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Old 05-01-2010, 07:29 PM   #1
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Default Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Hi All,
I've been working on this project since July/2009. I've been posting updates since I started to different forums.
You can see the whole thread here.
RV.net link.

I'm posting this here for two reasons. One of the forums where I posted was hacked and all of my postings were deleted. So lose one forum, add another.
Second is I was looking for some more DIY kind of folks. Most RV owners don't seem to make modifications on their own. It looks like you have some true DIY'ers here.

I call my van Hal, as in Hal from 2001.



If the other people reading this forum are interested I'll start posting new updates here. Older postings (warning there are over 14 pages of them) can be found at the above link.

Later,
Dave
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Old 05-04-2010, 01:23 AM   #2
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Welcome to Class B Form Dave and thanks for posting. It sounds like you like sharing ideas and that helps others.
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Thanks Marco,
My current project is a Sofa-Bed. I'll start by posting my previous work on it.

It's not done yet but at this point I've finally got it all figured out.
Time to start the write-up. The sofa-bed will be the most complex thing I'm going to build for the van conversion. It would have been nice to put this off until later in the project but so many other elements depend on the size and placement of the sofa-bed so it has to go first.

The usual warnings apply. I've never designed and built anything like this before. I've had to make a bunch of assumptions (wild a** guesses) and not sure how these will work out in practice. Will find out after I put it to some use.

One more point. Even though this will fold out to a bed I don't believe it's sturdy enough for any serious "bouncy-bouncy". Seeing is how I camp alone that wasn't a design consideration, unfortunately. I like how the English would phrase it, "More's the pity".

When the the sofa-bed is in the bed position it will be 74 inches long by 42 inches wide. I choose 74" long since I'm 6 ft tall (72") so that gives me room to lay flat with a couple inches extra. 42" wide because when it's in the sofa position the seat and the back will each be 21 inches wide and that felt to me like a comfortable seat size. I'm using two electric actuators to open and close the sofa-bed.

For padding I've bought 3 inch thick foam and a 2" thick memory foam topper. Not yet decided about how to cover them.

Here is the basic design I started with. I've stayed fairly close to it.




So far on this build I've made more mistakes and wrong turn than I care to admit. Here's a picture of the sofa-bed bone pile and I'm not even done yet.


I got started on this about a month and a half ago. First cut the two end pieces. They are 30" x 31". I'm using 19/32" plywood.


Made the seat and back frames from a 3/4" thick pine planks I had laying around.


Each frame is made from five pieces. Here are the dimensions of the pieces used on the back frame.


The seat frame is slightly different in size. I had some 5-1/2" wide boards on hand so instead of ripping them down to 5" I just increased the width of the frame an inch. So the back frame is 74"x20" while the seat frame is 74"x21". 20" + 21" doesn't equal 42" but the foam is cut to 42" and it can easily overhang the edge of the frame by 1".

continued.
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

I've constructed the seat frame this way since I'm planning on having "hatches" to access the area under the sofa.


I copied the same design for the back frame but the hatch part won't be hinged.

Before I assemble the frame pieces I want to route out a lip so the plywood hatches will sit partially recessed. Here's my router attached to the router table.


Like other power tools the router can put a put a good bit of hurt on you if you're not careful when using it. It uses a sharp bit spinning at very high speed and the wood has to be held tight against the bit as it is moved across the table. All kinds of chances to make a unfortunate slip.

In operation there is one noticeable difference between a router and other power tools, like a saw for instance. A saw takes one piece of wood and then produces two pieces of wood and some sawdust. With a router you start and stop with one piece of wood but the amount of sawdust that is produced seems exponentially larger than the amount wood that was removed. I think of it more as a sawdust production machine than as a router. Because of the sawdust problem I always attach my shopvac to the router table. The table has a fitting just for this.


Problem is that once you start both the router and shopvac the amount of noise the two of them make in a small garage is not to be believed. I've never stuck my head inside the exhaust of a spinning jet engine but I bet I know how it might sound. I make a point of not using my power tools later that 9:00pm so my kindly neighbours won't be tempted to host a necktie party in my honor.

Here is the router bit I've installed on the router. It's a double fluted carbide tipped straight bit. It's used to make square edged cuts. I'm going to make the recess cut 3/4" wide. I could explain why this is the best possible size for this application but in reality it's just the widest bit I have.


The boards I'm routing are 3/4" thick so I'm setting the bit to cut 1/4" deep (1/3 the thickness). Use the caliper to set the router bit depth (height?).


After making changes to the router bit I always do a test cut with a piece of scrap wood to check the settings.


