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I enjoyed the whole morning- except the painting, I don’t ever enjoy that. With a roller I had that done in about 30 minutes though. To be fair I didn’t learn to run a CNC machine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
RD, some of us enjoy the process.
Exactly :)

I enjoyed the whole morning- except the painting, I don’t ever enjoy that. With a roller I had that done in about 30 minutes though. To be fair I didn’t learn to run a CNC machine.
It depends on what your goals are. Mine are primarily to learn new skills and secondarily to build out the van. At this point I'm not in a rush, so I'm learning and experimenting. If I was just trying for a quick build I would have done exactly what you propose, and been done in a day. I agree there's a balance though, which is why I'm sharing my approach - so the next person can be informed and make their own choices.
 

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"I’d still be building nearly three years later." I AM still building more than 3 years later and still loving it. ?

Now my son has bought a new 170" Sprinter that can use some Mama's touch. He may drive it from San Francisco and park it in my yard for a couple of months. In that case, I'm gonna have to get a move on. (Yes, he debated Sprinter-PM. Didn't help our cause that Dodge dealerships treated him poorly--never even let him drive one.)
 

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I've ordered a Track Saw, and we'll see if that is sufficient . . .
Despite a variety of internet searches, we didn't discover the existence of "track saws". So we improvised with surprisingly satisfactory results.

A standard "Skil saw" is an unexpectedly versatile and accurate carpentry tool when combined with 'fences' - - one commercially purchased from Rockler Hardware, with the others being an odd collection of long T-squares and rulers clamped firmly in place. We even have one 8' length of aluminum that lets us cut the full length of a sheet of plywood.

So, for those of you who don't own a track saw, try your handsaw with inexpensive home-configured fences.
 
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Or practice freehand for enough time to leave half the pencil line. Back in the day I worked for a old finish carpenter who could do that with a hand saw- I kid you not. He kept harping at me to get better “spliting the line” I got frustrated and after a particularly poor cut would run my pencil along the cut unseen and pass the piece to him saying “See there's half the line!” I use those clamped down pieces too, usually it’s my sheetrock square or 4’ level hitched in place. Don’t underestimate how much better a good saw can make you. I used the saw below for all my door cutouts, done freehand. Porter Cable 314’s are no longer made and ebay gets $350 for a nice used one as it is that good!
 

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RD, we thought you might say something laudatory concerning our advocacy of "inexpensive" home-configured fences. We're learning from you.
 
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‘20 159 HT window van NH Seacoast
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For what it’s worth, I use the same system you do Winston ;)

PS - if you don’t make a line you don’t have to split it either!
 

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Simple, RD, don't sharpen your pencil.;)
If my radial-arm saw can't handle it, I use the same DIY jigs for large plywood cuts that you do. When I need an exceptionally accurate, clean cut, I'll often cut wide (1/8-ish) with a saw then make the finish cut with a flush-trim router bit (with end bearing) guided by a straight edge clamped to the work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Slider grab handle

Thanks to a great suggestion from proeddie, I added an RV handle from eBay at the slider entrance. Overall it's working well, but I decided to use M8 rivnuts, since I have lots of them. This will make for a very solid handle, but the holes on the handle do not fit standard M8 screws. So my version is not as elegant, after I enlarged the holes.



There is also only one height where the specified handle lines up with the existing holes. There are other holes available, but you'll only be able to use the handle at one height with this handle without drilling.

Again I used my spiked bolts to mark where to drill holes in the B-pillar moulding. So much easier!



I did think about KilWerBzz's dog collar handle instead - that's even easier, but my wife liked the solid handle closer to the door frame.
 

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RD, we thought you might say something laudatory concerning our advocacy of "inexpensive" home-configured fences. We're learning from you.
ATTA BOY WINSTON! Why buy a fancy track saw when a strait board and a couple of clamps will do! I laud that approach!
It’s interesting that my “cheap” nature goes out the window when tool selection is concerned.
I built strip cedar canoes once and for making those strips a track saw is almost a must have. I built one canoe using the bench saw fence and a friend to tail the strips. Try to wrangle strips of 18’ 3/16" X 3/4" eastern white cedar! AGGGRH!


On topic, I just added an assist on the other side of the entry for the Ms. Her arthritis continues to impede her ability so it is nice now and probably necessary in a few years. The galley in the slider made a good place to attach it.
 

