Our Work Vehicles & Trailers Story & Photo Page

Updated 4 / 2014

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This is my latest work vehicle. On 7/31/12  while at  Bob Lanphere's Beaverton Honda picking up my van after a new timing belt; I saw a used 2005 Acura MDX there, which seemed to be in 'like new condition' still for $20k + $3k for the extended warranty. It still amazes me how well these cars made by Honda hold up. Other cars 7 years old tend to feel a bit more worn.

Work vehicles and 3 trailers

Personally I have always found the pick-up truck to be hugely impractical. If I need to haul more equipment than I can fit in or on my rig I just hook up one of my trailers. A trailer is a lot cheaper to use, since you do not have to license a small trailer or have near the maintenance costs of a car. I really do not understand why it is so common for work vehicles. The down side to a trailer is how it makes it a lot trickier to find parking, but I am able to leave my trailers at home for over 90% of our work load.

 I quickly built my own custom roof rack to bolt onto the factory roof rack w/8 large stainless steel bolts, but I'm not sure how well the factory rack is attached to the car roof. I designed this 6' X 12' with aluminum & stainless steel pipes to haul my ladders, equipment, and supplies on, while still allowing me to fully open the front hood and back hatch.

I find it easier to use my 32' or 36' ladders extended out with rubber pads on the rungs to support long gutter lengths, instead of hauling my gutter machine trailer around, which would require a lot of space at the job site for the car, trailer, and some 50' out the back for the gutter run-outs. Finding a strong outlet to plug into is also not so easy at many job sites. Especially when the Client is not home, which tends to be more common than not.

Believe it or not this survived a 5k mile round trip cross Country voyage to Canton, Ohio (8/13) with the excessive load you see here above, also pulling a rather heavy trailer loaded with tools and a lot of copper flashing. I believe I had at least twice the rated weight limit of the factory rack. I was worried it might fail some where along the way, but we suffered no failures.

Below is our 99 Honda Odyssey Van we bought new also from Bob Lanphere's Beaverton Honda, and it has served us well over the last dozen years and is not driven by my Apprentice Chris Freedman. I fit it with a trailer hitch w/electric brake assist for the trailers we need to haul shortly after getting it, but this was primarily used by my Wife Tia for personal use until 2006 when I got here an Acura TL.

In 2006 I started using it for my work exclusively, so I fit it with a custom 5.25' X 12' hardwood rack (shown below). It was plenty sturdy, but still more flexible than a metal rack, but it is very heavy. At least 3X heavier than my new rack (seen above), but we still make good use of it.

 I sold it to my apprentice, so you'll likely still see it at our job sites.  It clearly pulls our gutter machine trailer a lot better than the 88 Acura Legend had (seen below). With the van's 3.5 liter 200 horse power engine to the Acura's smaller 2.7 liter engine.  But it is a whole foot taller, so the ladders are not as easy to access.

I was looking to upgrade from my 1988 Acura Legend (seen below) to a Acura TL to use as my next work car, since the van is so tall, but somehow things did not turn out as I had planned. My Wife decided she would rather drive the newer TL than our minivan. Go figure. I must admit it actually worked out better with much more interior cargo space.

Work vehicles and 3 trailers

This wood rack was made with a Brazilian hardwood called ipe. It is a pair if 12' long 5/4x4 boards for the side rails and 5' long boards for the cross members. I used some stainless steel screws and cables to hold it all in place. I designed it with space under the rack for my aluminum work table and trays on the sides to help keep the interior dry while at a job site with the side doors open. It is intentionally angled lower in front for better wind coefficient travel when hauling 45' long gutters on top.

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Our Gutter Machine Trailer Fabrication:

I found that trailers are much more practical, since they are cheaper than a truck, there is little to no maintenance, and you do not have to pay for tags and insurance on them. I also can switch between the different specialized needs and leave them home for most trips. Here is our first and second generation gutter machine trailers. The first one was only a 5' x 10'trailer platform. I built the 2x2 wood frame and aluminum shell over that platform to keep the gutter machine dry. I later replaced the single axel with this double axel with rubber torsion suspension and these smaller wheels. I used the first one for about 6 years. I designed it to be light weight and have minimal air drag for easier hauling.

It was a little too compact and cramped, so I built this second one in early 2001 to be 7' x 12' over a 5' x 12' steel frame. It has electric brake assist on one of the axels. And yes, these both have sample gutters mounted on them. You can click on the photo above to link over to our 5 web pages about our design, fabrication, construction, and wiring work of our second generation gutter machine trailer and it's 43 different step-by-step photos, telling of it's unique fabrication that took us several weeks to complete:

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Our Utility Trailers:

Here is the same 5' x 12' trailer I got to haul roofing debris, before it was cooped for the gutter machine. I built the deck and side railing with $1,200 worth of high quality clear CVG fir.  I had the trailer made without the wood decking, because I wanted to deck it with nicer wood than standard pine boards.  On the way home I went to Kingsly Lumber and got all the wood on account.  When I began to cut the wood to fit in place the next day, I discovered I was short one board.  I looked over the the invoice to see if I forgot to order it, or they did not supply it.  I saw a shock of a life time, as it read $1,200 just for that lumber!  I discovered that I could have decked the floor with the same wood in 2x4s, instead of the 2x8s that I got for half the price, but it was too late, as I had already cut the wood to fit.

