Monday, June 2, 2014

Finally, some progress!

I apologize for taking so long to update. After a long winter, it would seem that the easiest way to get LOTS of things accomplished is to bring the trailer home, for a three day weekend. Over Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to put a significant dent into the galley.

First off, we decided that we were never going to use the stove/range. We did want a cook top but never had any plans to use the oven. So, why have that even in the camper? On top of that, it wasn't hooked up (due to the previous owner not wanting to go through the inspection process). So, I removed it last Fall. It's pretty heavy to boot.

Additionally, I was not happy with the air conditioning set-up and small dorm refrigerator that was at the opposite end of the galley. The A/C will be relocated to the other (curb) side of the trailer, in the closet, while a bar-type fridge will be used in place of the dorm-style fridge that came with the Tepee.

To make room for the bar-type fridge (which is a little wider and twice as tall), I needed to shift the galley frame work 2 inches to the rear (or left, in the pictures) of the trailer. As illustrated below, colored arrows 1, 2 & 3 (yellow & red) indicate where I cut out 2 inch sections of the frame. Now I had room for the new fridge, had a new storage location (where the stove used to be) and still had enough room to install a cook-top, in the counter top, without interference from the frame.

The stove back stop is sitting dead center in the image, as indicated with a purple triangle shaped symbol. That was discarded.

Kasey decided that, while she likes the golden color of the exposed wood interior, the galley needed to be brightened. So, the framing got a coat of pale green and the doors/drawers painted white. Also, all of the door/drawer pulls were replaced with new. They have a nickle finish with pale green glass, to match the the paint.

Air conditioner; after doing quite a bit or research, we decided not to relocate the existing A/C unit. It would require us to punch a hole, in the side of the trailer to exhaust the heat, as well as install a roof vent to provide air to cool the coils.

So, we opted to look into a portable air conditioner. These units use evaporative cooling to keep the condensate to a minimum and recirculate air throughout the trailer. They do exhaust hot air but that only requires one opening in the trailer skin; through the roof. I can handle a roof vent and I can handle a condensate drain. I don't much like a 10" x 17" opening in the side of my trailer (which would blow hot air on us as we sat under the awning).

If you read on-line reviews, you'll notice that the main complaint, two actually, is the noise of these units. Most folks can't deal with them in a bedroom (where they're most popular) because they're unable to sleep through the sound. Additionally, they don't like having to drain the condensate tank so often (hence the reason I'm going to pipe a drain). There are a few reviews that actually mention decibel levels. Most units are 50+ dBA which can be pretty noisy. We were hoping to find a unit in the upper 40s. On a lark, we stopped at one of our local appliance retailers. Naturally, they did not have floor units so we couldn't listen to them run. So, Kasey played "good customer" while I decided to be difficult (jerk customer). The manager eventually allowed us to buy the unit and then unpack it and plug it in, in to test it. If we weren't happy with the noise, we could immediately void the sale. We chose a quiet location near the back of the store. We were impressed by how quiet it was and subsequent on-line research listed it at 46 dBA. On top of that, it was quite a bit less expensive than the other two units we were considering. We chose this: Haier HPRB08XCM. We plan to test it's noise level, again, in our bedroom, before we install it in the trailer. That way, if it does turn out to be too loud for sleeping, it can go back. However, I think that GE window unit may find itself listed for sale soon.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Long Winter

It was my hope that I would be able to make some progress during the winter months. The place where the camper is being stored not only has excellent covered (unheated) storage but also has a heated area. Graciously, the owner of the facility let me know that he would be happy to move the Tepee into that warmed area if I was going to drive up to do some work. Well, with the amount of snow (5th snowiest, so far) and cold that we've had, I just don't feel like making the 45-60 minute commute to get in 6 hours, or so, of work in on a Saturday. So, I've decided to waiting until the weather warms up some. I haven't abandoned the thought of blogging about my changes, they're just being put on hold for another month or so.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Galley Demolition

First up on the Project list is to renovate the galley. here's how it looked when the previous owner refurbished it:

On the left is the original stove (or, I think it's the original stove based on pictures of other canned ham trailers from the early 60s). Under the stove is what appears to be storage. Open that door and you're confronted with the wheel well. There's not much room in there for much of anything. In the center section is the sink and two drawers. The door at the bottom, like the one next to it, has the remainder of the wheel well as well as the electronic connections for the refrigerator and A/C unit. On the right is the air conditioner over the college dorm room sized fridge. While it's nice to have air conditioning, the associated ducting eats up a lot of space. And, that fridge is too small for our needs.

The sink has two faucets; the left one is for direct hook-up to water service (like at a camp ground with facilities) and the right one has a built-in pump for use with a fresh water tank (which I will need to obtain).

At some point, the original title was lost and the trailer was re-titled and given a Kentucky Vehicle Identification Number. I'm under the impression that the original VIN may be buried under layers of paint on the trailer tongue. However, the previous owner said that he tried to uncover it, to no avail. At this point, if I do discover the VIN, I am not going to try to re-title the trailer. The person at the DMV said it would be a waste of my time. I'm inclined to agree.

