building house

Building a Camper Van for Alexander – Driver’s Seat Workstation

Building a Camper Van for Alexander - Driver's Seat Workstation

My friend Alexander finally got a van, and
its beautiful. It was a big, scary purchasing decision for
him, and now the really scary part is building it out ourselves. To live and work in this van full time, Alex
will need a place to cook, sleep, and most importantly, work. To pay the bills, **** need to edit YouTube
videos and that means having a no compromises workstation.

Well get to that, but first I want to show
you how we got to this point, and what we learned. Were now on day 5 of this van build, and
along the way weve had quite a few wins, and setbacks. The first win was the swivel seats brackets. To make the most of the vans limited space
we wanted the ability to turn the driver and passenger seats around.

This might seem as simple as installing some
brackets, but its actually tricky. Todays seats have weight sensors, seat
belt monitors, and even airbags in some cases. All this wiring needs to move as the seat
turns all the way around. Luckily, Dodge knows these vans are used for
conversions so they leave a ton of extra wire under the seats, bundled up with a zip tie.

We let those wires out, experimented with
some routing options, and covered them in wire loom to make it look neater. The swivel seat installation went scarily
smooth with no setbacks or missing parts. Another huge win was the sound deadening material. Commercial vans come empty with thin sheet
metal on the walls, so theyre much louder than, lets say, your car.

So before installing insulation or walls,
we applied this stuff called killmat which is the same as dynamat and other vibration
damping material. Just putting some of this on the walls and
ceiling made a huge, noticeable difference. Most guides say to cover at least 60% of any
thin metal panel with this stuff, which meant that Alexs van would only need two boxes
of it. Doing this beforehand with all the panels
exposed was easy, inexpensive, and a huge win.

Now for a lesson. Alexs van came with this engineered wood
floor, which I assumed was held down with these D-rings. So, the plan was to remove the D-rings, pull
the floor up, install our insulation, and then reinstall the floor with longer bolts
into the existing holes. The problem? The floor didnt want to come up.

It was glued down with this gorilla snot stuff. Getting the floor up without cracking it in
half was a challenge all by itself. We used a 2×4 with a wide piece of plywood
on it, like a huge pizza server pry bar. With great difficulty, the floor came up,
and out of the van.

Then to remove the gorilla snot, which took
hours. Lesson learned? Never underestimate a seemingly simple task. If I were to do this again, Id start on
this particular task earlier in the day. Next is a win: Installing floor insulation
and putting the wood back down over it.

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I used that wood floor to trace and cut a
1/4 thick rubber mat, and 1/2 thick foam insulation. The rubber went down first to deaden road
noise, and the foam went down over it. To fill the space along the edges I used great
stuff spray foam. After it dried it was easy to cut away the
excess.

All in all, this part of the build went very
smoothly and even cut back on the road noise noticeably. But then we learned one of our biggest lessons:
The finer points of insulation. That same day I installed 1 inch foam board
on all the walls. I filled in the edges with spray foam, and
taped the gaps between the insulation.

As for the pillars and overhead spaces, we
used fiberglass batting like you probably have in your house. In a van, however, this stuff can collect
moisture from the walls. Think of it like a cold glass of water that
sweats on the outside. Batting plus moisture equals mold, and thats
no good.

After speaking to some of our friends who
have built vans already, we decided to take it all out. This set us back about 8 hours on an already
tight schedule. In place of the batting we used more foam
board and more spray foam which was messy and expensive, but the right thing to do. Lesson learned? What works in a house, doesnt necessarily
work in a van.

Now for a win, the walls. Our friend Johnny suggested we install furring
strips as vertical beams, and then install our walls, which were 1/4 thick plywood,
over them. This would allow us to easily find a beam
to mount to later when installing cabinets or furniture. It worked great.

It was, however, impossible to space the beams
evenly because there were too many obstructions and obstacles on the body of the van. So we spaced them however we could, and then
started installing the plywood. Although the beams were flimsy and the plywood
was thin, they were surprisingly sturdy when combined with each other. This was a big win.

