Tag Archives: vintage trailer

Where have I been? What’s going on?

Where have I been?
It’s a good question! I’ve been really busy the past two months, but haven’t made a ton of progress on the COMET. Other vintage camper people out there, have you ever tried polishing the pitted, foggy aluminum back up to a mirror finish? It takes forever! It also requires a large angle grinder, which I’m embarrassed to say I can’t really lift up in the first place (so it becomes Matt’s job). We’ve been working on it little by little, but it takes many hours and is a crappy job. It’s the one thing standing in between me and a beautiful exterior paint job (also Matt’s forte because he used to do fancy pin striping and decals on cars).

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT:
www.planetqueenvintage.etsy.com
The reason I have been so busy is because I really need money to complete the COMET and I had to put a lot of time and energy into my Etsy shop, where I sell awesome vintage clothing. My shop is called Planet Queen Vintage (based on the T Rex song but also referencing awesome ladies that do cool stuff to positively impact the planet) and I would be so grateful if you guys took a minute to check out all the new stuff and hard work I’ve been putting into the shop the past few months. I added 100+ new items, took better photographs, and increased the overall awesomeness content. Bet you guys didn’t know I run a business on the side in addition to the COMET?! Vintage fashion is my secret weakness ( and vintage furniture, and sunglasses, and campers). All of the profits from the shop right now go DIRECTLY (like, every penny) into finishing the COMET. If you see something you like and decide to buy it, you will be helping me buy some non-toxic exterior paint, some photovoltaic components, and some other little things needed to complete this project. Take a look even if it’s just to give me a critique on the shop, I’d appreciate that too! If you see stuff you like, you can check back often because I add multiple new items every morning. Thank you nice readers!
www.planetqueenvintage.etsy.com

Over the summer, after the Tiny House Fair, I found myself really struggling to figure out where I fit in (me and the COMET both). What am I doing with this? Am I making a difference? I wasn’t really sure if I fit in with tiny house movement, after getting those discouraging comments (yes, I know the COMET isn’t a cedar sided 6-12 pitch roof home on wheels – who said it had to be? and yes, I know there are not yet solar panels on the top, its’ not finished!). I started getting frustrated and questioning my work and my whole life really (uh oh). Am I just another over privileged college kid doling out sermons about things I can’t possibly be know all the answers to (life lessons, how to be greener, how to be happy)? Do my blog posts and carefully curated photographs add to the fetishization of simple lifestyles that I’m finding make me more and more uncomfortable? Are tiny houses just becoming another commodity for consumers to purchase and own in addition to their “big” homes? It sounds kind of negative, but I just had to reflect on what I was doing and why, and how to be more honest with you guys and myself, and accept the limits to what myself and the COMET can accomplish. We’re not perfect, and that’s a hard thing to admit. I have to tow the camper with a gas guzzling truck, so is that trade off worth it? I want to educate people about sustainability in a fun, hands-on way with the COMET, but at the same time in order to spread the word and talk to all of these wonderful people I have to use a fossil fuel burning machine. There are lots of contradictions, I just have to be able to articulate them and then wait to see if a reconciliation can ever be reached.
On another note, I have been receiving lots of nice notes / messages from all of you, and I want to say that if I haven’t responded yet it is truthfully only because I want to give each and every response the time and energy it deserves. Sometimes that means it takes me a while to get back to your messages and emails, but I honestly appreciate and love each and every time someone takes a moment to email me. Let me know what you’re up to, ask a question, give me some feedback. I will respond, I just want to be able to give my full attention to all of your awesome inquiries. Keep ‘em coming! Thank you everyone for reading along with this journey that is WAY longer and WAY more complex than I thought it would be!! You all keep me going with every comment and email message I receive. You remind me why I have to stick out the difficult parts (angle grinding / polishing) so that I can do the awesome parts (meeting you all on the road, talking to you, and sharing camper stories!).

I also watched “Chasing Ice” the other day, and it filled me with urgency and purpose. It’s a very good documentary.

The past few months Matt’s been getting excited about survival techniques and survivalist skills – which is really awesome because we’ve been making lots of fires from scratch and improving our fire cooking cast-iron skillet skills. We’ve been talking a bit about the similarities and differences between “Survivalist” an “Sustainability” movements. I think after living out of the Honda Element car for two months in the spring we both just got into “survivalist” mode, and even though we’re back in the city currently we still like to do all the stuff we do when we’re camping for a long period of time.