I later gave up doing roofing work because of the high cost of the liability insurance, so I converted this to be the new larger gutter machine trailer shown above.

Here is our mid-size 5' x 10' trailer that is dedicated to storing old rusty gutters until we need to run them to the scrap yard.

This is our small trailer being pulled with our 1999 Honda Oddesy Van before the conversion.  We built and wired this trailer with a wood platform, aluminum I-beam framework, with an aluminum shell. The axel has a rubber torsion suspension and the coupling is a quick connect. It has separate brake lights and turn signals with clearance lights and back-up lights as well.

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Here is our Honda that USA dealerships calls an Acura TL. In stead of a new 2005 model I settled for this used 2000 Acura TL w/only 37k miles on it for just $16k. It must have been one of those little old ladies who only drove it to church on Sunday to have such low miles in 6 years. It really was in very nice 'like new' condition as well. Our van is just 1 year older, but already had 3X miles on it.

The Lady Tia Designs 99 Honda Odyssey Van

Although, soon after I got it home, Tia took one look and said she'll take this car and I can use the van to adapt as my work vehicle. You cannot argue with that kind of logic (LOL). In 2013 Tia got a new Hyundai Tucson to replace this and sold this to a friend of hers.

The Lady Tia Designs 99 Honda Odyssey Van

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Our Old Work Trucks

 Here is our 99 Honda Odyssey EX van we bought new.  It's really nice w/the electric side doors and strong engine that has a lot more power to pull our trailers much better than the Acura Legend below. It is shown with a load of prepped copper gutters to install on a house in Troutdale late 2006.

The Lady Tia Designs 99 Honda Odyssey Van

Here was our trio of cars in mid 2006, with the one on the left just retired

The Lady Tia Designs 99 Honda Odyssey Van

Here is the van with tattoos I got for it in early 2007

The symbol in the center is the Cruxshadows band logo w/ mantra

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Our Second Work Truck in it's Hay-day (now retired):
As you can see here, we had a very unique work truck.  It was a converted 1988 4 door Acura Legend L that I bought used in 1996 at the Portland Acura Dealership with 135K miles on it.  It already had 135k miles on it, but was in very good condition.  It cost me$9k plus interest.

Our Original Gutter Truck:
I started in 1991 with a 1984 Honda Civic S that was originally red. I built a wood rack over it to haul the ladders and other supplies. I had built an extra 2'+ longer off the back end for use as a larger trunk space to house my tools.

Here it is shown loaded down with rusty gutters we had removed, ready to haul off to the scrap yard for recycling. We took the ladders off to make room, and we also filled up the trailer as well.

We had to make these trips to the scrap yard about once every 3 months or so.  The scrap yards have a huge electro magnet to just lift the scrap metal off the car.  With the weight of the load distributed over all four wheels, I have been able to haul over one ton of scrap metal on this small Honda Civic.

Being the eccentric guy I am, I hired a comic book artist to paint the front hood and fenders with science fiction characters. You can see it a little better on our Artcars Parade web page. At that time I seemed to crave attention, but I'm much healthier now.

The Wood Rack Fabrication:
The wood rack construction has evolved over the years.  I bought some clear CVG fir 2x4s for this rack construction.  I used a pair of 16' boards for the side rails, and 5' cross rails.  The wood was good for easily adaptable custom construction and attachment of rope fasteners.  We covered the rack with some blue outdoor carpet to make it look a little nicer and to add scratch resistance (copper chimney cap sold separately).

The rack is supported on 4 PVC 2" water pipes, over 1.5" PVC pipes.  The bumpers were only filled with styra-foam for crash protection, but that is not good for supporting the weight of this rack with the ladders and such, so I removed the plastic bumper covers and bolted on some 2x4s onto the steel frame, and repositioned the bumper covers.  There is steel ring bolts screwed into those bumper 2x4s.  The small plastic coated steel cables do a lot to hold the rack securely in place, while minimizing the weight and visual impairments.

We have had our share of difficulties outfitting this ride to have it do what we needed.  Most of it was due to incompetent professionals we hired to do certain customizing:

Electrical Wiring:
(a) We needed our work car wired to pull the three trailers we have, so we took it to a professional shop that specializes in trailer wiring. I told them I had the trailers wired with separate amber turn signal lights, clearance lights, and even back-up lights, so I need the car wired right with a quick connector plug to do all that. Shortly after the work, I am pulling one of my 3 trailers, and I smell something burning in the car, and then see smoke coming from the steering column. They had not installed simple relays to handle the extra current, so it caused a melt down inside the turn signal switch and cost me $300+ to have it replaced. I had to re-wire the car for trailer lights it myself.

