Monday, February 16, 2015


I literally did the Happy Dance in the middle of Michaels craft store when quite by accident I found this large art tote (I went in there to get my husband a decoupage tool for smoothing air bubbles out of some Dynamat and radiant barrier we were installing in our Interstate's cab above the liner).
Not only does it fit the little folding aluminum table that we find to be indispensable, it also holds two collapsible chairs, and it it is the same style as the folders I picked to hold our Corelle dishes and other kitchen supplies (the two smaller folders slide in on either side of the microwave oven).
Here is the sourcing info.
This tote solves an annoying problem in providing a behind-the-seat storage sleeve for the table and two small folding chairs.
Eureka - I found it!
We tried keeping the table here without a holding device, but every time I would accelerate strongly, it would pitch backwards and slam against the mid-bath wall, making a racket.  With this sleeve and its open handles, I can add a small adhesive hook to keep it from flopping around.  The two outdoor folding chairs are at the bottom of the sleeve, not visible in these photos. 
If you use Michaels coupons (available online - pull them up on your smartphone), then the cost of this art tote is somewhere between $9 and $12.
Michaels also has a lot of other cool organizational stuff - I got these little bins on sale for 99 cents each and hung them from the spice rack bar using Velcro.
As always, this is a noncommercial post presenting personal opinions only.  No retailer has provided any consideration in exchange for being cited.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Much to our exasperation, we recently discovered the same apparent design flaw with our black water tank as took us quite some time to DIY-re-engineer with our gray water tank (see launch page for that project here).
As with the gray water tank, the black water tank's vent had completely separated from the tank.  That aqua blue staining you see around the pipe is toilet treatment having sloshed up and out through the resulting split.  To the adjacent left of this photo is the electrical converter, which is the very last place in the motorhome where one would want to have free water flowing.  Especially black water.  

Furthermore the joint looked... odd.  Like it had been coated up with multiple materials.  
I have no idea how Airstream was trying to attach this pipe or why they were using the method(s) that they did.  
Anyway, this was a pretty quick fix for us specifically because we had spent so much time and effort fixing our gray water tank.  In many respects, it was same "stuff", different day.
As with the gray water tank, the entire pipe assemblage was inflexible, which we believe contributed to the breakage (it should bend, not break).  Here you see a green and black measuring tape holding up the Pex water lines, which were resting on top of the tank.  We didn't want to un-do the lines, so we just worked around them.  My husband is using a large pipe cutter to simply chop out this entire section of pipe.  
Very challenging working conditions, obviously.  On our model of Interstate, the gray water tank is slung beneath the chassis, but the black water tank is located inside, right behind the commode and underneath the refrigerator.  
Here is the scene with the joint section cut away.  
To make a long story short, we cleaned up the port in the black water tank much the same way we had done for the gray water tank, and added the same type of rubber gasket at the join.  And then, because this was simply an air vent that would be relatively insensitive to pipe configuration, we fabbed a repair using common materials, including a flexible splitter.
You would never do this for a liquid connection, but this is just an air vent.  That new section in the middle is made of rubber, which will flex.  Below the PVC pipe spliced in, there is another rubber fitting.  Bend, don't break.  That is our RV mantra.  
So there you have it - yet another P.I.T.A. taken care of.  This time, a rather literal P.I.T.A.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


In Part 1, I described a clothing storage and organization solution constructed out of PVC sewer pipe.  In this post, I describe how I repurposed a portion of a nylon mesh shoe organizer from Container Store to help organize dry goods in our Interstate's overhead galley cabinet.
This is the shoe bag of which I speak.  The pockets were the right dimensions for dry goods storage in a confined space.  I had to wait more than a month to receive it because it was backordered.  It's a good shoe bag and apparently a lot of folks want them.  
And this was the cabinet that I needed to retrofit.  It is located directly above the stove and sink, and is 31 inches wide.  
Close-up of the cabinet, showing its 45-degree rear wall.  Owners of older Interstates and many Airstream trailers have this kind of a slant wall in the back of their upper cabinets.  Newer Interstates have a more squared-off back wall, meaning that the cabinet can accept conventional storage containers such as boxes and baskets.  Triangular cabinets cannot fit such conventional storage containers, and so we need to devise other solutions.  
Instead of fighting the limitations imposed by that 45-degree wall, I wanted to devise a storage system that would work with it.  Repurposing a shoe bag seemed the way to go, as it would create a series of handy pockets into which objects could be inserted, thus taking advantage of the slanted space.

The fabrication sequence for this project is described in the photos to follow.
The nylon shoe bag was four pockets across or 19 inches wide, whereas the cabinet was 31 inches wide.  That meant that a six pocket array would fit best in the space.  
I cut the top row of pockets off the organizer, then cut two more pockets off the bottom row, so that I could attach them side by side in a continuous horizontal array.  I left the largest possible amount of nylon fabric on the top portion as that would need to be turned into a rod sleeve.  Normally when sewing, you'd run your pins perpendicular to the intended seam.  This nylon mesh was too stiff for that, however, so here you see them parallel.   
Notice how I oriented the pins back-end pointing to myself so that I'd be able to pull them out while sewing.  
For the top edge of the shoe pocket array, I used an ordinary adjustable shelf mounting track available at any big-box hardware store.  And I used a hack saw to cut it down to the correct size.  
The idea is to sew a receiving pocket in the top edge of the shoe pocket array, much the same way as you'd sew a pocket in the top of a drapery panel to receive the hanging rod.   
View from farther out, pre-pocket sewing.  You get the idea.  
Close up of the finished pocket.  The piece of shelf track just slides in.  
So that was the fabrication above - now for the installation instructions.
In order to have better access to the work area, I temporarily removed the front facing from the cabinet.  It unscrews on the back.  
I used small screws to first secure the top edge with its metal bracket, and that was straightforward because there were fewer obstructions to the work area.  Getting pilot holes started on the lower edge was a bit of a pain however, because there wasn't much clearance.  I used a variety of pointy objects to create a small hole for the drill bit to grab onto, then drilled pilot holes for the screws.  

And then I also pre-screwed the screws before inserting them through the nylon fabric.  I oped to use a fairly large number of small screws for this project.  That 45 degree panel on the back of this cabinet is very thin plywood, so I did not want a lot of weight hanging from just a few screws.  Furthermore, I know there are utilities running behind that little bulkhead.  I didn't want screw tips to protrude far into the space.  The screws I used were very short, perhaps half an inch.  
The final result, unstuffed (tap to expand the photo).  You can see that the bottom edge is tacked at each seam confluence using the tiny screws.
Final result with goodies inserted.  
I now have a stratified, organized cabinet whereas previously I had a heap of unsortable mess with all of this stuff mixed together at the bottom of the cabinet.
Summary graphic. 
I declare this project a success.  It only took a couple of hours to complete.  And for the twenty bucks I spent on the shoe organizer, I still have eighteen shoe pockets left to repurpose somewhere else.