Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Varpapuu Loom from Finland

She said, "Varpapuu"

I replied, "bless you" and reached over to hand her a tissue.

But she wasn't sneezing.  Varpapuu is, instead, the maker of a loom.  This loom.  This loom, that somehow came home with me.

The loom is Finnish and, as you can see from the label has lots of words that I can't pronounce.

It's a cute little table loom that's had a few modifications.  It looks like someone decided they needed a two treadle floor loom and converted it to accommodate their needs.  I'm kind of sad about this, but the structure of the loom is sound and I think I can have it back to near-original condition with very little effort.

The levers that rise and lower the shed have been taken away, and some rollers put in the top of the castle.

The big problem with this roller set up is that you cannot make the sheds properly.  For those weavers out there, you can probably tell right away why it won't work.  But it took me a while to see the problem.

When you lower shed 1, shed 2 goes up.  When you lower shed 2, shed 1 goes up.  It is impossible to lower both shed 1 and shed 2 at the same time, and likewise, it is not possible to rise shed 1 and shed 2 at the same time.  This makes weaving twills a bit difficult.

So I took the rollers out and returned it to the original style which is basically a jack loom.  Each set of heddles can be raised independently to make the shed.

I need to make a few parts and create a beater bar (hmm, over head or regular beater, which shall I choose?). But it needs very little work otherwise, and hardly any spit and polish.

Couldn't find much information on google about this loom, but I did come across one gem. Big thankyou to The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts blog for posting a link to this pdf file: Dressing the Varpapuu loom.

So, if anyone out there knows more about this loom, please let me know.  It's an awesome little fellow and I exactly what I want in a loom.  36", table loom, with levers on the castle!  Once I get this up and working, I can get rid of all my other looms, and I won't miss them, they are all either too big or too small.  This one is perfect and I might even be able to make it fold down with the warp on (see the pdf I linked to above).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1950s Traveleze camper trailer - ideas about the electrical system

Sigh.  How do I say to someone that I'm not actually some impractical dreamer.  I've already taken all that into considerations (and more) and all the 'You-Can't-Cha do this and Youcantcha do that' that they are telling me is based on outdated information.


Right now I'm feeling really frustrated because I have a wonderful vision of what the camper trailer is going to become.  When I share that vision and ask for advice, most of the time I get a bunch of non-related Youcantchas that are basically unrelated to the subject at hand.  People like to tell you how much they know about what you cannot do that they can't hear over their own negativity, what my question actually was.


What I'm working on right now is planning the electrical system.  For health reasons, propane is not an option.  And you know what, I don't want to be dependent on buying fuel and tethering myself to an electrical outlet every single night.  I want this to be a low impact, eco-thoughtful, (mostly) self sufficient system.

It's going to be an almost exclusively electric system.  Although finding a way to cook with 12 volts might not be possible, I'm going to try darn it!  Well, experiment with different options then probably give in and try something more traditional.

But everything but the cooker can easily be done.  Systems are so efficient now that the main limiting factor is expense.

The biggest expense I see are getting good batteries.  Batteries are also pretty heavy, so any way I can find that means fewer batteries, is something to consider.  What I'm thinking is to generate electrical current from things around me. That way, if I am generating some electricity as well as using it, then the batteries will last longer between charges.

Solar power is lighter weight and more affordable every year.  The flexible solar panel film they have now could easily go on the roof of the camper and provided a good potion of my electrical needs.

I have some other great ideas that I am working on, but I'm tired of being shot down and bullied so I'm not going to tell you about them just yet.  Needless to say (or at least I use to think so) I am keeping a close eye on weight and fuel efficiently and all that stuff.

The other thing I need to think about when it comes to the electrical system is how much power do I really need?

