Day 9990

A productive day 9989 and 9990 were had. On Saturday morning I returned to Boylston to pick up the F350. Cash was exchanged and hands were shaken, and I climbed in for the ride home up 495 and 93. I had an '89 F350 a few years ago, which handled horribly above 45mph. This truck, with the plow, cruised steadily up the highway at 65mph with no issues. The engine purrs and the transmission and transfer case shifts smoothly. It will need tires and a few smaller components swapped out.

It was over 90 degrees on Day 9989, so instead of working in the hot bus, I took the plow off of the F350, then I put the crane from my old F350 on the bed. Not wanting to spend much more time outside on a hot and humid day, I went into the cool barn and cleaned up my tools, which have been slightly scattered over the past few weeks of working on the bus.

This crane is actually a Goodrich 42305-1 High Performance Rescue Hoist. The handcrank, developed jointly by Orville Wright and Igor Sikorsky in their bicycle shop, was replaced with a DC electric motor in the -5 used on the H-60. Not really.  

Today, I continued the cleaning spree. I have a bunch of little black bins, so I gathered their sundry contents and my multiple bags of random hardware, and organized everything by hardware size and job. It was a very pleasant task on a much cooler Sunday morning, whilst listening to folk shows on WSPS, Saint Paul's School, and CKUM, University of Moncton.

The benches now cleared of random parts and hardware, I dissembled them and brought them down to the bus. In a stroke of genius (I'd like to think this was on par with the ape using a bone as a weapon in 2001) I found that my little bins would clip in to a backwards piece of bench siding. I think this was the smartest thing I did all month. I took one of the lower pieces out, and mounted it at the top and back of the bench as a bin-rack.

Both benches assembled, with a fresh piece of stained Birch plywood on both, a painted piece of particle board, and all my little bins hanging on their racks. I'll probably take the angle grinder to the ends sticking up; I'm committed. Tools will go under both benches.

I brought my toolbox down one drawer at a time. It is heavy. I finished the evening trying to figure out how to mount it in so it wouldn't come free and make a beeline for the driver while I'm driving the bus. I think I'll fasten it directly to the "rail" along the wall under the barnboards, but I need hardware to make that happen. Same for the benches. I still haven't figured out how to raise the dresser up off the wheel-well... nothing has come to mind yet. I'm waiting for inspiration. No rush.

I still need a futon or bed or something.

Day 9988

This week I got a lot of little things done on the Bus. I added a new barn-style handle to the back door, to replace the curved sheetmetal piece that came with it. I stained the kitchen cabinet's countertop, and put a few coats of sealant on it. I scraped the paint off of the back windows.

This afternoon I cut a piece of barnboard into strips to use as trim in the back of the bus. The pine was still damp with pitch; it smoked on the tablesaw, and was very brittle at the knots. The trim has a lot of character!  

I also put the "Hemnes" dresser up over the wheel well to see how it occupies the space. I'm still trying to figure out how to raise it up... I think I'll be making a step-up area out of rough-cut. I'm trying to be thrifty, and save time. I might cut a big wooden ammo crate in half for the job. We shall see.

Today, I spent some money. I have to remind myself this is what I've been saving for!

First up is a 1989 Ford F350 stakebed with a 7.3L indirect injection diesel, automatic, 4x4, with a 9' Diamond plow. I know, I know, you thought this was a bus conversion blog. I'm telling you now that this is actually a blog following my efforts to build a place of my own, and the bus is one piece of that effort. Other pieces include the backhoe, the welder, the little Case tractor, and the latest addition to the fleet; this slightly abused F350.

I drove down to Boylston, MA, this morning to take it for a test drive, and was surprised at how easy it shifted and how well it handled, for a one-ton. The motor runs smooth and makes good pressure, the transmission has been rebuilt recently, and the frame still has most of it's paint. It will need six new tires, fresh batteries for the winter (where am I going to find two big batteries to start a 7.3L diesel... ?) and some minor "diagonals" like a headlight. I'd also like to undercoat it after I do some work on it. After looking at three or four other trucks it was a relief to find something that wasn't beaten, at a reasonable price. It's not a dump bed, but for $1300 less than what I budgeted I won't be complaining as I shovel rocks out of the back. I'll see if I can find a scissor and pump on craigslist.

