BIG project coming up. - Router Forums
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-23-2019, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Default BIG project coming up.

This will put some projects lower on the list, but this will be worth it Been searching for months to find a suitable vehicle to convert to a small camper, so I can get some travel in. Last week hit paydirt. Got a 1997 Dodge B3500, extended top van. Wanted something I can stand up in, and this thing has 7' headroom inside (I owned a regular van years ago, with a bed and toilet, and it gets very old, very fast, having to move in it all bent over. And I said, never more). It was owned by a hospital, had a wheel chair lift (since taken out), all the seats taken out, regular maintenance, no dings or scratches, paint in excellent condition. AND it has about 106,200 miles on it. And the price was well below the list price for a regular van, let alone an extended top van.

It's getting the belts and hoses checked just now, but hope to get it on the road tomorrow. The first priority will be a composting toilet, and some sort of privacy screen. Composting toilets are very simple, easy to make, but the one that will go in it first is one I had bought for the shop, for around $11-12. Could well have made one, but didn't want to take the time. Next step will be the floor, sill researching that, was going to go with wood, but there will be plywood under regardless, and now thinking maybe a vinyl floor covering, which should last, and would be a lot less pain for my knees. After that an upgraded composting toilet. Some campers make a small cabinet, with a padded seat, so it can be used as an extra place to sit. I plan on taking it a step or three further. You've heard the phrase, "on the throne", well I've been researching throne pictures, and will make a throne to hold my toilet. Got at least 100 throne pictures saved now, and will go thru them, most likely taking an idea from one, another idea from another, and so on.

I kinda got kicked off of a tiny house forum, seems they thought loft beds were fantastic, and didn't care about lack of a handrail, or very unsafe handrails, was perfectly fine, and didn't like me getting on them. Most of them also thought the idea of an outhouse was 'cute'. These people must come from another universe. I've heard of a lot of tiny home buyers who put them up for sale within 3 weeks of buying. Guess their outhouses weren't cute enough, or they were too old to get up and down the stairs.

So, I WILL have a indoor toilet. Composting toilets can be made or bought. Buy for around $10-11, and up, depending the design. Make from free to however much you want to spend. I figure likely around $50-60 to make the one I want, depending on material I already have on hand, or can get free.

As far as a loft bed, I consider a loft fine, for storage, maybe an office, guest sleeping. I've used campers where you had to convert the dinette area to a bed, using the table top as part of it, then having to make the bed from scratch, and in the morning reverse the whole process. Not going to happen with me. I will use a cot, or air mattress, for awhile. Then will make a small dinette in the rear. The bed will be over this. However, not going to climb up. During sleeping, and travel, the bed will rest on the dinette/seat backs. Then during the day will be raised, locked in place, and the dinette used for eating, game playing, working, or whatever.

I ran across the concept of a bed that is lifted out of the way I don't know how long ago. Had thought about a Murphy bed, but the bedding will get messed up. This way I won't even have to make the bed, just raise and lower it. Seen beds raised and lowered by numerous cable setups, electric lifts, you name it. Either expensive, and expensive to repair if problems, unsuitable for use in a van, overly complicated, etc. Then a bit back I found a suitable answer. A scissor lift. The lift would live under the table top, and when used, the top would be what actually fit under the bed and raise it. Then when it is lowered, the table top will hide the lift. The lift will actually fit in a recess below the top. I will make my own lift, it's not rocket science. Undecided yet as making it from metal tubing, or wood. Will not have to lift too far, just enough to be a foot or so above a sitter's head. I will make it ambidextrous - crank it up by hand using a removable crank, or if you prefer, use an electric drill instead, but even if the drill is used, I want a backup plan. Still will need to figure out measurements for the lift, but it won't happen tomorrow, so no biggie.

The walls and back door will be insulated (the floor will also), and likely paneled with real wood. I've been looking some at cabinets and such to make, and am drawn to SCA furniture, have seen some things I like, so likely will go with something along those lines. Later figure on putting in captains chairs in the front, maybe even a couple more behind them. Haven't figure out heating yet, but unless I buy a small woodstove, will likely be homemade (and yes, I know how to safely do it). Eventually solar and batteries, so likely just fans for cooling. Cooking, likely soda can burners, undecided yet.

