Tag Archives: projects

Some Projects Are Difficult To Finish Well

Our television antenna quit. We’re not sure it ever really was much good, largely because we aren’t tv watchers. Other than looking for March Madness basketball games or ATP tennis events we don’t look for much from broadcast tv. We just didn’t realize how much less we were receiving than our neighbors.

Folks around us would report receiving dozens of television stations. Our tv would show three or four, five tops. The television antenna is well-separated from our communications antennas, which all work great. Maybe our tv is tired, wants retirement so we can get a sexy widescreen model. Or the antenna amplifier is finished, we’re just not getting signals.

picture of old antenna

Old antenna just doesn’t work

Jim tested the antenna coax line from the power switch (under the dinette) up to the antenna and found good power. Okay, the coax seems good and we’re getting power up to the antenna’s amplifier. Television works great on DVD, cablevision, and on the few broadcast stations. Must be the seven-year old Winegard directional crank-up antenna.

picture of disc antenna

disc antenna for roof mount

We left the issue alone awhile, until we arrived at the Region rally in Atlanta two weeks ago. We saw a couple trailers with the new style tv antennas. Sleek, always ready, omnidirectional, and no taller than the roof air conditioner. Pretty cool. We ordered one and it arrived at Deb’s parents’ house by the time we did.

Picture of antenna base

Removing caulk from around antenna base

Jim picked a nice cloudy day to remove the old antenna. He used a heat gun to soften the old caulk and a 2" putty knife to lift it. The caulk out of the way, he removed the bunch of screws holding down the Winegard antenna. The antenna wouldn't budge — it was securely "glued" down with caulk. Taking a bit longer with the heat gun, Jim warmed the antenna's base while scooting the putty knife under the antenna base from all sides.

Picture of antenna releasing from caulk bondGradually the antenna released from the caulk and lifted off the roof. Now we can clean up the surface.

Picture of cleaning off under the base

Cleaning caulk off roof surface

Another fifteen minutes of warming and gently scraping allowed Jim to remove all the caulk from the antenna location.

Picture of surface prep under new antenna

Preparing surface for new bond

Jim used an adhesive solvent, a scrubby pad, and a piece of terry cloth to completely clean the roof surface and prepare it for mounting another antenna and sealing with new caulk. Before we started full-timing Jim picked up three pieces of 1/16″ X 18″ X 18″ aluminum signs for possible patch pieces.

picture of new patch piece

New piece of aluminum covers old holes

He cut a piece from one of these to create a waterproof patch for the old antenna base location’s two big holes and many little ones. This will seal to the roof surface with self-leveling lap-sealant caulk and olympic rivets 1/2 inch in from the edge and at 2″ spacings. The clean piece of aluminum provides a good mounting surface for the new antenna’s base. Jim used several pop-rivets (pushed into place but not expanded) for locating the patch while laying out the new antenna’s base.

Once everything is layed out, a pencil line traced around the patch, and all the holes drilled, Jim removed the rivets and put the patch aside. A nice fat bead of the caulk 1/2″ in from the pencil line will provide a good waterproof seal for the installed patch.

Picture of control and wires

Helps to label the coax wires


Exterior installation completed, now comes the tough part! A new control plate arrived in the box with the new antenna. Jim carefully moved wires one at a time from the old control to the new one to keep them sorted out. Before attaching the control plate to the wall, Jim hooked up the television and . . . nothing happened. Something still is wrong.

Jim tried bypassing the control plate & amplifier switch. He connected the television directly to the new antenna and received twelve tv stations. He connected the antenna to the amplifier switch with a clean piece of coax cable, and the tv to the output from the control plate, and received eighteen stations. Okay, antenna, amplifier, and television all check out great.

The problem is the coax in the ceiling and wall from the antenna’s roof location to the street-side wall under the dinette. Jim is able to get an intermittent tv signal from this old coax, and the 12vdc seems constant when the amplifier switch is “on”. The coax apparently has a broken center conductor near the control plate end. Tough problem if there isn’t enough spare coax to pull and replace the last few inches.

picture of control plate

new location for amp switch control plate

Our workaround is to install the new control plate close to the antenna, in the front roof locker. This seems a great setup for our trailer for several reasons. We have 12vdc available for the radio and XM receiver, so it’s easy to connect another small load nearby. The antenna is just above this location so the lead-in coax is well under the manufacturer’s recommended max length of 10′.

The control plate includes a connection and adapter for the am/fm radio which is immediately below the control plate — handy! Finally, our number one tv location is on the curbside sofa arm. Guess where this is in relation to the new antenna control plate? Yep, just three feet below it. Shorter coaxial cable runs provide better signal strength (less loss). Our radio and television are now getting wonderful reception. WooHoo!

Temporarily Jim has installed an electrical box to house the control plate above the radio. Easy to reach, easy to connect, and looks okay. Better will be to cut in the control plate in the cabinet box beside the radio faceplate. All the wiring will reside inside the cabinet box, the control plate will not stick out anywhere. Later, later.

If everything had gone right, this project would have been great and Jim would feel like a hero. But this was difficult. The original factory coax turned out faulty, and we don’t know how to pull a new one in its place. This would have been a great project for the pros to do for us. Dan and his team at Capital City Customs know how to address these things better than we do. Their installs we saw at the Region rally are great-looking. Just have to know how to choose our projects better, eh?

