XLWB Campervan build – what I’m learning
That’s really weird.Posted 6 months ago
I wonder if I add a www. to it, it works. e.g.
Getting a bit worryingly close to catching up to actual progress now!
I’d better get a move on.
After investigating fridges for about 18 months and weighing up the pros and cons of 240v vs 12v, chest-style verses domestic style, etc (I was always only looking at electric).
I decided to plump for a cheap domestic 240v fridge and inverter.
The main issue with 240v fridges is that they need a high startup current (in-rush current) to get the motor started, so even though the normal usage current is 4A, the in-rush can be as high as 60A for a second, so you need to have headroom in the inverter.
In theory, I prefer the chest-style 4×4 fridges as they are much more efficient and all the cold air doesn’t fall out of them as soon as you open the door, but the good ones (Engel, ARB, etc) cost upwards of £800 for the large capacity and they cause problems with needing access to the top hatch, etc.
In the end, the positioning of ours works well. I drilled some holes in a rail at the back of the base and screwed it down to some battens on the floor, to move the door above the bed frame. Eventually, when the rest of the drawers/cupboards are in, I’ll frame it all around.
This is the inverter placed behind – it’s high so that it can screw into a proper batten instead of just the 6mm ply
I used 10mmsq cable. Live taken from my big isolation switch and earth direct to my c-pillar earth point.
It’s massive (which is good for a family of 4), but the jury is still out on whether the freezer part works well enough. It works when the fridge is set too cold, but doesn’t when the fridge is about 5-degrees which is how we like it. Ah well. It’s enough to keep icecreams frozen until we get to a nice place to eat them, but that’s about it.
We’ve managed 2 days without driving or much sun with no problems, so that’s job done!Posted 6 months ago
Forgot to mention. Fridge is really quiet when running normally, but there is a thump when it starts up. It might be coming from the inverter, but not 100% sure. Anyway, after the 3rd night we all slept through it. Whichever is making the noise, it’s bound to get better once I start building the drawers/cupboards around them.Posted 6 months ago
It looks like the image issue is because my server (where the images are hosted) isn’t https and singletrack is.
So Chrome doesn’t like showing non-secure images embedded in a secure page.
Firefox and Edge seem perfectly happy AFAICT though, so maybe try those if you can’t see them.Posted 6 months ago
I’m still going btw – trying to get all the gas done and tested before an Easter break!
Also made some drawers and a high-up cupboard so will try and update soon.
Just need to actually fit everything and stop being scared!Posted 4 weeks ago
stop being scared!
Haha. Procrastination is the thief of time and all that 🙂 I was the same before I started cutting the window holes out of mine…Posted 4 weeks ago
Yes – I’ve never done any plumbing of any kind – so going straight to gas is a little daunting!
I’m just going to dry/loosely fit it all and then get a pro to actually tighten everything, fill it with LPG and then test I think.Posted 4 weeks ago
I’ve got 5 bikes, sleeping for 2/3 into a SWB quite comfortably. Could easily do 2 more bikes but I’d lose the projector screen.Posted 4 weeks ago
I’m about to add loads more images.
For chrome users who can’t see the images above, you can follow these steps:
1) Click on the padlock at the left of the url field
2) Click ‘Site Settings’
3) Scroll down to ‘insecure content’ and change it to ‘allow’
Once you’ve looked at the images you can always change it back although it sounds worse that it is.
There’s something similar in Firefox as well – HTTPS-Only Mode needs to be off (which it is by default).
If people don’t want to do this, or it doesn’t work, I’ll have to find somewhere to upload the images to that is https, but I wouldn’t be able to change the ones that are already posted.Posted 1 week ago
Right – we left the kitchen as a plain flat surface. But that’s far too simple. Time to turn it into something that takes at least a week’s work 🙂
After looking at all the cookers and sinks on the market, I didn’t really like the glass lidded motorhome style ones, or the size of the sink in the combined ones. Most of the 3-burner ones don’t have much space between the rings for family-sized pans and some of them are woefully underpowered. Oh and there’s the fact I don’t seem to like buying anything from the smev/dometic/waeco/fiamma cartel 🙂
If I’d had a 60cm deep kitchen, I would have probably gone for one of those domestic glass 2-ring front-to-back hobs, but I couldn’t find a good one for my 50cm.
