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Old 03-29-2011, 01:50 AM   #1
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DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

I've been wanting to install an underfloor storage box since I got my van but have been a bit turned off on retail cost of these accessories. Sportsmobile asks around $1000, Quadvan maybe $600. I believe that Quadvan builds theirs out of steel and subsequently powdercoats them. What's SMB do?

After a bit of thought, I came up with the following requirements for my build:
*Aluminum construction for corrosion resistance and no need for finishing
*Sized large enough for bottle jack, tools, recovery straps, jumper cables, emergency kit
*Sized small enough that I can easily access everything and nothing gets lost in the clutter
*Simple shape to keep fabrication costs and welding time to a minimum
*Interior light for late night rummaging


OK then....lets get started......I've got an EB so after blasting the spare tire mechanism out and taking a few measurements, I found I had roughly 16"x34" of space to work with. The limiting factors being the frame rails on either side and the transverse subfloor body supports fore and aft. Using a string to check for departure angle I came up with a useable depth of around 16". To keep things easy and get the most yield out of 4x8' sheet stock, I finalized my dimensions to yield a simple rectangular box of 15.5"x15.5"x32".

Here's a miniature version that I welded up to test my machine.

When sourcing sheet stock for this project I had a few choices in thickness and alloy of aluminum. Most diamond plate and job boxes that you see are made out of 3003 alloy, an easy working and extremely bendable type. After a bit of research I decided to use 5052. I wasn't keen on the diamond plate finish (and extra cost over flat) so the 5052 was an option, and the extra strength while retaining the ability to take a good bend seemed like a bonus. It was bit of a tough decision to decide on thickness. Most truck boxes that I have seen are about .085 to .100" thick. Given that I might pound this thing into rocks or stumps periodically, I stepped up a bit and chose .125" sheet 5052.

Here are my box pieces in their sheared and bent form. Delivered this way I saved myself about 100" of tig welding which at $1 an inch retail can really add up. I have a fairly light duty Tig machine with an air cooled torch that is only rated to 150 amps. Welding the .125 took 140 amps and on the 32 inch long runs the limiting factor was my ability to hold onto the torch as it got wicked hot.

I got the box tacked in just a few minutes.


Another 15 minutes later I had the ends welded up.


And finally after waiting a few times for the duty cycle of the welder and the torch to catch up I ended up with this:



Next time I'll cover cutting the hole, installation of the flange on the box, and fabrication of the interior trim piece and hatch. Then I'll give a review of install............
Attached Thumbnails
2 mini mock up.jpg   1 sheared and bent.jpg   4 end seams.jpg  
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Old 03-29-2011, 08:53 AM   #2
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Fantastic, thanks for posting. This is an issue that often comes up and it looks like you have come up with a good solution. Makes me wonder if, for those who do not weld, we could come up with a group buy of boxes.
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Old 03-29-2011, 10:45 AM   #3
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Quote:
Originally Posted by witoke
Fantastic, thanks for posting. This is an issue that often comes up and it looks like you have come up with a good solution. Makes me wonder if, for those who do not weld, we could come up with a group buy of boxes.
i think you could get alot of takers
ya might even break even
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Old 03-29-2011, 11:01 AM   #4
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Nice work!

If I had a welding or fab shop design and make this box, it would certainly cost more than the SMB box. Fortunately, your own hours are free!
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Old 03-29-2011, 11:15 AM   #5
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

great job!! this is on my to-do list!
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Old 03-29-2011, 04:52 PM   #6
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Nice welds! I've tried a little TIG welding, and it's TOUGH! I had a hard time getting the aluminum to puddle without blowing a hole in it - looks like you've got the hang of it I'd also end up touching my tungsten to the metal, where it would immediately stick tight and require grinding to get it back into shape.

Great job, looking forward to seeing the rest of the writeup.

Cheers!
Mike.
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Old 03-29-2011, 07:43 PM   #7
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Nice TIG welding job!
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Old 03-30-2011, 01:52 AM   #8
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Not too much time to work on the box today but I was able to get the hole cut to size and do a test fit under the van.

Plasma cutter, straight edge, clamp......check.

Five minutes later I have a nice hole.



12" x 24" should allow easy access for fuel cans, power saws, chains, and maybe even a small passenger
All I need to do is a light sanding on the edge and It'll be good to go. The cuts turned out perfectly. I love plasma cutters.



I think I'll dub this box the large size. Maybe the next one I'll bump all the way forward to the next frame cross member like the smb version. This one seem's pretty big already, don't know if I'll need more room. When I jacked it into place it fit like a charm, almost like it was designed to go there......




Quick check for departure angle. I've only ever drug my receiver hitch a few times on obstacles. I wanted to make sure that the box wouldn't likely be the first impact point. Sure enough, it's got clearance by an inch or so. I've only got the 2" quadvan lift, so vans with the more standard 4" would have plenty of room even without cutting away the rear of the underfloor storage box like the SMB version.



Having never seen an xl storage box in person I'm not too sure how far they actually hang down below the frame, but from the looks of this picture of Jage's vs mine I think I'm in the ballpark. The only difference being that he has the aft cutaway to potentially help improve departure angle.



I've got to grab a few supplies in the morning tomorrow, but barring any calamity, I should be able to finish up version one before sundown........


On a side note, for those of you that don't yet have subfloor storage and would like an aluminum version like this one, what would you think you would be willing to pay? Bear in mind that I think its really unbelievable that SMB can get a grand out of theirs. While local pickup would be preferred, shipping would also be realistic as the thing weighs less than 40# and it wouldn't need any packaging to protect it............
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Old 03-30-2011, 02:52 AM   #9
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

well, how much were materials??
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:56 AM   #10
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Re: DIY Aluminum Underfloor Storage

Materials, labor and a reasonable amount of profit for the effort and initiative? So you'll have to tell us what you'd need to charge to make it worth your while to build 'em. I like the notion of writing the shipping details on the outside with marker and sending it off like that!
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