A winter trip to the Lake District

Early December is one of the best times of year to go to the Lake District (one of the best mountainous regions in the UK).

So we finished up a few jobs we needed to complete, and installed a couple more prototype bits of furniture and headed north to make the most of it.

The weather was perfect: very cold, with fresh snow on the hills, and a few flurries in the air. Clear blue skies, and air still enough to light a candle.

The only snag was that our gas installation was not quite complete, so we were without a gas hob, or our gas heater, even though 99% of the components had been installed. Continue reading “A winter trip to the Lake District”

2017-12-03: Deadlines

We’re feeling the pressure. We’re going away for 4 days this coming weekend, so we need some basic stuff sorted out in the van. And we’ve hit our 6 month conversion milestone, which means a demanding letter from the insurance company looking for evidence that we’ve converted the van sufficiently from a panel van to a motor home. Continue reading “2017-12-03: Deadlines”

Sequoia table legs

We bought two of these for our main table. The fitting is pretty straightforward, the floor plate is low profile, and they’re nicely made, but there’s no getting away from the fact that one or two table legs are not enough to support a reasonable sized table without framing or wobbling. That’s why conventional tables have skirts attaching the legs to the table top.

So we’re trying to design a table support system that uses a fixed rail at the back with these two legs at the front. More to come on that in the build diary.

£55 each from Chippy’s Workshop (one was slightly scratched on delivery, but otherwise this supplier is OK.)

Hammerite Underbody Seal paint

We’re using this to protect the gas tank, which is mounted under the chassis – i.e. in a space where it’s vulnerable to grit, dirt and road debris.

This is recommended by the suppliers of the gas tank, and claims to provide:

Heavy duty protection for underbody, wheel arches and other high impact areas. Powerful rust inhibitors based on the Waxoyl system displace moisture and seal the surface against further corrosion.

I think this is something where we’ll have to report back once we’ve had some time on the road.

£5 from Screwfix.

Hafele Gas Strut

We fitted these to the overhead cabinets, which have doors that open upwards above your head. The struts hold the doors open, but they also have some initial resistance which hold the doors tight when closed. Hopefully this will mean we don’t need to add latches to these doors.

They’re easy to fit, and they give the doors a very pleasing opening and closing action.

£4 each from Screwfix.

2017-10-29: Recognisable furniture

Some things in the van that look a bit like furniture!

This weekend, we’ve made some satisfying progress in the van, with a few new things going in that make it look a lot more like a home.

The two base units that form the support for the bed are largely complete, bar a few doors. That means we have a functioning bed, a bench seat, and some fixed storage too.

We ordered some foam for the mattress, which we’ve chopped up and covered in stockinette (a stretchy, loosely-woven lining that protects the foam and helps a mattress cover slide over it).

Amy sewing stockinette linings over the foam mattress sections

We also ordered some table legs, and we’ve been trying out different methods for supporting the table top, and making the conversion from bed to bench + table manageable.

And we also have one more piece of finished furniture installed – the overhead cabinets on the passenger side (above the bench), made out of birch ply, with doors supported on gas struts, and a felt lining on the inside of the cabinet.

The gas struts hold the cabinet doors both open and closed, which means no need for latches.

In a way, the van looks quite similar to the state it was in back in August, but this is one iteration on, with mistakes corrected for, some lessons learned and everything that much more well-considered.

Dometic Waeco CRX-50 Fridge

This seems to be a pretty popular fridge for conversions. It’s a simple compressor fridge, not a 3-way fridge that can also be powered by gas, so it works much like a fridge you’d have in a house – only it’s 12V, instead of 240/120V.

It’s  basic, but it does have a nifty removable ice-box, so you can take it out and give yourself more room for food, or put it in, and make ice for cold drinks or freeze some food for a short while.

12V fridges are stupidly expensive. I don’t know why, given that technically, it’s not much different to a mains-powered fridge 4 times the size and half the cost. I guess maybe it’s about economies of scale.

Anyway, it seems to work OK so far, though I can’t say we’ve stress-tested it. It’s quiet, and hasn’t woken us at night when we’ve been sleeping in the van in moderate temperatures.

£500 from Rainbow Conversions.

2017-10-19: Overhead shelf in the cab

One of the first jobs we did after we bought the van was to remove the bulkhead. We toyed with the idea of joining the cab area to the back of the van by installing swivel seats, but that’s an expensive conversion, and we liked the idea of having what amounts to a separate room in the cab. Our current plan is to have a ‘soft divide’ – likely some kind of insulating curtain, that we can draw across behind the seats, and otherwise leave the cab pretty much standard.

However, there’s a lot of vertical space above the seats that we wanted to make use of, so we fitted a shelf, faced with a wall at the back that forms a partial bulkhead above our heads.

Shelf as seen from the back of the van, with stuff holes for duvets and pillows

The shelf is made from 9mm hardwood ply, and it’s supported at the front and sides on oak battens, which are bolted onto existing attachment points on the cab body.

We used oak because these supporting battens have to take a significant weight, and softwood wouldn’t be up to the task. Also, we knew the frame would be visible, so we wanted something that looked good. Fortunately, the particular plywood we’re using here, while not the high-grade birch ply, does have one nice face, which matches the oak quite well.

Oak support frame underneath the shelf

The shelf is supported by the back by the partial bulkhead, made of 12mm birch ply, which itself hangs from bolts rivnutted to the frame of the van.

We intend to use this area to stuff in bedding when our bed is not in use, so the large cavernous space is idea. We don’t need to worry about things rolling about, and all we had to do to provide access was cut a couple of large stuff holes, with rounded edges (using a roundover bit on the router).

On the passenger side, we also mounted our MT-50 solar controller monitor, which gives us some live info on the state of the battery, power draw, and the performance of the panels.