First draft of new layout

Some modeling work in progress shots.

Interior framing will be 1×1 16 gauge (.0625) wall tubing. At .83 lbs/foot, it’s lighter than kiln dried 2×4’s (approx. 1.2 lbs/foot), and if some care is given to the way it’s assembled, should be strong or stronger than a wood structure.

For example, the overhead storage structure near the rear of the bus is about 58 linear feet of material, and would weigh something like 48 lbs. Obviously skinning the structure and adding a ply floor to the cargo box makes it a little heavier, but I am hoping my weight estimate for all the framing won’t exceed 500 lbs.

So, that’s like 6 or 7 middle schoolers. I hear they’re mostly water weight though…

The toilet closet has a sliding door hung from a piece of 1/2″ thick plywood, and the master bedroom is separated by another slider, but it’s 1″ thick square steel framed.

I’m planning on sheeting the inside of the exterior walls with .060 white ABS plastic. I’d like to do the same with the interior walls, but it might start to get costly.

Once I get the layout really fine tuned, I’ll get an inventory count of the metal, and go pick up a giant heap of 1x1x.0625 cold roll steel square stock and get to gettin’.

Passenger seats

I picked up some passenger seats for the family. They are freedman brand coach seats that are practically new. While they are fixed back they are comfortable enough. They are made to bolt right onto a bus chair rail.

The price was very motivational. If you’re in the greater seattle area I can get you the hook up for some more of them.

New layout!

I spent some time with my wife this evening trying to fit the layout better, and I think we came up with one that works out really well.

The aisle with the bunks open is 24″ wide all the way to the back.

This layout includes:
24″ x24″ footprints for rv style fridge, washer/dryer stack unit, dishwasher, and propane range

36″x36″ footprint for a 32″x32″ shower kit

26″x40″ toilet room (natures head)

24″x36″ vanity/sink alcove

2 basin kitchen sink in 24″ deep countertop

a couple good storage spaces for bulk food items

lots of storage for clothes and whatever else

4 twin size beds (kids)
1 full size bed (us)

bunks convertible to common area for dinner, activities, and whatever else.

seating for 4 adults in two rows on right side
seating for 2 adults on left side, driver (me) and wife (behind me)

I’m much happier with this configuration. Tomorrow I’ll start drafting all the actual blocks out so I can get an accurate idea for materials. I am planning on fabricating all the framing from 3/4″ and 1″ thin wall cold roll steel square tube, and various welded sheetmetal gussets.

The partition walls will have bracing and foam inside, then skinned with abs plastic sheet that is blind riveted to the steel tube. I expect the thickest partition to be 1 – 1/8″ thick.

Since I have a neat square tube bender, I might try my hand at some radius corners for the overhead storage cabinets. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to that part.

Before skins go on, basic wiring and plumbing, but I plan on ensuring everything has removable access panels to get to things. It’s not a house, and I don’t plan on “entombing” service items like plumbing in inaccessible or hard to get locations.

Until I get annotated dimensional drawings made, I’ll let you make a best guess as to what the hell all those tape lines are.

Bunk frames complete

So the bunks are in, I knew it was going to be a tight squeeze when the beds are “deployed”, and I’m fine with the space. The “squeezeway” is 16″ wide – taking into consideration wall thickness and providing a 32″ wide bath/shower)

It doesn’t feel super tight since you’re scooting along bunks and not squeezed between two walls. The entry to the shower and toilet are sliding pocket doors.

When the beds are folded up, it’s a dance floor. (ok, so it’s really about 56″, or about 53″ when the folding desks are closed up, with the bunks closed)

Bunk progress

Got the bunk frames sanded, painted, holes drilled, and installed. The real story that you don’t see all the parts to is the mounting on the bus itself. I had to take apart the insulation and install the brackets with UHMW plastic bushings to keep as much of the thermal break intact as I could.

The pivoting bed frames are sanded and primed, I just need to paint them and install now.

Next I’ll build the pivoting frame for the master bedroom, and probably start on some partition walls.

The paint turned out surprisingly nice, considering what I used. I think I’ll use this paint setup for all the interior metal components and frames.


Rustoleum etching green primer on lightly scuffed clean and dry steel (no previous paint)

Super cheap “euro gray” (hello, IKEA!) finish:

1 quart rustoleum gloss white
1 quart rustoleum gloss gray
1 quart virgin lacquer thinner

Mix with a paint stirring stick in a gallon can

Use a touch up spray gun, like a cheap one from Harbor Freight.

Set to a fan that’s just wide enough to shoot the parts. Air pressure about 80 psi.

I was spraying in absolutely horrible conditions: near 100 % humidity, and cold, probably 60 F or less.

Turn up heat and let it dry for 24 hours.

The finish turned out as good as factory purchased furniture frames.

One thing that’s neat about those little touch up guns like that is they don’t let the VOC escape, so you can do tricks like fill it full of slightly reduced contact cement for assembling panels and other things that need gluing.

It’ll sit around forever (days) and not dry out. Obviously, that won’t work with a catalyzed material.


It’s been hard to get motivated the last week or so. With only 8 hours of daylight it’s just always dark outside when I have time to work on the bus.

I spent some time finishing up some other stuff, in this case the engine hatch seal and latches. So now that’s all put back together again. I tossed the battery charger on the batteries again too. They were sitting at about 12.3 volts, the charger says “80%” but I’m not sure what that really means.

Anyone with a drivable bus want to come visit? I’ll supply snacks, beer and a bunch of kids. Free unimog rides! It would be fun to fill my neighborhood with some busses so I can regain that urgency to keep working.

Bunk and chair functionality

The white block on the right represents the proposed volume taken by the bathroom and shower. When open, there is 15 inches of clearance between the bath/shower volume and the bunk ends. Not ideal (gee, a slide out would be nice – hint hint), but enough to shuffle past to go pee at night.

Bunks closed, chairs and desk stored.

Bunks closed, chairs and desk in use.

Tricky folding chairs

So the folding bunk beds are more than just beds – they’re a central location for the kids and us to work in during the day as well.

The beds when stowed in the vertical position contain chairs that are secured against the underside of the bed. They consume a few inches of head room for the lower bunk, however I planned on this when designing the bunk headroom.

A standard double twin bunk in an 8′ ceiling has a 40″ headroom before the mattress. Since we’re using thinner memory foam mattresses, all the clearances work out to a standard 30-ish inches even with the chairs fastened to the underside of the upper bunk.

The lower bunk will have a work surface 18″ deep, on the bottom of the lower bunks. The rear work surface won’t be quite as wide to allow ease of passage to the rear bedroom.

This works out to four chairs, an 18″ deep work surface approximately 10′ wide. When it’s time for bed, attach the chairs back to the wall, fold up the desk, and fold down the bunks.

I used a design for a folding chair that I really like that I saw on pinterest somewhere. I think they’re from “Monstrans” I believe that 4 chairs can be cut from two 4’x8′ sheets of 3/4″ plywood.

Note this is both bunks, clamped together back to back for working on.

The bunk frames themselves are just about ready for paint. I’ve build the brackets that need to be attached to the bus, at which point I can bolt them in and get on with my life. The latch mechanism works good enough, and it’s very strong. I plan on picking up some small gas struts that work to unload the weight of the assembly when opening or closing.

They’ll be installed in an over-center position, meaning that they will help keep the bunk closed and keep it from slamming down, and also keep it down once deployed.