Sunday, May 13, 2018

LAGUN TABLE, PART 2: REAR MOUNT

I don't think I mentioned this in Part 1, but when I ordered that Lagun table from Merry Ol' England, I bought an extra receiver.  Today with some help from DH, the second mount got installed in the rear of our Airstream Interstate.  I've covered some of these installation ideas in Part 1, so this post is mainly a photo tour.

There is one place in the rear of our van, a cabinetry bulkhead, that was fit to receive this second mount.  It looked like this:
It's mostly a void space the frame of which doubles as a jack-knife couch support. 
As with the front mount, the under-blocking had to be as non-hooking as possible (no busted shins on sharp corners), and it had to conform to the available space, which in this case was narrower than what had been available at the front.  Therefore, rather than cutting a standard 45 degree angle on the block, I had to compute the angle instead.
Trig!  I got to do trig!  I haven't been this excited since I had to solve two equations with two unknowns on one of my client's waste disposal cost matrices. 
Here's the view from above down into that space.  My bad for not vacuuming out the dog hair prior to taking the pic.
You can see that there's a structural cross-member spanning the space (the little shelf with the most dog hair on it).  That means that my rear blocking plate had to be cut in half for this one, vs. a solid plate in the front of the van.  Plus we decided to install a sheet metal top plate to strengthen the area further.  As usual, all my prototypes were first cut out of cardboard.

Like this.
And this.  It's a tight space behind there, so I fit the cardboard first, then chopped up the plywood backing plate that came with the extra receiver. 
Action shot - screw holes being drilled in the upper metal plate.
Post cutting and drilling, pre-painting. 

The three pieces coated and drying in the subtropical sun.
I didn't take pics of how I fashioned the block, because that process was much the same as in Part 1.  Attaching the block was simple - we clamped it on, and drilled holes all the way through.
Like this. 
Getting those plates on the rear side of the bulkhead was not as tough as you might think.
View from above.  We used L-brackets for redundant strengthening. 
There's the top plate.  It's black like the frame of the Atwood jack-knife couch.  We did have to remove the bottom half of the couch to make installation of this plate easier, but that's pretty easy - just four bolts.  
View from above with the couch down.  There's little risk of hitting the block because it does not protrude beyond the couch edge.  It sticks out just enough for the vertical support to clear the edge of the couch.
There's the vertical member, sans table top. 
Guess what this means??  I get to delete both the receiving cups and the old table legs from the van inventory.  Removing the receiving cups from the underside of the table made it considerably lighter, which is very helpful given that we are hanging it for storage on the outside of the wet bath door.  It also gives it a cleaner look.

Now you have to endure a bunch of money shots showing the range of motion with the table in this location.





It's really convenient to have a one-piece table that swivels completely out of the aisle when needed.  Initially I wasn't sure if I was going to use that second receiver, but I'm glad I ordered it.
Footloose and cup-free.  Fancy, too. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

INSUL-BRIGHT IN THE AIRSTREAM INTERSTATE, PART 2: GALLEY WINDOW

This post follows on Part 1 where I described the creation of a window covering for the Airstream Interstate's sliding door.  That was a different project because that covering basically hangs by Velcro tabs on the outside of the window frame.  This covering was made for what I call the "Airstream signature" window - the un-openable galley window that Airstream installed to maintain stylistic conformance with its historic product line.
If you Google "Airstream window", you'll get something like this collection of rounded-corner windows that tend to be wider than they are tall.  
That window has an inset frame with a wide rubber gasket on the inside.  The visually-cleanest way to make a thermal covering for that window is to inset it.  And the easiest way to inset it is to give it some stiffness so that it will stay in place largely without assistance.

