had brought our LEGO Fallingwater set and our Pop-up Frank Lloyd Wright book, so they were seen as well.

LEGO Architecture Fallingwater (21005) (Discontinued by manufacturer) (Toy)


List Price: $99.99 USD
New From: $299.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Frank Lloyd Wright in Pop-up (Hardcover)


List Price: $19.98
New From: $57.99 USD In Stock
Used from: $5.01 USD In Stock

Boss Monster Card Game Bundle (Toy)


List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Toas-Tite Aluminum Sandwich Grill, Regular (Kitchen)


List Price: $31.99 USD
New From: $25.95 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

And for dinner, we got to christen two new toastite makers on the fire! My wife got me one years ago, and last year my wife and son decided that if I was making toastites for everyone, I wasn’t getting to eat with everyone else.  So they got toastite makers for themselves and I got to make three toastites all at once.

The night got down to 37F or so, but we were all pretty warm.  Mixed in with our blankets and bedding were blankets of reflective mylar and faux-sheepskin that we tend to call ‘magic blankets’ for just how warm they are.

The next day was classes at Fallingwater, so we had to contend with packing up in the morning.  And getting the bus there.

 

Continued in Part 3

Getting Shellaced!

These little lac bugs make the shellac resin. Pretty handy!
These little lac bugs make the shellac resin. Pretty handy!

Out of all the different ‘food safe’ finishes I researched for our woodwork (especially the counter and table), I ended up on shellac.  Part of my initial examination of finishes was whether they could be consumed without harming people, and the non-toxic lac resin that shellac is made out of made it seem like a good choice.

Shellac is available in both solid flakes that are dissolved in denatured alcohol before being applied, and as a premixed solution in a regular paint/stain can that only needs to be stirred/mixed before use.  In either circumstance, the liquid/dissolved form can be thinned out more with denatured alcohol until it gets too old and begins to crystallize back out of solution.  While the flakes are harder to find, many woodworking stores have them, while the premixed shellac is readily available at most hardware stores.

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac (Tools & Home Improvement)


List Price: $18.78 USD
New From: $12.91 USD In Stock
Used from: $11.36 USD In Stock

Dewaxed Super Blonde Shellac Flakes 1/2 Lb, or 8 Oz


List Price: $15.99 USD
New From: $15.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Shellac has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, and as a (documented) furniture finish as early as the 1500’s.  It really caught on in the early 19th century as eastern Asian trade began to get more trendy and really flourish.  It was the finish for fine furniture from those early 1800’s times until the 1920’s and 1930’s when modern lacquer was introduced, but continued to hold a large market share of use until the 1950’s and 60’s when polyurethane and ‘wiping varnishes’ became the rage.  Marketers played down shellac’s finishes as not being as water-resistant, and pointing out that shellac degrades after it’s been dissolved (after about three years it won’t ‘set’ right), and the public started to move away from it, though high quality furniture makers continued using it.

Some of the different colors of shellac chips.
Some of the different colors of shellac chips.

Shellac resins come in a range of colors based on the type of tree the bugs feed upon and on the time of year harvested.   The most common colors are ‘amber’ and ‘blond’ or ‘clear’ which is actually bleached.  While most shellac used during the 1800’s and early 1900’s is the amber variety, mixes of differing amounts of the two types can give a wide range of intensity of the depth of color.  Clear coats can be put over an amber layer with no problems, creating a ‘topcoat’ for protection that’s easily fixed.  Shellac also has some wax to it (about 5% in natural shellac), but comes in a ‘de-waxed’ type as well that is a little more water resistant.

Now, you might ask why I’d choose shellac when there are more durable options?  Well, first off, there’s the ease of application.  Shellac dries really quickly, and unless you have bubbles of hair or something in the coat you want to apply over, you don’t have to sand between coats.  This is because the alcohol in the shellac you’re applying as a second (or subsequent) coat will slightly dissolve the top surface of the already applied coat and the new layer will just blend right into it.

That leads me into the second reason, that it’s easily repaired.  Denatured alcohol on a rubbing cloth can smooth out a crack.  Crazing or ‘orange peel’ pocking can be smoothed out by misting an area with the denatured alcohol.  A small area can be stripped to deal with issues with the underlying wood without damaging the rest of the finish, and then new coats can be applied to the area to build it back up and blend it into the existing finish.

The third reason is the same one that causes fine furniture makers to choose shellac – it’s look.  Because the coats all blend, the finish looks deep and rich, and the wood is all nicely visible.  As I’m using such nice pieces of oak to begin with, I like that it gets show off so well.

The shellaced counter is shiny!
The shellaced counter is shiny!

 

So this is what you come out with using the shellac.  The oak has a ‘Golden Oak’ stain on it, and once that was dry, the shellac clung to it with no issues at all.

Shellaced benches drying in the back.
Shellaced benches drying in the back.

