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Topic ClosedStep by step: removable storage cabinets

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Ex-car bloke View Drop Down
Vanorak
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Jun 10 at 09:44
Thanks for the feedback, Monza and Nick, good to know people are reading this!
 
Nick, I realised half way through that like you, I don't have the time to do this either, but it was a case of "I've started now, so..."
 
I posted it in a blog deliberately to put myself under pressure to get it completed.  I'm serious, the missus is going to kill me when she realises the time I've put into this.  She said, the other day, when I tentatively suggested we may have cabinets for our big September trip, "you are NOT spending time making van cabinets when we have [insert DIY jobs here] to do!"
 
The truth is I'm aiming to have it ready for our late June trip.  We have a few camping trips planned this summer as well as the September France tour.
 
The thing is I'm a self employed furniture maker so this is all in my own unpaid time, but I've been sneaking out of bed at ridiculous o'clock and getting some serious early morning hours on it.  I kind of figure "do it once, do it properly", trouble is it's the longest method of doing things! 
 
I did a bit more on it this morning, details to follow.


Edited by Ex-car bloke - 03 Jun 10 at 09:46
ECB           2006 SWB 174 window van
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Jun 10 at 16:52

Now the exciting part – putting the first cabinet together!

 

Actually it was slightly stressful as for the left hand (narrow) cabinet I hadn’t made a mock up so the front and rear shaped panels were done independently with an estimated vertical position.  So, anyway, I dry clamped the carcass together and nervously put it in position....

 

...and it fitted perfectly!  To be honest I need to slightly reshape the inside of the wheel arch curve as it doesn’t quite push right in hard against the van side at the bottom rear but we’re talking just about 5mm, so no problem really.

While it's in the van in its dry-clamped stage I also mark up the dimensions of the shelf depths.  None are square, they're all tapered, but I also want the rear edge of them to follow the shape of the window for example, so this bit was something of a fiddle with some tapers and steps involved.  This is needed because the cabinets are backless and I don't want things to keep disappearing down the back of each shelf.

So after some marking and trimming of the shelves, I finally glue the thing up.  You can see from all the clamps and angles why I chose to fit the shelves by screwing them into square section shelf supports – sometimes you can have so many overlapping clamps and cramps that glue-up is impossible, so this just made it easier.

 

I decided to use 9mm ply for the deep skirting panel to save weight.  The snag with this is that thin ply in long sections usually has some bend in it so I braced it at the bottom and top with birch lippings which I glued using a solid straight edge alongside it to make sure both edges were straight.  Once glued and cured they will stay straight and be very strong.

 
 

I must say I’m well pleased with how light the cabinet feels.   Almost as pleased as the fact that it actually fits the van!

 
A bit of a break now as I have to get some paid work done......!!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jun 10 at 22:49
awesome ecb! i'll give u £200 cash to make the same for me!Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jun 10 at 23:19
This is a great post ! best on the site I am reading with awe. This is very similar to what I am planning for my sportline kombi but I want both side's like your left side, so I loose no room in the back for my Motocross bike .

I am going to give it a go at making the cupboards myself some tips on what materials to use would be good I was just planing on using regular ply wood from the local building merchants ?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jun 10 at 16:47
Thanks for the feedback, chaps!  Blackvanman, £200, you cheeky bugger, I'll sell you one template for £199! LOL
 
fastfilli, regular exterior ply would be fine although it varies in quality hugely.  Some of the cheaper Chinese stuff has very thin top veneers, very soft mid layers, it breaks out like buggery when you cut it, the general quality can be poor and it can be quite twisted.
 
Best would be Voringher ply (which is superlight - willow wood I think - and strong) but at £150+ a sheet retail price, very expensive.
 
12mm and 9mm birch ply is what I'd recommend.  It's amply strong enough and the weight penalty compared to Voringher is not much.  Try to get Scandinavian birch ply as it seems to come in decent top veneer thickness.  The other reason for birch is that it just looks nice, the light colour (with a clear finish) is better for a van interior in my opinion but most importantly it can be accurately cut and sanded to a very good finish.  Retail sheet price for 12mm sheet should be less than £50.  I pay about £20 trade from Lathams.
 
For framing you could save loads of time and cost by using thin section softwood, this would be perfectly adequate although every piece of framing steals valuable space so make it as thin as you can get away with - this is why I've used 12mm x 12mm shelf supports. 
 
