Sunday, May 17, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XVII: Shelving, Counters, Floor Tile, Etcetera...

More forward progress was made on the cart this weekend. To start with, I mounted some shelving hardware:

Which, as might reasonably be expected, led to shelves:

I also built the remaining counters. These three will be against the cooking wall, and, once given some paint and formica, will house mise en place, induction burners and deep fryers (and, underneath those, a convection oven and an immersion circulator). Yes, I know the third one is backwards; I somehow didn't notice that as I was taking this shot, and I'm not going back to re-compose it...

While it was nice to get those counters out of the way, the biggest accomplishment of the weekend, by far, was installing the flooring:

The floor represents a bit of a turning point for me. Before the floor, this whole thing wasn't much more than a plywood box on wheels. Now that it's in, though, there's no longer any visible plywood anywhere on the cart, outside or inside, and it's become a kitchen waiting to come to life. I can't help but look at that as kind of a big deal. There's a certain "kitchen" quality that wasn't there before...

The flooring, by the way, is what's called VCT, which stands for vinyl composition tile. I needed two boxes of it for my square footage, so I decided to get one each of black and white and do the classic checkerboard pattern. If you do a Google image search of "VCT patterns," you'll find that people get really creative with this stuff... I did not. But I'm happy with the way it turned out. VCT is very easy to work with, but there's one thing to be aware of, should you ever find yourself installing this kind of flooring. The tiles, while perfectly square, are not perfectly flat. Each one will have a slight bow to it, and you want to install it such that the corners are bowing downward, and not upward. Apart from that, though, like I said, it was a breeze to install. You might notice, by the way, that the trim I put in last weekend has been painted. I went with a glossy white.

My food cart, of course, is not the only project in the works at Civilian Studios. There are upwards of forty artists and artisans who rent space here; everyone from painters to sculptors to jewelry makers to motorcycle builders to woodworkers. My neighbor Austin is currently working on this bonsai stand. I'm quite fond of this piece. Austin's a wizard at bookmatching veneer, and I really dig the Greene & Greene references he has going on here. Very nice work...

So, a productive weekend for sure. Still no ceiling/roof yet, that's on next weekend's agenda, as well as putting the finishing touches on the business plan and talking to the bank about a loan... Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XVI: Windows, FRP and Trim...

The windows made their way into the cart this weekend. Well, they didn't make their way into it, so much as I put them there. These were easier to hang than the door, which itself wasn't nearly as nightmarish as I'd expected. That flashing tape around them can be a little tricky to work with, however; it really likes to stick to itself. I went with a pair of pretty standard double-pane 4'x3' sliders:

I also made much progress on the interior:

All of the FRP (fiber reinforced plastic) and its moulding is in. This is the pebbly textured plastic paneling you see in pretty much every bar or fast food restaurant restroom in North America. It's durable, easy to clean, and it makes health departments happy. Much of this weekend was also spent milling leftover 2x4s into 3/8 in strips for the trim, which I then cut to size and installed. It still needs to be painted, of course. I haven't decided if I'm going to go with white or some shade of brown that mimics a stained look.

Next weekend's agenda will call for putting in the flooring, building the rest of the counters, and starting on the ceiling/roof. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XV: Let Me Show You the Door!

The door is finally on the cart! The first order of this particular part of business was building the jamb:

Turns out I got all my measurements right; as you can see here, the door fits pretty nicely in the jamb, with just about an 1/8" gap:

I had to shim the Hell out of the strike side, and will probably want to stuff some insulation in there, but once I got the jamb in place and got the door on its hinges, everything was nice and square and plumb. Here are a couple shots of the door on the cart:

Next, I took the door off and sawed it roughly in half. I now have a Dutch door, which will be nice in the Summer:

Of course, I'll need to get a knob and a couple of dead-bolts for the door. I also got the rest of the interior sheathing up this weekend. Next step here is to install the FRP and the stainless...

There's a pretty nice view of the Fremont Bridge right out of the garage bay (we also get a lot of trains going by):

One other fortuitous development this weekend was that Steven Shomler, author of Portland Food Cart Stories and host of Tasty Tuesdays on the Portland Radio Project, came by a barbecue I had on Saturday with his radio producer, Ken Wilson. They're interested in interviewing me once I'm almost ready to open. That'll be a fantastic bit of exposure. Many thanks, Steven and Ken! Oh, and thanks as well to Risa Dale for the door, and to James for helping to hang it!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XIV: Ready For Siding!

So, I finally got the back wall framed and into place:

I also got the last of the exterior plywood sheathing up:

Here's what the corners look like, by the way. Each wall has two 2x4s at the top, and the upper one is either 3 1/2 inches shorter or 3 1/2 inches longer than the wall itself. These then overlap at the corners and  the walls are nailed to each other. This gives any basic box, be it a food cart, a shed or a house, a lot of rigidity:

The next step was wrapping the walls in Tyvek house wrap. You've seen this stuff before if you've ever walked or driven by a typical "stick farm" neighborhood development in progress. It's a waterproof, breathable membrane that waterproofs the structure while allowing water vapor to escape from inside. It's essentially GoreTex for buildings, and lives under the siding. Here are a couple views of that:

I also started facing the interior of the cart this weekend with plywood. Fiberglass reinforced plastic will eventually be glued in place over that. Here it is on the sink wall:

Still haven't gotten the door hung. That, and the windows, will be at the top of next weekend's to-do list. But much progress made...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XIII: Insulation, Backer Board and the Hawaiian Model of the Month

This weekend's cart project revolved primarily around installing insulation. I went with the pink roll insulation you've all seen, the stuff from Owens Corning that uses the Pink Panther as its marketing mascot (it looks brown here because it's faced with Kraft paper, but underneath it's as pink as Pepto Bismol). I chose the R-13 value, which should be plenty of insulation for the typical Pacific Northwest winter. Here it is on the sink wall and front wall:

And here it is on the cooking wall. I also started installing the cement backer board where the cooking area itself will be. It'll reach all the way to the ceiling when it's done, and will be covered with stainless steel, but here's what I managed to get done by the end of the day:

I also built a step platform, sort of a little stoop for the cart, which will be at the back, underneath the door. I'll need something like this anyway, and as I'm working more inside the cart than out of it now, it made sense to build it sooner rather than later. In the past couple of weeks, I've hoisted myself up into the cart on my knee about five hundred times and, well, how shall I put this... that'll make you sore in parts of your groin that you didn't even know existed.