Here's how you'd use the depth probe on the cailpers to check the cut.




continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

One problem with the router set up like this is the action happens at the bottom of the piece of wood you're moving across the table where you can't actually see it.


If you're routing along the entire length of the wood this isn't a problem. Just run the piece through. But on each of these frames there are two pieces where I need to make two separate cuts, neither of which extend to either end. There might be a better way but this is the method I can up with and it worked for me.

Rotate the router bit till one cutting edge is parallel to the direction the wood will travel. You move the wood on the table from right to left so consider this the leading edge of the bit.


Take a combination square and align one edge with the cutting bit.


Use the combination square to mark off a line across the router table.


Carefully lay a strip of masking tape along the line to make it easier to see. Then again using the combination square do the same measurements for the trailing edge of the router bit.


Lay down another strip of masking tape along the second mark. You now have a guide to the width of the router bit. The shows where it will cut.


Start by routing the three 10" long pieces of frame. The two that are 5" wide are routed along one complete edge. The 6" wide piece has both edges routed. NOTE: In this picture the three pieces are not in their correct orientation. The two end pieces should have their routed edges facing the middle.


Dry fit the frame pieces together. Letter and mark each piece so when it comes time to reassemble they will match up. There are two 74" long frame pieces. On these two pieces use a ruler to mark where the routed edges of the middle pieces line up. Draw these lines across the width of the boards.




Draw marks on both edges that are continuations of the previously drawn lines.


Now here is where it gets tricky. It's real easy to get confused at this step. Use the marks on each edge of the board to line up on the masking tape where the router cut should begin. In this picture you can see the mark is lined up with the inside edge of the left masking tape. Since the board will move from right to left this shows I'm beginning a cut.


Use the mark on the side of the board closest to the router bit to keep the board perpendicular as you slide it close to the bit before powering on the router. In this picture the bit is at the bottom.


Power on the router then slide the board against the bit and the fence. Then move it to the left. In this picture the mark is on the inside edge of the rightmost masking tape. So here I was finishing a cut.


That's it. Do the cuts on both boards of this frame then do it all over again for the other frame. I did make one mistake. There was a small knot on the edge of the board and I thought it was my mark. It wasn't. I had plowed straight past my mark while looking at the knot.

One more thing. You'll notice the router leaves a rounded corner. Will come back to that later.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:13 PM   #6
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

With all the frame pieces cut and routed it's time to join them together. Use the biscuit cutter as described in the battery box build.




Glue and clamp.




Do the same for both frames.

Now for the 30" x 31" end supports.
Here is the original plan for the end supports and the wood frames. I thought by using a metal u-piece on the end of the boards and two metal angles bolted to the end pieces I could make something like a drawer slider. It didn't work as well as I'd hoped but I didn't know that yet.


So I went ahead and measure, cut, filed, laid out, pre-drilled, drilled and bolted on the lower angle pieces.














Then for the u-channel, carefully counter sink the holes with a drill press. The aluminum is thin so this takes a light touch.






Mount the u-channel.



Most all of this will be removed later.

continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:14 PM   #7
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Sofa-bed continued:

To join the different pieces of the sofa-bed together I'm making a bunch of 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" sized blocks. I'll call these corner blocks. Why that size? You can make two from a single 2x4 and I have a bunch of scrap 2x4's laying around.


A quick note on my build strategy. I know professional van converters will build the furniture into the van but they know what they are doing. Since I'm making it up as I go I think the best plan is to build each item in the garage and make all corrections/additions there. Disassemble all the pieces, move the pieces into the van then reassemble. Use bolts when possible to make the the pieces easier to disassemble. That also makes sense since I'm the only one here who will be moving the furniture pieces around.

Tiger and Bob could help but whenever I ask, Tiger never fails to remind me that this is a Union Shop. Since He and Bob are classified as management, they may only provide supervision. If they were to engage in any direct help that could result in a grievance being filed by the Shop Stewart. Since I'm the Shop Stewart, I can't very well argue the point with him.


Next make a 8" x 74" board for the front of the sofa-bed.


Woodworking tip. If you're using a circular saw on a not-to-wide board you can use a speed square to help make a straight cut. Place the square on the opposite side of the board so you're pulling it towards you. Hold the square tight and use it's edge to guide the circular saw as you push it across.


Cut corner blocks for the ends of the 8" x 74" board.


Before I glue the blocks to the board a quick posting about glue brushes. I use these low cost brushes for gluing. They are marked as "Acid Brushes" but I've seen them called other things. They are cheaply made, just a hollow stamped metal tube with some brushes at the end, but do the job and no big deal if you forget to wash them out. Just toss them.


