How to Make Your Own Campervan Furniture
UPDATED - Making Your Own Camper Furniture
In this article I am going to share with you how I made my own campervan furniture for my VW T5 camper conversion. This article looks specifically at how to do this for a VW T5 self-build van conversion, but the principles herein can be used for any sort of van.
Most VW T5 owners who own converted vans opt for the furniture down the right-hand drivers side and then squeeze in a small rock 'n' roll bed to complete their conversions. However, in my van I have a full width rock 'n' roll bed simply because this works best for us and we like to have a decent amount of space at night when we sleep. With the full width bed, it is at least a UK king size like we are used to at home, but if you opt for the smaller bed to accommodate your furniture down the side of the van, you are not even getting a full size double, let alone a king - each to their own!
However, the down side of having the full width bed is obviously that you can't have your furniture down one side of the van and therefore the only option is to have what are referred to as 'kitchen pods' behind the front seats. A typical kitchen pod looks like the below and you can buy these ready made to drop in place for in the region of £600-£800:
An Off-the-Shelf Kitchen Pod Unit - buy here https://amzn.to/2NiNk6E
Like most furniture units, these come in a choice of colours with a sink or hob. However, like with buying anything off-the-shelf, you are limited by design and are normally stuck with standard dimensions restricting what you can achieve in terms of incorporating your electrics or other items. As good as these units are, I decided I would prefer to make something a bit more bespoke and to the dimensions that I wanted to maximise my vision for my own van. As you can see above, the off-the-shelf kitchen pod units tend to be narrow and tall, but I wanted something a bit more rectangular to give me some more worktop space, more storage underneath and also I wanted to house my 12v electrics and inverter within it.
I realised that most of the cooking that I do is on my Campingaz Party Grill 600 and I do it outside..... which to me is the whole point of camping - the great outdoors! In times of bad rain, I have a portable single hob gas stove that I can setup on a heat proof mat on the folding table inside my van. Therefore, I decided I didn't want a permanently fitted hob inside the van that also requires gas safety considerations. I decided a sink would work better for me and my family as its somewhere to wash our hands, store the water, prepare a drink, wash-up etc that we wouldn't otherwise have.
Campingaz Party Grill 600 - buy here https://amzn.to/3eqL7So
Knowing that I could buy a unit from £600, I wanted to make something bespoke and on a budget. It was important that I didn't want to spend more than about £250-300 to get exactly what I wanted and thus save money and still get something that is ideal for us and our space. Any more and I may as well have bought one ready made. My original sketches for what I wanted are below. About 770 mm wide x 625 high and 350 deep to allow the bed to fold out without hitting the unit. I originally came up with the concept of having a fold out worktop on gas struts that would house the sink. This was to save space as the cutout for the sink is around 350mm itself.
My First Sketches for the Self-Build Furniture
However, once I made the frame from 38mm x 2400mm timber bought from B&Q for £16 and reinforced with metal brackets at the corners, I realised that the sink would just fit in the gap in the frame on top and I could therefore (with care) cut the recess required in the worktop piece, although it would have to be spot on with not even a 5mm margin for error if it was going to fit through both the worktop and the exact gap in the frame. Like most projects, the original plans evolved as I started building it and so I dropped the gas strut idea!
The SMEV Sink Fitting Exactly in the Frame
I used lightweight furniture board to clad the frame carcass finished in black hacienda. This can be bought in 600mm x 1220mm x 16mm sheets for £45 delivered and I cut it with a circular saw using a TCT blade. I recommend taping the boards with frog tape or masking tape along where you are going to cut to minimise breakout on the pre-finished surfaces. I finished it off with a nice stainless corner trim (£10) which also covers the cut ends of the sides and adds rigidity and protection. I added some upvc black trim (£5) cut to a neat corner mitre at the front using a mitre block and this finishes the worktop off nicely.
Cutting a Mitre for the Worktop Trim
The sink I bought is a SMEV / Dometic 8005 and is the single most expensive part of the build having cost £175 but came with the 12v pumped tap, water containers and waste - buy here https://amzn.to/3hN3Aul To cut the hole for this in the worktop, I used a jigsaw and followed the template below:
SMEV Dometic 8005 Cut Out Template
Using the Template to Mark the Sink Cut Out
Jigsaw to Make the Sink Cut Out
The Sink in the Worktop with Trims Added
Next up is the electrics on the side panel of the unit. This side panel is the panel that faces the van's sliding side door and is the bit you'll see first when you get into the van. I decided to fit a double socket near the bottom that will be powered by my 300w pure sine wave inverter. I used a standard plasterboard dry lining back box, marked out the side panel and used a jigsaw to make the hole in the same way I did for the sink above. The double socket will fit in this cut out. I wired the socket up to a standard three pin plug using 2.5mm flex and this plug will then fit connect to the inverter that will sit within the unit itself - thus giving me 300w AC from a double socket to play with:
For the 12 volt electrics I decided I wanted to run these along the top of the side panel. I have a 12v bar that I wanted to fit that contains a double USB charging port, a 12v auxiliary socket, a display that will tell me what voltage my leisure battery is running at and a switch to turn this all on/off. I used a stepper drill bit to make the holes in the side panel and then wired it up from the inside:
To fit the tambour door to the front panel, I used a plunge router to rout out the required size for the tambour door and built out the frame inside to house and hold the runners for the tambour door. The tambour door you fit needs to be bigger than the size that you rout out on your front panel so then the internals of the tambour door fitting kit are hidden by the smaller cut out of your front panel (see my part 3 video below for a full explanation). I used some black upvc trim to cover the plunge cut edges of the front panel:
So this project is now almost finished and this is what it currently looks like in the van after adding some cool blue LED spots. These are switched by the vans door on the way in:
In the next installment, I will show you more about how I got to this point but in the meantime, checkout the videos below that talk you through it all in much more detail. Please remember to check back here soon for the finished project.
Video 1 - measuring and building the frame - https://youtu.be/4hEyTQBD_40
Video 2 - cutting the sink recess and fitting the trims - https://youtu.be/xzeOE23Qebs
Video 3 - routing the front and fitting the tambour door & electrics - https://youtu.be/U_OiUIKL29I
Video 4 - plumbing in and finalising the electrics - coming soon!
To buy the parts shown in my articles at the very best prices possible, please visit the T5iver shop here