Wood Shop 101

It’s supposed to be 101° this weekend but my goal is to get all of my plywood cut in the garage. All those weeks of wood shop at Junior High School in Casper, Wyoming are paying off.

The biggest challenge is learning how to do clean cross-cuts on large workpieces without the luxury of a big cabinetry workshop. My table saw isn’t big enough and I don’t like using circular saws for that because they’re cumbersome. And even the best radial arm miter saws only have a 16″ reach.

So, I’ve become best friends with my jig saw followed up by some orbital sanding. And that seems to be working fine, even on the long angle cuts on my counter top and bulkhead.

To center the sink over the cabinet door, I first positioned the countertop and then traced the tool chest’s top opening from the inside. That was important because there are brackets in there to secure the countertop to the metal frame. This gave me a “safe zone” within which to center the sink so that the back and side margins are the same distance.

The wooden cabinet’s left wall will stand up just to the right of the sink. The faucet will be wall mounted behind the galley, with the water supply line and drain snaking through the wall to belowdecks. That way the plumbing is minimized inside the cabinet, thus maximizing usable storage space. Not sure where the water pump will go, but there are plenty of options.

And no, the RETROvan will not have a toilet. Eew!

I spent the rest of the day cutting all the pieces I could from eleven sheets of 24″ plywood. When I know pieces will become small enough to trim on the table saw, I just rough cut them a little bit large so they can be cut to dimension against a fence. That’s working great for prominent pieces that are around 24×18″, like the galley shelves and top.

Most of the plywood came with dinged corners, so those had to be squared off, first. That that was a major pain considering how they were individually packaged to prevent such damage. I’m guessing there’s careless handling at the mill before packaging.

The bench bases are taking shape. They have to be cut conservatively because nothing is really square in the RETROvan, like those wheel well boxes. They also have rivets and other bumpage to measure around.

I’m using my adjustable pedestal as my reference height. Here you can see it in the fully-down (berth) position. It too will mount atop a 3/4″ plywood floor in the middle of the van. The bench bases will have 3/4″ plywood tops, and the pedestal table/berth platform will also be 3/4″ plywood. So in the berth position, the top surfaces will be level and the cushions will simply span across, forming a flat queen bed.

Note also how much storage I’ll have in these boxes. The back compartments are each 2×2 feet (4 cubic feet), big enough to store a barbecue grill or form a battery compartment. The front L-shaped compartments are 3 feet long. They’ll all be accessible via hinged doors. I’m leaving some room on the back ledge to accommodate any handles, to get a foothold, or to set a drink down from the outside.


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