Sunday, September 28, 2014

Custom Range Vent

Several people on the Casita Forum have modified, eliminated, or created totally new range vents. Reviewing some of their designs, I decided to go with 12 volt computer cooling fans mounted to a removable canted face plate. Initial plan was to build an aluminum box but it's been years since I last worked with aluminum and managed to make my second bend the wrong direction, ruining the stock.

I was too lazy to drive back to Phoenix for more aluminum, so I switched to wood so it would match the birch interior. I started with solid wood for front rails that would hold the face plate and the filter.

The face plate is a piece of 1/4" Baltic birch with three 3" holes. Originally, I was going to use two fans but when one from the first order via the slow boat from China arrived broken, I ordered two more expensive ones fulfilled directly from Amazon. With the drag from the filter and the exhaust door, I decided a third fan would be good insurance.

I used 1/8" Baltic birch for the rest of the box. In retrospect, it would have been much easier to use a single piece of solid wood for the entire top and entire bottom instead of just for the front rails.

By the time I added pieces of 3/4 x 3/4 to the back edge for the mounting screws, it was just as heavy and slower to make than if I'd used solid wood.

By offsetting the rabbet for the front face from the dado for the filter, I was able to get enough clearance so the complete fan assembly can be demounted from the vent housing.

I used a trim-to-fit filter kit. Initially, I thought I would design the box around a standard filter size, but I couldn't find any that were easily available and small. The plastic edges are cut to length with a razor knife. The aluminum mesh cuts easily with scissors.

The fan box is mounted using longer screws through the exterior vent flange and the trailer wall into the back of the fan box. The on/off switch is mounted on the right hand side of the vent.

While we were at it, we added an aluminum back splash, held in place by the various pieces of wood trim.

With the three fans, the unit draws about 7 watts according to the Doc Wattson meter.

If all goes as planned, we'll be somewhere downstream of Bowknot Bend on the 4th day of our 12 day Green River trip when this post publishes.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Alaska, Quickly

Our son and his family bought a travel trailer a couple months ago. I was going to install a Doc Wattson in it a couple weeks ago to track power usage when off the grid. Travel day northbound turned out be be beautiful! Clear skies all the way from Phoenix to Seattle.

The trip plans changed when the meter arrived from Amazon with a cracked LCD. I decided to take advantage of my schedule and some open seats to see the family and check out the trailer even if I couldn't install the meter this time.

I caught Jeff's flight out of Seattle. Cloud cover started about Prince Rupert, but the mountains were sticking out as we got closer to Anchorage.

Given some of the grandson's schedule constraints (school, hockey, etc.), they decided to stay at a state park close to town.

The kayak and canoe livery was still open which sort of surprised me. If I'd been thinking, I would have brought some paddling clothes...

The trees were starting to show some fall color.

Spencer is quite the expert marshmallow roaster. He only burnt one.

He's also a qualified expert S'mores tester!

I did get a chance to watch his last pre-season game against a minor team in the age bracket above his team. Always fun to watch. Leaves me wondering where he got his hockey genes.

After the short visit, I caught Jeff's flight back to Seattle and then on to Phoenix. Time to get another Scamp project done and get packing for the Green River trip.

If all goes as planned, we'll be on the first day of our 12 day, 100 mile Green River trip when this post publishes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weird Weather

The citrus are running a couple months ahead of schedule this year. The orange tree is loaded - looks like it's going to be a bumper crop, but I expect they'll be ripe before Thanksgiving instead of after the new year.

The lemons are started turning from deep green to yellow. It looks like they'll be done before the Quartzsite Gathering in February. We may not have free lemons to pass out at the Gathering this coming year.

The Mexican limes are already dropping on the ground. BJ picked up 15 of them yesterday.

This morning she was busy making a lime meringue pie. I'm trying hard to leave it alone until after dinner.

We've been getting the tail end of a couple hurricanes off of Baja California. The first one resulted in historic rainfall which wasn't a major deal at our house but had some neighborhoods with several feet of water in their houses. The second one was a non-event for the majority of the Phoenix area.

The biggest impact for us has been the increased rains in Utah where the Green River has seen a couple cycles of unusually high (for the season) levels which will mean we'll likely have mosquitoes during our trip.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Over the years, I've considered various methods of installing shocks on the Scamp. At one time, Monroe made a bolt-on kit that used U-bolts to clamp the lower mount to the trailing arm of the torsion axle. Recently, Orbital Machine Works created a beautiful bolt-on kit for Casita trailers using the Dexter axle. It wasn't going to be a direct fit for the Scamp, but...

Orbital's lower mount attaches to the brake backing plate retaining studs. I installed the lower mount at the same time that I upgraded the trailer brakes.

The shoulder bolt that ships with the Monroe 555003 RV shocks was going to create a tire clearance issue if left unmodified.

A cutting wheel made short work of the excess length. Turns out, I could have cut off even more but I have the clearance I need.

I did substitute nyloc shear nuts (thin) for the lock washer and regular nut that came with the shoulder bolt.

