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* * * Water & LED Lighting * * * 31/10/2006 * * *04:13 PM * * *

Fitting the tap was easy enough, but as yet the hot water pipe connector leak underneath the bus continues to haunt me. Thankfully I'd had sufficient foresight to install a gate valve in the supply to the 'hot' side of the system, so could just turn it off to test the tap. I'm pleased with the water pressure, which is 'sensible', not too high. Worth considering when water supplies are limited. Much easier to waste water with unneccesarily high pressure. The pump is rated at 45psi & 10.6l/min. It seems less than this, but maybe a result of the 'filters' inside the tap restricting flow. Maybe it's just how they are. I'll leave it as is.  

My earlier concerns about the pump being a bit noisy have dissipated. With a mattress on the bed blocking the noise quite effectively it now comes close to living up to it's name 'Whisper King'. It is rubber mounted to the board & the board is rubber mounted to the chassis.

I recently had a visit from a few 'cyber mates' from the CMCA's online forum, including Barry
(   ) with whose help I converted several of my fluorescent lights to LEDs. These are 'latest generation' superbright 10mm LED's (from Hong Kong via Ebay) & with 36 of these replacing a 10watt tube. With a mix of colours the light they give is a very 'clear' but warm/natural white. The power saving is quite dramatic. I measured the fluro tube drawing 0.91amps. The LED only 0.19 amps! Fluro's are considered to be 'power saving', & certainly are in comparison to incandescent lamps, but with such low power requirements, it removes any potential (ie untested) need to be 'concious' of the need to switch lights off. I will convert several other lights & make a larger 'portable light' that we can plug in outside, & use under the awning on those long balmy evenings. I also heard somewhere that LED lights do not attract flying insects like other lights do, due to different light wavelengths, (or something like that). I'm skeptical, but it would be great if correct, & I'm looking forward to testing it out. The hoardes of flying monster bugs in Kakadu will be a challenge!


I just bought myself a suitable soldering iron, an instrument of challenge in the past, but with recent 'new-found' confidence in my ability to effectively join little bits of wire I'm quite looking forward to doing some more. If all goes well, it could open up possibilities for a whole new hobby of diy electronics. I like to make things, & the materials & tools needed are physically small enough to not be a storage issue in the bus whilst travelling. A potentially good mix.

Work on fabricating a pair of offset/swingout table legs has commenced, tube has been bent & my Oxy set has been re-awoken (photos soon).


* * * The Benchtop Photos * * * 14/10/2006 * * *10:05 AM * * *

Well the benchtops are now all made & fitted. I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out, & my choice of colour seems to match ok with the rest of the internal decor. Formica laminate on 17mm plywood, with timber (Silver Wattle) edging.

The sink & stove are also now fitted



Stove with glass lid

Next on the agenda will be to plumb in the mixer tap I've bought, not a job I'm looking forward to, as it will mean more time scrabbling under the bus on my back, to rectify the leaking pipe I've been putting off sorting for a while. After that I need to design & make a 'swing out' dining table.

Until next time

* * * Making The Benchtops * * * 6/10/2006 * * *04:54 PM * * *

The bus is really coming together now, & begining to look like a motorhome.     Installing the benchtops will be a significant step forward. Still plenty to do, but in my mind the fitting of the benchtops   will mark a significant milestone reached.

However before installing them, they need to be made. As I write this they are part made & I hope to finish them in the next day or two.   The option to get them made,   paying a 'kitchen manufacturer' unreasonably big bucks to make them, was not attractive.
Making them myself was a task I didn't relish. I didn't feel confident attaching & cutting laminate for the first time, with the possibility of bubbles & chips, the absence of which basically make the difference between a great looking job or a crap looking job.

This is where another CMCA member came to the rescue. (Thanks Robbo). He'd read of my progress on the web, contacted me & offered to make the benchtops for me in his woodwork shop, & all I needed to pay for would be some of the materials. He has a woodworking business & a workshop with   every woodworking machine a man could want. I gratefully accepted his very generous offer, feeling more chuffed about the fact that I would be helping to make them. Having done everything myself to date, it's a matter of pride! Having someone familiar with motorhomes & fitting them out would save an awful lot of explanations that I'd need to give to a kitchen manufacturer.

The workshop was a couple of hours drive from our place, so I planned for an 'overnighter, the first time the bus has been driven for 18 months. (I was pleasantly suprised at the lack of rattles & untoward noises from the 'house' as I drove. I'd thought I might get a lot of noise from all the empty wire baskets in their runners, but suprisingly not. Overall it is certainly quieter than in it's previous guise).   Before I could leave, I had to bleed the clutch hydraulics, finding that after sitting for a lengthy period, I had 'lost' my clutch. A quick 'bleed' restored full function. Can't see any leaks, but will have to replace components before travelling longer distances.

