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Old 12-02-2019, 08:47 PM   #1
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Default 2015 GWV named "Lucy"

You may have seen me on the site as jaak1993, but when my password failed and I reset it I ended up with a new name: JonK.

This thread is intended to document the renovation I've done during the past year of a 2015 GWV. I'll document my thinking and how the project became far more than I originally envisioned. This was not all bad, it's just what happened when my imagination ran away with me. Still, I've ended up with a coach my significant other, also widowed, just plain loves. What could be better than that. I'll post a bit at a time with before and after as I can best describe it and pictures when possible, it's clear now that I should have taken more "before" pics.

Why take a "perfectly good" 2015 GWV with less than 10,000 miles on it and spend a year and non-trivial cash changing it? Well, mostly because I wanted it to better suit our travel plans and pattern. We spent an initial month using it and documented everything we thought would make it more functional for our use, it was quite a list. We also agreed we wanted the interior to look really nice. Achieving all that was a huge task since I have never done any cabinet making, but I learned.

The van was purchased from a dealer at a reasonable price. We had visited ARV and really liked their coaches but being the children of Great Depression parents we just couldn't justify their prices, not that we thought the price was unreasonable, we just couldn't justify it given our intended use. Still, their coaches set an aesthetic bar or baseline for our thinking. Our coach is not an ARV equivalent, I didn't have the capacity for that even with my "free" labor.

I can say two things about the experience; 1) I'm really glad I did it, and 2) I'm never doing that again.

More soon
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Old 12-02-2019, 09:56 PM   #2
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I had a 2011 GWV. Looking forward to your report.
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2015 Advanced RV Ocean One Mercedes Benz Sprinter
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2011 Great West Van Legend Sprinter
2005 Pleasure-way Plateau TS Sprinter
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Old 12-03-2019, 01:05 PM   #3
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Default Thank you Davydd

Davydd: since your travel pattern is similar to our own I have studied your posts a lot and have found them to be very informative in my modifications of Lucy. Thank you for your time and efforts.
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Old 12-03-2019, 06:59 PM   #4
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Default The beginning

I'd previously owned a 40' Newell, really nice, and a 2010 GWV, very nice. I sold them both to provide the resources to buy and modify the 2015 GWN now known as Lucy. Based on the 2010 van I wanted a van with 1) more electrical independence - thanks Davydd, 2) more storage - it's tough to follow a Newell, 3) more creature comforts - fewer head knockers for example, 4) more 4 season capable, 5) elegant interior.

I liked the shower arrangement in the 2010 so that drove the search for another GWV. Lucy came with the Rixen hydronic system and compressor fridge so the driver's side didn't have the massive, and to me, annoying holes in the side. She also came with twin beds, but those were so cobbled up as to invite redoing - more on that later. So, Lucy was a good basis for what we wanted and when we returned home I proceeded to rip out most of the interior.

More later,
Jon
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Old 12-03-2019, 07:09 PM   #5
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Default Design thoughts

I spent untold hours reading this site and the Sprinter site searching for design ideas. I've invested well over 1000 hours of my time getting to where we are now. At least half that time was studying van design, learning how to build the cabinetry, designing and drawing on paper the intended interior, figuring out how to construct it, knowing that I didn't know what I was doing and feeling I needed to build things in a way that would facilitate redo's, learning how to use the new tools I purchased, and figuring out how to almost all this by myself.

An example of ridiculous time investment was figuring out which European hinges I needed. It took a couple weeks. The marketers of these hinges assumed the purchasers were cabinet builders that knew what they were doing. Me? I was really ignorant. It was literally like learning a foreign language because it was. Now I have great hinges that do exactly what I wanted them to do, but I'll never get that two weeks back.

More later,
Jon
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:52 AM   #6
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Default Cabinet Design

A goal was to maximize storage and that meant designing to add every cubic inch possible. There are two basic types of cabinets: face frame and frameless. I chose frameless because it eliminates two sources of wasted volume. With face frames around cabinet doors 3/4" is lost to the face frame before you get to the storage area. Also, with face frames the sides of drawers begin a 1/2" inside the face frame so there is wasted volume between the outside of the drawer slide and the side panel of the cabinet.

