Monday, April 30, 2012

Big Photo Update

OK, it's 2am and I finally get a chance to go over the images that have accumulated in the recent days.  The progress is big, though it may not seem like it quite yet - the main thing is that the power is up!  Thanks to Ryan under the guidance of his wonderfully learned father (an electrical engineer as it happens to be) The Photo Palace now has the vast majority of electrical hooked up and running.
Here is the breaker panel that will charge our batteries and distribute AC and DC power

After a lot of learning and work, here is Ryan testing out the fluorescent lights that go above the presentation counter for the first time.
And here is what we did for the ambient lighting.  To preserve as much of the original Gillig Bus as possible the decision was made to go through the trouble of re-wiring the original light fixtures and modifying them to be high-power LED. I knew this was gonna be fun so I decided to documant it well:

Original lights
With cover off (showing the original bulb and dirt)
There was plenty of dirt indeed so a good washing was in order

In order to install the LED the original light socket was cut off (it's hard to make a careful cut and take a picture at the same time...)

In there was placed an aluminum plate
Which Ryan's father carefully outfitted with an 300 Lumen LED light and a resistor (to keep its life span up and heat output down)

And we here is the result - a nicely glowing LED, it covered with the original cover and the Bus lit up by 5 of these puppies (here I must say that iPhone is no good for low-lights photography because it does look a lot brighter to the eye, but You, my dear reader, will just have to catch us on the road and see for Yourself)

The photos did not include the peculiar moment of intense efforts when we had to fish a wire through the side of the bus under some unknown wires and under some unseen ledges.  You see, as it happens, there were a total of 10 dome lights being controlled by 2 switches by the driver.  The unfortunate thing was that they were wired so that one switch controlled three lights on each side while the other switch controlled the other two, so, if not all the light was needed, every other one could go on and there was even a choice to tn on 6 or 4 lights.  As nifty as that configuration was it did present us with a wiring dilemma.  Not only did we want to preserve the lights in the front half of the Bus, but no effort was spared to put the white light in the darkroom into the same fixtures as well.  Of course, we had to separate the darkroom lights from the front circuit and somehow connect them.  That activity involved a good amount of poking a stiff wire through the light fixture opening in hopes of getting 5 feet of wire through to the next hole.  It was not easy.  Gillig has a roll-over bar that runs all around the body.  Though we know it's there, we have never seen it with our own eyes and have only come in contact with it while drilling (and you know you hit a roll-over bar when you snap a drill bit).  What we quickly discovered was that the wiring for the lights was tucked under that bar through some small hole  and in order for us to get through we need to get our wire through not two of those openings (if you look on the right at the previous photo those opening are exactly behind the old seat numbers and we had to fish a wire through from one light to another). And not once, but 5 (!) times - one of them involving an even more daring feat of drilling a new hole in that side panel (only 1 in in diameter unlike the light fixture holes that are 6in) and trying to hit that from about 4 feet away.  The process was very humbling and reminded me of apes fishing for termites on the planes of Africa.

Now, we also have made some serious progress in the area of walls.
It took a lot of cut-outs to match the shape of the Gillig roof
But here I am acting as a giant press holding up the first wall as the glue under it sets

And here are a couple more shots taken after some more walls were cut and fitted

The darkroom, as well, is starting to finally take shape.  First a lot of jig-saw action was needed to make frames to fit each window (and, no, they are not identical, they probably were in 1978, but now every one had to be fitted individually with a lot of patience and finesse)

Then curtains were made. That involved a 2 hour, mostly silent, battle between a Russian photographer and a Swiss sawing machine.  The sawing machine not only got the best of me, that was easy pickings for an old veteran like itself), but also proved to be entirely enigmatic to the neighbor, a woman experienced with this technology) who happened to show up right at the moment of my frustrations crescendo.  In the end Velcro saved the day and we will have to wait until we find us a kind seamstress who'd be willing to do a trade - a beautiful portrait for some straight seams through the Velcro so it is not held in only by the sticky glue that it came with. Don't have the pictures of them yet as that just happened today.

