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Monday, July 24, 2017

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Finishing Up Propane Stove Installation

Steve has a dentist appointment later this afternoon, so this morning he decided we should get going with the stove installation.

He removed the braces between all three drawers. It was pretty easy with a hint from fellow Safari owner Wille whom also removed his drawers. Behind each cross piece it was held into place with two screws so they were pretty easy to remove and pop out of the way along with the drawer slides.

He left the topmost cross piece of wood in place to help support the countertop as he makes his cuts. That piece will come out last.

Next, Steve turned off the propane at the tank and totally drained out the propane line by running the burners until it burned off all the existing fumes.

He carefully untethered the cooktop from the copper propane line and also unplugged it from the 120v outlet for the electric igniters. From underneath, he removed two brackets and was able to lift the cooktop right out. We are saving it for a fellow Safari owner who would like to get it after his vacation is over. So it can stow away in the garage for now.

Steve carefully measured two or three times and then made support brackets for the underneath side of the oven so it's not just suspended from the top edge on the counter, but also is firmly supported at it's base.

We tossed around the idea of the bottom drawer---- whether we should leave it as a big one, or use a suggestion by fellow Safari owner Wille to substitute two of the narrower drawers in it's place. We decided we could change that later if we want, but we will keep the one big drawer for now. Remember, I said that's for dog food and my extra wine bottle storage!

Steve suggested we put up some type of a barricade to help keep the sawn dust particles from spreading all over the motorhome. Fortunately, I had these wonderful fabric pieces that are made for draping around a banquet table for craft shows. The edges of the pieces are already stitched with strips of velcro --- we were able to easily stick them up to the carpeted ceiling in the motorhome. It made him the perfect dust capture enclosure. Up above he had the Fantastic Fan to help suck up the heat and the dust.

Donning our face masks and safety goggles, he went to work on carefully drilling the two pilot holes in the two corners. For this he used a Fostner bit on the drill. It easily drills out a larger hole without putting as much stress on the surrounding material as a normal drill bit does. It's also easier to control and more exact.

I held the end of the shop vac hose right near where he was drilling to help take away any of the excess material as the Fostner bit pulled it up out of the hole.
Once each corner was drilled, now it was time to get out the skil saw. A suggestion by fellow Safari owner Brian Harmon, who is also a Corian counter installer, was to get a special 60 tooth blade specifically for laminate and formica as well as Corian. Starting any technical precision job with a brand new blade is a good idea.

He very carefully lined up his skil saw and worked slowly as the blade slid through the Corian material. The instructions said do not push it too fast or you will smell a burning odor. Slow and easy took care of it. 

Next he made the two crosswise cuts on the back section. There is an extra space that remains from the cut out from the old cooktop. We are covering that with a piece of steel painted to match the oven. I want it to cover that space so things won't fall down behind the oven or into the drawer below.

Am I ever glad we put up the little fabric dust catching booth. That stuff sure made a mess. It's like a fine powder all over the place.

Now Steve had to make the two precise cuts for the very corner edges of the stove where it sets against the front of the counter. He carefully measured three times and then cut once. Because if you cut off too much, you can never put it back on again!!!

Now it was time to remove that last cross piece of wood. He left it in place to help support the countertop material during cutting.

The next step was to carefully sand all the edges so nothing was sharp and nothing was more susceptible to cracking. Rounded corners with Corian help make it last longer than a sharp 90 degree right angle cut.

When we removed the old cooktop there was a special heat tape stuck around the opening. The YouTube we watched suggested that we use this type of tape when installing the stove. Fortunately this tape was the exact same size to fit in the new opening. Recycle! Reuse! Repurpose!

While Steve went to the dentist (ouch a $1,300 crown~) I took down all of the fabric draping and started vacuuming and cleaning and wiping everything up. Boy oh boy what a mess it made. I am so glad we hung that fabric around, otherwise I would be cleaning dust from the entire motorhome for weeks.

Once Steve got back from the dentist, he felt fine. So we could keep on going. Okay, here is the time we were waiting for. This is the dry fitting stage. It fits like a glove! Yay Steveio!!!

Our next step was to reconnect the propane line. Steve got the proper fittings all arranged and hooked it up carefully. We tested for leaks with a bubble solution (kids blow bubbles work great!) Good to go.


Not too bad for a $10 used stove
a can of $4 hi heat paint
and a $30 saw blade!  

We had one more thing to address, and that was this gap on the back side after removing the old 2 burner cooktop.  It was not too noticeable, but I didn't want anything falling down behind there. 

