Andrew's Craftsman Van Conversion

by | May 20, 2015 | 50 comments

Andrew's Craftsman Van Conversion

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Andrew picked up this very nice high-top conversion van for not very much money and turned into a wonderful home. His electricity comes from a Goal Zero solar kit hanging o the side of the van

Andrew picked up this very nice high-top conversion van for not much money and turned it into a wonderful home. His electricity comes from a Goal Zero solar kit hanging on the side of the van

I don’t want to have a constant flow of travel blogs so today I’m going to mix it up and show you one of the nicer van conversions I’ve seen, made by my friend Andrew who is a carpenter from Vermont. Being a carpenter, he has the skill and tools to do some very exquisite work on his van. It’s hard to show you just how well it is done in these photos, but I hope you can get the idea.
Looking at the side behiind the drivers seat you can see the incredible beauty and craftsmanship in the van.

Looking at the side wall behind the drivers seat you can see the incredible beauty and craftsmanship in the van. The counter-top is held up by a commercial  shelf unit.

Because of his skills and access to tools, he also had a lot of very creative ideas and they are what I really want you to see. You may not have the skill to make as beautiful a conversion, but I hope you you can take some of his very creative ideas and apply them to your van no matter your skill level.
The sink is simple but very practical. Below it he has stores some of his carpentry tools so he can work on the road.

The sink is simple but very practical. Below it he stores some of his carpentry tools so he can work on the road.

One advantage he had as a carpenter is access to cheap but high quality materials. When ever he did a demo of a house or kitchen he was able to salvage some of the wood for his own use. His van is done in Beech wood which is both very beautiful and also very tough
Because he has a high-top, he wanted to gain more vertical storage. space. So he built a storage shelf along the perimiter of the van. It doesn't interfere with his movement in the van, but gains a lot of storage.

Because he has a high-top, he wanted to regain more vertical storage. space. So he built a storage shelf along the top, outside perimeter of the van. It doesn’t interfere with his movement in the van, but gains a lot of storage. In the previous photos you can see it’s also above  the sink

One of the very best things he did was build a sliding bed that slides away during the day and pulls out at night to become a very wide bed. It’s not that difficult to make, most of us should be able to figure it out from the photos and do it ourselves. Imagine the fingers on your hands sliding in and out of each other and that’s how the bed works. There are two sides each with “fingers” that slide in and out of each other. The stationary part has 4 legs and the moving part has 2 legs with half its weight resting on the stationary part of the bed.
The bed pulled out for sleeping.

The bed pulled out for sleeping.

The bed pushed back into it's daytime position.

The bed pushed back into it’s daytime position.

He uses a futon mattress to sleep on which folds nicely to become a coach for lounging during the day and then a bed at night.  At night he sleeps great and during the day he can move back and forth easily. An unexpected benefit of the slats in the bed is that it gives good ventilation to the mattress. Many times the moisture from perspiration can pool on the bottom sheet of plywood and in the morning it can be surprisingly damp. With the slats it vents very well and no moisture builds up.
With the bed made out it's very large for a single guy with a dog, or it could even fit two.

With the bed made out it’s very large for a single person, or it could even fit two.

Looking back with the bed pushed away giving the van a very open feeling.

Looking back with the bed pushed away for daytime use giving the van a very open feeling.

In the picture below looking forward at the front you can see that he put in a swivel seat. Either reversing your seat so it faces backwards or getting a swivel seat is one of the very best things you can do in a van. They make excellent recliners that give you a very comfortable place to lounge. It also opens up the space and makes the van feel much larger and more open. If you reverse your seat, be very careful it doesn’t block your view of the side mirror or out the side window. That would be both illegal and very dangerous. His cooler is between the seats. You can also see that he’s continued the overhead storage all the way around the front of the van. Not only is his van truly beautiful, it’s very functional as well.
Looking forward at the swivel seat and more storage along the top.

Looking forward at the swivel seat and more storage along the top.

