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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #070

Editorial

Yes I know it's been a long time. Sorry, but that's due to a combination of the fact that we haven't really done anything and a serious case of I-couldn't-give-a-crap, not just with web sites etc but everything. I've just not had the energy to do much, or actually I think it's been a total lack of enthusiasm to do anything, and without enthusiasm you can't rustle up the energy.

But the times they are a changin' and things are starting to happen up here at the Graynomad hideaway (AKA Wallaby Ridge).

So this chronicle will start as little more than some annotations for the photos but should ramp up to being more full bodied, unless I get that couldn't-give-a-crap affliction again.

 

THU 21 NOV 2013

Been working on the track a lot, even laid down some sleepers as simple bridges over creeks etc.

Here's a few pics of the top of the track where the terrain is really steep so I have had to cut a few switchbacks.


Some of the waling track.

FRI 6 DEC

We are also landscaping the area around the containers and the truck, when we saw this little guy we had to buy him.


Our little reading Buddha.

SUN 8 DEC

We have been putting food and water out for the wildlife, given the drought around here it seems to be a hit.



The wildlife seem to appreciate our offerings.


Lunch time at the Gray's.

MON 30 DEC

We have some food that we aren't happy to eat as it had been in the fridge too long so I put it out for the animals, I think goanna will like the eggs. As I walk back to the truck Chris is kakking herself, I look back to the items I had placed on the ground and realize why.


Nuff said.

Fri 3 JAN 2014

Our favourite wallaby by far is Notch, he's such a character, spending a large part of his day lounging around under one of the containers with brief sorties out to the food or water.

Lately it's been pretty hot and he's taken to having regular cooling sessions in the water bowls, never mind that everyone else has to drink from them.


Notch cooling off his bits in the drinking tray. What a guy.

SUN 02 MAR

While preparing some muffins for lunch I had a "eureka" moment, you see I like a lot of Vegemite on bread and I realized that the large Vegemite jar is the same size as the muffins.


Vegemite jar and muffins are the same size. Coincidence? I think not.

FRI 07 MAR

By now you must have figured that we like containers, in fact building a house from them is a possibility one day. Meanwhile though I want to build a workshop for my electronics tinkering (or whatever tinkering I'm into in a few years) so we've bought another container. This one will be called C3, the first one is called C1 and I haven't figured out what to call the second one yet.

I've prepared some rough pads for it and got all the concrete blocks ready, it should be here any minute and I'm hoping to use their crane to lift it up onto blocks so at least it's close to the correct height. After that I can easily adjust things using jacks.

You can do it all yourself even if they drop it on the ground, but it's a royal pain in the arse that involves digging holes under the container and about a 100 jack swaps, so if I can get the delivery guy to lift it that will be great.


Location of C3 marked out by four concrete blocks. Note the solar panels on the roof of our second container, they are the old Unisolars from the truck.

Good news, he is happy to use his truck's crane to lift the container, it can only do one end at a time and he couldn't get C3 in exactly the right place when he dropped it, so he lifts one end while I attach an old tyre to the bull bar of the Cruiser and push the container into the right location.

While that end is in the air I place blocks under it then he relocates the crane and lifts the other end where I place more blocks.


C3 being lifted onto the blocks.

Job done. I'll tune it later to get C3 bang on level and the same height as it's neighbour.

FRI 07 MAR

I'm going to need to cut windows into C3 and then weld up window frames etc, plus I've missed being able to work with steel so I've bought a new MIG welder. I did look at a second hand one in Bundy, it was only $200 but just a toy and I prefer to buy tools that will last, even if they cost a lot more.

So I finally buy a MIG150 from BOC for about $700 plus a new hemlet and a spool of wire.


My new MIG, a thing of beauty and joy forever.

It's not an expensive one but does seem very nice, probably mid way between a hobbyists toy and a pro welder. Unfortunately I can't run it yet because we don't have a large enough generator, but by chance one of my neighbours is building a greenhouse and he needs the frame welding up, so I drop down to his place and take the MIG for a spin.

So far I'm very impressed, I'm running it in gassless mode which I've always hated but I think the technology must have improved since I bought my last MIG (15 years ago) and to be honest this is doing a great job without gas. And given that almost all my welding will be outside in the breeze I don't really have the option to use gas anyway.

SUN 09 MAR

Now I need to get some power so I can weld things for myself, you need around 7-8KVA to drive a small welder like this and I was looking at buying one from BOC (the people I got the MIG from) but their offering was $1800 and only a single cylinder.

I have a mate with a similar setup and he recommends I go for a twin cylinder, and while we're discussing it on Skype he finds one for sale in Brisbane, $1300 with (supposedly) little use, a good brand and a good B&S Vanguard two-pot motor.

I phone the seller (Terry) and I can look at it on Wednesday after he drops it off at his daughter's (Tammy) house in Brisbane. Sounds good.

TUE 11 MAR

I drive down to Glasshouse Mountains and spend the night with Peter and Marie. It's good to catch up over a few drinks and hear about their last trip to the US.

They have a spare room but really I prefer to sleep outside in the ute, I've thrown a camping mattress in the back and I'll be quite comfy.

WED 12 MAR

It's down to Brisbane, I have to drop a mat cutter off to friends before they go to work so find myself on the freeway at around 6AM. The traffic is unbelievable, almost at a standstill on the 4-lane. It frees up a little when I peel off onto the Gympie Arterial then bogs down again.