Glue and screw the blocks to each end of the board. I'm using a countersink bit to pre-drill a hole in the front of the board so the screw heads will sit flush. I'll later be drilling three holes through the block for bolts so space the four screws so they won't be in the way.


Clamp the board to the two end pieces. Be sure everything lines up.


With the clamps holding the boards in place drill three holes through the end pieces and the corner blocks. Then bolt together using 5/16" bolts.




Use the angled metal bolted to the end pieces to hold the seat frame for a test fit. Notice the board I've placed under the middle of the seat frame to provide support. I made a mistake when cutting it so it is destined for the bone pile but it works OK at the moment.


Do the same for the back frame. I'm using clamps on the side to keep the back up. This is my first look at what the sofa-bed might look like. Too early in the build for a Frankenstein moment.


Add a "corner" block to support the board at the middle of the sofa. The plan is to place the battery box under the right side of the sofa so the box had to be built first so I could get it's true measurements. I use the length of the battery box to set the location of the middle support board. Then glue and screw the corner block to align with this placement. THIS IS A MISTAKE. I should have just used a couple of screws to hold the corner block into place IN CASE I HAD TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS LATER.


Plowing straight ahead, screw and glue the middle corner block into place. Then drill the holes for the 5/16" bolts. Bolt the middle support board to the front board.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:14 PM   #8
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Sofa-bed continued:

If I'm going to keep writing about the sofa-bed I should settle on a naming convention for the different parts. I'll try to stick to them.


Made from 19/32" plywood
Left and Right Ends - 31"h x 30"w
Kick Board - 8"h x 74"w
Center Support - 12"h x 30"w
Middle Brace - 3"h x 74"w

Made from 3/4" pine boards
Seat Platform - 74"w x 21"d
Back Platform - 74"w x 20"h

Top Brace not made yet. I'm still working on it.

The bottom of the seat platform will rest on, and rub against as it moves, a metal angle attached to the center support. To reduce friction I'm adding a layer of Formica laminate to the bottom of the platform . Here's a scrap piece of white laminate I had laying around.


I cut it using the table saw. Since this won't be visible I'm not too worried about the edge being real smooth. To glue down the laminate it's time to use the flammable contact cement I bought by mistake a couple months back.


Apply the cement to both the wood and the back of the laminate. Wait till it gets tacky. When you go to place the laminate be sure to get it right the first time. Once it makes good contact, it's stuck.


There is a device sold called a J-roller which you roll across the laminate to bond it the surface you cementing it to. I don't have one so I used a hardwood dowel like a rolling pin..


I also applied laminate to the back of the back platform. At the time I thought it would be needed. After changed my designs yet again just today it won't be needed. No harm in leaving it.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:16 PM   #9
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Sofa-bed continued:

Going to start writing about the drive mechanism for the sofa-bed. I'm be describing the construction in a lot of detail. Will come in handy if I have to do it again since I have a bad habit of forget such things.

First up is to remake the Center Support. I didn't consider the part that overhangs the Kick Board when I cut the original one. More wood for the bone pile.

New Center Support with a notch penciled in.


A test fit of the Kick Board (vertical in this picture) and the Center Support.


I need to construct something that will both slide the Seat Platform out 12" from the front of the sofa-bed but also proved plenty of support once it's in that position. In the original plan each end of the platform will be supported by the metal angles and U-channel. The middle will be supported using a 1-1/4" square perforated steel tube.


I'll use 1-1/2" aluminum angles to guide the square tube and counterbalance the platform weight once extended. Attach the first angle to the top of the Center Support. It will look like this when done.


Position the angle so it's the thickness of the angle above the edge of the Center Support. This is so the platform bottom in the center will line up with the angles attached to the End Pieces.


Clamp the angle onto the board.


The angle will be held to the Center Support with 1/4" bolts. The heads of the bolts will be on the side of the angle that the square tube slides along. So the square tube will be rubbing against the bolt heads. I want to position the bolts so the heads aren't lined up with the perforations in the steel tube. There's a kind of a Ka-chunk Ka-chunk feeling if the heads and the holes line up as the tube slides.
Place a bolt between the center and edge of the square tube.


Use the calipers to measure the distance between the center of the bolt head and the inside edge of the angle.


Figure out where along the length of the angle I'm going to place the bolts. Then place the depth probe end of the calipers against the inside edge of the angle. Trace along the end of the calipers on each side of the depth probe.


After removing the caliper you'll have two lines that show where to center the drill hole for each bolt.


