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Old 07-18-2011, 09:19 PM   #371
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Re: Hal The Van

I'm not too worried about how it will manage deep snow since I don't go camping in the winter. It stays parked when there's snow on the ground.
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Old 07-25-2011, 07:13 PM   #372
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Re: Hal The Van

Undervan Storage Box continued:

Picked this up today from the local machine shop.


More details will follow, once I figure out how to get it under the van.

continued -
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Old 07-25-2011, 07:58 PM   #373
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Re: Hal The Van

Back off a curb?

Looks good.
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:09 PM   #374
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Re: Hal The Van

needs shark teeth like on a p-51
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Old 07-26-2011, 09:03 PM   #375
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Re: Hal The Van

Quote:
Back off a curb?
That's actually not a bad plan. It would give me the right height. Problem is finding a place where it would be safe to do.

Quote:
needs shark teeth like on a p-51
Would look pretty cool but unfortunately the box will be mounted at the lower back end of the van so I'd have to paint on a different part of the shark's anatomy.
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Old 07-27-2011, 04:19 AM   #376
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Re: Hal The Van

ya it wouldnt have the same effect
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Old 08-04-2011, 10:11 PM   #377
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Re: Hal The Van

Undervan Storage Box continued:

When I had the mock-up mounted under the van I saw that the charcoal canister would interfere with the undervan storage box is I originally planned it.


While I was deciding on the final measurements for the box I went ahead and moved the charcoal canister one more (and hopefully final) time. Moved it a couple inches forward.


Time to decide on the final design. I thought the front end of the box was too close to the differential so I shortened it by an inch. Here is the final size.


I used Google Sketchup for the first time to create the above diagram. Couldn't figure out how to draw the dimensions for the top ledge. It's 1-1/2" wide along the 2' 8" edge and 1" wide along the 1' 11 1/2" edge.

Spent a lot of time thinking about how to construct the box. Since I've recently taken up welding I thought about making it myself from angle iron and 16 gauge steel sheet. In preparation I practiced making angle iron corners.


Then I did some math and figured out if I made the box myself as planned it would weight 105 lbs. Decided I'd have it professionally made from aluminum instead.

Took my plans, wooden mock-up and van to the local machine shop to explain what I wanted. It's a fairly good sized business and my project was certainly small potatoes to what they normally do but they couldn't have been more helpful. They took my hand drawn plans and with me explaining with the wooden mock-up they seemed to understood what I wanted.


While I was there I asked the owner for and got a tour. For those of you who haven't been around a machine shop before here's what it looks like.


Milling Machine.


Lathes


Milling machines and lathes are what you used to need to create precision metal parts. My Dad who spend his professional life as a Tool and Die maker would have spend a great deal of his time on machines just like those. It took a a lot of training and work to learn his trade. The owner showed me his newer CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control). He told me that after three days training on the CNC machine a new employee could produce the same kind of parts my Dad would have made and could probably turn out twenty of them in the same amount of time. Didn't get a picture of the CNC machine.

Here is the water jet cutting table. This will be used to cut out the parts for my box.


Here's the job they had just finished on the cutting table. It's for the floor of a local high school. He showed me the drawing the high school had submitted for the design. They are able scan it in and with just a few tweaks to the design the machine is ready to go.


Metal shear.


This being West Virginia there was at least a couple pieces of mining equipment getting rebuilt. This is the cutting head of a continuous miner. As this head spins it is pushed against a coal seam and the hardened bits grind out the chucks of coal.

Tours over.

A couple weeks later and I got a call from the machine shop. My box was done.






It's 14 gauge thick. Had trouble weighing it when I got it home since it's so bulky. Then I realized it's also shiny. I couldn't see the dial on the scale but I could read it's reflection.
I call it at 43 lbs.


A few construction notes. I asked for 20 degrees and that's what I got.




I noticed the lower front edge is bent then welded farther back as opposed to being welded along the edge.


The mounting holes have already been drilled. This is a mistake but I'll take the blame. I wanted to show where the holes would go to make my drawing more understandable but didn't explicitly write "Don't drill these holes". My bad but not a big deal.


I was changed $503.50 for the construction of the box. Material costs where just about half of the price and labor was for 6 hours.

continued -
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Old 08-05-2011, 12:33 PM   #378
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Re: Hal The Van

Undervan Storage Box continued:

Once I got the box home I found that an old creeper made a handy way to wheel it around.




