Sunday, 9 February 2014

9th Feb - Creating the seats and cladding the other wall

I began Sunday by starting to clad the left hand wall this weekend.  But about 15 panels in I snapped my last HSS drill bit (I'm having to drill into the steel framework for fixings along the top of the cladding).  So that quickly brought that to a finish for the day and made me start on measuring the seats.

I decided to go for 9mm MDF for the front of the seats (where children's feet will kick) and for the seat itself (for the family's back sides).  The rest I have done in 3mm Hardwood.

I measured up, allowing for the widths of the wood and wrote down every measurement as I went.  This was a bit of a test but once I had 25 measurements I knew I'd done the lot and could go inside and try to figure out how to get that out of as few sheets of wood as possible.

I managed to draw it all out and get the shapes I needed (including some spares) from 3 sheets of 8x4 hardboard, 1 sheet of 8x4 MDF and another 6x2 sheet of MDF.  I'm so glad B&Q bognor do the cutting service.  Although the fella wasnt too pleased as I handed him the sheets.  But we waited and watched for a good 45 minutes and left with plenty of wood panels.

After returning home ready with half a kilo of panel pins I set about trying to figure out which panel fitted which seat.  A couple of hours later we has the insides of a van starting to take shape.  Its nice to see some real progress internally.

I've also brought a night-latch for the rear door and more post has seen the arrival of the flooring, a replacement RCD, and the Artic grade electrical flex cable. Another trip to Toolstation & B&Q has provided me with more HSS drill bits and some more cladding so I can finish that job.

More cladding to do this week in the evenings and then some cable runs to put in.  All getting quite real now.

The only negative this weekend is that I've found out that I need a new battery :(

Sunday, 2 February 2014

2nd February - Update Time for the Ambulance / Campervan Conversion

Over the last week a lot has happened really - not all good.  I'll try to give this update some flow for you.

Bodyshell first: From inside I bonded some cut out fibreglass panels to the old vent holes to fill them in.  This was weeks ago but the relentless rain has stopped them setting.  And the wind and rain last week pushed them right out one night and I had a wet van with holes in the side once again.  So the first task of this weekend was to re-glue those, drill in some supporting blocks and then cover it again.  One day this country will dry and I'll be able to buy some fibreglass resin and fill the holes from the outside.  But thats for another day.

Electrics next.  I really wanted to make a start on running the cables this week, but the combination of it being wet then a load more research led me to realise that Twin and Earth was not the best choice.  Flex will be better because of the strands and the potential for the vehicle vibrations to disconnect the single T&E cable.  So I had the wrong cable...  I also realised the consumer unit I brought doesnt have the right setup. So I've had to order a different RCD and a reverse polarity tester.  Ideally 2 pole MCB's are needed.   But I dont plan to go abroad to continental sites.  The plug outlet tester will be used every time we stop anyway to ensure the sockets are safe so I'm pretty confident once the RCD is fitted and the config of the consumer unit is turned around that I will have a very safe van.  I did drill through and pop in the mains inlet though.  So one part ticked off the list at least.

Kitchen tops:  I'd forgotten about these after cutting them to size a few weeks back. I'd oiled, then covered them up with plastic and board to stop them scratching while I used the tops as workspace.  Epic fail here was not securing them to the cabinets... Turns out the fluctuating temperatures has made them all warp!  Gutted!! and now all wooden kitchen sides and internal tables are upstairs at home being de-warped as best I can.  Again I could do with a nice warm sunny day to do this properly.  There are tricks apparently (we'll see).

So all pretty crap so far!!

I decided to consider my walls this weekend and started on one side, fitting battens and then some of the cladding.  Once the battens were in I covered the walls with a reflective and insulating foil over the existing loft style insulation and then clad on top of those.  Glueing every edge and then fixing every second panel.  It's real nice to see some progress to be honest.