One of the things I loved the most about Andrew’s van is how he used the space on the door which is usually wasted. In the pictures below you can see he attached a cabinet onto one of the doors and he put his dogs water and food dishes on the other. Those of you with dogs know its a problem to find a place to keep their food and water dishes and this is a brilliant solution! The dog can reach them from either inside or outside and if they spill they do no harm because they fall onto the ground or onto the entry step. I loved this! The cabinet on the other door lets him to cook on it either inside or outside and use it for storage as well.
His dog's food dish on one door and the cabinet on the other are both easily accessible inside or out.  I guess I though you would like a picture of my knee. No extra charge for that!

His dog’s food and water dish in on one door and the cabinet on the other. Both easily accessible inside or out. I guess I thought you would like a picture of my knee. No extra charge for that!

This cabinet is attached to the door and can be used from the outside or inside.

The cabinet is attached to the door and can be used from inside or out.

He left the back mostly open so he could use his porta-potty back there. It’s separated off by a storage closet.
andrew-back

You can barely see the porta-potty on the bottom of the picture and he hangs items above it to use the space.

 
In this shot from the back door the bed is pulled out, but if it were put away you can see he could use the porta-potty from inside.  He hangs coats and other items above it to regain the space.

In this shot from the back door the bed is pulled out, but if it were put away you can see he can use the porta-potty from inside. He hangs coats and other items above it to regain the space. Toilet paper is handy on the door.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Andrew’s Craftsman Van as much as I did and got some great ideas for your next build! 

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50 Comments

  1. Calvin R

    Andrew clearly knows how to use his particular skills and resources well. His van is indeed beautiful as well as highly functional. I noticed that outside of his specialties he keeps his systems simple, and I respect that as well.

    • Bob

      I agree Calvin, mostly it’s very simple, just extremely well done. It epitomizes quality over quantity!
      Bob

  2. Old Fat Man

    That is a great conversion. A lot of good ideas in that design.

    • Lucy

      Simply, WONDERFUL van !
      Lucy.
      PS: How creative to place the solar panels on the side of the van, easy, accesible to clean & to reposition then, GREAT IDEA !!!

      • Bob

        Lucy, that’s a portable Goal Zero kit so it’s easy to set up and take down. One idea I’ve been thinking about is doing the same thing with the flexible solar panels hanging down the side. They have grommets so it would be super easy to attach them and take them off.
        Bob

    • Bob

      Very true Old Fat Man!
      Bob

  3. richard smith

    Nice setup! You used your space well. The bunk is very well done! Great craftsmanship! Thanks!

    • Bob

      richard, Andrew really did a great job.
      Bob

  4. Linda Sand

    I love the idea that I could sleep on that bed without opening it but have the option of opening it if Dave went with me on a short jaunt.

    • Bob

      It would be perfect for you Linda!
      Bob

      • Andrew

        unless i am planning on staying put for a while most times i just sleep in futon mode. if my dog had any desire to sleep with me i might open it up more often but he would rather sleep in the front seats or under the bed. makes moving around easier.

  5. Man On Run

    You become wise by observing others Bob, and I become wise by observing you.

    • Bob

      That’s very kind of you Man on the Run! But I hate to admit it but i am not all that wise, but I learned that lesson myself, so I observe the wise ones, like Andrew.
      And now I’ve got you all fooled!
      Bob

  6. tommy helms

    That is a work of art

    • Bob

      Indeed it is tommy!
      Bob

  7. fablefox

    That bed idea is smart. I’ve seen it before (the design). Wisely done in this regard.

    • Bob

      fablefox, It is a great idea. You’r right though, it is not the first time I’ve seen it either, but it is very well done.
      Bob

  8. Richard

    Hi Bob,
    Very nice setup. Has a good feeling to it.
    Just wondering where he keeps his batteries for his solar?
    Thanks,
    Richard

    • Bob

      Richard, I agree, it really is a warm and welcoming feeling.
      It’s Goal Zero kit and they are portable so he can move it around, plus, I’m pretty sure they are quite small.
      Bob

  9. Joy

    I loved so many of the unique ways he made a place for everything to be functional and so roomy, as needed. I love the idea of the kitchen on the door, and doggie dishes!

    • Bob

      Me too Joy. Those were my favorites!
      Bob

      • Lucy

        Bob, I have been wondering about all the weight placed on the doors ( the shelves, doggie dishes etc ) wouldn’t it pull the door down in such way as to be stressful to the door hinges ??
        My regards, Lucy.