The basic process for making the benchtops is as follows. The order things are done in is important to a avoid chips on the edges of & bubbles underneath the laminate.

- Measure & cut out the benchtop timber. We used 17mm plywood.
- Locate & cut out holes for sink, stove etc.
- Cut laminate into sizes that are a little bigger than the timber benchtops.
- Coat both the back of the laminex & the timber tops with contact adhesive, work quickly &     ensure no ridges or 'lumps' are left. Leave for around 20 minutes.
- When the adhesive is completely tack free, lay a series of small timber strips (8 to 10mm) right across the timber tops. If the adhesive has been left long enough, the strips won't stick to it.
- Lay laminate over the timber strips, & starting at one end, press the laminate onto the timber top, gently tapping it with a rubber mallet to ensure good contact, especially along the edges. Take care not to tap 'outboard' of the timber tops or too close to the timber strips, as this will fracture the laminate. Move along the top slowly, pressing down as you go, progressively removing each timber strip as you reach it.
- Use a router to trim the laminate overlapping the edges to flush.
- That's the laminating done.
- Next   cut some hardwood timber We used 'Silver Wattle' (a hardwood from the Accacia family) to appropriate dimensions for timber edging to fit flush to the laminex.
- Make matching slots in both timber edgings & into the side of the plywood. These take 'joining biscuits' of a special timber that locates the two pieces, & once in place absorbs moisture from the timber & swells, giving a tight fit. Glue is also used when the pieces are clamped together. We used a polyurethane glue which gives a very strong bond & is waterproof.
- To save a second night waiting for glue to dry, I brought all the parts   home, to fit together. Some is now done, some still waiting to be glued. (I only have enough long enough clamps to do a couple of pieces at a time).
- Once glue has set fully (24 hours) clean off excess glue with a sharp knife.
- Shape corners (round profile) (saw & Sand)
- Shape upper & lower edges of timber edging (with router).
- Sand timber edging, being careful not to scratch new laminate (which does still have it's plastic protective coating on it)
-Stain timber edging
- Paint timber edging with clear polyurethane.
- Make a suitable number of 'L' shaped brackets (from aluminium angle) to attach the bench tops to the cupboards.
- Install sink into it's cutout (easier now - limited access once benchtop is installed.
Install Benchtops.
Install Oven/cooktop.

Job Done!

Well it will be soon, & once done you can be sure I'll let you see the results.


* * * Further "Entertainment" Update * * * 18/9/2006 * * * 05:10 AM * * *

Hello again folks.   It seems that it's a while since I last posted anything to my blog, & this reflects other demands on my time. Like with any project, everyday life sometimes intrudes. In my case much time lately has been taken up with the needs of   my farm. Cows calving, sheep lambing, & goats due to kid very soon. So apart from motorhome builder, my titles of late have included vet, gynaecologist & intensive care nurse & nanny!

However I have managed to make a bit more progress having now fully installed the 'entertainment gear' mentioned in the previous entry.   This included making a small 'cabinet' to house the satellite receiver & the DVD player. The cabinet requires just 4 screws to be undone to remove it should this ever be needed (eg. if the air-con unit needed to be taken out).Connections at the rear of the appliances can be accessed without having to remove the cabinet - just!!   Cabling across the bus is routed through the boot, out of harms way.


I did have a moment of anxiety when I realised that I could not connect the receiver & the DVD to the TV at the same time. Having to plug/unplug connections on the back of the TV each time I wished to change, would be a pain in the ass, but the TV only has sufficient connections for one at a time. However another CMCA member quickly provided a simple & inexpensive solution. (Thanks Col.H).   I purchased a 3 way audio-visual switch unit from Jaycar (AC-1668), which allowed me to plug the receiver & DVD units into the AV switch unit, with just one set of cables running from the switch to the TV. Now to change from satellite to DVD all I need to do is flick a switch.

The Jaycar AV switch looks like this


Cabling to the TV is limited to one set of RCA cables & one power cable. I used some 'thicker' (than supplied) RCA cables that I got on ebay on both sides of the AV switch. Don't really know if it makes a lot of difference to video picture quality or not, but I don't have any complaints in that department.


After a small amount of 'experimentation with cabling, I can now watch TV with audio either from the TV itself, or through the DVD's amplifier.   This could prove useful if we are ever in the situation where we have to conserve power. Audio through the TV's inbuilt speaker draws significantly less battery power than through the amp, although most times we would use the amp, as sound is of much better quality.