I've also ordered a Karndean / amtico style floor from eBay to go in.  Its not enough to do the whole floor, but if I don't do it under the kitchen cabinets and under the seats it'll be more than enough to do the bits we'll see / walk on.  I'll use a slightly cheaper lino or maybe even carpet tiles (for warmth) under the rest.

I then fitted a high security rear door lock so we can be happier when not in the van.  When inside it'll be bolted from inside and a lock will also be fitted.

So, this week, I am hoping the other side of the van dries out.  I will then batten and clad that side.  Then its time to measure the seats and get the wood cut to clad those.  Then they can be fixed to the bed of the vehicle and painted.  I think once these and the kitchen cabinets are painted and secured It'll really start to look like good progress is being made.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

16 Jan - Weekly Update

This week I've had a visit from a coachworker to discuss securing the rear seats into the van. Nothing simple is it.  Having been informed that he's seen old vehicles come along with screws holding seats into wood and the main emphasis on securing the anchor for the seat belt he did confirm that the aim obviously with family members is to be as secure as poss.

We've got plenty of crossmembers to weld fixings too, so he's left me with the task of removing the chamber for the paraffin heater and freeing up some space for him to work when the time comes.  I'll continue the fit out and then take it in for welding once she is on the road.

I've also decided that going into the cab to turn the lights on and off is daft, so I purchased some small 12v switches and have rewired the internal lights so that each one has its own switch.  Now I can leave the cab switches in the on position and simply switch each and every light independantly of one another.

The kitchen doors arrived today and I am waiting for the arrival of some door hardware so I can remove the current rear door locks and replace with nicer ones.

Also ordered is some fibreglass resin and paste so I can finish repairing the holes where the old fridge and oven vents were.

Slowly but surely we are making progress although it doesn't really feel like it at the moment.  March and the Sunshine is coming ever closer.

Another seat to build this weekend, the front passenger seat to bolt in and then its time to measure up for the seat wood, wall panels and also the electrics.

All good fun.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

8th Jan - Campervan Seat Construction

So next up was making the seat frames and drilling hold through the wood floor for the rear minibus seats. These seats will be the seats two of the children travel in.  The other three of us will be up front.

Now putting these seats in is not going to be easy.  The floor of this vehicle is just wood.  There is no way I am trusting this wood to take the weight of the seat and the children in a crash even with spreader plates. So I need to ensure the seat is secured through the floor and onto the chassis.  This is a another blog post of its own for a later date.  I need a coach-worker to do this for me and weld some structural supports underneath where we can then bolt the seat through.  For now however I have drilled through the plywood floor and located the seat so I can continue the interior fit out.

The frames for the surround on that seat and the other 5 seating areas in the back are being made from 38mm square timber.  These will then be clad in MDF and MDF striped cladding on the show sides for aesthetics and that country look. Incidentally I've ordered the kitchen cabinet doors, made to measure and will fit them as soon as they arrive - also a country feel. The good wife wants a nice country feel inside our Camper.

A visit to Toolstation yielded a collection of brackets and some screws and with my chop saw and my electric drill driver I began fabricating the seats. The rear drivers side (non travelling) seat is a deeper base than those which back on to the drivers and passenger seats, but only to match up to the depth of the travelling seats which sit on the passenger side.  The back 6 inches will be storage and I also plan to have storage areas under all wooden seats (hence the fronts being open).  I intend to have storage which can slide out or lift up from under the seats to store clothing and shoes etc...

The sleeping area for the travel cot has caused issues.  I had 70cm as more than enough room for a camp bed in the future, but it turns out the travel cot needs more than this. Thus the whole van gets crunched a little for this. With that extra 5cm eating some of the other space its now touch and go for the double airbed mattress space I need for the adults to sleep across the seating and table area.  But it'll fit.

The rears of the seats will support the kids hammocks so have extra supports in them.

For now though I continue to build the seat structures with just one more to do.  I will be buying some board soon and using B&Q's cutting service to make it a perfect fit.  Each seat will have electrics and dry lining socket cases have been purchased for these.  I need to consider where I am going to locate the kitchen sockets but that will come soon once I've had a good chat with an electrician friend.

