Category Archives: Appliance

Our Eclipse Trip (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

We planned out our meals, assuming that there would be days when it would be too hot to want to cook over the fire, but leaving room for a hot meal too.  My wife had shopped just before we left, and had looked for some steaks to take with us.  The store, however, had some ribs that were on sale (50% off!) so those were what came, along with some hamburgers, luncheon meats, hummus, snacking vegetables, cheeses, frozen pizzas, bagels …  The list went on.

The regular canned & dry goods pantry.

Luckily, our fridge is pretty big, and everything we wanted to take that needed to be kept cold fit.  We also had a bunch of canned goods, soups, beans, tomatoes, spam (of course), herring, you name it.  I usually keep a stock of those on the bus, but we added in some more soups and things.

By 11:00 am, we were all packed up, the house was secure (after being locked and alarmed and then me realizing that ALL my directions were sitting on the kitchen table!) and we started off. It was a pretty nice day, and after a quick weekend trip to Sprague Brook Park the weekend before (as a sort of shakedown trip) I’d filled the tank, so we were all set.

Except that the inverter wasn’t working.

Rolling farmland and countryside as seen from a moving bus …

I didn’t think it was a big deal, and we just kept going.  Along through New York on I-90, the speed limit was 65 mph, which is the top end for the bus, so that was fine.  It was a hot day though, and the temperatures kept creeping up over 200, so I feathered things a little to watch that.

I was also watching the output from the backup camera that I had finally installed.  It does a nice job, the static lines on the screen indicating about 1′, 3′, 5′, and 12′ from the rear bumper.  It also has a large field of view as I mounted it just up above and to the side of the rear door. (It was a little odd at first though, as the 140 degree fish-eye picks up the break and signal lights!)  The screen is nice, because if I turn the power to the camera off with a handy dash switch, it goes to sleep until it gets a signal form the camera.

But I had plenty of time to get used to the camera and watching temperature gauge along in New York. The I-90 through Pennsylvania, though, had sections of the 90 that had a 70 mph limit, which meant that I was holding some of the trucks back (especially on some of the steeper hills where we lost speed).  I really felt badly about that, but we continued on into Ohio.

Which also had 70 mph speed limits.

And the hills got steeper, so our average speed dropped some more.

Many people don’t realize that there’s a major watershed divide in Ohio, and as we headed south from Cleveland, we were heading uphill toward that.  Using a really cool website called www.flattestroute.com, I’ve been to find out the grades of the possible routes that we’ve looked at to travel on.  The route from Buffalo to Cincinnati is interesting as we start out in Buffalo at about 600 feet above sea level, and end up at about 485 feet above sea level at Cincinnati, but hit altitudes of almost 1400 feet along the way.

North of the red line goes to the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River, and south of it ends up in the Mississippi.
Altitude and slope of the route between Buffalo on left) and Cincinnati on right).

Just for interest, the first peak on that altitude graph is just east of Erie, PA (1259′), with the next lowest point being just east of the Pennsylvania/Ohio state line (677′), followed by the low point at the I-90 and I-271 interchange (648′).  The next high point was near Woodmere (1193′), but when we got to where 271 crosses the Cuyahoga Valley National Park it was lower (968′), only to rise again when we got to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River/Mississippi River Watershed boundary, just south of Medina, OH at about 1216 feet.  Then it was down again near Burbank (920′), and finally up to the highest point of our trip near Lexington, at 1391 feet, before our next low point just south of Lou Berlinner Park in Columbus (707′).  Another climb after we were out of the city brought us to the next high point at Exit 58 for Bowersville (1078′), then the next low near Mason, OH (762′), the next high point near Landon (871′), then finally the low of the Ridge Road Exit where we got off for the night (588′).

So, just looking at our starting and finishing altitude for our first day, we went down 12 feet, but if you look at even just the major high and low points along that day’s route, our ups and downs total some 5210 feet of altitude change!

And by the time we hit Jeffersonville, we were near a quarter tank of fuel, and decided to stop at a Love’s for fuel.  As per all of the travel stops that I’ve been to, I expected that the diesel pumps to be set for easier access for large vehicles, and away from the gas pumps.  Accordingly, Love’s has a banks of diesel pumps, and all the trucks are lined up right there, so I pull the bus in.  We wait for 10-15 minutes for the trucks ahead to fill, clean their windshields, and finally move ahead, and try to run our cards in the automated pumps.  Not a single one of them is accepted, they’re all declined.