Luckily I turn off into the burbs after just 1-2 kilometers on the Arterial. When I arrive I ask my friends if there's been an accident or roadworks or something, no, that's normal every day.

How to people live with this crap? Man I can't get out of here fast enough.

Next it's around to check out the gennie at Tammy's place, it looks good and I buy it. At first Tammy and I thought we may be able to lift it into the back of the ute but after getting it up onto a box we realize that's as far as we can go with just the two of us.

Plan B is to phone a friend who is nearby, and plan C was for me to go to the hardware store and buy a plank that we can use as a ramp.

When I mention these options to Tammy she says that she has a plank, she retreives it from the garden and we place if from the box to the tray and scull-drag the gennie up the incline. That works a treat.

Tammy and I get on real well and we chat for a couple of hours, then it's around to Peter Cox's workshop to catch up with him. He's recently finished a motorhome on a 4x4 MAN but currently has the fridge out for repairs and is still adding bits and pieces to the truck.

Then it's back on the highway for me, heading north to some peace and quite, and my wallabies of course.

FRI 14 MAR

The gennie is still in the ute, I suppose I had better get it out but first let's see if it will drive the welder.

I fire it up (key start, nice) then start plugging in cables etc. The gennie dies. Oh, maybe I shut the petrol off for the trip. No, it's on.

The next ten minutes is spent trying to get the damn thing to run properly. It will start but doesn't run well, coughing and farting and only at about half revs.

Great.

I phone our favourite small-motor people in Bundy, yes they can look at it today. Thank goodness I didn't get the gennie out of the ute because that would probably be a one-way trip with just me to lift it.

I drive into Bundy and drop it off then spend a few hours poking around the shops.

At around 3:30 it's ready, all working.

It seems that the carbie and fuel tank were full of red dirt so I think I know what happened. The dirt has been accumulating in the tank (why I don't know but anyway) and while the gennie was sitting in it's location the dirt stayed as a layer on the bottom of the tank without causing any problems.

But 300k in the back of a rough ute on Queensland roads shook it all up and after 2-3 minutes of running the dirt made it's way into the carbie.

So it's all working and I take back the horrible thoughts I had about Terry the seller.

SAT 15 MAR

Now let's see if I can actually weld something, after all that's the reason for buying the gennie in the first place.

I can weld quite well up to about 120A, above that the circuit breakers trip after a short time. Even at 150A the gennie hardly misses a beat but the breakers trip.

So I'm very happy with the setup, obviously the gennie itself is up to the job and I may have to look at the breakers but 120A is more than enough for the work I do.

I still have to get the gennie out of the ute, but that can wait for another day.

MON 17 MAR

For some time now we've had a mother possum and little one take up residence above the truck's cab, under the luton peak.


Mum and bub possum, awwwwww.

How cute is that? I regularly climb up to look at them, often as not they are sound asleep, arm in arm or all eight legs up in the air. They have no end of humorous poses.

There are several other possums around as well, sometimes I hear a noise above me and look up to see a possum hanging upside down reaching out for me (or maybe the food he thinks I have). As he hangs there I can stroke his back or tickle his tummy, as long as my other hand holds a treat.

Sometimes I'm standing in the near dark watching the wallabies and bandicoots frighten the crap out of each other as their noses touch (I don't think the bandicoots see very well) and I feel two very cold pads on my calf muscle. I look down into the big eyes of a possum standing up on hind legs with his front feet on my leg.

I've spent a lot of time with wildlife over the years but never lived "with" the animals like I do here. Some nights I sit out in the moonlight and the animals eat all around me. I feel like Dr Dolittle.

THU 20 MAR

I need to use the ute so can't put off getting the gennie out any longer. As it turns out it's a simple process, I get two Koppers logs and form a ramp, staking them at the bottom so they don't slide and send 130kgs (286lbs) of generator crashing to the ground. Then I manhandle it down the poles. Easy.


Getting the gennie out of the ute.


It's pretty big compared to the 2KVA Honda we use in the truck for battery charging.

The gennie does have provision for a wheel kit but they cost about $200. Wheels cost $9.90 each and I have some scrap steel lying around to make axles and a handle. Guess which way I will go.

SUN 23 MAR

My neighbour has been off work for over a year due to injury and he's just gone back on the job. Trouble is he's found some free sleepers on the web but he is off to work can't pick them up (he's a truckie and will be away for days). Can I help?

The sleepers are 60k away in Childers but that's OK, he "pays" me with a bottle of his homebrew Bourbon.

MON 24 MAR

Half of C1 was going to be my office/workshop but as I said before we bought C3 for that purpose and one reason Chris was happy with that expense is that we decided to move her "laundry" inside. Currently the sink, washing machine and bath are outside and with no roof it can be a bit tedious. Also we want the place to look neat and not like and refugee camp.

So all that gumph is moving into C1 and while we're at it I thought that it might be nice to have a real shower.

Once again the interweb comes to the rescue, we find a shower cubicle for sale down near Gympie. It's a 400k round trip but only $200 and new so I think it's worth the trip.

I drive down to Gympie to pick up a shower cubicle.

Wed 09 Apr

I'm getting stuck into fitting out the containers now, well when I say "getting stuck into" I mean 2-3 hours a day, that's about the limit of my attention span at present.