Here is something else though that I forgot to mention.  As one might imagine the Bus was pretty dirty so is was due for a deep cleaning.  The ceiling was easy enough (though it took me about 3 hours of spraying up and breathing the 409 fumes), but the chrome was more than I could handle.
I mean look at that

I labored for about an hour and a half and managed to get a few panels cleaned
But, in the end, precious time was not to be wasted and professionals were called in and now the Bus is shiny and pretty like it should be (at least the chrome, the outside and windows are still to be detailed).  I won't even post a shot of it as no image viewed on the computer will adequately capture the way the chrome looks now, You'll just have to see it it to believe it.  But just to show what transformation one are went through here are two shots of the very back of the Bus, the darkroom rear, with enlargers sitting on what used to be the two seats)

Oh, and the last of the walls was put up - it will house the space heater, have a little table for drinks and whatnot and, most importantly, will provide a light-trap and a place for the front darkroom curtain

Well, I think that almost does it for construction.  Table tops are ready for pick-up, counter doors are drying in the garage ad the cushions will be ready this week.  Home Depot screwed us over and delayed the shipping of out flooring, so we will install it on the 3rd of May.

I do have some new developments in our plan to share with You, but it's already 3:30 am and I better hit the hay - tomorrow is a big day, possibly our last day parked at Ryan's place.

Good night.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quick late-night update - now with video.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Past couple of days have been filled with electrical work, finishing the table tops and planning the darkroom.

Here are a couple of shots of what Ryan's been up to.  First one shows the splitters that will go on the Ts of every circuit and the second one is him caught in the act stuffing electrical wire into the plastic corrugated tubing:

Here are a two images of the table tops being glued to the supports - images taken about 4 hours apart.  It took about 20 minutes for both of us to set them together after I put the glue on, then the glue sets for 3 hours and then the sanding of the extra glue starts.  Sanding is a pain in the neck, but I like it - very meditative and precise.

This is something to see though.  For those of you who have never stained or lacquered wood I decided to record this short video of me pouring oil finish on top of one of our flamed maple tops.  Amazing how much it changes if you just jump from first frame to last.
(warning - this video is
 terribly web-compressed obscuring detail)

All 4 tables are now at Westside Woodworks being finished with a water-based clear-coat.  I hope they look as good as I imagined them from the start - we'll find out by the end of the week.

The darkroom is all planned - all we need is a good cleaning session.  I'm going to attempt a day of deep-cleaning tomorrow, but if I don't get too far then professionals might have to be called in - there is 34-years worth of crud in some never-before reachable places... We are not about to start off our journey carrying that gunk around!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Photo Palace supports The Arts

Today I purchased personalized license plates for the Photo Palace.   In California one can buy special plates that come with a little extra fees in the end of each year when registration is due - those fees go to support various causes like the environment, veterans and so on.  I decided that it would be a good idea to have Photo Palace be carrying plates that support Art Education through providing funding for the California Arts Council.  Our plates should be ready in 2-3 months and this is what they will look like.
I really hope the extra money I'll be paying (along with support of others, of course) will really make a difference in someone's life by exposing them to art and opening their eyes to the natural beauty that we are all surrounded by.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Big day.

Today, exactly two months after I moved up here and the work on reconstruction began, the Photo Palace Bus was officially registered at the DMV and is now bearing a title of Motorized Home instead of the commercial Bus designation.  Hooray!  I have heard that the reclassification process can be a hassle depending on the person that you get to help you at the DMV.  Luckily the inspector who looked at our rig was apparently taken aback to the days of his youth at the sight of us and all he could talk about is how cool it is and how he used to ride a bus exactly like ours to school every day (I wonder if he ride a Crown, as they are much more numerous and do look nearly identical to Gilligs of those days).  We had no problem convincing the officials that this vehicle will no longer be used to transport more than 15 people and the fact that the conversions are not finished yet didn't seem to faze them either.  Here are a couple of snapshots from our trip.

