After purchasing everything I wanted to go in to my dream camper, it was time to strip her bare of all her factory clothing and get to work taking all of her measurements to see what we were working with here.
At the time of deciding to go ahead and create my own living space, it never really entered my head to think about any of the complexities that come with designing something like this. To be honest I didn't really know where to begin either, the more I began to think about it, the more I began to feel the fear I was incapable of pulling off such a project.
So I decided to kick back in the garden with the sun beating down on me, pen in one hand and a beer in the other (best ideas come after a beer or two) and started to sketch out some ideas. Many designs were thrown out after realising they wouldn't work and even the ones I liked I had no idea whether they would work as I hadn't even taken any measurements yet.
If there was any method in my madness, I would say purchasing all the equipment first was actually not a bad idea, as I was able to take exact measurements of everything, visualise to a point how everything could fit in, and minimise the width of any kitchen unit I was going to make to maximise living space.
I had bought 50 x 1 meter squared sheets of cardboard to help me cut out the templates I needed to firstly redo the hardwood floor and secondly for the contours of any surface where the back of the unit I was going to make, met the side of the van.
Firstly I started with the template for the floor, this took the best part of a sunny afternoon, now before I carry on I don't want to give you the wrong impression and for you to think England is a sunny destination, because it isn't, believe me, it just so happens that whatever sun we had this year seemed to come when I was working on this van, which made it all too tempting to leave it for a rainy day.
This is what I ended up with for the floor template, all the small holes were places I could use to bolt down any structure to the van using the factory bolt holes, the larger one towards the center was the hole for a table pole mount which someone had kindly cut into the vans floor.
I was in two minds whether to keep the table mount hole and use it, as it was in the wrong place for any of my designs I had. If I were to have a table mount in the floor it would need to be towards the back where I had planned a seating area.
I decided to scrap it and since I cannot weld, I cut a square of metal out of a biscuit tin, knocked it into shape with a hammer, screwed it into the floor and smothered it with underseal on both sides, which worked out great.
I then cut out the hardwood floor with my new favourite hand tool the jigsaw and the carpet along with most of my fingers with a utility knife. I sprayed expanding foam within all of the grooves and with a helping hand put it into place and left it to dry. I then went to fit the carpet which I had cut out using the same cardboard template and stuck that down with spray adhesive and held in place with a few select screws.
With the flooring in place, I could take accurate-ish measurements and start to actually plan properly where everything might go. I originally was going to go for this design, which is pretty typical of a side layout
But after sitting inside the van I realised a few things, one was that my other half told me that we do not go away on holiday to watch TV, so that was the end of the road for the TV. Two, was that the wardrobe and TV area would be really in your face and would take up a whole window right by the seating area, which then made me realise the third thing, which was lack of seating space. If I am to sit inside the camper at night or for lunch, I do not want to be squeezed together starring at towering cupboard units, I want to be sat comfortably, taking in my surroundings.
So along came version two, this time with a pull out sliding wine drawer, after all who doesn't like wine. I also ditched the high units to reveal 360 degree views of the outdoors. Next was to start putting the measurements together, I did start this on paper but realised as soon as I wanted to make any changes, what a pain it was to have to draw it all up again! Then I had a light bulb moment, wouldn't it be great if I could do this in software…..
Well luckily we live in a day where you can get your hands on such great software so I opened my version of Cut2D Pro and went to work and came up with this.
You will notice that the layout of the unit has changed a little as there is now a gas locker and a cutlery drawer. I did originally create all the vectors as they were in my sketch but realised the smallest gas locker I could get my hands on to store my gas cylinder inside safely was not going to fit under the seating bench unless I wanted to sit with a crooked neck. So I decided to move it into the main kitchen unit itself and shrink the cupboard space down a little, which was only going to be used for storing fresh water and electrics anyway.
Changing the cupboard doors around was made easy with the tools in the software, since all I had to do was create one rectangle and create duplicates of them really quickly by holding the control key down while I dragged the copy over roughly into place. I then aligned the copy to the right side of the previous rectangle I just created a copy from and moved the rectangle in the X axis to match my desired spacing between each cupboard door.
Thinking ahead, I knew I wanted to use black rubber T-Trim edge banding around the doors and units like on the images below. This meant I would have to create the corners of the doors with a radius applied to them, I did this using the filleting tool. I could have done this with the Draw Rectangle tool in the first place, but as with everything I did in this project, I only gave it in depth thought when I got around to it.
I spent a lot of time looking at the companies that convert vans into campers, I wanted to see what they did with the doors on these units. Some cut doors that were bigger than the hole in the actual unit like in the image above on the left, to me this was just a waste of wood. Others used the wood from the cut out and then used lipped edge banding and mounted the door above the unit like in the image on the right above. I wanted the doors that I create to be flush mount and use the wood from the cut out to make things a little more economical on the pocket. How I was to mount them I didn't even think about until it came to actually fitting them, all I knew was that I wanted them to be flush and held shut by magnets.
The wine drawer was going to be my pièce de résistance (main attraction) of my whole design, how cool to have a wine drawer in a campervan that slides out to reveal your next glass. I had designed it all in my 2nd sheet as you can see in the image above. The drawer was to have up to 4 bottles of wine on the left hand side and two half shelves on the right hand side. The reason why I had two half shelves is to avoid the rear wheel arch which protruded into the space I had designated it to be. The cutlery drawer was again going to be a slide out drawer.
The drawers weren't going to have any fancy dove tails or anything to hold it in place, I literally had the idea of cutting a shallow 0.25 inch pocket into the material, slot them together and hold them in place with brackets and screws.
The top surface had cut outs for the cooking and sink units and had cut outs towards the back to avoid the window pillars. The window pillar cut outs were measured by cutting rough shapes out in one of the many sheets of cardboard I had lying around, this method I found to be quite easy and straight forward as I could hold it up against the window pillars and see if it would fit ok before cutting it out in the final material.
The last thing to do then was to go ahead and plan the toolpaths, all of which were either profile toolpaths cutting all the way through the material or pocketing toolpaths cutting 0.25 inch slots into the material which is why Cut2D Pro was the perfect choice.
With all the toolpaths ready to go I headed into the place they call…..The Vectric Labs….
Now I will say here that I didn't have the minerals to cut my design straight onto the fancy veneered furniture plywood and luckily I didn’t, as I had made a few mistakes….
Stay tuned for the final build in part 3 to see what happened next