"TRUNK" AND BED
1: Framing the Wells
5 pine 2x4’s, 8’ lengths -- $40
4” screws and 2.5” screws -- $22
With that much of the electrical aspect in
place, it was time to turn my attention to
carpentry, another field which I have no right
Well, maybe that’s not fair.
I have more right messing with woodwork
than I do with electric power.
And I did do a decent amount of
hammering and sawing and nailing in The
Roadhouse and The Moose and Spuds.
Nothing since then, though, so I’m a
tad rusty after, what, 34 years?
The first things that needed to be built were
some kind of cages or boxes or frames around the
wheel wells, something that would turn those
awkwardly sloping protrusions into functional,
All of the many options and variations
of layouts that I had dabbled with so far
depended, first, on those two bumps being
enclosed, or at least, surrounded.
I had my CorelDRAW schematic all drawn up, with
its precise 10:1 scale, but even that had a few
things that needed to be sorted out.
For instance, did you know that 2x4s are not
2” by 4”? Turns
out those are their “nominal” measurements,
meaning they are named that because they start
out at roughly (literally) that size before they
get smoothed and planed down at the mill.
Plan on 1.5” by 3.5” for those puppies
when you measure your project.
I kinda knew that before, but it never
really mattered to me until now.
My schematic took just about everything into
account, even how many of which lengths I could
cut out of each eight-foot-long stud.
So, simple question:
how do you make a box?
Well, slow down.
Might be child’s play for Woody
Woodworker, but for the novice (i.e., me), it
was adult’s work.
So, I sought guidance.
And once again, thank you, Internet,
and more specifically, thank you, YouTube.
I entered this phase with confidence, though. Too
bad I didn’t enter it with long enough drill
and screwing the short (1.5”) way through the
studs was easy, but going the wide (3.5”) way
was a battle.
My longest bit was less than 3”, so my
pilot hole could only go that deep.
For the rest of the way, I had to rely
on my power screwdriver to force that zinc screw
to eat its way through that tough pine.
The wood put up a mighty fight and killed a few
screws in the process.
The Phillips head chewed the hell out
of some of those screw tops to the point where I
even had to prize them back out with pliers. It was
a total time-waster.
But, neither HD nor Ace had 4” drill
bits in stock, so I just had to fight the good
I eventually did prevail -- but in wayyyy more
than the “two hours, tops” that I had told
myself -- and I had two very sturdy backless box
frames ready to install.
Fortunately, the install was as easy as
I hoped it would be.
The wheel wells had thin metal plates
protruding about 2” all around right where a
panel wall would be, and I was able to bolt my
frame onto them, as well as screwing them into
the wood floor.
That’s when I lost my mind.
Instead of just putting things back in the van
where they had been and heading home, I started
Almost all of my proposed layouts had a
narrow bed (24” x 78”) along the passenger side
wall, under where the six-foot-long window will
just 24" wide. A bed that I'll be sleeping
in every damn night. Hmmm.
Now, when I did the final measurements for the
start of the build, I noted that, wall-to-wall
above the wheel wells, the van is a full 79”
XL Twin bed that has
been occupying my vans since Hurricane Irma in
September of 2017 is a very comfortable
39” x 78”.
That extra 15” of width is going to be
I could all too easily picture rolling over in
my sleep and.... ya. Let's check this
full-size bed idea out...
So, I folded up the end legs of the steel bed
frame and bungee-corded it really tight onto my
The frame’s middle legs did not reach the
floor, but I rallied by tool zeal, screwed a
couple of scraps of wood into the floor right
where the legs would sit and made it work.
It was like wrestling an alligator to maneuver
that XL Twin mattress into place.
It did not seem to like the idea one
glad it couldn’t scream for help. Anything
that size is awkward, especially when it needs
to be turned around in a space only an inch
bigger than its bulky self is.
I eventually scrunched the end and
forced it under the wall’s center rib (which is
only a 72” space).
It unscrunched back out into place and
sprung snugly into its new spot.
It might never come out, but it’s in
relocated six cartons and tubs of my stuff under
the bed. Much
of it had been stored under there before, but now
I can access it from both
a plus, there is room for both my bike and my
golf clubs between the bed and the back doors.
I have a LOT more space in here now.
There is still a ton to do, but Maxx is
starting to feel like a real room, and I
am definitely digging that.
"TRUNK" AND BED
2: Making The Bed
Sande Plywood panel, 48” x 96” x 0.5” -- $36
Whitewood Stud, 2” x 4” x 96” nominal – 6 for
2 in. x 2 in. x 8 ft. Furring Strip Board
Lumber -- $2
Simpson Strong Tie galvanized steel ZMAX
brackets, various -- $60
Simpson 1.25” wafer-head screws –100 for $11.50
Bus tubs, green, 5” height – 3 for $46
StorageWorks fabric storage bins, beige – 3 for
Sterlite 17-gallon tote, brown – 4 for $27
(purchased in 2017)
Yeah, you’re right.
A van doesn’t have a trunk.
That’s why it’s in quotes.
What I’m talkin’ about is the area
designated for all the stuff, crap, and junk
that you’d put in the trunk of your car.
This van is gonna be my home, but, unlike your
home, there is no basement, no garage, and no
closet to throw it all into.
