Friday 27 April 2012

My Self Built Campervan

I was little sad the other day, well not sad but nostalgic. I'd pulled my old camper van out of one of my fathers sheds to start her up and give the engine a bit of a run.
It was when doing this I realised that now with a baby in tow there was no chance we'd ever be using her anytime soon, and perhaps its the time to sell her to allow another couple the chance to have a bit of an adventure travelling in a camper.

My other love, only 16,000 miles on the clock but time to sell her.
When I bought this camper it wasn't strictly speaking that. In fact it was an ambulance, a St. John ambulance to be exact. At the time of buying the van it had only 8,00 miles on the clock, been stored in a RAF hanger the majority of its life and only been to village fetes. Mint condition didn't do it justice. As soon as I saw it I knew what I was going to do to it.

Kitted out as an ambulance
I gutted it completely giving me a blank canvas to work on, then set about making everything from scratch. It took a lot more planning than you'd think to get everything to fit in and because this type of van isn't your normal camper there was none I could copy!
Building the units from scratch
Adding the Beech trim to the fronts of the units
Units ready for worktop and doors
Sofa/bed - one pull and it becomes a bed. Made with rock and roll hinges.
It took a few months of late evenings but in the end I got there. On the day we were due to leave I put down my screwdriver, started the engine and drove to France. Siren blaring of course but no time to check anything. The van was even fully wired for 12v and for 240v, had a gas hob and sink with a tap, a complete camper.

Parked up in a Campsite in France
The inside (my wife made the covers)
We've travelled a few miles in this old van
The first year we went away in it we drove 4000 miles round Europe in 5 weeks, through 7 countries and 19 campsites. It was after this holiday that I knew for 100% sure that Claire was the woman for me (anyone that can put up with me in a small space for that long deserves a medal) and I asked her to marry me later that year.
In fact this van was even where we spent our wedding night (I'm such a romantic)!
So although I think the time has come to sell her we've certainly had our fun out of it and I much rather someone else took it off on another adventure rather than it spending the next 20 years locked in a shed covered in dust.
And from a woodworking point of view this will always be one of my favourite projects and one I smile of when I think about it.

Saturday 21 April 2012

The Shed Sanctuary

We never put a healthy shed down!

I've got a bit of a problem when it comes to sheds. I love them.
Man maketh the shed and Shed maketh the man.
The frame had to be repaired in a few places
So the week before last when I got offered a couple of sheds, so long as I took them down, I couldn't say no. The larger one, although rotten in quite a few places, was 8ft by 14ft and built using quite stong timbers - ideal for a little undercover work area to make a few bits and bobs until I can build something bigger.
The new floor
Last week I repaired the rotten sections of the frame, bought timber for a new floor and then this morning me and a friend got cracking putting it back up. Once we'd got the base levelled on legs onto paving slabs (it is only temporary after all) the rest didn't take long - if it wasn't for the fact we had to keep stopping for April showers!
Placed behind my over full container
 The roof had to have a few timbers replaced as they were like bannas and its completely rotten in some of the boarding so I'm planning to just cover it with tin (its got a blue tarp on at the moment).
I think this picture makes it look bigger than it is!
I've still got to repair a bit of rotten shiplap, build a step for the front, wire it with lights and sockets and tin the roof but other than that its almost a complete low cost temporary workshop!
Still needs some more work doing to it.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Old Wooden Water Pump

Hole bored right through the beam by hand
I was going to put these pictures on and ask people to guess what they were but I was so impressed when I saw it I thought I'd have to just do a post about it.

The end of one length of pipe
These are parts of an old wooden pump from a friend of my fathers' farm, pulled out from a well that must have been sealed shut for 100 years and nearly 50ft deep.
The "bucket"
The well itself is impressive but these beams are something else! I'm almost a 100% sure they're elm from what I know about the subject and they would have been felled and worked on straight away, green,  before they could develop cracks. Drilling out the centre would have removed the heart wood and the cause of most of the cracking and this would keep each piece water tight. The augers to drill it out were long (obviously) with different blades that attached on the ends, they normally started with a 2" cutter and then worked up the cutters to get a 5" hole in the finish (I didn't measure these but it looks about that).
Picture showing the length
As this well was so deep there was quite a few sections to the pump and each would have been joined with hot suet and cloth (from my research).
The well - about 50ft deep dug out by hand - These were some men!
If anyone is interested in more information on how these were made there is a great chapter in the book "The Village Carpenter" by Walter Davis (quite possibly my favourite book ever) where it is describe in some detail.
I think this is a real testament to old craftsmanship, to think there would have been wells like this all over the country up until a couple of hundred years ago is amazing, now the knowledge to create them is almost lost, only what is written in books - I wonder if one has been made in the last 50 years? With something like this the knowledge sometimes needs to be in the muscles not just the head and only if we tried to do it would we see what other techniques and tools we'd need.
A rare treat to see this, really made my day.
I'd love the opportunity to make an old wooden pump and see it work.

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