Category Archives: design

Storage and work space …

One of the things that’s super important in building a skoolie is to use your space wisely. We really worked to figure out our floor plan, and even that has changed as we’ve learned through trial, error, and working in the space we have.  One of the obvious changes is that we’ve eliminated the plan for the door between the galley and the bunks, and the other door and wall between the bunks and the ‘master’ bedroom area, which gives a more open, light- and air-filled space in the back.

Planning (and subflooring) around those pesky wheelwells …

But one of the things you just can’t change are those wheelwells. Well, I say that and I know there are people who cut them down, but I worry about bumps and the tires having enough travelspace, so that’s not an option for us, at least.

The wheelwell 2×3 ‘cage’ is all the way to the left, behind the bed platforms that I’m finishing in this picture.

The driver’s side wheelwell was nicely covered by the bunks, leaving about 14 inches of space for underbunk drawers, but the passenger side one was only partially covered by the fridge, so I had built a framework to provide a flat space over it.  It took a while to get a piece of plywood on there, so the curved space with 2×3’s making a cage was a sort of catch-all space for small items to go so they wouldn’t slide around, while bigger items (like our water-cooler or folding chairs) could sit atop the cage and be bungee-secured to the wall along the fridge. (Not surprisingly, I don’t have many pictures of this.)

With some 1/2″ plywood atop the cage, the now-platform sat just below the seat-rail, some 19″ below the window.  My plan was to put in drawers, and after some discussion, we settled on two big drawers, rather than three or four smaller ones.  But without the little wall between the bunks and ‘master’ bedroom, there was actually some work-space possible, instead of just space to tuck things in, or stand off to the side so someone could get by.  In order to use that space, I decided to put in a ‘hidden’ wing.

The view from the bunk across the way …

The drawers are about 31″ by 23″ and just about 7 3/4″ deep.  The top surface, with the wing closed, is about 33×24″, covering the space over the wheelwell, and bringing it up flush with the base of the window.

The aft-facing panel side.

While the main ‘dresser’ portion of this rests just over the platform and cage that surrounds the wheelwell, and the sides of the carcass are plywood (oak-faced in the aft-side), the raised panel side that faces aft runs all the way from the floor to the base of the windows, helping to hide the evidence of the wheelwell.

With the support out and a view of the pull-ring for the wing.

The raised-panel section houses two things – first, the threaded eyes that allow us to attach a bungee and strap in the folding chairs (and perhaps other things) just like we had done on the platform.  The second is the angled bit that some of you may have noticed in the picture.  It’s hinged with a couple of small steel pins to swing out and become a support for the wing!  A magnet set into the wing and #10 woodscrew in the side of the ‘dresser’ keeps it in place when not in use, and the fact that it’s only rounded on one side of the back allows it to swing, and stop when it’s perpendicular to the dresser.

The dresser with the wing out.

The wing itself is some 3/4″ oak-faced plywood with some 1/4″ oak facing around the sides to hide the layers.  I put in a flat-fold brass finger-pull ring, so that it could be folded out or, conversely, left nice and flat depending on what we wanted to do.  The wing fits in really tightly into the surface of the dresser, making it almost hidden. Some brass middle hinges allow it to flip out into place.

Ultra Hardware 96412 Pocket Door Finger Pull


List Price: $9.17 USD
New From: $9.12 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Stanley Hardware CD5301 2″ Solid Brass Middle Hinge in Bright Brass (Tools & Home Improvement)


List Price: $4.29 USD
New From: $0.75 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

This allows for a chair to be placed behind it and voila, a workspace with handy windows, and it’s out of the travel-lane.  When the awning it out, the emergency window can be propped open and even allow that wing to be accessed from outside (if you’re tall enough, that is).

A thing that could be overlooked in this is the fact that I’ve left the wall between the dresser and the fridge unfinished.  Granted, there’s a lot of unfinished in the bus, but this was actually intentional.  The space provided in the wall cavity serves as a perfect storage spot for long thin things, like our axe and hatchet (with the heads resting on the dresser surface), fire-tending equipment, supports for holding the emergency windows open, sticks for marshmallows, and a kid-sized cricket set (because of course we do).

We’ve just used this on a shakedown camping trip, and it got thumbs-up, so I was a happy camper!

 

 

The Master Bed/Back Benches (Final!)

So, finally, after several planning attempts to get a workable means of getting a master bed out of two benches in the far aft of the bus, I did it.  While I set up detailed plans for the back benches in a couple of previous posts (Parts One and Two), I ended up making some variations based on our assessments of our stays in the bus over this last summer.

The bench in profile, showing the `pocket` for the platform.
The bench in profile, showing the `pocket` for the platform.

While I had planned to have pallet sections span between the two benches before, I had designed for only two pallet sections of ~29″ width each to be the ‘back’ of the bench.  What we decided to do was to make the span into three sections of 19 1/2″ width, to be stowed under just one of the benches.  While this loses a little more storage area overall, the sections are much easier to unstow, and there’s more accessibility to the storage area.

Oak & 2x3 frame, starboard side.
Oak & 2×3 frame, starboard side.

So, I started with a simple frame made of 2x3s and 1 3/8 x 1 3/8″ and 1 3/8 x 5″ oak that I planed down.  This gave a stable, and in places, visually appealing structure for the bench. Along the outside wall of the bus, I ran another 2×3 which I screwed into the structural ribs of the bus body for the wider planks to rest on.  In working on the counter in the galley area, I found that the pocket screws were a pain to put into the ribs.

Port-side bench, showing storage area for the pallets.
Port-side bench, showing storage area for the pallets.