So, just like in my home
(where none of the above exist either), I’m
gonna put it under the bed with all the
That’s pretty much where it all was anyway I
"Framed The Wells" (above), but it was all
chunky-munkeyed under there just to stash it
out of the way.
If this was to be for the long haul,
some order would have to be restored.
The plan (right) took a surprisingly long time
to get together.
With all my newly-acquired tools and
gadgets, I needed to maximize my spaces, and I
had to build it to last.
After much gnashing of teeth, I opted for
three brown 17-gallon totes (which I already
owned), three green 5.5-gallon bus tubs (which
I didn’t), and a couple of the beige and brown
fabric storage “drawers” that will be filling
most of my yet-to-be-built cabinets.
The brown totes would get filled with the The
Big Stuff: saws,
drills, buckets, long cords, wrenches,
automotive fluids, jumper cables, and plenty
of things that I hope I’ll never use, but
might be glad someday to have handy.
The green lugs, being just slightly smaller in
width and length, will just sit on top of all
that brown-tote stuff.
Two of them will hold the hand tools,
hardware, adhesives, bungees, my extensive
supply of batteries, knives, and a bunch of
other small hoo-ha’s.
The third is reserved for my golf goodies: bag-o-balls,
extra gloves, spare head covers, 6-can koozie,
and various other secret weapons.
The two “drawers” are for my cache of casual
Whenever a change of clothes is
required or desired, I’ll have some
clean-n-dries to climb into.
All of that was cake: just a matter of sorting
What made this officially a “Step” was
the construction of the spaces that would make
it all work.
If you’re going to have “Every Thing
In Its Place,” your Things need to first have
a Place to be In.
It certainly would have been easier to do this
Step when I “Framed The Wells” (above).
Trouble was, at that point I was
still planning a different final configuration
that would put the bed along the starboard
side, under the big six-foot-long window,
which would leave this whole area as a clear
walk-through space to the back doors.
Once I took a few minutes, though, to
slow down and fat-ass on the bed for the first
time in quite a while, I began to reassess
If I’m going to live in Blue Maxx, one of my
top priorities ought to be sleep.
Though it would be great to be able
to lie on my bed and gaze out the window at
the sights, scenes, sunrises, sunsets, or
moonlit nights that the future will hold, that
would mean cutting my bed width almost in
as I lounged on that big extra-long twin
mattress, I began to think, “yeahhhh, but this
is so damn comfortable.”
So, I’m not 100% set on this being “it”, but
I’m gonna give this rear-bedroom layout a
year, maybe even more.
If I decide in 2021 or early 2022
that those window views are just not to be
missed, and/or that climbing over the bed to
get in or out the back door requires too damn
much athleticism, then I can re-do it.
Hence, this “trunk” space would be built to be
sturdy, but disassemblable, if that’s even a
is connected with screws:
no nails, no wood glue.
It could all be taken apart in an
hour or less.
The now-familiar Framed Wells would remain
in either case.
The blueprint on the previous page shows how
complicated I made this for myself, with the
front part being shallower and split by a
figuratively sweating the measurements late at
night with a keyboard and monitor beats the
hell out of physically sweating them in a
100-degree metal box.
If all my cipherin’ was right, the
install should be pretty smooth.
I took everything out of the back of the van –
and, yes, getting the mattress back out did
suck -- then laid, stood, and balanced the 2x4
pieces in place.
Somewhat surprised that everything
seemed to fit perfectly, I fired up the drill
and the power-screwer and started attaching
An eleventh-hour find at The Home Depot proved
to be huge.
Instead of drilling so many long
tedious holes through those 3.5”-wide studs, I
used a variety of Simpson Strong Tie brackets
and matching self-tapping screws.
Mannnn, these things are truly the
No drilling at all is necessary with
wafer-top screws have a double-depth Philips
head to give the power-screwer an even better
grip, so you simply hold the bracket in place,
position the screw, and zoom-zoom-kaboom
it’s on to the next one.
The frame is solid as you please, and
it took way less effort
than I had anticipated.
As a double-bonus, I found out when I looked
at the receipt that these things are called
That means we have the MaxxFan on the
roof, the Maxoak solar generator channeling
the sun power to the PowerMax converter, and
now the ZMAX brackets holding the furnishing
So, yeah, anyway, the irregular corners on the
tempered hardboard shelf gave me a little
trouble, but nothing the ol’ laser engraver
(Nice to have one of those at my beck
I rested the 75” x 39” plywood panel
onto the frame and swiftly secured it with
eight 2.5” screws to complete the construction
Getting the mattress back into place was every
bit as much of a pain as I knew it would be. I
had the foresight to hit the laundromat with
the comforters, and I did the sheets and
pillowcases in the washer at home so
everything would be clean when I squeezed and
jammed and forced everything back between
those van walls.
I’m in no hurry to deal with that
ultra-tight mattress fit again just to do a
All the totes, lugs and drawers were slid and
slotted into their new homes, and Step 11 was
When I stood by the front seats and looked
back at what I had accomplished, I was a tad
chagrined that it looked no different.
I’ve done a lot of things in this
project so far, but it still looks like I just
threw a bed and a table into a cargo van.
No worries, though; structure and function
come first, aesthetics later.
A couple of very big steps are up