Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Better Curves for the T&K Railway

My O-gauge ceiling railway was originally designed for 27-inch radius curves simply because that was all the curvature my childhood’s Lionel 2034 locomotive and cars required. In time, though, I found it difficult to expand my rolling stock collection because everything on my wish list required O-31 curves or better. Fortunately, O-31 curves just fit the existing shelving built for the railway which allowed me to do nothing more than swap 0-27 curves and track with the corresponding O-31 version.

All was relatively well until Bill, one of my wife’s co-workers, after learning of the railway decided to loan me some nice locomotives & cars he had in storage because he now did not have access to a model railway. Unfortunately, some of his collection would only run on O-42 or better curves. Since a really cool Shay locomotive was one of those items, the decision was made to modify the T&K’s shelving to accommodate 0-72 radius curves since that curvature appears to be the largest in regular production.

Due to the amount of shelving which could not be aesthetically attached to the walls, four pieces of ¼-inch All Thread per curve was incorporated into the design. As before, the new design was drawn up in AutoCAD.

Last time, each of the four curve sections were individually cut out and shaped to final dimension in assembly line fashion. Since the whole operation could have gone a lot better, this time I decided to make a pattern out of 1/8-inch hardboard and use a template guide on the router to mill the four, 5/8-inch MDF shelving curves from the pattern.

There has never been a point in my woodworking career, up until now, to draw 5-foot and larger radii. Fortunately, a yardstick compass will work once the yardstick is swapped out for a really long piece of hardboard.

After completing all the construction lines, the new track itself was laid on the proposed template for a quick sanity check. We’re good.

Unlike drawing large radii, I have routed large curves with a homemade jig. The jig was frustrating to use because each different radius required a new pivot point hole to be drilled in the jig. Getting past this stumbling block was a little more problematic because the longest, store-bought router compass I could find only did 24-inch curves. So two, long sections of 1/8-inch hardboard were glued together and milled to match the important dimensions of the store-bought version. Then the store-bought version’s hardware was remounted on the homemade version.

The result was a really easy to use, long router compass.

The tabletop drill press, mounted on a special stand & fitted with various Forstner bits, was used to provide radiusing on the inside corners.

After the master pattern was cut out and touched up with a drum sander attachment on the drill press it was used to rough out the four corner blanks.

The blanks were cut proud of the construction line with a jigsaw.

Then the ends were squared off with the radial arm saw.

With compass routing complete, the router was refitted with a template guide collar.

Then, with the template C-clamped onto each blank, the router was run around the perimeter to establish the final dimensions.

Next stop was the router table fitted with a round-over bit.

Soon afterward, the O-31 track & associated track wiring/lighting was removed for test fits. The new O-72 curves will be a big improvement over the ones originally designed for O-27.

Portions of the old O-27 shelving were cut out by jigsaw, small circular saw and hand saw. A 2X4 stand helped support the new curves for fit checks.

All empty biscuit slots and holes were then filled with wood putty. After fit checks, the new curve sections were returned to the shop for pocket holes.

Since I elected to leave the track wiring and LED lighting in place during the upgrade, it was taped off while the new curves were installed, caulked, primed, and painted.

My little ¼-inch right angle adapter has paid for itself countless times with tasks like drilling pilot holes in tight places.

I was very happy with how it all turned out:

Now to see what else Bill has!


Monday, July 15, 2019

Atwood RV Range for Parts?


My 1967 Airstream still has its original Magic Chef oven which we use at least once on every camping trip.  It has been amazingly reliable with repairs usually consisting of realigning something that vibrated out of place.  But one day I know a No-Longer-Available part will have to be replaced.  A new oven might be necessary.

The immediate problem is that no one makes an RV oven anymore – they only make ranges.  While a household wall oven would probably work, it will require 120 VAC for the electronics which may not be available depending on what type of camping going on.

Adapting modern-day RV oven parts to my half-century old oven seemed to be a reasonable avenue to investigate.  The issue here is that I have never used a modern-day, RV, gas oven to understand the differences between then-and-now operation (the Airstream’s oven has what is essentially a two-pilot light system[1] whereas modern ovens only have one).  It would be nice to play with a modern one to compare differences.

