Oh The Horror!
OK so lets look at what we wanted to do: Safe accommodation for the dogs – Check! A storage system for our stuff – Check! Somewhere to home the storage system – Che… Oh bummer! Looks like we will have to tackle that next then!
So let’s think about what we require: The storage unit storage (OK I’ll call it the ‘casket’ to stop my brain exploding if I have to type that again 😀 ) has to:
- Support the dog crate and make sure it doesn’t touch the roof lining on the tank
- Allow for the storage of up to 7 Eurocontainers (see Part 2)
- Be strong enough to take some knocks when touring
That can’t be so difficult can it? Apparently when I design something it can!
So my initial design (and here, dear readers, you will have to use your imagination because the CAD drawing for the casket is currently on a laptop that is no more – it is a dead laptop – it has gone to meet its maker 😥 ) was to raise the casket about 7cm on a wooden frame to miss the bottom of the wheel arches in the Tank. Then it would consist of 2 ‘boxes’ one slightly over 600mm wide and 1m deep to take the large Eurocontainers and one 300mm wide and 1m deep to take the medium ones as described in Part 2 so that we can actually put the boxes together as shown there (included below for those who haven’t read Part 2 – Tsktsk! That is cheating though!
The top was (notice the clever use of the past tense there – you will find out why later) designed to be wider than the bottom since at a height of about 270mm there is more width in the tank as you are just above the fittings for the removable rear seats. I measured and remeasured everything and got confirmation from both Isabel and Delta and voila we have a design 🙂
Build It And They Will Come!
Having an initial design the next consideration is what to build the casket out of? There are two possibilities: Wood or metal. Let us look at the second case first. Metal has two main downsides for our needs – it is expensive and it is heavy – well at least is we are to have any strength in it so that pretty much rules it out for this job. That leaves wood – but what type? Well I suppose a nice cherry casket would be nice but not, unfortunately, very practical which sort of leaves us with some kind of sheet material. Since we want this to last for a bit we decided on some good marine plywood since it is strong and waterproof – have any of you ever seen Delta drink? Not a pretty sight believe me! Now what thickness should we get. It comes (around here at least) in sheets 6mm, 9mm (we used that for the bottom of the dog crate – see Part 1), 12mm and 18mm. Well looking into it (OK going to the store and trying to bend the sheets) 6mm is not going to be strong enough and 18mm is too heavy for our needs. Well that leaves either 9mm or 12mm. Mmmm difficult choice but those of you who know me know that I overengineer everything (never, ever, let me tie something to the top of your car – I guarantee you will never get it off!) so I decided to go with the 12mm thick sheet.
Now for the first problem: Neither of us is good at woodwork and in the case of one of us (Adrian) at least we are very ungood at woodwork! How I have never lost any part of my anatomy is a mystery to me! But we do know someone who is very good at carpentry – Enter stage left our friend Clive North. We chatted to him and he foolishly agreed to take my design and turn it into reality. So off he went whilst I was left with the task of putting the frame everything would sit on together whilst trying not to drill through my leg). About a week later he rings the door bell and there is our casket nicely put together with a solid back, routered grooves for the walls and all glued and screwed in place. Excellent!
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
So there it was – all pristine and new. The only thing we had to do was fit it to the Tank! Easy-peasy! We folded the back seats flat, moved the dog crate on to them out of the way, put the frame that I had made into the back, lifted the casket and…
Oh bummer! Second problem – I have forgotten to measure the width of the door and now the casket was too wide to fit through even diagonally. Mmm time for a cup of tea methinks whilst we ponder the problem. Clive was very understanding and said these things happen. OK if we cut a bit off the overhanging top of the casket on one side it will fit if we put it in diagonally. Excellent. In it went.
And it fitted almost perfectly. Just a little modification on the side to make it fit snugly (not my issue this time – all cars have little bumps and things and we knew we would have to do this). Once the modifications were made it looks so sweet. We put a non-slip rubber mat onto the top of the casket and slid the crate back on top and there was about 5cm space above it to the roof lining. Excellent – no wait the crate doors won’t open because the top of them is higher than the lip where the door is by about a couple of centimeters because I hadn’t taken them in to account when designing 😥 . Time for another cup of tea!
So how to fix this one? Well we could take the frame I made out which would give us an extra 5 cm since we would still need to get the bottom of the casket above the loops on the floor for the removable seats (we would need some offcuts of wood I keep ‘just in case’ – well this is definitely one of those ‘just in case’ moments) which should mean the doors open shouldn’t it? OK we slid the crate back, removed the mat, lifted the casket, removed the frame and added the offcuts and then lowered the casket again. No the modifications made to make it fit weren’t enough and needed to be redone. No problem said Clive through slightly clenched teeth. So he marked where the changes needed to be made and we took the casket out and he started on them. I did something useful for a change and made some more tea!
Once that was done we put the modified casket back in the Tank and it once again fitted like a glove. Excel….. errr how are we going to get the wheel spanner and jack out of their little compartment at the back of the tank? ‘I’ll fix it!’ said Clive slightly more abruptly than I thought necessary at this time of day 🙂 . ‘Err shall I make some tea’ I asked to which I got a somewhat curt nod. (OK this is a fictionalised account to increase the dramatic tension – actually Clive was great about the whole thing and his workmanship is of the highest order – we did, however drink a LOT of tea!). Whilst making the tea I heard the rustic sounds of wood being sawn and heads banging on plywood.
This time, however, when we fitted the casket everything was as it should have been so we put the mat forward and slid the crate on top. Wow that looks awesome! We put the two Eurocontainers we currently have in their place to make sure they fits – which they did thankfully! So it looks like we have a storage unit for much less than you can buy off the shelf ones. Thanks Clive – you really are a star!
Well now we have the casket fitted what are the next steps? Well we have made a few ‘modifications’ already (not to the structure but to help it last as long as possible). The first is I added some aluminium bracket to the top back of the unit to protect the edge (I intend doing the same to the bottom back edge).
I have also varnished as much of the casket as I can get to (yes I know that I should have done that before fitting it but I didn’t think of it at the time 🙂 ) using yacht varnish which is great but boy do the fumes give you a headache!
We have also fitted small pieces of carpet tiles to the insides of each of the ‘boxes’ to keep the eurocontainers nice and snug (I shouldn’t be telling you this but we got them free as carpet tile samples but shhhh no-one needs to know that!).
The next job is to fix down the slightly less non-slip than we would have liked non-slip rubber mat which we will do with some construction adhesive and then we need to work out a way of getting the dogs in and out of the crate but that, my friends, is another story…
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