I go through a minor panic, and my wife runs in to find out if there’s something wrong with the card reader.  And she has to wait on line for several minutes to find out that ALL of the pumps in those banks only take corporate cards, not regular credit cards.  If we want to use a regular card, we have to go to the one pump mixed in with the gas pumps that dispenses diesel. Which I was able to do.  And finally we got filled up and were back on the road.

Anyhow, we have friends who live not far from the Ridge Road exit in Cincinnati, so we got to drive down some lovely quiet little streets to get to theirs. We had talked about parking in front of their house on their dead-end street, but there were too many cars, and the exhaust pipe of the bus scraped about half-way up the slope of the entrance to their driveway, so backing in there didn’t work either.  So it was a multi-point turn (made much easier by the back-up camera) to turn around head the bus back out on their small street where we parked in the lot of a small apartment building at the end of the street that was in renovations (and our friends knew the manager who said it was okay).

We were treated to a great meal and a tour of their house (all the cabinets were hand-made by our friend Jeff, and they’ve stripped and refinished all the original woodwork, so it was great).  The rain which had been forecast for our trip had been spotty as we got close to Cincinnati, but really let loose once we stopped.  But at that point, it didn’t really matter, we were tired and ready to sleep.

But …

Without the inverter running (and since I don’t have the LP plumbed for the fridge yet), our fridge was a big cooler.  We had some worries, but there wasn’t much we could do right then, so we just left the doors closed.

The first day of the trip was done, and tomorrow would be a Kentucky day …

(continued in Part 3)

 

 

 

A Linear Actuator *or* The Magic Door!

Being that things warmed up and I was trying to get some stuff put away in my shop, I decided to tackle the linear actuator and get it in place.

The linear actuator, extended.
The linear actuator, extended.

Now some of you may be pausing (or going to the search engine of your choice) and asking ‘what the heck IS a linear actuator?’  Well, it is a screw/worm gear drive that pushes/pulls a shaft along a straight line, into and out of the housing.  These are the things that move lots of slide-outs on modern RVs and trailers.

But, you might also ask, if you don’t have a slide-out, why would you need a linear actuator?  Well, one of the problems with our bus, when we got it, was that there was no way to lock it.  The emergency doors had handles, but they had no key-locks though, they could be locked with a padlock on the interior handle or by installing a keyed household deadbolt through the door to interfere with the existent deadbolt inside, which is what we did to the back door.   The front door locked like a dream, as it was one of the swing-lever accordion doors.

The front door, with the swing-latch in the closed and locked position.
The front door, with the swing-latch in the closed and locked position.

As you can see, this is really secure.  Even if someone broke the glass to get in, they’d have to reach up and unlatch the handle by the gear shift in order to swing the door in.  You might also note the cloth by the latch – one of the problems with the door is that the latch has worn and it rattles while you drive.

The swing arm in the open position.
The swing arm in the open position.

Anyhow, you might note the long rod that connects the swing arm in the center to the door.   When the swing arm is moved to open the door, the rod gets pulled in and pulls the door accordingly.  In looking at it in the right way, if the swing arm was a static unit, in order for the door to open, the bar would have to shrink, optimally about 13″ to open the front door fully.  It just so worked out that Firgelli Automations sold not only a linear actuator with the motor integral to the unit (rather than mounted alongside), but also a remote kit.

Firgelli 12 Inch Stroke Sleek Rod Linear Actuator – 150 lbs Force


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

4 Channel Remote Control Systems


List Price: $91.00 USD
New From: $91.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Now, I chose the higher-powered 12″ model rather than the 14″ one, as I didn’t want to stress the door by pushing it too far, and the bar just wasn’t long enough to take the length of the fully opened 14″ one.  But the high-powered one has a push/pull strength of 150#, and a stopped strength of 300#, which seemed pretty strong as a replacement for the 5/8″ steel bar.

Threaded bar end and the hinge at the door.
Threaded bar end and the hinge at the door.

In looking to replace the bar, I needed to save the threaded end that attached to the hinge at the door, and the collar end that attached to the swing-arm.  These were easily enough cut away with the angle-grinder, and leveled (as best I could).

This is a picture of my 12" linear actuator, open, against the cut bar.
This is a picture of my 12″ linear actuator, open, against the cut bar.

I laid these out against the actuator and things looked pretty good.  But where I had planned to weld right to the actuator, it turned out that the fittings on the actuator were aluminum, so I had to create some pockets of angle-iron that would be the way to attach it.