I'll start posting some photos soon.

As has been mentioned elsewhere the building of our new camper on the Cruiser (the Graynomad Overland Vehicle or GOV) is on hold for a while, mostly because we can't really afford to do it right now but also there are more important things to do. However I've started a new section on the site that I will use to document the GOV as the ideas and design progress.

And as for not having the money, if we sold Wothahellizat we could afford to do it and when the containers are fitted out we will have somewhere to live. So yes we have been seriously talking about selling the truck, as to how practical that would be I don't know because changing the rego over to a new owner would be a real mission I think, especially in Queensland.

But you never know, so watch this space.

Thu 10 Apr

I've done the internal painting of C1 and laid the lino flooring.


Inside of C1 after painting, with ceiling, lights and shower base installed.

The washing machine, shower and bath have been positioned but not plumbed in yet. The bath is from Wothahellizat Mk1, it's a half sized version we used as a shower base that I've mounted at bench height for soaking large items like sheets etc. (that's it behind the washing machine)

The front half will (one day) be a kitchen.

Fri 11 Apr

Time to do the drainage plumbing for C1, the bathroom and kitchen container. First off I dig a trench for the drain.


Trench with drain pipe laid to check depth.

Then it takes most of the day figuring out the angles required and trying to glue the various Ts and elbows to connect drains of the bath and shower, not that it normally takes that long but I have to do a lot of the work underneath the container and there's only about a foot of space in which to maneuver.


Down pipe from the bath, shower pipe entering from right. Two 45-degree angles used because I don't have any elbows.


View of both drains.

Unfortunately the exit angle of the drain doesn't quite match the trench I've dug, oops. A little fiddling is required.


With 2 or more elbows or angles you can make any direction change you like.

Mon 21 Apr

I've been doing some paving, specifically the space between C1 and C2 which will become a semi-outdoor seating area. It's going well but the trouble is that the lowest possible level for the pavers at one end is too high to allow the container doors to open at the other end.

So I have to lift both containers, C2 by about 3 inches and C1 by just an inch or so. Unfortunately at the paver end both containers are just a few inches off the ground, so I have to dig a hole under each container deep enough for my smallest jack.

This works ok but the small jack doesn't have much extension and the soil compacts as well meaning I can only get about half an inch lift at a time, for for C2 I have to jack a little then pack with wood and repeat.

After several  "jack and pack" iterations I can finally get a large jack under and then it's just a single lift and I can insert the new blocks.


Short jack.


Long jack.


Packing with scrap wood.

While I'm at it I lower C3 as well, it's higher than we need and anyway I need the blocks to put under the other two containers.

Tue 22 Apr

Chris and I have been married for a long time and every year I forget our anniversary, I did this year as well but I really think I've redeemed myself now, albeit it a couple of months late.

You see while in town by myself today I spy three rings and think they are ideal as an anniversary gift. Now neither of us are into jewelry but it is traditional to buy one's loved one a ring on special occasions and while three may seem a little excessive they interlock to appear as one.

I dunno, call be an old romantic if you will, but these rings seemed so perfect I just had to buy them for her.

On my return I assemble the rings and call her outside. She's tickled pink. It seems that while diamonds may be a girl's best friend concrete is a close second, and the new  incinerator made from three sewer pipe offcuts is a big hit.


Three concrete rings assembled to make an incinerator

Now it will be real easy for her to burn our rubbish.

Sat 3 May

For some time now (years actually, on and off) I've been thinking about taking up a hobby that doesn't need a computer. Trouble is just about everything I like to do does involve a computer at some point.

The only thing I could think of was charcoal drawing, but I would probably suck at that. There is bushwalking of course, and I do plan to go back to doing daily walks but that's not a hobby in the sense of creating something.

Then there's making models from match sticks, I used to do that but I'm not sure I'm ready for it yet, model making would get me away from computers but not out of my chair. I need something to get me off my arse.

Then it hit me...blacksmithing.

I've done some blacksmithing over the years and I really enjoy it, so a couple of weeks ago I started trawling eBay et al for the tools of the trade. No luck, firstly there is bugger all around and secondly what is available is down south and marked as "Local pickup only". I guess that makes sense as we are talking about items that weigh in the 100kgs realm.

And that might have been the end of it.

Then a week or so back I had reason to go to a local car wrecker, and blow me down if they don't have a huge display of blacksmithing tools, there are things there that I can't find at all on the web, and they have several of them. There must be at least 20 anvils, three swage blocks, three leg vices etc etc.

What a bonanza.

I mulled it over for days, even after getting the nod from SHMBO I still wasn't sure, what if this is a fad and I lose interest after making my first cold chisel. Still it's not a whim, I've done it before, have thought about it many times over the years, and really want to reduce my addictive dependence on computers.

So yesterday I went back to the wreckers fully intending to buy some gear, but the guy that owns it wasn't there. What an anti-climax.

Today I return with the same intent, and he is here. I leave $2000 poorer but with about 300kgs of heavy metal.


Swage block.


Anvil.


Blower.


Leg vice.


Assorted tongs, and a cutoff tool for the hardie hole.

These are the major tools required, I don't have the actual forge so I will have to make that myself, and then there are 100s of hardie tools, tongs, punches, fullers, drifts and God knows what else you need over time, but here's the thing, with blacksmithing you can make (almost) all your own tools yourself from scrap metal. How many trades are there that can do that?