After putting some money down and making plans to come back for the truck tomorrow morning, I drove up to Alt-E in Boxborough, MA. There I walked in with my notebook full of scribbles and diagrams (guys in Guatemala know what I'm talking about) and rattled off the part numbers I needed. I got a Magnum ME2012 modified sine wave inverter and Trimetric 2030 battery monitor $60 under budget; they were having a sale! Next thing I need is some circuit breakers and the battery bank, and I can start installing the electrical system. I spent a few days while I was down in Guatemala researching exactly what I needed for a bus electrical system, and both of these US manufactured products came highly recommended. The battery monitor will tell me how much charge my batteries have, and the Magnum inverter will convert those 12 volts DC to 110 volts AC to run normal appliances. It was expensive, but I only had to buy these once. 

Tomorrow's big mission is getting the F350 home. After that I'll either start building the electrical panel, move the work benches in, or try to figure out above-the-window shelves. Maybe I'll get ambitious and replace the double doors with a single door. We'll see. I'm making this up as I go.

Day 9982

Quick update for tonight; I got a lot done this weekend. Today I touched up the interior paint, put a second coat on the back wall and back door, and a second coat on the "Billy" cabinets. But those are the small things; I had two big projects.

The first major project for the day was cutting pieces of extra barn board to sit on the metal chair rail. The tops were screwed in with sheetmetal screws after a hole was drilled through the wood and the bus's metal wall. I'm going to add a barn board trim piece to the top and bottom. I installed 10 eye bolts into the chair rail as well, to aid in securing cargo. What kind of Crew Chief would I be if I didn't have an excessive amount of tie-down points built into my skoolie?

Today's second major project was building the countertop for the kitchen cupboards. I made a counter for the barn out of various studs this winter, and got the clamps out to make another one. I clamped together a 2x4, 2x6, 2x8 and 2x10, then screwed down plywood straps to keep them tight on the bottom side of the counter. I dropped the untrimmed countertop on the cabinets, and the plywood straps dropped right in between the cabinet walls without any adjusting. Sometimes I think I know what the engineers that build Mars probes feel like when the little thing they designed works millions of miles away another planet, when I measure something and build it in the shop, and it fits perfectly when I bring it outside.

I trimmed off the excess, then added some trim pieces to call it a day. I need some 2" finish nails to put the backsplash on, then I can stain it. I might stain Bekväm's table surface, as well.

Back to work tomorrow. I have a small shopping list for the drive home.

I need to engineer a new latch for the emergency exit window behind the kitchen counter, so it can be reached easily. Don't let me forget about that.

Day 9981

It occurred to me that I haven't posted anything about the Bus itself. It's a 2001 International 3800 with a high-ceiling Thomas body, powered by a diesel T444E (a 7.3 Powerstroke) with about 72,000 miles. I picked it up from Aaron at Brentwood Bus & Chassis for $3500. In it's former life, it was a school bus for the town of Hopedale, Massachusetts. It has a number 8 on the bumper and side, but a large 2 on the roof. It came full of seats, which I removed with my trusty angle grinder way back around Day 9966. Not wanting to take them to the dump, I put the seats up on craigslist for free, and had claims on all of them within hours of posting the ad! The power of craigslist.

Picking up where we left off, I got the interior primed after work on Day 9980. That night I started installing wainscot in the kitchen area. To avoid mounting the panels directly to the sheetmetal, which has rows of panels screws, I cut extra floor material into strips, screwed those to the wall, then mounted the panels to that. It took a lot longer than I thought, but it was easier than trying to trim the panels around the panel screws. My sister helped bring in some of the Ikea and craigslist furniture.

I got to work bright and early on the 9981st, painting the "Billy" Ikea shelves, the sides of the cabinets, and the first coat of interior paint. I did a lot of painting today. The cabinets got installed to the wall with some small L-brackets, then screwed together. I repaired the broken door and added knobs.

