Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Dutch Oven Apple Dump Cake 

Recipe and photo submitted by Rick Beach

From our "First Annual Vintage Trailer Rally" @Lake Havasu State Park, Arizona. We managed to fire up the Dutch Ovens for the Potluck meal. Here is the Dutch Oven Apple Dump Cake Recipe:

1 Can Apple Pie Filling (Somewhat chopped)
1 Stick of Butter 
1 Box Cake Mix (White or Yellow) 
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon 
3 Tbsps. Brown Sugar 
1 Sprinkle Salt 
8 oz Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider (Or Clear soda such as 7Up, Sprite, etc)

Start your charcoal 15 minutes ahead. 12 inch Dutch Oven - Apply a good coating of Crisco or Spray oil 

Melt 2 Tbsps. of the stick of butter in the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Pour in the chopped apple pie filling and add half the Cinnamon, Half the Brown sugar and shake of salt.

Dump the dry cake mix on top of the apple mixture and spread evenly.

Chop the remaining butter in chunks and distribute over the dry cake mix.
Pour the Cider over the entire top of the cake mix best you can.
Sprinkle the remaining Cinnamon and brown sugar over the top. 

Cover the Dutch Oven with its lid.  Coals for 350 degrees heat.
With a 12 inch Dutch Oven, place 9 coals on the bottom at the outer perimeter. Add a full ring of coals to the top at the very perimeter of the lid (about 15 -18 coals.
Bake about 45 -60 minutes. 

The cake should be somewhat firm on the top, but gooey when served. Best served hot with some vanilla ice cream and a little whipped cream. 

If you like a sweet sour combination, serve with creamed cheese. Once it is cold I love it with a sharp cheddar cheese.

DIY Industrial Strength Tent Stakes

DIY Industrial Strength Tent Stakes

Are you tired of cheap wire or plastic stakes?

After having an expensive EZ-Up Tent damaged because of wind I set out to fabricated a set of heavy duty stakes.  Not something that would break the bank in the process.  I live in a desert and the soil is often a mixture of compacted sand and gravel.  Any of the normally supplied stakes just would not work.  Even some of the longer ones found at sporting good stores were ineffective.   I know many of you stake down EZ-Up tent shade, and Chuck Wagon type canvas shelters.  

These were put to the test on their first trip out.  They were driven at an angle at the four corners.  Then ratchet tie down straps were attached at all four corners of the EZ-UP, and tighten down.  In the evening a storm blew in quickly.  One of my friends EZ-Up’s stakes pulled out…that resulted in a mangled mess of aluminum uprights and ribs.  It went into the trash.  I couldn’t get my EZ Up down with the wind blowing.  Nor did I think I could fold it for storage while working alone.  I just made sure the straps were tight.  The EZ-Up rode the storm out unscathed. 

A set of four stakes will cost about $24 to fabricate (not counting paint and welding material).  I happen to have a Mig wire welder which makes quick and clean work of the project.  Gas welding/brazing would probably work just fine.  If you are a good stick welder that will do too.  Start to finish took me 45 minutes, including a quick coat of paint on the top end.  These aren't fancy, and I am not the greatest welder...but they certainly work.

These are made from Concrete Forming stakes and a few other common hardware items.  I store and carry these in a old tent bag that has a zipper, and has 2 web handles.

(4)   ¾”X24” Round Concrete Forming Stakes (The type with holes for nailing through)
(4)   3/8” nuts
(4)   ¾” Flat Washers
(4)   1 ½” Steel Rings
Optional Fluorescent Orange Spray Paint

Grinder or file
Welder or Brazing Torch
Bolt Cutters or Hacksaw or cold chisel and sledge
Channelocks, Visegrips, etc  

Start by grinding or filing the round flat end of the stakes, and partially down the stake.  This is to provide a shiny clean surface to weld.  Also grind a small patch at the second hole down to provide a clean welding surface for the nut.   Lastly grind about one inch at the point end if using an Electric Welder.  Your welder grounding clamp will attach to the ground point end.


Cut the 4 rings with a bolt cutter, hacksaw or chisel.  I did mine at the factory weld.  Bend these cut ends slightly past each other and set aside.

Place one flat washer on a flat surface such as a brick.  Hold the stake flat end down, inserted in the washer.  Weld 360° around the stake end to attach the washer.  


Flip the stake and weld the top of the washer seam were it meets the end of the round stake end.  


With pliers or vise grips position the nut over the second hole which you have previously cleaned up with a grinder.  Tack with the welder.  Align and remove the vise grips holding the nut.  Finish welding the nut to the stake.  Be careful not to fill the nut hole with weld.


Slip the ring through the welded nut.  Re-bend the ring to line back up.  Weld the ring cut ends back together.  Tack on one side, tack again at 180°.  The ring should slide freely through the hole of the nut.  The ring does not get welded to the nut.

Normally with a Mig your welds are not rough enough to need grinding.  But clean up any sharp or poking points that might be protruding.   The welds on the end of the stake at the washer will get hammered.  They will soon flatten on their own.

