Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shelby Update: New Window and Solar Panels Setbacks

Can you believe we purchased Shelby back in September? It seems like we should be done by now, right? I'm sure many of you wonder what in the hell in taking us so long? Well I'll give you an idea today. A little, maybe too long, rant of frustrations with carpentry and unknowledgeable sales people. 

When we first started Shelby, I don't think I'd ever even set foot in a vintage camper trailer. I'm sure I saw one or two when I was a kid, but I have never known anything about them until the few months before we purchased her in South Carolina. I'd always been cautioned by friends, telling me they're a bad investment, expensive parts, yadda yadda yadda. Well, I'm a very handy person, and there are very few things I can not tackle when my mind is made up that I'm going to do something. Matt and I decided this was next for Sally Ann. A mobile boutique. The research on campers and the hunt began on Craigslist until we found this beauty.

We decided when we sat down and made plans of her interior, that she would be solar powered. It is very important to me that this mobile is 100% self sufficient. Then came the research into solar power. Another thing we knew nothing about. I was told that a nearby hardware store was perfect, and sold the panels I was looking for at a reasonable price. Harbor Freight had 3, 15 watt panels, and the entire kit was $189. Not bad and within our budget. 

Since purchasing these panels, almost two months ago, we've wracked our brains on how to attach them, how to wire the interior just right and hide the wires, what point to bring the exterior wires into the camper to reduce future water problems, you get the idea. There was a lot to work out with this tiny little thing, more than you can imagine. 

To make a long story short, I've encountered the worst customer service from this hardware store in terms of leading me in the right direction. They told me a few different ways to mount the panels before I realized these idiots at the store actually sell specific hardware to mount the very kit I bought, and they attach in a completely different way than what we had been planning to do for months! Phew. So finally, a sigh of relief, we have the proper mounting brackets. But wait, it gets better...

Matt and I got up bright and early on Saturday to work on Shelby. We get out entire work station set up outside, Matt wires the foundation for the sconces, I get out the solar panels. I open up the brackets from their package. But they won't work... why? The screws that come with the mounting brackets that are MADE for these panels are too short! Low and behold, another screw up from the company that manufactured this product.  I was so close to taking the panels, the brackets, and the entire kit back to the hardware store where I purchased everything. Ugh! Next step, I have to cross my little splintered fingers and hope I can find screws the perfect length, thread, and size to go through the brackets and panels. Too short and they won't stay on when going down the road. Too long and I could over tighten and crack a panel. 

Lesson learned: don't shop at Harbor Freight or any such hardware store! I try to call the company, the customer service line says to email them, and the website says to call them. Even the website is sending me in circles, just like their sales staff.

My friend that has been our main guide in the project, Trent, reassured me yesterday that he has thousands of screws in his shop, and also a tool and dye kit that we can make the screws if we have to. "We'll make it work," he said. But I did accomplish quite a few things last week. A new window in place of the access panel. 

And end rant. If only I could devote all my time to finishing this project, and other work wasn't on my plate. It's hard to divide time between sewing, working, Shelby, bartending, and all other house work. My best friend gets married this weekend, and after all is said and done with the wedding, I will start planning the paint job, and *cross YOUR fingers*, she'll be painted sometime next week.

We're at that tricky stage where things have to fall into the correct order of operations in order to move onto the next step. We need Shelby painted before we can permanently mount the panels, the panels need to be mounted before we finish the ceiling, the ceiling needs to be up before we finish the side and back walls, and the walls all need to be done before we build benches and install fixtures. Then water based polyurethane and BAM. New door attached and she is ready for the road! 

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  1. Wow, she's really coming along! Great work and congratulations on the progress! So exciting. :)

  2. Keep at it girl and don't get frustrated. Just like my sewing projects, you're making progress. Slowly but surely.

    1. That's what I keep trying to tell myself. One step at a time. And it'll be worth it to do it the right way :)

  3. Looks like you made a lot of good progress! That's a pretty big project to take on.

    Not too much longer though! You'll be done before you know it. :)