Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rebuilding “Ms. Merry” the Amerigo–On all four feet again

Another major hurdle has finally been completed on Ms. Merry’s restoration!

After three years of basically being deprived of jacks, Merry at last has all four of her jack brackets installed and all four of her jacks attached.   

The Atwood brothers are still without power, so I have to get them up and down, I still need to stand there and spin the crank, but for the first time since I started restoring Merry, she’s on her feet again, and this time, with proper framing and mounts to do the job Smile

Since I did the driver’s side corner during the off season and didn’t document any of the process, we’ll be looking at Merry’s passenger side, as the process was fairly identical.   Again, I ended up focusing more on the end product, and not so much the blog, so some parts were left unphotographed.

To start off with, we had to remove Merry’s propane compartment, it had been temporarily reinstalled back in 2016 after the wall’s framing and wing had been replaced to keep water from getting into the camper during the rainy season.  

At the time, I had wanted to redo Merry’s compartment design some, as it was one of the major leak points, but we were out time and warm weather.   Once the late fall, early October rains set in, working outside becomes nigh on impossible.  

Now, that we’re at a point where removing the compartment and eventually the main door again is entirely feasible, I pulled the screws and had Merry’s propane compartment pulled within a few minutes.  

Once it was out, I set about adding a couple extra stiffeners to help give the 1/4” plywood a couple extra spots anchor in well to remove and bow from the wall framing when I jacked it up before installation to stretch the frame back into shape.  

With the stiffeners in, I cut the insulation boards that would go in around the propane compartment and the lower wall below the window back to the point where the full sheet that would be put in for the door would meet.  

With the insulation in place, I cut the section of plywood….

Discovered I’d inverted the digits on one of the measurements and then recut a new piece.   After dry fitting, I applied adhesive to all the wall framing and then screwed the plywood to the wall using 1-1/4” coated deck screws.  

I left Merry with her rear jacked up for about thirty-six hours before I returned her to normal resting position and then using my router and the Dremel Multi-tool, cut out the propane compartment opening.   I left the refrigerator door section for later.


With the new plywood for the lower wall section in place, I went through my collection of scrap sections of plywood to make the sandwich up that would go between the framing in the front wall beneath the cabover and the fiberglass skin on the outside.  

On all Amerigo campers, the front wall slopes slightly away from the frame as it goes up to meet the floor of the cabover.   The framing inside is usually somewhere between five millimeters and half inch offset from the fiberglass in this area, making it a poor spot to attach a jack bracket, unless you build up the framing to be flush with the back of the fiberglass skin. 

To accomplish this, I used sections of 1/4” plywood and five millimeter plywood to create a laminated slope piece that was tapped into place and glued. 

Once these bracing boards were in place, I anchored the 1/4” angle iron inner reinforcement plates in the corner and then temporarily anchored the jack bracket in place on the outside using a couple of tec head screws so I could drill through the bolt holes on the frame and the backing plate.  


I do these in place as its easier to drill the inner plate later than hope that you mathed your measurements for where the holes may line up, and discover they’re off.    Once the pilot points are set in the metal and the initial 1/4” holes drilled, I bump them up to take the 5/16” bolt holes plus a tiny amount of play so that I can compensate for the extra thickness of the sealant going on the back of the plates. 

The new brackets sandwich bolt through the corner’s massive 2x6 beams, plus have a plate on the underside that lifts up on the camper’s whole corner, so that the through bolts aren’t taking the load just by themselves.  

With the holes done, I applied the butyl tape to the back of the plates, and began the process of threading bolts into place.  

I gradually worked my way across all the bolts tightening them until I had even clamping pressure on all surfaces and the jack bracket was snug tight to the camper. 

Once the jack bracket was on, I redrilled out the original hole for the last owner had made for the electric jack plug, opting to reuse the one he’d installed so I didn’t have to fill his screw holes and make new ones for that corner.


As you can see in the picture below, I had to offset the path the wires take through the wall to clear the new inner backing plate.   Once the wires are connected, they’ll be encased in chaff guard and a rubber gromett will secure the bundle so it doesn’t move around or get easily snagged on pots and pans that will later be stored in the lower cabinet on that side of the propane tank.  


With both brackets now fully installed (caulking to be done later when I start doing all of the camper’s seams), I returned to the garage where Mr. KIT has been sleeping since 2012, and removed the last of the electric jacks I had bought for him so many years ago to give to Merry so that she could continue where he couldn’t.  

Mr. KIT will be returned his original hydraulic jacks, the seals redone so that he will be ready when the time comes to sail off one last time with his next captain.  