Also you could use solid ply panels for the doors.  This would save you loads of time and be fine for the job although at a weight penalty over frame and panel ones, and also plain ply doors (even in good quality birch ply) may have slight bends and twists that can't be removed although they could be held flat by double catches on the cabinet.  Also you'd see the ply edges on the doors but it's actually not an unattractive thing to be honest, in fact I sometimes wonder why I've been such a smart-arse to spend so many hours on framed doors when ply doors would be fine! LOL 


Edited by Ex-car bloke - 06 Jun 10 at 16:53
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jun 10 at 19:36
Cheers dude its been a great help ! I have been playing on Google sketchup all afternoon Ha I love it But my Mrs not happy that I am still on the computer LOL. Not sure now if I should use doors or just shelves. humm I like the idea of no moving parts (nothing to rattle) But I like the idea of doors (nothing will fall out)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jun 10 at 08:42
One question ECB:  How are you going to attach the cabinets to the walls of the van in an easy to remove manner?  
2007 130PS SWB Pearl Black Kombi. My Van Blog.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jun 10 at 17:00

Never mind the paid work, I want to get my van cabinets finished!

 

Blakey, not sure yet is the quick answer.  Will keep you posted on this thread.

 

So the narrow cabinet is finished now bar fitting doors and applying the clear coating and carpeting the shelves.  Oh, and the fitting of folding hooks and Velcro straps to the front and rear faces for hanging stuff.....

 

The wide cabinet has moved on a lot.

 

The floor and front lower panel were biscuited together, glued and clamped, to make an L-shape single piece. 

 
 
Next I screwed in the shelf supports, which are also glued.

 
 
Next job was gluing-in the L-shape at the bottom.
 
 
The final assembly of the shelves in the carcass involved lots of clamps while screwing and gluing the shelves to the supports, but I think you’ve probably all had enough pictures of clamping up...

 

Shelf 1 and 2 (which make up the drawer box) are fitted then once the glue was dry I moved it into the van for the first time and find that all my prep work has paid off as it fits perfectly.  Phew! 

 
 
You can see here where I’ve placed the shelf above the drawers, right on the window line so I can use the maximum depth for the storage shelf and not have space wasted behind the drawer box.  The depth to the window is about 500mm – excellent storage space.
 
 

The top shelf is tapered so I left it out until this stage to make the measuring of the taper much easier.

 

Once trimmed, I glued in this shelf too.  Next stage was loads more cleaning and sanding to remove all glue residue.

 

Final job today was fitting the small “upstands” at the fronts of shelf 2 and 3.  The difference in rigidity that these 60mm tall 12mm ply sections make to the previously bendy shelf is amazing.  Clamped, glued and screwed in, they will allow me to carry really heavy stuff on these shelves if need be and also help keep the whole cabinet square (lightweight cabinets like this tend to easily parallelogram like IKEA furniture if you don’t brace them enough).

Then a final quick fit to the van to see how the top shelf looks.  You can see here the position of the vertical sides in relation to the van sides.  The rear one was really tricky to get the curve right on as the van side curves into the centre and also curves in towards the front at the same time.  The front vertical sits just behind the seat belt anchor and leaves loads of good storage space between it and the back of the double rear seat.  Remember the whole concept of this storage is that I will be camping in future with the rear seat in place.
 

 

This is the back view of the cabinet.   The drawer box braces are just 6mm for lightness but glued and screwed in, making the cabinet really rigid.

 
 

I feel like we’re nearly there but in reality there’s still lots to do.



Edited by Ex-car bloke - 08 Jun 10 at 17:03
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jun 10 at 22:23
is there a back going on it? to protect the glass/keep the stuff hidden from the outside?

looking really nice tho!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 10 at 11:32
Good question, Nick. 
 
Definitely no back, there's no way I could make a back that was perfectly shaped to the curved van sides but in any event a back would just waste space and add weight.
 
I'm debating this one.  Currently I have stick-on velcro blackout blinds which would do but not offer protection to the glass.  I could make a more padded versions of these, that's one option.
 
Another is to get thin ply, painted black on one side and carpeted on the inside, held to the window frames with rare earth magnets glued into the edges - it would look a lot neater on the outside.  I'll do some R & D on this one!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 10 at 13:47
Your so slow   ECB !!     We knocked my Plywood cabinets up in a day , and painted them matt black LOL
 
Do you want me to pop round with my , my drill and metal clips and help you finish them, off ??
 