I also picked up a new toy this weekend. It's a justified toy, though. My trusty Black and Decker cordless drill, which has served me well through the years, just wasn't cutting it for this job. The old Nickel Cadmium batteries don't hold a charge long enough, and I needed a bit more power, especially for that backer board, so I picked up this 18 volt Milwaukee lithium-ion hammer drill:

I've saved the best shot for last. This is, without a doubt, the most effective way to get a bunch of dudes in a shop to remember to turn the dust collection system on and off:

If you look closely, and I know you are, fellas, you'll notice that this is Miss August, despite the fact that I'm writing this in April. The month is not what's important here, though, so get your minds back into the gutter! Hated to censor this, by the way, but being that Blogger is owned by The Man, aka Google, who no doubt have some Draconian anti-nudity policy in place, I decided to play it safe here.

I was hoping to get the fourth wall up, and the door hung, this weekend, but that's going to have to wait until next Thursday. Still, a very productive weekend. Also, I managed to secure Burmasphere's first catering gig/pop-up event, which will happen at Civilian Studios in June. Pretty excited about that!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XII: Walls Rising!

Having gotten the new axle, springs and hubs installed on the trailer, and the floor secured to the frame, I've spent the past few days put-ting up walls for the cart. I started with the cooking wall. This is the wall that will house the refrigerator, mise space and cooking area. For those of you who like to keep track, I'll be using magnetic induc-tion burners, deep fryers, an under-counter convection oven and sous vide for proteins; yes, that's right, no propane or gas! Magnetic induction is a great way to cook, and it kicks out a lot less ambient heat than gas powered burners or flat-tops, which will be really nice come those dog days of August. Anyway, here's what that looks like:

I then put up the sink wall. As you might guess, this is where the three compartment ware sink, as well as the hand washing sink, will be. One of the windows will be on this wall as well, which may serve as the service window. Otherwise, a prep space will occupy that spot:

Next up was the end wall, which, once I have the top plate in place, will be attached at the corners to the other two walls, and shore the cart up considerably with respect to rigidity. This wall, as you can see, will have its own window, which I'm hoping to use as the service window. In that case, this will be the "front" of the cart:

The remaining wall will be the "back" wall, and that's where the door will be. This will be the most challenging, as before I build it I have to essentially teach myself, virtually, how to hang a door, so I get the measurements of the door opening right. Windows are surprisingly easy; doors, those are a little tricky... At any rate, here's an overall view of the trailer, on its jack stands, proudly sporting its new walls:

So, much forward movement made again this weekend, just like last. I had a lot of help hoisting these walls into place from my fellow artisans at Civilian Studios; Austin, of course, as well as James and Elise, and a couple other folks whose names I don't yet know, but really should... Thanks a million, everybody!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Food Cart Project Part XI: Back to Construction!

So, construction on the cart has been held up over much of the Fall and Winter by a number of factors: Hiccups with the studio space, going through the whole rigamarole of the plan review process, writing up the business plan, horrible time management skills on my part, etc, etc, etc... But things are back on track, and much forward movement has been made recently. It started with the installation, a few weeks back, of a new axle. When I bought the trailer, it came to me with an axle rated for, as best I could estimate from its diameter, around 1500 lbs. That's about as much as the lumber and plywood by itself will weigh, so I'd bought a new axle and pair of leaf springs rated for 3500 lbs from Potter-Webster, a local suspension supply firm, only to eventually discover that the axle was about two inches wider than the old one. I managed to talk them into swapping it out for a slightly narrower one, and installed it with the new leaf springs:

If you know anything about suspensions, you might be looking at that and thinking "the U bolts and tie plates are usually facing downward, aren't they?" I thought that as well, but it was set up this way with the old axle, and I've got locking washers under those nuts, so this arrangement is gonna work just fine. This newer, much beefier axle has a different style of spindles than the old one, of course, which meant I needed new hubs as well, which I picked up at Six Robblees:

Greasing the bearings and installing the hubs was surprisingly easy (I barely passed my high school auto shop class), and with the new axle and hubs installed, I was able to get the floor I'd built back in place:

This was then secured to the trailer's frame from underneath with a bunch of lag bolts drilled directly into the floor joists:

That floor, by the way, is nearly dead level (no small feat given the sloping garage floor and dodgy Harbor Freight jack stands it's resting on, but definitely an advantage), and makes for a very convenient work surface as I'm framing out the walls, as you can see here:

I also managed to get one of the counters constructed, which I'm using as a basic workbench as I get the walls up. I ran into a bit of luck on this. First, there was a bunch of 2x2s left over from somebody else's project that were available (you can see them leaning up against the wall in that last photo, next to the garage door), and second, the table saw's outfeed table in the wood shop was *exactly* the right height for building the counter:

Here's the basic structure of the counter itself:

And, here it is topped with plywood, which will eventually be finished with Formica once it's ready to start serving prep duty in the cart:

So, things are starting to move along. I've got a bunch of dimensional lumber cut for the walls, and will be working on framing those over the rest of this weekend and next. Stay tuned!