Undercoats, roofing and Bruny Island:

After the cold cloudy end to January it was a pleasant surprise to wake to a sunny February sky. As the wet weather lifted, our mood improved and we set to working on the bus. The aim for the week being to get the roof insulation in, the walls undercoated and some of the roof panelling completed.

Needing to complete some administrative things for my landscape design course I took the start of the morning off leaving the bus work to everyone else. Deirdre took to insulating the roof whilst Greg, Sophie and Dad armed themselves with sandpaper and putty and took to the walls. Shooting and filling the gaps as they went along.


All teams a go-go. Dad, Greg and Sophie puttying the walls, whilst Deirdre works on the roof insulation.

By mid-morning most of the walls were smooth and puttied and some roof panelling had been installed. Dad, Greg, Sophie and myself headed into town for some errands (and to charge the batteries of Dad’s camper van) leaving Deirdre to keep plugging away at the roof. By the time we got back with lunch Deirdre had completed over half the insulation.

The rest of the day was spent finishing off the two jobs we’d began ensuring that we were ready to tackle the next challenge: the roof!


The bus at the end of Monday. All the roof inflation done, now time for the roof panelling.

Tuesday was our first real day off. As part of the lure (;-) to get Dad, Greg and Sophie to help we had promised them a day trip to Bruny Island to visit the Cheese Factory. We headed off early to Kettering to get an early ferry. We got there just as one left and waited for the next. Once across the small straight we headed to our first stop: Bruny Island Cheese Shop. After sampling the cheese- creamier and better than when ordered via the post- we sat down on the outdoor decking and enjoyed a nice relaxing morning tea of cheese and sourdough bread. We then headed off to sample some chocolate before making our way to Hotel Bruny for lunch. Deirdre and myself had had a great seafood platter there a few years ago and were hoping it was as good as we remember (which is was).


Dad and me enjoying the cheese and the decking (a future project for sure.)

After lunch- in the hot stuffy dining room of the hotel- Deirdre had the great idea of pulling over for a swim. So we stripped to our underwear and braved the Tassie waters for a refreshing cool down. As we headed back to the car we picked some of the blackberries filling up ourselves and a container for later. After some more sight seeing the day ended at the Tasmanian Whisky House indulging Dad’s whisky passion. It was well worth it with all of us impressed by the smokiness of the Helyers Road Peated. It was like a dragon in your mouth.

Wednesday was an early start for me as I had to drop Brutus off at the mechanic for his roadworthy in preparation for his new Tasmanian plates. I meet Dad in town so he could help grab a sheet of mdf to use as a test roof panel. The guy at the hardware suggested 3 mm mdf (2400mm x 1200mm) as it had the flex and bend we need.

Once back we got the board out and after a cuppa got into the bus. Deirdre was still feeling less than 100% and so took the morning off to run admin- namely converting American timber lengths into Australian timber lengths. It was probably a good idea as the day was a frustrating one and five people in the bus would have been too many.

The day basically unfolded as such. Dad, Greg and myself talking through how to attach mdf, cutting it to size and then attempting to fix it. The first idea we had was to attach the wood lengthways. This we attempted but the wood was 100mm too short and to bend the wood to fix it to the beam was to difficult to do.

Next we tried cutting the wood into smaller lengths. Our thinking being as the bus roof had four steel beams we could cut the wood into two small sections and attach these. It would make it easier to bend and theoretically easier to attach. Measuring the wood precisely in both length and width and cutting it to size. We worked hard at it for an hour and then with all hands on deck attempted to bend it into shape and bolt it to the beams. This didn’t quite work as the wood was uneven on the beam making it difficult to attach any other roof panels.


The bus at an earlier stage but one in which you can see the roof beams. Our second plan was to run the wood from the two middle beams to the edge leaving that thin strip in the middle to be roofed later.

The final method we choose was to break the roof sections down even further. We would still have three pieces but the middle piece would now be the biggest and the two curved sections would have their own piece. Measuring and cutting again we got the wood ready and with all hands on deck attached it. This time it worked better. We had our method, now all that was needed was for Deirdre and Dad to pick up the rest of the wood.


The only photo of our days work. The successful version of the roof panelling.

Thursday morning began early for Deirdre and myself. We had wanted to mark out everything in the bus with tape and decided to take the opportunity this morning to get that done. With tape measure and masking tape we set to this task. As we’ve come to learn with this bus nothing is as planned and the measurement and design of the bus Deirdre had completed needed reworking.


Deirdre marking out the floor.


The bus layout marked out. Some refinements on length but most things fit.

After laying out the bus Dad took me outside for a chainsawing lesson. Picking out one of the smaller trees from behind the bus Dad explained to me the technique of cutting out the wedge on the fall side and then cutting in the middle from the back. With that advice I took to felling my first tree. The theory made sense but the practice was a little off as the wedge I cut was too short and on the wrong angle sending the tree into the canopy of another rather than the ground beside it. Still I felt more confident with the chainsaw.


Dad supervising as I fell my first tree.

In the afternoon we had a site visit from IWantSolar (they are going to everything solar and electrical – lighting, switches, ground mounted solar panels, location, and trenches). It was a good hour and a half of working it out. The upside: we were able to get the design that we wanted; the downside: the steepness of our site meant that the cost of installing everything would be more expensive. For starters we would have to hire an excavator to dig 1m holes for the poles and that’s before we even lay any pipes down.

We were now looking at around $20K for a 2KW system with 4 batteries. We needed the power but the cost was really going to hit the budget. It’s definitely made me think of some of the things that we might have to do without for the next little while (mainly garden related which is a pity.)

Whilst we had been playing host Greg, Dad and Sophie had spent the afternoon cutting the roof panel down to size. They’d come up with an ingenious way using the Japanese saw (Greg’s new favourite tool) to cut perfect lines without the need for the jigsaw.


Dad, Greg and Sophie at work preparing

With the roof panelling cut down to size there was one last task to do on the bus. And that was to give it an undercoat. Armed with roller and paint Dad took to this with gusto and in less than an hour he had the bus painted white. From bare walls a week ago we now had painted wooden walls and the bus was looking more like a home. In spite of the rain and inclement weather, our visitors definitely worked hard and for all that we were thankful. We would not have been able to accomplish so much without them.


Dad’s last bit of work in the bus, giving it a white coat.


With tools of choice a final goodbye from the bus on Friday morning.


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