The TV & the receiver both operate on 240v via a 150w inverter whilst the DVD/amp operate on 12v.

Everything is working as it should, & I'm quite happy with the sound quality from the 6" x 9" 3 way   speakers. I hadn't been sure how good they would be with only limited space behind them. However this has not proved to be a problem. They do sound slightly better when the cupboard doors below them are closed though. I think I'll line each of the cupboard doorways with 'draught excluding' foam strips, which may improve the sound even more, improving air tightness, as well as eliminating an annoying buzz from one of the doors when playing anything with a heavy bass line.

Setting up the satellite dish & obtaining 'authorisation' from Optus was reasonably straightforward. Lining up the dish to the satellite was very simple with the audio signal from the sat finder meter. It's pitch rises as you get closer to the satellite.   The instruction booklet that came with the Satplus kit is very good.   This, plus their 'pre-delivery set up' of the receiver, made setting everything up for the first time a matter of following a simple & well laid out process that anyone could do, no satellite techno gibberish required. The only hiccup I had during this setup process was caused by my having inserted the smartcard into the receiver upside down! Doh!   This resulted in me leaving the the whole setup switched on for 25 hours (waiting for 'over the air' authorisation) which eventually resulted in the the inverter sounding a 'low battery alarm'. (Bus was parked in shade - so no solar charging at the time). When I eventually realised that I'd put the card in the wrong way & rectified my mistake, authorisation was fairly quick, & I now have ABC, SBS & a couple of other channels. In order to get the commercial channels (7,9,10, Imparja etc) I will need to apply for authorisation prior to travelling, as we don't live in an area that allows reception of these channels. However as a 'bona fide travellers' we can have free access. Wont bother with 'pay tv', just stick with free to air.

One unexpected issue that did arise was when I started the bus, whilst the TV & receiver were running, the inverter shut down, lighting an 'over-voltage' warning LED. When the bus is running, the alternator kicks out around 28.7v, meaning that via the charge equaliser the inverter was objecting to an input voltage of 14.35v.
Fair enough I suppose & in reality this will not present any problems as we won't be watching Tv whilst driving anyway
For anyone interested in mobile satellite TV, here's a couple of pics of the dish & it's mounting gear.


I was lucky that the rear 'window' of the bus has at some time in the past been replaced with perspex. Simply drilling a couple of holes in this allowed me to mount both the satellite interior/exterior cable connection (within inches of where it connects to receiver)   & an Fm antenna.


Having depleted the batteries by leaving all switched on for 25 hours continuously,   I decided that it would be useful to be able to know exactly what the power draw of each appliance was. To this end I purchased a very neat little ammeter which plugs directly into a 'blade' fusebox.   To use it it is simplicity itself. Just plug into fuseholder & turn on appliance (or combination of appliances) you wish to check. Press the button & the amperage draw is displayed on the large LED readout (to two decimal places).

The following are examples of readings I've taken:


Central Corridor Fluros (x2) -   Each 0.93amps  
Small Fluro near door - 0.55amps
Kitchen Fluros (x 2) - 0.43amps/0.4amps
Halogen spotlights & downlights - (x5) Each 0.85amps
Led light (18 LED's) 0.03amps
Exterior light   - 0.7amps
External kitchen 2 position light 0.55amps/1.85amps


150w inverter - 0.49amps
Satellite Decode + inverter - 1.43amps
Tv + inverter   0.8amps
Playing a DVD (DVD, Inverter, Tv all on) 3.7amps
DVD player (on standby/clock operating) 0.04amps
Radio (at volume 30) 0.55amps   (at volume 50) 1.3amps
Playing an Audio CD (Volume 30) - 0.7amps   (volume 40) - 0.75amps

Other Appliances

Ceiling fan (3 positions)   1amp/1.3amps/1.65amps
Fridge (Tested when fridge not cold) up to 3.8amps
Water pump - up to 6amps
Air Compressor - 7.6amps

From the above you can see that replacement of Halogen globes in the spotlights with LED globes will   definately be worthwhile in the quest for power saving.

