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One of the things we both liked about our Sterling Celebration 550 was the drop down TV storage compartment. It ment we could just simply drop the TV down when we needed it and push it up out of the way when we didn’t. It could be safely transported in its stowed position, so no need for  a bag to put it in or a place to store it when travelling. Best of both worlds, or so it would seem.

We did notice a drawback, to improve the sound quality, Avtex had installed bi-directional speakers, that is they face forward but to improve the sound, they also have a grill at the rear and use whatever surface is behind the TV to reflect some of the sound. Now this is absolutely fantastic if your TV is mounted against a wall. Ours was mounted in front of a hole. The other thing that was also slightly annoying was the fact that if you had the blind down during the night, it tended to get rattled a lot as the quilt would get caught in it so it was always pulled up at night. This then required who ever was up first, if they wanted to open the front blinds and not disturb the person sleeping had first to drop the blind with the same silent skill as a Ninja.  

Obviously the hole didn’t do much for the sound quality, except give whoever was lying in bed the best surround sound experience possible and as a result of exhaustive testing, neither Sue or I have achieved the skill level of a Ninja. A solution had to be sought.

As we never watch TV in bed and have no intention of starting, especially when in the caravan there wasn’t a requirement to swivel the TV 180 degrees. We do however sometimes retire at differing times and rise at differing times, unfortunately whoever is in bed is subjected to the best TFX panoramic Dolby surround ghetto blasting audio enhanced mega watt experience the BBC news channel has to offer… there is nothing like hearing Hugh Edwards full blast while lying  bed.

The decision was made, we had to solve this problem. It seemed logical that we should block the hole.

Now a couple of years ago, I constructed a big gazebo in the rear garden that has a clear roof made out of 10mm thick Lexan…. the same stuff they manufacture jet fighter canopies from and I just happened to have some spare (if anyone wants to make a jet fighter canopy… let me know) Now this stuff is tough and will withstand a bird strike, I did have my doubts that we would ever encounter a chicken that had been propelled with enough force inside the caravan to need something that thick. I did however have some 6 mm thick left over from another little project, that would do nicely.

The next task was to track down some glazing materials. I’d seen an article in Landrover Owner Magazine about installing windows in the back of series Landrovers and I knew the basic idea behind it, so a little searching on the ‘tinternet led me to Seals Direct (www.sealsdirect.co.uk/) down in New Milton, Hampshire. I needed a profile that would accept my 6mm Lexan on one side and the thickness of the wood on the other, which I just happened to know is 12.5mm. Searching on their website I discovered I needed WR71 sealing strip and FS72 black filler strip. Now never having done this and not one to pass up on buying a new tool, however implausible it was that I’d ever need it again… I also ordered their glazing tool.

The day after I placed my order, I received an email from Phil Howard… the seal I wanted was out of stock and it would be a couple of days before it would be back in stock with them. Phooy.. well at least he let me know. I sent him an email thanking him for letting me know. Following day, another email… my order had been dispatched! and shortly after that, an email from the carrier letting me know when it would be delivered. Now I do like a bit of good customer service.

Off to the caravan….

The first job was to remove the existing trim strip so the opening could be measured exactly…. this wasn’t too difficult as it was simply held in place by a slot machined into the wood.

It came away worryingly easy actually and apart from a bit of sawdust, we were off to a good start. The next step was to measure the hole accurately and check the radius of the corners. All that is fairly easy, but just to make sure, measure it again.

The next job would be to cut the Lexon sheet to size.

To the Bat Cave… (or my workshop if you havent worked that out yet)

In the workshop I’d already trimmed down a sheet of the 6mm Lexon to a manageable size a little bigger than I needed.  To cut the sheet roughly, I used an Exactasaw… a tiny circular saw with a 3 inch diameter blade. I had a super fine blade that was designed for cutting plastic sheeting without melting it. As Lexon is a bit tougher, it’s not a perfect edge, but for cutting to size it was fine.

The trick to cutting plastic easily is always support it top and bottom, and remember to wear safety glasses, the plastic bits that come off are quite sharp. The next step was to measure out the cut lines and position a straight edge…. in this case some 18 mm marine ply I had to act as a guide for the rotorform cutting tool on my Dremel.

Once the straight edge was clamped down securely, I could start to cut it….

The rotorform tool is a spiral upward cutting bit for the Dremel, it is self clearing so it doesn’t clog and even though its quite high speed, it doesn’t melt the plastic.

You could use a hand saw or a jig saw for this just as easily. Once the Lexon sheet was to size, the next step was to form the radius on the corners. I found that the top off a catering size coffee container was a perfect match, so I simply clamped it into place and used the rotorform in the Dremel to follow the curve.

With the four corners now trimmed, the next step was to smooth the edges. With Lexon it’s important to make sure all the tiny nicks that may have been caused when cutting it are smoothed out as they can become the start of cracks. Using a backing block and some fine sandpaper I smoothed out all the sides and corners until they were completely smooth. I finished them off by “flaming” them with a small blow torch.

Back to the Caravan….

We set off back to the caravan again. Installing the glazing was going to be a two-handed job. I’d never done this before, so a bit of light reading and watching a video on the internet of someone installing something similar in a boat prepared me for what could be a bit of a job. Apparently the smaller the window, the harder it can be.

We fitted the rubber sealing strip into the opening and trimmed it to size… well a little longer that required. We then tried to fit the sheet of Lexon into the opening. After some harrumphing by me, Sue declared I had cut it too big… nope, I definitely deducted twice the web thickness from the size….. Hmm…. there is always two ways to skin a cat  so the saying goes and as Sue had laid down the challenge that it would not fit as I’d cut it too big… it was going to flippin’ well fit… even if I had to remove one wall of the caravan to get it in!

This time I changed tack… I did not want to resort to the length of paracord just yet. I fitted the rubber seal onto the Lexon sheet. With Sue on one side, I pushed the bottom of the sheet and seal into the lower section of the surround while Sue pulled the rubber and made sure it seated. What could have been a right nightmare to do, actually it went in quite easily without having to resort to a hammer of any description.

The next task was to install the securing strip into the seal. Now this is where, if you havent bought  the special tool, you might as well pack up and go home. If you are thinking of doing this as a project… please buy the tool, it’s cheaper than a divorce!

A little bit of washing up liquid as a lubricant made things easier, but it took a couple of aborted attempts to get going, mainly because I didn’t have to glazing tool the right way round. Once you get going, it’s fairly easy. The first two edges are easy, it gets a little tight on the corners but as you round the corner for the third edge, you can tell how it starts to firm up and grip both the glazing and the surround.

All that remained was to peel off the last of the protective sheet, refit the blind and clean up.  We dropped the TV down and tested the volume from the bead area. With it set on normal listening levels for the front, the reduction on volume from the bed area was very noticeable. Lying on the bed, you could now only hear the sound coming through the door opening. So we had achieved what we set out to do.

If you want to try this project for yourself, I’d recommend Seals Direct , they have a vast range of seals for every occasion, including caravan door seals and a whole host of hatch seals and bump strips. In fact I’ve seen something on their website that might just be another little project in the future. if you do have a go at this, I’d give it a Caravan Chronicles 5 Jockey Wheel rating… it’s a tricky one but achievable.

So now we can leave the blind down and closed without fear of it rattling or getting caught up in the quilt at night and it will make it a bit quieter for Sue when I put BBC News 24 on in the morning and it’s improved the quality of the sound output a little from the Avtex TV. One side benefit, it might make the caravan easier to heat in the depths of winter, but we’ll find that out later in the year I guess.

As usual, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the finished project….

Happy caravanning

S