        • Bob

          Lucy, I don’t think it is enough to be an issue. It could if you got carried away bu I don’t think he did.
          Bob

          • Lucy

            Bob, where has he placed the batteries-bank ??
            Lucy.

          • Bob

            Lucy, because it’s a Goal Zero portable kit, he can move it anywhere he wants, it doesn’t take up much room.
            Bob

          • Lucy

            So, do U mean to say that there are NOT batteries involved ??? If there are no batteries, where is the power stored ?
            My regards, Lucy.

        • Andrew

          The battery looks like a car battery. i have not found its finally resting place in the van. as bob says it is very portable and when you get the chance you can take it inside a house to charge it up. I run LED lights and power my electronics with it. with no sun it last a couple days. with good sun the solar seems to keep up with the demand but never reaches 100%charge. i only have 60 watt solar. i am looking into getting a 100 watt panel and linking a couple smaller batteries to this to increase what i can actually power. it will charge while driving but my goal is not to turn the motor over unless i have to.

  10. Rob

    That’s the bed design I’ve been looking for, only better than what I’ve done!
    Nice job on everything.

    • Bob

      It really is a great job Rob!
      Bob

  11. Jim at Growing Faith

    Wow, that is a very nice conversion! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Bob

      You’re very welcome Jim.
      Bob

  12. Sharon

    I love seeing these examples of how it’s done. What great craftsmanship! Though I aspire to van living, I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. Seeing examples like this though, gives me ideas for living in a smaller, less expensive space though.
    Thank you Bob!

    • Bob

      Sharon, every great thing done by humans began with dreams and inspiration, now that you are finding yours, hopefully your circumstances will line up to let them come true!
      Bob

    • Andrew

      I bought this van 7 years ago. this was the second make over i did on it. I also wanted to live out of a van. I never did until this past thanksgiving. In the first 5 years it was a weekend warrior and summer vacation. also great for summer BBQ’s have a couple drinks then spend the night. but now my life is based 100% out of my van. sometimes in order to get to your dreams you have to make a step towards the goal. even baby steps are moving forward.

  13. Ming

    nice conversion! I love that you feature such a diversity of rolling homes, it demonstrates the breadth of human inventiveness and ingenuity. There are ideas there to inspire anyone, no matter how much money they have to work with.

    • Bob

      Ming, there just is not only one way to do this thing! I’ve seen thousands of different setups and each worked well for it’s creator.
      Bob

  14. Cae

    I love seeing how a craftsman customizes his work. Thanks.

    • Bob

      Me too Cae! I could no more make my van look like his than I can fly to the moon, but I sure enjoy looking at his.
      Bob

  15. PJT

    What an awesome conversion! I especially love the construction of the bed. Great workmanship.

    • Bob

      Yes it is PJT!
      Bob

  16. Lynnzie

    Thanks Bob,
    This was one of the best posts with the MOST ideas for a van to really make it homey as well as giving it a more spacious look. Love what he did with door tables. I also put a futon in my van and can use it as a bed or couch. I will bookmark this one and Try some of his ideas.
    Can Andrew be hired to help others with van make overs?

    • Bob

      I agree Lynnzie, it is a very good job! I’m not sure about the make-overs, but I doubt it.
      Bob

    • Andrew

      I don’t know about building vans. i would love to do this as a job. problem is if i would charge $20 an hour it would add up fast costing as much as an already built van. part of the van community i have fallen in love with is everyone has there own style and everyone will help out another VanDwellwer. I think you build a connection and almost pride in living out of a van if you did the work to get you there. i used Bobs site for a lot of idea when building mine. I hope my van can help the next person as other vans have helped me.

  17. Arkena

    Thought the van came out great,It’s really nice that everyone can do their Van’s to suit their needs. Im thrilled I found this site, about two years ago, I’ve been prepping to move into my van within the next few weeks, I’ll keep you posted when it happens and send Bob details and pictures of what has been put into my the project. So looking forward to sharing this with al of you. 🙂

    • Bob

      Thanks Arkena, I always look forward to readers pics of their conversions and builds!
      Bob

  18. Nick

    Where do van dwellers shower?

