Sunday, 11 December 2016

All the tools you need for a Van Conversion

OK, because I had these huge bits of reclaimed mahogany I used a few extra tools, but if I didn't these were pretty much all the tools I needed.

In total they cost you about £200/$250! But... firstly these are super useful tools and can be used for an DIY project throughout your life!

Either way, if you don't need them afterward you can always sell them on eBay. I mean, if they cost you $250, and you sell them all for $180, then you have rented them all for a few months for only $70. Cheap rental!

With tools it is worth going by the old saying 'buy good, buy once'.

Power Tools

I have had the older model of the following Bosch drill and Jig saw and they have lasted 8 years and going strong - they are good value.

Power Drill  
UK:   Bosch PSB 750 RCE Hammer Drill
USA:  Bosch 1006VSR 3/8-Inch Keyless Chuck Drill

Drill bits
These drill bit sets seem to have most things you need at a good price (except maybe a large hole cutter - for heater vent).
UK: Makita 98C263 Drilling and Driving Accessory Kit, 101 pc.
USA: Hitachi 799962 Drill And Drive Bit Set, 120-Piece

Jig Saw
UK: Bosch PST 700 E Compact Corded Jigsaw
USA: Bosch JS260 120-Volt Top-Handle Jigsaw

Jig Saw Blades
UK: Bosch T Shank Jigsaw Blade Set, 8 Pieces
USA: Bosch T5002 10-Piece Assorted T-Shank Jig Saw Blade Set

Cordless Drill/Screwdriver
I could not find the cordless drill I have, but if you are going to do you van in full days I really recommend getting two batteries. Its so frustrating to have to stop work because of a flat battery!

The following drills come with two batteries and should do the job pretty well!

UK: Hitachi DV18DGL/JF 18V Li-ion Cordless Combi Drill with 2 x 2.5Ah Batteries
USA: Bosch DDB181-02 18-Volt Lithium-Ion 1/2-Inch Compact Tough Drill/Driver Kit with 2 Batteries, Charger and Contractor Bag

Extension lead, power drill, cordless drill, hand clamps during the build

Hand tools

Foam gun

OK, you probably don't need this, but I seriously recommend you get one. I would not do it without!

It is ten times easier to use than the tube on the non-gun tubes and about ten times less messy! Just remember to get some cleaner - when you are finished - and will disconnect the foam canister for good - clean it out else it will be ruined.

UK: Draper 28618 Expanding Foam Gun
USA: Foamnseal FNS 500 Polyurethane Foam Dispensing Gun / Tool

Other Hand Tools
(UK links here - but it is easy enough to find these tools)
I am sure there are a few I have missed - but mostly it seems about right.

Disclosure; the links are Amazon affiliate so I get a few dollars if you use them.. and that would be nice :)

Another build shot :)

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Finished Van

I made this video to go with this guide.. it gives and overview of the van being made. I spent 17 full-on days doing the build and it is a day-by-day account.

Here are some other van shots..

What worked really well

So many things work really well – here are my top 10..

Off-grid solar system
If you cannot tell I really love this aspect of the build. All the electricity I need for free forever… so cool!

Just as an example; on a sunny day in Span - early November (when I wrote this comment) it was bringing in 32.5v and 5.3Amps.

Bed-side leaning cupboards
It is so nice to be able to just lean up against it. They work so well and make a nice social environment.

Full size permanent bed
People who hang out are always like ‘oh this mattress is nice!’ and it is. Sleeping two people does not feel cramped and the large under-bed storage is great.

Cutting off the cab
This is totally going to be a matter of personal choice, but that the van stays cooler and is easy to black out is really worth it. Having the cab as another ‘hot’ storage area is useful too. The slider image is cool and keeps me motivated toward my Yosemite goals!

Side lights
These are so damn cool. They make this lovely cozy warm light and when you are in the van at night it feels like you are in some cool boutique hotel room. It is very easy to totally forget that you are in a van. I love this part of the build.