Plenty still to do, but it feels like I am making progress seeing the internals take shape.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Dec 28th - MDF Kitchen Cabinets and cutting Ikea Lagan Wooden Worktops

Once the Christmas presents came out of the van and Christmas was over I did some drawings of the kitchen cabinets and took a trip to Bognor Regis B&Q where I'd heard they did a wood cutting service.

Its certainly a service I'd use again as I handed my post it notes over and 10 mins later was able to walk a bunch of perfectly cut 18mm MDF to the till and easily get it into the car.  I could've cut it at home, but I'd never have got two 2.4m by 1.2m sheets of MDF into the car.  Plus, I'd never have got the lines so clean and straight.

So the cupboards screwed together in a matter of minutes and I turned my attention to using my circular skill saw for the first time and making up a jig to cut the 2.6m and 1.2m solid wood worktops I'd brought from Ikea previously.

This was also pretty painless and I ended up with two nice neat cut worktops ready for placement on top of the units.

The girls have been given the job of oiling these and managed two coats before we finished for the day.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Sunday 1st Dec - Replace Interior Campervan (ambulance) lights with LEDs

Last night I decided to take an interior light unit out of the roof and try to work out how to rewire it for LEDs.  I'd already brought a 5m stretch of LED strip which could be cut and rewired into lots of smaller sections.  So now I needed to quickly learn how to cut, rewire and solder LEDs.  Turns out it was not too difficult.

The single interior light I took out came apart quite easily. I then cutting out and unpicked most of the items not required from the original fluorescent strip unit and simply left the switches and the black / red wires.

Time to get the soldering iron out.

The LED strip I brought was ok to cut every 3 bulbs so I trimmed it to length and began soldering the new 12v wires onto the strip. It wasn't simple intially but worked ok. Wiring it to a battery charger I could see I had some success although my solder joints were poor. I re-soldered, then repeated again with a second strip to fill the box with light.  I connected the wires to the initial input wires and we had a light I could try in the ambulance.  To my surprise, it worked first time and as I'd hoped filled the van with way more light than the old 8w fluorescent strips!!!

So this morning I stripped and cut 12 more cables, got some more male and female connectors so I could remove the lamp holders faster in future and set about removing the other 4 holders from the van.

It didn't take long once I was in the swing.  My soldering was way better, my cables all ready, only one bank of LED's which had some diode issues.  An hour or so later I had a van with 5 working lights jam packed with LEDs = way more light and way less power than the ten fluorescent strips I removed.

So here is the end result (taken in the dead of night). And now I've got a place light enough to work in over the winter nights.

Next steps are bolting in the new seats, getting the old vents removed and filled and then putting in the mains hookup. So it's time to buy a mains RCD.

Saturday 31st Nov - Seat day. And the day I find out if my hopes for the layout will work

I collected some chairs this week from Southampton. Removed from a brand new transit minibus. So they'll be bolted in soon once the floor plan is completely set.

But I wanted to get them in situ so I could see if it was all going to feasibly work.  Getting 5 people in this van without using the kitchen area for sleeping is now our plan.

Passenger seats aside I decided to spend Saturday afternoon seeing if I could do something about the awful drivers seat.
So the passenger seat came out.  I tried my hardest to work out how to get that seat unit to fit the framework from the drivers seat unit but it was never going to happen without some serious cutting and welding.  So I started stripping the covering and the foam from the frame hoping it would then fit onto the drivers frame (cutting my knuckles to shreds in the process as the bottoms of these seats are sharp!).

I then did the same with the drivers seat hoping the passenger seat foam and covering would slip right on. It didn't initially, but a bit of persuasion and I've got a drivers seat again (with way more foam and way less gaffer tape).

A luxury leather job will have to be a future project.

Luckily the new double minibus seat will fit so I plonked it in place and removed a load of bolts and the original seat belt.

That all took way longer than it should!

But all in all it's positive thus far.