Plywood Panel, 48” x 48” x 0.25" -- $44
final step, right?
electric, appliances, devices:
dresser, desks, bed, cabinets, storage:
blinds, ceiling, lights:
I looked around the van, everything looked
complete … except those doors.
insulation still sparkled in the open recesses
at the tops of all three doors.
Black plastic panels still covered
the lower halves.
None of it was a good look at all. That
silver, first of all, had to go!
wasn’t going to be difficult, as such, but it
would not be without its little challenges.
recesses did not have square corners, for
curves on the side door (photo, left) were wide
and symmetrical, and the lip inside it was
generous, but the ones on the back doors (photo,
above, and 2 below) had two obtuse angles, a
slightly acute angle, a very acute angle, all
curbing around a very narrow metal strip that
would somehow have to hold a wooden panel.
I used pencil and paper to draw them
out, marking the measurements as I tape-measured
them out. I
opted not to use CorelDRAW for once.
(Actually, for twice; I used pencil and
paper for the temporary rug as well.)
side door was simple enough, but the back doors
were too complicated.
I know I could throw a Coral diagram
together once I measured it all, but the corners
posed a problem.
Rounded corners are measured by their
work, I often cut ¼” radius corners or ½” radius
corners on the sheets of metal that I print on. The
90° corners of a sheet of cut, 20-gauge aluminum
can cut you bad (I’ve found that out to my
dismay numerous times), so I round them off for
the safety of my customers.
A ½” radius
corner would be one quadrant of a 1” circle. Half
of the diameter is the radius, as you learned in
9th grade Geometry, and forgot
The corners on the side door were large
indeed, so I grabbed a few metal disks for the
drawer at work and used them to size those
The 4” disk was a perfect fit, so I used
it to trace out the outline on a large piece of
cardboard – taken from the same carton that the
practice ceiling panel had been cut from.
The 47.5” long and 8.25” high piece,
with its 2” radius corners, was a spot-on
perfect fit (see pencil lines in photo, left).
When I placed that cardboard, though, I
found out that the opposite side, which looked
like a straight vertical line between the curve
corners, was actually tilted by a few degrees
inward. So, yet
another bit of trimming was required.
I was very glad I did the cardboard
on, you RAM engineers, did you have to design
this thing with so many irregular shapes and odd
you do it just to make it hard for us DIYers? No way
this extra little complication was structurally
was actually more work for you
to do it like this.
Probably just guaranteeing that no
parts made by any other brand would fit your
I took the re-re-adjusted cardboard
shapes back inside and marked the identical
outlines on the back of the 48” x 10” cedar
panel that had been propped up
against the shelving on the workshop for months. I
think it was leftover from doing the dresser
The pile of scraps is pretty
discarded very little material along the way. Better
to have and not need than to need and not have,
suppose I can toss most of it out now, and clear
up that cluttered corner at work.
Anyway, in this case, I was saved the
purchase of another large $44 panel.
It was going to need a little bit of
trimming, but that was going to be done on the
Using the 4-foot-high indoor worktable
would be good – save me the awkwardness of
kneeling on concrete and leaning across the
panel as I cut it – but the clean-up in there is
a pain. I
have to cover everything to keep the sawdust
out, and then thoroughly sweep off all the
Outside, I pick up the scraps, toss ‘em
in my trash bucket, and let the wind whisk the
fine residue off the asphalt.
Since the back doors would be the most
difficult, I decided to do them first.
Well, that and the fact that the slider
door panel was still drying after a fresh dose
of polyurethane and I didn’t want to wait.
The slim gutter had me a tad daunted. I
wasn’t sure that I could drill a screw through
the very edge of the cedar and through
the sheet metal itself without fracturing the
So, I decided to try another tool form
I applied the ¼” wide strips all around
the gutter and then lifted the small panel into
place. Hmmm. It
would’ve worked just fine with the cardboard,
but the plywood had jusssst a little bit of a
bend to it and it was scoffing at the tape.