I want to share some cool links with you all that I’ve been collecting the last few weeks, check them out if you have a moment:

This first one is a really awesome interview from the Etsy blog from a while ago. The interviewee is Frankie Moore Lappe, author of “Diet for a Small Planet”. She hits the nail on the head in talking about the problem with how we currently frame sustainability with language and diction like “reduce”, “avoid”, “limits”, “minimalize”. I’ll let you guys read the article then maybe I’ll post the essay I wrote two years ago about the problematic language of the sustainability movement so you can see the similarities + differences.

https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2013/an-interview-with-frances-moore-lappe/#comment-880359

The next link is to a video of a guy’s conversion van (Sprinter) that I think is pretty neat. The one thing I don’t understand is having a toilet. I lived out of a car for months and I never once missed a toilet (THANK YOU P-STYLE FEMININE DIVERTER!) and I think it would make your living space more unpleasant than pleasant. Other than that, it has some neat ideas. Theoretically, I am sort of getting over the “squeeze as much into the tiny mobile thing as you possibly can” idea, but it’s cool nonetheless. I’m really into the mint green paint job.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR0-Y5nHvQ8

Also, the amazing Robin Hayes from Build Tiny (http://build-tiny.com/) is hosting a workshop soon (October 10-13) in VA and you all should check it out. Robin is a really inspiring lady who I have met at multiple workshops all over the place. She is a carpenter, plumber, doer, maker, and all around amazing person to learn from. Everyone loves her and her skill and energy are sure to give you the start you need to get your tiny house or other building project on track. Also, dear friends Dee Williams and Lee Pera (Boneyard Studios) will be there helping out, and you need to meet these incredible, smart, (dare I day gorgeous?!) ladies. You won’t regret it!

http://build-tiny.com/ for more details.

Last thing:
I’m writing a book.
There. I said it out loud. Now I really have to do it.

I seriously wanted to steal this sign from Steve Harrell's house (tiny house listings, tiny house vacations). I'll have to paint one myself!

I seriously wanted to steal this sign from Steve Harrell’s house (tiny house listings, tiny house vacations). I’ll have to paint one myself!

love you all, keep me updated with your cool projects and thank you for reading as always

<3 Mariah

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Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout

The fresh water tank (the only tank in the COMET – no grey or black water tanks) lives underneath the rear couch/bed. Originally it was under the dinette bench on the port side, but that meant that there was about 15 feet of tubing wrapping around the entire trailer to get from the tank to the faucet on the other side. We moved it to underneath the rear bench to be closer to the faucet. The fresh water tank is 15 gallons and I refill it about every 3-4 days. You don’t really use a lot of water when you have to pump it by hand. And the hot water is just one of those black bag camp showers that I hang up outside.

Here’s how we installed the new fresh water tank.

Here's where the new fresh water fill spout goes. Thanks Timbucktu RV Supply in Worcester for all the parts needed for the water tank installation!

Here’s where the new fresh water fill spout goes. Nothing is pressurized, so it’s just an angled spout where you put water form the hose. Thanks Timbucktu RV Supply in Worcester for all the parts needed for the water tank installation!

Close up of the fill. We caulked around the edges, and screwed it into the wall. The small spot to the left of the spout is the vent, which allows the tank to empty correctly.

Close up of the fill. We caulked around the edges, and screwed it into the wall. The small spot to the left of the spout is the vent, which allows the tank to empty correctly.

Here's what it looks like from the inside. We toe-nailed in a piece of plywood so that we would have something more than just aluminum to screw it into from the outside.

Here’s what it looks like from the inside. We toe-nailed in a piece of plywood so that we would have something more than just aluminum to screw it into from the outside.

Here are the lines attached, using hose clamps. The blue and white striped line (the larger one) is the water fill line, it goes from the fill spout to the tank. The clear, smaller line is the vent line for air to escape as the water drains. It goes from the tank to the spout, then outside via that vent.

Here are the lines attached, using hose clamps. The blue and white striped line (the larger one) is the water fill line, it goes from the fill spout to the tank. The clear, smaller line is the vent line for air to escape as the water drains. It goes from the tank to the spout, then outside via that vent. Don’t skimp on the caulking when you’re dealing with the water situation. Better safe than sorry!

Some context.

Some context.

The tank! It came with no pre-drilled holes, so we could decide where to put them ourselves. Using a hole saw bit on the drill, we cut out the correct holes for the hose attachments. There were 3 holes in the tank total: one for water to come in from the spout, one for air to escape when it's draining, and one for water to travel from the tank to the faucet via another line, which is down at the bottom.

The tank! It came with no pre-drilled holes, so we could decide where to put them ourselves. Using a hole saw bit on the drill, we cut out the correct holes for the hose attachments. There were 3 holes in the tank total: one for water to come in from the spout, one for air to escape when it’s draining, and one for water to travel from the tank to the faucet via another line, which is down at the bottom.