As an extra bonus, we discovered that Mr. KIT’s swing out brackets had enough adjustability to completely compensate for the slight angle that Merry’s new front corner brackets lean at, bring the jacks up perfectly straight. 

Because Ms. Merry is a little narrower than Mr. KIT, we’ll need to get a couple of wider pieces of plate steel to replace the original widener plates to give Red enough space to get his wide hips through so Ms. Merry can rest on her own feet.  

In case you’re wondering where Ms. Merry’s front tie downs go, look closely at the pictures of the front jack mounts, you’ll see a large hole near the bottom, that hole is for the eye of a tie down to pass through to anchor her snugly to the tie down ear below on Red’s bed.  

This wraps up our work on Merry’s jacks, other than the electrical work to come, and the wider offset plates, Merry is now officially redesigned to use modern corner jacks and can safely be used off truck while standing on them alone, if wanted.  

Thanks for reading!   We’ll be back soon with the reassembly of Merry’s propane compartment and the first piece of interior cabinet framing to be installed!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Rebuilding “Ms. Merry” the Amerigo–The new Loo–Part 1

Time for another chapter in the rebuilding of Ms. Merry the Amerigo!

This time around, we’re doing the platform for the new raised bathroom floor and cutting the holes through Merry’s new floor for the plumbing and heating ducts to go Smile

First off, we had to haul out Merry’s new Dometic 320 Series Standard Height Toilet from storage in the barn and dig out the installation instructions for the rough-in dimensions for the toilet itself.  

It took a bit to locate the instructions, as they weren’t sitting with the toilet in the box or any of the packing cardboard surrounding the toilet to protect the china bowl from damage.   In the end, I had to pull the toielt out of the box and open the lid before I found the owner’s manual, plus a free sample of TPS tank treatment chemicals included, hidden in the bowl.  


With the installation guide in hand, we now had the offset from the back wall that we needed to locate the center of the toilet flange through the floor. 

Since the new tank has our diversion valve setup on it, it offsets the tank back from the wall further than a normal straight down flange connection would allow for and still have it dumping into the tank.

The fix was to take a page from my bathroom remodel project I did on Mr. KIT back in 2009.

Using these two parts, I made an offset flange to shift the inlet into the tank far enough forward in the floor to allow to connect into the tank.  

Canplas 113628SS 45-Degree ABS Discharge Closet Flange with Stainless Steel Ring, 4-Inch by 3-Inch


Lasalle Bristol 632403 3X45 ABS 45 degree Elbow


Glued together they shift the intlet into the toilet perfectly, and from using the same setup in the past on my KIT, I know that this angle of offset does not interfere with the operation of a standard Gravity fed RV toilet.  

A small piece of 3” ABS pipe will be glued into the end of the elbow which will be glued into the inlet on the tank when the shower floor is permanently installed.   If we have to replace the tank at some future point, the elbow can be cut through using a reciprocating saw from the access hatch that will be at the front under the bathroom door. 

With the flange made, I temporarily installed a couple pieces of plywood representing the thicknesses of the rear and side walls and then snapped the dimensions of our expanded bathroom and cut a sheet of 5/8” plywood from the piece of temporary floor we had originally used in Ms. Merry when we were finishing up installing the raised ceiling and skylight dome.  

I like to call that floor section the “temporary floor” but the real reason I call it that is the initial piece I had somehow screwed up one of the measurements on and it didn’t snugly fit in the space at all the joints and had to be replaced.   Rather than waste a perfectly good piece of plywood, it got reused as a temporary work bench and when pieces of 5/8” plywood were needed that were within the dimenions of that incorrectly cut piece, I cut them from it vs cutting a piece out of a whole new sheet. 


After making the initial cutout, which was still just a rectangle at the time, I laid it back in place to make sure it fit correctly (it did!) and then marked out where the flange opening needed to be.  I added an extra little bit to the original eleven inch offset from the rear wall, using my wall representing board to simulate the walls being in place, to accomodate for cleaning behind the toilet and to take account for the extra 1/16” of an inch or so that a sheet of FRP board will add. 

Once check and rechecked, I used the largest diablo hole saw blade I had and cut the inital hole, then used my jig saw to widen the hole to allow for the forty-five degree offset on the bottom of the flange. 

I temporarily anchored the flange through the hole then aligned the pipe and then cut and installed the support board that would be going under the plywood to raise the floor and to help give it slope toward where I planed to locate the drain in the front right hand corner.  

The small hole you see is actually not the drain pipe opening, but the hole for the vent pipe that will be coming up from the tank, its pipe running from the tank under the floor and then out through the roof.  It will be visible inside the bathroom, but like the vent pipe in Mr. KIT, will be painted bright white to match the bathroom and then used like a support bar to hang washcloth rings and what not from.  