Drill away.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:17 PM   #10
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Sofa-bed continued:

A quick note. These write ups aren't in strict chronological order. It's easier for me to describe the steps if I jump around a little bit.
The previously installed metal angle both supported the bottom of the Seat Platform and helped guide the top of the square tube. Now add the angle to guide the bottom of the tube.


The square tube is 1-1/4" tall and the angles are 1-1/2" tall. You can see there is some overlap when using two angles as guides.


Need to trim a little off the bottom edge of the first angle to remove that overlap.


Since the Seat Platform is 21" wide and 12" of that will be extended out, I'll make the second angle 9" long to correspond with the amount of seat left over the Center Support. The bottom trim needs to be the same length as the second angle.


A funny thing happened on the way to finish that 9" cut. I'm using my trusty old saber saw and it starts to cut slower and slower. Then the smoke detector in the basement goes off. I never did see any actual smoke come out of it but by the end of the cut it's done sabered it's last saw. Had it a couple decades or more. Say good-bye to my old friend.


Say Hello to my new friend.


OOOOOH - Lasers!


These are how the two angles will fit together.


Test fit with the square tube.


Cut the square tube to a 30" length and smooth out the cut end.


Bolt the top angle onto the Center Support.


I've added some more bolts to the front part of the top angle (upside down in this photo). These are to help counteract the forces caused by the extended square tube. I've positioned these new bolts so the heads are below the tube perforations as it slides. This is just like in the previous post where the first bolts which were placed above the perforations.


Using the square tube to maintain proper alignment position the bottom angle.


Clamp the angle into place until the first few bolts are added.


Use the caliper as previously described to help mark the positions for the bolt holes. Use a 16D nail to dimple the metal before you drill to help the bit stay centered.




With everything bolted into place slide the square tube back and forth to see how it moves. Without any lubrication at all it moves surprisingly smooth. And no Ka-chunk Ka-chunk.


And very importantly the side of the square tube is clear of the edge from the angles. That is needed for the next steps.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:17 PM   #11
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Sofa-bed continued:

Next to add is another 1-1/2" angle. The Seat Platform will be bolted to the horizontal part of the angle. The square tube will drive this metal angle back and forth.


Cut the angle so it's length is the same as the Seat Platform width, 21".


As I'm working on the Center Support it's lying on the workbench so what will be UP on the final install is on the left here. In this picture I'm calling the new angle "Seat Angle". I'm aligning the seat angle so it's just a little bit to the left (above) of the top angle. As the Seat Platform is moved back and forth it will drag across the top angle which is stationary. By raising the seat angle in relation to the top angle it should help reduce that drag.


Use the caliper to keep that alignment constant along the length of the seat angle and the square tube. Clamp the angle and tube together.


Now it gets interesting. I have to bolt the seat angle to the square tube. Problem is the bolts can't go all the way through the tube. Otherwise as the tube slides their heads would engage the bolts that hold the top angle in place. To get around this problem I'll have to work the bolts from within the center of the square tube. This take a little prep work.

I'll be using 1/4" bolts which have a 7/16" size heads. A 7/16" socket is interchangeable with a 11mm metric socket. So find some metric sockets I'm not too worried about. Happen to have a set right here.


The 11mm socket is too large as is. Need to make it smaller. Use the bench grinder.


Note: If you're planning on having an MRI anytime soon and doing any grinding, wear full face protection, not just safety glasses. Don't ask me how I know.

By the time I'm done grinding it will just be thick enough to hold a nut.


Here's the difference between the ground down 11mm and the 10mm and 12mm sockets.


Drill the first of the five holes I'm going to need through the new angle. Line the hole up with one of the tube's perforations.


To install a bolt through the newly drilled hole I'm going to need a few tools. First up a flexible grabber.


Grab a 1/2" long bolt with the business end of the tool.


Slide the bolt through the center of the square tube.


Use the grabber to work the bolt through the drilled hole.




Gently start the nut onto the bolt. If you tighten the nut the grabber won't let go.


Extract the grabber tool. Next up a flexible tool with a magnetic holder at the end.


The socket is too big for the grabber to hold so I'm using the magnetic tool.


Use the magnetic tool to slide the socket into the tube. Notice that even with the grinding the socket doesn't have a lot a clearance. It still has to fit over the head of the bolt inside the tube. Tight fit.


Line up the socket with the tube hole above the bolt head.


You need a socket extension to maneuver the socket inside the tube. Move the socket around until it's on the bolt head.


Then use the socket and and a wrench to tighten the bolt and nut.


Remove the magnetic holder with the socket and drill the hole for the next bolt. Once a bolt has been inserted into the square tube you can't easily work past it. So you have to work from the center of the tube outward.