As yet I still don't really know how our daily power usage, when travelling fulltime, will match up to our solar recharging capability. I need to play with a calculator with the figures above plus estimated hours of expected usage per day.   I kinda did that before I bought any solar gear or appliances, using Collyn River's motorhome & solar books as a guide, plus heaps of assumptions about how we will live & arrived at what was required in regard to panels etc, then I 'added a bit for luck', subscribing to the notion that when buying solar, erring toward too much is better than too little. If the panels provide more power than is needed, all that is wasted is a bit of cash for the initial outlay. This is far preferable to an under resourced system that cant keep up with demand. I've read much advice about the ongoing miseries of poorly set up & undersized solar set ups where owners 'chase their tails' tying to keep the batteries charged. When we're 'on the road' I want to be as free of as many restrictions as possible & certainly don't want to be 'forced' into having to move based soley upon a need for re-charging.

It's difficult to test whilst the bus is at home, because I have nowhere to park it that isn't in shade for large parts of the day. In reality testing won't occur fully until out first extended trip away. Nevertheless I'm   reasonably confident that we should have sufficient for our needs without needing to be obsessively frugal, & without the need to drive.

Next on the agenda is the making of the benchtops. These will be laminex on ply, with timber edging. I expect that installation of the benchtops will have a dramatic effect, making the interior look 'close to finished'!    

Cheers for now
* * * More On Entertainment * * * 18/8/2006 * * * 02:11 PM * * *

Time for another update on progress.

I have been beavering away constructing cupboards etc across the rear of the bus as well as spending not insignificant amounts of cash on stuff to put into said cupboards.

Here is a pic of the cupboard skeleton I took just after I started construction

And the 'semi- finished' cupboards (with speakers installed). Astute readers will no doubt note that the cupboard doors have only undercoat on them. These will be covered with a foam pad to create a couple of comfy 'lounging spots'.

This cupboard door folds down to form what will be a bedside desk' for the laptop. ?

This cupboard will house a TV. (Yes, we finally decided we would have one).

I purchased a 15" LCD TV & have fitted it onto the back of the cupboard door in such a way that it is held securely whilst ? travelling ? but can fold out for viewing from anywhere in the bus. The following 3 pics show how I've done this


? ? ? ?

? ? ?

By now you may be wondering what that 'thing with holes' is stretching across the rear of the bed. Well it serves two purposes. It will have a cushion attached along it's full length, & is angled in such a way as to enhance comfort when sitting on the bed & leaning against the padded cupboard doors. It also creates a much needed storage area for 'longer items', like the 'extra' poles for the exterior awning.


? ? ? ?

As I mentioned at the top, I've been spending a bit of money, most of it on 'entertainment' gear. ? I purchased 2 'in dash' type ? DVD Player/ Amplifier/Radio units (One for the driving cabin, one for the 'house', two sets of 6 x 9 speakers, & the LCD TV. Having bought the Tv, I decided that it was a little pointless going for an antenna system that would only give very limited coverage around Oz, so decided to 'whole hog' & also purchased a satellite system.

After much research, I came to the conclusion that trying put my own system together, whilst quite possible with Ebay's help would in fact save me very little money but could easily prove to be problematic if I ended up getting incompatible equipment. Consequently I have purchased a kit from a company in Melbourne. Details of the kit can be seen here ? ? ? ? ? They offered a $75 discount on there advertised web price. ? ? I chose to go with the slightly smaller dish (nominally 75cm diameter, but actually 68cm x 74cm). I have abandoned ideas of permanently fitting the dish onto the roof, after realising that accessing the dish & LNB via the roof hatch,for setup/adjustment, would be too difficult, & instead decided to go with a portable tripod.
We will store the dish in a similar manner to this ? against a 'bedroom' window. (courtesy of fellow CMCA member 'LaWrie' ) ?          

Interesting times ahead, installing & setting up this gear. ?

The DVD player & Satellite receiver will be built in at the rear of the bus, between the cupboard & the 240v air con unit. The 'TV cupboard' will also house an inverter to run the TV & the receiver.

Oh yes, I also fitted up the 5" rear vision monitor I got some time ago. As yet the cabling & rear camera are still in their boxes, but the monitor is mounted onto what was previously the rear vision mirror. I removed the glass, & substituted an offcut from the Rezilience wallboard I used for the ceiling. I then used part of the mount supplied with the monitor to attach to the 'mirror' in such a way that allows for the monitor to be swung completely out of view from the driver, enabling DVD's to be legally watched by the passenger, whilst driving (assuming that driver feels he
can do without rear vision at the time!) Placing the monitor here results in good visual access & keeps the LCD screen out of the hot sun endured by the dashboard.


? ? ? ? ?

All for now,

* * * Putting Things Off Works ....Sometimes. * * * 11/8/2006 * * * 04:00 PM * * *

There's   one job in the bus that I've been putting off for.....well lets say a while. It's really not like me, I 'd rather usually get stuck into something, nut it out & get it done.