So I decided I liked the 70s yacht aesthetic of this one – and it’s powerful and roomy:
Which as I want overhead lockers, is a little too tall sat on the surface, so will need to be sunk in.
I fancied some nice visible joints in the van (don’t really have any yet), so my eldest and I worked on creating a CNC-able finger joint. It’s not fast to machine (took about a minute per finger), but it looks great
I also used the CNC to cut the sink hole. I bought a nice deep stainless sink from a catering store.
Cooker just placed in.
Unfortunately this new ‘sunk-in’ design meant chopping some out of the lovely cubby-hole I built, but it still works well and looks good from inside (got to keep my youngest happy!)
Then because we have a plastic window behind the cooker, we need some kind of heat shield. After much deliberation (we do a lot of that), we decided on a stainless sheet that pulls out of the worktop. It has some ply stuck to the top of it with sikaflex to pull it up with and some roller catches bolted to the bottom to keep it up.
It works really well. Easy to pull up and push down again. Just need to test if it needs stabilising when it’s down and I’m driving. Original plan was to have another roller catch on a stalk for when it’s in the down position. We’ll see if it’s needed.
The slot was cut with the tracksaw
Testing in the van – that slot is for the gas pipe to exit, but I widened it later for access to viewing the connection for gas-safety checking.
With sink placed in
Showing a test fit of the water tanks (25L jerry cans)
Even though it’s a fairly roomy kitchen, you probably can’t have enough workspace, so I chopped down a Wilco’s bamboo chopping board and used the offcuts to glue a sink-shaped rim around.
No finished in-place photo yet – I’m getting a bit crap at taking those.Posted 1 week ago
Small repair. During the wet autumn I discovered a small water leak from the rear rooflight.
Reading around on the internet it became apparent that I should have carried out an extra step when installing these.
When they come out of the factory they can have mould release agent on the surface of the plastic preventing the sealant from adhering. Bugger.
So I took it out (wow that’s messy after being parked under some conifers for a few months).
It came out really easily which was a bit worrying – the sealant was hardly stuck 🙁
Cleaned it all with scraper, and then isopropol. Took care to get the plastic parts of the window really well cleaned (used acetone in a couple of spots).
Then resealed as before.
Once the interior plywood dried out, it’s hardly noticable after a quick sand (looks like wood grain tbh). So no harm done – phew.
Plenty of rain since with no problems.
The front rooflight hasn’t shown any sign of leaks, but I guess I’ll have to factor on redoing that at some point.Posted 1 week ago
Nice update 🙂
I like the cooker, looks a bit like our Origo – in that it’s square and looks purposeful. And the recess for it is great.
The heat shield is a nice touch, very neat.Posted 1 week ago
Is that the Origo that’s been bought by Dometic and then discontinued 😉
Haven’t used the cooker yet. I’m hoping that the wood doesn’t scorch as it’s a bit close (5mm all around). If it does, I’ll have to line it with metal I guess, or remake it with a 25mm gap instead.Posted 1 week ago
One of the main bits of storage next.
Large drawers next to the fridge.
These will be our main clothes storage – one large drawer per person and then a 5th for big cooker items.
Removable – my plan was to pack these at the house and carry to van, but we’ll see.
I bought some push-to-open bearing runners, but when they arrived they weighed a ton! 7kg for 10 slides. Also – the push-to-open function felt too light to do its job in the van. A small wobble would open them I reckon.
