Fiamma F65 Awning 2

I went to put the awning on and found I need to take the interior roof panels out first. I’m not quite ready to do that because I still need to make my templates for the bunk supports and I want to be ready to wire in the lights. I did fit the brackets in place to see how they will mount.

They fit really well in the slot for the factory roof rail and it looks like they’ll be sufficiently stable to bolt my solar panels to as well.

What I don’t like is that the metal bracket is designed to sit directly on the roof. I feel this will chafe over time and rust my roof. Since I’ve got some time before I can install the awning, I ordered some 1/8″ neoprene to act as a gasket between the metal bracket and roof.

Check the width of the contact surfaces to get the right width neoprene. My choices were 1″ or 2″, so I went with the 2″. One roll should be plenty to secure the awning and solar panels.

I’ll put bolt through the neoprene sandwich and then squirt Dicor 501 over the whole thing. That should provide a permanent water-tight seal.

Fiamma F65 Awning

Last summer we took the Van out to Mt Rushmore. There was one stop in particular just North if Salt Lake City where we stopped at a bird preserve to have lunch. We were the only ones there, so we got out EZ up out and camp stove and made ramen for lunch. This stop and the pains involved in setting up that lunch have become what defines what we want in our van build. Basically what would enable us to stop and quickly prepare lunch without a lot of setup and tear down. We want to be able to eat and get back on the road without having to feed the kids fast food.

Step 1: Awning

After lots of looking around the Fiamma F65 seemed the best fit. The base model seems to be a solid unit and there’s lots of opportunity for expansion later on.

I found Panther RV through a Google search and called them up. Their price was good and they said it would take about a week to ship depending on when their next shipment arrived. A month lather, I get a super long wooden crate.

Inside that crazy long wooden box was one nearly as long cardboard box and one short box.

Yesterday I also received the front seat pivots from Norther Tool.

These aren’t made for the Sprinter, so I’ll have to do some fab work. One customer said he was able to make a mount for his Sprinter with not too much trouble.

Solar Install 2

Today I got going right after we got back fro TKD class. I got the wires cut for on j box and quickly realized it was really pointless to continue without the fittings I ordered fro Mouser. The water tight strain reliefs for the ground wire and optimizer wires. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with our mailman and met him on his route. Upon opening the package, I found the ground strain reliefs were 3/8 thread and neither type had moisture seals. I headed to Lowe’s. I found the threaded bushings I needed to increase the size to 3/4, but no o-rings :(. To Home Depot. With fittings, bushings and o-rings now in-hand, I returned home 2 hours later. The difference was that now I truly had everything and the j-boxes went together fast.

Above: Ground strain relief with reducer bushing, o-ring and nut. I didn’t need the nut after all and had to take them all off.

The optimizer strain relief with o-ring and nut. Also ended up taking off the nut. Oh well.

5 sets ready to go up on the roof.

First j-box done! Notice the ground wire has a mid-strip. This is actually the second sub array from the end. It just happened to be the first I finished. The nice thing about the power optimizer is that they reduce the voltage down to 1 Volt each under no load. That means this sub-array only had 3 volts, so I can handle the bare wire. Made things a lot easier.

PV cables entering the j-box.

I finished both sub-arrays on the first floor and the j-box that joined them together before going up the wall to the second story.

Pulled the wire up to the last j-box and ran out of black! Not sure how that happened as I still had enough green wire to reach the ground and I bought the same amount. Well at least it reached the j-box with enough to tie into the PV cables.

After running out of cable, I headed down to the ground to open up the wall for the connection from the cutoff switch to the main panel. Lots of hammering.

Solar Install

DIY solar seems to be a perfect match for me. The designer at Go Green Solar did the panel layout and it looked fine to me. As I discovered, the problem was that the panels were later out in several sub-arrays on my roof to try and capture the best sunlight. Why is this a problem. Conduit. I had to run sooo much extra conduit. This was, by far, the most time consuming part of the entire project.

The Quick Mount PV flashing/mounts for panels and conduit did make the job of putting everything on the roof easier.

Go Green Solar didn’t provide the roof penetration flashing

I ended up getting the conduit mounts here

Tail Rib Jigs and HStab Rib

The last couple nights I’ve spent an hour here and there making the flange jigs for the horizontal stabilizer ribs and sanding the rough cut ribs to match the blue prints.

I used white glue on the first jig and it worked ok. The Gorilla Glue recommended was really the best and I glued all the rest of the jigs using that.

I used 2″ staples to hold the foam in place while drying.

After measuring, I found the 8 layers of duct tape put the flange spacing right at 5/16″, so I used 8 layers on all jigs.

The ribs sanded very easy, so I used 150 grit sandpaper to shape them. It was a. It slower, but easier to control so there was no oversanding. The results were quite satisfying and easy to achieve.

HRIB4 with angle sanded on the end to match the sweep of the hstab leading edge. On right and one left.

Cutting Tail Parts

Tonight I layed out the long H Stab and V Stab parts and got them glued down and cut out all the parts. Time, about 2 hours.

I just loosely cut out this template in the interest of time and it actually ended up making it easier to see the line when I was cutting them out.

All the parts for a complete horizontal and vertical stabilizer. They just need to be sanded to match each other so my wing surfaces are nice and flat and symmetrical.

Tae Kwon Do Testing

Today Jett went for his Tiger Brown and Journey went for her senior green belts. 


Jett was one of the best in the class. He kept his fighting under control and was able to do everything easily.

Journey did well in her form, but struggled with her contact skills. In sparring she was aggressive, but wasn’t using advanced striking.

Welder Upgrade

I’ve owned a Lincoln Weldpack 100 for some time now. Since day 1 I have always wished it could be a MIG welder. Inner shield is cheap and can make good welds. But comes at a price. It’s basically stick welding, so it’s messy. But if you do it right the slag falls off and a shiny weld is what’s underneath. Then you spend the next 10 minutes cleaning off you part. No longer! 

A peak under the hood of my welder reveals a 115v solenoid! I found this key complement on Amazon for $14.

My $14 solenoid valve with air fittings attached.

Parts list:

110v 60hz gas solenoid – Amazon, $14

1/4″ clear tube – Lowes about $1

1/4 bard x 1/4NPT – Lowes $5

1/4 NPT Brass street elbow – Lowes $5

1/4″ spade crimp connectors – free from my spare parts stock

Tiny hose clamps – free from spare parts stock

0.030″ contact tip – internet 12pack $5

1/2″ Gas nozzle –  internet $2

Screws for gas solenoid – free spare stock

CO2 regulator – Harbor Freight $27, this one sucked. Get it from Amazon for less and buy the adapter

I started by crimping my spade connectors to the solenoid. Then I used a paper to make a rubbing of the mounting bolt pattern on the solenoid.

I used a center punch to transfer than to the back of the welder case.

After the holes were drilled, I dug around in my spare bolts for 2 that fit and attached the solenoid. I then marked and drilled the hole for the gas inlet with a step drill.

I attached the spade connectors to the control board and hooked up the gas in and out lines. I also had to reverse the positive and ground leads to the gun. 

Hooked up the regulator and replace the wire, contact tip and gas nozzle. Done.