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Vanlife Build: Cabinets

We’re back! Getting COVID was miserable, but we survived. We wound up with two weeks off. That’s a lot of Netflix. Under normal health, two weeks would have been enough time to almost finish the van completely. But every time I thought I felt good enough to work, I couldn’t go more than two hours without needing a nap. Charisse felt the same, but she pitched in with a lot of sanding and painting.

So, cabinets! I needed to build three main pieces: 1) a pantry/fridge station, 2) garage storage and wardrobe, and 3) kitchen storage. And as always, the curvature of the van walls made this a real PITA. I wish I could say that I had some master plan for how I wanted these built, but that would be a lie. There were so many different edges, angles, and workarounds that I just started throwing pieces together until they fit. The carpenter in me is pained by the lack of straight lines and 90 degree corners in the monstrosities I built. The kitchen cabinet in particular was an extreme amount of effort for a measly amount of storage. But, in the end, we did wind up with a lot of useful storage, and that’s all I could ask for.

The pantry has been mostly done for awhile. I needed something to affix the solar charge controller to, so that was roughed out about three months ago. This is where the majority of our food and cooking appliances will go.

Next, was the garage and wardrobe. I wanted a lot of storage in the garage. This is where the propane tank is going, plus it’s going to house most of our outdoor gear. On top of that, facing the other direction, is what I’m calling the wardrobe. This is where our everyday clothing will go.

Last is the kitchen cabinet. This will mostly house small utensils, dishes, and cookware. You’ll notice that rather large cutout on the back; I had forgotten that I needed room for the bike handlebars.

Lastly, it was time to build the drawer, cut and install the cabinet doors, and install hardware.

I should point out that most of construction was out of 1/2″ plywood and 2×4’s. I used a combination of various length construction screws and my nail guns to fasten it all together. We did a lot of sanding, but there are still some rough edges here and there. Again, this is by NO means “finish carpentry”. The paint really masks a lot of mistakes. Now it’s time to see if everything can fit into it’s space.

We are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The next post will detail building out the kitchen sink/stove area. After that is a lot of odds and ends, but we’re almost done!

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Vanlife Build: Electrical Part 2: Installation

2020 strikes again: we’ve got the ‘Rona. Yay. We’re doing fine-ish, just run down and achy. We’re in quarantine for about another week, so I figured I’d finally get around to finishing the write up for the electrical.

I’ll say up front: I am feeling lazy, lazy, lazy. This should be the most detailed post of this whole build, and I doubt I’ll muster the motivation and brain power to string together two intelligible sentences. Please feel free to ask questions.

I pulled the doghouse off to run the cable for the battery isolator.
The black box is the solar charge controller, the brain of the whole system. Also note the dimmer switch for the lights, remote for the inverter, and one 12v socket.
Installing the panels was fairly straightforward, hated punching more holes into the roof.
The guts of the system. This took several days and a lot of patience to run all this wire and cable.
Fuse box. As of this writing, I still have a couple things to add: one or two more sockets, plus the garage lights.
Tools of the trade.
Trying to keep things organized.
110v outlet and 12v socket near the dinette table
The fridge, a Dometic CRX65. Retailed for $795 directly from Dometic. Many vanlifers prefer a chest fridge, but I chose the convenience of an upright instead. Plus most quality chest refrigerators are twice as expensive.
As soon as the solar panels were installed, wind noise at highway speeds went up considerably. I sourced this Yakima 52″ wind deflector for $120 from my buddies at Cranked Bike Studio. I also picked up another set of Yakima risers on FB Marketplace for $25. Big improvement.