So I returned them and decided to make my own. I don’t need them to be slick and I like timber 🙂
After much deliberation (quelle surprise) about how to keep the drawers closed while driving we decided to just keep it simple (now that is a surprise) with roller catches.
To keep them lightweight I decided to use 6mm birch ply cut on the CNC in the same way as the cubby-hole above.
Trying to fit the vertical supports for the runners in the van proved tricky as nothing seemed to be square. Completely did my head in. So I built a true and square frame in the shed and then took it to the van. Turned out the floor wasn’t flat which is what I was trying to take quare off, so it was good to solve that mystery. Kept the diagonal in place until it was all fixed in place, then removed the unnecessary pieces. Needed some verticals at the back too, but they were easy now that the fronts were in place.
5 hours of watching the CNC machine later:
Each drawer went together nicely with a bit of a tap from a mallet:
Then I glued 12mm runners to the sides – I got a friend with a table saw to do all these – just too painful doing thin pieces with a track saw – took him 5 mins:
Then created a quick jig for drilling the screw holes on the 15mm runners that were going to be fixed to the verticals (the 12mm drawer runners would therefore avoid hitting the verticals).
During test-fitting we realised we only needed a top runner on the top drawer. The ones below were prevented from tipping up by the drawer above. Some lost work but it felt good to save even more weight
Then cut all the fronts. Used the CNC to cut a slot in the fronts, and then used a normal router with a flush bit in to transfer the slot to the inner layer once the fronts were glued on.
Used a roundover bit from both sides set at a shallow angle just to lightly curve the inside edge of the handle.
Test fit again!
Then glued some trim to the verticals to hide the raw pine and finish it off!
You can see the roller catches here as well as the fact that the only drawer to have the top runner is the top drawer.
You can see the slot for the table I made earlier on the left of the drawers.
Drawers feel really nice and big (600mm deep, 550mm wide and 180mm tall) so hopefully they’ll work well!Posted 1 week ago
Is that the Origo that’s been bought by Dometic and then discontinued 😉
Yes, it’s a shame you can’t get one anymore 😞Posted 1 week ago
Nice job! Haven’t read the whole thread but I assume this is still the same van from the original post. I admire your patience, my conversion took 4 weeks and I was stressing about getting it finished after 3 😂
I am unable to take on a project without it consuming my life until completion, which has its good sides, but also pitfallsPosted 1 week ago
Odd I see your cooker pick but nothing else in chrome…
On Samsung internet I see it all.
Do your draws need to be solid or could you drill them out on the base save some more weight and let them airPosted 1 week ago
My god I’m so envious it’s unreal.
Do you own a ply CNC machine, or do you work somewhere with access to one? I’m quite interested in knocking up some study furniture like that…Posted 1 week ago
I’m embarrassed to say it really is the same van I’ve been working on for 2 and a half years 🙂
It’s been usable for 1 and a half of those though – we’ve had 21 nights away in it so far (lockdown has been a pain).
See my post a couple above this one – it’s because I’m hosting the images on my own server which isn’t https. You have to tell Chrome it’s ok to show them – I’ve given details.
Yes, I made my own CNC – partially 3D printed. It’s called Root3 CNC and I put some details in the ‘Last thing you made’ thread here. Later on in that thread there are some examples of things I’ve built with it.
ALthough it’s probably easier to browse my flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thingswelike/
It’s superb, but not as much use in the van as I would have liked.
If I ever move house and get a bigger work area, I’d build this one – PrintncPosted 1 week ago
I think the attention to detail and extra time spent shows 😃
I also expect that you aren’t sinking every hour you have into it either, y’know, enjoying the job and learning along the way rather than doing everything twice like I didPosted 1 week ago
@chrishc777 thank you!
No there have been long breaks – but I do worry slightly that I’ve lost sight of an overall aesthetic. It’s starting to look a bit cobbled together compared to what I had in mind at the start.
