Monday, June 30, 2014

Velomobile Tail And Signal Lights Are Installed!

As with any project problems and delays happen. This has been the case this week with my velomobile project.  I was all ready to install the signal light assemblies and get them up and running when I found out that one of the controllers for the lights is defective.  So this has put a snag once again in to my progress waiting for replacement parts.  The good news out of all of this is that the tail light  and signal light assemblies (but not working) for the velomobile went into the vehicle without a hitch.  So I have to take the bad with the good like anyone else.  Here are a few photos of what progress was made this week.

That big gaping void that was in the back of the velomobile is finally filled with the tail light assembly that I got put together this morning.  A very nice clean look in my humble opinion. Also you can see that the right rear signal light has also been installed. The only thing missing is the small cover that will close up the opening for the access port to mount the body on to the frame.  I have these parts ready for the big day so I will wait until then to install them.

The rear of the velomobile now houses two different lights.  The upper one being a motion sensitive brake light and the lower one being a standard strobe.  

The rear plexi-glass hatch opens up to allow easy access to the two lights to turn them on and off and also to remove the to replace batteries. The door is held close with a magnetic latch.

This lights really brighten up the rear end of the velomobile and that is always a good thing to have when I am going down the road. 

Here are a couple shots of one of the front signal light assemblies.  The lights went into the velo without a hitch.  Just like I knew what I was doing.  LOL.  The clear plexi-glass cover will help with the air flow around the light when I am moving down the road and it gives it a nice clean look as well. 

Here is a closer look at one of the rear lights as well.   I have all of the internal wiring for the signal lights mounting inside of the velo and am anxious to get the replacement parts I need so that I can get all of the signal lights working properly. Once this is done the body of the velo can be mounted on to the frame and final tweaks can be made to make it road worthy.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014 Mini Cooper Rear Storage Box Project

Hello fellow Mini Cooper owners!  I finally completed a project today for my new Mini Cooper S Hardtop that may be of interest to you.  I am fortunate to have finally replaced the Mini Cooper Clubman that I lost in a major fire some time back with this beautiful little machine. 

This is the 2014 Mini Cooper S Hardtop.  I absolutely love it but found one item lacking in the car that I had in my original Mini Cooper Clubman.  In the Clubman when you folded the rear seats down you ended up with a completely flat deck from the rear bumper all the way to the front seats.  Not the case in this new Mini.

This is what the rear of the new Mini looks like once you fold the seats down. I like all of the storage space but don't like the idea that there is no flat deck for hauling larger items.  So I immediately went online to find a solution to this problem. 

Here are a couple photos of the storage box that I could get from Mini.  It looks great and does exactly what I want but I felt the cost of $260 was way more than I wanted to pay.  So this project was born before I even took delivery of my new Mini and I knew I could do it for a lot less. 

I did some preliminary design work on the storage box before the Mini arrived by taking measurements at my local dealership.  These guys are great by the way and I am sure they will be very interested in this project as well.  

These last two images were created using Inventor CAD software and then the computer files were brought into Blender 3D to get these great images.  I wanted the computer model to be as close to the real thing as I could get so I could see  where the project was heading.  One thing that stood out in my mind first off was the top deck of the box once it was closed.  It had to be strong enough to hold a good amount of weight.  Not like I am going to haul concrete blocks in my Mini but I still wanted it to be solid.  I also wanted the deck to be able to hold up over time.  In these images I planned on painting the top deck.  This I found out would not work well as it would easily be scuffed just by hauling groceries for my local market.  So this was another issue that needed to be addressed.

Once my Mini was finally in my hands I was able to get accurate measurements and work out a plan of action to build the deck storage box. I started by creating the box out of foam core and packaging tape.  This was an inexpensive, quick, easy way to create the box and make sure it fit into the car first time I tried it. Already at this point it looked to be a perfect fit. Another thing that needed to be addressed in the build was a vent system that is at the tail end of the car.  I did some research as to why this vent is there in the first place.  It allows air to escape out of the car when you are running the air conditioner.  Like putting air into a balloon the air needs to escape to allow fresh air to continue to come in.  I did not want to block these vents so this had to be considered while designing and building the storage box as well.

The deck storage box lids were made of Styrofoam then cut to size and shape using my CNC machine and it was quite a process to get both doors laid out properly for the project.  Here I put the storage box back into the car with the seats up to check the clearances that I needed for the deck lids to open properly.  Lots of checking and rechecking needed to be done to get everything to fit properly.