Steve got a piece of steel and painted it to match.
He attached it with some Power Grab adhesive.
Looks like part of the stove!

 I think it looks pretty danged good....

My most favorite roaster pan from my friend Lisa
fits in the oven perfectly with the lid on!

I have not been able to use this roaster in the motorhome until now.
I have only been using it outside on the campfire.

I ordered an additional oven rack,
so I can do two pizzas
or two trays of cookies
 or two pans of muffins etc.
It should be here by Wednesday.

 I kinda think this looks like it belongs there all the while.....

Great job, Steveio... you are my hero! 

On a family note:


Today our little guy is FOUR years old! 

He was born after his poor bedraggled mommy Daisy was rescued from a horrible hoarder in Michigan. She was only 8 months old and gave birth to five puppies! (one didn't make it) The pups had horrible health issues and were not adoptable at 8 weeks ... he had to wait in foster rescue until he was five months old. Thank you to Michigan Foster Robin Mathews for taking such good care of him and Ceora Powers for delivering him to us in Wisconsin and to Lisa Martin for setting it up! We didn't get Finnegan until Dec. 2013

All ears! 

This is Christmas--- He is so small!!!

He became Duke's bestest buddy!

He found all sorts of places to hang out,
happy to have a home of his own!

Silly little boy would watch everything I did

He looks so tiny next to Duke
like a little FOX !

The morning after we adopted him,
 he woke up,
and asked:
"Are you for real? I wasn't dreaming??"

Did I mention that Finnegan is also very intelligent?


Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened On Our Way to Our Stove Installation...

It didn't happen today.

Well, in the grand scheme of things I guess it wasn't so funny after all.

We started out bright and early this morning to work on our stove installation in the motorhome--- that I wrote about in my last blog.

We gathered tools and supplies and ideas and headed out to the motorhome. It was pretty warm out so we decided we would plug into shore power and fire up the air conditioner.

That's when everything went haywire. Not the air conditioning. Nooooo  We didn't even get that far to turn it on. It was the entire power for half of the things in the rig that run through our inverter.  Lights and a fan and the tv I turned on. Because we plugged into shore power, it should bypass through it and run to all the fixtures and outlets and lights that operate on that leg of our motorhome.

We turned things on and noticed our lights were dimming down and browning out. That's not a good sign. Our power management system, a hard-wired Progressive Industries EMS kicked us out every time. Just like it is supposed to. Here is my blog post about when we installed it:

We would wait for it to reset, turn on one thing, even a small thing. like a light. Again it would kick us out as soon as we drew any power.

First of course we checked the normal things like the shore power coming from the cord, we checked the transfer switch, we checked all of the GFCI outlets.

We decided to unplug from shore power and just ran the generator and see what happened then. Same thing. Brown out and kick off by any thing running through the inverter was not holding up to snuff. Any type of a draw and the Progressive Industries EMS would kick it out.

I am happy to say at least our Progressive Industries EMS power management system was doing the correct thing by kicking out and not letting us harm our electronics.

So now we concentrated on the inverter. We checked the two circuit breakers on the inverter. Yes, I know the upper left white input button is broke, it has been broken off for a long time but still operates.

We checked all of the breakers in the power panel box.  

We plugged back in ---  oh NO!  

NOW things everything was running over bright and and buzzing and ready to burn out! It was like a power surge within our rig from the inverter! The last reading we got off the kilowatt device was 180+ volts! We shut it down and decided that was enough of that!!!
This is a Kilowatt device that helps monitor power output at outlets.
I know the screen is blank, we shut down too quick
 for me to take a pic of 180+ watt reading...

We were not about to destroy anything by letting it continue to run or start a fire. Now it was time to do some diagnosis. Steve hauled out his Fluke meter and we started researching diagrams and schematics.

With all of our testing throughout the complete line of power from our house to the power cord to supply to transfer switch, we realized our inverter was not operating properly.

Everything was fine up to it and everything was fine beyond it --- so the bad link was the Xantrax Freedom20D 2000 watt inverter itself.  ACKKK!  Those run about $1,000-2,000 to replace with a similar size.

Steve carefully removed the inverter cover. Inside it was brown all around the top of the main section and curled back plastic surface like it had overheated...  DANG!

I think we narrowly avoided 
a big dangerous fire situation!!!

Steve removed the entire inverter and temporarily reconnected the AC lines together and capped off the DC hot line. Both Steve's Fluke meter and the kilowatt device are measuring the correct power. Whew! Now it is safe until we get a new inverter this week.