Frameless cabinet doors open directly and fully into the cabinet (I'm hoping my attempts to post pictures will clarify). With drawers the slide is mounted directly to the inside of the cabinet side panels.

I size the cabinets with drawers so that with full extension slides the back of the drawers were within a 1/4" of the cabinet back panel. The original drawers in the van were at least an inch from the back when closed. Again, to me this was wasted volume.

Once I decided to go with frameless cabinets, the next consideration was construction materials. The original cabinets were a mix of 1/2" and 3/4" construction with all sorts of internal boxes, particularly on the upper cabinets to create space for lighting, speakers and switches. I chose to use only 3/4" Appleply and to leave the plies revealed and finished as a design feature. Applyply is heavy and expensive, 88 pounds and $128 per sheet, but it simplified the design. The edges were treated with WEST epoxy to bring out the colors of the plies before top coating with polyurethane.

While all this created a "simple" and strong cabinet the frameless aspect required great precision in execution, otherwise the gaps around doors and drawer fronts would look awfully inelegant, drawers wouldn't fit right, and stuff would just not work smoothly. Given that I had never done anything like this I chose to design down to the millimeter and spend a whole lot of money on Festool tools. It's unlikely, with my skill level, I could have achieved the results I desired with the help of these scarily expensive tools.

One thing I failed to do as I disassembled the van was to take loads of pictures to use as reference with how things were put together originally. Given that the job took far longer than I ever imagined it would I forgot a lot in the meantime. It required redoing some things unnecessarily.

It looks like I've got something to learn about posting pictures so I'll post them in the next post.
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Old 12-08-2019, 01:03 AM   #7
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Default Cabinet photos

Here are a couple photos as promised. If there is something particular you would like to see let me know.

IMG_1622.jpg

IMG_E1624.jpg
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Old 12-08-2019, 01:19 AM   #8
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Default Face Frame cabinets

Here is a pic of a face frame cabinet soon to be replaced with a frameless maple veneer cabinet.

FFYX4552.jpg
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Old 12-08-2019, 07:02 PM   #9
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Hi JonK,

Nice woodworking, and nice (but expensive!) choice of tools. You might want to join the Festool Owners Group (FOG) where they have a wealth of helpful knowledge.

Good luck, Dick
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Old 12-08-2019, 07:35 PM   #10
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Did you considered using CNC?. My cabinetry is based frames built from factory machined aluminum profiles and CNCed HDPE panels. Without CNC I would not be able to achieve tight fit and finish with Festool or other good tools. You can reduce cost if you provide a CNC shop with CNC formated CAD drawings.
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Old 12-08-2019, 10:26 PM   #11
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Default Cabinet construction

Dick: thanks for the kind words. I've spent hours on FOG learning to use the tools.

George: I followed a lot of your posts and admire what you accomplished. I just couldn't figure out how to get the appearance I wanted with your construction method. Since I've got only one cabinet to go I think I'll stick with what I've been doing.

The cabinets were assembled using screws., Kreg pocket screws, Festool Dominos and Domino connectors so that I could relatively take things apart if I decide to make alterations. I've also used double sided VHB tape in places, but man that stuff sticks to the steel structure so you have to be VERY careful getting the alignment you want before it touches.

The whole face of the galley cabinet was cut from a single piece of plywood so all the grain would match. Since the Festool saw cuts a 2.5mm or so kerf that become my standard gap between doors and drawers. I did the same with the upper cabinet on the passenger side.

Dinner time to more later,
Jon
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Old 12-08-2019, 11:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonK View Post
Dick: thanks for the kind words. I've spent hours on FOG learning to use the tools.

George: I followed a lot of your posts and admire what you accomplished. I just couldn't figure out how to get the appearance I wanted with your construction method. Since I've got only one cabinet to go I think I'll stick with what I've been doing.

The cabinets were assembled using screws., Kreg pocket screws, Festool Dominos and Domino connectors so that I could relatively take things apart if I decide to make alterations. I've also used double sided VHB tape in places, but man that stuff sticks to the steel structure so you have to be VERY careful getting the alignment you want before it touches.

