Canterbury Pitt table renovation – no turning back now…

OK, a little more progress has been made on my plans to renovate my rather shabby and tatty looking Canterbury Pitt table, as today was the day when I started to disassemble the different parts of the table, so now there is no turning back!

I get a slightly reverential feeling when working on old original items such as this. I’m aware of its age and its history of association with the van/interior, so tend to tread carefully before making any decisions or contemplating any changes, but in this case, the decisions were a bit easier.

The formica was scratched, chipped, split and had holes in it!

The formica was scratched, chipped, split and had holes in it!

This was no concourse example of a Canterbury Pitt interior, no museum piece. The Formica top had deep scratches in it, there were screw holes coming through the surface, the edges were chipped and there were several large cracks running through it. All of this made it way beyond my skill level to try to repair it, if repairs to the Formica were even possible? This combined with the fact that it sits on a sub-base of swollen, cracked and split chipboard means that this piece of the history has in reality run its course and will need replacing!

with the mahogany under frame carefully removed

with the mahogany under frame carefully removed

I then carefully unscrewed the mahogany under frame and the hinged leg support from the table top. These elements were in much better condition, and will be re-used in the ‘new’ table. The under frame will dictate the shape/form to new the table top, and I will try to use the original leg and support mechanism underneath with the new top material. This way it helps create some form of continuity and a link between old and new.

Canterbury Pitt table leg in good condition so should clean up nicely

Canterbury Pitt table leg in good condition so should clean up nicely

The leg and support mechanism are in good usable condition, so should clean up nicely and work well with the new top. Instead of trying to replicate the original Formica covered chipboard top, I want to look at using something a bit more durable with a self finish to it.

Canterbury Pitt table leg and hinge support mechanism

Canterbury Pitt table leg and hinge support mechanism

I also wanted to put my own slightly retro inspired twist on the table top, and have it colour wise, contrast the dark reddish mahogany colours used in the interiors rear seats woodwork. Instead, to be more in keeping with the lighter colours of the interior fabric and the original Canterbury Pitt cooker cupboard, which appears to be more of a more honey coloured oak?

The Canterbury Pitt door mounted cooker is a nice original feature of the camper

The Canterbury Pitt door mounted cooker is a nice original feature of the camper

So in the end, I have found some suitable 18mm Oak faced (?) WBP plywood with a really nice surface grain that should do the trick nicely, and to finish the edges off, some retro looking Aluminium Double Feather Edge strip.

So lets see how this plan comes together…

combining work, pleasure and camping in a field!

Some people say it’s not a great idea to try to combine business with pleasure, but there are times when there is a natural coexistence which provides an excellent win win opportunity. This summer we had one such event! My wife Lorna was taking place in a series of PechaKucha talks at Greenbelt ‘Arts, Faith and Justice’ festival at Boughton House, Kettering. The event is a 4 day festival with on-site camping and had the likes of Sinead O’Connor playing live, so what was not to like?! Lorna got complimentary tickets as a contributor, plus a camping pass for our camper, so it made a great chance to get away for a few days and go camping in a field for a few days!

So whilst Lorna prepared for her talk, I had some preparation of my own to do on the camper. As this was our first time away together in the camper, there were a few bits and pieces that I had previously done on a ‘temporary’ basis to just get by, which I now wanted to get more fully resolved! I might be able to live with some of the temporary things, but I knew that Lorna would see things differently, and a happy wife = happy camping!

Things like working out how to put up the awning that came with the van as part of the deal when I bought it, but had never got around to looking at. Then as we were going to be away for a few days, I wanted to sort out getting a decent fridge/freezer for storing fresh food/milk etc. I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to refurbish and sort out the Canterbury Pitt table, but I did need to resolve some form of temporary bed supports for the double bed. So with a new focus, I managed to get a few outstanding jobs sorted (funny how deadlines help get jobs sorted!) before we bought some food and supplies for our mini adventure ‘up north’ at Greenbelt!