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They do make plastic canoes, no saw needed! Of course you don’t want your mower to get near them while sitoring them in the yard (or so I’m told). ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Back when I thought I would have access to an adequate machine shop with my TechShop membership, I decided to build bed and cabinets from 80/20 t-strut extrusions. I've never used aluminum extrusions before - most of my experience is with wood, so this would let me learn something new. Unfortunately with TechShop closed, I need to fall back onto my own tools. I have a miter saw, so I added non-ferrous blade and clamps, but found that hand drilling the extrusions was not workable. Once upon a time I had a home workshop with a decent drill press, but I have nowhere to set one up here, so I settled for a cheap Ryobi benchtop drill press. Overall, I'm not impressed, the 2" throw is annoying, and it's not very solid/stable, but it gets the job done.

We decided on a lateral bed to conserve space, tall enough to fit mountain bikes and other gear below. We sleep comfortably on a Queen bed at home, and uncomfortably in a double, so decided on a 60" width. The height was based on location of the existing holes for rivnuts.

I had some 3/8" aluminum plate from a local metal shop, which I was originally planning to cut L-brackets from. With no CNC milling machine and no waterjet, I fell back on miter saw and drill press, but that worked well enough.

.



I used 15-series 80/20 clone extrusions picked up locally from Norcal Systems, and attached to the van frame with 4 hex rivnuts on each side and M8 bolts. In order to take advantage of the last 4" to the doors, I built a small extension from 80/20.



Using only 3 15-series beams, I got about 1/2" deflection at the mid-point of the bed, which didn't cause any structural problems, but was a bit disconcerting (especially for my wife). Eventually I'll add more structure below the bed for batteries, water, etc. so this won't be a problem, but for now I added a temporary support in the middle (visible in the previous photo).

I'm viewing this as a temporary bed anyway, since I'm not certain a 29" mountain bike will fit below the current height. Since I don't have the mountain bike yet, it's a bit hard to say, but my current road bike won't fit, even with the seat removed, so I'll probably end up raising the bed later, which will require a change to the design.
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Once we were happy with the bed frame, a platform and mattress were the next step.

I added 12mm Baltic Birch from Aura Hardwoods as a platform (convenient that it comes in 60"x60" panels, a Queen bed is 60" wide), and a Froli Star system for added comfort, thanks to Accrete's recommendation among others. This allowed for a cheap 3" Queen foam mattress, so I didn't feel bad about trimming a bit off the corners and the end to make it fit on the slightly smaller than queen-size platform.

The bed platform with Froli Star works well in the available space, and the springs can be rotated 45 degrees at the corners. We have not yet anchored it, but it works fine.



Trimming the mattress was just a matter of unzipping the cover and taking scissors to the foam. At some point I may tidy up the cover so it conforms to the new foam shape, but for now it's good enough.





Update 2018-01-07: The mattress did slide slightly overnight during our inaugural voyage, so I added some small guards at the edges from some scrap wood.

 

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Very interesting, I never really thought of using extrusion for a van build. I've built a couple 3D printers using it. A bit on the pricy side but very versatile material. I know a lot more about building with it than wood that's for sure.
 

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Davesnothome and medicineman4040 on this forum did their entire builds with 8020 or something like it, as did Graphite Dave on sprintersource.com. High-quality Canadian upfitter Safari Condo uses it, as do several major upfitters in the US. There seems to be a move in that direction as young people used to working with it come into the fold. We older folk tend to be more used to working with wood.
 

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Back when I thought I would have access to an adequate machine shop with my TechShop membership, I decided to build bed and cabinets from 80/20 t-strut extrusions. I've never used aluminum extrusions before - most of my experience is with wood, so this would let me learn something new. Unfortunately with TechShop closed, I need to fall back onto my own tools. I have a miter saw, so I added non-ferrous blade and clamps, but found that hand drilling the extrusions was not workable. Once upon a time I had a home workshop with a decent drill press, but I have nowhere to set one up here, so I settled for a cheap Ryobi benchtop drill press. Overall, I'm not impressed, the 2" throw is annoying, and it's not very solid/stable, but it gets the job done.

We decided on a lateral bed to conserve space, tall enough to fit mountain bikes and other gear below. We sleep comfortably on a Queen bed at home, and uncomfortably in a double, so decided on a 60" width. The height was based on location of the existing holes for rivnuts.

I had some 3/8" aluminum plate from a local metal shop, which I was originally planning to cut L-brackets from. With no CNC milling machine and no waterjet, I fell back on miter saw and drill press, but that worked well enough.

