I built one of my cabinet doors differently, gluing front and back together all at one time instead of in sections (I was being impatient). To my dismay, the entire thing warped and gapped dramatically. I thought I would have to scrap it and start over. But first I tried wrapping the whole thing in a wet towel and weighting it, and shockingly it straightened the door out and closed the gap! Now it’s perfectly straight, ready for a final sanding and staining. I’m super pleased that I don’t have to start over. Hooray!
Brad loves the cabinet doors so much that I’m now building them for the lower cabinets too. 😃
I used scraps of paper during gluing to keep the clamps from getting glued down. The clamps separate easily, and the paper and glue sands right off. Handy little trick learned from the internet. Thank you internet.
While Brad is out of town I decided to surprise him by building doors for the upper kitchen cabinets. 🙂 I had an idea to use decorative metal screen so that the items in the cabinet would be a little bit visible, but mostly obscured. I made them by sandwiching the metal screen between panels of wood, held together by wood glue (no screws or nails). I think they turned out great. I hope he likes them!
The countertop is officially installed! We wanted everything under mounted so that we could maximize countertop space for cooking prep or working on skis. I really like the look of the cook top space. There is even a nook behind the cook top to store utensils or spices. Every little bit of space counts.
So we are at four coats of Waterlox on the countertops now, and the unevenness definitely went away. We still have two or more coats to go, but the dry time is increasing the more coats we add, since less is soaking into the wood. I’ll point out (and you’ll see from the photos) that original Waterlox is NOT clear, and deepens to a rich orangey tone with multiple coats. Not what I had planned, but the color is sure growing on me.
And we have functioning outlets, dimmer switch, and stereo receiver! It’s so satisfying to finally be using some power through our electrical system. The batteries have just been sitting there fully charged from solar for a while now. We got pex lines run today too. All in all, a productive day!
The most nerve wracking experience of our bus build project to date? Cutting through our beautiful new butcher block countertop! We are under mounting both the sink and the stove top, so the edges need to be clean and nice. But we got it done as a team.
Our sink wasn’t meant to be under mounted, but we did it anyway. We built a frame to support the sink. The difficulty was getting it flush up to where the countertop will sit so there were no gaps. This took four hands and a lot of clamps to hold it into place before gluing and screwing it in.
The stove top was a little easier. It is mounted to a shelf that we fit below the countertop. On top will be a hinged portion of the counter that can open when we need to cook, and close when we need the extra workspace.
Cutting the hinged panel and the block that will rest over the sink was done with just a circular saw and a good old fashioned hack saw. The edges aren’t pretty yet, but once sanded I think everything will look great! To be continued.
It’s a real mess in here, but we have kitchen things happening!
Upper cabinets are roughed out and installed. Lower cabinets are walled in and waiting for the countertop. We agreed on a solution to compensate for that odd corner behind the driver’s seat, by expanding the upper cabinets out and curving the lower cabinets in. It looks kinda neat not having a totally squared off kitchen!
We ordered butcher block counter top and will have it this weekend to cut, stain, and install. Our sink and stove will be recessed below the counter, with a hinged panel over the stove so we can maximize the workspace (for cooking prep or for tuning skis, whatever is needed in the moment). The bed side table doubles as a device charging station for phones, batteries, headlamps, two-way radios… with a control panel on the side for outlets, switches, and audio receiver. It’s all very rough at the moment, but it’s starting to take the shape of a home.
It’s nice to take a step back and really take stock in everything that you’ve accomplished. Coming back home to the bus after five days away was exciting, and I’m totally motivated to get back to work.
Walling in the garage was super challenging because (as any bus person knows) there are no right angles in a bus! We also have a hobbit door going from the bedroom to the garage, a small window, and limited stud space.
But creative solutions abound! Brad used the cardboard template idea again, and also cut the wall boards at an angle to catch the most studs. The cuts were perfect! The end product is a strong wall that is primed for our rubber layer and should hold great. Brad also marked the studs with strips of tape so we knew where to put our screws. Simple, but smart. I like this guy (a lot).
Today we tackled a big project that’s been lurking in the backs of our minds: building wooden window frames. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it. We knew we wanted squared off windows with sills to make it feel less like a bus and more like a real home…
So we came up with an idea to build out the frames first with 1 x 2 boards using wood glue and staples, pressure fit them into the window with foam, then staple the whole thing into place. I measured and cut boards, Brad assembled the frames, then we installed them into the windows together. They are surprisingly sturdy! Even though there were a few mishaps with measuring (*cough*), it was a fun and productive day building wooden window frames.
