Too Much To List

Now that we have moved in, have somewhat of a routine, and have rested a bit, it is time to turn up the heat again.

We have been removing the wall between containers #1 and #2. We used the first piece, twelve-feet-long, to make an exterior wall. Up until now, the door to the second bedroom has been outside. It looked like this (the bedroom door is on the right side of the photo):


Here we are lifting the heavy piece of metal into place. Once cut from the container, the siding wants to flop around like a wet noodle:



Aramis welds, I hold pressure for a tight weld, and Alex and Armando “inspect.”

Here is the completed wall. Note that Armando and Alex have completed the rock work at the bottom of the wall. We may still put a window in the wall to light the doorway to the guest bedroom.


We placed the next piece of removed interior wall by the door to the master bedroom:


Cynthia and I were away when Armando did the stone work. I had him redo the top row of rocks; it looks a lot better in future photos.

As you can see in the next photo, we are making good progress in containers #1 and #2. All the interior adjoining walls have been removed, the three windows and the security bars are installed, and all four ceiling beams are welded into place. Our process was to remove a wall section, install a beam, then remove the next wall section, install a beam. Rinse and repeat. Additionally, on the floor you can see that we are fabricating the security bars that will go in the big hole in the living room wall:


Aramis was on a roll installing windows, so after he completed the three in the kitchen, he moved upstairs and cut in the three windows in the loft/roof deck wall:


Lastly in the window and wall department, we raised another cutout interior wall panel to the back end of the loft, welded it into place, cut a hole for the big window, and welded the window and bars into place. In the next photo you can see the window on the second floor. You can also see that we have added a twenty-one-foot header for the doors in the living room:


In the next photo you can see that Aramis and I have completed the security bars in the living room. It took four of us to move the bars out of the containers and lift each of the two panels into place. We used the same homemade hinges that we used on the windows to make these panels open-able for painting and window cleaning. These panels are heavy! After we got the security panels in place, I put Aramis to work fabricating the window dividers above the bars:


Here is a good shot of the long wall in the living room/dining room. You can see that Armando has repaired the rock work on the master bedroom stair landing at the left side of the photo:


Because we have such a nice year-round climate, it is easy to blur the difference between inside and outside. With the rock “foundation” for container #3, this photo looks as if we are outside of the house, but we are really in the living room.

There were empty spaces above the new wall panels that we just installed, so I had Aramis fabricate wedge-shaped panels and weld them in place:


This was the easy one.

Because we have no more wide panels of container siding, we had to make the next panel from several pieces. It will look fine once the panels are painted. Believe it or not, it took the four of us to get this floppy panel in place:


A lot of the windows still needed the angle iron locking brackets fabricated and welded into place. They look like this:


With two of these brackets, one welded to the container and one welded to the security bars, the windows can be secured with bolts and/or padlocks.

But I have been having a very hard time drilling the half-inch holes in the angle iron. In the previous photo you can see that the hole isn’t all the way to the correct diameter. I just couldn’t drill all the way through the metal.

Yes, I have drilled a smaller hole(s) first. Yes, I have used the slowest speed on the drill press and kept my pressure light. And yes, I have been using a good quality cutting oil and lots of it. I even Googled the problem. One entry said to heat the metal to dull cherry red and let it cool, which I did. But no mater what I did, when the half-inch drill bit gets partway through, it just stops cutting. No amount of oil will get it to cut and it just starts squealing. This has happened with a dozen holes.

So I delayed the job until I could go to Panama City and buy a better drill bit. I recently went and made my way to Central Industrial, a large store that carries all kinds of tools, screws, and various other hard-to-find industrial items. I took a number and waited my turn.

A half hour later I was at the counter talking to Luis. I explained the problem to him and showed him the angle iron and a new drill bit (DeWalt brand), same as I had been using. He didn’t believe me and took the angle iron and drill bit into the back room to try it for himself. He came back and exclaimed, “That is one tough piece of steel!”

So with that knowledge in hand, he searched the computer database and disappeared into the stock room. He emerged with a Champion brand bit that he said would do the job. I bought two.

And indeed it did do the job. In short order I had all the holes drilled in the metal. It was like cutting through butter. Here is a photo of seven failed DeWalt bits and one Master Mechanic bit, and the new bit. Not a burn mark on the new bit but the others are toast:


The failed bits aren’t all DeWalt. The last one in the line is a Master Mechanic.

The reason that I have droned on about this is to say, you get what you pay for. The failed bits cost three-to-seven dollars each. The Champion bit cost about fourteen dollars each. I have always heard that you should buy the best tool that you can afford. I now say, break the bank, bust the budget, buy the best!

The rainy season is shifting into high gear. October, November, and the first half of December deliver the heaviest rains in Panama. Indeed, as we approach October, the rains are heavier and longer-lasting than they have been the past few months of the rainy season. The new rain-off-the-roof splash pad is working well:


I mention the rain because the road from our house out to the main road gets quite muddy when it rains. In November the 150-meters (about 500-feet) become impassable. So one day I called Melvin, a man who has several dump trucks and drives up and down the main road every day. He came and inspected the job. We decided to have a backhoe (a “retro” in Spanish) dig out the mud and then he would deliver 60-yards of a compressible crushed gravel. The retro would then spread the gravel. Here Daniel is clearing the road with the retro:


While Daniel spreads the gravel, Melvin delivers another load:


The next photo shows the road with about four- or five-inches of new gravel, still in the compacting stage. There are a few dips and holes, and maybe we will be able to afford a few more yards when the dry season arrives. But for now, we have spent just shy of $2,000. The road is so, so much better and we no longer fret about the arrival of the really heavy rains:


It rained so hard the other day that the runoff water ran over the road. You can see the debris on top of the road. But you can also see that none of our precious new gravel washed away in the storm. Good deal.

Why did we spend our own money on upgrading the public road you may ask? Well, we’ve been here long enough to know that this road is not on the government’s ToDo list. Not even at the bottom of the list. It just wasn’t going to happen if we waited for the government to come to our rescue.

To end this post, I’d like to show some nice pictures of the crew:







That’s all for now. Other projects are in progress and I’ll post soon if our Internet connection remains good. Thanks for stopping by.