Now I had to decide how to get the box under the van so to mount it. I'll use the term "driveway" to describe the space between the edge of the street and the door to the garage. It's really not much of a driveway since it's only a few feet wider than the van but it does allow me to work on the van and not be in the street. Owing to the slope on the street the back edge of my driveway is higher than the rest. I'm parking the van so the passenger side rear tire is on this high spot. That should allow me to only have to jack up the drivers side to get the clearance I'll need.


Started jacking up the drivers side. Used wood blocks and boards to support the van.


Since it's easier to move around than the metal box I used the wooden mock-up to check rear clearance.


Here's the funny part. After I got the van to the correct height and went to slide the mock-up out from under the van it total fell apart. I hadn't yanked it or treated it roughly.

It just came apart as if it knew it's work was done. It held up for exactly as long as I need it to and not one minute more.

Rolled the box under the van on the creeper then removed the creeper.


Now it gets interesting.


There a no pictures of the next few steps because it was basically just grunt work. Getting the box maneuvered into place then getting it up on a floor jack. Using the jack to raise it up until I could get a couple of jack stands into play.


I found that adding a 2x4 under the box helped with the balance. I kept raising the box while checking the alignment.


This is the view while looking up along the drivers side of the box. I want it as close to the frame beam as I can get it without actually touching it.


This is looking up from underneath at the front side of the box. You can see the underfloor cross beam and the charcoal canister. I'm pushing the box as far towards the back of the van as it will go.


Looking up at the rear of the box. It's all the way up against the back support of the van.


The reason I'm positioning the box as far as possible to the rear and drivers side is because of this. At the top of the picture is the box's front and passenger side corner. Below it in the picture is the exhaust pipe. I want to keep as much distance between these two as I can so as little heat as possible is transferred from the exhaust pipe to the box contents. The aluminum is shiny so it should reflect some part of the radiant energy that comes off the hot exhaust pipe. Since the box doesn't touch the pipe there should be no heat transfer by conduction but there is still convection to consider. I'm hoping that the entire box will act as a huge heat sink and stop the area closest to the exhaust pipe from heating up.


On the left in this picture is the rear exhaust hanger. The passenger side of the box is on the right. I think I've left enough room between the two so that I can work on the hanger if need be.


This picture, not very good, shows the gap between the rear differential and the front side of the box. I didn't try it but I believe that access to the fill hole on the differential might be tight but is doable.


Just to be clear, with this design the rear differential cannot be serviced while the box is in place. Seeing how I had a new limited slip differential installed just a couple years ago I don't think that will be an issue with me.

continued -
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Old 08-05-2011, 06:46 PM   #379
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Re: Hal The Van

Undervan Storage Box continued:

Now that I have the box positioned where I want it and securely jacked into place, time to do some damage. Use a drill with a hole saw. Just eyeball what I think is the center of where I want to put a opening into the box.


Drill away.


Next up the reciprocating saw. The hole I drilled was larger than the blade width.


Do some freehand cutting.


Use my drywall T-square to lay out a rectangle. I haven't decided on the final size of the door to my "basement" since I haven't finalized the layout of the van. I just eyeballed the floor and did some tests with the larger of the objects I'll be storing down there to find what was needed for a workable size. I've marked out 12-1/2" H X 16" W. This could be changed later on in the build.


Use my jigsaw for these more accurate cuts.


Tape up the edges of the hole to prevent any (more) cuts.


Measure from the inside edge of the hole to edge of the box.


Transfer those measurements to the floor of the van.


Use the outline as my guide for where to drill the mounting holes. I'm planning on using 5/16" bolts. The owner of the machine shop suggested 1/4" but no harm in going one step larger. Since the van floor has both ridges and valleys I only drill in valleys. Using eleven bolts. Seems like the right number.


With all the cutting and drilling done use a shop-vac to clean out the inside of the box.


Man that looks big inside.


Put a long 5/16" bolt in each corner.


With the bolts supporting the box remove the jacks.


Here's my first look at how this will appear from the outside when done.


continued -
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:07 PM   #380
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Re: Hal The Van

Undervan Storage Box continued:

The box is now supported at each corner by long bolts.


Next step will be to seal the top ledge against the bottom of the van so no water or dust gets in. There are two problem areas. Above the front ledge of the box are the corrugations of the van floor. What I call the "hills" and the "flats".


Along the passenger side of the box the van floor is bowed down. You can see it in the upper left of this picture.