I decided to try building on the existing Reflectix covering that I made for that window.  It already serves as a template.
If I could sandwich the Reflectix and the Insul-bright between an outer and inner cover, that would build on what I'd already done without having to re-invent the wheel.  I started by cutting a piece of Insul-bright to match the size and shape of the Reflectix I had cut a long time ago. 
The obvious question is, how does one sew Reflectix?  Generally I find that anything I can cram beneath the foot of my sewing machine, I can sew.
I started the construction much as in Part 1.  First the back portion went on, and the sandwich was sewn shut by applying a deeper seam. 
It's quite comical sewing Reflectix.  It goes pop-pop-pop-pop just like you are popping regular bubble wrap. 
Then I placed the workpiece and templated out the top metallic fabric cover.  This shows the wrong side of the metallic fabric.
It has been my intention all along to maintain a metallic fabric covering on the surface of these window coverings for conformance with Airstream's aluminum interior wall coverings, but I haven't yet found a metallic fabric that I like.  This is a different one which I am hoping will prove to be less fragile than the stock I used in Part 1.
Easing the corners was a bit of a pain.
You can see that I basically just top-stitched this fabric in place.  I like to have double rows of stitching on these window coverings coverings whether they hang or inset.  It seems to give a good finished look and some body to the outer edges.

There's the back side.  The stitching is a bit wavy because it is a challenge to feed that Reflectix sandwich through the sewing machine.
Money shots:
There it is in place, friction-fit.  I'll probably add a Velcro dot at the top just to be sure it stays well.  
Here's the part that perhaps appealed to me the most:
I've got a bigger burrito now.  This is the new one (right) stored next to one of the Reflectix old ones (left). 
It now looks like I have an actual professional automotive product on the wall instead of a cut sheet of Reflectix insulation.
Much better effect visually, I think.  A finished product which looks like it belongs there.  It makes the Reflectix look a bit trashy in comparison.  
So there's another prototype executed, and I'll report back on how it performs, insulation-wise.
Tryin' to make our ride cooler and cooler, in every sense of the word.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

ADAPTING A LAGUN TABLE FOR THE AIRSTREAM INTERSTATE

Reading that post title, many of my readers (maybe even all five of them at once) would wonder, "Why does she need a Lagun table?  She already made herself a custom computer table."
And what a beauty she is.  The blog post linked above describes how I repurposed all of Airstream's original hardware for this improved design. 
More accurately, I made a custom computer table top.  Which I am now free to deploy elsewhere in the van should it prove to suit my purpose.

And it might, because there is the infernal issue of the dismal ride quality in the rear of the Sprinter where this tricked-out table typically functions (for a tri-forum collection of ride-quality grousing, see discussion threads here and here and here, and I could go on with many more).  Try as I might, I have not been able to gain any "sea legs" to help me deal with the constant fish-tailing and pounding roughness of life on the road in our aft section.  Sitting back there usually makes me acutely ill inside of 30 minutes unless I spend my entire time staring out the window at the horizon to minimize inner-ear disruptions.  That approach, of course, would not be compatible with working on a computer.  

Ergo, if I want to be able to work when we are under way, and as a small business owner I very much want to do that, then I have exactly two choices:  Either find a way to retrofit rear air suspension to the van, or find another less-punishing place to work.

Air suspension is a pricey option - between $5,000 and $10,000, with the added complexity that out-of-the-box systems are no longer sold for the T1N Sprinter, which is now more than 10 years post-production.  Newer systems are not compatible because of chassis changes.  The one older system that has the potential to work is the Glide-Rite package sold out of the UK.  The problem there is that we would have to fabricate some of our own mounting hardware, as they no longer sell it.  That introduces a lot of work, and far more importantly, it introduces technical unknowns into the purchase decision.  What if we spent all that money and the installation proved to be more trouble than it was worth? (For instance, we never did confirm whether that system was retrofittable with our propane tank being located where it is). 

It dawned on me recently that there may be a workaround.  If I could find a way to work at the front of the van instead of at the back of the van, the issue of rear sway and roughness largely becomes moot.  