As part of the re-titling, Kentucky required an inspection and certification process. Part of the inspection is done by local Fire Department personnel. I'm a little fuzzy on the reasoning but the FD inspector highly suggested that the stove and propane lamp be disconnected. So, the trailer came with a non-operational stove and propane lamp. It does have a 20 lb. propane bottle that is not connected to anything, it just rides on the tongue. The soft copper gas lines are in-place, just disconnected.

The stove will be replaced with a cook top and the area below converted to kitchen storage. So, I will be connecting the propane bottle to the cook top and, if I can find the parts, I may (re)connect the propane lamp, too.

The small fridge will be replaced with a larger unit. And, I will swap locations of the air conditioner and the fridge. In this manner, the top of the fridge will be higher than the counter top while the air conditioner will sit such that it can drain (condensate) and vent better (wait until you see the support structure behind the a/c and fridge).

Remove the Stove - pretty simple as it was just sitting there. I picked it up and took it out:

You can clearly see the soft copper propane line above the wheel well. You can also see some electrical cords and the plumbing lines for the sink. I will most likely sell the stove but need to determine if it works. That shouldn't be too hard to do.

Next, I simply pulled the air conditioner from its slot in the galley:

It's a little hard to determine the orientation of things here but I'll try to explain; the back of the a/c unit vents warm air (from inside the trailer). The square-ish hole to the right is actually the top of the exhaust vent shaft. The hot air is then blown down and outside under the trailer. Cool outside air is drawn in from the far right and above that exhaust plenum. At the very bottom of the picture, you can see the exhaust vent shaft (right) and the supply air hose (silver, to the left). The black stuff you see is Flex-Seal (that stuff you can spray on the inside of gutters to stop them from leaking). That's a (pitiful) attempt to seal the plywood shelf from condensate damage. There was also about three tubes worth of clear silicone caulk on every possible wooden angle joint, in an effort to keep water from leaking into the galley. We'll be using a galvanized metal drip pan and galvanized duct work to properly handle exhaust air and any condensate.

The fridge was also just sitting in place. I pulled that out revealing the rest of the ducting for the a/c:

On the left is (cool) 'supply' air ducting. A bathroom vent fan, that blows air in, from under the trailer, is just out of the shot, to the left. On the right is the exhaust air duct which vents hot air out. The intake and exhaust 'ports' are less than 12 inches apart. That needs to be addressed.

Here's a shot of the vent fan and associated electrical connections for the fan, fridge and a/c. The wheel well is quite intrusive:

Time for the counter top and sink to be removed:

This was pretty simple because I only had to disconnect the faucet on the left (one compression fitting), the sink drain (one hose clamp) and two wood screws (that held the counter top down - one by each front corner of the sink).

Counter top removed:

Now, I need to disconnect the framework from the back wall. Interestingly, there are nails that come through, from the outside, that hold the framework. I'll need to use one of those hacksaw blade holders to cut the nails and staples from between the frame and the wall.

Some of those nails were pretty big.....

I didn't take any pictures while cutting nails and staples. For the most part, that hacksaw blade holder worked pretty well. Of course if you have a reciprocating saw, that's the better tool to use. The removed support structure is on the left with the top pointed toward you. The top of the exhaust plenum is at the bottom and the rear (unused) counter top brackets are visible (on the 1 x 2 wood that's pointing toward the ceiling).

Here, you can plainly see the Flex-Seal that was sprayed on in an effort to waterproof the paneling. The rectangular hole, in the back corner, is the exhaust port in the floor.

The air supply fan sat on the plywood curb attached to the floor. That hole is currently covered by some thin sheet metal (to keep animals out).

The coiled soft copper line is the propane line to the stove (soon to be cook top). The grey hose is the sink drain and the soft copper line that's back against the wall is the supply tube for the faucet. There currently isn't any line for the pump faucet (nor is there a fresh water tank, yet).

The wheel well is clearly visible and you can see it's a space hog. That green thing, to the left of the water supply line, is the "fuse box". It's one thirty (30) amp fuse that feeds the 120 volt light fixtures in the trailer. The electrical supply for the a/c and fridge (the power strip) went through the circular hole in the floor (above the fan curb). We'll be pretty much switching everything over to 12 volt with the exception of the a/c unit. In this manner, we can run off of 120 volt power or 12 volt battery.

Update: my wife was kind enough to forward her drawing for what the galley will look like, when complete:

Stay tuned for more.

Hello Canned Ham

Hi All,

My wife and I purchased (1 Sept. 2013) a 1962 Broken Arrow Tepee camping trailer. Follow along as we make modifications and repairs to our new toy! After a lot of tent camping, we've decided that we needed something that gets us off the ground, provides a little more padding and a little more protection from the elements. At the same time, we didn't want to transition ourselves into something that's basically a living room on wheels. We kicked wound the idea of building a tear drop trailer but, in the end, decided that was a little too cramped. After discovering the Tin Can Trailer FB group, a "canned ham" trailer seemed like the best option (for us). A quick search across the internet connected us with a couple in central Kentucky that happened to have what we were looking for. We had already planned a trip to Bourbon Country - The American Bourbon Trail. So, we picked up the trailer on the first day of our vacation, south of Bardstown KY. Over the next week, we visited almost every distillery along the Trail and then headed home.