Here is me at the DMV right before I told the lady who helped us that this is one registration she should really try to remember:

Here is Ryan battling his Mamiya 645 (one does not 'work' with those cameras - they demand a battle)
Notice how clean the interior looks - next week we'll put up the walls and you won't be able to see through like this any more:

A nice little view from the drivers position while waiting in line for the inspector to do his thing:

And here are the results of the venture - two nice shiny plates which will carry us forward until we get the personalized license plates in support of California Arts Council:

Last night the bench interior was painted black to protect and beautify our storage/guest bedroom structure:

Plus the last of the freestanding walls went up  - it will house the space heater for the cold nights, and will also have a little matching table-top on it for drinks and miniature tripods:

OK - now that we are all set to be driving about and are going to concentrate on trying to find a place to install the top level of the Palace.  If anyone reading this knows people who do fabrication, let us know.  Before that time though, electrical and darkroom have to be complete, so... back go work I go.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Yesterday - wood, drilling and tile.

Stayed up working till 3am again last night.  Night time seems to be the creative hour.

The last of the wood for the tables had been glued together and the bottom of it lacquered.  Here is a rare look at the underside of our future dining table.  It will end up being 27x27in and this side will be permanently glued onto another 3/4in thick piece of wood today and so this is the last time it will ever see daylight.  Finishing wood is a lengthy and laborious process and I hope I can get all the surfaces finished in 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, late at night, standing in a crane pose, Ryan is drilling 1in angled iron for the support of that future table.  He got some experience while building a support structure for the batteries and now, I believe, might be ready to fit them by the end of today.

While he was at it I did have time to set and grout the tiled surface around the stove.  This is very close to what our miniature kitchen will look like.

Let's see how far we can get today.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Power UP! (Last few days.)

Well, the last few days have involved a flurry of activity and spending associated with it. I have been working until 1 to 3 am every night, so I apologize for the lack of updates.  Indeed this update consists of images taken over the course of the last few days and lacks today's progress - of which we made plenty.
The biggest and most exciting part of for me had been the purchase of the batteries (and today's completion by Ryan of a very sturdy cage in which they will be nestled).  Two 6V 435 Amp/hour deep cycle flooded Trojans. That, in combination with the 650W sine wave inverter that was acquired from Fry's, should keep the enlargers going steady and for a while.  Alas, unlike what the sign in the picture reads - these batteries were far from free...

Among other progress - the last piece of birch paneling is up.  Here is Ryan next to the  clamped 'OG bench'.
Also the shower is taking shape - here are two consecutive views of it from previous two nights.  Right now the last of the silica is drying up and we are banking on it being water-proof.

At this moment - the glue is drying between the pieces of wood we just joined for the dining table, paint is drying on the L-brackets that Ryan made for the above mentioned table and and the tiles around the stove are drying up before being grouted tomorrow.  Tomorrow should there should be some progress... Oh, wait, that's today already! Better hit the hay.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stormy weather - construction goes on.

With help of industrial flood lights work continues under the cover in the midst of fog and rain.

One more bench was covered with final surface.

And the shower space was painted (in hindsight we should have painted it before putting it up... had to take off the panels and paint in the shop as not to fumigate ourselves.

Tomorrow - propane and starting on electrical. There will be a lot of LED soldering in our future, probably will use a total of 100+ individual ones bundled in rows of three and in 3-6 columns (so 9-18 little lights will make up one light bank).  Plus there are two 1600 lumen ThinLights on their way for presentation area (in case we need to show photos at night or during perpetual darkness after some major volcanic eruption...)


Monday, April 9, 2012

Photo Update

It's been a little while since I updated this.  Hope everyone had a good time last weekend, whether or not they celebrate Easter.  Here's what had a chance to develop on The Photo Palace Bus.

We started putting in fresh water supply using this very picturesque hose, its photogenic quality being only a bonus as it is food-grade and can withstand temperatures down to -50°F.

Here are two successive images of the cargo bay.  Images are taken two days apart and you can see the spread of fresh water hose and the arrival of the black water tank. The tank is currently undergoing testing - it's holding water that we poured into it last night and seems to be doing good.

The shower is being enclosed and Ryan made a miniature ski jump that will extend the amount of available elbow room. 

And, finally, we are putting down the side paneling on all the surfaces in the front space and it's starting to come together as well.

Looking forward to a productive week.  The goals are to get propane system in order and to start on electrical ASAP.