One of the things we do plan to do is use a dedicated faucet knob for the shower controls separate from the sink so we can use higher quality parts in its plumbing than the fairly cheap plastic parts that come with standard RV fixtures.  

Out of the entirety of the original shower stall, we plan to salvage the wall section with the sink and the corner to reuse in the new bathroom, and maybe the flange portion from the floor to glass into the new shower pan, the majority of the new floor will be made from FRP board, same as the bathroom walls.   The rest of the shower unit will end up in the dumpster, as its not worth trying to reuse.  

With the floor ready, it was time to test fit our new floor in place.


Fits like a glove! 

As you can see, there’s a diagonal corner in the front, this is to accomodate for a walking path from the door to the forward end of the camper.   The angle starts where the original fiberglass shower stall originally ended when installed and angles back to the minimum size bathroom door opening I thought prudent for me to fit through (I’m far from small).  

The 2x2 that goes on the right hand side will have one side of it tapered to match that angle so that all fits well.   The wall in the corner will actually be made of a piece of five millimeter plywood with FRP on the inside and wall paneling board on the outside.  

Unlike the original Amerigo bathroom door wall design, the new one will not look like a cabinet, but instead will have matching wall paneling installed similar to the rest of the camper. 

The new door will be hinged on the left side and the handle will be on the right, this will allow for the door knob to swing into the Snap-N-Nap opening and for the door to open flush to the rear wall. 

The dinette seat nearest to the bathroom will be angled on the outside, going to the minimum width for the battery compartment it will house to the normal seat width that it originally was to provide ample passage space past the new, larger bathroom. 

We plan to make the wall along the back of the dinette by the door solid, to help act as a framing member to prevent the rear walls on the tub from sagging like they originally did as the camper aged.  This wall will be built like a truss on the inside to help keep it square.   The switches for the patio light and light above the entrance will be in this wall.  

In addition to helping with the tub sag, it will also act as a lateral brace for the side to side strains coming from the rear jack mount attached next to the door.   A similar, smaller wall will be built along the back of the bathroom sink to perform a similar function on the driver’s side. 

Ah… we seem to have side-tracked a bit, time to get back on topic!

After test fitting the floor, I took it out once more and then after measuring the offset distance on the new flange, repeated the flange hole process on the main floor itself taking into account the offset of the flange pipe.  

Once again, I cut the initial hole with the same hole saw, then cut a second directly next to it and squared the opening off with the jig saw once more.   The extra opening space is allow for the flange pipe coming through the floor on its way down to the tank. 


Once the main floor opening was cut, I reattached the flange to the floor and tested it again (forgot to take a picture!), it fits perfectly, with enough space around it to allow for flexing of the camper without putting strain on the pipe. 

With the main hole done, I calculated the offset for the grey water plumbing’s passage through the floor, and widened the hole to allow space for the flexible heater duct line to enter into the tank compartment near the valves. 

Last I cut the hole for where the vent pipe will come up from the tank before doing its horizontal run between the main floor and the raised shower floor before coming up through the shower floor in the corner. 

The vent pipe will be going into the tank at the deepest end near the drain valves.  

This wraps up all that’s going to be done at this time for the bathroom, I mainly wanted to get the holes done in the floor so that when we shift to cutting insulation for the ceiling and walls, that the openings were already in place to cut out the matching holes in the insulation while its easy to do. 

Just for fun, I set the remainder of the original bathroom back in place on top of the new one to give you an idea of the size difference. 


P.S. Yes, I know the slope is off on the shower floor, I didn’t have the sloping shims in place on part of the floor, it was just sitting in their loose Smile with tongue out

Thanks again for reading!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rebuilding “Ms. Merry” the Amerigo–Merry Glues it Up!

Since we’re back in the full swing of working on Merry for another summer, its time to keep up the pace and if all the stars align, we might actually get to something resembling done, or at least to a stage where we no longer have to stop in the winter Smile

When we were planning out how to upgrade Merry’s tanks, I decided to look over how some other folks had done theirs.  

From 2cknights Amerigo restoration, he examined how Bob Whalen converted his to use two tanks:

Below is Bob's quote from email about the setup.

As described by Bob Whalen:

“The pics show the 2 new tanks installed . the black water is a17 gal and the gray water is a 23 gal.

The new black water tank discharge does not center on the factory cutout , but I will reshape it.
The gray water discharge is just behind the bracket for the stairs.

The inlet for the gray water does go through the side of the tank so you will not get the full capacity of the tank.

I also installed a fiberglass sheet over the plywood before installing the tanks as this area is exposed to the weather when driving.