(b) We went to the top car audio sales store to have a radio frequency type CD changer installed in my Acura Legend because it had a very nice stock radio, but did not have the modern audio in-puts for a CD changer to be wired in.  We were having trouble with the sound quality, poor signal strength, and radio interference for a good 6 months. I had taken it back to them a couple times to the shop that sold and installed that CD changer to have them fix the problem, with no luck.

The last time I was there, the tech, after having spent over a half an hour trying to track down the problem, agreed it was not right, but was unable to find the cause.

I had not tried to look at how it was wired before then, but I looked at the splitter for the antenna lead, and asked him where these sockets are suppose to go. He told me, and I said to him "If this goes to the radio, and this goes to the new CD changer, shouldn't this plug into this socket, and this antenna lead go in this other socket?"

He replied "I suppose so"

I switched them around and it worked like it was suppose to from then on.

Suspension
(a) I needed to have the back end of it raised about 1.5". I went to a specialist in custom suspensions for this work. The owner, who has worked in this specialty for a good 20 years that I know of, looked in a catalog and said there was some springs he could order that would raise it up. I told him I was very doubtful that would be the case. People may lower an Acura Legend, but not so commonly raise them, that there would be a spring they would stock to do that, but he was certain it would work and so he ordered a set.

When they arrived, I opened the box in his shop, and told him I think these would not raise it, it looked as if it would lower the car. He looked at it and told me to install them, they will work. They of course lowered the car a good 2". He did concede to take them back and make me some springs that did work. He should have looked them over before calling me telling me they are in, and realized it was not right.

(b) I asked about them making a stronger sway bar, which they commonly do. He looked it over and said there was not much he could do about the front one, since it was already bigger than most, but remove the read sway bar and he would use it as a template to make a stronger one. I waited over five years for them to make it. So I was driving with no sway bar for all that time.

(c) He was also wrong about the front sway bar, since I could see that it was hollow, looking at the end of the shaft.  

 

The Idiot Mechanics and Service Writers
at the Portland Acura Dealership

(a) Thinking that the dealership where I bought the car was the best place to have service done, so I took my Acura back to the local Acura Dealership with a transmission that seems to slip in second gear. They explain that I need a rebuilt transmission to solve the problem, so $2,000+ later, it works fine, but within a month I find that the front axle joints are destroyed from split open rubber grease boots. When they had just pulled the engine and transmission out of the car, don't you think they could have told me that the axle CV (constant velocity) joints have not only worn rubber grease seal boots, but that they are both completely split and flinging axle grease inside the engine compartment? Now the bearings are shot and need replaced. They refused to take any responsibility for that oversight.

(b) I had an alignment of the wheels done there after buying a new set of tires and fancy aluminum rims from them, but they made it even worse than before, and it chewed up the tires quickly. They did not want to take responsibility for it, and I could not find out who distributes the generic tires they sold me.

(c) Right after some service there at this same dealer, the door wouldn't shut, because they bent the door hinges, maybe from raising the car with the driver's door open and hitting it on something, but they would not take responsibility for it, saying it clearly was just a worn out hinge set.

(d) Again, I took my Acura to the Dealership for a scheduled major service, where they are to replace the timing belts. I told them I was having trouble with loosing coolant, and need all the coolant hoses replaced, and any other related problem they find.

One week later it is out of coolant again and over heating. I take it back only to find out that the water pump is leaking and needs replaced. I later found that even if I was not having coolant loss problems, it is a part that is normally replaced with every timing belt job, but not in this case. I found out a few years later that they also did not replace over half of the coolant hoses, as I had requested. Again, they would not accept any responsibility for their incompetence.

Here it is with about 250' of musket brown gutters (less than half the gutters needed) prepared and loaded for an LDS Chapel in the Sellwood area of Portland Oregon.

Copper Gutters in the Rain

This is $5,300 worth of 20oz copper gutters to be installed on the Hill's house in Oregon City, Oregon (10-04)

 

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Here is some photos I took during a rare snow storm we had here in the winter of 2004:

Our work car was snowed in for 2 weeks.

We managed to get the van out on the road that same day I took these, to get the babysitter home, 

but we were unable to get it back up the driveway until it melted off.

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Here is some cool photos I took at night during that snow storm:

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Other Helpful Roofing Information
For some valuable advice with regards to roofing and rain management issues check out our:

(a) Gutter Installation
(b) Gutter Debris Protection Options
(c) Roofing Quality Standards
(d) Chimney Flashing

(e) Moss Control & Treatment

web pages for answers and solutions that could save you thousands of $ and a great deal of anguish.

If you do find this information very helpful, feel free to send us a $ tip for the assistance we so freely have published on the web here for your benefit, like you might tip a waitress.  Heck, send us a gift certificate for a candle lit dinner for two. <LOL>

 

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Below is a photo of our
Better Business Bureau's
NW Business Integrity Award
for the year 1998

1999 Better Business Award

We were also a 1997 semi-finalist for this award as well.

See our referral web page to see how we managed to be honored with this special award two years in a row.

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