Friday, August 31, 2007

The Bows

Haven't posted for a while because it has just been too hot to work on the caravan. I finally gave up on the wall paper idea. Even with the flooring glue the wallpaper would not stick to the PVC wall panel. After shopping around for fabric, what we ended up doing is using some curtains from Wal-Mart. Actually looks better than the wallpaper. I'll post some pictures later. Did manage to finish the the bunk and get it painted. I have started on the bows and found that 1/4" by 1 and 1/2" pine lattice boards from Lowe's work very well. Hope to finish the bows and get the tarp on my caravan over the Labor Day weekend. More pictures shortly.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Paneling II

It has been raining the last couple of weekends so we haven't done much work. The wiring is finished and the paneling is going back up. The tile glue is holding well. Much harder to get the bubbles out though, and you really need to let it set up a couple of days before installing the panels. We also bought our patio cushions at Target. They currently have a 50% off sale.

If you look at the back wall you can see where I installed a couple of scraps of plywood to cover the wiring. It also gave me a place to install the carrage lights. (Lowe's, $8.00 each) They are hooked to a dimmer switch for a more romantic mood. As romantic as you can get with two kids sleeping nearby. Anyway, that is it for today. Have to finish covering the bunk with plywood. Bet you are wondering how I'm going to get the caravan out from under the carport. I'll save that for later.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Air Conditioner

We installed the air conditioner over the weekend. Bought it from Sam's for $86. Wal-Mart has them too for $96. Had to widen the window opening about 1/2" to get it in. A piece of 3/4 plywood left over from the benches is on top along with some left over 2x2. The 3/4 plywood fits into the AC's upper mounting bracket. On the bottom I used 3/4 plywood and 2x2s. There is also a 1x4 window sill. The air conditioner's lower mounting brackets are screwed into the sill. I still need to caulk around the edges of the air conditioner to make a water-tight seal.

Two brass carriage lights will go over the top of the air conditioner. Some left over plywood will go between the king posts over and under the AC to cover the wiring of the lights and outlet for the AC. All the wiring is finished except for the 15 amp male exterior plug, the 15 amp ground fault plug, and the lights. The male plug will hook into the ground fault plug, which will act as a 15 amp circuit breaker. All other plugs are hooked in series to the ground fault plug ending with the dimmer switch for the lights. That way all the plugs and light switch are protected by the ground fault plug. The light switch gave me a fit for a few minutes. After a quick check on the Internet, I figured out how to wire it. The white wires are hooked together as are the green ground wires. The black wire hooks to the hot black wire from the previous plug and the red wire hooks to the black wire going to the lights. The yellow wire isn't used.

On the back of the AC you will notice some vented metal panels. They did not come with the AC. Nothing was covering the coils. Not the best of situations for traveling down the highway. The panels are actually vents bought from Lowe's for a couple of bucks. They measure about 17x8" and 17x4" and match the color of the AC. The two of them cover the coils of the AC. 4 screws were removed from the back of the AC cover, then the vents are slid under the air conditioner cover against the coils and attached with the screws. 4 small holes were drilled in the vents to match the original holes for the AC screws. DO NOT TRY TO DRILL NEW HOLES IN THE AC COVER TO ATTACH THE VENTS ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE COVER. You will damage the air conditioner. My wife Lisa had the idea to mount them under the cover after I learned the hard way not to drill new holes to attach the vents to the outside of the cover. This is the second AC I've installed in the caravan. The vents should protect the AC from debris and insects while traveling while providing enough ventilation so the AC works properly. Anyway, it is in. I'll finish the wiring next weekend and try to get a better picture of the vents.

The PVC panels have been removed to be recovered using tile floor cement. The other glue stuck in some places but started coming loose at the edges exposing the seams. The new glue should fix the problem.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Paneling

The bunk is finished and painted. The wiring that will be covered by the paneling is installed. I reinstalled the outlet boxes on the sides of the caravan with a longer board so the center runner can be screwed into it making it much more solid. See pic. My wife covered the PVC panels with wall paper. The panels were $15 from Lowe's. They are relatively light weight and really give a solid feel to the walls. We let the wallpaper glue dry overnight. It was still not dry since the water can't soak into the panels. I think floor adhesive might work better but we did get the panels installed without too much trouble. Only time will tell if we have to re-do the wall paper. Next weekend I hope to install the air conditioner and finish the wiring.

[UPDATE: The water based glue on the wallpaper did not adhere to the PVC panels and will have to be re-done using another adhesive. It sure did look great for a day or two though]

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Bunk II

I finished bracing the bunk over the weekend. It is strong enough to support my 250 lbs without giving much. Once the plywood is installed on the bunk it will be even stronger. The center section will house a TV and DVD player. The sections on either side can be used for storage or sleeping as there is 6' of bench area available. Access to the rear most section will be through a hatch under the mattress. I plan to store stuff there that I don't need very often.