As much as we enjoy using our oven on camping trips I read that others do not apparently preferring a microwave instead.  So I was not surprised to see an RV range and hood for sale at a yard sale the other weekend.  Although it was noticeably smaller than my Magic Chef, it looked like a good “leaner” oven if the price was right.  It had obviously not been used much, and the yard-seller said it worked when removed.  Fortunately for me he was happy to mark it down to $20.

While hooking the gas up I noticed it was made by Atwood Wedgewood in 2005.

In what was no surprise, the three cook-top burners lit without incident; even the piezeo-electric sparker, a modern day feature to me, worked.  After a short line purge, the oven lit too.

While the oven was pre-heating, research on the range showed this model is still in production and sold new for around $500.  It was sold as a 17” range and has a big brother, 24” version.  Each uses the same thermostat and burner.

The Atwood’s burner is made of sheet aluminum alloy and has much less heating capacity & lower latent heat retention than the Magic Chef’s much larger cast-iron burner.

The broiler area was certainly no frills compared to my antique oven.  But, in reading camping forums, I noticed few people even know how to brown food in a gas oven.

The thermostat was found to be wildly out of calibration with no provision for adjustment.  But after bumping the temperature up and adding some stones to stabilize the heat, the oven produced a decent pan of cornbread.

The Totino’s cheese pizza cooked later came out surprisingly bad.  The lower rack position was used instead of the other, higher one which resulted in a “highly browned” bottom and uncooked top.  The top had to be broiled to make sure the cheese was melted.

It was now starting to dawn on me why some RVers did not use their ovens: the 17” version is just too small for some routine cooking tasks.  Unlike the Magic Chef, a half sheet pan will not fit.  Quarter sheet or smaller pans only.  Even with a few cooking stones, heat control is poor.  The mass of the cast iron burner in the Magic Chef coupled with the Robertshaw thermostat is tough to beat.

If push came to shove, the thermostat could be adapted but it would be a lot of work because its design made it integral to the range’s gas distribution bar.  Adapting the thermostat to flared pipe fittings would not be fun.

But keeping the limitations in mind it has been fun using the range for overflow cooking.  In fact, I made Granny Smith apple pie filling from scratch just to see how it do in the Atwood.

It turned out amazingly well and was a hit with everyone.

Cooking the pie out in my shop ended being good in an unexpected way – Per direction the glass pan was placed directly on the rack.  When it unexpectedly boiled over the syrup dripped on the metal plate dispersing the burner’s heat.  Smoke ensued in very short order and continued until a drip pan could be located/installed.

All-in-all, not counting entertainment value, a lot was learned for $20.  For now I think the range will be mounted on a stand and kept intact for overflow cooking in the summer.

Note [1]
My Overlander's '67 Magic Chef operates differently than modern ovens. Lighting the pilot light does not involve pushing & holding the knob - I just turn the knob to pilot, wait for the gas to run through, and light it.

The heat from that warms up a thermocouple hooked to the thermostat. When the thermostat calls for heat and the thermocouple is warm enough, it supplies gas to a secondary pilot immediately beside the primary pilot. This larger pilot light warms a different thermocouple hooked to a separate gas valve. When that thermocouple is warm enough, the gas valve opens and supplies gas to the main burner.

On occasion, the secondary thermocouple vibrates out of position has to be re-aligned or the main burner never lights.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

New Airstreamport for the Overlander

The master plan for keeping my 1967 Airstream Overlander at our house has always included a roof over its head.  The parking pad it sits on was sized to accommodate the standard-sized, 12’X28’ RV carport popular when the pad was poured over 10 years ago.  I even had shallow footings dug prior to the pour for extra anchoring mass.

Over the following years the subject was occasionally pursued only to find no professionals interested in adapting an “off-the-shelf” carport to fit on the pad’s irregularly-sloped surface.  One day I woke and decided it was just time to get it done even if it meant doing it myself.  Not that that the task intimidated me - I was just surprised I could not throw too much money at something to get it done.

After locating a supplier, a deposit was placed on a 12’X30’X12’ (latest standard size) Eagle Carport.  Around two weeks later a dually with a really nice flatbed trailer backed up with the new, unassembled Airstreamport.

Two guys got out and worked together like a well-oiled machine assembling the Overlander’s new roof on a relatively flat section of land & concrete.