Parts of angle iron for the connector pockets.
Parts of angle iron for the connector pockets.

These had to be cut down, welded, ground a bit more, welded again, then ended with some flat plate and drilled so that they would attach to the actuator.  As the bar-end of the actuator was not a nice, square piece but rounded as the bar was, and then rounded to allow for a swiveling action that I really didn’t want,  I had to make the pocket that would connect to the threaded rod not only a tight fit, but also longer so that it wouldn’t swivel or flex at all.

The connector cups, fitted and drilled to be attached to the actuator.
The connector cups, fitted and drilled to be attached to the actuator.

So after a little extra work, I had everithing ready to put together.  The connector pockets needed to be painted to keep down rust on the new grinds, and I decided to go with the brass paint, for the fun of it.

Here's the new linear actuator in place!
Here’s the new linear actuator in place!

The linear actuator bar wend in place great, however I discovered that if the round, extendable actuator bar with the screws on it moves and allows you to screw it into the door fitting, you’re actually unscrewing it from the motor and it’s a bad thing ™.  Luckily, the bar screwed right back into the actuator, and all I had to do was detach the other end from the swing arm and then screw the whole bar in and it worked out fine.

The remote, inside the door switch area.  The wires for the linear actuator go out through an existing hole in the bottom.
The remote, inside the door switch area. The wires for the linear actuator go out through an existing hole in the bottom.

I decided to use the space inside the door switch area of the swing arm to mount the remote, which worked well, as it already had a power line and ground screw in place.  The best thing about this placement is that the wires from the actuator don’t hang up on the swing arm when I use that.  With the actuator fully extended, the door operates normally.  With the swing arm locked, it works like this:

True it doesn’t open quite all the way, but it’s enough to get into and out of the bus, and the full extension of the linear actuator closes the door up snug enough that the door handle doesn’t chatter because it’s loose and worn anymore.

Now, all I need to do is get a DPDT swtich to run the door from inside, and it will be perfect.  But for right now, I have a keychain remote door lock for the bus!

iLLumi Projections E26 Edison DC 12V-20V LED Light Bulbs *or* Electrics (Part IV)

Barring the installation of the DC circuit breaker panel that I mentioned before, I went about installing the first 12 volt DC light that would be powered by the house batteries.  The need for this was displayed on a short day-trip we took to help a friend clean out her old family’s house, and the boy was unable to read, and I had some trouble finishing loading and packing the bus because the lights that I had installed were AC, and I hadn’t enough cable to run electric power from the house we were cleaning.  I wasn’t going to just leave the key in the accessory position for the interior lights, because I’m a bit touchy now about running the bus batteries down after our Evangola trip.

A lovely gas-light looking electric fixture

Anyhow, I had found two of these lights at Buffalo Reuse, though only one of them had its glass globe, and they both had the original 1920-30’s fabric-coated wiring.  Toward that end, I disassembled the fixture, replaced the old wiring with 14-gauge plastic-coated wire, and installed a new light bulb socket.  (A tip to people who might want to try rewiring such a fixture – use a ball pull-chain as a wiring snake to get the wire through those support tubes.)  In retrospect, I probably could have used 18 gauge wire, but I tend toward overbuilding anyhow.

Unfortunately, the ‘cup’ that holds the globe was lightly cracked and I haven’t been able to find a replacement, as it’s smaller than standard.  It’s a usual thing for such lamps, however, as the older brass gets brittle.  I decided that it would be okay, though, as I was going to cushion the cup anyhow, so I went about that.  I used some vinyl electrical tape to circle the interior of the cup, and then to surround the base of the globe as well, as this would keep road vibration from causing any problems.  I then went about gently scraping all the old paint flecks from the brass and glass.

However, getting the light refurbished was the easy part.  I wanted the light to rest above where the table will be in the cabin area of the bus, and the ceiling there is, of course, curved.  I wanted to have a flat base (parallel to the floor, that is) to mount the light to, and I had the wood to work with, but the curve looked tricky.

The endcap!As a woodworker, I knew the importance of having a jig or template to help and didn’t want to do the ‘trial and error’ method of creating one, until I realized that I had one already – the rear interior endcap!

Cutting the template
Cutting the template

I used some MDF that I had about, and traced the endcap, and cut it out, making sure to draw on plenty of lines at 90 degree angles to the flat base of the endcap.  These were important, just in case the smaller bit of the template (where the MDF wasn’t wide enough to fit the whole of the endcap might not be exactly parallel to the base) …

The finished template for the curved ceiling.
The finished template for the curved ceiling.

