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Discussion Starter #1
Good day everyone. I just finished an overhead cabinet and thought I'd record my process here. This is one way to do it. As you'll see, there are some good things and some room for improvement.


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A disclaimer: I overbuild everything. I wanted to reduce the chances that this thing would become a missile in a collision. So, I started by welding a metal frame and bolting it to plus nuts in the roof members. The face and bottom attach to that metal frame. The face frame is European Beech. Everything is sealed with GF High Performance polyurethane, satin, water based, sprayed using HVLP. Here is the finished frame and the face frame:

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Here's the same thing, affixed to the roof:

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Here's how it's bolted to the roof rib:

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Once the metal frame and face frame were bolted in place, I affixed the base to the bottom of the metal frame and the wall of the van. It's 1/2" baltic birch plywood. With that in place, I put in 1/2" plywood dividers for structural support and to separate compartments (note, 1/2" plywood fits perfectly in 5/8" brackets made of square tube):

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The leading edge of the cabinet, which is visible from the passenger slider, is solid beech instead of plywood and is scribed to the unique shape of the van at that location. You can see that in this picture, along with the hardwood board at the base, which is used to bolt to the van wall:

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The thing was already getting heavy, so I used canvass for the top and back (it just separates my clothes from the thinsulate):

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This is above the foot of the (future) bed. So, I made the doors fold down, which I plan to use as a place to put drinks, laptop, etc. The smaller compartment on the left will be above the sink, so I made that door open to the side.

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Discussion Starter #2
NOW FOR THE NIFTY EMBEDDED LED LIGHTS:

Materials needed:
1. Aluminum Channel w/diffusers (amazon)
2. Cheapo LED light strips (amazon)
3. LED Dimmer Switch (amazon)
4. Quality Router
5. Soldering Iron


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Discussion Starter #3
THE GOOD:

1. Strong
2. Pretty

THE BAD:

1. Too big (it looked smaller in my mind than in the van)
2. Took a month to build

THE UGLY:

1. It's 50 pounds.
 

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The fabric over the back side is clever. I considered a corrugated plastic panel, as it's light, bendable and washable. But it's soft and can be punctured. A heavy nylon or canvas might actually be tougher and just as light.
👍
 

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Nice work! Reminds me of my build, but with nicer wood, better finishing and, a steel frame ;)

Betcha used that Ridgid spindle sander for the window trim. And, how did I know there would be a Kreg tool involved?

50 pounds is not that unreasonable for a big cabinet like that.

I like the LED strips. Nifty is precisely the right word!

I play with all variations of them. When you're all done an have nothing to do, you might consider changing the strips to addressable LEDs with a controller so you could have moving effects, thousand of colors, and special settings like red, white and blue across the cabinets, or a blue/green wave that rolls across! OR you could use each strip as a bar graph... one for battery voltage, one for temperature and one as a binary clock... let me know if you need other suggestions!

Been thinking about something like that in mine for a few years now... no rush! 😁

Keep up the great work, and show us more... Build thread?
 

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One thing to note about the furniture bolts that you used to attached this unit to the ceiling ribs- They're way less than grade 5. I've bent & broken a couple with my bare hands by pushing on an allen wrench while trying to tweak a crooked plus nut installation. I was really surprised how fragile these bolts are. I only use them to hold up light panels but your project has mass.
 

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Very nice work @Vandit , I hope you don't mind if I steal your idea a bit. I too like to overbuild things, mostly because I underestimate the power of fasteners. @bahawton comment might prove correct if you ever get into a crash. However, I see most people just using self-tapping screws, which in the case of impact would be much more likely to become insecure. I'm just using Hillman Zinc-plated hex bolts that are 15-50 cents each at the local hardware store. I highly doubt your whole cabinet will fall down before you are in serious danger.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for your kind words everyone!

@RnR I wish I could claim credit for the canvas idea, but no. I was complaining to a female visitor that there was no good way to finish the top and back of this thing, and she said, "just use fabric." She knows absolutely nothing about woodworking or tools or furniture, but the solution seemed so obvious to her. Now, it's obvious to me, too. I'll be doing the other cabinets the same. I've also seen Humble Road on youtube use the flexible white bathroom panels (more flexible than FRP, but right next to it in the home store) in a recent video, which also seems an interesting option.