Add a total of five bolts.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:18 PM   #12
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Sofa-bed continued:

I need a way to drive the square tube and it's newly attached metal angle back and forth which will also move the Seat Platform when done.


I'm going to use a Firgelli Automations 12" Stroke 150lb Force Linear Actuator. $119.99.






Link to product's web page

I have no particular knowledge about this company or it's products. Just did a Google search and found them. Also searched out some (hopefully) independent reviews that liked their actuators.

I choose this model since I want the Seat Platform to move 12" and this actuator has a "stroke" of 12". This isn't the first actuator I bought for the sofa-bed. The one in the original plan had a stroke of 18" but that didn't work out so I went with this one. I'm planning to now use the 18" on a TV lift.


These actuators use just two wires. Apply power one way and the actuator will run out to max length then stop on it's own. Reverse the polarity on the wires and piston runs in until it stops. You don't have to kill the power. The actuator has it's own internal limits switches. The piston can't be moved manually. It will only move electrically. Max power draw is only 4 amps.

Since I'll be testing the actuator a fair amount I attached a pair of round male quick disconnects to the wires along with some shrink tube.


I'll provide power to the actuator using a single 6 volt battery. Even though it's rated at 12 volt I found it runs just fine with 6 volts. That is it runs OK without any load on the actuator to speak of. Attach a pair of round female disconnects to the battery.


Power it up and marvel as you drive it in and out several times.




Drill a hole at the front edge of the Center Support to create an attachment point for the mounting hole on the motor end of the actuator.


Use a 1/4" bolt to anchor the mounting point.


Now stare at the mounting hole on the end of the piston and ponder out how I'm going to attach the piston to the square tube. Then ponder some more.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:19 PM   #13
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

Need to make a bracket for the piston end of the 12" actuator.


This will join the actuator and the square tube. I want it long enough so it will use two bolts to attach to the tube. If the bracket is long enough to cover two of the perforations on the tube then part of the bracket will have to fit between the square tube and the part of the actuator that fits around the piston. For want of a better term I'll call the part of the actuator that fits around the piston the "drive column".

Use two pieces of 2" aluminum angle. Here is the bracket pieces pushed up against the black plastic collar at the top of the drive column.


Measure the amount the bracket overhangs the tube. This measurement corresponds with the width of the part of the bracket that must fit between the square tube and the drive column.


To make room for the bracket to fit between the square tube and the drive column, raise the piston up as high as possible while keeping the mounting hole within the bracket.


Measure the gap between the tube and the drive column.


One other consideration is this holding pin. It will go through the bracket, into the piston mounting hole and out the other side of the bracket.


There must be enough of a gap between the inner side of the bracket and the Center Support so this spring ball will exit the inner side of the bracket


Draw up a quick design on the closest thing to write on (the side of the Center Support).


Cut out the pieces.


And do a test fit.


Take one more measurement.


Update the drawing.


Drill out the pin holes.


Fit the bracket together.




Use a piece of square tube as a guide to mark on one bracket piece the location of the two holes and then drill out.




Use the first piece as a guide to mark both holes in the second piece of the bracket.


Drill out both holes in the second bracket.
MISTAKE
I should have known there was no way I was going to drill those second set of holes in the EXACT same place just by using the marks. It only has to be off by .01" and the bolt won't fit.


The SMART way would have been to drill the first hole then bolt the two bracket pieces together and drill the second hole using the first piece as a guide.

Which is what I did to fix it.

Need to bolt the bracket to the square tube. Because of the clearance issue I'm putting the bolt head between the bracket pieces and the nut inside the tube.


To use the socket inside the square tube the bolt can't be too long. I found a 1/2" bolt (top bolt) too short and the 3/4" bolt (bottom bolt) too long. So by hacksawing off three threads from the end of a 3/4" bolt I have the perfect length.


Use the modified socket with the magnetic tool to get the nut on the end of the bolt inside the square tube.


One small problem. The nut keeps wanting to jump out due to the magnetic attraction.


Hold the nut down till it gets started inside the tube and it will stay in place.


Use the same method for tightening bracket that was used for the Seat Platform angle.


Position the square tube in the guideway and use the pin to connect the piston to the bracket and check alignments.


Attach the power to the actuator and run the tube in and out several times. Laugh like a mad scientist.




Not done yet.
Even with all my careful measurements I made a mistake somewhere. When the actuator is full extended (sofa position) the end of the square tube should be even with the front of the Center Support. As you can see here it's off by a little more than a 1/8" of an inch.