One thing lead to another and we ended up setting off a bit later than planned, so when we finally rocked up at the site, it was getting dark. Glad we had previously done a test run at pitching the awning! After getting the awning set up, we decided to have a wander around the site and check out some of the late night music tents, food stalls and get a general sense of the vibe of the festival before calling it a day and heading off to bed…

great opportunity to test out our awning

great opportunity to test out our awning

The next morning when we woke up, it was good to see that we had done a half decent job at pitching the awning. Having the extra space that the awning provided makes a huge difference if you are going to be at a place for more than a couple of days.

In the daylight wandering around the fields, scattered around the designated camper van and caravan field of the Greenbelt site, amongst the sea of white motor homes, there were a few classic campers tucked away that caught my eye, such as this great example of French style, the Citroën H van

super cool Citroën H van camper

super cool Citroën H van camper

I didn’t see any other Volkswagen split screen campers, but were a few VW Early Bay Westfalia campers dotted around the field, but I really loved this savannah beige Early Bay Dormobile pop top…

beautiful Early Bay Dormobile camper

beautiful Early Bay Dormobile camper

There were a fair few classic Eriba caravans around the site, but my favourite caravan of the weekend was this superb vintage Westfalia caravan with its extended red and white striped awning, how cool is this!

fantastic vintage Westfalia caravan and awning

fantastic vintage Westfalia caravan and awning

As for the festival, we had a great time. Lornas PechaKucha talk went down really well, there was some great live music (Sinead O’Connor was a particular standout), there were some very funny standup comedians, some thought-provoking talks and Lorna even got to see Monty Pythons ‘Life of Brian’ for the very first time!

breathing new life into old technology

OK, pre warning, as some might have guessed by now, I may have a few geek like tendencies, so if this disturbs you, you may not want to continue reading this post as my inner geek gets to play with some retro technology…

A few years ago, as a special treat for my 40th birthday, my wife bought me a new (at the time) 40GB (see what she did there!) Apple iPod, as she knew how much I loved listening to music on my then long, arduous commute from Leicester to London. It was brilliant, and over the next few years it got a serious amount of use, and never let me down, not even once!

my 4th generation Apple iPod; hiding away, loved but unused

my 4th generation Apple iPod; hiding away, loved but unused

However, a few years ago, the hard drive started playing up, and as by then I had also got an iPhone, my much-loved iPod languished sadly unused on my desk. As I hate throwing things away, I had planned to possible replace or upgrade the hard drive as a way of trying to fix it, but the urgency and good intentions to do this, sadly faded to the back of my mind.

The hard drive and iPod may have gone from the forefront of my mind, but they were not forgotten! I also wanted to upgrade my head unit in the camper van so that I could also incorporate the iPod (or iPhone/iPad) into the system and take more music on the go with me on my travels. It was great being able to record a few mp3 mix CD’s for the camper, but as I now had all my CD collection available in mp3 format, it would be great if I could have all my music available! So now was the moment to breathe some new life into my forlorn and neglected iPod!

I had done further research and had seen that you could now also get extended capacity lithium-ion batteries for my old 4th generation iPod, and there were conversion options to do away with the old ‘mechanical’ hard disk drive and convert it to using a much more resilient compact flash card. This would be smaller, lighter, require less power and having virally no moving parts, be much more robust!

iPod compact flash to 1.8" IDE converter

iPod compact flash to 1.8″ IDE converter

So time for project iPod v2 to begin! First up I ordered a new extended capacity, 1200 mAh, Li-ion 3.7V battery to replace the old original battery plus a new 128GB compact flash card to supersede the original (now outgrown) 40GB hard drive! To hook up the new compact flash card to the original HDD connector in the iPod, I also needed to order a compact flash to 1.8″ IDE converter.

Then with the simplest of tools (plastic iPod splitter tool plus a T6 Torx screwdriver) and some online step by step instructions, it was time to open up the iPod and upgrade some of its primary internal components.

plastic iPod splitter tool and a T6 Torx screwdriver

plastic iPod splitter tool and a T6 Torx screwdriver

Withe iPod opened up, it was a simple job to replace the battery with the new higher capacity extended life replacement. Then it was a case of removing the existing hard drive, fitting the new compact flash to 1.8″ IDE converter and then fitting the new 128GB flash card that would now be the iPods new hard drive.