Another win? The electrical. In any camper van you want to have a totally
separate battery to power your fridge, electronics, and lights, lest you run your actual vehicle
battery down and find yourself unable to start the engine. Alexander would be adding solar panels, and
possibly a second battery down the road, so making the whole thing easy to work on and
expandable was a priority. Since we didnt have any of the accessories
that would go in his van yet, I ran wires from the battery area to different points
in the cabin, including the roof for solar, the walls for charging ports and accessories,
and towards the back for the fridge.

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For the benefit of our future selves, I cut
ports in the wall and covered them with blank switch plates. This would allow us to access wiring later
on, and even snake new ones behind the beams using a coat hanger. This system would be truly expandable, and
in our eyes, a big win. About now you might notice that the ceiling
and some of the walls are still bare, and theres a very good reason for that: Timing.

For certain parts of the van wed be relying
on help from other people, which meant that parts of the van would need to be ready for
them on certain dates. Although frustrating, this compromise has
paid off. By having the drivers side wall done on
Tuesday night, we were able to get Johnnys help for all of Wednesday. If you
like woodworking, or just find it to be oddly satisfying to watch, you should absolutely
subscribe to crafted workshop.

Johnny is one of our good friends, and his
YouTube channel is freaking awesome. With his know how and amazing shop, we were
able to install this tool chest, battery compartment, and workstation. Lets start with the battery compartment,
which as we discussed would need to be spacious and expandable so we could add things later
on. We wanted to put this box behind the drivers
seat so it could double as a footrest.

With a removable top, it would also be very
easy to access to change fuses or hook up new accessories. Johnny drilled pocket holes so we could mount
the box to the floor, and cut out a beautiful top that fit the contours of the van. Because were all nerds we also installed
a transparent top on the battery compartment, which serves no other purpose than to look
cool. Ah, priorities.

The next thing we did was install this tool
chest, which not only has lots of drawers for Alexs stuff, but also a nice counter
top for things like food preparation. Best of all, with the turn of a key all the
drawers lock closed. This will keep them from opening when driving
the van around. Although this tool chest is fairly lightweight,
that also means that its made of thin sheet metal just like the rest of the van.

So Alexander applied some kilmat to the back
and all the drawers. Johnny and I actually spent a few hours mounting
this to the floor and wall. It seems like an easy task, but this tool
chest could become a deadly projectile in a crash, so getting it perfect was the only
outcome we would accept. Once the tool chest was installed, we could
work on the fun part: The workstation.

In most vans, this spot is usually dead space,
devoted to throwing jackets and backpacks. In Alexs van, it would house a huge battery
compartment and a highly functional workspace. Wed need to get the height just right for
Alex, and also leave space for the drivers seat to spin all the way around. It wasnt easy, but we got our measurements
and stuck with them.

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For the work surface, Johnny used two prefabricated
stair treads, which he glued together to make one big piece. This would not only be stout, but also really
nice looking. On the side of the toolbox used to be a handle
which was fastened with four bolts. Johnny used those to fasten a support, which
would put the work surface at the exact height we needed for Alex.

As an additional support we also used a ******
and a pipe to build a leg for the outer edge of the table. Since only one side of the pipe would be threaded,
Johnny used a wood block to fasten it to the table, which also added a few style points. It looked freaking awesome. Id like to note that we purposely made
the toolbox lower than the workstation so that if alex spilled something while preparing
food it wouldnt destroy his laptop.

To charge Alexs laptop, I installed this
12 volt USB C power supply. Without it, Alex would need a power inverter
and this wall wart which both create heat and waste power. This is as close to 100% efficiency as hes
gonna get. This van is now a hodgepodge of incomplete
projects.

We still need to finish the ceiling, walls,
solar, fridge, bed, and the garage. Between trips, normal riding videos, and other
obligations, these projects will be somewhat spread out throughout the spring. I want to thank you guys for watching this
van video. I know you signed up for mountain biking content
and this is a little off topic.

But go to any trailhead around the world and
youre likely to see a van very much like this, with a mountain biker living inside
of it. As we progress on this build Ill post more
videos on it, but next week youll be getting mountain biking content once again. For those of you who want more van content,
make sure you check out the Singletrack Sampler to see Alexanders side of this learning
experience, and of course, check out Crafted Workshop to indulge in every woodworking vice
known to humankind. Thanks for riding with me today, and Ill
see you next time..

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