Construction techniques for van cabinetry

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paulrbarnard

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I have been volunteered to fit out my daughter and son-in-laws Bongo camper can. I sorted out the electrics today but they are coming back over the bank holiday to have a rear kitchen unit built and fitted. The one that was in there seemed to have been cut to size by a band of beavers and was joined with an over abundance of pocket holes. Well the panels that were screwed that is, many were just interference fit.

What is the best approach for quick build? Pocket holes? Dominoes? Other?

The existing is ply or would MDF be a better option? I’m thinking something with a nice wipe down finish and T edging or glue-on banding.
 

Jameshow

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My camper van kitchen and loo is cheap Wickes 12mm ply with flushing doors jigsawed out and screwed into 36mm corner blocks and a couple of coats of polyurethane vanish.

Pretty it isn't, durable it is.... I've been putting 8x2 oak down the middle with no ill effects!
 

eribaMotters

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I have been volunteered to fit out my daughter and son-in-laws Bongo camper can. I sorted out the electrics today but they are coming back over the bank holiday to have a rear kitchen unit built and fitted. The one that was in there seemed to have been cut to size by a band of beavers and was joined with an over abundance of pocket holes. Well the panels that were screwed that is, many were just interference fit.

What is the best approach for quick build? Pocket holes? Dominoes? Other?

The existing is ply or would MDF be a better option? I’m thinking something with a nice wipe down finish and T edging or glue-on banding.
It would be worthwhile checking Clearcut Conversions in Devon. Self Build Campervan Conversions, Parts and Components | UK
I've used then for electrical bits on several caravans and they are very helpful.
If you plan to go the plain plywood route then Poplar would appear to be a good choice due to it's low weight. Lathams in Bristol stock it, so not all that far from you.

Colin
 

paulrbarnard

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It would be worthwhile checking Clearcut Conversions in Devon. Self Build Campervan Conversions, Parts and Components | UK
I've used then for electrical bits on several caravans and they are very helpful.
If you plan to go the plain plywood route then Poplar would appear to be a good choice due to it's low weight. Lathams in Bristol stock it, so not all that far from you.

Colin
Clear cut conversions looks like a great resource. Thank you for pointing them out.
 

paulrbarnard

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My camper van kitchen and loo is cheap Wickes 12mm ply with flushing doors jigsawed out and screwed into 36mm corner blocks and a couple of coats of polyurethane vanish.

Pretty it isn't, durable it is.... I've been putting 8x2 oak down the middle with no ill effects!
I’m thinking of a somewhat similar approach to the doors but routing out and using t edging to neaten it up.
 

Tris

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If they haven't got one already then fit a low coolant alarm. Those bongo's are a pain for cooking the heads and a right pain to bleed the air out of.
Check out the bongo fury forum for some ideas on conversions. Magnum motorhomes website has some useful info for self builds.
There's a place in Southampton that builds swivel seats for them if you don't want a seat permanently facing backwards and aren't going for the rock n roll type bed.
 

Jameshow

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IMG-20210524-WA0005.jpeg


My kitchen unit....
 

cerro

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The lightest wood you can find, with the price if fuel. And VW are the best for fitting out
 

paulrbarnard

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If they haven't got one already then fit a low coolant alarm. Those bongo's are a pain for cooking the heads and a right pain to bleed the air out of.
Check out the bongo fury forum for some ideas on conversions. Magnum motorhomes website has some useful info for self builds.
There's a place in Southampton that builds swivel seats for them if you don't want a seat permanently facing backwards and aren't going for the rock n roll type bed.

I found a stray wire roaming around the engine bay when I was putting in the split charge and managed to trace it to a low coolant sensor 😀. So fortunately it has one but in common with the rest of the conversion it was a little below par. A meter of loose wire wrapped around the engine bay is not the way I like to do things.

I suggested swivel seats but the kids showed me the very clever reversing seat pads. You lean the seat backs forward and then there is a small seat, what I thought was a padded foot rest, that lets you sit facing the back. Very clever indeed.