There are two outlet boxes on either side under the bunk. One will be used for an electrical outlet. The other for a dimmer switch for the lights. A piece of 1x2 hides them from view. After mounting them I realized that if I made the pieces of 1x2 a little longer, I could attach the middle 1x4 runners to it to stiffen them up. The angle of the side bunk supports is just right for this. The middle 1x4 runners bend when you put your weight on them because there is nothing supporting their 8' length, while the other two 1x4 runners are very stiff. I'll take care of that next weekend while I work on the wiring some more and figure out how to mount the air conditioner. While the build is going slowly, I like it that way as I have plenty of time to think things through.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Bunk

Finally got around to working on the bunk. Our bunk will be 4'6" wide so we can use a standard full sized futon mattress on the bunk. Prior to mounting the lower end panels, I used one as a pattern for the bunk supports. The bunk supports were shortened 3/4 to account for the thickness of the benches. 1x2 strips were attached along the upper edge of the bunk support to give me something to attach the bunk plywood to. A small piece of 3/8 plywood 2' wide covers the gap between the benches. Next I mounted the other bunk support 2' from the other. That leaves me 6' on the benches for sleeping areas. Now the caravan can sleep 6 easily. Both bunk supports were notched for the 2x2s that support the bunk. The bunk is not finished yet. I still have to add supports to the 2x2s. We couldn't resist putting the tarp on and seeing how the caravan will look covered. It actually felt much roomier inside once the cover was on.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Paint and Floor

Things have been going rather slowly with the build lately. The upper rails are installed, and the caravan received a coat of primer and 2 coats of bright green paint. The interior received a coat of white. We had some leftover floor tiles from remodeling our bathroom that we decided to install. They look great and will be easier to keep clean than a painted floor.

The next step will be to install the bunk and then wall covering. I shopped for cloth but what my wife liked was $45 a yard. Just too pricey. Instead, we have decided to cover thin PVC bathroom wallboard with vinyl wall paper. The plastic should be stiff enough when installed on the caravan to eliminate the need for bows in the middle section of the caravan. Anyway, that is for the next post.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Upper End Panels

Here are some pictures of the caravan with the upper end panels attached. At this point, we thought it would be good to prime the whole caravan before any additional work was done because I can still get to the areas that will be under the bed easily. The bottom of the door has been cut out. I had to add some glue between the plywood panels at the base of the door so it was clamped. My door opening was lowered about 1, 1/2" in an effort to make the door open wider. Ideally the door should open at least 90 degrees before hitting the overhang of the bow top. This is a link to some Canadian friends building their own caravan.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

End Panels

The next step is to attach the end 3/8" plywood end panels. I must say that the templates made this much easier than drawing it out by hand. I cut two panels at a time by screwing two sheets of plywood together. This made both end panels match, but if you make a mistake, you will mess up both end panels instead of just one. I chose a spot for the screws where the king posts would be screwed in to avoid having extra holes in the plywood.

My end panels were modified for the additional height of the box. Instead of having the squared off bottom of the end panel 11 1/2" high, I made it 15 1/4" high. I also decided to add an additional 3/4" so that the end panel covered the end of the sheet of plywood for the floor for a total of 16". Instead of making the bottom panel higher, I simply drew it out per the template, changed the squared off bottom from 11 1/2" to 16" high, and then lopped off a portion of the curved section to to accommodate the extra height of the box. My bottom end panel is now 3/4" higher than called for in the plans, but mounted, it is the same height. Now the end panels can be screwed and glued to the floor plywood making a very strong joint. You can see the additional screws every 6" on the bottom of the end panel. Now the end panel and upper part of the caravan cannot separate from the floor. The plywood sides make for a weaker joint than the 1x12s attached to the floor so I decided the overlap would compensate for this. As you can see, I will have to cut part of the box out that is covering the door opening.

The Benches

The plans call for benches using 1x12s. I decided to use another sheet of 3/4 plywood so I could make the benches 18" deep to be more comfortable to sit on. The final depth of my benches was 18 3/4". The reason I chose 18" is because cushions are readily available for patio furniture that will fit the benches. My boys could also sleep on the benches. That is my significant other sitting on the bench before they were permanently mounted;) As you can see, the benches are much more functional and there is plenty of space between them for leg room and a walkway. The benches extend about 11" into the box. That leaves 26" for the walkway and king posts. Plenty of room;) Tim suggested adding a 1x3 along the upper edge of the box to add support for the bench so I did that before mounting the benches. The benches are screwed into the 1x3s. [Tip: Mount the end panels before the benches for a tighter joint between the end panel and the bench]

The Box

The first thing I had to build was the box. The plans call for using a 3/4 sheet of plywood and a couple of 1x12s to build the box. I decided to increase the height of the sides of the box to 15 1/4" so the benches would be chair height. Instead of using 1x12s, I used another sheet of 3/4 plywood for the sides. That is my son Gavin helping to paint the bottom of the box before the other parts are attached. [Tip: Use PL Premium polyurethane construction adhesive. It is water proof, sandable, paintable, and gap filling]

The Search

We haven't been on a real vacation in 20 years. My wife decided she wanted to go on vacation but I really couldn't afford it with the price of hotel rooms and all. She got the idea to buy a travel trailer but all the used travel trailers we could find in our price range were too heavy for my 4 cylinder car, which could only tow 1,500 lbs. Then she got the idea to build a trailer.

The first one we found was a survival trailer on eBay. It was built on a 6x12 landscaping trailer. Just the basics. No real interior to speak of. Bit on the ugly side too. I ordered the plans but decided to wait a while and see what else we could find.

The second candidit was a camp trailer. It was basically a kitchen and bathroom on a small Harbor Freight trailer. She ruled that one out because there was no place to sleep. She doesn't like the idea of sleeping on the ground.

Finally we lucked out and found Timothy Limke's site for the new gypsy caravan.
First I bought the book. It was well written and even entertaining at times. The Caravan was designed to fit on a 4x8 utility trailer. I already had a 4x8 Harbor Freight trailer I rarely used. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I took the plunge and bought the book, plans, template set. I highly recommend the set for anyone thinking about building one. There is information on each of them that is not found in the other format. For example, the book has details on how to build the bed platform. The plans and templates don't include this information.

What follows is a build diary, which includes links to materials I found to use in my caravan.