    • Bob

      Nick, nearly all vandwellers without built in facilities use some use some combination of solar shower, sponge baths and wet wipes to stay clean and a urinal of some kind like a bottle or pot (women can use a funnel to direct it into a bottle) and for pooping either a porta potti or some kind of bucket like a 5 gallon or 1 gallon lined with bags. Some use it one time, others use it multiple times with kitty litter, peat moss, newspapers or other medium.
      Bob

  19. Mose

    It looks like he covered over the windows completely on the drivers side? I have a conversion van and I am considering doing that in my build. Any idea what he covered them with before he attached the wood?

  20. Snikwahmj

    Bob, did you ever try the flexible solar panels held on with grommets? Is there more info for that?

Table of Contents

50 Comments

  1. Calvin R

    Andrew clearly knows how to use his particular skills and resources well. His van is indeed beautiful as well as highly functional. I noticed that outside of his specialties he keeps his systems simple, and I respect that as well.

    • Bob

      I agree Calvin, mostly it’s very simple, just extremely well done. It epitomizes quality over quantity!
      Bob

  2. Old Fat Man

    That is a great conversion. A lot of good ideas in that design.

    • Lucy

      Simply, WONDERFUL van !
      Lucy.
      PS: How creative to place the solar panels on the side of the van, easy, accesible to clean & to reposition then, GREAT IDEA !!!

      • Bob

        Lucy, that’s a portable Goal Zero kit so it’s easy to set up and take down. One idea I’ve been thinking about is doing the same thing with the flexible solar panels hanging down the side. They have grommets so it would be super easy to attach them and take them off.
        Bob

    • Bob

      Very true Old Fat Man!
      Bob

  3. richard smith

    Nice setup! You used your space well. The bunk is very well done! Great craftsmanship! Thanks!

    • Bob

      richard, Andrew really did a great job.
      Bob

  4. Linda Sand

    I love the idea that I could sleep on that bed without opening it but have the option of opening it if Dave went with me on a short jaunt.

    • Bob

      It would be perfect for you Linda!
      Bob

      • Andrew

        unless i am planning on staying put for a while most times i just sleep in futon mode. if my dog had any desire to sleep with me i might open it up more often but he would rather sleep in the front seats or under the bed. makes moving around easier.

  5. Man On Run

    You become wise by observing others Bob, and I become wise by observing you.

    • Bob

      That’s very kind of you Man on the Run! But I hate to admit it but i am not all that wise, but I learned that lesson myself, so I observe the wise ones, like Andrew.
      And now I’ve got you all fooled!
      Bob

  6. tommy helms

    That is a work of art

    • Bob

      Indeed it is tommy!
      Bob

  7. fablefox

    That bed idea is smart. I’ve seen it before (the design). Wisely done in this regard.

    • Bob

      fablefox, It is a great idea. You’r right though, it is not the first time I’ve seen it either, but it is very well done.
      Bob

  8. Richard

    Hi Bob,
    Very nice setup. Has a good feeling to it.
    Just wondering where he keeps his batteries for his solar?
    Thanks,
    Richard

    • Bob

      Richard, I agree, it really is a warm and welcoming feeling.
      It’s Goal Zero kit and they are portable so he can move it around, plus, I’m pretty sure they are quite small.
      Bob

  9. Joy

    I loved so many of the unique ways he made a place for everything to be functional and so roomy, as needed. I love the idea of the kitchen on the door, and doggie dishes!

    • Bob

      Me too Joy. Those were my favorites!
      Bob

      • Lucy

        Bob, I have been wondering about all the weight placed on the doors ( the shelves, doggie dishes etc ) wouldn’t it pull the door down in such way as to be stressful to the door hinges ??
        My regards, Lucy.

        • Bob

          Lucy, I don’t think it is enough to be an issue. It could if you got carried away bu I don’t think he did.
          Bob

          • Lucy

            Bob, where has he placed the batteries-bank ??
            Lucy.

          • Bob

            Lucy, because it’s a Goal Zero portable kit, he can move it anywhere he wants, it doesn’t take up much room.
            Bob

          • Lucy

            So, do U mean to say that there are NOT batteries involved ??? If there are no batteries, where is the power stored ?
            My regards, Lucy.