So I set about the process of experimenting with options in this regard.  My early efforts tended toward the conventional, and they proved to be unworkable.
For instance, I tried shrouding myself with a tent of light-gauge fabric in the passenger seat in order to cut the window glare well enough to see the computer screen, but this blocked the driver's line of sight to the curbside mirror.  That was plainly unacceptable.
And then I remembered -- we installed a seat swivel that we proceeded to hardly ever use.  What if I could work up front, but facing the rear insead?  
Remember Southwest Airlines' old lounge seating areas?  They were discontinued probably because they were unpopular - many people did not like the idea of flying backwards.  I was often the passenger who volunteered to sit in that row, because I did not give a flip which way my seat faced.
Image courtesy of Airliners.net.  
Maybe that swivel seat could be used for a task more productive than map reading. 
The question then became -- if I were to use my computer table here, how would it be mounted?  

We really didn't like the idea of sinking two additional leg receivers into the floor at this location, right in the way of traffic.  They may be close to being flush with the floor surface, but those holes are a pain the ass, plus I find them unsightly.  
Nope.  I think it would require tapping into the chassis, which I absolutely do not want to do.
Image from this site.
I got the Lagun table idea from the forum poster known as GeorgeRa, whose self-built van is named Voila (see if this link to a photo album, and see also here and here).   The Lagun is sold by a company named Marine Teak.
Marine Teak's facility in the UK.  Notice that solar camper van near lower right.  Clearly, its presence was A Sign.
If you look at the installation pics that are available on those threads linked above, you will notice one regrettable design feature: the Lagun hardware has to be mounted substantially proud of any vertical surfaces that might otherwise interfere with the table's swivel function.
GeorgeRa's installation, with the table top and arm being in the stowed position.  Not too bad, but you can see that he extended his cabinet mount with what looks like a rectangular block of wood.
Another user's installation in a Travato, from the B Van thread linked above.  Holy frijoles - what is that huge block sticking out into the aisle of the van??  Both of my shins would get bruised to pieces if we had that in our rig!  (Head of the seated person chopped off for privacy, intending no disrespect). 
The reason why these bump-outs are necessary has to do with this:
The butt end of the horizontal hardware sticks out beyond the vertical support, especially when it's at a 45 degree angle.  Therefore, in order to have clearance to swivel to and fro, the receiver must extend outward, if this is to be mounted on a vertical surface such as the side of a galley cabinet.  
OK, so, this blocking issue is a necessary evil of the design, but lacking superior alternatives, I ordered the Lagun table support anyway.  Nothing is perfect.
It arrived from Merry Old England as an undisturbed bundle of joy.

However I was not impressed with the unwrapped quality of it. There were dings on both the horizontal structural member and this fastening piece.  There was no evidence to suggest that this happened during shipping.  It was packed up that way. 
If I have to concede the use of a mounting adapter, I at least want something a bit more elegant and a bit less bruising than some of the published variants.  So I fashioned an alternative with aspects of quality and appearance in mind.
Solid red oak, with a beveled edge.
But God forbid I should be able to purchase a single piece of oak thick enough for this job.  No - I had to get two and sandwich them as shown above.  This was the first of several successive First World miseries associated with this project.  I don't mind doing projects - in fact, I really enjoy projects.  What I do not enjoy is not being able to easily buy the basic feedstocks that I need for the projects.  

