Thursday, 26 March 2015

On A (Toilet) Roll

More progress on the office. On Tuesday, I cut the hole in the lid of the 'thunderbox' and fitted the platform for the bucket. That done, test-fitting the seat and then giving the whole shooting match a flit over with the belt sander pretty much finished the construction. I'd used 5x60mm screws which were a little over-length, so I removed the screws, glued the panels and then reassembled the loo using 5x40mm screws. A nice neater finish and I'm very pleased with the final result.

I removed the 1200x2400mm OSB panel from the studwork and fitted it into place on the 5' side of the facilities. This left a 300mm gap which needs to be cut from another sheet. With that done, the general look of the thing is coming across much better,

Today, I cut a strip 300mm wide from another board and fitted it into place on the 5' wall so the entire side of the loo is now boxed in. Having set up my jig for circular sawing strips from board, I then turned my attention to the 4' door end of the loo. The original plan was to cut a door out of a single sheet, and then perhaps use the cutout and a pair of hinges to make the door itself, but OSB on its own is likely to warp and go out of shape over time if not reinforced. There is also the issue of cutting a perfectly rectangular hole/door. With that in mind, I decided to cut two strips to go either side of the doorway, full length, and then to fit some studwork around the opening to take a standard door lining, from which I will hang a conventional interior door. This will give a much more robust wall assembly, plus a much better door that can be fitted with conventional handles and a proper latch mechanism. More expensive, but a much more pleasing finish and the trimming around the door can be completed with some architrave after painting the frame. There is also something more reassuring about a proper door you can shut while taking a 'man moment' rather than just an insubstantial hinged flap...

On the subject of the loo, I also took down my huge bag of sawdust and wood chippings and a loo roll and gave it it's first maiden flight. Ok, just a wee for starters, but I'm sure a No2. will be forthcoming in the very near future. Straight away, this highlighted an immediate problem, With the loo boxed in and just an open doorway, it was pretty dark in there. It will be pitch black once the door is on, so my next priority after the door lining and door is to fit a light. All part of the master plan, but this needs to happen sooner rather than later. I also need to turn my attention to the matter of the water supply. Although the kitchenette can wait for a couple of weeks until I find a gap in my work calendar, I need to think about getting a bit of gutter on the van body and start getting some rainwater filling up the slow sand filter. As it will take at least 24 hours for any significant amount of water to percolate through the filter and into the clearwell storage tank in order to build up enough pressure for the inline cartridge filter, then the sooner I can get some inflow happening, the sooner I have available water for the sink.

So, door lining, door, lighting and guttering are the next significant steps.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Summer is a coming in...

...and with it, warmer drier weather and longer working days. We've just passed the equinox so it's time to get busy now.

Today I drove down to the Goat Field in Pudgy and the surface is now navigable for a vehicle rather than just robust wellies. On the roofrack, I had the 4' x 8' wall panel module I'd fabricated for the side wall of the facilities. This was eased through the door, lifted into place and then screwed into position against the studwork for the long wall.

Once the corner was assembled, a screw through the upper timber into the roof truss and a spirit level along the rear edge enabled me to square the whole shooting match up and allow me to fix the wall frame to the rear wall. This framework along with the structural stiffness of OSB sheeting has rigidised the body no end, as I hoped.

The end wall now in place. This will need the OSB removing and a doorway cutting in but it was essential to fit the frame with the OSB intact in order to ensure complete alignment and rigidity of the studwork. As the wall modules rely on the structural strength of the OSB, they must be an engineered fit. As well as providing the walls, the modules also provide support for the Recticell insulation on the ceiling.

Slightly difficult to appreciate dimensions from this photo angle, but the gap between the end wall of the facilities and the left hand wall of the van body is just a tad under three feet. Ample space for a storage alcove, or for a 'passageway' when I eventually add the 'Luton style' sleeping compartment as an extension.