I have nowhere to do this yet and anyway I still have a heap of work to do on the containers, so I'll just store it for a while. Also I now have to make some shelter for this gear and the other metal-working equipment, I'm thinking a shed at the back of C1 will do nicely.

Wed 7 May

"The good news is you don't have cancer" says the doctor. She's foreign, I suspect that in Malaysia or wherever she hails from they don't have "good news/bad news" jokes and therefore she probably doesn't realize that I'm now waiting for "But the bad news is..."

A couple of weeks ago I noticed what looked like a skin cancer thingy, I thought nothing of it but day by day it got rougher and then itchy. Hmmm, might be time to have the professionals have a look at it.

So I tried to book into the local clinic, but they aren't taking any new patients, I don't ask but what the heck do you do if it's serious? Is this the thin end of a "failing healthcare" wedge?

Anyway I ring a practice in Bundy and no problems, I have an appointment.

A few days later I front and see the doctor, she looks at my record, "Nine years since you've been here, have you seen any other doctors in that time?"

"No"

She seems somewhat flummoxed by that, "Maybe we should do a blood test as well then"

She then looks at the mark on my chest and agrees that it should come off, and also another on my neck.

A week passed and I front again to have the marks cut off, trouble is the one we were most worried about has reduced to the point of being gone. What was that all about? Anyway she cut's off the other one.

And today I get the results.

So what was the bad news, well the good news is that there is no bad news. I don't have cancer (well at least that part was not a melanoma) and my blood test is good as well. The 6.5 cholesterol from nine years ago is now 5.6 with no drugs, just a better diet.

Liver, kidneys, PSA etc etc are all good, but my vitamin B12 level is a bit low. I look that up, low B12 levels can cause lethargy and tiredness. Ah who cares, it's time for my nap.

Thu 8 May

I need to be able to transport long lengths of stuff, steel, wood, whatever. Not possible with a trailer or even roof racks but if I put a support way out front on the bull bar I can.

So that's what I've done today.


Roofing sheets on cruiser's new extended roof rack.

Here I have a load of secondhand roofing sheets I just collected from my neighbour (we went halves in a stack of them). They are nearly 8 metres long and still overhang a fair way, but it works.

Fri 10 May

We've decided that all the walls of the metalwork shed and patio area will be built using the post and plank technique. This is an old building method that's nice and simple albeit not particularly cheap if you do is as I will, ie. using sleepers from Bunnings and steel posts from OneSteel, not timber cut from the immediate surrounds of the building site.


A roofing pirlin and one of the wall posts.


The framework for the first wall with one plank propped up on rocks.


Lugs are then welded into the channel.


Planks sit inside the channel like this, the gap will be packed.


A few more planks to give you the idea

Mon 19 May

I'm happy with the post and plank idea and as Bunnings has the sleepers on sale right now I get a few in.


A dozen dozen (144) sleepers, now that's gross.

Sun 25 May

I'm going to build a workshop at the back of C1 for blacksmithing and general metal work and also we've decided to get a second water tank. Both these projects require a lot of dirt to be dug out as that area has about a 700mm fall.

I was going to do it myself but even digging a post hole around here is a pain so when my neighbour mentioned he's getting a 12-tonne digger in I jump on the band wagon.

We cut the intervening fence so the digger can walk between our properties and it gets to work.


The digger at work.


After he's finished.

The part in the foreground is the pad for the new tank, and at the right is the leveled area for the workshop.

Later I offer to come and help join the fence back up but we decide to leave it open for now, in fact I suggest we put a gate in so the fire brigade (or for that matter ourselves) can easily gain access along the ridge. So it looks like we'll have a "gate raising" one day, but meanwhile the fence can just stay cut.

Thu 29 May

As there is about a 700mm cut for the tank I need a retaining wall and given that I have over a 150 sleepers on hand it makes sense to build it with them I suppose. So today I dig four post holes for the wall.

Three of them aren't too bad, I always encounter rock when digging around here and these have their fair share, but one of them is all rock. I have to go and buy a heavier crow bar and even with that it takes hours to dig the small hole.


Four post holes dug and a plank laid in place.


The rock that came out of hole #2. Most of this was a single rock that I broke up.

Fri 6 Jun

The retaining wall is finished (well except for trimming the posts flush to the top plank) and over the last couple of days I've been leveling the tank pad. I had to drop part of it by about 200mm and of course it was the part with all the rock, what a mission.

Anyway it's pretty level now so I need some sand or crusher dust or whatever to make a base for the tank.

I can drive into Bundy (130k round trip) 3 or 4 times and pay for some sand, or I can nip down to the nearby creek twice and shovel it up for free. You figure out which option I choose.


The retaining wall is in place and I'm laying some sand for the tank base.


I have to back the trailer over the 500mm cut for the workshop and onto the soft fill. I would never own a 2WD vehicle again, low range, high clearnce and 4WD made this easy.

The tank pad is now ready, but there's no tank yet so I guess it's on to other things.

Sat 7 Jun

I need to clear part of the driveway of trees and surface boulders so I can access the new workshop with a car, and I also need to build up the area in front of the workshop so I have a larger level space to work on said car or offload materials.

So the two tasks are synergistic, in as much as the rock I remove from the drive can be used to build up the area near the workshop.