.



I used 15-series 80/20 clone extrusions picked up locally from Norcal Systems, and attached to the van frame with 4 hex rivnuts on each side and M8 bolts. In order to take advantage of the last 4" to the doors, I built a small extension from 80/20.



Using only 3 15-series beams, I got about 1/2" deflection at the mid-point of the bed, which didn't cause any structural problems, but was a bit disconcerting (especially for my wife). Eventually I'll add more structure below the bed for batteries, water, etc. so this won't be a problem, but for now I added a temporary support in the middle (visible in the previous photo).

I'm viewing this as a temporary bed anyway, since I'm not certain a 29" mountain bike will fit below the current height. Since I don't have the mountain bike yet, it's a bit hard to say, but my current road bike won't fit, even with the seat removed, so I'll probably end up raising the bed later, which will require a change to the design.
How tall is the bottom of your platform?

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
How tall is the bottom of your platform?
Just over 29.5", thus my concern about fitting a 29er mountain bike under it. (It's OK for my current MTB though). I could replace my 1515 side rails with 1530 pretty easily and get another 1.5", but anything more than that will require more thought.
 

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Just over 29.5", thus my concern about fitting a 29er mountain bike under it. (It's OK for my current MTB though). I could replace my 1515 side rails with 1530 pretty easily and get another 1.5", but anything more than that will require more thought.
My platform is 31" and I have a 29er under it. I think I could spare 1.5". I take my seat off but wouldn't necessarily have to. I have a little bag that hangs on the back of my seat that makes it hard to drop the seat so the way.


Edit:
Actually in the back I probably have less than 31" because that measurement is to the bottom of the plywood in the front. I have 2x2s as braces underneath so I probably have just a little over 29.5" as well. You should be ok.

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
First overnight!

Now that we have a bed, floor and some insulation, the van is usable for overnight trips. My goal was to be ready for an overnight by year-end, and we made it! (albeit barely)

We're at Mt. Madonna campground for New Year's Eve in our version 0.1 van. To the floor/bed/fan, we added:

- Engel 45 fridge/freezer (Bought on sale - thanks MsNomer)
- Goal Zero Lithium 1000 (also available from Costco for cheaper if you have a membership)
- Little Buddy propane heater
- Elite Platinum 800W induction "burner" (good deal for $13 when NewEgg was getting rid of them, but questionable reliability based on Amazon reviews - we have two, so a backup if one fails...)
- Coleman Triton Plus propane stove (replacing Camp Chef Basecamp)
- warm white dimmable LED temporarily wired to the Goal Zero (and zip-tied to the roof)
- LED fog light (brought as a spotlight for finding our site after dark)
- aluminum collapsible table


Since we don't have any cabinets yet, we used storage bins and racheting tie-down straps to secure everything.

We found that the LED fog light was quite a bit brighter than the other LED, but also consumed 11W. The other LED doesn't even register on the Goal Zero as consuming power...

Cooking with the induction burner pointed out to me again that the Goal Zero 1000Wh is not sufficient for our requirements. Seven minutes to bring water to a boil, simmer for another few, and that's 20% capacity down. It's very nice to be able to cook in the van without a flame though.

Things we've learned:

- Becky needs access to water at night - need a shelf or something beside the bed. Since we're setting up the bed to be usable in either direction (heads to left or right) that means shelves or counter-top on both sides.
- windows with stock Promaster tint are completely transparent when it's dark outside and light inside the van (duh!)
- The Little Buddy will keep the van comfortably warm in 5C/41F weather with our current partial insulation, but the requirement to light it outside the van, and the need for make-up air makes it less convenient than we'd like.
- a 13" step stool is necessary for Becky to climb into bed at the current height, and probably also necessary for me to climb over her.
- the handle I installed at the slider is very useful, but a step at the slider may also be helpful
- even the partial Thinsulate insulation we have installed does a decent job at sound insulation - lots of people in the campground playing music, and there are fireworks in the distance, but inside the van they're pretty much inaudible.
- we're very happy with the factory swivels, but they definitely need a footrest. We used storage bins on this trip, but I'll build some permanent storage eventually.

Overall, very happy with the van and build so far.



Side note:

We returned the Camp Chef Basecamp this summer after a two week trip, mainly for poor quality control:

- one of the burner control knobs stripped within a week
- regulator behaved inconsistently and needed to be reset by removing and reattaching the propane cylinder

We are much happier so far with the Coleman.
 
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