  • The goal is to be able to go 3 days between charging on moderate to high electrical use.
    • I sure would love to go a week, but we'll see.
  • A fridge/freezer is a must for me.  The one I found works on 2.8 amps at 12 volts which is quite reasonable, although, the price isn't reasonable at just under a grand.
  • Lights.  I very seldom have more than one small light on at a time, even at home, except when I'm cooking or cleaning dishes.
  • Water pump
  • Charging my laptop, ereader, and mp3 player
  • Electric rice cooker (but that's only for 40 min a day at about 450 to 500 watts) - really is a luxury that I'm not willing to go without!
  • Water filter (which may not be electric)
  • Optional small heater.
  • Possibly a fan but more likely I will use something that is self powered.
  • Possible stove ventilation fan, but see above fan for reasons why not.
  • Toying with the idea of adding an on demand water heater for washing the dishes as I feel this might be more efficient than boiling water on the stove or kettle.  Needs research.
  • (just between you and me I'm very tempted to have the bed heated like a Chinese sleeping platform (kang).  That's the only time I feel cold, like really bone shatteringly cold, is when I lye down.  Even in the hottest day in the summer, I'm smothered in blankets at night.  There is nothing worse than getting chilled while travelling.  It might be better to heat the bed than to surround myself with hot water bottles - but Shhhh.... don't tell anyone)
Notice, there is no air-conditioner. No secondary air conditioning system.   No microwave.  No TV.  No game station.  No tertiary air-conditioning system (honestly people, have you heard of insulation?) No huge tank for heating water.  No vacuum.  Non of the usual camper kind of things that the Youcantcha people tell me are absolutely necessary.  

Sadly, there is no room for a toilet, shower or the like in my camper.  But good news is that means I have less to lug around.  No huge water storage tank.  No huge grey water storage tank.  No huge black water storage tank.  That saves a lot of weight and gives me a lot more room to work with than your usual camper.

So relatively low electrical usage couple with efficient electrical equipment and a few ways of generating power from natural sources and capturing waste energy seems possible.  When I lay it out like this, I beginning to feel that maybe the Youcantcha people might have a very different mindset than I do.  Maybe I can accomplish something close to my dream of the perfect home away from home.

A solar panel may only be able to generate 60% of my daily power needs (less than 10% of a Youcantcha's power needs).  But that means that I can go that much longer between charging the batteries at a power station.  And imagine coupling that with other ways of generating power, that would mean even longer independence from the power grid.  Sure, some of these may only create a tiny amount of power, but think of it like walking, every step seems insignificant on it's own, but it all adds up to a destination in the end.  Even trickle charges add up over time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

1955 Travleze trailer - goals and random thoughts

It's been a week since I first discovered this travel trailer project.  Now that it's safely home in our workshop, I need to start making decisions.

But what a huge amount of information to take in and consider.  My mind is out of practice when it comes to analysing all the variables.  So this post is basically musings about things to come.  Goals I have.  Considerations that need to be met.  Stuff like that.

There is so much I don't know about all this, and every time I think I know something, ten more monsters raise their heads and stick out their tongs and say, 'Na na, you don't know this!'  It's very annoying of them.  But I figure, plod along, take small steps, make small goals so that it feels like I'm getting somewhere constantly, and suddenly it will be done.

Just like knitting, a seemingly infinite amount of stitches to make a sweater, and yet break it down to one row, then another, then suddenly the body is finished and you are ready to knit the arms.  I figure this project is like a really complicated sweater, with colour work and integrate cables and stuff.  One of those two year sweaters.