Did I mention there are a lot of rocks around here? This lot is just from the surface of an area in the driveway maybe 4 metres square.


Did I mention there are a lot of rocks around here?

I'm pretty happy with the result but now that I look at it maybe I should do another retaining wall, just a low one but it would give me more level space. I'll have to sleep on that idea. It's not like I need another job but if I decide that will look better and be more functional as well I'll do it.

Tue 10 Jun

The basic framework is coming along.

I've added two more purlins, they are a small problem because they have to sit inside the existing ones. The end result requires small cuts on the existing purlins, folding up 50mm of metal and inserting the new purlin.

Trouble is how can you do that at both ends, it's not like you can bend the new length to make it shorter then straighten it out again.

I make the cuts and bend out the tabs where the new purlins will go, then bend about 150mm of the metal of the old beam so I can insert the new one laid down with a view to rotating it into position.

In theory this doesn't work but there is some give and take with this thin steel so it will go if you can apply enough torque to the new purlin.

I'm not strong enough so I clamp a lever to it, with 500mm or so of extra leverage it's a breeze.


Insert the new pirlin horizontally, rotate it to be vertical using a clamped-on lever, then fold down the steel to make it look neat

I then fold down the excess and weld it all up.

Mon 14 Jun

We're adding a second water tank, that will give us almost 60,000 litres (16,000 US gals) of water storage. Why? Because the normal rain pattern around here is to get a lot of rain for a month or two of the year and none for the rest of the year.

This means you have to grab as much as possible while you can.

So the tank arrives today, but the nearest the driver can get it to the required location is on the pad I have for the workshop, a good 10 metres from where I want it and also rotated by about 90° to the angle required.


Where the tank is, and where it is supposed to be.

This is a problem for another day.

Sat 19 Jun

It rained for a couple of days, then the ground was too sticky, then I was slack, but it's now time to move the tank to it's final resting place.

Trouble is it's huge and weighs about 700kgs. Time to break out the 4x4 recovery gear.


My trusty Tirfor winch (actually a clone) and tree protector.

It takes a couple of hours (spread over over a couple of days) but the hand winch does the job a treat and it's nice and slow so I can move the tank very carefully and make adjustments as I go.

By adjusting the slings in various ways I can rotate the tank at the same time as I drag it. As the workshop level is higher than the tank base there is a hump followed by a small drop off. I use some of my sleepers in strategic locations to allow the tank to slide and not gouge out my carefully-prepared sand base.

I can also change which tree I use for an anchor to get just the right angle, lucky we have a lot of trees around here.


The tank slowly moves into position.

The tank's base is quite concave when it has no water so the sleepers only have weight on them where they are touching the outside edge, so it's an easy matter to lift the tank with a crow bar and remove the planks.


Then I lift the tank with a crow bar and remove the planks.

I also make some final adjustments to the tank's location with the crowbar.


Finally in place.

Job done.

Tue 22 Jun

Done the first major wall of the patio area.

Fri 27 Jun

For some time now I've been thinking of getting back to basics in many aspects of our life. To this end I've been buying up hand tools that don't require power, braces, planes, saws etc.

So far I've done all the wood work of the house without using power at all, quite apart from saving on fuel it's just nice to be working without noisy generators and power tools. Sure it's slower, but I'm in no hurry and it's such a joy to be working with wood while the only sounds are the birds, sawing, chiseling and the swish of a #8 plane as it peels of long curls of shavings from a plank.


Yes I know the plane is blade down, but it's on wood and anyway it's just for the photo.

All planks have to be crosscut to size but the hardest job is ripping down the length of them, a task required for the top ones as they are varying heights and angles.

Many are just 4 feet long, but some are 8 or 9 feet, still it's good exercise.

I make up a sawing station from four railway ties, stacked 2x2 with a gap in the middle. This allows me to stand above the plank and work vertically to get a nice square cut.


Ripping along a 4-foot plank.

Sat 5 Jul

Got more walls up and also installed the secondhand sliding door for my future office. also got the office floor done.


The inter-container patio area from both sides.

The two large openings will have barn doors that will be open when it's hot to catch the breezes, and closed when it's cold.

Occasionally being slack is a good thing. Some of these walls have been up for a while now and I've noticed that they appear to have shrunk. Where I cut the top plank to meet the roof line in some cases it's now well below that.


The shrinkage, that plank was flush with the pirlin when I cut it.

The pic show a 30mm drop, I expected a little settling but not this much and I can only assume it's the wood shrinking as it dries. The fact that I haven't got onto the roof yet means I can fix this.

So the moral of the story appears to be "Don't cut the top plank until the wall has weathered for a while". How long is "a while"? I have no idea, probably months if you want to be safe but not even I can't wait that long.

Mon 7 Jul

The time has come to install the fittings into the new tank, normally the delivery guy does this but because we had to snig the tank into place we were worried that I might break the fittings in the process

So now I have to fit them myself before we can order some water.

The fittings come from the inside and poke out through their respective holes, you then screw a nut onto the outside to tighten it up and seal it off. So how do you get the fitting inside without lowering your 3-year-old or pet vervet monkey into the tank through the inlet?

Simple, you lower a rope into the tank and hook it out through the hole using a length of fencing wire or similar, thread the internal part of the fitting onto the rope and drop it into the tank.