When the time comes, we’ll wall around the windows with tongue-and-groove paneling, and install sills. Check out the results from today’s work:
Measuring and cutting things when the angles are odd is super hard (and every angle is odd when you’re building out a bus). Brad got tired of it, and tried a new strategy when it came time to cut the concrete board for the fireplace. He laid out scraps of cardboard, made sure the edges fit snugly into the space, then taped them all together. This made a perfect template to trace on the concrete board for the cuts. It made the job so much easier.
Now our platform is ready for the final step of tiling, and then we can place our wood burner and start making fire!
Building the narrow walkway to the shower continues! We’ve created space for storage beneath in the front for kindling and pressed wood pucks (every little bit of space counts). We decided not to have a lift hatch because it would make the walkway too unstable. Access will be from the front where you can reach in and grab wood. I lined the compartment with leftover rubber from the bus floor to be able to handle the abuse from firewood.
We have Polyiso insulating the wheel well, with QuietWalk over the top. There was a bit of a gap that we filled with a layer of foam from our solar packaging, which filled the gap perfectly and gives more cushion to the walkway.
The storage space near the back is the perfect size for extra toilet paper rolls and miscellany, but we weren’t sure it would work the way it was planned before. Not ready to give up on that unused space, we upgraded to a thicker plywood board and bolstered the support underneath. It feels so much sturdier to walk on now, and we have a hatch! There will be a simple finger hole to lift the hatch… Now we need to figure out what kind of finished floor we want for the walkway….
There are all of those odd corners and nooks in a bus that don’t have right angles. We’ve been eyeing these not exactly knowing how we’ll tackle them. But it’s better to just go for it and figure it out along the way.
Behind the driver’s seat is this corner that is strangely shaped, and a lot of the wire conduit runs down that section and into the floor. It’s messy and unattractive. We decided to frame it in with lumber and cover with plywood, giving us a nice canvas to finish off however we want to. It’s not perfect in any way. But now that it’s done, I kinda like the organic shape. It gives the bus some character!
A couple of minor aesthetic details that we’ve done:
The front panel of the bus by the door was separating and causing a gap. Maybe this has the potential to leak later, so we used bolts to pull the two pieces back together. The seam is now sealed with silicone. We’ll grind off the excess bolts that stick out later, and paint with white paint.
The outer seams all around the bus were covered with plastic strips that were dingy and cracked, and just looked bad. This was an easy fix. Amazon sold a similar product in long rolls, and we replaced them pretty quickly and easily in about an hour. The new strips were much more pliable and rubbery. Maybe this is something that needs to be done every few years when they dry out and crack from the weather, but it’s a small change that makes a big aesthetic difference. Hooray for big wins with little effort!
The narrow walkway to our combo shower / bath is in progress! We are building an angled step up to compensate for the wheel well. The empty space in front of the wheel well will have a lift up hatch to store kindling and pressed wood pucks. Behind the wheel well in front of the shower will be a space to store extra toilet paper rolls and shower things. We are trying to maximize as much storage space as possible. We’ll need it!
There are a lot of special requirements for installing a wood burner in a bus or van. The owner at Unforgettable Fire (who sold us our Kimberly stove) walked us through everything we needed to know for safety.
For starters, the stove pipe cannot / should not have a shoulder joint like what we had hoped for to go out the side of the bus instead of the top. This is so that the smoke will be lifted up and out, and not build up unnecessary creosote inside, which is a fire risk. It helps with the air draw.
Then the materials around the stove (in the ceiling, wall, and floor) need to be able to handle high temperatures. XPS foam board near a stove that gets too hot will melt and release toxins into the air. Very bad! The recommended insulation is ceramic, which is this thick mat of spun ceramic fibers. It can handle very high temperatures and disperses the heat. Over the top of the ceramic should be concrete board for it’s heat resistance. This should all be secured with high heat resistant adhesive.
The stove itself should have a six inches of clearance around it and the stove pipe.
This changes our plan a little bit, but we can be adaptable since it is for safety. 🙂 We removed the foam board from the wall and ceiling with a (minimum) six inch clearance around the stove and pipe.
For the ceiling – we will wrap the pipe in six inches of ceramic, and fill the rest of the space with denim insulation (the blue stuff).
For the wall – we filled the empty space with denim insulation, held in place by plywood. Over that will be a second layer of ceramic insulation, then concrete board.
For the floor – first we had to deal with the issue of the tracks in the floor. The tracks are slightly raised, and make an uneven surface to work with. To fix this, we re-applied a square section of the original rubber flooring, which raised it back up to the track height. Over the top we did two layers of plywood to prep the space for concrete board.
You can see from the photos that the fire space is still recessed a bit below the level of the floor, but this will raise up even higher when we install the concrete board and finish with tile over the top.
The bus is coming together! We started framing yesterday, and now have the structure for the garage, shower, bed, and storage. It’s exciting to officially be out of the demolition phase and into the construction phase.