In just six months, what was a 65 passenger, big, yellow, school bus was converted into a functional, mobile, living space! The exhibition came and went so quickly, an article was posted on MLive, the bus is now registered and insured, and summer has started! A phase of the Magic Skoolie has concluded and I’m now on to different things, with the bus of course. I’m currently planning different creative collaborations (murals, art exhibitions, pop up gallery events) with the bus, as well as personal trips (geared toward camping, farming, and volunteering) with the bus! In June, it’s my goal to paint the exterior and install the wood burning stove that was generously donated by a couple in Ann Arbor. Progress seems slower now that I’m not building, but there’s still lots of experiences to be had with, on, and through The Magic Skoolie. Keep your eyes peeled for more media features of The Magic Skoolie— on the University of Michigan’s instagram, and through channel 4 news, clickondetroit!
In some ways, I’m well-equipped to do the work I’ve been doing on the bus. In other ways, I have no clue what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway. That’s my favorite thing! I make sure I know enough about my tools and material to be (mostly) safe, but the process I’ve developed is in a lot of ways trial and error. I’m sure that drives some people crazy but it’s totally how I do it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way! Sometimes, just starting something before you’ve got it all figured out can be more rewarding, generative, and productive than thinking through all of the steps before hand. Here’s to that!
This is a simple picture that doesn’t really show off the form of the countertop that we installed yesterday, but I love the detail of the recycled glass in the cream-colored counter! Believe it or not, this piece carries a bit of personal history with it. My parents bought the piece fifteen years ago with the intention of installing it when they finished the basement of our house at the time. Long story short, and a divorce and consequential move from that home later, they didn’t end up using the countertop. My dad brought it with him from home to home (four times!) as we grew up but never had a use for it. When he offered it up to me for the bus, I felt like the countertop finally had a place! I love exploring how both of my parents and our family memories work their way into the design of the bus. ❤️
It wasn’t until after I bought a tile blade for my saw and asked my friend, Olivia, to slowly and continuously pour water over the ceramic tiles as I cut through them that I learned my dad has a tile-cutting saw! But, that’s sometimes how things go. Luckily, our method worked well and the only blip in the process was me going to catch a falling tile and punching the asphalt instead. I gained two bloody knuckles, but cut all the tile! Here’s a photo of the top tiles before gluing them down:
I didn’t want to use traditional grout because the slight shifting of everything when the bus is moving could cause it to crack. My solution? Sugru! Sugru is a moldable glue that cures into a silicone rubber! It can bend without breaking and is water-tight — which makes it perfect for this project. It traditionally comes in white, black, red, yellow, and blue. I came up with my own “recipe” of colors to achieve a color close to the dark hues in the tiles. I used 4 whites, 1 black, 2 reds, and 2 yellows for each batch of “grout”. Here’s a photo of the top tiles with Sugru in between and glued down!
Now, it’s water-tight and ready to hold the tub. That’s right, a tub! I’m picking up a small trough this weekend to serve as my bathtub!
Have I mentioned how awesome Craigslist is? I think I search “free stuff ann arbor” twice a day — and it’s worth it. Last Friday, I picked up seven sheets worth of sanded quarter inch plywood from a couple in Ann Arbor just hours after they posted it. The thing about free stuff is that it gets picked over pretty fast. I’m so glad I got the plywood! It barely fit into my Subaru, but with the help of friends, we got it all loaded and unloaded in just a few hours. Look at the pics!
Oh my. I’ve launched The Magic Skoolie’s first fundraising effort through GoFundMe. I designed bus-themed stickers, t-shirts, and prints as donation gifts. When you donate, you’ll get The Magic Skoolie merch in the mail (along with a personalized thank you note!) that you can display and wear around town. Together, we can grow The Magic Skoolie community!
Please check out the page now if you’d like to donate / if you want an awesome t-shirt! Here’s a sneak peek at what the t shirts are going to look like:
As I start to frame the interior walls and structures of the bus, I’m developing plans. Much of my design process occurs in the moment (which might seem “not really designy”, but, who cares!) But it’s still helpful to have an idea of what I want to build before I’m on the bus ready to build. I thought I’d post my rough digital sketches of my framing plans here. In the top sketch, the front of the bus is to the left, and you’re looking at the interior “passenger side” wall. In the sketch below that, you’re looking at the interior driver side wall, so the front of the bus is to the right. And, the final sketch is a top-down view with the front of the bus to the right again.
One of my best ideas of the whole project? Setting up shop inside the bus! After considering how large the plywood sheets were (4′ x 8′) it made the most sense to keep them within the bus. It made for a lot of moving things around as we needed the floor space clear, but it was well worth it. Especially because for one of the sheets, we had to cut and recut eight times. I’ll say it loud and proud — I am not a pro! But, I figure things out. Special thanks to Olivia for helping me with the plywood! Check out our set up:
After drying out some of the underlayment and sealing a leaking window, we started laying the plywood. I’m not sure yet how much of the plywood will be covered with other flooring — I very well may keep some of it at the surface and stain / seal it. As with many aspects of the project, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Here’s a picture of me in action — at one point I started cutting through my sawhorse, but thankfully I didn’t cut it completely in half.
And here’s a pic of the interior once the plywood was all installed. Believe it or not, there’s plywood under all of those bus seats in the back.
After the wood was down, my dad came out to Ann Arbor and helped me figure out how to start framing. Framing is intimidating and the curved ceiling of the bus doesn’t make it any easier. After consulting some great YouTube videos, we devised a framing system! We ended up using L- brackets to fix the 2x4s to the ceiling. Another complication is that the bus isn’t parked at level… so I guess I’ll see later down the road how straight everything truly is. Everything looks square, so I’m crossing my fingers! Here’s a pic of the interior with the bed area benches framed and half a wall. I’ll grab another picture of it for the next post. It’s starting to look like something. (:
What’s underlayment? It’s an insulating layer that goes under flooring to keep things level, keep things quiet, and help keep things dry. The underlayment I’m using is made of recycled denim — pretty cool! After caulking all the holes in the bus floor, I cut and taped the underlayment over the entire floor of the bus! I had help from Elaina on Sunday which made things go 10x faster (and it was a lot of fun to work together!) Here are some pictures of the process. Plywood floors go in tomorrow. In the mean time, I’ve been working on drafts of the interior and picking out stain for the floors. I love all of the details.
The seats — all twenty two of them — are out! I was lucky that my dad was able to come to Ann Arbor this last Sunday and help me out. He brought me a space heater, too, which made working in sub-freezing temps a little less brutal. Here’s a pic of the inside of the bus sans seats. Videographer Andrew Howell came by to take some footage of me angle-grinding the seats out. Lots of sparks. In April, there’ll be a short video of the bus start to end of conversion that Andrew will put together. I can’t wait to see what he creates!
We also got the batteries started after they were dead in the cold for a while — the bad news is that they won’t hold a charge because I left them uncharged in the cold for a while. Rookie mistake. But, I can wait to buy more batteries until I need them, which will allow me to plan for the expense. Whew!
My dad and I picked up underlayment and plywood so that I can start flooring the bus next. It was great to have him there to help. Up next will be flooring, floor plan ideas, and then framing. Stay tuned!