Hopefully I’ll be able to pull it all together in the end – it’s pretty stressful learning all these new things. Before this, I’d never worked on 12v electrics, any kind of plumbing, of any kind of work on a vehicle. So each job is treated with a bit of fear and procrastination before I feel comfortable attacking it.Posted 1 week ago
@rossburtonPosted 1 week ago
You are very kind. It just so happens that my eldest is off back to uni next week, so there’s an opening 🙂
@i_like_food Ha! It would have to be a contest involving who can spot my mistakes the quickest. My eldest is known as the ‘sanity checker’.
I think my dream would be running some kind of community maker-space. That would be a cool thing to do.Posted 1 week ago
@duncancallum missed your comment about drilling the drawers. I hadn’t really thought about them needing air. I’ll consult with the family expert to see whether it’s a good idea.
I guess I’d wait until all the storage is in place – just to see if we use them as intended. One of the good things about taking my time over the build is that we keep changing things based on how we realise we use the van.Posted 1 week ago
Cupboard on garage wall
Time to tackle this cupboard on the back wall:
Decided to use sliding doors – mainly because I’ve never made any before.
So first job was to create some nice tough ply beams that we could rout some grooves in to take the doors.
We made the top rails deeper in the middle to allow the doors to be taken out – hopefully this would prevent them rattling or jumping if we go over a bump while they are in their normal closed position
This is the top rail. Routing went pretty well.
Then created support from the side bed up. Made it in the same stained brown colour as the bed and kitchen frames, but I have to say I’m going off this colour. As it gets older it gets warmer coloured and is a bit too sickly for my tastes. Ah well.
Then fitted the frame in place – careful to get everything square
Then created a face panel. Once I’d roughly cut it to the curves of the van, I rebated 5mm on the back to make sanding it to fit the curve easier. Birch ply even at 6mm is surprisingly difficult to shape with sandpaper.
Then took it to the van to scribe and shape. The only way I know to get this right is to take it slowly and mark touching spots with pencil and sand. Every time I try to shortcut scribing, I get it wrong.
Overall length was a little short, so I made a patch piece to fit in the gap
Attached the top rail with glue
And then added blocks to screw through into the beams, wall, ceiling
On the left side is another cubby-hole for my eldest.
Once I fitted the doors, I realised that I’d allowed too much overlap and the doors didn’t look balanced, so I took the front door back out and trimmed it. It’s still not exactly halfway, but it looks fine. I might trim it more some day.
Then I attached verticals inside with holes drilled for those shelf studs so I can have an adjustable shelf.
Job done!Posted 1 week ago
Forgot to mention – 15mm birch play always seems a bit heavy for its strength in the van (which is why I’ve used 6mm so often), so on the cupboard shelf I used the hand held router to put some grooves in the back. It probably only saves 300g or so, but it just makes the shelf feel appropriately weighted rather than heavy.
Hand held with slots like this was a bit quicker than the CNC
Posted 1 week ago
Once again top work 👍
Mine’s birch ply too and after a visit to the weighbridge I decided to add some lightness.
This was originally a solid top.
I’ve removed 10.5kg so far by cutting holes in things and cutting down the metal brackets holding in my bike drawer.
My one regret, which I can’t do anything about now, is using birch for the floor. There’s 3 sheets of 12mm underneath everything. I think 12 or 15mm poplar ply would have been a better choice. I used it as it holds screws so well but there’s actually very little of my build that relies on being screwed in to the floor.Posted 1 week ago
@phil5556 Looks really neat!
10.5kg is nearly a bike 🙂
there’s actually very little of my build that relies on being screwed in to the floor.
Yes, I’ve found the same, mainly because we put battens under the obvious furniture places anyway. It feels nice and solid, but a friend has just used 9mm sheathing ply in his and to be honest, it feels solid enough – and that’s without any furniture to brace it too.
