Basic Van Build: Second of Three

Fitting the battery drawer into the drawer slides. I wasn't very good about taking pics for the drawer build. See video if you are interested.

Fitting the battery drawer into the drawer slides. I wasn’t very good about taking pics for the drawer build. See video if you are interested.

November 14 – December 6.

If I had been working alone, my van build would probably look like some of the other “single dude” builds we have seen. They basically consist of a piece of plywood with a mattress on top. Some stuff is stored under the bed, and some is in racks overhead. Fortunately, my partner (and sweetheart) is a visionary. After spending five winters on a boat she has clear, firm ideas about the way our tiny living space should work.

What are some of our requirements? The van should be cozy but not cave-like. It should have an “open” feel. We need to reserve storage space for Everything, but it all must be accessible. Some van dwellers don’t tote around musical instruments and power tools, but we do. I still paint houses and do odd jobs during the summer. It would be nice if I could remove tools without tracking in dirt. It would also be nice if I could haul a few sheets of plywood as needed. Long before we even bought this van, we decided on a walk-through layout with a bed that could be made into a sofa.

We drew lots of pictures of the layout. When we sold my folks’ house in FL we kept a futon. Duwan was sure we could re-purpose it for our own sofa/bed layout. By the time we purchased a van, Duwan was doing pretty detailed designs on the laptop using Sketch-Up software. By the time we finished putting the inner skin on Ballena Blanca these designs were very accurate. The sofa/bed, power station, and travel fridge would be on the driver’s side (port). And the galley would be on the passenger side (starboard).

We started portside. I built a sturdy drawer for the batteries and inverter. This was housed in a stand, which would support the bed. We disassembled and rebuilt the bed frame. And Duwan trimmed down the mattress. Now we have a bed.

Here is part of the base for the sofa/bed. It's the battery/inverter drawer built into its stand. Drawer is closed. Assembly isn't stained yet.

Here is part of the base for the sofa/bed. It’s the battery/inverter drawer built into its stand. Drawer is closed. Assembly isn’t stained yet.

Here is the battery drawer opened. Stain is drying.

Here is the battery drawer opened. Stain is drying.

Duwan disassembled the old futon. Here is the mattress support cut and put together as we want it. The spruce slats are interlaced and the assembly is held together in the closed 'sofa' position. The overlapping boards are temporary.

Duwan disassembled the old futon. Here is the mattress support cut and put together as we want it. The spruce slats are interlaced and the assembly is held together in the closed ‘sofa’ position. The overlapping boards are temporary.

Here we secure every other slat to each side of the oak frame.

Here we secure every other slat to each side of the oak frame.

We used tile spacers to keep the slats 1/8" apart during assembly.

We used tile spacers to keep the slats 1/8″ apart during assembly.

Square it all up. Drive a screw or two. Square it up again.

Square it all up. Drive a screw or two. Square it up again.

Duwan pulls the mattress support from the closed 'sofa' position toward the open 'bed' position. Yay.

Duwan pulls the mattress support from the closed ‘sofa’ position toward the open ‘bed’ position. Yay.

Now we are in the van with the battery stand and fixed legs under the mattress support. Still not screwed to the wall yet. Legs have not been added to the movable part of the bed.

Now we are in the van with the battery stand and fixed legs under the mattress support. Still not screwed to the wall yet. Legs have not been added to the movable part of the bed.

This is a good time to install the solar controller shown in the center.

This is a good time to install the solar controller shown in the center.

The frame is fully assembler and fixed to the wall. The legs for the moving part are added.

The frame is fully assembler and fixed to the wall. The legs for the moving part are added.

We used dowels to attach the legs for the moving side of the bed. Here is a closeup of the dowels partially in. They will be glued in next. (Dowels were used in the battery inverter drawer also. See video.)

We used dowels to attach the legs for the moving side of the bed. Here is a closeup of the dowels partially in. They will be glued in next. (Dowels were used in the battery inverter drawer also. See video.)

Bed frame and power station are set up. Drawer opens so that water can be added to the two red 6 volt house batteries. The black and white 2000 watt inverter sits beside the batteries. The black panel above it is the fuse and breaker box. The rats nest of wiring now runs into the back of this RV fuse box.

Bed frame and power station are set up. Drawer opens so that water can be added to the two red 6 volt house batteries. The black and white 2000 watt inverter sits beside the batteries. The black panel above it is the fuse and breaker box. The rats nest of wiring now runs into the back of this RV fuse box.

Here the bed is open. The mattress is too big.

Here the bed is open. The mattress is too big.

Mattress is too big when closed as well.

Mattress is too big when closed as well.

Here Duwan has taken the mattress cover off, opened the inner cover, cut through the thin foam layer and the bedding. She has cut about five inches of mattress off.

Here Duwan has taken the mattress cover off, opened the inner cover, cut through the thin foam layer and the bedding. She has cut about five inches of mattress off.

Sewing the thin foam layer closed.

Sewing the thin foam layer closed.

Next is the inner cover.

Next is the inner cover.

Sewing inner cover closed. It's cold out here.

Sewing inner cover closed. It’s cold out here.

And here's the finished sofa/bed, sporting the new cover Duwan sewed for the mattress.

And here’s the finished sofa/bed, sporting the new cover Duwan sewed for the mattress.

What’s next? The galley.

Disclaimer: This was our van build. Please do not consider this as advice on how to do yours. Hydrogen emitted by flooded batteries is flammable. Bad wiring connections can electrocute you. Research the risks for yourself.

8 thoughts on “Basic Van Build: Second of Three

  1. Can’t wait to see the pictures of the finished interior 🙂 It’s neat to see the computer diagrams Duwan showed me come to life.

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks Ellen! It is still a work in progress – you know how that goes. Not sure it will ever be done.

    • Duwan said:

      Ahhh .. thanks!

  2. Terry Landis said:

    Those look like Trojan T-105 6 volt batteries there and a KISAE inverter. Which one did you get and how has it been working out? I have been thinking about ordering the KISAE Abso 2000 Compact Pure Sine Inverter/Charger. The problem for me is staying in one place long enough to wait for the delivery. Amazon doesn’t have this one…Nice job on the videos….cheers. Terry

    • Duwan said:

      Yes, it is a KISAE 2000 watt. We are very happy with it. It runs our Magic Bullet! We saved about $150 picking it up at a dealer in Miami. And the batteries are Trojans.

  3. Tracy Bedenbaugh said:

    That’s an awesome job, Sif. You both are very talented. Hope you had fun doing it.

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks! We did have some fun.

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