So, armed with the new template, I worked out how far from the window edge the light needed to be and set about making a base that would fit the light AND the ceiling.  I had some 7/8″ thick oak to work with and cut it to 5 1/2″ squares, and traced the curve onto one.

The curve to fit the ceiling, the access core and the lamp fixture fitting.
The curve to fit the ceiling, the access core and the lamp fixture fitting.

Careful cutting on the bandsaw, and then shaping with the bench sander yielded a very nice fitting piece of curved oak.  A 2″ forstner bit cut a smooth access core down through the curved wood, setting the stage for the important attachment bit for the light fixture; the part with the screw fitting on it.

The light fixture mounting attachment in the chiseled channel.
The light fixture mounting attachment in the chiseled channel.

The ‘light fixture mounting attachment’ needed to be sunk into the wood, parallel to the flat base, and this was quickly undertaken with a wood chisel.  Since I was working with oak, and going with the grain of the wood, this wasn’t bad at all.

The bottom of the light base, with the access channel and some routing on the edges.
The bottom of the light base, with the access channel and some routing on the edges.

I put a second piece of oak under the curved one to give a nice solid base for the lamp.  I did this because the thin edge of the curved piece I had cut was really thin.  I was afraid that if I just attached the lamp to it, it would crack or pull the attaching screws right through the wood.  Plus the routing on the bottom would be another nice touch of decoration that would show in the bus.

Four countersunk screws hold the two pieces of oak together.
Four countersunk screws hold the two pieces of oak together.

Using a countersinking bit I put four #10 screws into the two pieces of oak together, and drilled some holes through to the bottom and countersunk from the bottom for the metal pan-head screws that would attach it to the ceiling.  I then gave it a coating of stain and let it rest while getting the rest of the job ready.

The hole saw for the ceiling.
The hole saw for the ceiling.
And the hole saw does its work as it should.  The extra hole is a placeholder for a pre-drilled hole for the wooden base.
And the hole saw does its work as it should. The extra hole is a placeholder for a pre-drilled hole for the wooden base.

 

 

 

 

Loading a drill just smaller than the metal screws that would affix the wood to the ceiling, I pre-drilled one hole, and marked the center of the access channel in the wooden base.  I then switched to the hole saw and cut through the metal of the ceiling to so the wires could be run.

The wooden lamp base in place!
The wooden lamp base in place!

Using a regular wire snake to run the wires, it was a simple thing to get power to the location.  I ran 12 gauge wire from the converter to where the switch was going to be at the windows, then ran the 14 gauge wire from there, as I planned on hooking more lights in on this same circuit.

A simple chain pull-switch to run the works for now.
A simple chain pull-switch to run the works for now.

While I’m really looking to run some manner of dimmer in on this circuit, for now, I just put in a pull-switch.  It was easy to drill a hole in the exposed ceiling sheet metal, and for now the circuit is grounded to the frame.

Finally, the light in place.
Finally, the light in place.

After that, it was a simple matter of connecting the wires at the lamp, and tightening the screw pole to cinch it up to the wood.

 

The really funky LED light bulb.
The really funky LED light bulb.

 

In trying to make the batteries last as long as possible, I wanted to have the most efficient lighting that I could, and went for some LED lights.  Most of the problems with LED lighting seem to be in that the LEDs only put out light in a relatively tight beam, making them tough to use in a standard fixture.  Toward dealing with this, I found this multi-directional style of bulb, in both 7 and 9 watts:

The LED bulb in all it's glory.
The LED bulb in all it’s glory.

I have to say that these are SUPER bright on 12 volts, and while they say that they’re rated up to 24 volts, I don’t think I’d want to see them – they’d be way too bright.  As it is, the bulb does stick up over the globe a little, but the upward-facing LEDs provide a lot of indirect light off the bus ceiling (and show the places where it really needs to be cleaned!).

Another view of the LED bulb in action.
Another view of the LED bulb in action.

These bulbs are the soft-white version, and the vendor that I got these from indicates that there’s a bright-white version, but these seem very white compared to an incandescent, or even CFL soft-white bulb.  I did light them up when it got dark as well, and got these results:

Looking from outside, the LED bulb is plenty bright.
Looking from outside, the LED bulb is plenty bright.
And a front view of the bus at night with the LED bulb lit.
And a front view of the bus at night with the LED bulb lit.