I quickly re-discovered how important it is to have the trailer loaded properly. It didn't take much (a 10 lb. bag of tools) to make a difference. I moved the tool bag from the rear of the trailer to the front and the slight "dog walking" ceased. Then, just south of Indianapolis IN, the trailer lights decided to ground themselves and burned up two fuses (one for the brake lights and one for the turn signals). Fortunately, we were within a couple of miles of a Walmart. After installing replacement fuses and purchasing a set of "tow lights". We were back on the road.

There isn't much information available on this trailer. Internet searches have turned up little on the Broken Arrow Mobilhome Mfg., Inc. or the Tepee model. I do believe there was a larger model called the WigWam. The trailers manufactured by Broken Arrow should not be confused with the Tee Pee camper trailer that was manufactured in Canada (they look very different). I have seen a '63 Tepee posted, for sale, on the internet. The look is identical, except for slightly different aluminum skin.

I was a little disappointed with the poor fuel economy while towing (current tow vehicle is a 2001 Ford Escape with 3.0 liter V6). After turning the A/C off, fuel economy improved dramatically. The search is underway for something larger and more fuel efficient (VW Toureg diesel, Toyota High Lander hybrid, Ford Edge, etc.). The tow vehicle also doubles as my wife's work vehicle. Her business is growing and she's pretty much outgrown the Escape (and, it's 12 years old).

As I mentioned, the trailer does not need major restoration/repair. However, we will be renovating the galley, making the front window movable (again), updating the electrics, adding a fresh water tank, inspecting/greasing the hub bearings and getting new wheels and tires.

At some point, I will need to address an interior panel that has water damage and deal with some rot in the floor support rails. Those two items are probably slated for next Winter (2014-15).

Our trailer is stored about thirty miles from our house. As you can imagine, that makes for trips that must be well planned and a little infrequent. So, posting may be limited to weekly to two-week intervals. I'll be happy to post pictures and provide as much detail as I can. Feel free to ask questions, I'll answer as best I can or point you in the direction of those who know. I do not seem to have a picture of the entire trailer. I'll get one up ASAP.


So, after several years of tent camping, it seemed like a good idea to get off of the ground and get a hard shell around us. We have nothing against tents, and will continue to carry one along with us, even when we take the trailer, but the amenities of a camper trailer are simply far greater than any tent (at least it is for us).

So, we started out by investigating tear drop trailers. While they can be purchased, it's better to build your own (unless you simply don't have the skills, tools and space needed to do so). Building your own allows you to configure it in a manner best suiting you (since you're pretty limited by space anyways). Well, after a lot of research, it would appears as if a tear drop was a little too much like a tent. You are off of the ground, there is a hard shell but you're still at the mercy of the elements when it comes to cooking and eating.

We sifted through a LOT of on-line trailer ads. We looked at ads that were selling  new, recent and vintage trailers. Some of the ads were so old that the trailer had been sold for months. Replies to some ads went unanswered. Some ad posters did not have any idea how to post, or even email, pictures. I don't know about you but I'm not driving hours to see something that may be a disaster (it could be a gem, too).

Then, my wife stumbled on the Tin Can Trailers Facebook page. These looked very cool, especially since they're vintage. We already had a capable tow vehicle (Ford Escape with 3.0 liter V6) so we just needed to decide if we were in for a full restoration, a partial refurbishment or a camp-ready trailer. We opted for the partial refurbishment. In all honesty, the trailer we purchased, a 1962 Broken Arrow Tepee, is camp-ready but does need some refurbishment due to its age and some leaks that it had. We'll get to that in future posts.

In the mean time, here's what a '62 Broken Arrow Tepee looks like. Most of the images are courtesy of the former owners. Broken Arrow Mobilhome must have only been in business for a few years. I can find nothing, on-line, concerning the company. I have seen a '63 Tepee posted for sale, in Yucca, CA. That trailer looks very similar, on the outside, to this one. There is a slight difference in the skin, with two different patterns being used. I have no idea how long they were made or how many were sold. If you have any information, please let me know. Additionally, there's a Canadian Company, Safe-Way (I think) that sold a model called a "Tee Pee". Obviously, they're not the same manufacturer and the trailers look quite a bit different (as you would expect). I have seen reference to another Broken Arrow trailer, called a WigWam, that's bigger than a Tepee. I've never seen an image though.


Here we are, at the gas station, after picking it up in central Kentucky:


We obviously have a spectacular starting platform. But, we already have identified a litany of things we'd like to change to make it "ours". Some are major undertakings, some are not. Regardless, I'll do my best to illustrate the process as we go. Feel free to ask questions. We live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The trailer is stored off-site and a pretty good distance from home. So, updates will be infrequent, unfortunately. However, we're shooting to meet some long-lost friends at the Vintage Trailer gathering, in the Smokey Mountains, in May 2014. So, there will be plenty of posts illustrating any, and all, changes..