@proeddie Yes, the spindle sander was invaluable in the window trim job! It's almost cheating. I'm using that thing more than I thought and probably should have gotten it years ago. And yes, the Kreg is ubiquitous... I only used dowels in gluing up the end-piece before running it through the planer. Your LED indicator idea sounds cool but way above my pay grade!

@bahawton Thanks for the heads-up. I'll switch out the bolts. Why risk it?

@johnsanchirico Absolutely you can steal any idea of mine -- hopefully you can make some improvements and share your results.
 

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Awesome! I especially like that you have doors that open downward. I always thought that was the right thing to do (for me) in a van.
 

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terrific idea to have the cabinet doors do double duty as temporary shelves/surface area. beautiful work! and the time/material/weight saved by using cloth backing for the cabinet is inspired.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
@Wanderingontherock ... Thanks for your question. I made the metal frames from 5/8" square tube stock, which I got from my local steel supplier (ALCO Steel in San Leandro, CA). I cut the pieces with a handheld band saw and welded them with a harbor freight flux core welder. I hid that fact with a 40 grit sanding disc and paint. :) If you haven't considered welding, do not be intimidated. The few dollars for a cheap welder and a few hours on youtube will open up a lot of possibilities in a van build. I have used stick and gas welding in the past, but reach for the flux core for basic, light stuff, like this frame.

I'm just applying the finish to my second overhead cabinet, built using the same methodology. The metalwork is even more important on this one; it floats above the driver side slider door (my van has sliders on both sides). There are no convenient places to affix wood in that area. The metal made it possible. Once installed -- hopefully this weekend -- I'll return to this thread and post pictures of that process, too.
 

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Nice! One aspect not often discussed is how cabinets/furniture in the van will behave in a collision. It's easy enough to secure/mount things for normal driving. But in a major collision I think many (most?) builds don't account for this. It's a risk that I'm constantly thinking about and trying to balance safety vs build requirements.
 

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Even factory RVs don't fair well in crashes.
Nothing you build in the van will fair well in a serious crash. Doesn't matter what you make it out of or how you attach it.
On bumpy roads or a light fender bender, steel framed structures may flex less. They might hold up to everyday stresses like body flex and last a little longer than an all wood cabinet over the course of a very very long time, but in a major crash? They're gonna rip out like anything else in the van and if anything, be even heavier projectiles.
Remember, the cabinet itself is heavy duty, but it's fastened to the same thin gauge steel that an all wood cabinet would be. In a major crash, that very heavy cabinet will rip right out.
I'm not criticizing the OP's work. The cabinet is very nice and probably very sturdy. But don't confuse that with being safer in a crash. Hopefully it's never tested.
 

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Even factory RVs don't fair well in crashes.
Nothing you build in the van will fair well in a serious crash. Doesn't matter what you make it out of or how you attach it.
On bumpy roads or a light fender bender, steel framed structures may flex less. They might hold up to everyday stresses like body flex and last a little longer than an all wood cabinet over the course of a very very long time, but in a major crash? They're gonna rip out like anything else in the van and if anything, be even heavier projectiles.
Remember, the cabinet itself is heavy duty, but it's fastened to the same thin gauge steel that an all wood cabinet would be. In a major crash, that very heavy cabinet will rip right out.
I'm not criticizing the OP's work. The cabinet is very nice and probably very sturdy. But don't confuse that with being safer in a crash. Hopefully it's never tested.
that steel cabin partition is sounding better and better :D
 

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That's actually the best thing to do for safety.
Unfortunately, it's a PITA to build around and then you cant get into the back from the front unless is has a door.
I have a shower stall behind the driver seat. If that doesn't fall apart in a crash, it might help stop small items from flying forward.
On The passenger side, I'm considering running a few pieces of square tube from the floor to ceiling. It would serve as a grab a handle to get into the sliding door and possibly stop any furniture or cabinetry from flying into the passenger side cab in a head on collision.
But again, all bets are off in a major crash.
 

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Nice! One aspect not often discussed is how cabinets/furniture in the van will behave in a collision. It's easy enough to secure/mount things for normal driving. But in a major collision I think many (most?) builds don't account for this. It's a risk that I'm constantly thinking about and trying to balance safety vs build requirements.
I totally with you on that. I tend to over engineer my builts as well. The wife said I should get a tank instead of a tin can.
 
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