To fix this problem I reposition the base of the actuator until the square tube is flush with the edge of the Center Support. Drill a new hole and bolt the actuator base to this new spot.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

I'll interrupt the sofa-bed build to report on my Bonehead Play of the Month.
Actually I hope this is my bonehead play of the entire build.
I mentioned previously about hooking up quick disconnects to one battery to power the actuators.


The one thing missing in this setup was a fuse. "Why Bother", I thought. I'll always be close at hand and will see any problems in time to disconnect the battery.

That was a Bonehead Move.

Last night I was testing out where to position the second actuator. It will raise the Back Platform.


I had quickly fabricated a square bracket for the piston end.


What I didn't realize was that the square nature of the bracket stopped the piston from retracting completely if it was positioned at an angle. So during testing the piston goes to the closed position and stops. I thought it had hit it's internal limit switch and just shut off like normal. Wrong-O.
The square bracket had stopped it from closing but the current was still flowing. This is where the fuse would have blown.

When I go to move the actuator a few minutes later the motor has gotten warm. A soon as I feel it I realize what has happened and kill the power but it's too late. The motor is toast. Now I'm ticked off for two reasons. One is that I've probably just shot $119.99. But what bothers me even more at his point is that this actuator is the last thing I've got to get right before the major work on the sofa-bed is done. The actuator company is out in Washington state and a new actuator will take at least a week to get here. I could overnight it but I hate paying that much for shipping.

It was too late to do anything about the first problem but I thought I had a solution to the second problem. I have a 18" actuator I was going to use for a TV lift and the motors look to be the same. I contacted Firgelli Automations this AM and they conformed that the motors were the same. They also told me they don't carry spare parts. So no new motor. I'll have to buy an whole new actuator.

I guess it's time to add "Firgelli Automations Actuator Repairman" to my resume.
What follows is instructions for swapping out a motor. WARNING: Firgelli don't provide any instructions.
This is just what I can up with.
Remove the three screws form the base of the unit.


Remove the base plate.


You will see three gears. carefully remove the three gears. They will just slide off. Be mindful of the washers on the ends of the gears.


Notice the three little hold down washers that keep the wires in place. Carefully remove them.


There are three wire connections covered with shrink tube.


Connection 1 is limit switches to motor.
Connection 2 is outside power to motor.
Connection 3 is outside power to limit switches.

Note that the black wire coming from the motor goes to connection 1 and the red wire goes to connection 2.

If you are just replacing the motor you'd only have to undo connections 1 and 2. I was hoping against hope that maybe the fault was else where so I unhooked all the connections then used a voltmeter to look for shorts or opens. Also provided 12 volts to just the motor. It's the motor all right.

Once you carefully cut away the shrink tube from the wires you'll find them just twisted together.


That was a lucky break since I didn't have to worry about cutting the wires to get them apart. Everything is so tight there is no wire to spare.

Remove the two screws that hold down the motor.




Repeat all these steps on the 18" actuator and remove it's motor.


Mount the new motor and join the wires. Be sure to get the colored wire to the correct connection. Cover the joints with shrink tubing then use a heat gun on the tubing.


Here all the wires have been joined and shrink tubed. The three hold down washers are in place.


Put the three gears back into place and before closing it up apply power to see if it works. It did.


Be mindful of the gasket when closing it up.




OK, that's all done.
Now to correct the original mistake.
I stopped at Advance auto on the way home today and bought these. An inline ATC fuse holder and spare fuses.




Add the in-line fuse holder to my little battery power setup. Better late than never.


On the bright side I also picked up this nifty fuse tester with the spare fuses.


It allows you to test if the fuse is blown without having to remove it from it's holder. I'm sure this will come in handy.


I have no idea if I'll be able to fix this bad motor. Won't know until I give it a try but I'll worry about that some other time.


We now return to our regularly scheduled sofa-bed build already in progress.
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:22 PM   #15
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

I've finished work on the drive mechanism mounted to the Center Support. Before I can attach the Center Support to the Kick Board I have to make a cut to the center "corner" block on the Kick Board. This will make room for the base end of the 12" actuator. If I hadn't glued that block into place this would have been easier.


Put the bits together.




Cut the 3" x 74" Middle Brace from 19/32" plywood. Glue and screw 1-1/2" corner blocks to the ends of the Middle Brace. Then use clamps to position the Middle Brace to the back side of of both end pieces.
Then drill holes for and add two 5/16" bolts on each end.


Glue and screw a corner block in the middle of the Middle Brace to support the Center Support. This was a MISTAKE. Just like the corresponding block on the front Kick Board I should have just screwed it into place in case I need to make adjustments to the position of the Center Support.




Put the Seat Platform into place and finish adding the metal angles on the top edge of the platform to make a kind of slider.