I have a plan in mind for the interior layout but need inspiration.
 

Jameshow

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Daughters best friend has one, therefore the only option they would consider 😜
I had one and for what it was, it was ok.

It didn't want as refined at a T5 but is wasn't slow like a T2....

It has a joyful feel about it that suited being a camper. You felt you were on holiday as soon as you got in it.

On the other hand the kids hated it!
 

Tris

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I'll try to dig out some photos of the one we had, it was quite a clever use of space as it had a smev combined hob and sink, two cupboards and a space for a small loo, all cut to fit with a couple of mm all round.
If I was fitting one Id be tempted to make it freestanding and attached to the seat rails like a lathe tailstock so it could be removed if they ever want to use it as a van.
 

Tris

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I had one and for what it was, it was ok.

It didn't want as refined at a T5 but is wasn't slow like a T2....

It has a joyful feel about it that suited being a camper. You felt you were on holiday as soon as you got in it.

On the other hand the kids hated it!
When you get two kids in the pop top and one won't get off the hatch?
 

paulrbarnard

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I'll try to dig out some photos of the one we had, it was quite a clever use of space as it had a smev combined hob and sink, two cupboards and a space for a small loo, all cut to fit with a couple of mm all round.
If I was fitting one Id be tempted to make it freestanding and attached to the seat rails like a lathe tailstock so it could be removed if they ever want to use it as a van.
I’m looking at lots of examples and coming around to making it removable.
 

Richard_C

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I know little of the Bongo but love the name. "We motored to the coast in the Rover" sounds serious, "We went to the beach in the Bongo" sounds like a cheerful outing.

I had an aircoooled T2 VW back in the late 70's when you could buy second hand for next to nothing, panorama screen high indicator, early 1600 cc twin port for the enthusisats out there. It was a proper Devon conversion with pop top, and most of the furniture was softwood framed with fairly thin ply over: I don't recall the details. It was sturdy enough. I did a couple of mods, cupboard for the crampons and ice axes, and there is a tendency to 'over-build'. We like things to look and be sturdy, but weight is the enemy.

Somewhere (perhaps in the registration document or handbook, perhaps a plate rivetted on a door pillar) will be the unladen weight and the permittted maximum gross vehicle weight. The ULW may be fully fitted if its a factory conversion but may well be bare chassis/body without the rising roof. Somwhere between ULW and GVW youi need to allow for people, petrol, maybe extrat battery, stuff and things, leisure stuff if you take bikes etc, water maybe, and the furniture. Aside from the obvious advantage of keeping it light there is that technical constraint and often there is not much scope in that ULW/GVW gap. You might need to compromise your high standards of woodworking and focus more on the weight.

I also wonder (but you can't calculate for any of this) if "light and weak" is helpful in an accident. Imagine a tail end shunt, the vehicle does its proper progressive crumple, it might be better if the big horizontal sheet of timber in the back also breaks rather than gets pushed forward to damage the occupants or ends up flying about around the occupants.

You may know about tyres, there are the usual width/profile/diameter/speed rating numbers: 215/55 17 W. They are follwed by load ratings, typically 91 or similar. Higher number = higher load rating. If you go up you might get a slightly harsher ride - I've never noticed it - but no other downsides to my knowledge. Because camper vans are carrying most of their weight most of the time, if tyres ever need replacing make sure the load rating is the same or higher that what is on now.

There is a company called Bilbo, been around for aeons, who do conversions designed so you can take bits or modules out to use the van as a van: might be worth a look around their website for ideas.
 

Sideways

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What Cerro and Richard said. Ignore kitchen cabinetry preconceptions and build for light weight.
It's so easy to add serious extra weight to the vehicle which will compromise it's handling, stopping, mpg, and increase wear and tear.
Lightweigh frames and thin ply rather than MDF and standard chipboard. Maybe even aluminium composite panel (dibond) !
 
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