Sunday, October 04, 2015

More details on the exterior

We've almost got the shell completely closed in -- just have to add the top windows. I made them this weekend, but I need to get the paint cleaned off and just get them hinged up. 

We decided to make these with plexi in them -- lightweight for the roof.  We've been trying to focus on keeping the top as light as possible.

The other thing we needed to do was get the door mounted, and drill the door for a lockset.  We have it keyed to match our housekey for simplicity.  I got a pretty good deal on the hinges at this local place that believe it or not, has cheaper prices than Harbor Freight.  I think the hinges were $1.89 each, and they look great:
The top hinge on the top half of the door had to be cut down - Dale used a grinder to round it off after he cut it down.  It  just lost the little arrow tip, which was fine.  Drilling the lockset was a job - we got a kit from Lowes that had a guide and drill bits - but when we got to the part where we needed to drill a hole for the latch to go through - the drill bit was clearly off center, so we had to work out a solution.  But we got it all done, it closes great, and now I just need to get the rounded stop mounted on the inside.  We have a temporary piece of wood just screwed on the inside to keep the door from going in.

I missed a few other details in my last post -- I put the glass in the door next to the window (you can see it above), and I tested out some of my stencils on the trim.

I also added more details to the back window -- both along the trim with some stencils, then I also added some clouds to the scene, and made a stencil border.

I'm looking foward to making some shutters for this window and for the two side windows.  This window will be a little tricky, since it has three sides to cover, but I have some ideas.  We just need them for when we are traveling -- to keep rocks and other debris from hitting the windows.  So mostly they'll be open but they will need to be able to latch shut.

I have been spending most of my time painting.  Painting, painting, painting. I got one coat on the inside ceiling, and I'm in the middle of getting the underside to the porch roof and the little back overhang. I have one coat on each, and this week I'd like to get those done and then fix all the drips and splotches.  The ends both need another coat of green and then I can get the decorative painting started.

In the meantime, we've picked up a few interesting free pieces of furniture on Craigslist.  We're trying to use only recycled pieces for the interior, both to keep the cost down, but also because I think we can make things interesting in there that way.  Here are the pieces we're going to start with:

The big china cabinet (on the left) we are planning to use the bottom half front for the part under the bed.  We may use the drawers, but the two side panels are just doors that we will keep as doors to reach the storage area under the bed.  We'll use some of the wood from the hutch top as the top rail and we'll use the backing for walls under the bed.  The amoire in the center - I really liked the doors on the top half.  We're going to be using those for a long thin storage cabinet, using the two doors, one up and one down something like this:

and then the bottom half of that cabinet we will use for our kitchen cabinet base. 
The little end table on the right will also be for lower cabinets.

All of these pieces are too heavy, so we'll be cutting away unnecessary wood and lightening up where possible.   What I've been looking for is pieces with interesting details, like the door panels.  The hutch is humongous, and should fit across the width of the vardo easily enough, with just some minimal filling in which we'll use the scraps from the doors on the china cabinet.

We'll also be using the wood on the sides and back by just cutting it into shape with our table saw.  So we can use it to frame out our benches, etc.  If we run out of lumber, we'll just keep our eyes out for some good donor furniture.  There's always a bunch of free stuff out there.  When we get it all built in, we'll be painting it, which will help unify the various styles somewhat, but we like the idea of eclectic pieces here and there.

This week, we bought some jacks that we will have welded onto the four corners of the frame, so we'll be able to flip those down and level the vardo when we camp. Right now, we've been using car jacks onthe four corners, they're heavy and awkward and we don't want to have to try to carry them along with us.  The ones we bought will fold up and tuck away under the frame.

We also picked up a water tank so when we go somewhere without available water, we'll have the ability to bring some with us.  Water is really heavy, so we didn't get that big of a tank.  Originally, I was thinking of getting a 20 gallon tank, but when I did the calculation on how much that would weigh, it was 166 pounds -- way too much to have sloshing around.  So we bought a 10 gallon tank that hopefully we don't have to use often.  It'll go in the storage area under the bed. 

We're also looking at solar panels and that whole thing, we should be able to get 100 watts of solar easily and cheaply enough, and that should give us plenty of power for our off-grid trips. 