All joking apart they look very smart Thumbs Up
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 10 at 17:07

Al, your excellent little shelving units inspired me to do mine, I just got a bit carried away!

 

I just did a couple of quick jobs today.

 

The drawer fronts were fitted to the carcasses and the runners fitted to the cabinet.

 

It was a bit fiddly as the runners don’t adjust very much so there’s lots of measuring and making of slight adjustments until they fit perfectly.  I made the gaps between drawers 3mm to give myself a better chance of having it all looking consistent.  Usually this gap is a lot less - often 1mm - which is too challenging for van furniture.

 

I had to rebate the top edge of the drawer sides to clear the shelf support.  It was only just rubbing but I routed a couple of mm off to be sure.

 
 

These runners are way over-engineered for the job.  They will take 45kg per pair!!  All full extension runners are heavy – soft close ones are much heavier than these – so I went for these because they stole less drawer space than other designs – just 12mm down each side and nothing from the depth.  I could have got slightly lighter duty runners but I love the solid feel and smooth action of the heavier type.

 

You can see from the back how little wasted space there is. 

 
 
The drawer runner length was actually the starting point for the whole design, so I just had to decide whether I went for 350, 400 or 450mm runners.  I ended up with 400mm.

 

The full extension is just that, so it allows for the drawer dividers to be removed and refitted without taking out the drawer.   They’re quick-release anyway so easy to remove when needed.

 

Like, for example, when lifting the cabinet into the van! 

 
With the drawers and especially the runners now fitted, the weight of the cabinet is spiralling slowly  upward, but the penalty will be worth it for the versatility of having deep full extension drawers, which will be a real benefit for camping.  The way I figure it is, the weight of a compressor fridge and a Calor gas bottle (of which we have neither) is much more than the extra weight of my cabinet over lighter ones, so it’s all relative, and I’m only carrying mine around when on holiday, not the whole time.   

 
 

You can really start to see how the end appearance will look, with the drawers in place.  It’s giving me motivation to get the job finished.  



Edited by Ex-car bloke - 09 Jun 10 at 17:13
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jun 10 at 11:26

I had a sudden realisation that I have to make a living, so I’ve been busy for a few days...

 

Still, I have a little progress to report.

 

Final sanding everything to 320 grit (smooth-as-a-baby’s-botty smooth) was followed by application of the first of two coats of satin Osmo Polyx Oil, a product designed for floors and loved by furniture makers because you can apply it with a cloth like a polish so dusty air is no problem.

 

The birch is transformed, taking on a lovely pearlescent appearance.  The accentuated contrast between the lighter birch ply and the darker Scottish birch is really nice too. 

 
 
 

I also had both cabinets in the van together for the first time.  A quick measurement check to make sure both front faces are vertical confirmed that all my ball-aching work at the start has paid off again as all is parallel as it should be.

 

 

You can see from this shot that the narrow cabinet doesn’t hinder access via the side door at all so even with the rear double seat in place coming and going will be no problem.

 

 

The space between them is a good compromise, I think, between huge storage volume combined with enough room to get turned round, do some cooking on the fold-down worktop and get into the fully-extended drawers.

 
 
I’ve also been spending some time thinking of the next job - the neatest squeak-free method of securing the cabinets to the van sides that will also allow quick fitting and removal.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Jun 10 at 21:20
Fantasic work ECB
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jun 10 at 18:39
thumbs up from me!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jun 10 at 11:28

 This next short section should be avoided of you are a vanorak of a nervous disposition or get anxious about unsightly holes, fixings or specks of dust on your beloved T5 interior. 

 

I know the proper advice here is “use nutserts/rivnuts”, but I don’t want to spend the money on the rivnut applicator, I have unsuccessfully tried to fix them in using a manual method and when you see the other wooden framework in my van and its general agricultural state inside, you will understand why, after some agonising, I went for a fixing method that is simple and robust but not cosmetically beautiful.

 

So basically I screwed to the van metalwork small plywood blocks to two points as high up each cabinet as possible, to which they are attached via M6 allen-head bolts.  I will replace these with M6 plastic knobs in due course.  It’s crude but effective, I guess, and when the cabinets are in you can’t really see the fixing points.  I might round off the sharp edges and clean them up a bit but the main thing is the cabinets are well fixed.

 
 
 
 

Now we resume the stricter quality control...

 

Next job, door fitting.

 

First I rebated the door edges so that the solid brass hinges sit snugly in place then fix them to the cabinet.

 
 
 
 

Then the rare-earth magnets are fitted.  I drilled the 10mm hole in the cabinet frame first and used a dowel marker to locate the corresponding magnet in the door.  Magnets are fitted flush (the one in the photo had to be shimmed out by about 1mm) which is important as they need to close directly onto each other with a satisfying “clack” which provides a rattle free fixing.  Make sure you get them the right way round or you end up with a door that will never close!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made the little turn-buttons next.  These are pieces of 6mm birch ply and just provide a safety catch, really.  The magnets hold the doors shut very effectively but in the event of, say, driving down a deeply rutted track, the contents of the cabinet could push open the door.  Compared to more sophisticated, ugly and/or heavy catches and latches, I’m really pleased with these low-profile wooden ones.  There are single ones on the narrow cabinet and double ones on the wide one, to hold the drawers in too.  The drawers have a positive “click” at their closing point so again there is no strain on these buttons most of the time, and no rattling.

 
 
 

So, for the exciting bit....fitting the almost-completed cabinets into the van and taking them on their first trip, home to show Mrs ECB!   She loved them and was so impressed that she forgot to give me a bollocking for spending so much unpaid time working on them!

 

So, some photos of the now almost-done job:

 
 
 
 
 
 

I’m very pleased with them, I have to say.  The lightness of colour is going to be easy to live with and looks great with the light blue of the van.  I’m also pleased by the lack of rattles or squeaks.  It all feels quite solid.  The access around them and for opening and closing door and drawers is, in the end, a good compromise over storage volume I think. 

 

Most of all though I’m just excited by the practicalities that they will bring.  I reckon in summer time I’ll keep them loaded up most of the time so that we can nip away at short notice for a night or two away.  On longer trips (like the ones we have planned in August and September) it’ll just be brilliant to be able to find anything I need quickly, and to not be forever tripping over bags and plastic boxes.   The narrow left hand cabinet will probably stay in year round, as it takes up as much space effectively as a box around a wheel arch.

 

However, quite a few jobs still remain, which I hope to get done quite soon:

 

1.       Finish fixing the magnets to the wide cabinet.

2.       Fit the metal stays to the lifting door and the fold-down door/table top.

3.       Fit the Megavanmats carpet to all horizontal surfaces.

4.       Make window blinds out of the same carpet and figure a neat way of fixing them to the metal window frames.

5.       Make and fit the drawer dividers.

6.       Apply another coat of Osmo to the carcasses.

7.       Make and fit birch ply low-profile coat hooks to the cabinet ends.

8.       Make and fit thin vertical low-profile rails on the cabinet ends to allow Velcro straps to be threaded through for holding coats and other stuff hung on the ends.

9.       Have a holiday!

 

I’ll keep you posted on all nine tasks...

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jun 10 at 11:45
"The birch is transformed, taking on a lovely pearlescent appearance.  The accentuated contrast between the lighter birch ply and the darker Scottish birch is really nice too. "

I love when you talk dirty.

Bollocks to it all!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jun 10 at 21:22

Talking of waxing lyrical, I found a lovely piece of thick tan leather today in the workshop, left over from an old upholstery job.

So now I have leather lined drawers, how terribly decadent!  Much more practical than the lining carpet I'd planned to use, and the smell that wafts up when you slide the drawer open is just fantastic! 
 
Just don't get me started about how pleasant it feels to stroke my silky smooth bottoms....LOL
 


Edited by Ex-car bloke - 21 Jun 10 at 21:23
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jun 10 at 22:35
They are going to last longer than the vanClap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jun 10 at 11:52
Originally posted by Ex-car bloke Ex-car bloke wrote:

So basically I screwed to the van metalwork small plywood blocks to two points as high up each cabinet as possible, to which they are attached via M6 allen-head bolts.  I will replace these with M6 plastic knobs in due course.  It’s crude but effective, I guess, and when the cabinets are in you can’t really see the fixing points.  I might round off the sharp edges and clean them up a bit but the main thing is the cabinets are well fixed.

 
So to attach your cabinets you effectively now just use an allen key?       Are you just attaching them at two points, basically at window level?  Nothing at floor level at all?
 
I'm asking because my kitchen pod is still bungeed into the van and I've been wracking my brains for a way to attach them and hence have been waiting on your solution with baited breath!

Cheers
Blakey
2007 130PS SWB Pearl Black Kombi. My Van Blog.
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