Kitchen unit
It was expensive but it is such a focal point – and that you can fold the lid down is nice. Two burners has been useful, three I do not think would have given any benefit.

Simple water system
For sure, with a 20 liter water tank, you have to fill it up every few days (3 days with 2 people, 5 for one). But having a removable tank means that filling it up is easy from almost any tap. For me it was the right decision. And simple is always good!

The green one is not gasoline - it is the waste water :)

Bathroom Cabinet
The easiest way to make a really nice cabinet is not to make one at all. This was a total success and a great build hack!

Recliner seat by the window
Its just a nice place to sit – the foam is thick enough it has a sofa sort of feel. The view out of the window can be really nice!

Slider food trays
These simple trays from Ikea work really well for food. It is cool down there and not being closed they do not make food sweaty.

The edge of these catch under the edge of the flooring - which does not extend under the drawers - this means they do not slide out by themselves.

What didn’t work so well

There is surprisingly not too much to add here – and most of the things are based around a bit of functionality over-kill!

Mains in & battery charger
I wouldn’t bother in the future. The panel and split charge is more than enough.

Seat upholstery
This could just be done better, by not leaving enough space to add the fabric it made these super tight together. I may well redo the base of the chair at some point.

Sliding door cladding (top)
The top of the door is a little wide, I could have done with a bit less cladding-added depth here. But really its no big deal.

More space on electronics board
Because I had to change the smaller Charge Controller for a bigger one – it would have been useful to know this from the start.

This is not really a real problem, we had some SUPER hot days in Paris and the van was warm at night. Half cracking the doors gives good added ventilation but perhaps an added ceiling vent would have helped. Its not always ideal to have the doors slightly opened.

That said, these do not look stealthy and feel such bad quality for money. I did look at yacht port holes – but these are very expensive.

If I was to build again I would re-look in to it – but I am not sure I would change what I have done.

Extraction fan
It is a bit noisy – perhaps there is a better solution – without losing too much stealth element.

Finishing touches

Here are a bunch of my van conversion's finishing touches!

Redwood details
The head end of the bed has this redwood piece I cut to make a nice shape.. perfect for lounging over while looking at a nice vew!

The other end has a red-wood plank too – as does the shelf, the window sill and the front of the kitchen unit. It is a nice touch that accentuates key parts of the build away from the standard pine colour.

Aluminum edging
I had a spare bit of this edging, putting it at the back protects the wood from sliding things in and out

Fake plants
I got some fake plants from Ikea.. they look nice (people are often fooled) but at the same time they do not increase the humidity of the van.

Retro style fan switch
I got this chunky toggle switch for the fan – it looks cool and feels nice to use.

I used an off-cut of the Aluminium floor edging for the plate the switch sits on. I had to sand it down to give it the brushed appearance.

Finger training rail
I added this, just srewed it in, it is for climbing training and fits nicely above the door where you can do hang training

Pull handle
I got rid of the ugly plastic handles that came with the doors long ago, however the second door is really hard to close without a handle.

I used some climbing sling folded over and screwed in to make a simple handle to shut the door from the inside with.

Tea towel holder
This cost a few dollars and works really well! It has a self adhesive back so it was just a matter of sticking it on!

Bulkhead table store
I put auto carpet in to this space instead of just covering it up, then I found this table – it is good for doing work while in the van. It also fits perfectly in the hole behind the kitchen unit.

Table stowed away

Because, hammocks!

Door panel and extra door handle
When searching for fabrics I found this fabric with nice pictures of birds on.. so I used it on this door panel.

The door with all its insulation and cladding is fairly heavy – so I added this handle to make it easier to open and shut the door while inside the van. I put auto carpet in the area I left behind it so it looks and feels nice to use.

It is hard to make everything match up precisely on all edges with the shape of the van.. so you can use this edging material to tidy up or cover up screws. Mostly I just tacked it on with panel pins or glued it on.

The aesthetic difference is subtle but it adds up to improve the over all effect.