Had thought about a pickup and camper, but then have to get out of the cab, walk to the back, climb in. Might as well have a trailer, if going to do that. And I do not want a trailer camper. With the van, get up from the driver seat, walk into the back, and go. No getting out in the rain, snow, or dark of night. And at last, can travel far distances and not worry about finding a place with a restroom I could use - and with my luck there might be a line in front of me, all I have to do it find a place to park for a few minutes. Pure Heaven.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-23-2019, 06:41 PM
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Like this one? That sounds like a nice plan. I don't like campers for the very same reasons, and trailers are just a pain.
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-23-2019, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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Like this one? That sounds like a nice plan. I don't like campers for the very same reasons, and trailers are just a pain.
The only differences are, mine is blue, and has one door, top is exactly the same. I would rather have barn doors, but was NOT going to be choosy. I figure one, possibly two people, could actually live in one of these pretty comfortably. Especially after watching all the videos of someone living in a car, standard van, a Suburban. I didn't even consider a tent, and while popups may look neat, I just consider them possible leaks.

After I found mind, found one on-line going for $500, with just over 200,0i00 miles. Halfway across the continent, but the guy was in business and would have shipped it to me for just over $1200.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-24-2019, 11:03 PM
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Theo,

What did you do with the lift? I'm looking for one for my handicapped son. How much weight will it lift? Was it rear or side entry? Send me a PM, please?

Charley

Central North Carolina
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-24-2019, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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Theo,

What did you do with the lift? I'm looking for one for my handicapped son. How much weight will it lift? Was it rear or side entry? Send me a PM, please?

Charley
Sorry, don't have it, seems the previous owner decided to take it out before he sold it.

Best I can do is say check craigslist, they pop up here fairly often. Hmm, quite awhile back I read some articles on making forklifts on garden tractors, wonder if anyone has made a wheelchair lift.
Check ebay also.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.

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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-26-2019, 05:59 PM
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I've "just missed" a couple. Will have to keep looking. Good luck with your van conversion.
Please post progress pictures.

Charley

Central North Carolina
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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-27-2019, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Charley. Got curious and searched Raleigh craigs for wheel chair lift. Got some quite reasonable priced vans with lifts installed, and some very expensive ones. But what got my interest was one with a ramp in the rear - new, and way expensive van. But then did an off craigs search for HANDICAP/WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE VAN images. A number of vans popped up with both rear, and side, ramps. Would need a bit of extra room to use, but these look completely makeable, and use manually - maybe a winch necessary. Open the door(s), lower the ramp, scoot the chair up, raise the ramp - and fasten in place, close the door(s). I didn't investigate the mechanics, but looks doable. It's an option, plus no need to worry about a part failing. Could even have the ramp hinged in the middle, to reduce the angle. I'm curious now, could use something like that for other things too, so I will do some looking, and post anything usable I find. K.I.S.S.

Yeah, I'll post pictures. But at this point looks like I will have to use pics from my phone, and those won't be of fantastic quality. My car guy still has issues with his inspection computer, so still waiting inspection. That's OK, saves on gas.

So I'm still sorting out how to do the floor properly - one guy says do it this way, the next says this way is the best, one will say don't insulate the floor, the next says you must insulate the floor. Then one guy says you absolutely must go over the floor with a wire brush in an angle grinder, and the next says just sweep it clean and paint this on it. And it goes on and on. But most opt for vinyl rather than wood as the top surface - you can get it so it looks like wood flooring, is lighter, faster and easier to put down, wears well, is softer, and supposedly warmer.

In the meantime I will be putting in my el cheapo composting toilet. Can't recall where I got it, but it was about $11-12 or so, and consists of a 5-gallon plastic bucked, and a toilet seat and lid that snap on the top. And that's it. Put a few inches of sawdust in the bottom, and ready to go. I will be using biodegradable plastic bags, so don't have to clean out, and wash, when it is full enough. Of course, if you had enough buckets you could just swap out buckets, then store the full buckets for about a year, which would convert the contents to usable mulch. I opt for the bags. If you have a bucket, you can just make a top, if you want I didn't have the time to spare at that time, so bought. Now my next step is figuring out some type of privacy screen - preferably not costing anything.
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Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-27-2019, 10:23 PM
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Yes, insulate it, the walls, floor, and especially the ceiling. Do it with a vapor barrier on the inside of the insulation or use plastic sheeting sealed to the metal frame with caulking so it's completely sealed. Even better, have closed cell foam insulation sprayed in.

Have you ever slept in a car or enclosed pickup bed in cold Weather? Your body perspiration makes heavy condensation on the cold inside surfaces and it can rain inside at 4 AM. The insulation will keep the cold out and the vapor barrier will keep the insulation dry so your vehicle doesn't rust from the inside out.