Having recovered a lot of usable slat-wood from several pallets, I decided to use this material in the fabrication of my 'Thunderbox'. The slats were a little under 4" wide, nominal, so four lengths 16" long of 1" x 1" PSE made the legs and I used the compound mitre saw to saw the slats into the correct lengths for the cladding. I managed to get the basic carcass built today and the hinged lid, so all I need to do now is to cut the hole in the lid for the bucket to seat into, give the wood a rub-down and some waterproof sealer and to fit the loo seat and decide on the final position to 'install' the loo. At the moment it is very 'rustic' looking, but it is intended to be functional rather than a thing of beauty. The fact it is made from recycled waste timber and has only cost me for the seat/lid and some screws makes it a very economical method of incorporating a lavvy into the van.

Actually, with the lid laid in it's approximate position and a 'dry run' for sitting position and general operation carried out, I am rather pleased with the resulting 'Thunderbox'. In a slight change to the original plan to house my solar batteries under the water tanks, I have decided that the space makes the perfect solution to store four spare buckets for the loo. Full buckets can be stored safely with lids on (smell and spill poof) and spare empty buckets are immediately to hand for servicing the loo.

I rather like the rustic look, as it happens.

Clearly not functional yet, as there is no hole in the base, but you can see the general effect. You can also see a 'selfie' in the reflection on the seat lid! Ultimately, there will need to be a loo-roll holder and loo roll, some illumination as the facilities will be completely enclosed, some reading material to while away the time during those particularly 'long jobs' and a bucket or bin for 'duff' or cover material for the loo. The occasional spray with some biodegradable disinfectant cleaner may be needed now and then, but hopefully there should be little maintenance needed, other than managing the bucketry.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Where's me office?!!

I'm forgetting what the place looks like, or even where I've left it. I've been so busy working down in Portishead that I haven't made any progress on the office in weeks.

But...a man has to earn a crust, and it's been a decent crust for the last couple of months, so now I have a little wherewithal I can get some more materials in and progress things a little.

I need to resurrect the slow sand filtering system I started on in 2013, and get it doing what it is supposed to be doing and filtering rainwater as a resource. The plan is to harvest rainwater from the roof of the van body and to run it through the filtration system and into the clear-well tank to provide my off-grid potable water supply. The quantities don't need to be vast, but I would like enough for hand-washing, brewing up and re-hydrating the occasional Pot Noodle.

On my last trip to Portishead, I salvaged some scrap CLS timber and some random bits of OSB (as well as another stash of pallets) so I fabricated a timber platform for standing the water tanks on and providing a few feet of 'head' for my water supply.

The platform will hold the slow sand filter, the clear-well and the piping and filtration system. In the picture above, you can see the IX600 cartridge filter fitted into the approximate position. This is supplied from the clear-well and will provide the water feed to the tap in the kitchenette. It also adds a small amount of rigidity to the corner of the body, Anything I can use to brace the walls will help reduce the 'flex' on the body in anything above a moderate breeze.

The rear and side walls support the main weight of the platform, with just a single leg required to prop the outer corner and support the weight of the filtration system and 100 litres or so of water.

You can also see the 3" x 2" CLS I have used to make the studwork outer frame for the partition wall between the kitchenette and 'the facilities'. With the frame screwed to the floor and the outer wall, just one fixing will be needed to the timber 'joist' above the ceiling insulation to align the 5' wall before fitting the 4' end wall and door module. This is being assembled in the garage back at the homestead and will be transported as a finished item on the roofrack to be simply screwed into position - vertically to the back wall and the framing above. The partition wall will be clad on the kitchenette side with OSB. This will ultimately be painted for aesthetic purposes...possibly!

I did actually think one step ahead, and allowed a 3A spur from the end of the ring main to allow for any electrical accessories, a light and a battery charger in the facilities. The space below the water filter platform will house the batteries for the solar system.

Next steps are to fit a couple of horizontal braces into the stud frame, bring the water feed into the kitchenette and then fit the OSB walling sheet. The Recticell insulation in the corner behind the water filter system is to stop the plumbing from getting too cold in winter.

The 'facilities' will also house my 'Loveable Loo' style composting toilet, or thunderbox, and the slat wood I have salvaged from pallets will form the basis of this. I have ordered some 25 litre lidded buckets for use in the toilet, and have a cheap £9.99 seat from B&Q ready to go. Dimensions of the loo are dependent on the bucket, so construction can't begin until I have the measurements of the bucket sorted. Whether I can begin using it right away will depend on the timing of the construction of the processing system...perhaps having a supply of 'nutrients' will expedite that project...