I shot the top end with fluorescent orange paint so I can see them in the dark.  Take a tennis ball and slit it part way.  These can be slipped over the stake after the stake is driven in.  They are a great safety addition to help avoid a trip hazard, especially if kids are around.

Originally posted 10/9/14 8:43PM

Friday, March 13, 2015

Old Gold Mine site: Techatticup Mine, Nelson, Nevada

One of the most interesting old mine sites I have kicked around is the Techatticup Mine area, about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.  In current time it is host to endless settings of photo ops as well as a mine tour.

Prior to the late 1700’s this arid area near the Colorado River was home to several Native American tribes such as the Paiutes and Mojave.   In the late 1700’s the Spanish came through in search of gold.   The Spanish called the area Eldorado.  They never found the gold and moved on.

Prospectors again returned to the area.  Steamboat travel on the river had been established.  Nelsons Landing became a stopping point.  Nelsons Landing was a community on the Colorado River bank and would become one of the most active ports on the river.  Up the huge dry wash several miles from Nelsons Landing, somewhere around the year 1861, gold was discovered.   The Techatticup and Queen City mines sprung up.   These along with some others, formed one of the richest mining districts prior to Nevada even becoming a State.


As you wander through old rusting vehicles and weather worn wood buildings you would never image this area as being one of the wildest western towns to ever spring up in the search for gold.  Complete with double crossers, Civil War deserters, partner poisonings, gunfights, murder, and mayhem.  

The area was also home to several notorious Native Americans that lived in this area.  They also dealt in trouble and death.  If interested, research Ahvote and Quehoe, or spelled Queho too. 

There is a whole legend surrounding Queho.  Along with Sheriff Frank Wait and posse attempting to find and capture him.  The story would make a true western movie, but with a weird twisted ending.  He eluded everyone.  His mummified remains were to be found later by prospectors in 1940.  In this strange tale, his remains where then put on public display until the 1950’s.   He was finally laid to rest in 1975.

In today's equivalent, billions of dollars’ worth of Gold, Silver, Copper, and lead were mined.  There are miles of existing tunnels in the mountain at this site.   Current owners, the Werly’s, purchased some of the area in 1994.  They have restored many of the buildings and lead tours into the mine.

The area has been used as the setting for several Hollywood movies and TV shows.

If you are in or visiting the Las Vegas, Nevada area be sure to take at least a half a day and explore this area.  If you have the time, follow the road down the hill to the gravel parking area at the base of the huge dry wash.  Then hike a few hundred yards to the bank of the Colorado River.

At this location on the river, five large dry wash channels converge into a final small outlet where Nelson’s Landing once stood.  In 1974 heavy downpours sent runoff water rushing down these channels.  Some reports say the wall of water was 40 ft high.  The entire landing and village were destroyed, washed into the river, killing 9 people.  


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DIY Chevy Van Slide out Storage Drawers

DIY Project: Sliding drawer storage for Express Van

The objectives of this project were to first create Sliding Drawer storage in the rear of a Chevy Express van.  The drawers are to ride on roller bearings to support lots of weight and for ease of use.

Additionally there will be a 30 gallon fresh water storage tank.  This will be wired and plumbed to a 12 volt RV water pump to provide pressurized water.  

Lastly the deck over the drawer space will be fitted with foam cushions and provide a comfortable sleeping area over 6 feet long and about 5 feet wide.

With some minor modifications this drawer system could be adapted for a pick up truck with a camper shell covering the truck bed.

The project was started by creating some anchors for the wood deck.  Electrical strut was attached to the van floor using eye bolts and the original seat latching pins.  This provided a means to secure the wood to the van floor, and allows leveling with carpet shims out at the ends of the strut.   Two floating pieces of strut will be attached to the underside of the far ends of the bottom plywood, at areas that have no seat floor connectors.  These floating pieces of strut will be shimmed to level.  This allows the drawer box to be removed and the van returned to original, without drilling any holes in the floor of the van.
Right off the bat problems started.  The threads of the eye bolts did not go far enough on the bolt shaft.  It took 3 fender washers to make up the difference.  I ended up pulling all the eye bolts out and used a thread cutting die to cut threads further down the shaft.  After that these worked out with one washer as originally planned.  This washer and nut will be recessed in the ¾ inch drawer box bottom panel.  I did not want them sticking up any higher than necessary.  I could have left the eye bolts floating, and eliminated that set of washer and nut.  With the bolts rigid in place, it made dragging the drawer box assembly a lot easier…. to do the lining up, and dropping over the vertical bolts.  A second fender washer and nut gets spun down on top of the drawer box bottom panel.  This secures the box to the floor. 

Positioning layout of water storage tank and RV On demand water pump.  The tank and pump were already mounted in the van previously.  It was originally mounted vertical, the long way, behind the 3rd row seat.  (2nd & 3rd row rear seat have now been removed)


At this point the assembly is about too bulky and heavy to handle by one person.  Once I have the water tank positioned, a cross bulkhead panel location will be marked, to section off the water tank area.  The shown assembly will be marked to saw cut out some sections of the bottom deck to lighten the load too.  Then the assembly will be pulled back out of the van.  (Notice the protruding anchor bolts with no washers or nuts yet)

4 dead areas of the wood plywood decking will be cut out to reduce weight.

