The vehicle we use is pretty much done. It suits our style of travel almost perfectly. We can travel, stay put, sleep, eat, have fun and nearly everything else we can imagine. In this ‘Materials’-series of posts you will find a detailed description of all the stuff we used to build our vehicle, starting with the storage system.We used an aluminum tubing system for the storage boxes. We decided against using a wood-only-construction of birch/poplar plywood for the storage boxes. It simply takes less time to create the boxes with the system and in our opinion the aluminum tubing system is more durable and better looking. The higher cost of this system is something we have to accept.
Handy Tube System
The system we use is called ‘Handy Tube’ and consists of aluminum tubing (extrusions) of 25x25mm and couplings made of glass fiber reinforced PA (Nylon) with a steel inner core. A wide variety of couplings is available which allows really creative use and makes it possible to create almost all thinkable boxes with the system. The extrusions have all sorts of configurations for the flanges, which form rabbets (approx. 9mm wide) for inserting sheet material. There are extrusions with flanges on one, two or three rabbets available as well as no flanges at all, effectively being a square tube.
The sheet material we use is the best 6.5mm birch plywood we can find. It is provided with a High Pressure Laminate (HPL) on both sides, resulting in an overall thickness of about 8,7mm. The sheets are super strong and really help the boxes get their strength when using pop-rivets to secure the sheets to the extrusions. The HPL finish ensures a long-lasting, scratch and water resistant surface for the storage system, which comes in handy when having to deal with the sometimes harsh conditions on (and off) the road. The HPL can be ordered in 1000s of colors and designs and are likely to suit any one’s taste.
The sheet material can be machined with standard wood-working tools such as a circular- or jig saw or even by hand. The cuts are not critical, because they will be covered by the rabbets of the aluminum profiles. We use our CNC milling machine to cut some of the pieces, which enables consistency and more complex shapes.
Our impression and experience
After having created all the storage boxes and having used them for about one year, we can say we are truly happy with them. We have not had any problem at all and even when driving on rough roads, they are great. No rattles, no squeaks, no damage, just flawless.
Really? Is it all that good? No, in all honesty, there are some issues with our setup. But they are not related to the system itself but instead come down to us having to learn how to use it in the building process. For example, before inserting the couplings in the extrusions you have to apply a file to the inside of the extrusions. This enables smooth(er) insertion of the couplings. If you do not do this, you sometimes are unable to insert the coupling completely or some of the coupling’s material will scrape off and get stuck between the edge of the extrusion and the coupling itself, preventing a (near) perfect fit of the tubes and couplings.
Another point is cutting the miters on the flanges of the extrusions, it has to be done very precisely, otherwise the extrusions will not neatly join on the inner corners. When the miters are not perfect, the extrusions will not fit the couplings neatly, or there will be a gap between the flanges of two adjacent extrusions (in the inner corner).
As a final note, we initially thought this system would allow us to build faster and be more forgiving when things are not just perfectly cut. After having completed the whole build, we know this to be untrue. You will need to be carefully cutting the extrusions and miters if you want your storage system to be op top notch quality and finish. This will take its time and our conclusion about the build speed is that this system is still a lot faster than building an all-wood interior and painting it two or three times.
Crates to hold our stuff
The storage system is designed to hold as many storage crates as possible. We only use one size of crate to be able to swap them easily. We use Sunware Q-line boxes in the size 30x40x18cm (15L capacity). The lid on the boxes can be closed and a handle is provided on top so they are easy to carry around. Anything ranging from clothes to plates, food and cutlery is put inside a box. We have clustered the contents around its use, so there are boxes for:
- Food (dry goods)
- Kitchen 1: plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, glasses
- Kitchen 2: cooking utensils, water kettle
- Clothes 1 through 4 (one per person)
- Towels and other cloth items