So it's coming along!  I really want to get some of the decorative painting started, as soon as the crazy work reports get done, I'll be able to start on that!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The roof on our vardo

For the past couple of weeks, we've been working off and on, getting the roof on our little vardo.  First, we had filled the spaces between the rafters with rigid styrofoam, glueing it all down.

this is before we added the foam insulation

This is the insulation - it has foil on one side.  The first layer we put in foil side down, the second layer, foil side up.  This should keep it cool in summer, warm in winter.

Then we bent plywood over the roof on each side, attaching to the rafters with glue and nails.

After we got the sheets attached, we cut 2" wide strips of plywood and covered the seams, spreading glue and nailing to cover the seams.

Then came the part where we waterproofed it.  We were using a technique called "poor man's fiberglass" - basically, you glue canvas down tightly to the wood, using Titebond II glue, which creates a water resistant seal.  Then you spread glue over the canvas, then paint over it with several layers of exterior grade paint, making sure the canvas soaks up all the paint and fills the fibers in.  I could tell as I was coating this that each layer will filling the spaces, and evening out the texture.

This is what it looked like after the canvas was glued down.

This is after one coat of house paint.

 More layers of house paint -- a total of 5 layers.
 The last layer was a light cream color, which was the background for my design of diamonds.

So, originally this pattern was going to be an all-over pattern of tan diamonds on a cream background.  But I had some nice dark brown paint so I thought I'd use that - and then it seemed kind of stark.  And I liked the way the straps stuck up, so I wanted to accent those.  So then I decided to add some stencils over the whole thing.  So it ended up with many more layers, but now I'm hapy with it.  

I finished it all up with a coat of clear poly to help protect it, although it's had heavy dew on it each night, and in the morning when I come out, there is water dripping off the roof onto the ground, and everything is totally watertight. 

So this took a lot longer than I expected, but that's how I work, so I'm used to it.  Here's a shot of some of my stencils:

Some of them I bought, and some of them I cut.  Can you tell I like a lot of pattern? 

So now I can work on the windows to the skylight, and get the bands around the roof all painted. I got one coat of paint on them this afternoon, but they need two more.  I feel like I've been painting and painting and painting -- because I have!  But we will have this little vardo all weather tight pretty soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Getting a new roof on the house -- and painting doors

The news has been full of predictions for a "godzilla el nino" this year - hopefully meaning that we'll catch up on rain to end this drought we've been in out here in California.  But that's also got a downside for us - we knew we needed a new roof, because we've got a leak right over the patio doors.  Being that it doens't rain but maybe twice a year in the past year, it wasn't a big rush. But if we're looking at a lot of rain.....

So this week the roofers came.  In preparation, we had to empty the garage (the slats on the roof have slight spaces between each slat, and when they take the roof off, it's gonna pour down a lot of dust and crumbs from the roof), and move the vardo. It's been in front of the garage, and that's where they need to dump all the roof they tear off.  So we packed everything up out of the garage, and prepared to roll the vardo into the larger part of the background - only to find that the lemon tree was blocking us.  So we had to cut that down.  It was something we were going to do anyway, but we got that started. 

In preparation for having no work to do on that for a week, I gave the door parts three coats of red paint. I bought a sample of a nice, vibrant red -- too red, actually, but I knew I'd be 'antiquing' it, so going a little bright is fine.  My plan was to learn how to do "one stroke" flowers, and also figure out some stencil patterns, along with adding some birds.  I love birds. 

So here it is!  This is after painting all the details, then giving it a coat of varnish to protect the paint, then giving it a coat of black paint, wiping off as I go so that it just collects in the corners and edges, and tones down the vibrant color.  This is both pieces laid out together on the concrete so I could see how they work together.

The blank space above the windows is going to have a mosaic embedded in it -- I'm thinking it'll be buttons, which I have a ton of.

I cut a few stencils from some blank stencil plastic, and I also purchased a few different stencils. I'm going to be covering this whole thing with a ton of embellishment, so having a lot of choices was important.

Like I said, I like birds. I gave Dale two choices, he chose blue jay and cardinal, and I chose crow and seagull.  The cardinal posed a little problem - the bird is about the same color red that I painted the doors, so I had to add a blue background.  My favorite is the blue jay, it came out nice, and I really love crows, so that one makes me happy, too.  Both of the stencils on this picture are ones I cut.