3.7v 1200 mAh extended capacity Lithium-ion battery

3.7v 1200 mAh extended capacity Lithium-ion battery

With the new upgrades fitted, it was time to update the system software on the iPod via iTunes and then sync my music collection to it. It was here that I first noticed the differences the new upgrades had made performance wise. The new compact flash card/drive was just so much faster than the old drive, and the 70GB of music transferred over really quickly! It also made the iPod considerably lighter than before!

As part of the initial conditioning process for the new battery, it’s important to fully charge/run down the battery a couple of times. The battery life was dramatically better than the original, to the point that I had to just leave the iPod playing over night to drain the battery down! The extended capacity life of the battery and the lower power demands of the new compact flash drive make a perfect combination for long-lasting music on the go!

my iconic 4th generation Apple iPod, fully upgraded and ready to go again!

my iconic 4th generation Apple iPod, fully upgraded and ready to go again!

It lives again! My updated and upgraded 4th generation Apple iPod maintains its iconic cool retro design looks, but delivers a way better performance in terms of battery life and storage capacity! I now have a months worth of continuous music to choose from, looks like I’ll need to be going for some long drives to test it out!

Original Canterbury Pitt table renovation plans…

When I bought my vintage VW camper, it came with various bits and pieces, one of them being a battered original Canterbury Pitt table. This not only provided the interior with a table, but it also doubled up to be the main support board for the double bed.

the original Canterbury Pitt table also provided the bridge/support for the various bed layouts

the original Canterbury Pitt table also provided the bridge/support for the various bed layouts

Unfortunately, the table was in really poor condition, especially the Formica covered chipboard top! The Formica top was very badly scratched, marked, chipped and cracked, and to be honest, was beyond saving. The chipboard base it was mounted on was in equally as bad a condition.

Original Canterbury Pitt table (top)

Original Canterbury Pitt table (top)

However, the mahogany under frame that the Formica/Chipboard top was fixed to, and the table leg were in a better, more salvageable condition.

Original Canterbury Pitt table (underside)

Original Canterbury Pitt table (underside)

The ironmongery items such as the original hinges and the table leg support mechanism, are the proverbial ‘hens teeth’ items to find if missing, so I was pleased that at least I had these items, even if the table at present was far from being usable!

Original Canterbury Pitt leg and hinge/support detail

Original Canterbury Pitt leg and hinge/support detail

The mahogany elements of the wooden table leg again were in fairly decent condition, just a bit grubby and scratched in places, but at least these are easy issues to remedy!

Original Canterbury Pitt leg and hinge/support detail

Original Canterbury Pitt leg and hinge/support detail

My plan is to try to retain as much of the original mahogany under frame, leg, hinges/leg support etc. and give the table a new top and slight contemporary retro updating, watch this space for progress updates…

a camper van is not just for shows

Although there are a myriad of Volkswagen shows dotted all over the place here in the UK and Europe, the humble VW camper vans life is not just one all about the glamour of show and shine! These classic campers are actually incredibly versatile and practical vehicles. They are no ‘one trick pony’ just for the more obvious camping holidays or trips to the coast, all part of the seductive ‘living the dream’ image that the iconic vintage VW camper encapsulates. Sometimes they need to just roll up their metaphorical sleeves and get stuck in with a bit of hard graft!

a mobile room with a view at Bexhill beach

a mobile room with a view at Bexhill beach

So after a happy honeymoon of road trips, car shows and days at the beach, my camper was forced to show a more rugged and practical side to its nature! Recently we had the dubious joys of moving house, and because we had a few days grace to when the actual move could take place, we decided we should move things over in stages over a few days. Enter my trusty camper van. It’s no ‘show queen’, it’s a much-loved, used and enjoyed camper, but now it was time to do some work.

Because of it’s somewhat unique shape and ingenious use of internal space (a big box on wheels!), it’s easy to forget just how big an internal volume it actually has! Slowly, but surely, load after load, we made a number of return trips dropping stuff off at the new place, charity shops and even the local dump. It was amazing what we could actually fit in.

a dishwasher might be a bit too much for a camping trip!?

a dishwasher might be a bit too much for a camping trip!?