  • I would an all electric trailer.  Most fuel gives off fumes which trigger my health problems, so a gas stove inside is not an option.  So all electric everything!  That's going to take a lot of batteries.  But it's okay, because...
  • I would like the trailer to generate most of it's own electricity   Am I insane?  Probably no, but maybe a bit too much wine.
    • Thinking about the self sufficient house, one that generates it's own electrical energy.  Maybe this could be a prototype or R&D kind of system.  So what I need for that is to create a three part system, energy out, energy storage, and energy in.  All three parts are customizable at any time, so some sort of universal plug would make for easy wiring   I wonder if this kind of plug and play energy system already exists or if I need to create my own for this project.
    • The electrical system is going to be my biggest challenge and largest expense  so I need to save up and do my research!  However, by creating a plug and play kind of energy system I can try different options and see what is most efficient.  For example...
    • can charge a battery off the engine of the car while it's driving along.  Or one could put a hub generator in the wheel of the trailer like a bicycle has, but this might produce too much drag and reduce fuel efficiency   Or one could put a light weight solar film on the roof of the trailer, or one could create a vintage looking mini wind generator to put on the roof when it's parked.   Or, one can use generators that takes the up and down motion of the trailer as it is moving along and converts it to electrical energy.  Or one can take the difference in temperature from inside and outside the trailer and convert that to electrical energy via a Stirling engine or the system that uses different metals and temperatures and works somehow I have no idea but is way more efficient than a mechanical system.
    • I am very, very, very keen on capturing waste energy and using it as a way to trickle charge the batteries on the camper.  This may not be - probably will not be - enough to provide all my electrical needs, but it would GREATLY extend the time between charging the batteries by plunging them into a wall socket.  
    • This is where my steampunk background comes in handy.
  • I would like it to be nicely insulated.
    • My limited experience with campers is that they are either way too cold or worse, too hot!  
    • A combination of insulation and airflow would help with this, I think.  At least, I imagine it would.
    • Since making the outside walls as ridged as possible greatly improves fuel efficiency  it's a good idea to take this into consideration while I'm deciding on insulation.  
    • So the traditional version of this trailer has an aluminium shell, a wood frame with some fibreglass insulation, and a wood panelling interior wall.
    • What I'm thinking of doing (and costs seem to be reasonable at this point) is going from outside to inside: aluminium shell, layer of something like Prodex (which is something like R15), the wood frame and cheep Styrofoam insulation which is more for rigidity than anything else, and then the interior wall.  This should be about the same weight as the original as the fibreglass is quite heavy.  It should also be far more efficient than the original which was usually less than R7, and since the fibreglass use to sink to the bottom of the walls quickly, I think this will work marvellously well and is well worth the expense.
    • This Prodex stuff would also add some water resistance and is good at preventing condensation.
    • The only problem I can foresee is the the fumes from the insulation might permeate the interior of the camper.  These fumes are ones that tiger symptoms for me. So, I need to ensure that everything is well aired out prior to installation AND that the interior panelling is well sealed with something like Tried and True, a beeswax, linseed oil finish.
  • How much original and how much me do I want to put into this?
    • Please don't hate me too much for saying this, but I really do not like (most of) the 1950s style. There is something so 'America is the Best Place On Earth' to that style of décor  and although it's very nice when you don't take history into account, it has for me, a feeling of foreshadowing all the bad things to come in the world.  The beginning of the cold war, the dependence on oil, American meddling in the affairs of other nations with the believe that they are doing the right thing, but usually make a mess of it all.  To me, the 1950s is the beginning of our plastic age.  For me, if you take the 1950s style and isolate it from history to come, then it's quite lovely, but in context, I really don't like it.  Something changed circa 1948, I don't know enough history to know why, but the difference in décor and style and function happened then.  It's like the sewing machines, before then, not a drop of plastic, and ANY sewing machine made before that year will last a couple of hundred years at least,but after then, something is different.  Plastic starts to seep in.  The design ... trying to find the word, but the only think I can think of is Lines, the lines of the outside of the object seem to change drastically at that time.  It becomes as smooth as a crooked cars sales man.  But like I said, that's just my opinion.
    • One of the things I like best about the original design is the focus on the kitchen.  Cooking food yourself was still quite important in the 1950s, and there wasn't much reliance on fast food.  The kitchen and being able to cook inside the trailer is very important to me (yet another reason why I would like an electric system, so I don't need to worry about gas in a small space).
    • There is a lot of value if I restore it to the original condition.  It should take about 4k to restore to original from what I have, maybe a bit more, but it would quadrupedal the investment.  So, pretend I put $4k into it, then I could easily get $12 to $24 thousand for it.  But then I would have to sell it, and find another project trailer, and start again at making myself a home away from home.  I'm not sure I have it in me to make a second one, plus the hassle of selling it and finding a new one to start with.  This way seems like too much stress just for a bit of extra spending money (okay, a lot of extra spending money).  Basically the stress to profit ratio is not sufficient and I really do think this can ham of a camper is as close to my style as I'll ever get.
    • So, basically not restoring to original condition.
    • The basic floor plan of the original canned ham trailers is very efficient, so I think I'll stick with that.
    • Making it all electric (see above) is going to add a lot of extra expense and time, but I feel it's going to be really worth it.
    • I would like to make it lighter in colour on the inside due to the occasional bouts of claustrophobia.  This might be as simple as using lighter wood for the panelling and darker wood for the lathes.
    • I think some sort of unifying theme would be useful for the interior decoration.  I'm thinking some steampunk, meats some traditional Japanese interior design, with a nod back to the 1950s vintage of the trailer. The more I think about it, the more that Ume Blossom inspires me.  Here's an ever increasing collection of pictures that I'm using as an idea book of sorts.    