Hook up the actuator and use it to drive the Seat Platform back and forth.


I found that I couldn't stop the platform from jamming as it moved back and forth. I realized I had made two design failures.
My attempts at sliders just had too much friction even with several modifications I made after this first trial. I'll attempt to fix this by using heavy duty drawer sliders.
The second problem was I hadn't provided a way to keep the drive mechanism on center. I knew this when I first built it but I assumed the Seat Platform would keep it centered. It didn't and this just added to the jamming problem. I'll have to make some additions to the drive mechanism.

Onward and upward.

continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:23 PM   #16
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

Need to replace my home made sliders with heavy duty drawer hardware. I'm using Schock Metal 037 Series, 350mm (13.78") full extension drawer slide. $25.61 a pair.
Schock Metal web site





They are rated at 209lbs. Since the Seat Platform is fully supported in the center I believe that they should be sufficient.

I'm going to make some modifications to the slides. To make it easier for me to explain I've taken a diagram from the company website and given names to the three main parts of the drawer slide.


In my build the Base Plate will be attached to one of the end pieces. The Inner Slider will be attached, via a metal angle, to the Seat Platform. The reason I wanted to make modifications was because I wanted to increase the number, size and position of the mounting hardware. I'm not an engineer and have no way to validate my changes. I just felt the hardware should be a bit sturdier.

Start with the base plate. It comes with four mounting holes. More apt to say two pairs of mounting holes since they are so close together.


This metal dimple in the Middle Slider restricts the size of the attachment hardware.


The head of a #10 machine screw is the largest that will pass under the dimple.


I want to increase this from a #10 (0.19" diameter) screw to a 1/4" bolt.

To do this I first need to remove the "stop" at the end of the Base Plate.


Flip the slide over. The "stop" is hold on by a rivet. Drill down on the rivet head to weaken it.


Then knock it out with a punch.


With the "stop" out of the way you can now over-extend the Middle Slider. I've over-extended the slider and placed the dimple on top of one jaw of my bench vise.


Using the vice like an anvil I pound down the dimple with hammer and punch until it's as flat as I can make it. Now the head's of a 1/4" bolt will pass beneath it.




Now to add a couple more mounting holes. Between the Base Plate and the Middle Slider is a ball-bearing slider. There is a separate ball-bearing slider between the Middle and Inner Sliders. The 1/4" bolt won't fit under this ball-bearing slider. See where the ball-bearing slider sits when the slide is in the closed position and mark that spot. The bolt must be mounted to the left of this position.


Use that mark as a guide for where to drill a hole along the center-line of the Base Plate. Also add a mark for a hole near the left end.


The ball bearing tracks are greased and when you start drilling the Base Plate the filings can get into the tracks and cause problems. I found this works to keep the filings out. Get a round magnet with a hole in the center. Then center the magnet over where you're going to add a hole. Slowly drill through the center of the magnet.


All the filings stick to either the drill bit or the magnet.


Wipe the filings off the drill bit. To get the filings off the magnet just push a small screw through the hole in the magnet. Most all the filings will jump from the magnet to the screw. Then just tap the screw on the inside of the trash can and the filings fall right off. Do that a couple times and the magnet will be mostly clear. The few filings left on the magnet can be easily dusted off into the trash. Don't tap the magnet to loosen filings. Banging on a magnet weakens it.


The Base Plate can now be mounted with four 1/4" bolts.


Next up the Inner Slider.

continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:23 PM   #17
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

Here is the Inner Slider. It has four mounting holes but two are so close together I'll just consider it as having three mounting points. I want to increase that to five.


Just like with the Base Plate, there is a "stop" that dictates the size of a screw that can be used with the Inner Slider. The largest screw that the unmodified slide will allow is a #6. I want to increase that at least to a #10 screw.
For comparison here are (from L to R) #6 (0.13"), #8 (0.16") , #10 (0.19") machine screws and a 1/4" (0.25") bolt.


The stop is located on the Middle Slider.
Here you can see the stop and how it won't clear the head of a #10 screw on the Inner Slider.




To modify the slide, drill out the rivet holding the stop in place just like I did with the Base Plate.




Warning: After you remove the stop from the Middle Slider, the next time you move the Inner Slider this is what's going to happen.

The ball-bearing slider is going to pop out from between the Middle and Inner Slider. That is after all what the "stop" was meant to stop from happening. Even being as careful as I could, one of the ball bearing took off and was last seen heading for a new life under the washing machine.