To work out the deck of the box I designed two lids that would be made of foam and fiber glass.  These lids would be attached to an additional strip of foam that had hard mounts inserted into the pieces where hinges would be added later on.   

The wooden blocks were bonded to the foam using an epoxy micro-balloon mixture to form a putty mixture and then pressed into place between the foam and the blocks.

The stainless steel hinges were then mounted to the wooden blocks. The doors and rear plate of the storage box deck were then aligned properly.

With the eighth inch thick foam core box already built at a cost of only $5.00 I was so pleased with the look that I decided that it would be simpler just to go ahead and fiber glass the box rather than make a new one out of thicker Styrofoam.  In this photo all of the white that you see on the black faces of the box are what happened when I needed to remove the packaging tape that held the box together.  The tape could not remain on the box as the fiber glass would not stick to it and when I removed the tape it peeled the black paper off of the foam core. This would not be a problem after the fiber glassing was completed as the box would be painted later on.  I then puttied all of the inner joints of the box with fiber glass resin and micro-balloons to make a putty that would bond the box together permanently.  Once the inside had cured I then repeated the process on the outside of the box.  This made the box very strong and lightweight which is always a plus.  I also removed the deck lids from the back mounting strip so this part could be fiber glassed into place on the storage box as well. 

While the storage box was curing I went to work on the two deck lids.  In the photo above you can see the parts that needed to be made using my 3D printer to mount aluminum tubing for the already fiber glassed deck lids. The larger oval shaped part that you see is the vent cover to allow air to flow to the rear vents in the Mini that I spoke about earlier.  This will allow the air to flow back to these vents and not restrict air flow. 

I puttied the vents in place like so many other parts on this project and then taped it off on the inside so that I could paint it black.

I masked of around the vent so that it would also be sprayed with black spray paint.  The reason for the gap around the vent and the tape I will explain later in this post. 

Here the vent has been sprayed and the rest of the deck lid was covered with paper to keep the paint where I wanted it to end up.

Earlier in this post I said that I had to figure out a way to give the deck of the storage box a protective cover rather than just painting it.  I came across a company online named Sim Carbon that makes a vinyl wrap for cars that looks like carbon fiber.  This was perfect.  The price for the material I needed came to $42.50 delivered to my door.  This gave me a piece of material that was four feet by five feet in size which was plenty to do this project and enough left over for a couple smaller projects.  I then proceeded to wrap both deck lids with this material.  It has a sticky back that you press down on to any surface using a squeegee.  It took a little practice to get it to lay down the way I wanted but as you can see it turned out pretty well.  

Here's a close up look of the air vent that I had puttied into place earlier in the project and now has been wrapped in carbon fiber vinyl. I completely covered over the air vent and then used an Exacto knife to trim around the vent.  This gave me a nice clean look and the black paint I had sprayed earlier now matched up nicely with the carbon fiber.

The aluminum tubing used in this project is 1/2 inch in diameter that I bought at my local Menards home store.  I took the tubing and polished it to a nice chrome like finish using a fine grade steel wool.  The photo above show the difference of the polished piece (the one on the bottom) compared to the unpolished pieces above it.  

Inside the storage box I mounted to 3D printed pieces to support the prop rods that would hold the deck lids open if I needed to.  These were as usual bonded into place with the epoxy putty mixture.

Once all of the fiber glassing work had been completed it was time to take the project outside and prime the storage box.  I was lucky to have a nice warm day so this was a quick and easy job.  

After the primer had dried I then laid down a couple coats of gloss black paint.  I turned the box upside down first and painted it. After it had dried I then rolled it right side up to finish the painting.  Very little work needed to be done to the interior of the box as it was very smooth.  

Here is a good shot of the Mini Cooper deck storage box in my kitchen.  The aluminum tubing is held in place with end caps that have internal mounting nuts.  Machine screws come through the underside of the deck into these nuts and hold everything in place. With the mounts being made this way there is no hardware showing when the deck lids are closed.  Gives it a very clean look over all.  The circular ring in the top of the deck lids are finger holes to help open up the storage box lids when it is placed in the Mini Cooper.

Here is a shot of one of the small prop rods for the deck lids.  This is folded away when not it use and can be easily unfolded when needed.  The prop rod has a plastic outer surface with a steel inner shaft to give it strength.  The shaft is nothing more than threaded rod that is screwed into the upper 3D printed mount and a white plastic tip on the end.  Makes for an easy assembly and the look is perfect.

