Sunday, May 22, 2016

Should I create a new blog? Nah.

For this next entry I wondered if I should branch off and create a completely new blog for things that I want to write about but aren't sewing machine related. I actually went so far as to create the new blog, but then I contemplated....... and decided to just write of things outside the realm of Sewing Machine-dom on this blog. I actually have done that once or twice in the past, but I may do it more often from now on. So without further ado, here we go.

We have a camper. A truck camper to be more precise in RV lingo. Growing up I'd just called them campers though. So to me it is still just a camper. And here it be in all its glory, among the redwoods in Northern California. Oh, and there we are too.

The camper is a 2002 Bigfoot 25C8.11 that we purchased used in 2013. The truck is a 1996 Ford F250 4x4, with a 7.3L powerstroke diesel engine, crew cab (4-doors), and a short pickup bed. We also purchased it used, in 2002. The camper is designed specifically for short-bed pickups.

The reason for this blog entry is to document the electric rear steps I just got done installing on the camper.

Our camper came with the ever-so-popular scissor steps hanging off the back. While scissor steps are completely functional, they are far from ideal. After three years of using them, the wife and I decided an upgrade was in order. A bit of surfing the net brought me to order an electric Kwikee Triple Step from Camping World. Here's what they look like:

Well, that was our first look at the box on the front porch anyway. Fortunately the steps themselves were in surprisingly good condition for the box being so mangled, as you can kind of see below. The shipper used absolutely no packing materials. None. Just a cardboard box and a 75-pound set of steps.

This next photo shows the steps extended out. It took me a while to figure out which of the five wires needed to be connected to the (+) and (-) battery posts for the motor to operate, but as you can see, I managed to do it, and without losing a finger I might add. To the right you can see the ubiquitous scissor steps.

Alrighty then. What's next, now that we have a $700 set of steps laying on the garage floor? Well I guess the next step is to design a contraption to hold this 75 pound mechanism off the ground. What I came up with is to have two uprights that bolt to the rear camper jack mounts, and have a cross member that will support the torque that the steps would impart to the supports. This is what I came up with for raw materials:
- Uprights: 1/4" x 3-1/2" x ~26"
- Cross tube: 3" square x .120" wall x 84"
- Support tubes: 2" x 3" x .120" wall x ~13"
- Top step: 16" x 25" x .120" plate
- Misc: 1" x 1/8" flat stock, 1" x 1/8" angle

The bill for this steel was $90, which I thought was very reasonable.

This here little red machine (below) came in quite handy to cut all the pieces to length. My dear wife bought the band saw for me last year for my birthday.

This next photo shows the uprights and tube cross member welded together and bolted in place. I used ratchet straps to hold the tube in place while tack welding things in place. Oh, and there are those nasty scissor steps, too.... :-)

This next photo shows how I managed to bolt the side supports to the jack supports. The lower nut is for the jack, and I drilled 3/4" holes to allow the nuts to clear the step supports.

Next are the two step supports that are welded to the cross member.

In the next photo, the plate on top is not yet cut to size, but is there to see how things look.

First trial run extending the steps out (below). I even tried the steps out and nothing broke off or bent. I computed how much torque the steps apply to the bracketry when someone like me (a svelte 230 pounds) is standing on them, and it is quite substantial. About 800 lb-ft of torque is imparted to the cross member, not a trivial amount.

After much welding (my trusty Lincoln WeldPak 100 wire feed never skipped a beat) and drilling, here is the finished product:

A close-up shot of the top step and supports (and my wife's good idea of capping the support tubes - looks so much more finished than those gaping 2x3 holes):

Below is the top step, never been stepped on yet... but that won't last long.

I still need to add non-skid strips to the top step (and the next one down too, that Kwikee failed to install at the factory, but they did send me a chunk of it in the mail). I also need to add a switch or two to make the steps go up and down. Minor detail.

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