Van building – Week 7

Week 7 was a very productive week: lots of things got finished but unfortunately we couldn’t fully finish the van as there were a few things that we simply could not control and that were not dependent on us. Nevertheless we got far enough that we could spend our first night in the van, which went pretty well.

Throughout the week we worked on all sorts of different tasks all at once, doing one thing,then another, then the third and then back to the first and then on to the fourth and so on. A little mess was needed to create the necessary order. Mainly we continued with the interior –  putting on the wood panelling for the back and side doors as well as figuring out and putting in place all of the missing pieces of our kitchen: drawers, doors, side and top surfaces, handles, tiles etc.

Piece by piece the wood panels were fitted, painted and put in place first on both of the back doors and then later on the side door. In the end of the week, due to a slight miscalculation, we had to take the side door off to do some cuts, some painting and adding an embossed aluminum sheet at the bottom (mainly for protection but also for the good looks).

We made more drawers for our kitchen cabinets and finished the task we had been kind of avoiding – building the kitchen table. We wanted a kitchen table behind which two people could easily have dinner or do some paperwork if necessary.  Our space was limited so it had to be something that we could stow away while we don’t need it, so the obvious place was to hide it under the kitchen counter but that wouldn’t make it large enough to satisfy our needs, also due to the location of our window box we couldn’t even take full advantage of the width of the kitchen counter. So I came up with a double extension table where all you have to do is pull a handle and then slide a plate that lies on top of another plate in place to fully assemble the table. Easy to say, but to be honest it wasn’t even that hard to make it and with a little bit of planning it was done and fully functional.

While the table was being made the kitchen also got some further improvements in the form of doors that cover the fridge space and the space under the sink where our dirty and clean water jugs would stand. We also added the next piece of the kitchen counter, but here is where the twist came. When we bought the kitchen counter they sold them in 3.2m long pieces and the store only had one piece of it. For some mystical reason we thought that that is going to be enough for our tiny kitchen (clearly more planning was needed), it sure wasn’t. Already last week we figured out that we are missing approximately 1m of it so we went to the store to buy some more, but of course they didn’t have it on stock so we had to order it from another store and they promised that it would arrive within a week. Well, guess what: it didn’t. It was pretty frustrating to not be able to finish our kitchen because of that as it also prevented us from putting up the tiles on that side of the wall. But hey, what can we do about it? Nothing much besides wait until it arrives and hope that it does, so for now it will remain our ugly unfinished kitchen corner.

Luckily the other corner of the kitchen was taking shape as it was supposed to and we started putting up tiles. Besides being just of decorative purpose as they really add a real home feeling to our little apartment, we also have a gas stove there so some heavy cooking will most likely take place in our tiny kitchen so the tiles will function great for protecting our painted wooden wall from all the tomato paste and curry spills that will occur there in the future. For all the worried folks that are currently shocked about how much weight they will add and how are they even gonna hold while we are driving the answers are: 6kg, which is a very small fraction of a car that weighs 2000kg, and we are not using a regular tile adhesive but a special bomb-proof glue with which you can glue an elephant on the side of your van if you desire to. However, we highly advise you to not do so. The conclusion is: it looks awesome and we love our tiles.

Some time in the middle of the week there came some guys from a local Estonian newspaper (Järva Teataja) and interviewed Stiina as my Estonian was not quite there yet and made a whole photo session of our van. They were really impressed by our build and liked it a lot so we are excited to see what they are going to write about it. I hope Stiina will translate it for me. The reason they came was that some time ago they were looking for interesting crafty people in the county to write about their hobbies so Stiina suggested them her dad as he is building pretty cool rally cars. So this was, as he put it: “revenge”. He told them about us building the van so the newspaper guys didn’t hesitate to pay us a visit.

So to make the van look more ready for their arrival we finished with our laminate flooring and also put in our mattresses right before they arrived. And the thing is, it did made the van look pretty much ready, besides the missing part of the counter top.

We also installed a fire & CO alarm, which is a requirement and slightly ‘pimped’ the ‘step’ that we are gonna be using every time to get into our villa. However, it will need some further work.

Then came The Time, The Time for putting up the solar panels (SP). With dramatic music playing in our heads we got onto the roof of the van and started the dirty business. Last week I had sanded the roof area on which the SP would be glued on so that the glue would stick better to the car. And that was pretty much the first order of things – putting in the glue onto which we would later put on the solar panels.

Once the panels were in place we needed to seal the deal and what better way than rivets to do that – none. First we prepared the aluminum strips to put on the sides of the SP, so that the rivets wouldn’t mess up our SP and also to not deform them as the rivets would press the SP tightly against the uneven roof of the van.

So the task was pretty simple but tedious: drill a hole, put a rivet through, repeat 40 times. What made the task tedious was that it was already 22:00 when we were doing that (we started at 8:00 that day) plus we managed to break a drill bit (every great construction needs a sacrifice, the drill bit stayed somewhere in the roof) and the hose of the pneumatic rivet gun also gave up on us, great!

Nevertheless, after fixing all of our mishaps we managed to finish with that task. But it was still not fully done yet. As it was too late to double seal the deal the next day we put glue all around the edges of the aluminum profiles and also on the rivets. And lastly we connected the solar panels in parallel to the rest of the system. The multimeter showed that they produce some voltage but it was just from the light that indoor ceiling lamps were emitting, so we couldn’t really test them. And it looks like it will be a while until we will be able to as there haven’t been any sun for a week and there is none in the near forecast, thanks autumn!

It was time to take our boy for the first ride so we drove to Stiina’s dad’s place, where we are staying while we are working on the van. We parked in the garden and had our first night in our van. It was more aimed to test for any leaks of water or cold air as well as to see how well our heater performs in real conditions. And it all went awesome, we had an amazing nights’ sleep and despite it being only around 5C outside I felt pretty toasty in the van (we only used one regular blanket). We both really enjoyed sleeping in the van, it reminded us of being back on trail and the window right above our bed is spot on – if only there would have been some stars visible.

It pretty much felt like the van is ready and it almost was… almost: it got most of the main parts in place but it was still missing quite a bit of bits and bobs to be fully done. And the biggest one of them was going through the bureaucratic machine of re-registering our van as a camper as well as going through the technical inspection. It was a bit stressful few days as we had to finish the van to be able to apply for the re-registration (actually a change of vehicle type) and we also had to leave to make it to where we have to go next in time. And all the timings were just wrong and it seemed like nothing is working and we are not going anywhere.

Well, the good thing is that things work out and we have got ourselves one more week to finish everything and hit the road. So another post is coming! Yaai!

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