It took longer to put the toilet back in than it took to re-plumb the tanks.”

While the idea of having separated Grey and Black tanks sounded appealing, their low capacities and their two separate dump valve locations for the capacity achieved was a turn off.  

So, I decided to take a page from Mr. KIT.

Mr. KIT, much like Ms. Merry, had a single holding tank.   Mr. KIT was different in that the tank had a diversion valve setup using two three-inch gate valves.   When the outer valve is open and the inner is closed, the grey water is diverted off, either into a portable waste tank, or down the sewer hook up, leaving the holding tank for just the toilet.  

If you closed the outer valve and opened the inner, then the grey water mixed with the black in the tank.   Now, you could fill the tank all the way up by accident, but unless you were especially gifted, this would happen from showering, and would just be shower water that had filled the run of pipe.  

Since nothing drained directly into the tank without going through this diverter valve setup, filling the black tank up didn’t risk an overflow through a shower drain.  

So, I decided to recreate the diverter valve setup that Mr. KIT had with a new 40 gallon waste tank. 

Two years ago, when I first bought the tank and parts, I talked about putting an inlet in the side of the tank for the grey water and spoke of the tank and drain being exposed.   This was when I was still trying to make an impossible deadline for a Rally I was not able to make. 

Since that deadline had passed, I revised how I was going to build the bathroom its its entirety, and decided to fully enclose the holding tank into a heated compartment, with all of the main drain plumbing up above in the main cabin underneath a raised bathroom floor.  

So, with that revision, I bought an extra 3” valve that has the tangs for the hose on it and proceeded to grind the original tangs off the two valve assembly that I had bought back in 2016.   This allowed me to glue the new valve onto the end of the original, doing like a previous owner did to Mr. KIT and created the diversion valve setup.  

The one big difference on Ms. Merry’s is that unlike Mr. KIT, there’s a gate valve for the inlet pipe as well. 


Unfortunately, the new outlet doesn’t line up with the old opening, so we’ll likely close that in and then put some aluminum diamond plate along the bottom edge of Ms. Merry to hide that change and make a nice clean point for the compartment hatch that the hose will go through.   There’ll be another hatch on the underside, which you’ll reach through to pull the dump valves.  

We still need to visit the RV salvage company in the area to see if we can find the perfect compartment door to use for the new holding tank compartment to make all of this as easy as possible.  

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rebuilding “Ms. Merry” the Amerigo–Merry gets a step up!

This is post is likely going to be fairly short, compared to the previous chapters.   Sadly, I don’t have many photos handy of Miss Merry’s new steps  from when their installation was finished, so I’m going to have to try and please you with this meager offering, for now Smile.  

When you last saw Merry’s stairs, they were being test fitted into place.   Sadly they had to spend a winter in storage before they could at last be installed in April.   Sadly, even though I got an early start in March to close up some stuff on Merry due to a strange turn of warm weather, my progress has been fairly poor, due to either long bouts of sickness brought on by Oysters from the Oregon coast that for years have never given me grief, but now seem to be my baine.  

Since last August, the underfloor paneling was installed after painting, then the spray skirt that protects the stiffener beam under Merry’s rear wall, then all the joints were caulked and the underside area received two more coats of flat black paint to ensure everything was well weather proofed.  

The result is this.  


Merry’s stairs hang down a good deal lower than the originals did, so traveling with the hitch extension in is a definite must to act as a drag guard for the rear of the truck.    We’re already planning a rear cargo basket setup, which will use a dual receiver setup similar to the one on the front, for loading the generator and some other light gear onto for traveling, which will have a set of drag casters on it, similar to the rear end of a motorhome.  

With the new steps, you can now climb up into Miss Merry, when on flat ground (Our driveway is sloped, as its made from a berm that we were not allowed to flatten as it is part of the levy, so I still need a set of cinder blocks to step up to the stairs)  without needing a step stool to reach the first step.  

One of the large swing away style stair handles will be installed to help give climbers more stability than the smaller grab handle can by itself.  

Finding this particular folding stair set was actually rather difficult, as the Amerigo uses a fairly narrow stair, and most folding steps of this kind are designed for trailers, so they generally come with a wider tread, all of which were far too wide to fit in the space available on the underside of an Amerigo. 

In the end, I wound up at RV Parts Nation, who was the only place online I’d managed to locate these narrow, triple step folding stairs. 



The diagram is for the second SKU, which is 24” wide, but other than the tread width difference and subsequent housing width, different, the stairs are constructed the same.  

For the stairs I used, the SKU is 1220 and you can find them here: RV Triple Manual Entry Step

Thanks for Reading! Smile