On the top, I practiced my flower skills. I have another large area that is going to have flowers, so I wanted to practice a bit on this. I watched some videos and looked at some how-tos online, and got painting.  One night, it was so incredibly hot while I was painting (we had a mini-heat wave), and I was trying to keep a fan on me, but it was drying the paint out so fast.  Anyway, I got that all done.  After I antiqued the red, I gave it two coats of clear poly to protect it against weather and wear.

So I still need to drill for a doorknob and get the hinges on -- the hinges will cover some of the flowers and paint, but that's OK -- I wanted it pretty busy so it'll all work out fine!

Monday, September 07, 2015

All painted -- well, at least the base coat

I pretty much painted all week -- two coats of green, two coats of black, and I'm thinking of giving everything a third coat for added protection from the weather!
It looks so different with some paint!  I am not liking how the black made the bottom completely disappear, but I've got some ideas of what to stencil and paint down there, not to mention every other surface on pretty much the whole thing.  So right now it looks a little "goth-y", but with the decorative paint over it, it will brighten up. 

Of course, little touches like this help make this seem more goth!  We went to a cool lumber store, and they had a ton of these pressed wood appliques for a reasonable price - I think this one was something like 4.50.  He's gonna look aweseome with some gold accents (when I can find my gold paint in the chaos that is my studio!)

I also got that back window tidied up.  I added a roof, some trim, and changed out the hinges to a hidden version. I like it so much better!

The beveled glass looks great, although I know I'm going to have to add curtains here!

We are getting a new roof on the house, so we had to pack up the tools and the trailer for a few days, but I've got some decorative accents to work on. The first one was a design for over this window:  I found a clip art of a vintage-inspired sun & moon, cut them out of wood with my new jigsaw (oh my goodness can I say how much I love it!)

Then I painted it all, gave it 4-5 coats of marine varnish and then glued/nailed it to the bay window roof.  I love it!

I still have more accent designs for around the edge, but this was a fun piece to work on. 

I also painted the doors red - maybe a little TOO red!, but they'll get antiqued with some black to calm them down. I have smoe ideas for some paintings on the panels and edges.  I'll post pics when I get those done, too.

We also got half the roof plywood curved and installed,  added insulation to the walls, and installed the back window by the door, but I forgot to take pics. I'll add those next time!  Pretty soon, we'll have the shell complete (with painting added), we can think about the insides!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lots of details

There are so many little details to go into this project!  Dale does the big, major things (like building walls!) and I do all the smaller, precise things, like making trim that fits around the door:
To do this, I used 1/4" plywood, since the trim I cut elsewhere was about 3/8" (cut down from 1 x 3s), and I only had it 1.5" wide.  This way, I could get the nice curve on top without having to piece it from a number of boards.

I also made a door:

I used regular dimensional lumber here. First, I built the window out of channels I cut from 1 x 2s with stained glass cut to fit.  Then I built the rest of the door around it.

I also built up the window frames by adding trim to the outside, then using bondo to fill any gaps, sanding down so it's smooth. This will make a nice solid window frame.

I also added trim to the four corners and along the bottom edge.

You can also see the mollycroft (or trolley, or skylight) in this angle. It still needs a roof, but we'll get there.  I also added the ceiling along the back rafters.  I had to trim the front rafters, they've been bothering me because I felt they were too long, so I took them down a bit.

Today, I cut the curves on the final rafters, the decorative ones that will go on each side, but I need to get those sanded before I attach them.

Oh,and finally, I added the center panel to the bow window.  But I still haven't got a fastener on the inside, so it's being held in place with a little wedge, which will disappear when I get the handle/hooks installed on the inside. 

We also chose a color scheme -- which looks rather mundane, but there is going to be a LOT of decorative painting, so having a fairly subdued background will help.  Green for the body, brown/black for the trim and cream for the ceiling and roof. 

Now, I'm back at school so I can't work on it as much as I want, but we'll still make progress!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Vardo coming along

So we've been working slowly but steadily on our little vardo camper.  Last time I posted, we had just begun getting the two end panels on.  Well, we've made a lot of progress since then:
We got both sides framed and added the rafters.  These are notched into the tongue and groove ends for stability.  We also got the sides skinned with beadboard paneling:

And I got the door and window on the back end cut.  The "back end" is actually the front, but it's the end away from the trailer hitch. 