Here is the finished deck cargo box installed into my Mini Cooper.  It turned out very well I think.  The look and fit in the car is exactly what I wanted.  To finish off the inside of the storage box I laid in a foam piece in the bottom of both sections of the box to keep items from rattling around while I was driving.  This material is normally used in tool boxes and was perfect for this project as well. 
  The plus side to all of this is the total cost to make the storage box was only around $100 compared to $260 that the dealership had wanted to order the factory box.  Quite a savings to say the least and as usual to tell someone that I designed and built this great looking cargo box myself is always priceless.  Enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Velomobile Paint Job Is Completed!

I can finally lay my paint brush down and step back and admire my handy work once again as the velomobile body painting is finally done! Yay!  I finished up the last of the pin striping this morning so this is how it all turned out.

The body now has four coats of paint and I am very pleased that it turned out as well as it has.  There was very little touch up that needed to be done on the body after removing the covering that was over the large white stripe so that was a relief in this portion of the build. 

 The simplest thing I had to do with the paint job was to lay down the 1/4 inch white stripes that you see here.  I used the large stripe on the side of the body as a guide and then put down several pieces of one inch wide painters tape as spacers for the next stripe.  This worked out very well to keep everything lined up properly.  One I had laid one new stripe down it was just a matter of moving the blue tape down to the new position to create the next guide for the following stripe and so forth.  

The large decal in the middle of the body I had made for me by a company not far from my home that does full graphics for vehicles. They made up a couple of different sized decals and this one fit the bill.  It was a simple matter of placing the decal as close to center as I could get and then using a plastic squeegee to make sure everything was nice and flat and smooth.  Simple and the look is  great for the velomobile. Also the decal leaves no doubt as to what you are seeing going down the road.  Radius for the curved shape and T-T short for TerraTrike that is the recumbent that is inside the velomobile when completed.

I placed my temporary windshield into the hood of the velomobile in this shot to show you what it will look like when it is ready for the road.  The black pin stripe really sets off the two colors on the velomobile and gives it a nice finished look.  Now on to the electrical hook-ups for the signal, running, and brake lights.  Hopefully I will have it all together shortly and I can get some video of it cruising down the road.  Enjoy the photos and have a good day in your workshop.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Major Step Forward On The Velomobile Project

The past couple of weeks have been more than a little hectic with all the goings on here at the Tinker's Workshop.  The major event was the marriage of my son Eric!  A great day to be sure and one for the record books.  I have also completed a smaller project for my next door neighbor, made progress on a new project that I will post more about later and today I finally took the final paper covering off of the paint job for the velomobile project.  So here is how it turned out so far. 

Here I just started the process of removing the rear paper covering that was over the white stripe that I had previously painted.  A nerve racking task to see if I had done a good enough job on the paint to be happy with it.  

With all of the runs on the paint that you can see over top of the paper covering I was almost afraid to see if my taping had held back everything underneath the paper. 

I have to keep pinching myself when I look at this picture.  The paint is perfectly dry here and the shiny finish is near perfection.  It's hard to believe in this shot that the paint was brushed on with a foam paint brush. The paint is a polyurethane boat paint and after brushing it on it settles to a nice smooth finish.  Looks awesome if I do say so myself.

The front signal light housings will show up perfect when the signals are mounted and turned on.  Hours and hours of sanding to get the body this smooth looking.   There are at least four coats of paint on the body with 320 grit sanding between each coat.  On a scale of one to ten I would give it a good solid eight plus.  But then I am looking at the paint from three inches away and everyone else will see it from ten or twelve feet away.  Either way I am pleased with my efforts. 

In this shot you can see a couple of the flaws in the paint where I will have to do some touch up.  This was expected and luckily there is no major flaws that cannot be fixed with a small paint brush and a little more time and effort.

The next step once I have corrected the minor flaws in the paint is to put black pin striping tape down.  This will be laid over the mating edges of the red and white paint.  It will hide any imperfections on these lines and will make the two colors more detailed once completed.  This is the fun portion of the painting process for me.  

Here the front hood has been completed.  I will get photos of the hood remounted on to the velomobile once I get all the touch up painting done and the pin striping completed in the next week or so.  So for now this is a major step forward in the project and one that I am happy to say is nearing completion.  Enjoy the photos.