The whole face of the galley cabinet was cut from a single piece of plywood so all the grain would match. Since the Festool saw cuts a 2.5mm or so kerf that become my standard gap between doors and drawers. I did the same with the upper cabinet on the passenger side.

Dinner time to more later,
Jon
Thank you for kind words as well. Getting down to 2.5mm with 3/4" plywood would be very difficult on a CNC router. At best it would be 1/8". Best of luck and I am looking forward to see pictures.
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:38 AM   #13
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Default Insulation

I didn't realize that when I bought this van that it had no insulation in either the walls or the floor. So, when we completed the trip home to Michigan from California I had taken out most of the interior I took up the floor which was 1/2" plywood screwed down through the metal floor with about a half million screws.

Then I got some adhesive backed minicell foam about the same thickness as the depth of the valleys in the floor and the same width as the flats in the bottom of the valleys. This left a small triangular channel on either side of the foam for any moisture to move. On top of that I added a half inch of minicell foam across the whole of the floor. This sheet of foam was glued to the foam below and the tops of the metal floor.

IMG_1183.jpg

On top of the foam I glued 1/2 plywood. I had to add a few screws here and there to get the joints in the plywood to align.

IMG_1199.jpg

I added some foam over the wheel wells and was done with that part. Vinyl flooring came a bit later. One difficulty with the flooring squares has been that temperature changes have created some small gaps between squares that come and go.

We cut Thinsulate to size and tucked it into all the wall cavities and used a fish tape to pull it into the long narrow cavities.
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Old 12-09-2019, 01:15 AM   #14
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Default Lithium Battery

The van came with a couple group 31 batteries stored under the floor at the rear and had to be accessed from underneath. The inverter was a modified sine wave, there was a charger in the electrical cabinet above the fridge, and there were two transfer switches in a space that otherwise would have been the bottom drawer of the galley cabinet. The MSW inverter would not incite the induction hot plate to do anything and the microwave made a lot of noise and failed within a few days. The AC seemed happy but wouldn't run long on the small battery supply.

After a lot of wailing in the dark I decided to have a 10.1 Kwh Volta system with an underhood generator installed by Holland Motorhomes of Holland, Michigan. Everything runs just fine with it, it recharges with less than 2 hours driving, and lasts us at least 4 days without any charging or driving if we don't use the AC. We recently did a 15 day trip and never plugged in once even when we stayed in campgrounds. We can easily go longer if we choose. Our limitation now is water and holding tanks.

The Volta battery stops charging at 41F, stops discharging at -4F, can be stored down to -40F if above 50% charge and the average for a month is no less than -4F. It shuts off charging at around 95% and shuts off discharging at around 5%. The state of charge meter reading is based upon battery voltage which varies between something more than 58V and 48V. While charging off the engine it drops our fuel mileage about 2mpg. It has a 120vac electric heater in the battery that is turns on a 41F and shuts off at 68F (I think). I had the battery mounted in an insulated steel box under the floor. I designed space above the floor in the rear in case I find that battery temperature management becomes a nuisance. So far it has not been. I plan to add a switch to the power cord going to the battery heater so I can control when the battery is able to heat. the heater draws 2.2 amps from the battery in addition to about 1.8 amps for inverter idle.

The inverter/charger, the 48v-12v converter, a surge protector and a couple big bus bars are located under the passenger side twin bed.

IMG_1272.jpg

The grey box in front of the wheel well is the alternator controller which will be behind the kick plate below the bottom drawer of the galley.

The power wiring between all this and the distribution panel above the fridge uses the original wiring.

Be well all,
Jon
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Old 12-09-2019, 11:28 PM   #15
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Default VB air suspension

Once I decided to put the battery under the floor near the rear I was concerned about bashing the battery on something so I checked out the VB air suspension system. It allows raising, or dropping, the rear a few inches as long as speed stays below 10mph. I had also heard about a somewhat smoother ride.

So far, by checking things ahead of time instead of my usual barging in until something hits, I've found I could have gotten along with worrying about the battery. However, we have benefited numerous times with leveling at a parking spot. As I've gotten older I've gotten more crotchety about sleep out of level.