Do not lose either end of the rope or you will almost certainly be buying another fitting, in fact tie the rope ends together.

Make sure you thread the fitting on in the correct direction as it would be very difficult to retrieve it if you have to rethread it.

Pull on the rope to cause it to go taught inside the tank, the internal fitting will then slide down the rope and appear just inside the hole.

At this point you can grab it and fit the external washer and nut.


The fitting pokes out through the hole ready for the locking nut.

Sun 13 Jul

A while back we decided to buy a slow-combustion stove, both for heating and for cooking. I look around a fair bit on the web and found the Scandia "Heat n Cook", at approx $2000 that is right on our pain threshold and blow me down if they are available at Bunnings. They don't have them on the floor (well not up here in sunny Queensland anyway) but will get them in.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered one and yesterday they phoned to say it has arrived so I drove into Bundy to pick it up. That was the easy part as they have a forklift at Bunnings, I did ask if he could follow me back out to the block to unload but he politely declined.

The bloody thing weighs 250 kgs (550lbs) so what to do? My neighbour would help and he has a tractor with a carry all, but he's not home so as usual it's up to little ol' me.

There's almost nothing you can't do by yourself given time and leverage, especially if you add some "force multipliers" like ramps and rollers.

So I back the trailer as close as I can get, which is not close enough because of the stacks of sleepers in the way but those sleepers help as well as I can make a ramp from them.

This I do, the ramp has to sit on top of the trailer and the planks are 2" thick, but the stove in on a pallet that's about 4" thick so I need to provide a bridge for that height difference. I find two wedge-shaped offcuts, these I use as rails to convert the pallet height to the ramp height over a larg(ish) distance.

Then I manhandle the stove down the ramp. I've removed the doors and a few items so it probably weights about 230kgs, a bit lighter but still pretty heavy.

At the end of the ramp I place some sawn off Koppers logs to use as rollers. It's a bit of a struggle but eventually I get the stove onto the roller and from there on it's plain sailing.


Stove on the trailer.


Ramp built.


Sliding down wedge-shaped offcuts onto ramp.


Then onto rollers.


Finally in position.

Wed 16 Jul

For my wall construction I use wedge-shaped timbers to hold the wall planks firmly in the steel channels.


Detail of the method I use.

I need a lot of these so today I decide to set up for mass production. I'm making the wedges from fence palings, I rip them down the middle then set the blade at an angle and slice off a piece to form the wedge shape I need.


Wedge mass production.

In the background of that last pic you can see the secondhand Alsynite roof sheets laid out so I can take some measurements.

Thu 17 Jul

As I mentioned before I've been buying up a lot of hand tools of late, here are some of my cordless drills.

Sun 27 Jul

The slow combustion stove is installed, I still have some work to do on the flu but it should all be a goer soon.


The brackets supplied with the flu kit are crap, so I make some from RHS.


Still needs another metre of flu to clear the roof.

Fri 8 Aug

I've started on the large doors that we will use to secure the patio area, these will allow that area to be enclosed or open according to the weather.


The first door is finished.


Detail of the braces.

Note the turnbuckles on the straps that support the door, of course the straps provide support for this heavy door (maybe 200kgs) but the turnbuckles also allow me to adjust the door's shape as weight is added. Despite trying to allow for the weight of all those sleepers the far end of the door drops by about 20mm on completion.

A few turns of the turnbuckles and it's nice and square again.

Note also that straps like this on a door should hang from a position next to a hinge, not the top corner.

Tue 12 Aug

Started the cladding.


Looks nice and clean.

We originally planned to paint the containers, but I'm a crap painter and my neighbour (who is a real painter) started telling me about all the prep work I would have to do, it all sounded too hard and boring, so Chris suggested we clad them with sleepers.

I was not keen initially due mostly to the expense but finally came around. Glad I did because I really like the results.

And another advantage to doing this external cladding is that we don't have to insulate because for the most part the sun (and therefore the heat) won't even reach the steel container.

This in turn means we can probably get out of cladding the inside which I'm happy about because a) that's a very time-consuming job, and b) I like the corrugated look of the containers and if I clad both the inside and the outside we won't see any of that.

I've shown before that I use long "wedges" to pack behind the wall/cladding planks, that works well when you have access to the rear of the planks but when cladding you don't because the container side is just about 20mm behind the plank.

To get around this I cut the long wedges into 7" lengths (1" shorter than the planks) and pack the planks one at a time as they are placed.


Detail of the packing wedge behind each plank.

Sat 23 Aug

Last night, just as we were starting to cook dinner we ran out of gas, it seems I've been a little slack with getting refills. As there's nowhere in town to fill up on the weekend we are in trouble...or not.

One of the main reasons for getting a slow-combustion stove is to remove yet another dependency on fuels we have to buy, like LPG. We plan to cook on the stove a lot, so this is a golden opportunity to test the theory.

Bottom line it is works like a charm, we fry and bake all weekend and also get to sit and watch the "bush TV", which I have to say has better content than most TV we usually watch.

Plus as the weather is a little 'ow's your father at present we get to sit in a warm place, even with the doors open it's nice in here, add a glass of port and the sound of rain on the roof and it's my idea of heaven


The bush TV, just the thing for a rainy evening. Wide screen to, very modern

It will get a bit warm in summer I suppose, and we may not use it much then although for generations people have done just that. We'll see, meanwhile I love it when a plan comes together.

