Monday, July 6, 2015

Nick's Van, Part 1: SUPERVAN!

I do what I can to help out friends.  I am lucky in my situation that I have a lot of woodworking equipment.  So when they need me to help them with woodworking projects, I always try to help.

So when my friend Nick asked me to help him work on his van, I was like, "Sure, no problem."  However, I didn't know just how much work was needed. 

This is Nick's Van, nay.... SUPERVAN!

Nick has decided to stick it to the man by living by his own code like.... I don't know a samurai or something.  Anyway, he has taken this Dodge Transit Van and made it his home and transportation.  So he is making it as comfortable as he can.  That's where I come in.  I am helping with the upgrades.

First thing, we live in Florida so it is hot all the time.  All Floridians have a story about running their A/C on Christmas.  So making sure this van was insulated was step number one.

As you can see the silver stuff is the insulation.  It really took two people to put that up.  Me to hold it, and Nick to adjust it, and put screw the wood beams in to hold it in place.

We had to do a lot of measuring and cutting around to make sure the hole in the ceiling for the fan was cut just right.  In fact, the insulation came on one giant roll so there was a lot of measuring and cutting all around.  This job took a lot of time.  Namely, because we had to move a lot of stuff out of the van so we could reach the entire roof. 

That's one fine looking fan.

The next part took somewhere between 137 hours and infinity.  I have to say this Van work has taken place over many days.  So when Nick decided he wanted some cabinets, he wanted them his way dammit. 

We spent a lot of time just making the template.  It was a lot of trial and error.  But we finally got that done.  Then we went through about 18 design changes.  In the end, Nick wanted a flat across the front cabinet.  And he wanted the bottom to be curved.  This took a lot of work between many types of tools such as a table router, band-saw, miter saw, scroll saw, two type of sanders, and hand planner.  Not to mention all the brad nails and glue that got thrown around.  In the end, this is what ended up becoming of that work.

Hey, that's not too shabby.  Today we put it all together with brackets and added the bottoms.  That will be covered in part 2.

There will also be more cabinets for the other side of the van.  Hopefully, now that we've made one set, the next set will go much quicker. 

Speaking of brackets, that took some time.  You see, Nick had bought some metal, and was all like, "Dude, I'll make my own brackets."  So he did.  It took a lot of time, but we got brackets.  And some funny pictures of Nick with the metal.  It was metal, so he wanted a very metal pose.

So, here's how to make brackets.

1.  Get giant piece of metal in the picture.
2.  Get blowtorch.
3.  Make some brackets.
4.  Run out of material to soder it together.
5.  Make run to Lowes.
6.  Make run to Home Depot when Lowes hasn't stocked the soder yet.
7.  Come back home and reload machine.
8.  Make more brackets.
9.  Paint brackets with sealer.
10.  Wait a few hours.
11.  Paint brackets with white paint to match the van.
12.  Wait a few more hours.
13.  Now you have brackets!!!!

But why did we need so many brackets?  Well, it was Nick's most ambitious part of the project to date.  He was going to put a solar panel on the top of the van.  That's the best way to stick it to the man!  Why pay for power when you live in Florida, and the sun is in your face 14 hours a day?  Take that pure solar power and put it to good use.

So Nick decided to put the solar panel so the wires would run through the hole where the fan was located.  We used self tapping metal screws to hold down the brackets that were attached to the solar panel.  Nick then used chalk to seal up the holes to make sure no rainwater came down into the van.

I played gofer, and kept running up and down the ladder getting things.

So then we came inside for a break.  As we drank cold water inside, Nick looks on his computer, and finds out that folks who have put their solar panels on their vans like Nick, have done it the other way.  In that, they run the power cables not through the fan, but to the back where there is a hole for a security camera. 

That leads to the least fun part of the project.  To make a long story short, we had to undo everything, reverse the brackets, and put the panel facing the other way.  Maybe if it was wood, it wouldn't have been so bad, but metal is unforgiving, and we didn't want to drill new holes.  It look a few hours in the worst part of the day to get it reversed.  By the end, we were dehydrated and Nick was as red as a lobster. 

In all fairness, he really should have worn a shirt. 

But, after a long and grueling task, we managed to get everything squared away.  But now comes the fun part.  It all has to be hooked up.  I'm going to cover that in Part 2.  I also suggested that Nick put stripes or a unicorn or something on the side to make his SUPERVAN even more super.  He said no.  But maybe he'll change his mind when Part 2 is written. 

Stay tuned!

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