With the frame being ready, next up was cladding, including the 6 doors, the roof and some internal walls and storage. (Find Step 1: The Frame here).
First, we cut and bent the aluminium sheets. We were very lucky a friend let us use his machines. (Thank you Trent!) Like this we saved a lot of time. For the first box he made, Cody cut and bent everything by hand, it is possible, just a lot more work.
While cutting and bending, we always double checked the measurements of the frame, as often the theory doesn’t match up with the reality and we needed to have it right to the millimeter.
We first prepared the parts that will be welded on the frame, before later making the doors to suit the gaps.
Details of aluminium sheets
For the outside of the box and the floor, we used 3mm thick aluminium sheets to ensure rigidity.
The doors and roof
There are 6 doors on the camper box: a very big kitchen door, a door for the tool storage area, two doors each side of the tyre storage as well as two big back doors that open up almost the whole back of the camper box. Also, the roof of the camper box lifts up with strong gas struts.
We folded 3mm sheets into the correct shapes and sizes to make the door frames and to allow the door seals to attach to. The frames had to be made of multiple segments as the sheet bender couldn’t make two or more bends close together this caused a change in the overall design of the doors and seals but nothing too drastic.
The doors were made from 2mm sheet as we found the bender was not able to get tight enough folds for the edges with the 3mm sheet. This resulted in a weight saving but caused difficulty with the doors warping much more with the heat of welding in the support frame. The doors’ supports that we welded in were 25x25x3mm tube. This made the door panels very strong and rigid and also allowed somewhere to affix the gas struts.
The roof is made from a 3mm aluminium sheet 1500x3000mm and four machine bent side pieces welded around for shape and rigidity. To this we welded two 25x25x3mm square tube in the centre for strength and 50x5mm flat bar internally at the front for strengthening at the hinges. An internal lip all the way around allowed for the canvas to be attached, which was done by a professional company.
Internal walls and storage
Next up we decided on the layout for the internal walls for the back of the kitchen and tool storage area. This would not only affect the amount of storage internally but also the amount of room we have in the kitchen and tool storage area which are both very important for us.
Once we had decided on the dimensions we folded two large boxes out of 3mm sheet that were welded into the camper these are the walls and roof of the kitchen and tool storage area and also the base on which the bed frame will rest.
Next we made two more boxes from 3mm sheet that are used as the seating. One with internal storage and the other with access to the fridge in the kitchen area underneath.
We made two storage boxes that sit at the top between the two walls below the bed. These will be accessible by lifting the bed frame with the assistance of gas struts. Under these storage boxes will be a table that tucks away and 3 drawers made from wood.
The very last of the sheet metal bending was the stove drawer cover and the stove drawer itself.
The ladder is made from leftover steel we still had lying around. We used cantilever tracks for the ladder to slide in and out and cantilever trolleys that the ladder itself is attached to. If we hadn’t had these pieces, we would have bought a ready-made ladder.
Note: We didn’t actually do everything in the order described here. We did everything at once, started one thing and then finished another and later came back to the first thing. The ladder for example we only made once the camper box was almost completely finished but it makes more sense to write about it here.
Sanding, priming, painting
After finishing all aluminium work, we spray primed and spray painted the camper box, roof and the doors. Before that, we had to fill some uneven spots (especially on the doors) and sand the whole camper box, the roof and the doors. We sanded with 80, then 120 and then 240 grit with an orbital sander (the edges by hand) and cleaned everything with thinners before applying the first coat of primer.
We used an etch primer and a top loaded spray gun. The primer had to be mixed with around 15% of thinners to be liquid enough to be sprayed. We applied two coats of primer.
After priming, we sanded everything with 600 and 1000 grit by hand with a lot of water. Next, we applied two coats of enamel paint. We used the same spray gun but had to use different thinners to mix it with.
Find the next step: Interior Fit-out here.