And I even got a chance to put some shellac on the wood panels that I put in the fridge doors, helping to protect and gloss those as well.  But they escaped pictures, so I’ll have to get them another time.

All that said, it isn’t the ‘perfect’ finish.  It can scratch, so it will be best to try and use buffers (doilies) and avoid using harsh cleaners on the shellac.  If it gets up over 120 degrees, it might start to craze.  But a layer of polish wax can help make it more water resistant, so there are some ways to work with the issues.

The Master Bed/Back Benches (Final!)

So, finally, after several planning attempts to get a workable means of getting a master bed out of two benches in the far aft of the bus, I did it.  While I set up detailed plans for the back benches in a couple of previous posts (Parts One and Two), I ended up making some variations based on our assessments of our stays in the bus over this last summer.

The bench in profile, showing the `pocket` for the platform.
The bench in profile, showing the `pocket` for the platform.

While I had planned to have pallet sections span between the two benches before, I had designed for only two pallet sections of ~29″ width each to be the ‘back’ of the bench.  What we decided to do was to make the span into three sections of 19 1/2″ width, to be stowed under just one of the benches.  While this loses a little more storage area overall, the sections are much easier to unstow, and there’s more accessibility to the storage area.

Oak & 2x3 frame, starboard side.
Oak & 2×3 frame, starboard side.

So, I started with a simple frame made of 2x3s and 1 3/8 x 1 3/8″ and 1 3/8 x 5″ oak that I planed down.  This gave a stable, and in places, visually appealing structure for the bench. Along the outside wall of the bus, I ran another 2×3 which I screwed into the structural ribs of the bus body for the wider planks to rest on.  In working on the counter in the galley area, I found that the pocket screws were a pain to put into the ribs.

Port-side bench, showing storage area for the pallets.
Port-side bench, showing storage area for the pallets.

On the port side, however, I put the storage for the pallets, so instead of a large open box, I ended up with a box-within-a-box sort of system.  This still left some shallow storage space above the pallet area and a deeper section all the way to the back.

The angled supports for the pallet sections.
The angled supports for the pallet sections.

One of my reasons for designing the original set-up for having the wider pallets being the bench backs was that they wouldn’t be able to slide around, as the back of the bus gets the brunt of bounces and tail-swing forces.  In storing the pallets under the bench-seat, though,  I designed the storage area to have angled supports, only dipping down about 3/4″ over 21″ of width.  I’ll have to decide after a few drives if I’ll need extra stops to keep the pallets from sliding out.

Rail & stile router bits and my handy pocket jig.
Rail & stile router bits and my handy pocket jig.

With the bench frames in place, I needed to build the outer shell of the benches, still using the flat panel wainscoting that I used elsewhere in the bus.   For this, I pulled out a set of rail & stile router bits and my Kreg pocket jig, which together make some really nice, secure wainscoting.

All the panel pieces, and some of the oak plywood ...
All the panel pieces cut and routed, and some of the oak plywood …

There were three pieces of panel to make up, as the fore part of the starboard bench opens into open space, it needed a section that the port bench (coming up to the bunk wall) didn’t.

Almost set, just needs plywood panels and the top rail.
Almost set, just needs plywood panels and the top rail.

Assembly was easy, just drilling for the pocket screws, evening up ends, and measuring for spacing of stiles.  Once these were set, I cut 1/4″ oak plywood for the panels, and set those in place with a single brass wood screw.  I don’t like to use glue for these, as the wood tends to expand and contract with heat and humidity, and I wanted to give it that flexibility.  On the other hand, I don’t want the panels (very literally) rattling around while the bus is rolling.

Panels installed, notches in top rail visible.
Panels installed, notches in top rail visible.

The last detail to work out was in the long top rails, so that the 1 3/8 x 1 3/8″ supports on the edges of the pallets would rest securely in place.  This is one of the places where having the oak frame was important, as it would be visible behind the notches.  But it all worked out nicely.

The port side bench with wainscoting installed.
The port side bench with wainscoting installed.

The port panel was more tricky, and involved some chisel-work to get the rail above the pallet storage to sit nicely and give a robust, non-routed opening for the pallets.  The bench tops were made of 3/4″ oak plywood for the hinged bench top, faced with a 1″ strip of oak as an edging, then the rest was oak boards that lapped over the supports.

Look the benches are gone, and now it's a bed!
Look the benches are gone, and now it’s a bed!

With the pallets in place, it makes a 58 1/2″ x 92″ bed-space.  One of the nice things about it is that the space under the bed is still accessible, either by reaching underneath from the front, opening the rear door, or opening up the bench tops.  I’m planning on getting some nice recessed handles that will make opening the lids easier.

The bench goes all the way around the back.
The bench goes all the way around the back.

But the modular design of the pallets makes them interchangable in all the notches, and allows for a U-shaped bench in the ‘observation area’ of the back of the bus.

So this new design fits better with our uses of the back area of the back, and makes it really versatile, as we could have the center pallet in as a table, and have several folks around it.