The ride is smoother, but it's hard to tell from the front other than the noise coming from the rear seems to be less though that could be from the different cabinetry. The one thing I didn't expect is for the van to drive more precisely. It drove well to begin with, now it's just a tad better. Who knew?
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Old 12-10-2019, 10:39 PM   #16
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Default Fresh water system

The van came with a Rixen water heater, 1/2" PEX tubing, and numerous water lines running under the floor. I was aware that both ARV and Avanti had used the circulating hydronic fluid to keep these lines from freezing.

When I had the interior pretty much out I removed all the fresh water lines. They were replaced with 3/8" lines all running within the insulated envelop of the van. The supply to the bathroom sink and toilet were routed through the wire trace passage in the upper outside corner of the bathroom surround. I put insulated tubing around the lines in that area. The lines to the galley sink were run on top of minicell insulation in a groove in the metal floor that runs across the van conveniently from the water bay below the fridge to the galley sink area. There is also minicell insulation on the sides of this run and a self regulating heat tape running between them. The plywood floor goes over the top of all that with a thin layer of minicell keeping the tubing from rubbing on the ply. I doubt I will ever need to hook up the heat tape since the hot air heating blows over that area.

The 3/8" tubing has less volume so hot water arrives much sooner. It takes up less space so routing it through the wire run noted above was possible with insulation on the lines. And, so far it we have not noticed any lack of water supply at the sinks or shower. Oh, and I added a thermostatic tempering valve to the hot water supply, otherwise we wasted a lot of water to avoid getting scalded. If you get the Rixen Espar type system, do yourself a favor and have a temping valve, it will literally save your skin.

We also installed a higher arching kitchen faucet which really increased the ease of dish washing.

I also added an accumulator which quiets the water pump and reduced cycling. There wasn't room for it near the pump, used that space to install the tempering valve, so it was installed under the galley sink and does what it's designed to do.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:15 PM   #17
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Default Galley Cabinet

The bed was too short for me by at least a couple inches and I couldn't figure out how to make it longer on the rear end so it had to be at the front end which was where the galley cabinet was. So, I needed to move the aft end of that cabinet forward about 3 inches. I wanted more storage not less so some alterations were needed.

First, I designed the cabinets to be approximately 2" deeper than the original. My partner and I practiced passing each other in the remaining aisle to ensure that no one would be trapped by someone working at the galley. We found we could have made it even wider and allowed us to pass, but at that width the fully opened bathroom door would just touch the cabinet. At the time I couldn't figure out an satisfactory way to alter the bathroom door so it wouldn't hit an even wider cabinet so 2" deeper was the design.

Since the galley was 2" deeper I designed the upper cabinets 2" deeper since that would not increase the likelihood of whacking our heads on them while working in the galley. It also didn't decrease the likelihood.

Moving the rear panel of the galley 3" forward and not wanting to narrow the entry by three inches, again we tried various widths of entry and settled on making it 1" narrower. Now with all 4 sides of the galley cabinet located I went to work designing it to maximize storage. As mentioned earlier I used frameless design which provides an additional 1-1/2" of useful width in the case of drawers and an extra 3/4" depth in the case of doors. I used more of the height of the cabinet while also incorporating a toe kick (a demand by my partner0, and I designed drawers to reach within 1/4" of the cabinet's back wall. All this combined with the extra 2" depth means we have more storage than the original despite giving up 2" of width.

The Galley sink is much larger than the original so we can get our pots and pans in it for washing. The sink is located further forward than originally to reduce whacking our heads on the upper cabinet. The upper cabinet ends where it did originally.

I assembled it 3-4 times in order to get everything to line up properly. I'm not sure why this was necessary but I gradually became unconsciously competent. If I had gone with face frame design this effort would not have been needed, the face frame will easily cover a lot of misalignment if done thoughtfully. Was it worth it? I'm still not sure.

DSCN1115.jpg

DSCN1116.jpg

DSCN1117.jpg

DSCN1121.jpg

If you have questions or which to see a picture I haven't included please let me know
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:25 PM   #18
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Nice work Jon!
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:51 PM   #19
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Great workmanship!
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Old 12-16-2019, 11:25 PM   #20
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Looks like it will be very customized and built to the quality & features of Advance RV. I just hope the price doesn't get to their level. But you have gone first class on your upgrades.
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