Before I get to the sealing have to take care of the bowed floor. To do that I'll need to lower the box.

True Story. I'm walking through Lowe's about three weeks ago and pass through the hardware section. I see a 3' section of 5/16" threaded rod and think to myself that one of those might come in handy sometime. So I bought it. Had no definite plans for it. Just that I might need it one day.


Jump back to now. I'm standing at the back of the van trying to think up some way to lower the box to the ground. Didn't want to use the floor jack again. Inclined plane? Lever? Block and tackle? Then I remembered the threaded rod. Here's what I came up with.

Take a scrap 2x4 and cut it so it will just fit width wise inside the box. Drill a hole through the center. slide one end of the threaded rod through the hole. Attach two nuts, a washer and a lock washer to one end of the rod.


Get a second scrap 2x4 long enough to span the floor opening front to back. Drill a hole through the middle of this 2x4. Install the two 2x4s and threaded rod into the van. Add a washer and 5/16" nut to the rod just above the second 2x4. Attach a drill to the top end of the threaded rod. The threaded rod fit just fine into the drill chuck. Tighten the chuck.


Remove the bolts at each corner. Now the box is supported by the two 2x4s and threaded rod. I'm standing on a 1/2" wrench that's used to prevent the nut above the second 2x4 from spinning. Run the drill in forward. As the rod spins it causes the 2x4 inside the box to lower away from the top 2x4. This works as long as I keep that top nut from spinning. As the 2x4 lowers so does the box.


The drill and threaded rod worked like a champ. In about 20 seconds the box was sitting on the ground. I used the sawzall to trim the rod once the box was down. Will make the box "elevator" a bit easier to use.


Fix the bowed floor first. Using a 2x4 as a straight edge you can see the bow.


Hammer time.


A few well placed blows and it's much better. The bow is all gone.


"Screw" the box back into place and check the fit. It's A-OK now. Lower it down again.


Next up is the seal between the box and the floor. From what I read butyl rubber would be a good choice for this type of an application. Never had any experience with using it before. Headed on down to the my local NAPA. I asked the guy behind the counter what he had in the way of butyl. He said that this 3/8" x 15' Auto Glass Replacement Kit ($21.29) was the only thing he carried. I went ahead and bought it.


It might have been all he carried but as it turned out it was exactly what I needed.

With the box on the ground get ready to apply a bead of the butyl along the top edge. This stuff is real sticky so I wore gloves.


Application was straight forward. Just stick it down as you slowly unroll it. Leave the paper tape in place.


Problem came when I tried to cut it. It would stick to the utility blade then s-t-r-e-t-c-h like Silly Putty when I tried to pull it way.


I unrolled a bead completely around the top edge of the box. For the driver's side ledge and rear of the box ledge this would be enough since where they mated to the bottom of the van floor it was on a "flat". This isn't the case for the front and passenger sides. The "hills" in the floor raise between 1/4 to 3/8" from the flat so a single bead won't be enough to close the gap.


Since the roll is 15' long I still have extra left over. Remove the top tape and run another bead on top of the first one. Do this just on the front and passenger side's box ledges.


Slowly raise the box. Make sure that the butyl doesn't contact anything on the way up. Raise the box with the "elevator" just until the long corner bolts I used before will reach. On the way up remove the tape from the top of the butyl bead. Attach the four corner bolts and remove the 2x4s and threaded rod.

This is the edge along the back side. You can see I wasn't careful enough while raising the box. A small section of the butyl was snagged and pulled away.


Not to worry since I still had a little left over. I'm getting the hang of the butyl. Cut down through the paper tape onto a piece of wood. Doesn't stick and stretch that way.


Easy repair.


After that I just started tightening up the corner bolts in an alternating manner to slowly raise the box keeping it level while completing the seal. Once I got the box high enough I started adding 1" long 5/16" bolts with washers.


Replace the long corner bolts with 1" bolts and continue to raise and seal the box. In this picture you see that the butyl has filled in the gap under the floor "hills".


I didn't have any 5/16" lock washers on hand while doing this tightening. I'll add them later.

Once I felt I had the box in place I tested it by add a lot of weight. Over 200lbs worth.


Jumped up and down a few times and it felt pretty sturdy.

One bit of cleanup. The butyl got squeezed into the threads of the long bolts.


Some work with mineral spirits got them cleaned up. Had to do the same with my hands.


continued -
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