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Old 02-18-2018, 08:26 AM   #1
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Cabinet build/layout opinions

I've been cruising around in the shell of my van for about a year now, and I think I've finally made my list of wants/needs to incorporate into the design. I've went ahead and cadded up some base cabinets that I have built for the van. Pictures are on the latest post to my instagram account ( - hope that's an ok way to show photos here?

I've built the base cabinets out of grade B 3/4" plywood from home depot. I've got a good amount of cabinet building experience, but I'm wondering if I've made correct assumptions about other builds...?

My assumptions were to build strong base cabinets with 3/4" plywood and then save weight and space by using 1/2" plywood/solid wood for countertops and doors, frames, etc. I swung by an RV dealership today to see what their cabinets look like, and it seems to align with my plan.

As you can see, if you go to the instagram pictures, The base cabinets consist of 4 individual cabinets. The back to face rearward and will operate as "trunk space, inverter housing, etc" The side will be more accessible and will have bedding, clothing, kitchen etc.

I haven't modeled them yet, but there will also be wall cabinets that come out about 12".

One of my final realizations about the van layout that i decided on last year was that the van had to have a way to stealth sleep. Sleeping in the penthouse is great, but sometimes (e.g. parking lots) it can be a little too conspicuous. I wanted to have a platform or floor space that I could drop the bed onto and sleep on, while leaving the penthouse collapsed at night. So the plan is to be able to drop the bed onto the U-shaped cabinets. It might overhand by a couple of inches, but it should still be very stable. This will create a little 30"x30"45" cave underneath the bed that I think our dog will love to nest in.

This layout is going to be semi-temporary. I plan to rip it out in a couple of years and redo it with nicer baltic birch plywood and to incorporate any design changes that I wish I had thought of previously.

What are y'alls thoughts? Is 3/4" ply too thick/heavy? I feel like I haven't seen this layout much, and I wonder why. I think it is going to be great, but time and experience will tell.

Thanks for reading and any tips are appreciated!
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Old 02-18-2018, 01:52 PM   #2
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Looks cool. I prefer 3/4 birch ply (American birch from Home Depot). It isn't cheap but it is cheaper and easier to find than true baltic birch. It's definitely pricier than standard plywood. It is lighter and the finish is a lot better too.

If made well plywood cabinets are just fine.


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Old 02-18-2018, 08:45 PM   #3
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Welcome to the group, just followed you on IG. Personally I'd go the 80/20 route for framing and then face them Am Birch or baltic birch. Making the frames out of 80/20 will be stronger and lighter. Looking forward to seeing the progress.
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Old 02-18-2018, 11:20 PM   #4
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I don't have instgam stuff... or fecesbook either.
But welcome to the forum.
There is a pretty good way of hosting pics here btw.

Just over two years ago I built a cabinet out of 1/2 inch plywood with some kind of nice face on it and it's been rock-solid since. It holds my espar D4 which isn't heavy, but two AGM's at a hundred pounds each and my angle mt45. So it's very strong and reliable just ugly AF.
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Old 02-19-2018, 04:18 PM   #5
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I've used both be 80|20 and the 3/4 ply 86scotty is talking about, on different builds. Unless you are going to incorporate the 8020 for style in your design, I'd just use the ply.

I'm not sure you save much weight if you frame with 8020 then skin the whole thing?
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Old 02-19-2018, 06:46 PM   #6
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I've done 3/4 and 1/2 inch plywood. Both were Strong enough, but the 3/4 didn't require reinforcement at joints, was much easier to attach hinges and latches to, and also accepted standard edge moldings. Bottom line I would use all 3/4 for the slight weight increase. Another problem with 1/2 inch is screws don't have much to hold onto.

Beware of hidden voids in standard plywood, I also recommend using cabinet grade for the small upcharge.

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