Then we cut the new panel for that wall (the old panel was all water damaged under the window and at the floor) and tacked it in.

Then we cut the new panel for that wall (the old panel was all water damaged under the window and at the floor) and tacked it in.

We then put in the framing and front of the rear bench (not tank yet) because we needed to see how we would run the line from the tank to the faucet and make sure everything would fit.

We then put in the framing and front of the rear bench (not tank yet) because we needed to see how we would run the line from the tank to the faucet and make sure everything would fit.

Now, we actually installed the kitchen before attaching the water tank and hooking everything up, so that’s where I’ll stop for now. Basically, the tank got put into it’s spot under the bench, it fit very snugly. We hooked up the fill line to the appropriate fitting that we had installed in the side of the tank, and the air vent line to the appropriate fitting. We put the fitting (barbed) into the bottom for the faucet line as well, but didn’t hook it up until the kitchen was finished. So we’ll look at the kitchen then get back to finishing up the water tank. Photos to come!

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Adding Structural Strength for a Bumper Garden

When Matt and I went to re-frame the rear wall of the COMET, we knew we had to do some re-design as well. First of all, at some point there is going to be a “bumper garden” (hehe, get it? on top of the bumper…) mounted onto the back of the trailer under the window. Ok, so it’s like a way-glorified window box, but on a moving trailer, and made with polycarbonate so it’s also like a tiny greenhouse too. Since there will at some point soon be soil and metal and plants hanging off of the back wall, we knew we had to beef up the framing. I wanted enough studs that we could lag into to support the bumper garden. The second part of the design had to address the really weird original framing, which had the rear bench (couch and also my bed) come down halfway in front of the rear hatch, which is the only place to really store anything large. Basically, the rear bench bisected the hatch, and I thought that was dumb, because I want full hatch access! So we raised the bench up 6 inches, so it now clears the rear hatch door and give us a little more storage. Here’s how we did it!

A little reference, so you can see how the original framing interfered with the rear access door.

That beam spans right across the access opening, so we did a little re-designing.

That beam spans right across the access opening, so we did a little re-designing.

Those new studs are 2x6's, so very strong. We cut them to match the profile of the curvy back of the trailer. It had to match the existing aluminum shape. Notice that the problematic beam is gone.

Those new studs are 2×6′s, so very strong. We cut them to match the profile of the curvy back of the trailer. It had to match the existing aluminum shape. Notice that the problematic beam is gone.

Here's another view. The 2x4 spanning the two studs ties them together and gives me another place to lag into when I go to attach the bumper garden.

Here’s another view. The 2×4 spanning the two studs ties them together and gives me another place to lag into when I go to attach the bumper garden.

More framing! We added a 2x4 across the top of the access opening. That member will support the bench framing. We re-used most of the wood from the original bench, just re-arranged it. We tried to make the back as strong as possible. We'll see how it holds up when the bumper garden goes on.

More framing! We added a 2×6 across the top of the access opening. That member will support the bench framing. We re-used most of the wood from the original bench, just re-arranged it. The studs (2×2′s) on either side are for nailing  the new wood panel up, you need something to tack into. We tried to make the back as strong as possible. We’ll see how it holds up when the bumper garden goes on.

Just another close-up.

Just another close-up.

Now you can see that the rear hatch is entirely accessible. Much better! And we made room for a slightly larger fresh water tank too.

Now you can see that the rear hatch is entirely accessible. Much better! And we made room for a slightly larger fresh water tank too.

Just a little tip/reminder for those of you that are doing this yourself: NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE SURE THE TOW WIRING WORKS! While you have access to the wiring for the rear brake/turn lights, make sure everything works. Luckily, the Avalon was working when we got her. But my other camper, the Beemer, needed to be completely re-wired, and it’s better to know before you go closing up the walls.

Insulate with UltraTouch Denim Insulation. See previous post for more about this cool stuff!

Insulate with UltraTouch Denim Insulation. See previous post for more about this cool stuff!

Here's the plywood I cut to be the rear panel. See that little window cut out at the top (the right side?), that's going to be a picture frame that let's you see and feel the UltraTouch from inside the camper. I thought this would be cool for people to see and feel at workshops and such.

Here’s the plywood I cut to be the rear panel. See that little window cut out at the top (the right side?), that’s going to be a picture frame that let’s you see and feel the UltraTouch from inside the camper. I thought this would be cool for people to see and feel at workshops and such.

