Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tinkering, Mellow Yellow style, Pt. 1

Before camping season gets underway I have various projects I want to complete on Mellow Yellow, our 1984 VW camper van. Today's task was to install LED strip lighting in the living quarters. I mean, what the heck: Mrs Elliott is out of town, down in San Diego visiting her mother until Monday. It's either do something productive or spend a whole lot of money paying for that erotic house cleaning service I see advertised on the back page of The Source Weekly!

Tempting though that may be, the van isn't going to light itself.

Mind, we already have lighting in the van, in the form of a couple fluorescent fixtures and two LED reading lights; and though the reading lights draw close to zero power from the battery, they are spotlights so they don't light things up well, and the fluorescent lights draw more power than I wish they did, so I am parsimonious with their usage. Because of that, we use a kerosene lantern for "fill" lighting, but even with a properly trimmed wick, the roof area above the lantern builds up a thin, grimy film of soot.

So earlier this year I purchased a 16-foot reel of flexible LED light strips and four low-voltage dimmers from Ledlightsworld Ltd. The strips have 18 lights per foot and are wonderful to work with: they can be cut to length with a pair of scissors, are only 8mm wide (about 3/8'') and have adhesive backing so they can be laid into place and stay stuck. Only $60 for the reel. The little dimmers are inexpensive and come in a nice beige color that suits the existing color scheme in the van. Once trimmed to length, it only takes a little bit of soldering to connect 'em up.

I spent most of the morning driving around town, collecting the other necessary bits and pieces: mounting hardware for the dimmers from Ace Hardware; a couple spools of wire from O'Reilly's auto parts; vinyl grommets to protect the wires where they pass through holes I would need to drill through sheet metal from Radio Shack; then finally, shrink tubing and cable ties from Home Depot. I could have gotten the latter from Radio Shack or the auto parts store, but I needed to go to Home Depot anyway to get a new drill to replace this piece of crap Black and Decker drill of mine that failed after only one year, got a Ryobi to replace it, and I also needed to pick up some lawn seed mix to do a little top-seeding on the north terrace of our estate where snow mold left bald spots in the lawn.

I got properly started by noon, and the installation went without a hitch although most of the work was in figuring out where to put the lights and how to get the wires to them in the least ugly way. I'll post a few photos at a later date when the van isn't full of tools and various interior panels aren't partially taken apart.

Now, if I could figure out how to make the lamps chase, I could have a proper disco van!

Right now I've got a glass of Riesling, 50 Cent on the Pandora, and that nice feeling one gets from a job that went well without anything embarrassing happening, like an electrical fire. Tomorrow's project is to mount a Rotopax brand 3 gallon spare fuel tank atop the van, so there's still an opportunity for that catching on fire thing.

Or I might try that house cleaning service.


  1. I've told you this before, but it bears repeating ... you are one talented, funny, irreverent writer. Regarding the house cleaning service ~ is that an equal opportunity service provider?

  2. Awww, vans full of tools with panels askew make for such enjoyable photo viewing.

    Nice work.

  3. "I also needed to pick up some lawn seed mix to do a little top-seeding on the north terrace of our estate"

    The north terrace of your estate? Don't you have gardeners to take care of such chores?

    I think you probably need a gamekeeper too. Or several. And some gillies.


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