I think we will pick up a new pure sine wave inverter and have it ready for when we go to Canada in September. We are going to loop around Lake Superior just like we did on our honeymoon 20 years ago. We enjoy doing a lot of boondocking, (camping without hookups)  and have 500watts of solar panels and four big deep cycle batteries in a bank to draw from.  The inverter will be nice to have in case we want to run something that is AC from off the DC power.

I am just so thankful we avoided a fire!!!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cooking up a new modification on our motorhome

As most of you blog readers know, Steve and I really enjoy cooking in our motorhome. We rarely go to a restaurant. So we try to keep a fully stocked kitchen and utensils for when we head out to the woods.

The only drawback on our Safari motorhome is that it does not have a propane oven. It does have a convection oven microwave combo, which finally works after a few years of it being frustratingly inoperable.

Since we usually are boondocking without electrical hookups, that can present a problem. We would have to either forgo baking something, or we have to run the generator to bake things. Especially in the early morning for muffins or cinnamon rolls or biscuits, we do not wish to disturb people around us with our generator. The generator on board is really quiet, but we still don't like to use that unless we really have to.

Here is our present set up in our kitchen with the microwave convection combo over a two burner cooktop set into the counter underneath it.

We have discussed a while back about adding a propane oven stove unit to our rig. See the drawers underneath the cooktop? I would be willing to sacrifice three of them to put in an oven. I would also love to get more burners rather than just two on the cooktop.

To the right of the sink I have four more additional drawers, so I could easily sacrifice those three. Leaving the bottom drawer intact is where we store our dog food and extra wine bottles. Those are both necessity!

We looked around at propane stove oven units for RVs, they run in the $400 plus range for a new one.

In the past, our solution was to use this Coleman propane oven that stands alone. It works very well for us, but it is rather small. It can only handle a smaller rectangular tray or pan, not even a full size cookie sheet or cake pan. I have done small turkey breasts in here, but it is a challenge.

Stevieo was perusing the local buy sell trade pages on Facebook Thursday. Lo and behold, he ran across a used RV 4 burner stove with propane oven. The guy was only asking TEN DOLLARS!!

Not only that, it's the 21 inch size oven which is what I really wanted! It gives you three shelf positions and you can put in two racks which can allow you to bake two trays of cookies or two pans of muffins or two pizzas at the same time.

We had an oven like this in our Sierra travel trailer, with the extra deep space. When we bought that trailer, I made dealer throw in an extra rack. We had four teens and needed the pizza space, I told him! 

Our Coachman motorhome had the 17-inch which was much smaller with only two rack positions. I really didn't care for the 17 inch. The bottom rack position is usually pretty useless because everything burns... arrgghh!

Here is the one he found on Facebook: 

It didn't look too bad in the pictures, so we contacted the seller.

We made arrangements to go look at it early because the seller works all night and gets done at 6 a.m. He asked if we could get there as early as possible so he could go to bed on Friday morning. He lives 45 miles away so it meant getting up extra early for us to head over to check it out.

The oven portion looked virtually unused but the top portion had a few areas of chipped paint around the edges. There was a buildup of grease spills and gunk underneath the cooktop portion that needed a good scrubbing. But other than that, for $10 we were willing to clean it up.

So our project begins... We tore it apart and started cleaning the individual pieces. Steve sanded down the chipped areas and I got high temp Rust-Oleum paint to give it a fresh coat. I scrubbed the individual burners and wiped out the oven. 

The enameled cooking area black portion was in perfect shape. But underneath it took a while to scrub up the the spillovers and grease. 

Soon Steve was ready to give it it's final coat of paint. He also decided to repaint the front oven door and handle, as both were faded and could use some sprucing up

We went out to double-check and measure in the motorhome. We removed the three drawers. I condensed the items from those drawers over into the other four drawers to the right of the sink. The bottom drawer is the one that can remain for our dog food and extra wine bottle stash.

With careful measuring, Steve drew the preliminary lines on the Corian type countertops. They are actually called Fountainhead but are similar to Corian.

He has to get a finer tooth new blade for his saw before he starts to cut.

He carried out the oven to the rig to set it down on the floor. It was easier to take measurements from it right there then going back and forth to the garage.

It really looks pretty spiffy and shiny doesn't it? Good job, Steve!

I found an extra rack on Ebay, that will fit this oven. I ordered it and we will get it next week.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog. That won't happen until later, because today we are heading up to my brother's cottage to help with the plumbing.

It will also give Steve time to heal from his little boo boo. The first casualty on the job as he ripped open his thumb on a screw.