11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

...ask your questions in the appropriate forums BUT document your build here...preferably in a single thread...dates for updates, are appreciated....

Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby hossesdad » Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:12 pm

The caravan has been in use for over a year. Sorry to be away from TNTTT, been busy and there was a technical hitch with my phone...I felt I couldn't post without pictures, words are not what TnTTTers seem to want. Anyway, we have spent about seven weeks sleeping in the van on beaches, in forests, on carparks and on the side of a NZ volcano for skiing. It seems a good execution of our design. :thumbsup: Lightweight, easy to tow (a 1600cc petrol car can pull it, although we use a 2litre diesel mostly), quiet, practical and warm, runs on solar (including a 10 gallon fridge :beer: ), fully lit and with charging and power points in each bedhead. We designed and built a wood burning stove and put it in but with all the insulation, hardly need it even when the outside temp is below freezing on our skiing trips. The decor, wall coverings, flooring and furniture are still a work in progress. We mean to sand and wax the walls, there is some water staining from when it rained before we put it together...it was built outside for lack of a workshop. (we are now building a 210 sq m workshop).
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In this photo, you can see the chimney, which is removeable for the summers (as is the stove, held in by four butterfly bolts), the fully insulated skinned and weathershielded door with lock and deadlocks and the wheel arch covers, which are simply screwed onto mounts attached to recessed galvanised wheel boxes inside the van

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The window was second hand, top hinged, $100. The hose is for an external grey water tank, we have a 20l internal grey water tank and a 40 L external grey water tank. 20l cpacity will last us three frugal days.
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You can see a towball for mounting bike racks, and a bar for taking other loads and tie downs which is through bolted to the bunk supports. The white cap is the fresh water filler. (There is pressurised water)

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The kitchen and toilet. We have a Motor Caravan Association self-containment certificate covering water supply, grey water and toilet. This allows us to sleep in places where it is illegal to sleep in a non SC van, eg, some city streets.

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The stove, a bedhead vanity (perspex fronted shelves, very handy, with the circuit breakers on its side). I can provide a design for the stove if anyone wants one...I welded parts but designed it to bolt together. The steel was repurposed from a magazine rack! Total spend was $15 for stove fittings and $100 for a stainless flue. I brazed a stainless fitting for going through the roof and an insulated aluminium cap for the summers.


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three bunks, two with full thickness mattresses


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storage bins (there are four) with perspex fronts
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240v electrical services run in the wooden trunking. We have an electrical compliance cert. The small meter is the battery charge indicator, the light switches are all illuminated and we have seven lights, it is a luxury to be able to adjust the lighting to suit what we are doing.
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As designed, we fitted towballs front and rear to take towball mounted bike racks. This one takes a table for picnics, too. The plates are drilled and tapped into the frame, didn't want to weld over the galv. Plates are 5mm but such is the weight, leverage and shock load, should have been eight mm.

Happy days, Tnttters! There's people on this site who know a lot more than I do, but my advice to anyone hanging fire on a project and looking in here is for advice is, self-designed and self-built are two different roads. Stick to self-built unless you are used to hard roads. But if you do the hard yards, you get more than the average joe gets. Much like in life, I suppose. If I can help you, I will try.
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Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby OP827 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:22 pm

That was good to learn that you finished your build. Congrats on the successful build and thanks for sharing.
:thumbsup: :applause:

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Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby pchast » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:57 pm

Was it a difficult thing for you to get those compliance certificates?
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Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby hossesdad » Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:31 pm

Peter, not particularly difficult. But certifiers prefer professional work, its easier for them. I was pleasant and I didn’t argue, so they were fine. For the Self Containment Certificate, I put in the simplest arrangement I could think of, a tiny sink, a commercially made 40 litre fresh water tank, a 12 v pump (that cost only us$12) , a tap from banggood ($10 plus postage from china) and standard push fit RV plumbing pipe and fittings.The two grey water tanks we got from the farm next door, wash chemicals for the milking machines come in sturdy containers with clear inserts so you can see levels. We put a marine toilet three way valve under the sink and select either indoor or outdoor discharge, depending on wether the outboard tank is hooked up. To seal the tanks, I drilled the lids for suitably sized rigid pipe, epoxied the pipe into the holes and connected the hoses to the rigid pipes with hose clips. The tanks have to be vented above highest sink level, I did this with 8mm hose and threaded fittings screwed through the thickest part of the tank shoulder, leading the pipe to clips on the outside front wall.