I added a little detail around the window while Dale was doing the plywood attaching on the sides.  For this window, I used the last remaining stained glass panel and had to cut/reassemble it -- here's what I had left:
Just a long skinny half.  I cut that in half - you can see where I drew a line with sharpie above -- and then I cut the lead with a utility knife. Lead is super soft and cuts easily.  Then I snapped it in half.

 I cut off some of the extra lead, and then cleaned off the cement that is used to weather proof it. 

I removed the center rectangles from one piece, cleaned out the channel, then slid the two halves together.

Then all I had to do was further clean up the lead, solder the joints and cement the new joins.  Then it was all ready to go!

So now I have a window for the door end of our little vardo!  I didn't show it here, but I also cut down that wide outer edge of lead channel, so I didn't have so much to hide in the window frame.

The other thing I did this week is get the bow window for the other end (mostly) finished.  I still need to put the last window in, but I needed to run out last night and pick up some hinges.  We still are working on ways to get it to prop open, but those are just little details to work on later.  Here's what it looks like so far:

I think I will make some kind of sloping roof for it -- it looks a little flat across the top.  A sloping roof will probably also make it a little aerodynamic, since this is the "leading edge" when we are towing it.  The window will be hinged at the top and open out from the bottom.  We'll also have to make shutters for this window so that the glass is protected while we haul it.  We're thinking something like this:

that, by the way is from a blog post here:
There are a lot of great internet resources, including the blog above, instructables, other people's generous build journals and a wonderful site called Teardrops and Tiny Travel Trailers, which has a ton of resources on building methods.  We've gotten a lot of useful information there.

Finally, I also made frames for my two stained glass panels for the side windows:

These are ready to hang as well in their own window spaces, but I need to get the framing done around the holes before we hang them. 

We picked up the materials for the roof, so that's our next job in this project!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Progress on the vardo

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching a workshop in Tennessee at the Tennessee Arts Academy - a first class job that was exciting and exhausting.  When I finished up my week there, I rented a car and drove from Nashville to Indianapolis to teach at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and also to spend some time with my grandson Parker.  We made lasagna:

He's such a lot of fun!

We got the basic box built for the vardo, and already we're altering our plans. Originally the ledge was going to be 12" -- but that looked large so we made it 10."  We also had put up some basic wedges to hold the ledge in place, but decided to cut out some curved wedges. 
We got the box built and also the back deck.  This platform will help make a transition to entering, and also serve as a place to put our camp stove and any other equipment.  We'll have to move the lights and license plate later.
We set it up on jacks so it's level and stable while we're climbing all over it.  We are going to probably add some jacks welded on later but for now, these work fine.

After we got the basic box and ledge done we started on the back wall.  This was exciting and kind of anxiety inducing -- all of a sudden, it seemed really huge!  Luckily, one of the online forums I joined to learn more about building these was super helpful, and it turns out we're right on track.  Right now the box and the one bar across the door are stabilizing until we get the sides put up.  We have the back end up -- or at least 75% of it - it got dark before we could finish.  It's cut, just need to get it attached.

 We have a couple of things we want to splurge on, even as we try to keep costs/weight down. I bought two stained glass panels on for our side windows:

These were about $115 each, and I will build frames around them for our side windows. I also have a piece of leaded glass in the garage that I got off craigslist awhile back for about 10 dollars, and that will be the center of the bay window.  I'll see what I can do for the front door and I think I want to add a small window next to the door as well.

So we're having fun -- but we're not in any rush. I'll get the stained glass this week and then we'll know what size holes to leave for windows.  We're also rethinking some of the other parts -- maybe redesign the mollycroft so it blends more into the roof -- it's so tall, I don't want to have too much wind resistance!  I ran across this plan and I think we can do this instead:

On top of all that, I had gallbladder surgery yesterday == ouch, but I'm glad that thing is gone!  it was no fun dealing with that the past few months.  Easy laproscopic surgery but I'll be sore a few days.  We'll get back to business in no time, though!
Blogging tips