My body aches.

A year of COVID and I’m not in good shape.  Add to that the physicality of this conversion.  It reminds me of high school lacrosse, following a winter of nesting. But it feels good to get strong again and to be connected to something that takes a physical effort. I love building things, I just usually work with cloth.  Wood has its challenges.  I have splinters everywhere.  Gloves helped.  And not wearing leggings. I’m learning a lot, mostly taught by youtube, and by trial and error.

Pick the right tool.

My drill kept stripping the heads of so many screws trying (and failing) to penetrate  the metal walls. There had to be a better tool.  I googled and found one, an impact driver. It’s still a challenge, and sometimes I have to drill a pilot hole with the tiniest drill bit you ever saw (thinner than a bobby pin!)  But I’ve not stripped a single screw head.

Next I had to address how I would cut the wood. I can’t stand crooked lines, bad angles, and mathematical imperfections in fitting things together.  20+ years of patternmaking has made me a perfectionist in that area. The jigsaw, while great for curves, wasn’t the answer.  My new best friend: the circular saw, with a rip guide and a quick square.  I invested in some good clamps and reassembled my old industrial sewing machine’s table, which is heavy and perfect for a work table. I can now cut anything with complete perfection.



Building the Furniture

This would be so much easier if the walls were straight, even and there were no wheel wells.  But that then wouldn’t be a van.  I started with the wet bath. The driver’s seat reclines into the vertical space of the cargo area.  That means the shower wall needs to begin at least well into the cargo area. The bed has to cover the wheel wells. That means the kitchen gets shrunk down to 29″, which is aesthetically awful and completely nonfunctional.

My plan: a notched wall, where 24″ up the wall extends 4″ into the shower. I built that wall, then installed the shower pan for the other walls to be built around.  At the half way mark I realized that, even with my driver seat incline fix, the wet bath was still taking up space I’d allotted for the kitchen.  Crap.

Partial shower build: the walls are clamped in place because I need to run wiring and plumbing still––and add the other walls!
The ceiling: I still need to cut out for the fan and sky light, and fill in some insulation. The ceiling is 24″ x 34″ tin tiles.


I decided to open all the boxes that arrived months ago containing the fridge, sink, and water tanks, and put them in place so I could see what I needed to build around. And with all the pieces sitting there, I suddenly realized the solution to my spacial dilemma. Make the bed shorter by letting some of the wheel well protrude into the kitchen cabinets!  Treat the entire driver’s side and passenger side each like one piece of furniture.

I cut out each side in 3/4″ plywood. That will be securely fixed to the van, and everything will then be bolted to that––after some plumbing and wiring, which I’ll tackle tomorrow.