Re-introducing ‘Ruby’ the caravan.
On my previous website I had a progression commentary over 2 months whilst renovating the 1970s caravan into a darkroom. Since switching to this new platform, that has all been lost. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the making of my darkroom caravan.
I had set-up a darkroom before, previously using the old boiler house of a hospital as a darkroom, but I have never built a mobile darkroom and the other thing I had never done was tow ANYTHING ..... ever. The 2 months that ensued increased my vocubulary with caravanning terms that make your mind boggle .... "squabs" "jockey wheel" to name but a few.
The exterior was renovated by Mike of Retro Custom Caravans (http://www.retrocustomcaravans.co.nz/) and to start with it was Yellow and White before the re-spray, this is the Caravan getting a coat of primer
Mike delivered her on the back of his Dodge pick-up, which was exciting in itself, but the thing attached to the back of the pickup was even more exciting. Meet Ruby for the first time!
The interior of the caravan was still ‘as is’ and very little had changed from 1977, it was made for 2 people with a set of squabs fold down from a seat to a make a double bed. The lights had lampshades, straight out of the 70s and there was only hook up power. The caravan even came with original vintage wind up clock.
Lights were hard wired 240V incandescent bulbs, there was a hand pump tap and a gas powered hob/grill.
I had bought this caravan with a plan to renovate it, although I didn’t realise just how emotionally challenging this would be taking out the first screw, as I turned the screwdriver, I imagined a pot-bellied mechanic with a hide tool-belt, dirty overalls and smoking a roll-up cigarette working to screw with various cabinetry into place.
I took out the hob/grill and removed the gas line as one of the first jobs, I’m not keen on having anything flammable in the caravan, as I will be working with flammable photographic chemicals. I also removed the squabs and storage space doors underneath the double bed.
n the daylight hours, I was permitted to make a noise and remove alot of the old interior, note the ute filling up with the old interior. I also bought a double stainless steel sink from a renovation warehouse. It was marked $350, I asked “will you take ‘sixty’ for it, and was surprised that the guy said yes! The double sink would be perfect for what I had in mind and it was made for the space over the site of the old sink/hob, it fit almost perfect, although the only problem was that it didn’t have any plumbing, or even any holes to put the taps in. This began a process of research and a bit of concern as to ‘how to install faucet taps’!
As you can see the new sink fits perfectly into place and looks awesome. I’d also started priming the melamine with a special primer, you can also see that I have built the first workbench and removed the rear seat/squab. You will also notice I have installed new more clinical daylight balanced lights. Working on this caravan, I’ve been doing it mostly on my lonesome, I use G-clamps alot as another pair of hands, I find them really useful and have been probably THE most useful tool I have bought in my short lived DIY lifetime.
The sink unfortunately had a 240V power socket above it, so I got an electrician to move a few things around, he had a few more gizmos and testing equipment than I was able to access, so in short, I am pleased I left him to do the work.
I had a working darkroom, however, the lights were 240V and need the caravan to be hooked up to the mains to operate. This shouldn’t have been too much of a problem, but I was troubled by how I would make the darkroom function when I was ‘off the grid’, I didn’t have a house battery and a subsequent 12V system in the caravan. The sound of installing one, all sounded very expensive and complex.
Here you can see the previous power point next to the taps has been blanked off and water sealed. To the left is a mixer neck tap that can swing between the two stainles steel basins and to the right is a low pressure hand pump tap for providing water while off the grid, although I found the hand pump too laborious, so instead installed a 12v water pump.
I decided to install a 12V system into the Caravan, but where on earth to start? Well, as the old saying goes, “start at the start, and go from there”. For a 12V system, the start is obviously the power supply, or the battery. Simple (or so I thought), get a car battery and you are away …… Unfortunately, my life is not that simple, apparently there are (deep breath) …… Car batteries, House Batteries, Deep Cycle Batteries, Wet Batteries, Gel Batteries, Cold Crank Amps (CCA), Amp Hours …… the list goes on.
I housed the battery in a protective box to prevent damage and water infiltration, then, with no previous experience of auto-electrics, I proceeded to wire her up. Ruby was getting ready to be used ‘off-the-grid’.
12V opens up a whole world of accessories that you can use in a vehicle, and the options are mainly in the RV/Caravan category or the Marine/Boat category. I came across a light used for boats and navigation on the bridge, that is switchable from white to red — perfect! almost like it was made for my darkroom caravan. I installed this new 12V option in place of the old 240V lights and the LED outputs almost as much light as its 240V counterparts!
As said, the paint work is pretty much finished now and above shows a shot under the new 12V LED light, pretty impressive output ay? The following images are a before an after, the project has taken me a month to get this far, with pretty much 95% of the work being done by myself in my spare time, which is rather satisfying and I’ve learned heaps!
One of the conditions that Mike (the guy who renovated the exterior of the caravan) sold me the caravan was that she had to have a name. I told him it was to be ‘Rubylith’ – a nod to the red masking film used in darkroom red lights. Mike dropped off some name decals for me - perfect!