Initially we thought that there were a couple of very tall, and fairly large Ikea bookshelves which we assumed were just not going to fit, but even with these, we were wrong! Open the rear hatch and you could simply slide them in over the rear seats, simple. In the end, nothing actually proved to be too big to fit inside and before you knew it, we had actually moved the entire contents of our old 5 bed house into the new place! To be honest, I was quite amazed at how well it had all worked out in the end. Retro removals anyone?

After all the hard work of moving, the ‘camper’ had certainly earned it’s keep! However, with all the stress and hassle of moving, it was really nice to get back to using the camper for more pleasurable pursuits, like going to the beach for a relaxing swim on a hot summers day – pure bliss!

a beautiful sunny day by the beach at St Leonards-on-Sea…

a beautiful sunny day by the beach at St Leonards-on-Sea…

a new soundtrack to Ninove…

I had always been wanting to add a soundtrack of some kind to my original time-lapse HD video from this years UK cruise to Ninove, but I never really had the skills to do it. However I’m very lucky that my son has just finished his degree at University and has just very kindly created a great soundtrack to accompany the HD video, hope you njoy it and the video evokes happy memories to those from the UK who went on the cruise or went to the amazing weekend that was the Freddy Files event at Ninove!

bus buddies arrive in France ready for a road trip to Ninove, Belgium

bus buddies arrive in France ready for a road trip to Ninove, Belgium

every cloud has a silver lining…

Sometimes it’s great to plan things out to the last tiny detail, other times it’s fun to just go with the flow and have a bit of spontaneity in your life. So it was a nice to get an offer from a friend to come over for a BBQ, have a couple of beers and watch the England v Uruguay match in the Brazil 2014 World Cup at their house out in the country.

As the weather was so great, and I was driving over in the VW split screen camper, I had the option of either stopping over in their spare room, or just parking up amongst the trees on their land and camping in the van… well it was a bit of a no brainer, so we picked a nice location to park up, and had a great BBQ and then settled in to watching the match…

beautiful spot to park up and camp for the night

beautiful spot to park up and camp for the night

OK, so the result of the match was not what was wanted, but hey, every cloud has a silver lining – what an amazing view and sunrise to wake up to the next morning…

sunrise - not a bad view to wake up to

sunrise – not a bad view to wake up to

The gentle rolling hills of the valley glistened with the early morning dew as the sun slowly slid into view. What a way to start the day!

nice rack

With the summer weather in effect, it has been great to be getting out and about in the vintage VW camper and make the most of both the glorious weather and the beautiful countryside and coastline in the south-eastern corner of England.

One of the jobs that I had been meaning to get around to, was to make some protective feet or covers for the feet of my 3-bow roof rack. I had taken the rack off in the winter with the intention of getting this little detail sorted, but my good intentions had got some what sidetracked! Well, Fathers day and gong to a local classic car show, finally prompted me to get my act together to get the job sorted at last!

outer roof rack foot removed for measuring…

outer roof rack foot removed for measuring…

For ease of measuring and trial fitting of my new foot protectors, I removed the outer clamp off of one of the legs of the 3-bow roof rack…

a sharp knife soon saw some double sided adhesive foam strips cut to size

a sharp knife soon saw some double-sided adhesive foam strips cut to size

…and cut to width a strip of double-sided adhesive backed closed cell foam that I had bought ages ago in preparation of doing the job! The strip was then cut to length (x6) for each of the roof racks feet. I allowed enough to fully wrap around the base of the foot plus extend up the side of the support to ensure that the metal of the rack was protected from coming into direct contact with the split screen campers roof metal gutter section.

self-adhesive foam strip positioned and stuck in place

self-adhesive foam strip positioned and stuck in place

Once complete, I repeated the process to make protective covers for the outer clamp of the 3-bow roof rack.

process repeated for the roof racks outer feet

process repeated for the roof racks outer feet

With all of the new protective covers in place on the 3-bow roof racks feet/clamps, it was time to put the roof rack in place and tighten all the clamps up nice and securely. It was only at this point I realised I had missed a trick with the positioning of the double-sided adhesive backed closed cell foam pads on the outer clamps, can you spot it?!