There she is, Miss America.  A woman's place is in the kitchen - baking parts that she fabricated in the garage.  That's the oak sandwich glued, cut, drilled out, and painted with Sherwin Williams oil-based enamel in "Iron Ore" color formulation, which matches our countertop.   
Here's the next pain in the ass where hardware was concerned.
The hardware included by Marine Teak was excellent quality stainless steel, but was not large enough to accommodate the adaptive fitting that many installers are obviously going to require for this project.
To make matters worse, in ordering this from Merry Old England, of course it came with metric hardware.  Metric stainless countersunk bolts, to be specific.  I might as well be seeking to buy a lock of hair that had been taken from Christ Himself.  
The problem with common retail stores that, upon downstepping from the OEM metric to its nearest English equivalent, which is a one-quarter inch bolt, I commensurately had to downstep to a three-inch long bolt.  Everything above three inches upstepped from four-sixteenths to five-sixteenths in diameter.  And five-sixteenths was too large for the bracket holes. 
The bolt length matters because of the backing plate that was delivered with the Lagun.  It was made of half-inch plywood so it was going to add considerable thickness to the overall fastener design.  Of course I could order the optimal hardware for this job off the internet, but if I did that every time I needed a specific item, it would be a month of Sundays before I got anything finished.  So typically what happens is that I make do with whatever crap can be located in big box stores.
I will show the half-inch OEM backing plate below.  Not being sure in the hardware store whether a 3-inch bolt would be long enough to extend through the whole kit and kaboodle, I brought home this piece of metal plate in case I had to use that instead of the plywood.  Some van owners, should they try to do this kind of installation, may have to substitute a thin metal plate as a backer, depending on where they are mounting the Lagun. 
But even the damned metal plate could not be sourced properly.
This is what Lowes hardware keeps in stock - quarter inch steel plate, and sixteenth inch steel plate. Nothing in between, absolutely no eighth-inch, which is what I (and every other hobbyist) really need.  
OK, enough howling about product availability.  Here are a few installation shots.  

This is what the OEM half-inch plywood backer looked like once I painted it and trimmed it sufficiently to fit in our space.
This is the view inside the cabinetry.  The installation kit did not come with the fender washers.  We added those.
In order to achieve an optimal height for the bracket mount, we had to bump down the location of the propane detector.  Here you see my husband Dremeling out that space.  And also you can see the bracket mount which looks like a finished piece that belongs there, I think.  I didn't want a squared-off design like the others I showed above because someone coming through the sliding door would hook something on the edge of it, a piece of luggage or whatever.  A sloped design like this is better, I think. Any items bumping up against it would tend to slide by rather than hook.  
And a few money shots of the installation:
You know a project was successful when you sit in the midst of it and you don't want to get back up again.
If you look at that pic above you'll notice something curious.  I've used one of the OEM pedestal legs as an additional support on the right side.  Most of the time, I don't think this will be necessary, but if we are pounding across really rough roads, I will probably slip this leg in there just for extra support, so as not to put too much stress on the Lagun.

Most importantly, the table does not impinge upon the dog's space.
View from the side.  Yes, I know I need a foot rest.  The swivel mechanism has the effect of raising the seat.  
In order to get up without removing the table, I just push it away, and then swivel it to the side.
I get a great view from this location, too.  And I get my dog's full attention when the dinner hour approaches.
The ratchet handles will bump the edge of the cabinet, preventing a full 180 degree travel distance.  But there is a workaround for that - simply flip the horizontal support over, placing the handle on the other side, and then swivel.  By this method, the table can be rotated left instead of right, including part way out the sliding door.  I can see this being convenient for BBQing and whatnot.   
And how do I store this lofty apparatus when it is not in use?
Same thing I did with the original table top - hang it on the outside of the wet bath door. 
If you look carefully at that image above, you'll notice that the Lagun base does not line up perfectly with the perforated aluminum sheet.  That's because the sheet is made to English measurements and the Lagun is, once again, metric.  I will need to add about two holes in the table base so that I can better align the tiny nuts and bolts that hold it to the aluminum sheet, but I want to do some road testing before deciding on the exact final position for the base, so for the moment, I'm holding off on that part.

Like I always say, our van keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I just doubled both my working options and my comfort level, because now I can sit in a full captain's chair instead of perching on the couch to do computer work.

Stay tuned for my road testing notes.
No, actually, I don't.  The office on wheels that I have is constantly on the improve.  
UPDATE 20180427 I'm pleased with the initial road testing I've done, with one caveat.  Working at the front of the van means the same thing as working anywhere else - office and computer clutter that needs to be controlled.  Here's a photo showing some of the organizational features I've added so far - a Container Store magnetic bulletin board with two magnetic mesh baskets, plus a wall pocket cut down to fit the left / front side of the galley cabinetry.

UPDATE 20180510:  Those sharp corners were proving to be a pain now that the table is mobile and swiveling, so they were trimmed and the edge re-bound as follows, which I expect will furnish a significant ergonomic improvement: