I like stuff. I have quite a bit of it. But paring down to only necessities and getting the most out of a small collection of just the good stuff also has its appeal. It’s pretty consistent with what a lot of the Tiny House people promote and becomes a requirement for extended trips in the van. But even this limited collection of stuff needs a place – we can’t just leave it rolling around the back of the van. So we had to come up with some storage solutions. To start, we added a large cabinet above the bed for clothes and two drawers for miscellaneous items and gear.
QUICK LOOK Products Used: * Knape & Vogt 36 Inch Heavy Duty Drawer Slides (part 8900 P36) * McMaster Carr Side-Mount Drawer Slide Hold Open (part 1057A49) * 80/20 10 Series aluminum extrusions * Waterlox Marine Sealer Special Tools: * Miter saw * Irwin Quick Grip corner clamp Frustration Factor: Medium
As usual, the first problem to solve was the van’s irregular shape. How can we make a cabinet with right angles and a flat bottom when the ceiling and walls curve? It’s like the van’s designers were playing a joke on us. For the wall attachment we rolled the dice and trusted the upper horizontal crossbeam was square and just installed 5/16 inch rivnuts into the existing hex shaped holes. For the ceiling, I decided the easiest way to compensate for the curve was to attach the cabinet using hinges. That way we could adjust the hinges to whatever angle was necessary to make the cabinet square. I must confess, I thought this solution was totally brilliant! We bought blank aluminum hinges from McMaster Carr so we could custom drill the holes to the proper size and position.
Similar to the bed platform described in a previous post, we used 80/20 aluminum to build the support structure for the overhead cabinet. This time we used the thinner 10 series, which is only 1 inch square. Once the 80/20 frame was in place we covered it with 1/4 inch maple plywood attached with L brackets. We used the same plywood to make sliding cabinet doors that fit into a track from 80/20. As with all the wood in the van, we applied water sealant prior to installation.
Now that we had a cabinet done, we moved on to drawers. We’ve envied the vans of Instagram for their monstrous storage drawers - the ones that slide out 6 feet from the back of the van with an REI’s worth of outdoor gear inside. However, we realized these pachyderm-sized pullouts aren’t practical for us yet. They’re great if you’re living in the van full time and everything’s primary storage place is in the drawers. We, unfortunately, still have the luxury of a full-size house so most of our gear lives in totes in the garage. It’s easier for us to just grab the totes and transfer them the van. That said, we still wanted some built-in drawers for commonly used items inside the van and non-totable gear items like camp chairs and camera tripods.
We sized the interior drawer to fit under the bed above the battery area. It’s about 16 x 24 inches so there’s plenty of space for toiletries, headlamps and other commonly used items. The gear drawer is much bigger, 16 x 42 inches, and accessible from the rear doors.
The design and components for both drawers were similar. Both were made with wooden boards from Lowes. I chose these mostly because they where easy to get and approximately the right size. I believe more discerning woodworkers would have recommended Baltic birch plywood. For the interior drawer we found drawer sliding rails at McMaster Carr, but I wanted something much stronger for the gear drawer. After some searching I discovered Knape & Vogt makes a ton of heavy-duty slides. The ones I bought support up to 500 pounds – perhaps I over engineered that spec a bit.
After getting all the parts and cutting the wood to size, the construction was pretty simple. I attached the sides together with wood screws and glue. To hold the bottom I added small square dowels attached around the inside perimeter. Then cut a piece of plywood to size and just rested it on the dowels. The crux to the whole build was using corner clamps to hold the sides in place while drilling, screwing and gluing.
Now that these are done, the only major storage project left is a cabinet and drawers in the galley area, but we are leaving that project until the winter. For now we’re going to get out and enjoy the van for a while.