Even if I could hold it in place long
enough to make it stick. It would not stay
natural warp of the wood would pull it free. So,
with a here-goes-nuttin shrug, I grabbed a
half-dozen pointy drywall screws and my drill.
The first one – top-center – went in
without a fight.
I had the drill set on the hammer
setting and squeezed it on slow speed.
It bit through the wood, then pulled
the wood up the threads away from the metal
until it was all the way through, then, with
nothing else to chew on, it worked its way into
the sheet metal, pulling the plywood with it,
and secured itself snug and tight.
Repeat bottom-center, repeat-repeat
Same thing on the passenger side door,
minus the wasted time with the dumb tape.
The curved corners of the cedar panels
were difficult to get smooth with the jigsaw. I use
the circular saw for the straight sides, but
jigsawed the rounder parts.
I would have liked them to come out
better, but, wtf, I was kneeling on concrete
when I did it.
The slider door promised to be easier,
and it was.
There were no eccentricities in the
outline, and the four corners were all the same. It was
a simple cut.
Even the corners, being much wider
curves, were easier to get right.
The gutter was about three times as
wide, so the screws did not have to pinch the
edges of the wood; they could be placed a
comfortable ½” or more in from the outline. Those
all-star drywall screws went right in with
minimal effort and the task was done in about
The bottom of the slider door had a
larger (45” x 27”) panel.
The thick, black plastic was held in
place by plastic plugs. It
didn’t look anywhere as distracting as the
silver insulation up above had, and I might have
even kept it, but the previous owners had
cracked it rather significantly.
In fact, they kicked a freaking hole in
sure the official report involves tools or pipes
or shifting machinery, but look at that hole. That’s
a kickhole if I ever saw one.
It’s too low to be a punch hole.
Some plumber dude was pissed off by a
human or a machine and with a blurted expletive,
he lashed out with his boot, ostensibly trusting
the sturdiness of the wall, but inwardly hoping
to impart damage, to leave a visible remnant of
his wrath as a statement of the depth of his
potency when riled.
Then his boss chewed him out and
threatened to dock his pay to cover the repair.
Boot Boy foiled that plan the very next
day, though, by deliberately t-boning a taxi
that did the ol’ Boston Roll through a stop
sign, doing enough damage to total the van but
successfully shifting the blame, costing the
cabbie his job (and, subsequently, his wife) and
sending the big blue toolbox-on-wheels to the
insurance company’s body shop where they
performed precision surgery, restoring and
resetting him to Good As New Maybe Even Better
status, which led to his purchase by a New
Jersey used car dealer, who tried and failed to
sell him on the Internet, then tried again and
again until they found The Perfect Owner for
him, who would bring him to a land where winter
is warm and snow is a myth, and who would give
him a new identity and eyes on the world, and
take him far and wide to live in leisure for the
rest of his days.
Or something like that.
Yup, that kickhole had to go.
step was to remove the 24 plastic rivets that
held the broken panel in place.
the same prying tool that I had to use when
finishing the ceiling install.
It’s an awkward process at first,
squeezing the pryer between the rivet head and
the panel, then
figuring out whether pressing
down on the handle works better than pulling
helps, though, when you know the panel is just
going in the dumpster so you don’t have to worry
about scratching it.
verdict, by the way:
pushing down to pop the rivet up and
out gets the thumbs up.]
was one 48” x 48” slab of cedar plywood left. It was
already polyurethaned and ready to go.
No need to measure anything or do a
cardboard model; I just took the plastic piece
and laid it on top of the plywood and traced the
outline on the back.
I kicked the kicked-in panel aside and
sawed the cedar, using my trusty curb as my
was a little bit of measuring to do now, though. The
that I needed to cover had a six-inch-wide
vertical brace and another horizontally.
I needed to get those located so I’d
know where I could sink a couple of mid-panel
screws. The ones
around the edges would be cake.
put four drywall screws across the top, another
four across the bottom and one in the middle of
Then I added four in kind of a medium
diamond shape in the middle of the panel.
It is tight as can be.
No rattle at all and it looks so much