Well this photo skips a few steps ahead, but you can see the 1/4 inch plywood panel installed (use shanked finish nails). You can also see the new (though made from the original old wood pieces) bench framing. See how the front of the bench, with the access door which is removed in this photo, has a 2x6 (which is 5.5 inches wide) attched to the bottom. This gave us the height we needed to clear the rear hatch! It all worked out as planned.

Well this photo skips a few steps ahead, but you can see the 1/4 inch plywood panel installed (use ring-shanked finish nails). You can also see the new (though made from the original old wood pieces) bench framing. See how the front of the bench, with the access door which is removed in this photo, has a 2×6 (which is 5.5 inches wide) attached to the bottom. This gave us the height we needed to clear the rear hatch! It all worked out as planned.

Here's a close-up of the little insulation view-hole. I have a picture frame that will go around that square when everything's finished.

Here’s a close-up of the little insulation view-hole. I have a picture frame that will go around that square when everything’s finished.

 

 

And that’s how to frame for a bumper garden (or any other weight bearing rear storage container)! I really hope this works. I think it’s probably a little overkill, considering the bumper garden will also be supported by the bumper, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

Next post will cover more insulation and paneling (quickly), and maybe a little more of the bench building. It will definitely cover how to install the fresh water tank.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading along while I play catch up! I hope all of this is helpful to those of you who are restoring your own vintage trailers. And I hope it doesn’t scare away those who one day hope to!

 

 

 

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Updates, Updates! Plus: Vintage Trailer Eye Candy

Hello!

I need to apologize for my lack of uploaded photos of the COMET progress from the past month. It’s so frustrating, because I really want to share them with you all, but I am having technical difficulties with the camera, alas! HOPEFULLY I can resolve the issue soon and we can get back on track!

Until then, I have some other news:

1. Just got back from a 2 day “Greenhouse Design” workshop at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, where I finalized the design of my “bumper” garden – a mini, lightweight greenhouse mounted to the back of the trailer, supported by the bumper. It was great to learn about the different material options for building a greenhouse. In order to be as lightweight as possible, I’m going to go with aluminum framing and polycarbonate  sheets – a structural panel. Can’t wait to get started on the fabrication/building of that!

Greenhouse made from recycled windows, as seen on Apartment Therapy. Such a good idea! I also thought of upcycling an old carport into a small greenhouse.

 

2. Lloyd Kahn, my favorite tiny house/alternative dwelling author, is coming out with a new book and guess what it’s all about? Campers and houseboats! yay! He recently released his Tiny House book, which had a full page spread about mobile dwellings, but I can’t wait to get a hold of this book dedicated to unique camper houses and house boats. I think it is going to be titled “Wheels and Water”. If you live in an awesome trailer or houseboat, he is looking for submissions too for the book. Head over to http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/ for more on that!

3. I’ve been on a fermentation rampage the last few weeks. Saurkraut, Curtido (Salvadorean suarkraut for papusas), and Kombucha have been filling the fridge and the dark corners of the basement. I’ve been experimenting with double fermentation of the Kombucha and have been perfecting the Curtido recipe (which is extra magical as it uses whey as part of the fermentation process). I have more Kombucha mothers than I know what to do with at this point, but it’s nice to have enough to try all different flavors with. My first batch turned into straight up vinegar, but I have been planning on using that for salad dressings and other vinegar drinks that I have recipes for from the book “Making It” by Kelley Coyne + Erik Knutzen. I will share my super affordable, DIY $5 fermentation set up and some recipes soon!

4. I’m addicted to looking at Pinterest pages that are all about vintage camper eye candy. I have 4 new ones to share with you. It’s such a high concentration of vintage camper pictures in one place, it is almost overstimulating. Each one is full of good ideas for design + storage too.

Here we are:

Trailer Parks + Trailers I LOVE!

My Vintage Trailer Restoration

Creative Camper Interiors

Fun Little Campers

Some of them have some of the same photos, but for the most part each one is worth checking out if you love vintage trailer eye candy!

I am always trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up (I feel like the answer will always be “Everything”). While at Yestermorrow, I get so excited about each subject I learn about it’s like a new career path unfolds in front of me every other week! I’ll be a solar house designer, I’ll be a Greenhouse builder, I’ll be a tiny house builder or a teacher. I made use of the drafting tables at Yestermorrow while I was there and after class did some “architectural” drawings of camper designs of the future (We can all agree that most modern RV designs are terrible and tacky, right?). Maybe I’ll be an RV designer and try to usher in a new era of campers that look like old campers! While I work towards the silliest degree in the world (I think I’ve explained my major before – vintage trailer restoration and the culture of mobile dwellings?), I try to see how I can apply it to the future of our culture and the planet. Not sure where I’m going with this, but that’s okay once in a while right? One step at a time! Sorry this was a bit of a rambling paragraph.