As long as I don’t go overweight, I’m happy with the 12mm, but it’s always a dice roll.Posted 1 week ago
So far, I think everything else is lightweight, but I haven’t gone to the weighbridge since fitting the fridge/gas/water
It’s surprising how the weight adds up, I did have the weight in the back of my mind but probably didn’t build as light as I could have.
We ended up at 3950kg, empty but with full fuel tank. With us, the dog and water in there we have about 300kg to spare which really should be plenty.
I was hoping for under 3900 – just because it feels a better number.
I’m about to save about 30kg changing the batteries too.Posted 1 week ago
I was dreading this. the LPG tank install was one of the first things I did in the van, then it’s just sat there for 2 years doing nothing.
I was dreading it so much that I decided at one point to get someone else to do it, but then covid happened and his was only taking bookings 7 months ahead!
In the end, I managed to find a local gas engineer that had the LPG ticket and was willing to do a check on my self-install.
You can find one from the https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/
Then enter your town and then press the + sign and choose LPG then Caravans and ‘find’ again.
Not all resulting engineers will want to work on your van but it gives a good starting point.
So armed with the knowledge that I wasn’t going to actually have to run it on gas myself until it was tested, I felt renewed confidence to give it shot myself.
Requirements (don’t take these as fact – get them tested)
– Solid copper piping required throughout on the low pressure side.
– Rigidly held in place and protected from being knocked.
– Any pipe enclosed needs to be inspectable.
– Dropout vent required under each connection (I have all my connections in one space, but even then the engineers said I should have a second dropout at the other end of the same cabinet – so I’ve added one).
– Forced ventilation while cooking.
– Compression joints don’t need any tape or paste, but threaded connections (like at the top and bottom of my manifold) require paste (you can’t use PTFE tape, but there are gas-specific tapes I believe).
– No need to overtighten joints.
– 8mm pipe is quite easy to work with. Mine was rubber coated and came with the GasIt lpg kit. The engineer said it was thick walled and good quality. I bent it by hand no problem.
– While it’s expensive, one of these amazing things takes all the pain out of pipe cutting:
In fact it made it fun!
– 8mm and 5/16ths are the same thing.
– Gas test isn’t required by law unless you are renting your van, but this is my first ever bit of plumbing, so made sense.
So armed with all this knowledge, I planned out my system.
Changed our mind about the location of this. Originally it was going to go under the rear driver’s side seat. But that’s become a bit fuller than expected with electrics and it’s nice having easy access.
The Water containers I bought fitted easily under the sink and left enough room for the heater to go under them there instead.
Finding somewhere where both 40mm holes for the intake/exhaust pipes didn’t go into a chassis rail was slightly challenging – that and keeping my service channel clear. Anyway, it just fitted in exactly one location (about 5mm wiggle room haha).
For now the outlet is left as-is, but I’ll put a short conduit on and a grill on the front when I put the cupboards in.
Because it was so tight underneath, I drilled a pilot hole up from the bottom before getting the hole-cutter out.
Silver is exhaust – you can see the dropout vent here too.
One difficulty with the heater location was that the exhaust can’t come out under a window and I have windows all down that side until you get to the rear wheel and associated suspension complications.
So I had to buy an extended exhaust so that it could go to the opposite side of the van near the vehicle exhaust.
While I was ordering that, the Propex engineer pointed out that having the intake on a different side of the van might trigger a fault if there is a wind across the van making the pressures different between exhaust/inlet, so I bought an extended intake for that too. This can go under a window, so it’s 500mm away from the exhaust on the same side.
Because now, both appliances were in the kitchen, it made sense to put the manifold there too and keep all the gas connections in one place.
I decided to put it on the back wall, quite close to the heater to keep the pipe runs as short as possible. At the time, I thought I might want a BBQ point outside the van too, so I bought a tiny 3-way manifold.
I glued a block to the wall, so the two screws holding it on had enough to thread into.
Location was already decided. Needed to trim out a bit more than I originally cut in order to gain easy access to the connection.
The cooker already had an 8mm pipe coming out of it, so I just needed a connector joint there.