1955 Traveleze comes home - evaluation of the shell and some thoughts on reconstruction

We rented a U-Haul cube van to bring the Traveleze trailer home on Wednesday.  It was quite the undertaking, but everything went smoothly.  I even made an extra special bento lunch just for the occasion:

mmm, sukiyaki beef on a bed of rice,
with boiled veg and fresh fruit for dessert.

The first thing I wanted to do was to see what I have to work with.  So we lay each piece of aluminium skin out on the driveway and did a cursory evaluation.

Left Side 

Right Side - with home built cat door at no extra charge :p
The two sides are in fair to good condition.  The last fellow obviously had trouble getting the nails out, so some of the edges are slightly torn, but that can be covered with extra wide trim.  No serious dents or rips in it.

The Right side has a 'cat door' cut into it near the front.  This could be transformed to an 'extra storage' compartment with minimum trouble.  

The only serious problem with the skin is at the front and back bottom where the aluminium has corroded.

See the old repair?  This is the front panel.  As the tong on the trailer is so short, and in the 1950s they had fins on the back of cars (because apparently it looked cool), it was quite common to impale the trailer with your car if you took a corner too tight.  

I am thinking I might be able to incorporate the repair of the corroded parts with my idea for the floor.

I would like to put something under the floor to protect it.  I was thinking an aluminium layer, followed by your standard trailer subfloor, a light weight bubblewrap like substance that helps insulate and encourage  the floor to breath (thus avoiding mould - leftover from doing the hardwood floors in the house), and then the inside floor.  That way the metal layer would protect the wood from moisture, splash back from the road and mice.  

This aluminium layer could extend up the front and back of the skin, covering the nasty corrosion.  

It's just an idea at the moment, and depends on availability of materials and cost.  

For reassembling the skin, I was thinking of doing something like this: Aluminium outside, a layer of something like milar (or space blankets) for insulation  the wood frame with all the gaps filled with a light weight foam insulation  then the interior pannaling.  

The original trailer had all wood inside but given how small it is, I fear I would be claustrophobic if the interior was too dark.  Because of my allergies, I'm not keen on painting the inside, so maybe I can find a light colour wood or keep my eyes out for some other option.

All in all, I think I'll keep it fairly close to the original, with a few changes to accommodate my health and ... well... I'll talk with you about that soon, with a post about what I hope to achieve. 

What I really wish is that I could find an active community with people who can help advise me as to how to do all these things I would like to do.  There are lots of repair vintage trailer groups - too many - but very few of them are active, and those that are seem to be for just one kind of trailer.  So if you know of any that would help me, please leave a comment and let me know.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

1955 Traveleze Trailer

The advert called it Canned Ham!  Or, more specifically, disassembled canned ham.

photo is from the add for the trailer

It looks a bit like a can of SPAM don't you think?  I love it!

This is the photo from the add and what it use to look like!  'Every kind of animal save humans' lived in the trailer as it sat in the farmer's field for 30plus years.

Here's what the add had to say:


It May seem challenging  but it is exactly what I need.  Due to my allergies (both food and environmental) travelling is virtually impossible. I'm allergic to the cleaning chemicals used in hotels and have to cook everything myself.  Finding a place to sleep that has few chemicals, good airflow and a kitchen is impossible with my budget.

Likewise, most RVs and Travel Trailers are either new and full of manufacturing chemicals or used and full of cleaners, mould, &c.  What I really need is a shell that can be stripped down and reassembled.  Thank I can rebuild it and make it mine!

The add said it was in pieces... well, um... 

The chassi has been reinforced, sand blasted and sealed with the sort of stuff you use on chassis.  Everything to build (um rebuild) the trailer shell is there, but non of the innards.  He's even built an entirely new frame from pine.

Believe it or not, that's exactly the condition that I need it to be in.  Especially if one considers some of the changes I would like to make.  I have most of the skills I need to put it back together and furnish it, I've just never put them together in one project before!  How exciting!

Because of the fragile nature of the aluminium siding, I have ordered a large cube van rental for Wednesday when it comes home.  I'm so nervous waiting so long to bring it home, but there is a tone of things that need doing here before we can make room for it.  

So, full of nervous excitement.  Can't barely sleep.  Wonder if one can buy tatami mats in Canada and if so, are they light weight or heavy?

ANYONE out there know of any groups I can pester with questions about my trailer rebuild?  I would really like to find original schematics or floor plan for this trailer.