Today we finished enclosing the shower/lavatory space. It’s generously proportioned, but it makes sense to the existing bus construction. It spans the width of one of the bus windows. Rather than take that window out, we’re opting to keep it in place, and glaze it with two-way mirroring — allowing privacy for bathers, while still allowing a little outside light to come into the space. It’s a room with a view.
Here Randall McCabe (mentioned previously) ponders the wonder that he has wrought. It’s a terrific piece. The room is square and straight and joined solidly. A little finish trim (and a door) will see it done.
Our self-satisfaction will be short-lived. There’s no avoiding it. Next on deck is… plumbing! (Insert dramatic sting).
We’re using construction technique for our walls that don’t require framing. 3/4” plywood is cut to fit, and then slid into aluminum channels that are themselves screwed into the frame of the bus. As a result, the walls are more robust than typical 2x2 frame construction, and take up much less space, as well.
We hope to finish off the enclosure early next week, and finally move onto plumbing.
A pretty active day on the bus saw the final dry fitting of the kitchenette (it just fit) and the lavatory walls. The kitchenette is perfect. The walls are about as close to perfect as we have any right to expect.
Josephine showed up and got to work sanding the leprous exterior paint. We’re not going down to bare metal, just getting rid of the shingles or whatever affliction the bus has. The top coat is peeling away, taking the paint underneath it with it. Some light sanding should clear that up.
Our Kingdom for a CNC Router!
We’re at that point. If we had 4 or 5 hours access to a CNC Router that can cut 4’ x 8’ sheets of 3/4” cabinet-grade plywood, we could build the remaining furniture for the bus in a single day. Cabinets, dinette, bunks. Rice doesn’t have a CNC router that we can find. Friends, or friends of friends, lend us your ear — or send us an email.
Pictured is the in-process design for a cabinet that will snug up against the curved ceiling. Once it’s finished and cut, it will pop together faster (and better) than you can say “Ikea.”
Our plan B, which we don’t like nearly as much, is to computer cut vinyl (we have a vinyl cutter), and then apply those vinyl outlines to the wood, and cut everything by hand. This will still allow us to design on the computer and to take advantage of the digital scan we have of the bus. However, this approach leaves more room for error, and will take much longer.
Kitchenette in place. Oh, yeah!
We’re almost there. The cabinet received its first coat of Orange Parrot (the paint doesn’t contain actual parrots, we think). We have to trim away some of the chair rail on the wall, and then it should slide right into place. Also pictured is the beginning of the enclosure for the lavatory. The same chair railing obstructs proper placement of that wall panel. The Dremel is going to see some action this weekend.
Cabinets, Day 2
About six work hours in, and it’s looking like a kitchen cabinet. There’s a bit of sanding left to do. Tomorrow we’ll prime and install it. We took a dry run with installing the sink. Looks good, but the screws that hold the sink in place will need a little tool and die attention before we take the dramatic step of cutting a hole in our very pretty countertop. After all, we picked the sink up for twenty bucks. No sense in cutting the counter if we can’t reform the sink.
Cabinet doors? They’ll come later in the summer or maybe early fall. While needed, they aren’t essential. Right now we’re all about the essentials.
Cabinets, Day 1
We’ve begun the construction of the custom base-cabinets for the bus. Thanks to the always amazing Randall McCabe, we’ve nearly knocked out the kitchenette base cabinet in just a few short hours. Under his direction, the piece nearly assembled itself. We’ll continue hammering away (pun intended) at these interior pieces, and should have them installed on the bus by Thursday.
Plywood. Lots of Plywood.
Five sheets of 4’ x 8’, 3/4” plywood later, and we have the building material for our kitchenette and shower. It’s a LOT of material, and heavy, too. Randall McCabe, carpentry pro, artist, and Visual Arts sculpture Shop Supervisor, will be the writer/director/producer of construction starting on Monday. Thanks to David Krueger, artist, Rice Gallery preparator, and self-admitted hoarder, we have a laminate top that will provide kitchen and bathroom counter space.