the roof racks feet fit on the camper is nice, neat and discreet

the roof racks feet fit on the camper is nice, neat and discreet

In my haste I should have reversed the positioning of the double-sided adhesive backed closed cell foam pads on the outer clamps so that the foam protected the outer edge of the roof gutter from the inside face of the outer clamp, not the other way round! Doh! Schoolboy error for rushing to go out and play in the sun!

the re-made outer clamp protective coverings

the re-made outer clamp protective coverings

So after removing the wrong size/positioned outer clamp covers, or should I just call them the v1 trial versions, I remade and refitted some new ones to complete the job!

the fitted 3-bow roof rack looks the business

the fitted 3-bow roof rack looks the business

However, the end result is worth the effort as the 3-bow rack looks great, so time to head off to the Classic car show…

out and about in the spring sunshine

Having had the recent trip to Ninove in Belgium, it acted as a great motivator to get a few little bits and pieces sorted on the camper, but since getting back and the weather turning from spring to early summer, well the motivation has been more about making the most of opportunities and getting out and about and driving the bus!

I’m lucky enough to live in a fairly picturesque part of England, so when my talented artist wife wanted to take a look at a few of the medieval Churches that are scattered around Romney Marsh in Kent for a potential location for a forthcoming art piece she wanted to do, it sounded like a great excuse for a drive in the sun to me!

Church of St Augustine, Brookland with its unique separate wooden 11th century spire

Church of St Augustine, Brookland with its unique separate wooden 11th century spire

First stop was the very distinctive Church of St Augustine, at Brookland. It has a unique feature in that its 11th century wooden spire clad in cedar shingles, is built separately on the ground next to the main body of the church! We then visited a couple of other churches in the area before I was getting directed out deep into Romney Marsh and what was rapidly feeling like a road to nowhere!

arriving in the middle of nowhere to find a church in a field!

arriving in the middle of nowhere to find a church in a field!

Eventually we arrived at our destination, a small country lane in the middle of nowhere, where off in the distance, sitting in the middle of the marshland grazing fields surrounded by sheep, cattle and irrigation dykes and watercourse, sat St Thomas á Becket church, Fairfield!

Fairfield Church in Romney Marsh

Fairfield Church in Romney Marsh

It is a beautifully quirky, quintessentially English church in its scale and location. Its wonderfully weathered and lichen encroached brickwork apparently dates from the 18th century, and encases and protects the original 13th century timber frame structure.

lichen growth on the beautiful Fairfield Church brickwork

lichen growth on the beautiful Fairfield Church brickwork

To see inside, we discovered by research that the key can be obtained from Becket Barn Farm, Fairfield, TN29 9RZ, which is on the opposite side of the road a few hundred yards to the west of the church.

Fairfield Churches 13th Century timber frame

Fairfield Churches 13th Century timber frame

Inside this beautiful little church set in the middle of the grazing fields of Romney Marsh, is a very ‘domestic’ scale Georgian church interior, with a three decker pulpit and its original ‘box pews’ still painted white with black linings. Outside the church are three wooden bench seats, and it is a fantastic location to really take in the panoramic views and enjoy the peace and location!

I fell in love with this little church, and have put some photos up on 500px which are available to buy – I will donate 50% from any sale to the support of this beautiful little church that is part of the local heritage, feel free to have a look…

So after a long day taking in various medieval churches scattered across the expanses of Romney Marsh, it was great to head to the coast, stick the kettle on and soak up some sun as we took in a stunning sky scape panorama at Romney sands beach!

a beautiful sky-scape panorama to finish the day off at Romney Sands

a beautiful sky-scape panorama to finish the day off at Romney Sands

Although great to be out in the camper rather than underneath it, there are always a few little things that I could turn my attention to, things that I didn’t quite get the time to finish off before Ninove… the joys of owning a vintage VW, there is always either something to do or somewhere to go!

taking the camper out for an Easter run in the sun

OK, so it may have been a Bank Holiday here in the UK, but a job at a clients studio in Kent gave me an excuse for an Easter run in the sun was hard to turn down, especially when there is such beautiful countryside in East Sussex/Kent area…

out for a run in the Easter sun…

out for a run in the Easter sun…

Hope everyone has a great break over the Easter holidays whatever they get up to!