 

Anyway, I really hope to have the camera situation fixed very soon and then I can share more COMET progress and trailer restoration how-to’s. Until then, have a lovely day! and THANK YOU for reading!

 

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Interior Floor Demolition!

This is what I was doing the last few days. Later on I’ll post pictures of what it looks like now, with the new framing, insulation, and flooring.

Basically the entire rear floor, under the bed/couch under the window, had been destroyed by a combination of water damage and termites or carpenter ants. There was no framing left in the rear 4 feet of flooring, it was just dust at this point. We ended up pulling out an entire wall’s structural members and floor studs: there was a lot of day light coming through. This is the most structurally-intense renovation/repair I have ever had to do in a trailer, but it was similar in nature to the repairs I had done to fix water damage in other trailers, so progress has been going very quickly!

I’ll walk you through peeling back the layers of rot. Don’t let this discourage you  if you’re considering repairing your own vintage trailer. If I can do it, anyone can. Oh, and a big thank you to my friend Matt for helping me out in these hectic weeks before Tiny House Summer Camp, and all the other weeks he’s helped as well.

The thing about repairing the framing in these is that you peel back one wall to fix one problem, which then allows you to see about 8 other problems that you hadn’t noticed before. And everything is built originally from the frame up, so you’re trying to get into places that were put together in an order that makes it challenging to get at things retroactively. We ended up pulling back some of the exterior aluminum to be able to reach certain spots better.

This is the rear of the camper where I pulled back the linoleum sheet floor to find a soft pile of dusty wood. You can see the corner was just rotted through. But I didn’t know how far the rot had gotten until I dug deeper.

I used the SonicCrafter and my hands to pull out all of the rotten wood framing. The wood was so rotten it just came right out for the most part. Some of the stuff I pried out with the Wonderbar. you can see the black wood in the corner, where day light is coming in. That’s not good! Basically water rots where it sits, which is why the wood under the window is fine but the floor is ruined. Even though the water was coming in through the window, it was flowing down into the floor and had no way to escape.

I then tore out the kitchen, realizing that the floor framing on the starboard side was rotted out beneath the kitchenette. I also knew by stepping on it that the floor next to the heater, below that big round hole in the wall where the vent was, was all rotted out. I carefully removed the kitchen so I could get at the floor there.

This is the view from the outside. This entire length of member was rotten with water damage.


Here you can see where I used the SonicCrafter to cut out the rotten wood to where it was solid again. Those straight cuts are where the wood is no longer rotten. It looks like a huge mess, but is surprisingly simple to fix when you have control over how you want to re-build. I knew I wanted to rebuild it ten times stronger than it was originally. Originally, the studs in the wall were stapled (yes, STAPLED) to the floor beams. Not exactly sturdy construction.

I’ll post pictures of what we did to fix this mess later on. I think it turned out pretty good!

Anyway, one of my best friends just bought a vintage trailer to live in (we’re going to have a caravan!) and she’s in the process of repairing the rear rot as well. Today she’s coming over to help me out and see what you can do to fix that sort of damage. If I can convince at least one other person that living in a trailer is an awesome idea, I would say this project has been a success already!

**Another huge thank you to Green Building Supply, who really helped me out yesterday on such short notice. I was having a really hard time figuring out what to do about the countertop in the COMET. I wanted to re-use an old Formica table, and I ended up getting one off of craigslist, but it turns out is isn’t the right size for the counter. I called up Green Building Supply looking for a solution and they recommended Marmoleum, the same stuff that my flooring is made of! You can get Marmoleum in tiles or planks for floors, or you can order it in flexible sheets, which works like a natural laminate countertop. It’s completely non-toxic, natural linoleum and basically indestructible. I picked out a really cool teal color, Azzuro. It is a similar pattern to the flooring, sort of swirly and marble-y.

I also got some of the non-toxic Forbo (who makes Marmoleum) adhesive to put the countertop onto a piece of plywood I have lying around. I’m going to re-use the vintage aluminum retro trim from the original countertop around the edges, so it will still have that vintage look. Can’t wait to get this in the mail!

As always, thanks so much for reading. I’ll update again later on, gosh-willing I can keep my eyes open after I’m done in The COMET.

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Some Serious Camper Eye Candy

I promised you some vintage trailer eye candy. Here it is. Probably one of my favorite camper photos ever. One day I will live in a high-rise camper community like this one…just imagine solar panels and wind power turbines on each one.

Part of my work is removing the stigma from living in trailers and trailer parks.

I later found out this was a set?! For a play or something?! I like to think someone lives there now.

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