The cross bulkhead panel will be installed to create the water tank chamber.  A vertical center divider will be run perpendicular to the bulkhead panel and attached to the bulkhead and the floor to create (2) drawer chambers about 22-23 inches wide. 

All panels are being screwed together in case this ever needs to be removed from the vehicle.  Once the bottom panel is lightened, the bulkhead panel attached, and the vertical divider screwed into place, this assembly will be re-inserted in the van.  The anchor bolts will then have fender washers and nylon lock nuts spun down against the plywood deck.  The excess threaded bolt will be ground flush with the top of the nuts. 

The remainder of the wood construction will be complete inside the vehicle.

Roller bearing drawer guides will then be installed on the inside of both sides of the box, as well as both sides of the vertical center divider.  These will be skate board bearings part number 608-2RS. These are 8mmX 22mmX 7mm.  Or about 7/8 inch OD X 5/16 ID hole X 5/16 wide.   Some places want $4 to $6 each for these.  I found them on eBay for about 40 cents each with free shipping, if ordered in lots of 100.  I thought I might need 150 of them.  So three days later my package of 200 arrived at my door step.

The drawer sides will each have a 1x1 square steel tubing attached to both sides. This side tubing will become the rails.  This tubing rail will ride on a long row of roller bearings, as well as a row above the tubing to support the extended drawer weight.

Next I needed to fabricate (4) 1X1 steel drawer rails.  These would be mounted on the sides of the drawers, and ride on the roller bearings.  I preferred to side mount mine.  The steel tubing would true up the sides of the long drawers.  Sigh….it is so hard to find straight lumber any more….even plywood.

I cut my steel tubing to length and marked off bolt placement.  My design would require drilling thought the tubing with a 5/16 inch bit.   Once all holes were drilled in the tubing I laid these out on my drawer sides.  They were clamped into place, marked with bolt direction, marked top, and which side of which drawer these mated up with.  Then I drilled through the holes in the tubing, and on through the side of the drawer.  This was done because no matter how well you mark and drill the tubing, none of the holes would be consistent.  The clamps were removed and brazing of the bolts was next on the agenda.

Carriage bolts were used to make sawing the heads off easier than using a standard hex head bolt. I insert the carriage bolts through the hole, brazed the bolt on the thread side.  Then power hack sawed off the bolt head.  Once the bolt head was removed I brazed this flush cut end to the tubing…finishing off that side by hitting it with grinder to make it flush and smooth.

Here I have 4 complete rails.  They were matched up with the corresponding drawer side.  Using a rubber mallet the bolt ends were pounded into the pre-drilled holes in the drawer sides.  A flat washer and a nylon locking nut secured all bolts.  The excess threads were sawed off and ground smooth with a grinder.

Roller bearing placement was marked.  Then the roller bearings were mounted using 5/15 inch bolts, nuts, flat washers, and nylon lock nuts.  

The drawers were rough fitted and work great.  The drawers inside measurements are about 56 inches long, 20 inches wide and about 15 inches deep.  ¾ inch sides and ½ inch bottoms.

At this stage, the drawers are roughed in and actually functional.  I was able to test them out over a 3 day camping weekend.  I loaded them full.  There were Cast Iron cooking skillets and pots, tools, camp stove, etc.  All this gear was heavy stuff, to really test out the drawers.  The drawers worked great even minus the drawer fronts, handles and trim.  Those will be added soon.

I spend most of the day rough plumbing the fresh water storage tank.  The fill tube and faucet are plumbed to the side door for easy access.  Shown here you see a fill tube, pressurized faucet, vent, and a tank drain faucet.  All the lines are run including the pump and connection to the 12V RV pump.  As I said these are at the side door and overhang the step which has a plastic step liner.  The backboard where the faucets protrude will be covered in tile, stainless, or aluminum.  That way any drips or spray will end up on the step, and not on the carpeting.

Running power for the pump comes next.  I will install a fused on/off switch with neon indicator at this location to control the pump.

Plumbing and wiring all hooked up.  Tank partially filled.  Pressure tested to make sure there are no leaks.

Installed off/on switch for the pump.  I included a LED reminder indicator for when that the power is on.  See Link for detailed wiring info for the LED.  http://toponautic.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-diy-corner-led-indicator-light-for.html

Shown below is the same area covered with white cracked ice finish FRP Wallboard.  This is a non porous polyester resin material.  This was scrap left over from another project.  It was applied with contact cement.

The images below show the completed drawer fronts.  Pull handles installed.  Also each drawer has a locking latch to prevent the drawer from rolling back and forth during vehicle stopping or accelerating.  The exposed sides and deck are to be covered with gray carpeting.  Corners will be trimmed with ¾ inch aluminum angle.