On the port side, however, I put the storage for the pallets, so instead of a large open box, I ended up with a box-within-a-box sort of system.  This still left some shallow storage space above the pallet area and a deeper section all the way to the back.

The angled supports for the pallet sections.
The angled supports for the pallet sections.

One of my reasons for designing the original set-up for having the wider pallets being the bench backs was that they wouldn’t be able to slide around, as the back of the bus gets the brunt of bounces and tail-swing forces.  In storing the pallets under the bench-seat, though,  I designed the storage area to have angled supports, only dipping down about 3/4″ over 21″ of width.  I’ll have to decide after a few drives if I’ll need extra stops to keep the pallets from sliding out.

Rail & stile router bits and my handy pocket jig.
Rail & stile router bits and my handy pocket jig.

With the bench frames in place, I needed to build the outer shell of the benches, still using the flat panel wainscoting that I used elsewhere in the bus.   For this, I pulled out a set of rail & stile router bits and my Kreg pocket jig, which together make some really nice, secure wainscoting.

All the panel pieces, and some of the oak plywood ...
All the panel pieces cut and routed, and some of the oak plywood …

There were three pieces of panel to make up, as the fore part of the starboard bench opens into open space, it needed a section that the port bench (coming up to the bunk wall) didn’t.

Almost set, just needs plywood panels and the top rail.
Almost set, just needs plywood panels and the top rail.

Assembly was easy, just drilling for the pocket screws, evening up ends, and measuring for spacing of stiles.  Once these were set, I cut 1/4″ oak plywood for the panels, and set those in place with a single brass wood screw.  I don’t like to use glue for these, as the wood tends to expand and contract with heat and humidity, and I wanted to give it that flexibility.  On the other hand, I don’t want the panels (very literally) rattling around while the bus is rolling.

Panels installed, notches in top rail visible.
Panels installed, notches in top rail visible.

The last detail to work out was in the long top rails, so that the 1 3/8 x 1 3/8″ supports on the edges of the pallets would rest securely in place.  This is one of the places where having the oak frame was important, as it would be visible behind the notches.  But it all worked out nicely.

The port side bench with wainscoting installed.
The port side bench with wainscoting installed.

The port panel was more tricky, and involved some chisel-work to get the rail above the pallet storage to sit nicely and give a robust, non-routed opening for the pallets.  The bench tops were made of 3/4″ oak plywood for the hinged bench top, faced with a 1″ strip of oak as an edging, then the rest was oak boards that lapped over the supports.

Look the benches are gone, and now it's a bed!
Look the benches are gone, and now it’s a bed!

With the pallets in place, it makes a 58 1/2″ x 92″ bed-space.  One of the nice things about it is that the space under the bed is still accessible, either by reaching underneath from the front, opening the rear door, or opening up the bench tops.  I’m planning on getting some nice recessed handles that will make opening the lids easier.

The bench goes all the way around the back.
The bench goes all the way around the back.

But the modular design of the pallets makes them interchangable in all the notches, and allows for a U-shaped bench in the ‘observation area’ of the back of the bus.

So this new design fits better with our uses of the back area of the back, and makes it really versatile, as we could have the center pallet in as a table, and have several folks around it.

Changing designs (for the master bed) (Part II)

So I set about designing benches whose backs would be able to be lifted away from the bench, turned and rotated so that they would each become half of the bed across the gap between the two benches.  Each of the benches will be 24″ wide (from the wall) and 58-59″ long (I’ll figure this out more exactly when I empty out the back of the bus and get to the actual building), with a height of 20″.

The overall design of the platform sections.
The overall design of the platform sections.

This would leave a space of roughly 58″ by 42″ that would need to be filled in to make a flat bed surface between the benches. A single platform that big would be very hard to hide away, so I set up the design to make this into two parts (one for the back of each bench seat), each roughly 29″ by 43 1/2″.  The extra 1 1/2″ for this length is for an overlap with the bench of 3/4″ on either side.

The paneled bench front with notches to fit the platforms.
The paneled bench front with notches to fit the platforms.

In order to make these really stable, I designed each of the sections to have three 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ supports that would rest in notches in the benches. The tops of the benches and the platforms is going to be 3/4″ oak faced plywood (and the panels in the bench will be 1/4″ plywood).

The bench in profile, showing the `pocket` for the platform.
The bench in profile, showing the `pocket` for the platform.

Given that the windows start at 29″ from the floor and the bench seat would be at 20″, making these 29″ wide platforms into the back of the bench posed a small problem, since we wanted to keep as much of our window view as possible.  Toward this end, I decided to cover not more than 6″ of the window with the bench seat (which would be about the same height as the back of the sideways seat in the cabin area), which necessitated deep pockets in the back of the bench.

The top-view of the bench.
The top-view of the bench.

This would still allow for the area in front of the pocket to be used for storage.  In order to access this, I worked out a hinged panel in the seat top that could still be opened when the bed platforms were in place. In arranging this in the design, it occurred to me that the ‘pocket’ where the platform would rest while it was a bench would be a big empty area when it was made into a bed, so the design needed another hinged panel that would fold down and close when the platform was in place to be a bed.

The side and fronts of the bench would be the same oak paneling that I’ve put up for the wall between the bathroom and galley area. knowing that, I came out with a whole materials list and cutting diagrams.  I’ll post the building of this when I get there, but this seems the best way to compromise our wants and our needs.

The materials list for the benches.
The materials list for the benches.

 

The cutting diagrams for the plywood.
The cutting diagrams for the plywood.