Van Diaries 4 – The Counter Part 1: Framing

Framing of the cabinets is our focus today.

We sat in the van for quite a while… convincing ourselves how we want the cabinets framed out.

Do we need the back door accessible from within the van? If so, how wide would we want a path out the door? Should the counter top fold up to make a path (bar style)?

How wide and long do we want the side cabinets? What layout shapes would work the best?

U” shape
L” shape
=” shape
&” shape (Kidding on this one :P)

After running though all the potential layouts and how they would fit with the existing bed, we decided on.


The U shape!

So, just so that we’re aware, a full U shape in the back is going to block access to the back doors from the within the van… and we decided the extra counter/storage space would be far worth any drawbacks. Also, creating any sort of walkway to the back door would significantly reduce the counter’s surface area.

And besides… there’s already a great set of double doors at the side of the van!
We’ll just use those 🙂

Modular design? Yes please!

Alright! So something we want to focus on throughout this entire design is making everything… un-doable.

In other words, we don’t really want to fix anything into the van, or make permanent changes… so we need to come up with a design that will secure itself but be easy to remove if needed.

What!? you thought this was a one way street!? That this was to be only a camper van??

Heck no!

Cargo vans are a great resource for too many things… and we just don’t want to be limiting ourselves. 🙂

To modular-ize the counter, we plan to build the base into three segments, separate from each other and never directly attached together.

Little Cabinet
Back Cabinet

The counter top will then be two segments itself and span the three base sections in a way which holds everything together. The two counter tops will fasten to the three base section, but not to each other.

Hopefully this makes more sense later…

Taking all of these steps will allow us to easily disassemble and pull out any of the components if we some day deem it necessary.

The first framed piece.

We started with the smallest, easiest portion of the framework, the Small Cabinet at the foot of our bed.
We want to start simple because well, neither of us have any cabinet making experience… and it just makes sense.

It took some thought, some guessing and checking, and some googling, but we finally got something together that looks decent.


Kinda lonely looking…

That tote in the back made a great reference for us to decide just how much room we need back there.

Lunch break! … it made a nice little table too 😀

With everything nailed together, and the glue drying we started sanding our first completed segment.

So here we are, happily sanding our first cabinet piece when… the rotary sander EXPLODES on Kali!

… alright, not an explosion… but close!
It fell apart mid-sand! The screws holding everything together had become loose and ended up snapping in half (yep, the screws snapped in half), throwing bits of electric sander everywhere!

Fortunately, no one was hurt… and we did already own a second sander ( …of the same model. Yikes! ) so we are able to continue on… cautiously.

Framing the rest…

With the first segment down, the remaining two segments felt pretty straight forward, despite their increased complexity.

This piece will actually run along the back… it’s the Back Cabinet.

See… here it is:

Note: the two pieces you see here (the first small base, and now the back base) do not fasten together. They’re simply sitting there after being constructed to fit perfectly within the confines of the van interior.

The third piece is to be the desk (seen above as currently sitting outside the van)… it also does not attach to the other frame pieces.

We made sure to leave little nooks for storage of tools and repair kits… but that stuff will never happen to us… 😉

Now it’s easier to see how the pull-out chair within the bed (See our previous post) lines up with the desk!


With the framing completed… it was time to move onto the counter surface.
The counter is what will hold it all together!

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