Spending a Summer night inside it in the South will boil you in your own juices if you don't have a running air conditioner in it too. Even the little tear drop campers used in the South have small window style air conditioners built into them and they plug them in somewhere every night to make it comfortable inside and remove the excess moisture from the inside air.

I've traveled cross country in the Winter, sleeping inside my car in a down sleeping bag. I learned after the first night to leave the roof skylight or a window partially open to let the moisture out and oxygen in. The coldest night was about -10 and as long as the moisture was getting out through a window, my down sleeping bag stayed dry and kept me warm. With the window closed tight, everything got wet and the insulation qualities of my down bag went rapidly away.

Charley
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-29-2019, 07:40 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I take most of the youtube videos with a saltshaker of salt. I don't plan on traveling to the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter, or summer for that matter, but still plan on insulating the whee out of it anyway.

Van finally inspected, got the plate today, but too worn out by the time I got back to town didn't bring it home today. I asked them to find steps for each side, and don't know the status of that yet - I can get in, but steps will be very helpful, so may leave it there until the can get a pair on.

I'm going to take this in steps. First things first, research, decide how I want to do it, then do it. At the same time will collect whatever I find on the other steps. The first step is privacy. Got my composting toilet, but don't want the world watching while I use it. So, for now, can cover the driver size windows with cardboard. But not going to cover ever window in it, want a privacy screen to begin with. This first one will be rude and crude, but will do the job. I want something quick and dirt, and looks like cardboard wins. Found 4 sites on making cardboard screens. One looks really nice, one looks pretty nice, but both those would take awhile. The other two should go together pretty fast, and do the job, but can't count on them lasting forever. But, they can be repaired. Still need to look over the plans a bit closer. Whichever one is chosen will later be replaced by something more permanent. The toilet will later be inside a box, with a padded top, for extra seating - actually it will look like a throne, and be moveable - no separate room for it, that would take up room unnecessarily. Another box with a padded top will hold the sawdust and toilet paper, and will act as extra seating or a foot rest.

When the first stage privacy is accomplished, I will review everything on putting a floor in, and decide just what I want to use, and the best way to do it, insulation included. When that is done I can decide the next step. In the meantime I will likely get a cot, rather than sleep on the floor, sleeping bag, folding table, and ice chest.

After the floor, I'm not sure which step will come next. I do know I had been thinking cabinets and all, but decided against that. Instead I will use plastic tubs with tops for storage. This will allow me to shift them around if I need extra seating, varied space, or whatever. Eventually there will be a counter, for cooking, etc. Not sure yet what I will be using for cooking heat, but pretty certain it will not be propane. For heat, I am about 100% sure I will be going with a solid fuel stove, quite likely a Tiny Tot I believe it is.

Been thinking of getting some glass etch stuff, and etching all the windows on the driver side. Possibly the rear side on the passenger side also. This will ensure privacy, but still allow some light to come thru. Will decide later if I want to paint over them or not. Also thought of putting a "shelf" or the two front seats, this would allow extra storage of light items, like clothes, etc, and provide support to hang a privacy curtain from, across the width of the van. Had thought of replacing the two front seats with captain chairs, but don't think so now, If I have a curtain there, it would negate privacy to use them. Instead thinking now maybe two captain chairs just behind the front seats, for any passengers, then the privacy curtain would be behind them if the were swiveled around and used as extra seating - I think I like that idea better, but if done, it won't be soon, plenty of time to think on it first.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 01-29-2019, 11:11 PM Thread Starter
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Bungee cords. Almost forgot bungee cords. While I'm driving, anything loose is going to need to be fastened down. I figure bungee cords are the best way to go, even disregarding the fact that they are cheep. And if you have some a bit too short, just hook a couple together. Once the walls are finished I have some fancy hooks in mind that the bungee cords will fasten to. With the exception of the dinette and scissor lift, I figure this whole project will be based on the K.I.S.S. principle.

Almost forgot. For the bungee cords to hook in, I had in mind a nice little ring/loop that would screw to the metal, thru the wall. But got a better idea, and cheaper. Drawer handles. Stick out less, less conspicuous, definitely less expensive, and easier and faster to hook to them. Will use a couple of self tapping screws and good to go. K.I.S.S. all the way.

I'll wait and see how the space goes, but may keep the cot, just add some pillows and/or cushions, and instant couch.
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"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.

Last edited by JOAT; 01-30-2019 at 12:15 AM.
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