Tag Archives: master bed

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.

A Week in the Bus (Allegany State Park trip – Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

After arriving around midnight at the campsite, we set up the basics, and got to bed. My wife and I ran into a bit of a problem with our bed situation, as the air mattress we had been using had developed a leak that I couldn’t patch, and the replacement we brought was a king-sized one that wouldn’t fit in the back area. Luckily, with just the three of us in the bus, we could share the bottom bunk, while our son took the top bunk.

We had a nice site near the top of the hill on our loop. For the Red House camping area, the A loop and B loop had their own bathroom facilities, while the C and D shared a bathroom, I think with the E loop. There were abundant water taps, and fairly nice stone rings for firepits, though no grates. We realized that we’d been spoiled, as the fire pits and rings at Sprague Brook and Evangola had attached and adjustable grates to cook on.

Luckily, the camp store was literally down the hill and across the road from our site, and they had a nice round grating that I could perch on stones in our firepit and make a cooking surface. They also sold a 30amp to 15amp plug adapter, which I found I needed, as the 15amp power plug on the power tree was a GFCI outlet that kept tripping when I plugged into it (which of course was happening after midnight in the light rain.)  

30 Amp RV Male to Female 5-15R Adapter (6736T) (Misc.)


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

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plugs are great, except when it's wet and dark and your system trips them!
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plugs are great, except when it’s wet and dark and your system trips them!

I was totally perplexed as to what was tripping the outlet, as the system worked fine on my garage’s 15amp breaker, so after going through everything and eventually unplugging a number of non-essential systems including the plug from the inverter (even though the breaker for the inverter’s power feed was off), I finally got us basic power for lights and the fridge. After spending part of the morning tearing apart the main power in plug and the breaker box, I found that it seemed that the GFCI was being tripped by the ground of the plug of the inverter.

As the ‘main’ of the box is just a regular breaker, I had wired in the plug end of a 12 gauge extension cord into an unused breaker in the box, with the understanding that in order to power the system with the inverter, I would first turn off the main, then turn on the inverter breaker, and to go back to land power, the inverter breaker would go off first, then the main would go on. But as the inverter was set to take a grounded plug, but only connected to the 12VDC positive and negative, it seemed that the GFCI ‘saw’ the system with a return/ground fault in the 110AC system. Once I put the adapter in and plugged into the 30amp outlet, there was no issue, and all worked the way it was supposed to.

We finally got to use the stove, and it preformed admirably. While most of our cooking was done over the wood fire, the burners of the stove did a nice job with popcorn, and the oven did a great job with flatbread pizzas (and a 12” round fits easily). However, I’ve found that I need some small receptacle for spent matches, though I’m realizing that all those ashtrays that have fallen into disuse should provide for something both suitable and attractive.

The troubleshooting/improving never stops …

 

(More on the park in Part III)