Silver Starts to Take Shape

It has been just over a month since the last time I posted and a lot has happened on the build. Silver is starting to look like the campervan that he will become, although it is all still very much a question of function over form. The function does seem to be magnificent though as you would expect from a couple of engineers.

Since I last posted we are now able to leave the house and meet with up to four people outdoors. This came just in time for Dave’s birthday and we were able to meet Des for the first time in 3 months and get his thought son the van.

We did not light and blow out the candles for hygiene reasons

Cupboards

Last time I posted, we only had the carcasses of the “bedroom” storage cupboards ready to receive doors but we now have doors and also overhead kitchen cupboards with doors. After much deliberation over which material to use for the doors, based on quality, weight, cost and aesthetic, we decided to go with plywood. We could have bought the doors ready made but instead many hours have been put into crafting bespoke doors. Most of them have been made more than once and a couple more will be remade. It is all a learning process and Dave’s carpentry skills improve with each door. He has done a really great job. We have gone for marine latches which mean the doors don’t come open when we drive round corners. It took us ages to agree on the latches and we are really happy with them.

Overhead kitchen cupboards

The finish of the doors has been a big topic and a cause of some anxiety for me. Dave and Jason are doing an amazing job making the van super functional but it is down to me to make it look nice. Most people paint their doors white, but I really didn’t want to have to apply l.ayers of gunky paint so I decided to go with Osmo PolyX Oil which is an oil and wax combined.

I love what people are doing with plywood these days and the finish they are able to achieve. The Osmo is so easy to apply and with diligent sanding you can get a really decent finish.

However, the plywood we have been able to source locally is not the best. We have tried normal marine ply and Baltic birch marine ply but all of it leaves something to be desired so I was a bit disappointed with the doors after I applied the oil and was considering redoing them with either paint or using a white wash technique. However, after some feedback from others who have seen the doors and some experiments with paint and white wash on the reject doors, I have decided to stick with what we have. It looks fairly decent and I can live with it. I just need to treat the insides of the cupboards and finish a couple of doors that are still bare and then I can move on to the next job.

Shower and Toilet Cubicle

Building the shower and toilet cubicle has been a source of much dread over the past few months. Thankfully the Welsh First Minister helped us out there as he set a date of 27 March when we will be able to move around Wales freely and stay in self catering accommodation, including campsites. We have booked two nights away from 28 March on the Llyn Peninsula of North Wales. Campsites will not be allowed to have their shower/toilet blocks open so everyone needs to have their own onboard facilities. Finally a kick up the butt to get on with the shower cubicle. The shower itself will not be installed in time but we will have a private place to use the toilet (more about the marvellous composting toilet next time, after we have tried it out). We can manage without a shower for two days, after all it is camping.

We spent hours last year deliberating the size of the shower cubicle. The toilet will sit in the shower base, which won’t leave much space for taking a shower but it will be usable and is the best that can be done in such a tight space. We taped out the size of the cubicle on the floor and put the toilet in it before we ordered the shower base to fit as long ago as last October. Somehow we got it wrong. When Dave and Jason came to work on the cubicle, they realised that, with his very long legs, Dave would not be able to close the cubicle door when sitting on the loo. We had to pivot and build a cubicle bigger than we planned, which meant ordering a new shower base. Luckily there is enough space for this but we will lose the “hanging wardrobe” that we were going to have.

The cubicle has taken 4 days of solid work to build so far and it should take one more day to complete. The cubicle was framed out first and then marine ply sheets cut to make the three walls. We are lining the walls and ceiling with acrylic sheets in a pale blue colour. We have ordered a vertical tambour door, which should be fitted tomorrow. If you don’t know what that is then look it up. To be honest there are not a lot of options for shower doors in small places. So as of today, we have the three walls built and two are lined plus the ceiling is lined.

Kitchen

Although for our short trip next week I would be happy to cook outside under the canopy using the camp stove, the men decided it was essential we have a kitchen. They agreed they would “lash up” a kitchen just for the trip. This will give us a chance to test out the dimensions and functionality while we are away. So this afternoon they moved in the fridge and the cooker finally came out of its box. They both fit perfectly into the cabinets that Dave made a few months ago. They also “lashed up” a temporary work surface out of ply. We have a nice oak worktop ready to go in there but that needs a hole cutting in it for the sink so we will manage with the ply version for now.

Note we also have a socket for small 240v appliances

The kitchen appliances are important to us as we cook a lot. The fridge is a Dometic 80 litre 12/24 volt compressor fridge. For those of you who don’t know, one of the challenges with a campervan is that they run off 12 volt electrics, which means the appliances are highly specialised and cost a lot of money (much more than the fridge most people have in their house).

For the cooker we have a Thetford gas three ring stove top and an oven (yes an oven!). The guys are outside now plumbing in the gas cooker to the propane tank that is installed underneath the van.

So it is really starting to look like a campervan and by tomorrow we will have a bed, cupboards, a toilet cubicle and a kitchen plus solar electricity or electric hook up for the lights and fridge to run off.

We should manage OK for our two nights away. My mind is turning now to making it all look prettier. We did a quick visit to Llandudno on Saturday to B&Q to look at trims and other bits a pieces that will make rough edges look tidy etc and we have a plan. I also have to finish the ply walls and ceiling with something as they are dark brown at the moment but more about that next time. I have to make a decision about the colour of the splash back in the kitchen and I am still waiting for the shops to open so I can buy the fabric for the bench seat.

The trim section of the DIY shop is your friend

So the next big step is two nights away in the van next week to see how it functions. The weather forecast is mild but wet so we will have the canopy out and fire pit going full time probably. Luckily we have a lot of off cuts of wood knocking about. I cannot wait to be in a different environment after three months in lockdown. I have had my first COVID jab and Dave gets his on Wednesday so things are progressing. We are now trying to decide whether to move out of the house and into the van full-time at the end of May or the end of June. Finally, something to be excited about.