Locking down tiltable solar panels, Part 1.a

I was able to squeeze in a couple hours today cutting some angle iron and making brackets to be able to lock down the solar panels for travel.

Obviously, we don’t want them flapping in the wind like a couple solar flags or flying off the bus if we hit a speed bump too fast – but we also wanted them tiltable so that the two panels on the side opposite the sun (depending on which way we might be parked) can be tilted to gain maximum exposer to the wonderful UV rays. …we need photons.

I also “re-found” my scaffolding in the shed and thought it’d be lovely to work with while working on painting the roof and on the solar panel securing operations.

I cut a piece of angle iron the length of the outside edge of the panels and secured it to the panels with 1/4″ bolts & lock washers. The interior side of the panels are bolted with hinges onto a 10′ section of angle iron bolted through the frame ribs of the bus.

I’ll make a “Part 2” of this post tomorrow as I am excited to have found some hasps that will be bolted to the outside edge of the angle iron on the panels and to the roof of the bus, enabling me to lock them down for travel or windy conditions. Lana and I are going to “try” to get things locked down enough to take a short experimental trip for a day or two towards the end of September or the beginning of October. I’ll show you what I’ve come up with then. …also have to work on the painting of the roof as part of this process so half will be done now and the other half in a day or two once I get finished with the one side and finally pull the bus out and turn it around to do the other side & rear end! Onward to tomorrow!!

50” Auxbeam RGB LED Lightbar Installed

Today I was able to start my Labor Day Weekend, yes… at 3pm on Monday! I spent the last week rehabbing a room in our studio to become our new bedroom since we decided to move out of our house and put it up for rent. Then we spent all weekend moving so – there hasn’t been much time to work on the bus but, the hard part is over and since the bus is out in the backyard here at the studio, hopefully there will be a LOT more bus time – especially when we get everything a little more settled around here as far as the regular living stuffs go.

I was happy to have the afternoon to play with Leauxie though and she got a new solar powered 52″ Auxbeam RGB LED lightbar. Instead of running it off the electrical system of the bus this bar runs off our 2 200Ah batteries. I also mounted the porch light… I was able to find a couple 12v lightbulbs on Amazon with the standard A15 base (like a usual lightbulb) and run them off the solar system as well.

So… here are a couple little videos detailing the glory beheld here this evening:

It’s a short clip but you get the idea!

Here are a couple after it got a little more dark:

I will be making a power station/solar powered drink holder at the back of our dinette table out of an old communications computer rack I was given from a bunch of leftover parts from the university here in Saint Louis. Here are what the preliminary parts look like!

I’ve removed all the circuit boards and will sell them on eBay to fund more experimentation.

I found 12v blue ringed LED cup holders I am mounting in the top of the box (which will be the black surface) and am putting dimmers for the dinette lighting, a 12v voltmeter to display the battery level of the solar system, two 25 amp rated cigarette lighter plugs to run our 12v stove and frying pan at the dinette and a 4 bay USB station (all powered from the solar system) all mounted in the front of the box (the aluminum surface).

I’m looking at adjustable voltage regulators so I might skip the AC converter part of my MacBook’s charging cord and just pump the 14.5 volts at 45 watts it requires straight into it from the battery bank. So, as my buddy Wayne St. Wayne says, “…there’s always projects in progress!”

But first, I gotta bolt two seats back in the bus and do a little cabinetry work! Soon, SOON!

Solar powered “nuclear power” look for the front end of the BUS!

Well, it’s been weeks in the making, mostly waiting for time BUT – the LED strips have been secured into the grill. I like the effect, we wanted it to glow from the inside so it appeared to be powered by something very scientific. I like the steampunk theme but am always interested into expanding steampunk looks with electric too and no matter if it fits or not I like to think of it as electropunk.

Below, I will include some pictures of my process of installation. Who knows how “professional” it is but I’ve been building things for quite some time and pretty much, never twice so – here ya go!

Left over quarter round fit perfectly in the slots of the International grill to give me a flat and parallel (or perpendicular, depending on how you look at it) surface to glue the strips on so they would be invisible from the front but shine flatly on the radiator I painted silver to reflect the color of the strips at the time.