The toilet is a cassette. It’s all we need.

The electrical cert was obtained by installing all the wires, drilling all the holes and putting up the distribution box, and I wired the three 240v sockets but not the distribution box, then I took the whole thing to the certifier, we discussed it, he made a couple of suggestions ( a better earth connection, some additional wire clips) I did the work, he then hooked up the distribution box and gave me a certificate. In NZ at least, 12 volt wiring doesn’t require a cert, the only rule is 12 v and 240 v mustn’t share anything. there is an rcd and leak sensing device in the distribution box. It’s the law here, but one would want them anyway. :worship:

There are excellent wiring diagrams on the internet, eg, https://cccampers.myshopify.com/collect ... v-and-240v
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Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby hossesdad » Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:27 pm

Over the next period, I will load some photos of build details.

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The door sits in a hardwood frame and has a hardwood strip around the perimeter. I made the door then used it as a template to cut the hole, allowing extra space for the frame. The door handles (and several other fittings and bits of furniture) are screwed to one inch by four inch dowels that are epoxied through the 4mm ply and just under two inches into the foam. It’s a robust system.
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The 240v distribution box
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The battery charge meter. There is an expensive way to measure storage, this is the cheap way. The solar is trickle chrarging, so 13.4 volts is our non load indication. I switch off all loads to assess battery voltage...there are charts available on the internet. I aim to keep it above 12.3 which is about half charged.
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I used a cheap keg pocket hole jig for most joinery.
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Each bed has its own chargers
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The main light on
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We bought five metres of self adhesive led strip. Here’s a meter over the kitchen
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The battery. Still work to be done here
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Solar controller on the left, battery charger on the right. We have a 350 watt solar panel, it easily keeps up with our lights, fridge and sockets/chargers
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The flue exit. You can see the foam thickness. The advantages of a composite frameless build are strength and the completeness of the insulation. I walk on the roof.
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Two of the mattresses are 8 inch thick sprung mattresses but I actually prefer my thermarest mondo king. I have probably spent three years in total lying on thermarests (I have been a mountain man for fifty years).
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Hydraulic brakes, very easy install.
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We don’t have corner steadies, this repurposed scissor jack with a channel welded to the top does fine under the bunks There’s a jockey wheel at the other end, of course.
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Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby OP827 » Sat Sep 19, 2020 8:38 pm

Thanks for sharing the photos, this must be a very well insulated and quiet camper, nice work. I have a question: how did you glue up your curved sandwich roof, in place or you built a form and vacuumed it on that form? Could you please share your experience with such glue-up?
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Re: 11'6" three berth ply/foam/aly composite caravan

Postby hossesdad » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:57 am

Hi, Oleg, I will find pictures. The walls are ply,foam and aluminium but the roof is ply, foam and fibreglass. Ihad the profile of the roof on a piece of ply. It’s not a compound curve, just a simple curve. I ascertained I could bend a piece of foam to the shape, so made up a piece of foam, made a curved “female” bed from three formers cut to shape (6x2s on their thin edge cut with a jigsaw), applied epoxy and ply to the foam and vacuum bagged the lot, with three “male” formers over the top held down by lots of bricks to push it into the female formers. So it was done upside down. When it was cured I turned it over and working at a convenient height on six saw horses, I cut out the roof hatch and epoxied woven fibreglass stitched to woven roving fibreglass cloth to the top of the roof to within two inches of the sides. A nice big roof hatch meant I could reach quite a bit from the middle of the roof. I then epoxied the roof to the walls , which were up, of course and when the join was cured I then epoxied the same cloth onto the top eight inches of aluminium wallcovering and onto the roof, allowing a two inch overlap with the cloth already on the roof.

I think I screwed the female formers to my table, not sure now.

Thanks for your interest , Oleg, I do admire your work. :beer:
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