Saturday, April 11, 2015

Building the Wardrobe Closet and more...

In the previous post I had just gotten started on the framing for the walls of the wardrobe closet, so now we will continue with that and move on to the smaller short closet across from it. That cabinet is being built specifically to store Sharon's accordion in the bottom, and provide a place for file folders in the upper part.

We also have other musical items to figure out where to store, the largest being my guitar and our Yamaha PSR 500 keyboard. We also have a Suzuki Q-Chord, which is a sort of electronic guitar, but it is in a hard case and is less than 3 inches thick, so it can store almost anywhere. We're not sure how all these will be used yet, other than for our own enjoyment. We just know that we don't want to dispose of them. But we'll worry about those details later.

The wardrobe closet...

The last you saw of the closet was one wall laying in pieces on the saw table. The next step was using the Kreg pocket hole jig (example shown below)...

Kreg Pocket Hole Jig like mine...courtesy Home Depot.
And these are pocket holes...courtesy drill the angled screw holes to secure all the parts together. Once that was done, I cut blocks of rigid foam insulation to fill the voids. This was just a strengthening measure because the outer side of the walls was going to be covered in 1/8th-inch paneling. There's not much strength to that, and without some kind of backing, would be like the skin of a bass drum. Not that we plan on fastening anything to it, but it just makes it seem more solid. I chose not to add horizontal cross supports, because the walls will be screwed into cabinets on each side at the mid-point.

The two closet walls with rigid foam board installed.
Once the foam was installed, the outer side of each wall was covered with the 1/8th-inch paneling. However, since my stock of such paneling was limited, and no one will see the bottom of the walls after they are in place, I used some other paneling on the bottom half. On the left side, the bulkhead wall and narrow closet will come up to 40 inches high, so my good paneling started at a height of 39 inches, just to allow for an inch of overlap. On the right side, which will have the kitchen cabinet against it, the standard height for a kitchen countertop is 36 inches, so I made sure the good paneling extended from 35 inches on up. Anything below these two heights will never be seen again, so I just used some scrap paneling...more as a spacer than anything else. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the slight color difference between the blonde paneling at the top, to the scrap honey oak paneling on the bottom.

The outer side of the wardrobe closet walls.
On the inside, I used some cheap 3/8ths-inch CD plywood, as it is going to be painted over. I just gave it a light sanding, and it will be OK, for what it is being used for.

The left side wall of the wardrobe closet set in place.

Before the walls were covered with the heavier plywood, I made several trips back and forth to the trailer to adjust the cut of the top of the walls, and then when it fit like it needed to, I scribed the contour onto the 3//8ths plywood before attaching it. In the photo above, you can see the left wall in place against the short and narrow cabinet that was built previously.

The next step was to add the right side wall of the wardrobe closet.

In the photo below, you can see the right side wall. The contour at the top, against the ceiling, may not be perfect, but as one of my former contractor employers once told me..."it's good enough for who it's for." I'll eventually trim everything out (that's paneled) with some thin and narrow cove molding and flat trim, and any painted surfaces will be caulked with painter's caulk, so it will be fine for our purposes.

The right side wall of the wardrobe closet in place.
Note the angled opening at the top of the wall. This will be used as a "chase" or "tunnel" for the wiring for the trailer, and be covered with an angled plywood panel. I chose to do it this way, because of the walls of the trailer being only 1-1/4 inches thick, and the need to use rigid foam board for insulation. It would be far too shallow for electrical boxes, and too difficult to deal with wires, especially the heavier romex cable wires for electrical outlets. Rather than put them "in" the walls, all electrical outlets will be mounted in or on the cabinets. In some cases they may be in the bottom of overhead cabinets, and in other cases, they may be mounted in or on the sidewalls of the base cabinets.

There will also be an angled corner chase down the back right side of the wardrobe closet, to get wires from above down to the battery compartment, which will be in the bottom right side of the wardrobe closet. From there, will also be a pipe running along the floor behind the battery compartment to the rear storage closet, where the incoming shore power will be mounted and distributed from the left wall of that compartment. More on that later.

The other reason for not putting the wiring in the walls, is that if we ever decide to trade this trailer for a new model, and one size larger (7 x 14), it will make it easier to remove everything and add it back into the new trailer. I don't want to have to start another one from scratch again!

Due to the way the door jamb had to be built, it would have been very difficult to attach it to the walls before installation of the closet, and be able to stand them up inside the trailer. The jamb was in three pieces, each designed to interlock with each other for strength. Each side has to be installed on the corresponding wall first, and then the header section installed last.

I forgot to take a picture of the detail of the door jamb, but basically, it is composed of three parts, (1) the outer casing, which is just 3/4 x 1-1/2-inch stock, same as the cabinet facings, (2) the jamb, which in this case is twice as deep as the door, since the bi-fold closet doors will fold back on each other and require 3-1/8 inches (more detail of that later), and (3) another piece of 3/4 x 1-1/2-inch stock for the door stop on the inside. All of these parts were glued and stapled with 1-1/2-inch pneumatic staples.