Wedge anchors were used to hold the front half of the structure to concrete while rebar spikes took care of the part over dirt.

The guys finished up in about three hours.  They did a super job, and I have zero complaints about either the building or their workmanship.

So although now the Airstream had a roof over its head, the tires were sitting on dirt, and the pad’s full hookups, which hook up to the back of the Airstream, were at the side.

Thought was given to relocating the hookups and pouring additional concrete.  Parking would be greatly simplified.  But I did not want a backyard full of concrete when the pad was poured, and the sentiment had not changed.  The airstreamport would have to be relocated to the front of the pad once suitable supports were made.

After deciding to place a support under every stud that would not be on flat land, the studs’ locations were marked on a “storypole”.  Of note, the locations varied greatly between both each other, and side-to-side.

After leveling the storypole, the studs’ locations were projected onto the concrete.  Using a hardboard template a triad of holes were started with a small hammer drill.

A big hammer drill was used for the actual anchors since ½-inch diameter holes at least 2-3/4 inches deep were needed.

There was a delay in getting the ¼-inch steel plate sheared for the actual mounting plates.  To keep the project going, hardboard mockup plates were made to locate the all-thread studs in the holes prior to anchoring.

The Internet appears to be comfortable with the use of anchoring adhesive when used according to the directions.  There did not appear to be a brand preference.  The Sika brand was chosen simply because it came with two nozzles.

As luck would have it, there was enough adhesive left to anchor my drill press to the shop floor.  I am the only homeowner I know that has done this!

After allowing the adhesive to cure, the storypole was brought back out to determine the supports’ heights.

Fortunately, my metal cutoff saw had just been fitted with a new wheel.  It was certainly needed for the 2-1/2 inch tube stock.

Between hardboard mounting plates & top tabs, and the real, metal supports, there was high confidence that the actual end-product was going to work as intended.

In time the mounting plates got sheared (thanks Kenny!).  Drilling the ½-inch diameter holes went well with the drill press securely mounted to the floor.

One of the steel plates was then placed on an all-thread triad for a quick sanity check – all was well.

My Lincoln stick-welder is conveniently located right by both my toolbox and big door, and is ready to weld in seconds.  But since I wanted this job to look good, it never moved and my buddy Heath MIG welded the supports for me.  He did an outstanding job.

Rustoleum cold galvanizing spray paint was used as a top coat.

As expected, the supports bolted up beautifully.

The next step was to move the carport forward to its new digs.  The easiest & fastest option would have been to invite a bunch of guys over for barbeque & beer.  Afterwards we could all stagger over and brute force the thing in place.  But since most of my friends are now middle-aged there was a good chance someone would get hurt.  So I went with Plan B – a come-along winch.

In preparation, 2X4s were sized to act as tracks & track supports between each support.

After checking the weather forecast to make sure it was not projected to be windy, the existing anchor bolts were Sawzalled off and the rebar spikes crowbarred up.

After that it was simply a matter of slowly winching the Airstreamport forward to its new location.

Although I did get my wife to come out and help me keep an eye out for potential problems during the move, I really didn’t want anyone else involved.  But of course the neighbors had to come watch over the fence.  Fortunately nothing went wrong, and the move was completed in less than ½ an hour.

After removing the wood cribbing, the airstreamport was then nut & bolted to the new supports, wedged anchored to the concrete or rebar-spiked to the ground as required.  After a little touch-up painting on everything, I was pleased with how it turned out.

The Airstream’s tires had really gotten muddy during their brief time in yard.  Pulling it forward for a wash-off gave me a better opportunity to sweep up construction debris.

One of the neighbors who watched the effort later independently volunteered that he thought the completed project turned out nicely.  I have to agree.

My wife & I enjoy yardsales, and around four years ago I was fortunate to acquire two very nice, new, digital-ready outdoor TV antennas for a dollar (the entire tale is at this link).  The best one was mounted on the house's chimney as part of our severe weather reactance plan should the cable go out.  While the other antenna was offered to others, no one one took me up on the freebie.

Severe Weather Plan C is to retreat to the Overlander since it has its own antenna.  But I noticed the new Airstreamport, with all its metal, might interfere with the signal.  So the other antenna was mounted on a mast attached to the new structure.  14 channels - Nice!