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2013 Dreamstreamr

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Our new workshop

One of the joys of having so little stuff is you have less to maintain and more to imagine. When you have a completely furnished workshop you spend part of every visit cleaning it back up again. Sometimes you just go down there and tune up the equipment, tweaking the knives, polishing the milled surfaces.

one of many great workshops at UNLV Physics Lab

And you have the workshop ready to transform ideas into things — a workshop in which to create, modify, and destroy materials. But, once it’s furnished and arranged you are kinda locked into the investment you’ve already sunk. You’re limited in what you can imagine doing to the shop.

Jim borrowed a neighbor’s workshop space yesterday afternoon. It’s very modest, just a small u-shaped area attached to his house. He has a few pieces of equipment, enough to do small woodworking. This served Jim’s purposes perfectly yesterday, just laying out, drilling, and deburring a dozen holes in a 1/8″ piece of aluminum for our fireplace.

Anywhere else Jim would have done this with his 35 year old Black & Decker drill. But he had a choice here. The drill press made it far easier and quicker to do neat work on the anodized aluminum piece. And this got him to thinking about how nice it is to have a place to do stuff like drilling, cutting, shaping, grinding . . .

Now Jim’s dreaming up a workshop of his own. Jim started working, after college, as a carpenter then a maintenance mechanic. One job had him in charge and sole use of a 40′ X 40′ woodworking shop, fully equipped. He knows his way around workshops, and can recall and imagine just how he might arrange one for himself. This is pretty harmless — Jim’s too cheap to spend more than he needs to, and he doesn’t have a place for the stuff right now.


While we’re mobile he doesn’t have any place to put another tool anyway. So he announced to me today he is shopping for a drill press. “Yeah, right, you gonna mount it on the truck’s bumper?”, I said. “Nah, this is for the shop I’ll have when we stop full-timing someday”, he answered. And with Popular Mechanic’s help he’s already figured out the specs for his drill press of the future.

We aren’t accepting an early exit from full-timing, we’re both still enjoying this tremendously. He has plenty of time to dream up the appropriate shop and equipment. But I might be concerned if he finishes the shop plan and starts shopping for a place to put it.

Okay, so a drill press and what else? This could go far, this imagining a workshop. We’re both listmakers, and we enjoy getting ideas onto paper, saving them to pore over later. And of course, the shop probably will become bigger than the house. I wonder if he’ll finish it and start listing projects to do in it, then virtually completing them?

Dream on, baby, have a blast! I get to use the shop too.

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

Golfing in chilly Minnesota

It is 53 degrees outside our trailer this morning! Jim’s looking forward to a morning golf came after the park’s Coffee and Rolls get-together this morning. Brrrr!

We arrived early yesterday afternoon in Clear Lake, Minnesota to the Minnesota Airstream Park. We were greeted at the gate by Beth and Mac, who run the Park’s office. They have been looking out for us for the past two weeks and asking people as they walked in, “Jim and Debbie?” They thought we were to arrive July 5 — we weren’t specific, we didn’t want to be tied down to a date while we explored Wisconsin.

Jim had asked several weeks ago, by email, if we could have a Camping World package sent here and held for our arrival. They graciously agreed and asked when we would arrive. We hadn’t meant to mislead them but we thought we might arrive the week of July 5. We then decided to take our time in Wisconsin and are really glad we did. Well, the package is here and Jim’s pretty excited about it.

Our wonderful Airstream is equipped, as are many RVs, with 110vac to 12vdc converter with a single stage battery charger. This charger constantly applies 13.6 or 13.8 volts to the RV’s batteries, regardless of the batteries’ usage or depletion. When the batteries are fully charged, a good charger should taper off or shut down. Good chargers adapt to this condition with a “float” charge rate. But not ours.

Our Magnetek/Parallax converter-charger will, if not monitored carefully, boil the batteries dry. It applies a constant voltage (and low amperage) to the batteries, regardless of their condition. We know, we’ve seen it happen to previous batteries and have heard countless other people who had the same experience. For the past two years Jim has manually switched the converter-charger on only when needed. Our solar panels provide almost all the 12vdc power we need and occasionally he would use the converter-charger, mostly first thing in the mornings to power the ham radio at 100 watts for long distance chatting.

Our Camping World package is a Progressive Dynamics Intellipower 9260, the most advanced (maybe I should qualify, “and affordable”) converter charger we could find. Great thanks to Beth and Matt Hackney from Georgia for their recommendation of the 9200 series instead of the 9100 series — the 9200 incorporates features you pay extra for in the 9100. This should be a fine improvement to our home, once Jim installs it.

No sooner had we pulled into our site, with friendly and capable help from Mac, than our neighbors walked over to welcome us. Jim and Lois Ryan have been Airstreaming over thirty-five years and spend summers here. Jim invited Jim (that’s right, they can both easily remember each other’s names) to join him for a round of golf on the park’s golf course and offered Jim use of his second pull cart.

We finished leveling and then connecting the utilities and she fixed us a wonderful lunch. Soon the Jims walked to the nine hole short course and met two of Jim Ryan’s buddies at the first tee. The golf course is nice and very compact with all but two fairways straight as an arrow and lengths varying from 84 yards to 223 yards. This is a relaxing way to play golf!

Jim has at least two big projects for our stay in Minnesota Airstream Park. Hopefully golf will allow him enough time to get these done too.