The lower brackets would have fit fine with the standard brakes. I had a bit of clearance problem between the bracket and the different recess on the right hand Dexter Nev-R-Adjust brake that I installed (but not on the left side.) Nothing a little time with the grinder couldn't take care of although it hurt to grind away that blue powder coat.

The bracket was mounted with nyloc shear nuts that were provided with the lower brackets. There was quite a conversation on the Casita Forum* about the use of shear nuts and thread engagement. For me it was a non-issue since the bracket interface to the studs is only in shear.

*This link will not work if you're not a Casita Forum member - sorry:-(
Since it was going to require custom fabrication to use Orbital's bolt-on upper mount that was designed (and works wonderfully) with the Casita, I elected to weld upper brackets.

After measuring three times,

I had Cliff's weld the grade 8 bolt to 1/4" plate and then weld the resulting mount to the frame while they were doing the 2" lift.

I was relieved to see that I had done my calculations the way I intended. I have about 1/4" of compression on the shocks with no load on the axle.

I added two washers along with Monroe's supplied spacer on the lower mount shoulder bolt.

There's over 1/2 inch clearance on the upper mount as well. There's more clearance on the left hand installation since Scamp didn't center the axle between the frame rails. It's actually offset to the left by about 1/4 inch.

This bracket is oriented incorrectly
Done! Two inch lift, Nev-R-Adjust brakes, and a semi-custom shock installation. A big thanks to Jim at Orbital Machine Works for the "what-if" correspondence and the willingness to sell individual components from their Casita kit.

I'm expecting big improvements but haven't taken it out for a long test drive yet. There's a river calling me...

This bracket is oriented correctly
Update: September 20, 2014

I got an e-mail from Jim at Orbital Machine Works after he looked at this post noting I'd installed the lower mounts on opposite sides from their intent. The gussets on the lower mount should be nearly vertical rather than nearly horizontal. Switching plates from side to side didn't change the location of the lower shock attach bolt but DID resolve the slight clearance problem I'd had and got the gussets oriented to oppose the shock stress as designed. Big thanks to Jim for his helpful response!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stand Tall

One of the first things we did when we got our Scamp in July 2010 was to remove half of the factory 3" lift. The way it was built, it was easy to remove 1.5 inches, leaving us with garage door clearance for the canoe rack that I'd designed. Now, with questions of a newer tow rig, I needed more lift to allow for adequate bed rail clearance on newer trucks. Meanwhile, the canoe rack has been removed.

In prepping for the 2" lift (giving me 3.5" total), I was looking closely at the axle mounting brackets. The angle that is welded to the frame was developing cracks near the bend. Suddenly, a simple lift job as going to be more work involving new axle mounting brackets.

Although I can occasionally run an acceptable weld bead, any time it involves vertical work or something that really matters, I get out the checkbook and head for Cliff's. They specialize in hitch installation and trailer related work.

They fabricated new axle attachments from pieces of heavy angle iron, and stacked a piece of 1 1/2" x 2" tube as a spacer for the lift.

I was surprised to see that they welded a 6" plate on the outside of the frame, but it will certainly keep the spacer tube from any possibility of rolling.

That helps. Two inches less constraint for fitting a different tow rig if we ever pull the trigger on a new/er truck. While they were welding, I had them weld in upper shock mounts as well so that I can finish up that project.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stop It!

I'm going to put an additional 2" lift under the Scamp which means I'll need to relocate the wiring for the electric brakes. I need to pack the wheel bearings, and I'll have the nuts for the brake backing plate off while I install lower shock mounts, so I figured with nearly 30,000 miles on the original brakes, now was the time to install new Dexter Nev-R-Adjust brakes.

It's always fun when boxes of parts for Scamp upgrades arrive. has been my go-to source for brakes, wheel seals, etc. since we bought our first (and short lived) trailer.

While the axle is a 3500 lb. Al-Ko, the Dexter brakes are a direct replacement. The Nev-R-Adjust brakes are a bit more than the standard brakes, but the assemblies are cheaper than buying individual parts so it makes it easy.

With the wheel nuts loosened, I got the trailer jacked up and sitting on jack stands just behind the wheels.

The backing plates are formed differently. the original Al-Ko brake is on the left, the new Dexter brake is on the right. Mounting studs are the same.

It was quick work to mount set the brake assemblies in place. The ring and cable near the rear shoe is part of the automatic adjuster function. Like the standard brakes, there is a left and a right sided assembly. Make sure the correct one goes in each position.

When I wired these brakes, I left enough slack so that a two inch riser can be inserted above the axle mount bracket. I moved the ground lug off of the bottom of the frame so that it won't be in the way when the new riser is welded in place.

Wire splices were done with weather resistant crimp connectors with the glue and shrink sleeves.

The new brakes have two adjuster slots. You need to order the plugs separately. They do not come with the brake assemblies.

I'm real pleased with the new brakes. Don't have many miles on them yet, but what I do have has been all stop & go city streets.