Then I threaded the pipe in front of my heat shield and along the top until it was inline with the manifold and bend it downwards. I didn’t use any tools to bend – just by hand felt fine.
Bought a 500mm pigtail to go from the LPG tank to the regulator and directed it towards the manifold position and self-drilling screwed it to the chassis rail
The copper pipe from the regulator fits through a rubber grommet and comes out in my service channel, right under the manifold. It’s short and hugs the chassis, so just one p-clip needed.
LPG fill point
We installed the LPG tank slightly left-of-center due to my seat positioning, which meant that the included fill hose wasn’t quite long enough to reach its intended position.
Putting the filler in the side of the van was also one of the jobs I was dreading – there’s hardly any room to thread it up the b-pillar let alone make the necessary connections. Not my kind of work.
I decided to stick it on underneath – I just needed a bracket from GasIt and all the existing other bits fitted great. It’s just 4 self-drilling screws into the chassis rail. Pleased with my decision.
I’ve just made a temporary panel on the front of the cabinet to house the thermostat and I also bought a wired gas alarm (it also does CO) to keep my wife happy 🙂
I need the water tanks to fit above the heater and need to protect the manifold and pipes from all that.
So I made some legs, pocket hole screwed them into the floor and back wall (glued those too) and then put some insert nuts in the face of each bit (close-up of a test I made just to see if it split and the holding power). That disk on the floor is the dropout vent – it has a grid cover.
Then made some panels to go on them. Used the bluetak method to transfer the bolt holes to the panels.
The base goes in first:
Then the back – leaving just enough room to turn the gas taps (the taps are slightly receded behind the ply)
Before taking it to be tested, I filled the tank with LPG – I had to travel 7 miles to find my nearest. It’s a 20L tank, but they can only fill to 80% so it took about 16L for £10.
I watched a youtube vid of someone using the filler, so I wasn’t surprised by anything and it went smoothly (the instructions are also on the filling pump). The pop/hiss on disconnection is the only real surprising thing that I’m glad I saw on youtube and was ready for.
Drove my van to them and found the LPG to be a really calm, considered young man who went through the whole system and carried out the testing. Took 2 hours as each appliance needed testing for a while and each pressure test was 7mins (I had a small leak from the top and bottom of the manifold because I hadn’t used the paste).
During the test was the first time I’d ever seen a flame on my cooker!
It was also great to hear how quiet the heater was (inside and out) and also how hot the air was. Can’t wait to use it – which is good given this cold spell!
Cost £140 which is a bit painful, but I get a nice certificate to show my wife and insurance company (not that they asked). To be honest, the experience of having someone knowledgable look over my van was really good and I don’t see it as expensive at all.
For anyone interested it was John Worth, Macclesfield. https://www.yell.com/biz/john-worth-ltd-macclesfield-2950979/
The feels like a real relief to get this done and behind me. I was so motivated, that I completed the water install the same day! (next post).Posted 1 week ago
@phil5556 I was going to say! 10Kg isn’t going to get you far with a tonne to shed 🙂
I need to weigh mine tbh
250kg for us as a familyPosted 1 week ago
60kg bikes (no ebikes yet)
So we’re going to hope it weighs 2.9tonnes max I think to leave about 160kg for canoe, clothes, food, bike kit, games, portaloo, etc.
Just back from holiday – another 4 nights in the van – total now 25 nights.
Pleased to report everything worked as it should (which is a good job considering the -3 degree overnight temps).
There was a bit of condensation on the still-exposed metal, so maybe I’ll deal with that next. I’ve been putting off cladding the sliding door as the window blind complicates things (I don’t really want to fit it on the inside of the cladding because it will encroach a bit).
Anyway – storage worked well. We might put some strips along the back cupboard shelves to stop things sliding forward – they were occasionally blocking the rearmost door from opening when they slid up to the nearmost door.Posted 13 hours ago
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