Measure twice…

Cut once.

Waterproof 16M RGB LED strips you can get on eBay for $15-$20…

PL Adhesive, glues pretty much anything to anything else…

Just squish it right in there…

Cut strips to length on each trim area located every 3″ down the strip…

Use a razor to trim off the waterproofing rubber but be careful to not cut through the strip!!

I glue the strips down after taking off the adhesive backing because the adhesive that comes on the strips never holds to anything very long…

…didn’t take any pictures of the soldering process but – all the R G and Bs get connected and the 12v ground is connected basically in parallel on each strand. It takes a lot of time and patience and sometimes those little copper tabs burn off and you have to replace the strip and almost go insane but it’s worth it if you like pretty colored LEDs in everything!

All the extra lights we have put on are color changing LEDs powered from our solar system built on the bus. 400 amp hours deep cycle batteries will drive these lights, pretty much perpetually with a little sun on the panels every few days.

See ya next time!

Solar Powered LED Flashers

We took a weekend off and went to the river with family. I wanted to take the bus this weekend but it just wasn’t where I wanted it to take it on the road yet – so we left her at home. I did have the time left today to do a rough install of the new LED flashers on the front/top of the bus. We’ve bypassed the bus’s flashers and power supply and have these powered by the solar system and they have a wireless remote for different patterns. I took the TV down from the front of the bus so I can finish installing the 110v plugs from the inverter/switch and get the rest of the wiring in and organized for the CB & scanner and all the other LED switches and controls that will be installed in that area. On to tomorrow!

Today, we Paint!

…and just a touch of Bondo. I got the headlight parts in even – I didn’t expect them that fast but… I didn’t realize there were two adjustment screws per light so, since I only ordered one per light I still need to order two more before I can put the headlights back in. Below is a short photo tour of our day, including a little time lapse of us painting and a short video detailing the wonderful sound of our engine running like a little top.












Paint Prep Peculiarities

It was the perfect day to tackle painting seriously. I knew there were lots of things to remove and clean and sand and expected to be able to do a first coat before the end of the day. You’d think my lifetime of making stuff would have given me the experience to know that wasn’t going to be the case but I’m eternally optimistic in thinking I can conquer the world in a day. …boy was I wrong.

I removed the mirrors (both sets), the turn signals, flashers, marker lights and headlights along with the hood latches and little steps and bars that you climb on to wipe the windshield.

Everything was sanded down to 220 and washed afterwards.

I’m not going to use the front mirrors on the bus so I will repurpose the mounts to mount my antennas higher up on the bus and am going to Bondo the grooves wore in the hood by the mirror bases and their holes and make them disappear before painting.

The fenders were removed for a thorough cleaning and sanding for a clean finish.

(mirror mounts being reused as antenna/camera mounts)

Happy scooters ready to be in their garage in the back and on the road!

We definitely need new nests for the headlights! (they’re on the way now)

I have a pretty big pile of parts on the deck out back. There’s an even bigger pile of parts to be added to the bus in the basement though. Lana has some detailing to do and I can’t wait to see how it looks when we start putting all the freshly finished parts back together!

I don’t even know where to begin organizing the staging area in the basement but do have a pretty good idea of where things are so when I come to a specific time to bolt on or hook up a specific thing – I can actually find it fairly easy, believe it or not!

The good thing is, I’m ready to get that first coat on but, that’s going to be tomorrow at the best, it took all day just to remove and prep the front end alone. It’s going to be totally worth it in the end though. …on to tomorrow!

1st Coat Poly on Blue Varathane Stained Floors

Short post today but I was able to throw down a first coat of polyurethane on the oak floors.Lana and I ran out of the city to see friends and swim in a lake while we waited for the floor to dry so I wouldn’t be tempted – out of excitement – to try to sand too early to get on a second coat. …looking forward to tomorrow!

Doing Floors / Doing Exterior Paint

We’ve still been busy building – sometimes it’s been in the house, working on refinishing our new bedroom floor, other times it’s been on the bus, refinishing our new bus floor.