Also this week, we picked up a really nice enameled metal sink for the kitchenette at the Habitat for Humanity store for just twenty bones. Now we’re faced with the daunting task of ordering a whole slate of materials necessary for the plumbing installation. The list includes 2-way mirroring for the window, shower pan, faucets, and more. We’re not letting a total lack of plumbing experience get in the way of a little thing like building and installing the kitchenette and bathroom.
(Image: Black Unger Dvorchik’s “Activating Art” billboard. Part of a student billboard project directed at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007.)
The black night of our soul, sort of.
The stair well has a coat of black paint. Despite the fact that it’s another move forward, we could be accused of stalling just a little. Once the tape is off, and the steps get one last scrubbing, we’ll move onto designing and framing the lavatory, and designing and building the furniture. You might appreciate how we’re reveling in the smaller tasks, like painting, with such major jobs looming. It’s not that we’re afraid of commitment, it’s just that we just want to avoid making the big decisions as long as possible. Framed walls are forever, sort of.
This photo is a little blown out, but you get the idea. The kick plates are, well, kicked a little. The black paint is a lateral move while we decide if we’re going to clad the stairwell, or get a new one and drop it in. It’s a low priority, but we think about the stairs every time we get in the bus.
If this project were a police procedural, this stairwell would be the prime suspect. While we wait for other forces to gather steam, we’re focusing on cleaning all the gunk from the walls and steps leading into the bus. We’ve used two different solvents, a grinder, and slowly de-bristled a wire brush in the course of our work here. The most important resource, the one that’s most expensive is, of course, patience. Several of us have taken a turn at scrubbing this beast. It’s been a real test.
The risers and sidewalls were originally covered with a thick vinyl. While the sheet metal looks a little like it’s been kicked to death, we can’t really stomach the idea of encasing this area back up in some sort of sheathing, so we’re going to finish cleaning it today, at long last. We’ll prime the metal and paint it black. It’s the simplest measure we can take, and doesn’t preclude some other solution in the future. Fortunately, these stairwells come as prefabbed units. When our ship comes in, maybe we’ll just buy a new one, pull this one out and drop in a fresh one. (Yeah, right.)
Watch your step, indeed.
The new floor continues to get layers of gloss sealant. It’s getting shinier and shinier. We continue to take care of small tasks as we move towards the next phase of the interior design and construction.
Kicking the bucket
No, we’re doing fine. But we are kicking around the idea of a low-cost composting toilet. As we draw up on the deadline to design and install our water system, we just can’t bring ourselves to loop in a black water or septic system. It flies in the face of reason.
We haven’t landed on this solution, but it is in the mix. The five-gallon bucket composting toilet.
Like we said, we haven’t landed on this as a solution, but we do like the sustainable aspect of composting, as opposed to flushing. We’re not alone in our thinking. Bill Gates also wants to reinvent the toilet…
The plan for April/May
We thought we’d share the basic shape that the work will take over the next six (or so) weeks:
Storage: The under-bus storage space is now under construction. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll cut doors, and install the boxes. If you’re at all interested in welding, and want to join in on the fun, be sure to watch out for an announcement. We’re hoping that this will happen in the next 10 days, but we’ll see.
Paint: We’ve got a great plan for the first iteration of the bus exterior. We’ll hold an ‘all are welcome’ event one evening in mid-May where you can watch it happen. We won’t say more on this for now, but keep an eye out for an announcement.
Interior: As soon as we have the 3-D scan, we’ll begin the work on the interior layout. We’ll post drafts of the plans as they evolve. Once we have the design locked, fabrication will be a snap as we’ll use CNC and other digital-into-analogue means to manufacture components. The pieces should just slot together…
Sounds easy on paper. We think the execution will follow suit, as we’ve got a great group of volunteers.