Mom, unable to stand idly by while a project is going on, picks up a paint brush and helps with the first coat of Olde Silver.

Zeke lays prone in a defensive overwatch position.

The first coat of paint on, I started cutting some extra barn board to dress up the back of the bus. It's sitting on the rail that the seats were mounted into. I'm going to eat up a lot of sheetmetal screws to install them, but I like the campy look.

After that I started working on the chair-rail trim. The bus is looking more like a house and less like the steel and rubber torture chamber that I was chipping chewing gum out of only two weeks ago...

The goal for Day 9982, tomorrow, is to finish the interior paint, and get the barn board mounted in the back. I still need to assemble one of my Ikea pieces, and create the countertop for my cabinets.

Day 9978

Over days 9976 and 9977 I finished laying the laminate floor. I used a locking US-made floorboard from Lowes called "stylesolutions," in the design of Tavern Oak, which has a faded look to it that I liked. It was either that or the Brazilian Teak laminate (it was authentic US-made fake Brazilian fake wood!) I borrowed my dad's jigsaw for cutting all the weird corner pieces, and a table saw for cutting the skinnier trim pieces along the walls of the bus. I'm not sure if the bus body is slightly crooked, or if I didn't lay the floor perfectly straight, but the edge pieces got steadily skinnier as I went down the bus. Probably both. It's not the space shuttle.

On day 9977 I also drove down to Massachusetts with my mom to look at a dump truck for sale on craigslist. The thing was full of garbage and the frame was a patch job of welds... no thanks. We have a theory that the quality of your interactions with a seller on craigslist are a direct indication of the quality of the item they are selling, and this case was no exception.

We diverted to the Ikea store in Stoughton, which I had heard was quite the attraction. I know now, that If you ever want to take the family on a low budget vacation, you could hide in the Ikea store for several days before you run the risk of being discovered. I enjoyed a Swedish-American breakfast of crepes and some more coffee as we waited for the store to open. We toured the maze-like display area, found a few items that would fit the bus well, and got a few ideas for condensing life into 200 square feet. Inside the store they have a few small houses set up. We grabbed my new furniture out of the massive warehouse, which interestingly also contains the Ark of the Covenant recovered from the Nazis by Dr. Jones in the late 30's. All of the furniture has been given Swedish names like "Hemnes," "Bekväm" and "Billy." ... Billy? These names give the otherwise lifeless pieces of furniture an oddly animate quality.

As many reading this know, I'm slightly obsessive about finding and using goods made in the United States. If I can't find what I need made in my own country, I'll settle for something made by a NATO ally, American neighbor, or someone generally friendly to our nation. Bottom line; I try not to support the loss of our industry to China, or any state sponsors of terrorism. I'm happy to report that my furniture is made in Sweden (Nordic and neutral!) and Lithuania (my personal favorite former SSR!)

I assembled Bekväm, my new Swedish friend of Lithuanian origin who identifies as a coffee table, the night of the 9977th. In the bus I masked under the passenger windows on the driver's side for paint. A solid coat of paint over the chipped paint and stained sheetmetal will bring everything together and make it look less like the interior of a bus.

Tonight I picked up some craigslist cabinets from Dawn at Cheap Solutions in Pittsfield. Country of origin for my used and re-purposed cabinets, you ask? Canada. After I repair a door hinge, I'm in business.

With my remaining daylight I primed the driver's side of the bus. Looking better already.

Next steps will be interior paint, and some clapboard and wainscot siding, to break up the long walls. I'll continue assembling my Swedish furniture/friends. Rough idea of the plan is below;

DAY 9975

Today is day 9975. A lot has happened in the past 9974 days; you'll catch up as you read.

Sister graduated college, and we had family over, so I got out of drill early. Family and friends got a tour of the rig.

Today I started installing the fake laminate floor over the sub-floor of the bus; I used almost three of the ten boxes. I glued it down instead of using the water barrier foam... it's not the space shuttle.

I'm thinking an exterior paint scheme like DART's helicopter would look good; attractive and eye-catching, yet subtle and camouflaged. On the inside I think I'll break up the interior with a combination of barn board, clapboard and paint.