Thu 11 Sep

We have friends Peter and Ros staying. Peter has a similar story to me in that he had never built anything like a motorhome before or even done any welding, he just bought the gear and made a start, after all, how hard can it be?


Peter and Ros's 'Manfred'.

 I think it's fair to say that the results speak for themselves, this is one real nice truck.

Sun 21 Sep

I finally received the PCBs for one of my recent inventions from the fab house in the UK.

They look great but it's taken so long to get them (6 months) I've lost interest in the project.

Truth is I'm struggling with things at present, I have so many interests I cannot seem to decide which of them I want to do, if indeed I want to do any of them. Maybe I need something new.

Meanwhile I still have to finish this house.


The new washing basket bench, is it big enough?


Detail of the joinery.

This started as a small bench for Chris to place a washing basket on while hanging the clothes on the (as yet unbuilt) clothes line, but when I place the first vertical plank to mark it for cutting at bench height I decide I like the idea of a full-height wall instead. It also hides the tank from this side.

Sat 4 Oct

The fire brigade did a fuel-reduction burn here the other day, they burnt most of the land around here so we feel a lot safer now with summer approaching.

However one thing to be very careful of after a burn is falling trees, they can smolder for days then suddenly crash to the ground, every now and then we hear one fall and if you venture forth it pays to keep your eyes peeled.

Most trees that fall are dead anyway, but not all of them. Not far from us a huge live tree fell over the fence, it seems quite healthy but must have had a hole at the base, such holes can let the fire in and it just eats away for days until the tree is weakened to the point that it falls.

Bad luck for the tree, good luck for us because I don't see a broken fence and a dead tree, I see a year's supply of firewood.


Most of the tree has been removed, I'm working on the big end.


Using a wedge to stop the shainsaw binding.


Most of the rounds are carted back to the house using our little trolly.


The three larger rounds from the tree's big end.

I cut the majority of the tree into 400mm rounds for the fire, but at the big end I cut one at 500, another at 600 and yet another at 700, one of these will be used for an anvil stump, another for the swage block and I'm sure I'll think of a use for the third, it's too nice to burn.

When I bought the anvil a few months ago the guy wanted something like $100 for a stump, I didn't buy it and now I have one for 10 minute's work and 2ccs of chainsaw fuel.

I split some of the rounds right away, but man is that hard work, I think the rest can wait until they are dry.

Then we make use of the world's strongest laundry basket bench, looks like it will make a nice firewood shelter.


This is most of the tree, stored as firewood for next season. This does not include the pile of rounds in the above photo.

Sun 12 Oct

Remember that nice cladding I did around the corner of the blue container (back at 12 Aug entry).


As it was last month.

well I've taken it down. Not because I like doing everything twice but because we've decided to build an extension to make a new room in the corner where the two containers meet. I will then cut a door into one of the containers to allow access to this new room.


I start laying out the frame.


The base is done, now I put the corner upright in. Note my large DIY squares, these are very useful for such jobs.


Corner post in, starting on the roof purlins.

Sat 25 Oct

The shell of the new room is largely finished, I will leave part of the wall open for now to allow easy access when doing the floor and cutting the opening into the container.

Mon 27 Oct

Time to cut the opening, talk about measure twice cut once, there's no real going back from this so I measure 10 times. It's very difficult to be sure your outside measurements are the same as the inside ones, so when I'm 90% sure I drill 2 small pilot holes and they confirm that the door location is good on both sides.

Then it's just a matter of praying to the Gods and starting up the grinder.


The hole is cut.


View from inside.

30 Oct

I've got the floor in the new room and also some of the insulation.

Note the grill in the floor, this (combined with some damming under the floor) will — or at least should — cause a nice breeze to enter the room from underneath where the air is relatively cool.

I tie a length of cotton to the grill and sure enough we are getting a breeze, at times the cotton stands vertical in the airflow. So while it ain't no air conditioner it should help a lot and it's totally passive.

Thu 31 Oct

I go into town today with the intention of buying a few sheets of ply for the internal fitout. I like to do everything in 300mm increments but most sheets are metric, meaning that they are 1200x2400mm which might sound perfect but remember the saw takes some, so it's not possible to get say four 300mm, three 400mm or even two 600mm cuts from a single sheet.

I am about to just live with it and buy metric when I spy a pile of 12mm sheets at the back of the warehouse, I measure them and yes they are imperial sheets (4x8 feet or 1220x2440mm). And to make matters even better it seems that they are rejects being sold for about half price.

They look pretty good to me so I immediately say I'll take 30, then while we are loading I think maybe another 10 would be good, but they won't all fit so I put a hold on them.


Some of the sheets after I've offloaded a few.

I love having a vehicle that allows me to just throw 30 sheets of ply in the back (a lot more if I drop the tailgate I suppose) or 8-metre lengths of steel on the roof.

Mon 3 Nov

And here's the sort of thing that ply is destined to be used for.


Storage shelves in the new room.

Mon 10 Nov

From the outside (well on one side at least) the house almost looks finished now.


The 'spread' at Wallaby Ridge (aka the Gray's hideaway)

Still a lot to do and even this will have two more extensions soon but I think I can use the expression "spread" to describe it now, it's certainly spreading.