The wardrobe closet with the door jamb in position.

Keep in mind, the door jamb is not yet fastened to the walls, nor are the walls secured to anything. Only the slight tension against the ceiling is holding them in place at this point. Before they can be secured, the kitchen cabinet must be built and butted against the right side wall, and secured to it. Only then can the correct door width be established.

We already know that the door must maintain a 30-inch width from top to bottom, but the very best way to get a good fit is to mount the doors in the jamb first, to make sure we have not only equal spacing all the way across the top of the doors and down the sides, but to align the bottoms of the doors with the face of each other so they are flush in the front.

To secure this in place before that is done could cause severe mis-alignment problems and make the whole project seem crooked. But we CAN do the final assembly of the door jamb, which needs to be clamped, glued and secured with staples at the top, and then tipped back into place and joined to the walls on each side. But before we can shim the top above the header and screw the header to the ceiling, we must make sure everything is lined up where it belongs.

The trailer itself is not parked dead level due a slight slope in the ground, so using a carpenter's level is useless. The best thing to do in cases like this is to use a 4-foot drywall T-square off the floor to get a "close" idea, and then attach the components (which also must be built perfectly square) to each other, and let them "find their own center". This will also help reduce stress incurred once the trailer is being towed down the road.

The right side wall of the wardrobe closet at the bottom.

The single most critical issue with alignment is the bottom of the right side of the wardrobe closet, shown above. Since these walls are so thin, and pre-assembled, there is no way to anchor the bottom to the floor without something showing. This is why the kitchen cabinet must be installed first, as it will be screwed to the outer trailer wall and to the closet wall, and THAT is what will hold the wall in place and retain proper spacing and alignment for the closet doors.

Later on in this project, we will add the short dividers in the bottom of the closet, to separate the porta-potty from the battery compartment, and also create a storage compartment behind the porta-potty. On the floor, we will also use a piece of 3/4-inch plywood with two cutouts the exact size of the batteries. This, along with a couple of small ratchet straps anchored to screw eyes in the floor will secure the batteries in place. We certainly don't want two 77-pound projectiles going anywhere while on the road! These dividers will also help to strengthen and secure the walls of the closet.

The wardrobe closet from the back of the trailer.
In the photo above, you can see what will be exposed of the wardrobe closet at the back, at least for now. The rear bunk will be on top of the bulkhead wall, with a piano hinge mounted directly on top of the wall. This will allow the front part of the bunk and mattress to be  lifted to gain access to the narrow storage cabinet. The mattress will be 4-inch multi-density foam, specially made for this purpose, so it will cover the first 4-inches of the closet wall that you see.

Keep in mind that once the rear bunk is completed, this view will not be seen from the rear of the trailer. There will be a vertical wall just inside the rear ramp door to close off the back of the rear sleeping compartment, and it will be insulated. My original design calls for a couple of small Plexi-glass windows that can be opened on hinges from the inside, with screens on the back side, just to allow a little ventilation during times when we can have the ramp door open. Otherwise, the storage compartment will be totally sealed off from the living quarters. So the only one who will see the left closet wall will be whomever sleeps in the rear bunk.

The "accordion closet"...

So this brings us to the next stage of the project...the "accordion closet". This short closet will be on the opposite side of the wardrobe closet, just behind the piano and against the bulkhead wall.

For those just finding this page on the web, yes we are taking a piano with us! You'll have to go back to the "New Beginnings" post to catch up with that explanation!

In the photo below, you can see the basic framework for the cabinet, but it has a ways to go yet.

The basic framework for the "accordion closet".
This cabinet will only be exposed on two sides, plus the top. We are again choosing the blonde paneling for the side facing the piano, as at least part of that wall will be visible to the front. And again, it is only 1/8th-inch paneling, so we added rigid foam to the left side as a backer for the thin paneling.

The "accordion cabinet" with rigid foam installed on the left side.
The right hand side will be against the already finished wall of the rear bulkhead, so to conserve weight, I decided to leave that wall  open. After adding support pieces for the bottom and the shelf for holding file folders (or eventually other things, once we can go mostly "paperless"), the left side wall was covered inside and out with paneling. Then I carried the assembled cabinet out to the trailer.

The "accordion cabinet" left side.
Sharon's accordion is one of the heaviest I have ever seen, at roughly 46 pounds, maybe due to the fact that it has electronics for plugging into an amplifier if necessary. I used to play one many years ago, and owned two of them, and mine were nowhere near this heavy! Of course, hers is not a cheap one like mine were, either.

For the floor of this cabinet, as well as the upper shelf, I used 3/8th-inch CD plywood, and it is reinforced on all four sides with framing under it. The framing is glued and stapled to the outer frame.