From the outset of this project I've had a picture in my head of basically how the finished motorhome will be, and it's been very rewarding to see things translating from imagined to real, and in particular the fact that reality is matching my original 'vision' pretty well.

So I've been walking around with this 'picture in my head........BUT.......there has been this shadowy spot, where no matter how much I tried I couldn't quite make it out in detail, so I've kept leaving it, putting it off, doing something else instead, hoping that inspiration would strike.

Well as the project has progressed, I have been pushed closer & closer to having to find the solution, & the point has now been reached where I can procrastinate no longer.

I may have likened fitting out a motorhome from scratch to a '3 dimensional jigsaw' in a previous entry.

Well it took getting a few more pieces in place first, but I think the missing piece is now metaphorically in my hand.

* * * Toilet Security * * * 18/7/2006 * * * 05:12 PM * * *

Today I made a 'toilet stopper' , christened with this technical term by 'Col' - a fellow CMCA member who was kind enough to send me the 'locking' hinge I've used at the base. Thanks Col. I knew what I wanted to use, but had no idea what it was called or if indeed such things existed.   Col came to the rescue & my quest was pleasantly shortlived.

As mentioned in a previous entry the aim was, in any 'sudden stop' situation whilst driving, to prevent a 20kg of crap in a plastic box bursting out of it's cupboard, hurling at speed down the entire length of the bus, before hitting the engine bay & flipping upwards & forwards to smash into the windscreen.   Something worth avoiding I reckon!

The piece of timber is an old piece of hardwood of some description.....very power saw struggled to rip it, but the router gave a vey smooth finish. Should be plenty strong enough anyhow.

At the top of the cupboard I fitted a drawbolt, so when the toilet is stored, the 'toilet-stopper' is securely supported at top & bottom, & is hard up against the toilet trolley., but when withdrawn allows the stopper to fold down, underneath the trolley.

Have a squiz at these pics, they'll make my explanation much clearer.  

* * * A Few More Photos Showing Interior Progress * * * 17/7/2006 * * * 07:54 AM * * *


I've also made some shelving that goes around the cupboard that houses the hot water tank (behind passenger seat/ next to entry door)

* * * The Toilet * * * 17/7/2006 * * * 07:38 AM * * *

Another essential item in the bus!    

Whilst some people go the whole hog, & fit flushing marine toilets, connected to a blackwater tank, most seem to manage perfectly well with with a 'porta-potti, & avoid the potential for blockages etc that can plague blackwater tank users
This is a two chamber contraption. The top half has what looks like a conventional bowl, whereas the lower chamber is what holds the waste. Chemicals are put into the lower compartment, to assist breaking down the 'solids' & to prevent odour. The lower compartment separates from the top for emptying. As this could weigh up to around 20kgs when full, it needs to be easy to access & to remove from the bus. To achieve this I have the toilet mounted onto a small trolley, which makes removing it from the bus much easier, as well as providing storage space for spare chemicals, toilet rolls etc. The trolley also raises the height of the toilet, making it more comfortable to sit on.

When not in use the toilet resides, hidden under the bed. For use it pulls out, stopped from going too far by an attached chain. To empty the toilet,   the chain is disconnected & the toilet & trolley can be easily wheeled down the bus to the entry door, before it is lifted off the trolley.

A folding & lockable steel hinge will be mounted onto the floor in front of the toilet, giving added security & peace of mind. The thought of having a full potti flying down the central corridor & flipping onto the windscreen is something I'd really like to avoid!


* * * All Things That Open & Shut! * * * 17/7/2006 * * * 09:19 AM * * *

Well here I am again.  

Am I pleased to be here?

You bet!

For what seems to have been an eternity I have been making & hanging all the doors that enclose the cupboards. It has been time consuming & prolonged, in part because I only have enough clamps to make one or two doors at a time.

The underbench doors, like those on the overhead cabinets are framed with Meranti timber, stained & finished with a satin finish estapol.   The centre infils are the 'Rezilience Wallart' panel board as used on the ceiling. All the underbench doors are backed with an additional sheet of 10m ply, making them nicely 'solid'.

Hanging the doors was also more fiddly than it needed to be, because I used a couple of boxes of hinges I had laying around. I could have paid out for hinges that would have made the task easier, but instead the chisel & stanley knife were put to good use, to rebate those I had.   On a couple of cupboards I had also failed to leave enough 'meat' to screw the hinges to, so had to add a few pieces of timber to rectify my mistake (& then paint them -2 undercoats/3 topcoats).

Here's some pics:

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