Fri 14 Nov

The other side is not clad yet, and it will also sport the only window in the place. I bought the window second hand from a neighbour some time ago and now it's time to fit it.

The first thing to do is make a steel frame to support the window and nicely finish off the surrounding timber cladding, this is easiest to do on a flat surface and the only such surface I have is the floor of the patio.


Half the steel frame resting in place on the window.

Sat 15 Nov

The frame has been fabricated, time to do the scary bit, IE weld it to the container then cut a big hole.


The frame clamped in position.


Then welded in place.


The hole has been cut from inside.


Window in place.

There, that didn't hurt a bit.

And if you're wondering why the window is so low, that's the correct height to allow someone sitting in a recliner to see out, and I plan to do a lot of sitting in a recliner.

Did you notice the small rectangular hole cut in the container wall in the first two photos? This is a pilot hole I cut before committing to the window placement so we could get a good feel for the view we will have through the finished window.

Mon 17 Nov

We're used to all sorts of wildlife hanging around here but the wallabies are the most common mammals. While sitting in my office this morning one of our favourites decides to pay me a visit. He walks into the patio area and sniffs around, then over to the lounge room/kitchen container to investigate that.

After a few minutes he decides there's nothing of interest and he leaves.

We have about five bush turkeys that hang around a lot, a couple of them are regular visitors inside the patio, one even poked his nose into my study the other day.

Man I love having these guys around.

After hardly taking a photo (except pics of the house etc) for a year or so I have finally got the gear back out and have it ready to photograph other things, like "our" wallabies. Here is one of our favourites, she has a joey that's getting a bit large, he's about to leave the pouch for good I think.


It's hot at present (38C) and they seem to like sitting in the water bowls.


How can you not love a face like that?

 

 

Comments

Date  ::   29 Apr 2014
Name  ::   Jim Huskins
Location  ::   North Carolina, USA
Comment  ::   Congrats on thinking of the gift of rings, Rob. Nice to know that romance isn't dead in OZ.
   
Date  ::   01 May 2014
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Thanks Jim, yeah I'm just an old softy at heart.
   
Date  ::   11 May 2014
Name  ::   swjdawson
Location  ::   Perth
Comment  ::   Hi Rob, Great work overall. Thanks.
Just wondering if you know these guys?
www.slrcaravans.com.au/high%20in%20the%20sky.html
I recon they may gave got some inspiration from ... :)
Cheers
   
Date  ::   12 May 2014
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   ha ha, that does indeed look very familiar. "first ever Skydeck in a motorhome." they say, maybe I should send them a pic of Wothahellizat Mk1 :)


I wonder why they need a supporting leg for the deck, that seems odd.
   
Date  ::   15 Jun 2014
Name  ::   MarkD
Location  ::   CA
Comment  ::   Wanna bet that your "skin cancer" thingie was probably a spider bite or similar? And to beat you to the punch, I'm sure the spider had to go to the doctor too!
   
Date  ::   15 Jun 2014
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Yeah who knows what it was, but it had been there for years just as an "age spot" or whatever they call them, then it changed. Hence my concern.

Anyway good riddance to whatever it was.
   
Date  ::   08 Jul 2014
Name  ::   Laurens
Location  ::   Victoria
Comment  ::   Thanks for the FB chat and the update.. Its the next best thing to doing it myself.....
   
Date  ::   15 Jul 2014
Name  ::   Keith H. Burgess
Location  ::   Armidale New England NSW
Comment  ::   Rob, is there any way to follow your blog?
Regards, Keith.
   
Date  ::   07 Oct 2014
Name  ::   Robert
Location  ::   Galston NSW
Comment  ::   Hi Rob, Whats the latest..have not updated for some 3 months..is all ok.
   
Date  ::   07 Oct 2014
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   My, has it been that long? Yes all is Ok, I've done quite a lot on the house just bugger all on the web site, I'll put some pics up soon.

Rob
   
Date  ::   17 Oct 2014
Name  ::   Jerry
Location  ::   N.Ireland
Comment  ::   Hurry up with the pics and the updates Rob..some of us need our fix! BTW the link referenced above returns a 404 now so maybe they had a lot of irate Wothahellizat fans emailing them!
   
Date  ::   17 Oct 2014
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   OK, OK, I get the message :) I have a lot of catching up to do so will post a few at a time rather than waiting until I've done the lot.

Jerry, it works for me (cut & paste it into the browser) but I'll try to include that link as a proper clickable link here.
   
Date  ::   17 Oct 2014
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   How's this

Whothahellizat Mk3 :)
   
Date  ::   16 Nov 2014
Name  ::   Jerry
Location  ::   N.Ireland
Comment  ::   That works fine Rob. Must have a read of it later, on the phone right now. I normally check in once a month for your updates. Been following your adventures for years and never tire of your mad scientist way of thinking!
   
Date  ::   11 Dec 2014
Name  ::   Jesper
Location  ::   Portugal (former Denmark)
Comment  ::   Hi Rob! How about a little Christmas update for the faithfull fans?! Merry C'mas and Happy N'year.... :)
   
Date  ::   16 Dec 2014
Name  ::   Thomas Jakits
Location  ::   Panama
Comment  ::   Hi Rob,

...sent you an email (...in case you're a slacker checking your inbox!)

Best Regards to you and Chris!

Cheers,

Thomas
   

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PO Box 450, Gin Gin, QLD, Australia.
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