Friday, 5 January 2007

5) Shelters - (my excuse for taking so long)

I bought the van in 2003 and here I am in 2007 and still there is loads of work to do. I had no idea it would take so long. But here is my excuse - my working conditions. Leaf through Practical Classics or watch Salvage Squad and those guys always work in large, dry workshops (with seemingly unlimited budgets and endless experts on tap to help). I spent the first two years working outside in all weathers with minimal tools. First I wrapped the van in a tarp, unwrapped it to work on it, then wrapped it up again (phew).
Then, for something a tiny bit less temporary, I stretched a tarp from my shed to Paul's:

This worked fine in summer but when it got it seemed to a hell of a lot, I'd rush out in the middle of a stormy night to battle against the whipping wind in my sails - my tarp getting torn, me getting soaked and frustrated.

So I thought I'd build a carport:

and use fence panels all around it for shelter

But I found I couldn't afford corrugated roof panels when I needed them, so I ended up using the carport framework as a firm structure to experiment with domes; you need sloping surfaces really if you aren't going to end up with water gathering and then falling in on you. Here you can see how I had to use the van itself to brace the roof at one point!

It was all very frustrating and time-consuming and while I was battling the elements, my van wasn't getting done. Eventually John suggested I extend my workshop at the back. You can just see the space on the right (below).

So in the late Summer of 2004 I dug the footings, poured the concrete and started the blockwork. I couldn't afford the proper blocks and so wanted to use the lighter ones that are normally used internally. Before laying them I laid them down flat and painted them with masony paint, which I let soak in and dry (two coats each). I made little progress because that kind of work needs dry weather so that concrete, mortar and paint can go off - and that summer was incredibly wet! Day after day of rain...and all the time the rented concrete mixer stood idle. I did what I could, when I could and didn't get to pour the concrete floor until the following Spring, finishing the roof that Summer. Incidentally, I have had no problem with those blocks. The workshop is water-tight.

I designed a sliding door from reclaimed front doors running on bogeys in channels...but because there was no channel the right depth, I had to make these myself out of T section aluminium extrusion. The door slides to leave an aperture slightly larger than a standard garage door...plenty of space to let the van out, eventually; though it will take some jiggling to get it round the corner and alongside the shed again - to get it though the gardens to the road.

Concurrently, I had de-mounted the cab onto a rolling jig made from heavyweight dexion and some scrap steel and wheels from a shopping trolley....all reclaimed material....and had completely dismantled the van chassis.

Since this photo was taken I have put the lambretta chopper in a lock-up and cleared the decks so that I have a much tidier, more manageable space. In the Summer I can work with the doors open...great for light. And I have insulation (yes, "reclaimed" foamboards) on the doors in winter. A friendly electrician mate has wired it up and put in commando sockets for my spot welder. I have actually made a hell of a lot of progress on the van in very trying conditions....but now that I have this dry workspace, I am going to step things up a gear.

I have to get a move on. The neighbour I am renting the plot next to the shed from wants it back in a year! Without that plot, I am land-locked!


The following Summer, I went to Iain McKenzie's to learn about shrinking and stretching metal. Click here to read all about it.

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