        • Andrew

          The battery looks like a car battery. i have not found its finally resting place in the van. as bob says it is very portable and when you get the chance you can take it inside a house to charge it up. I run LED lights and power my electronics with it. with no sun it last a couple days. with good sun the solar seems to keep up with the demand but never reaches 100%charge. i only have 60 watt solar. i am looking into getting a 100 watt panel and linking a couple smaller batteries to this to increase what i can actually power. it will charge while driving but my goal is not to turn the motor over unless i have to.

  10. Rob

    That’s the bed design I’ve been looking for, only better than what I’ve done!
    Nice job on everything.

    • Bob

      It really is a great job Rob!
      Bob

  11. Jim at Growing Faith

    Wow, that is a very nice conversion! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Bob

      You’re very welcome Jim.
      Bob

  12. Sharon

    I love seeing these examples of how it’s done. What great craftsmanship! Though I aspire to van living, I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. Seeing examples like this though, gives me ideas for living in a smaller, less expensive space though.
    Thank you Bob!

    • Bob

      Sharon, every great thing done by humans began with dreams and inspiration, now that you are finding yours, hopefully your circumstances will line up to let them come true!
      Bob

    • Andrew

      I bought this van 7 years ago. this was the second make over i did on it. I also wanted to live out of a van. I never did until this past thanksgiving. In the first 5 years it was a weekend warrior and summer vacation. also great for summer BBQ’s have a couple drinks then spend the night. but now my life is based 100% out of my van. sometimes in order to get to your dreams you have to make a step towards the goal. even baby steps are moving forward.

  13. Ming

    nice conversion! I love that you feature such a diversity of rolling homes, it demonstrates the breadth of human inventiveness and ingenuity. There are ideas there to inspire anyone, no matter how much money they have to work with.

    • Bob

      Ming, there just is not only one way to do this thing! I’ve seen thousands of different setups and each worked well for it’s creator.
      Bob

  14. Cae

    I love seeing how a craftsman customizes his work. Thanks.

    • Bob

      Me too Cae! I could no more make my van look like his than I can fly to the moon, but I sure enjoy looking at his.
      Bob

  15. PJT

    What an awesome conversion! I especially love the construction of the bed. Great workmanship.

    • Bob

      Yes it is PJT!
      Bob

  16. Lynnzie

    Thanks Bob,
    This was one of the best posts with the MOST ideas for a van to really make it homey as well as giving it a more spacious look. Love what he did with door tables. I also put a futon in my van and can use it as a bed or couch. I will bookmark this one and Try some of his ideas.
    Can Andrew be hired to help others with van make overs?

    • Bob

      I agree Lynnzie, it is a very good job! I’m not sure about the make-overs, but I doubt it.
      Bob

    • Andrew

      I don’t know about building vans. i would love to do this as a job. problem is if i would charge $20 an hour it would add up fast costing as much as an already built van. part of the van community i have fallen in love with is everyone has there own style and everyone will help out another VanDwellwer. I think you build a connection and almost pride in living out of a van if you did the work to get you there. i used Bobs site for a lot of idea when building mine. I hope my van can help the next person as other vans have helped me.

  17. Arkena

    Thought the van came out great,It’s really nice that everyone can do their Van’s to suit their needs. Im thrilled I found this site, about two years ago, I’ve been prepping to move into my van within the next few weeks, I’ll keep you posted when it happens and send Bob details and pictures of what has been put into my the project. So looking forward to sharing this with al of you. 🙂

    • Bob

      Thanks Arkena, I always look forward to readers pics of their conversions and builds!
      Bob

  18. Nick

    Where do van dwellers shower?

    • Bob

      Nick, nearly all vandwellers without built in facilities use some use some combination of solar shower, sponge baths and wet wipes to stay clean and a urinal of some kind like a bottle or pot (women can use a funnel to direct it into a bottle) and for pooping either a porta potti or some kind of bucket like a 5 gallon or 1 gallon lined with bags. Some use it one time, others use it multiple times with kitty litter, peat moss, newspapers or other medium.
      Bob

  19. Mose

    It looks like he covered over the windows completely on the drivers side? I have a conversion van and I am considering doing that in my build. Any idea what he covered them with before he attached the wood?

  20. Snikwahmj

    Bob, did you ever try the flexible solar panels held on with grommets? Is there more info for that?