The right side of the "accordion cabinet".
On the inside, I also used the same blonde paneling as the rear bulkhead wall, so if one looks inside the cabinet, both sides will be the same. Eventually, doors will be made for all these cabinets. The top part of this cabinet will get a "dummy" drawer front, as there is no need to get into it from the front. The rear bunk will cover it most of the time, and if we need to get into it, we will simply lift the front part of the bunk and reach in from the top.

The "accordion closet" set into place in the trailer.
After moving some of my stored items in the trailer, I was able to set the cabinet into place. Again, I am not securing it at this point. I still have to anchor the rear bulkhead wall on each end, and then, due to a slight difference in how square the floor is in regard to the sidewalls, some shims will have to be used before any screws can be installed to permanently anchor the cabinets. It appears the center of the floor is sightly lower (about a 1/4-inch) than the bottoms of the side walls. The same situation applies to the opposite wall. Some shims will have to be used under the cabinets and closet walls to push the tops against the outside walls of the trailer.

Due to the fact that the rear bulkhead wall is built straight, and remains level in the center, the shims cannot be used against the outer walls, as that would make the cabinets out of square with the bulkhead wall as well as anything else in the trailer. The shims MUST be placed under the front edge of the cabinets. Once the kitchen cabinet is in place all of these other lower cabinets can be properly aligned and secured...not before.

For those paying attention, you might realize that this cabinet now protrudes farther forward in the trailer than it's narrow mate on the other side. Originally, they were supposed to be the same width, but due to having to add 4 inches to the storage compartment, they are now slightly "offset". This is not a big issue, although it may appear odd. It will force us to cut the front part of the mattress and platform to allow for this offset. The foot end of the bunk will be above this cabinet, so it will make the foot of the bed wider than the head end...but that isn't a big deal. When we lift the front part of the bed to get into the cabinets underneath, we will likely have a barrel bolt on the mattress platform to hold it up. 

Going forward...

Next up will be the modification of the closet doors, only because I have temporarily run out of "one by" stock to build the rest of the cabinets. That material will be purchased later this week. So in the meantime, I have to find alternative things to do. 

After the closet doors, we'll get back to the kitchen cabinet, and later on, the front couch. For those just joining us, the air conditioner is also being installed in the front couch, so it will require more than a simple framework. Vents must be cut down through the floor, screening and filters installed, and baffles installed to keep the incoming and outgoing exhaust air separated. 

Also this week, arrangements have been made to finally acquire the two 100-watt solar panels, tilt rods, wiring, controllers and even the roof rack. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, that should happen on Monday. And before any of that can be installed, I still have to order the special rust-eating paint for the roof, and then apply two coats of Kool Seal roof coating to it. So there's lots more of this boring fun coming. (:>)

I am currently working on a solar water heater design, and researching components, weights, and other such things necessary to make it safe for roof-top mounting. This will be a much more efficient design than simply attaching a black pipe to the roof rack, and will keep the water hot for a much longer time...good news for those wanting to shower after the sun goes down! So keep watching for that in the not too distant future. It will solve many of the problems with boondocking without power or the need to use space and propane for a typical RV water heater. And forget gravity fill and feed. This system will be pressurized from the water pump!

We're down to about 106 days before we leave at this point, so the time will go quickly. Whatever we don't get done here can be done on the road, and that includes final trim and painting. Right now, we are more concerned with getting the cabinetry and systems installed so we can at least "function" on the road. I'll have a lot more time for the little miscellaneous things after we leave here. 

By the way, if you are on a mobile device, and my countdown timer is not showing, I apologize. It seems to work fine when viewed on a laptop, but I noticed on my iPad, it disappeared again. I had this problem once before, and had to reload it from the third-party web program, It worked for awhile, but has now messed up again. Sorry 'bout that. I'll try to fix it when I get time.

We still have a lot of household items to dispose of yet, set up a local temporary storage for the rest, arrange for mail forwarding, and a ton of other things to do. This is also why I haven't been working on updates to my ebook, for those of you who have downloaded the free copy. Get it while you can, because I hope to have the paid version (as in "not free") going to Kindle by this next winter. There's a lot of good information there for any size or type of RV you are using. Everyone will get something from it.

But this post is long enough already, so let's take a break here. Let me know your thoughts, and if you have any questions, please ask.


Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Progress! It's looking good, John. I appreciate your craftsmanship and attention to detail. I still see it being very tight quarters with everything you plan to carry with you and Sharon. But, you've certainly put a lot of time, effort and brain power into the design and I know it's going to be exactly what you want for this first venture out of Cherokee Village in a lot of years. Keep on Keeppin' on.

John Abert said...

Thanks, Ed. Yes, it will be tight, but will allow us to do what we need to do. Most of our daylight hours will be spent outside, anyway. We don't look at this project as a "forever" thing anyway. At the least, we will probably want to upgrade to a trailer a size larger, or at the most, we might end up with a motorhome again, none of which will be found here in rural Arkansas. This project will allow us to get away from here, figure out what we really need for the longer term, and go someplace where a selection can be found.