To fix this situation take a #6 screw and with a hacksaw, shorten it to about .3".
MISTAKE: In this picture I'm not doing this correctly. If you are going to saw off part of a machine screw or bolt always thread on a nut so it's between the head and where you're making your cut. Then after you're done cutting, unscrew the nut all the way off. The nut moving through the just cut threads will sometimes help in knocking off burrs and correcting misalignment in the threads.


Sometimes a little filing is needed to correct thread ends.


Take some needlenose pliers and insert the shortened #6 screw into the stop hole.


Screw on and tighten down a nut. I should have put some locktite on the screw. I'll have to go back and fix that.


Use the hacksaw to remove any protruding threads.




The new stop still restrains the ball-bearing slider but allows a #10 screw head to pass by it.




Use the magnet to catch the filings and drill two more holes in the Inner Slider.


That gives me the five mounting points.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:24 PM   #18
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

With the modifications on the slides done I have to drill holes in the metal angles. The angles will be screwed to the slides and the Seat Platform will rest on and be bolted to the angle.


The metal angle is 2" high/wide and made of aluminum. Clamp the angle to the Inner Slider.


Since the angle is aluminum the magnet trick won't work for these drill holes. I made sure to keep the aluminum filings way from all the ball-bearings as I drilled.


After drilling the five holes don't let the Inner Slider retract into the Middle Slider until you've brushed it off and gave it a right good knocking on the table. Some missed shavings might still fall out.


Drill the holes for then bolt one of the slides to the end piece.


To mount the bolt through the hole closest to the edge you have to line up this square hole on the Middle Slider over the bolt hole.


With the slide mounted, next up is to mount the metal angle to the Inner Slider.
Start with the inner most screw hole. To get the screw through this hole you'll have to line up the same square hole in the Middle Slider that was used to mount the last bolt.




Mount the screw from underneath. There is just enough room to get this screw through and tightened.




The other four screws are easier to mount.




This angle will provide the support for the Seat Platform while the sofa-bed is in the bed position. I need to provide another angle for the support of the Back Platform while in the bed position.


I have to notch this angle so the seat angle will fit next to it when the Seat Platform is in the seat position.




Mount the second angle.


Here is how the two angles fit together.




Repeat all the above steps on the other end piece.

While I was working on the end pieces I was under direct supervision.


Everybody's a critic.


continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 03:25 PM   #19
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

I've fixed the first design problem by replacing my home-made slides with drawer hardware. Now to tackle the other issue with the drive mechanism.


The drive mechanism can move off of center as the picture shows. This can cause the Seat Platform to jam at an angle.


Bolt two different angled pieces together so they look something like a backwards "Z".


Attach the backwards "Z" to the Center Support so it acts as a guide for the bottom edge of the "L" bracket. The "Z" will keep the "L" bracket, and the drive mechanism, from swinging off center.


The "Z angle is installed along the length of the "L" bracket travel.


There is not enough of the "L" bracket under the "Z" angle for me to be totally happy with this design. I'll revisit it in the future.


Funny thing. Just in typing up this posting I've come up with a similar but better plan. That will have to be in a different posting since I haven't tried it yet.

continued -
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Old 05-04-2010, 07:01 PM   #20
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Default Re: Converting a 1999 Ford E-250 to a camper van

Sofa-bed continued:

Assemble the different pieces to see how everything works together. I took care to make sure the sofa-bed was square as I bolted it together. The best way for me is to measure diagonally from each corner.



If the measurements are the same then everything is square.

As I tighten up the bolts I would continue to re-check the square.


Did some testing with just the Seat Platform but I'll need to attach the two Platforms together to move farther along on the testing


Line up the two Platforms.


I'm using four hinges to join the two Platforms. I choose this style hinge because I happened to have them laying around. This picture shows that the hinge doesn't lay flat. There is more than one way to deal with this but the method I've chosen is to create a gap between the two Platforms. This gap wasn't in the original plan but it's not going to create any problems.


With this hinge the perfect gap happens to match the thickness of a piece of 19/32" plywood. Clamp a scrap plywood piece between the two Platforms to hold them in place.




Measure and mark out the positions of hinges.


Separate the two platforms. Using the marks and a clamp, line up one hinge. Then drill holes for the 1/4" bolts I'll be using to secure the hinges.


Do this for all the hinges on both platforms.


Bolt the two Platforms together and place on the sofa-bed frame. Use clamps to hold the Seat Platform to the metal angles on the end slides and the Center Support.


One of the first things I did with the Seat and Back Platforms joined and in place was to figure out what the optimum angle for the Back Platform should be while in the sofa position. Use clamps to hold the Back Platform at different angles. Kept changing it until I found what was most comfortable.


I like 112 degrees from the Seat Platform. I'm hoping this will still be OK once I install padding.




continued -
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