Last week I was able to obtain enough solid oak flooring from a neighbor who reclaimed it out of one of these old St. Louis homes to do the floors in the bus.  He sold it to me for a few bucks and we ran it through the plainer to remove the prior finish.  …being reclaimed the tongues and grooves were split here and there but this wasn’t my first time rebuilding a floor with reclaimed wood.


I put down the vapor/thermal barrier and began the install as soon as I could because well, I was tired of looking at that naked floor.


Lana likes to check in sometimes and make sure I’m working and not dreaming…


The floor went in fairly easily and once it was sanded was a REALLY pleasing transition to behold, the warmth of wood always makes things better.


Around Starlight Lab and Camp Jessop, we’re not afraid of color – it’s welcomed in fact so we went with a blue stain from Varathane called “Vintage Aqua”.  The color theme of our bus it to be coppers/bronzes/aluminums/blues and gold.  Later we will be incorporating the burned wood/2-part epoxies w/mica and the Lichtenburg burning machine to make the faces of the cabinets, their doors and the walls of the shower/toilet room.  (That be the really fun and pretty part and when our skoolie really will start taking on it’s own character.




(I was on the roof the other day and took another photo of the solar panels)


I found one day so far that the humidity was low and the heat wasn’t horrible and took as much advantage of it as I could to begin painting the exterior as well.  We chose a hammered copper for the base color.


Luckily the bus is in pretty good shape and requires minimal prep for most of the surface though I will need some metal work on the bottom of the “garage door” due to rust.  The Rust-Oleum – Hammered Copper covered well and sticks better!


The hammered copper actually hides many imperfection in the surface anyway if they are not too sever and ends up looking very smooth.  I just rolled it on with a 4″ roller that I made sure would shed very little.


Below is the first real look I’ve been able to get outside of my mind of what the bus will become.  We are painting the black rails a bronze color that will be a little lighter than the copper and Lana is going to paint ALL the rivets individually, with hammered aluminum and we know it will look awesome – to us anyway but the good thing is – as far as this is concerned – we’re the only ones we have to make happy.  :). The roof is getting hammered aluminum as well and I can not wait to paint and take more photos to share.


…as for now – ON TO THE NEXT DAY!

Long time, no Post BUT – Progress is Being Made

Lana and I have not posted in a week or so (I think) but we have made some progress on the bus none-the-less. I’m still installing wiring and fuse systems for our solar power plant; obviously this needs to be done before the walls are closed up so – slow going getting to the pretty stuff up but we have lots coming in that area soon. We work with 2-part epoxies and mica and our interior will be adorned with it accordingly.

Lana has been working on making our solar powered, back-lit, stand off “Camp Jessop” letters that go in place of “School Bus” sparkle. Very deep clear coats with lots of multi-color glitter makes them pop against the silver body.

Flooring has also started as well. After a decade of custom interiors – I do floors near last. So much rough work happens during the real building that I can’t stand to lose a nice looking floor to accidents and our floor is nothing short of custom as well so – I don’t want to have to fix a bunch of dings and can’t stand grinding crap in under cardboard.

We’re using basic pine boards but are using a couple different techniques to make ordinary wood – pop! We’re using a torch & brush method with colored stain, mainly blue/tan/gray and the more dangerous method of burning with a Lichtenberg “machine” and filling the “lightening bolts” with mica enriched 2-part epoxy for the cabinet facings & doors/drawer fronts.

Below are some photos of the boards we are making for the main run of the hallway between the dining room and kitchen at the front of the bus. We are setting them in a herringbone pattern and each board is burnt and scraped and stained to be individual all on it’s own.

To get more consistency in my 20″ boards I took the lumber down to the big saw to cut stacks all at once – plus, it saves a LOT of running around cutting individual boards.

We started experiments with the colored stain in the closet/chest storage area under the bed, in front of the solar science station and water holding section.

Below are the first boards of the torching and color stained main flooring we are installing in the main living area of the bus. Yes, it will take a fair amount of work to make all the boards individually but we are sure it will be well worth the work in the end.

That’s most of what has been happening on Leauxie – Camp Jessop’s Mobile Starlight Lab. We are hoping for a short test run weekend in a few weeks so… lots to be done before then!

Happy trails!