Well, Mr. Heat Mizer has decided to turn it up for this Midwest weekend. Hard to complain too much as we have been pretty lucky thanks to the cooling brought on by the nonstop rain. Unfortunately, we are currently heading up to the Quad Cities to run the Bix7 kicking off tomorrow morning (link here). Much rather endure this weather for 7 miles versus the monster 34 a few weeks ago (link here). Was planning on taking it easy anyway and this will just be a constant reminder to do just that. In the meantime, I hate to waste cycles in the car and thought I’d go with something I don’t need to do a lot of research on.
Hit the jump to see what surprise awaits behind that door!
That means we will be popping another project off the queue. If you have spent any amount of time on this blog, you are assuredly aware that we enjoy photography – Linda is the landscape enthusiast where I dabble on the wildlife side. There are two critical elements in this hobby – photography equipment (who would have guessed ha) and especially in our case, the ability to travel to our targets. The Wombat (the nickname for our class ‘B’ RV) is our travel workhorse, however, we really didn’t have a good way to haul our equipment. Linda’s stuff would fit in a large photo shoulder bag. As for The Beast, well, it just kind of hung out in the seats or floor until we reached our destination.
That put a very expensive rig at risk of being kicked, being knocked off or just the mile to mile jostle. Every trip I would come back and tell Linda we need to do something about this before something bad happens to our babies. Decided it was time to commit when I saw the annual beginning of the year trip to Texas coming up on the calendar (Jan 2021). The critical design element is I didn’t want the solution to be permanent – more accurately, not cause any damage to the interior of the Wombat that would potentially cause issues if we went to upgrade it.
We upgraded from our first version of the Wombat in order to get the front living area behind the driver’s seat. This consisted of a small desk with a TV and a small cabinet below and a matching one above. The dog stuff goes in the top, however, the lower one was pretty much a hodge podge of various crap we didn’t take the time to find an official place for. That would do perfectly! The first shot in the post shows the target cabinet. You will also notice it has a curved front which definitely added to the design complexity.
The first task was to make sure The Beast would fit. Since my early days of projects, I have always leveraged paper templates to help in the design phase. Always handy, easy to manipulate and can produce nearly exact replicas you can dimension off of. Grabbed a grocery bag, opened it up and proceeded to create a template for the bottom shape of the cabinet. Simply ran my fingernail along the edges and in the corners. Cut on the creases and you have yourself a perfect reproduction. Took that pattern back into the house and laid the cameras on top. As long as the light cover was reversed on the barrel, The Beast would fit nicely. I also had to do a little noodling on the second tier dimensions. How high could the first level be and still have enough room for the second shelf itself and Linda’s equipment to clear the top.
The other difficulty was addressing the curved door. This is the feature that caused numerous template testing to make sure The Beast could be pulled out and wouldn’t hit the edge of the door as it curved back in. Pulling it straight out didn’t provide enough clearance – it would need to angle out to get the last portion of the glass free. I now had the design somewhat figured out and needed to get materials to finalize the dimensions. January was coming up fast and taking the time to sand it all smooth and paint it was going to take valuable time. The intent was to try to make it look as factory installed as I could (not being a cabinet maker this was an ongoing concern). Managed to find some project board that was already finished and one side was already white – PERFECT. Grabbed some 4×2 sheets in 1/2″ and 1/4″.
Brought it home and cut out the bottom of the shelves from the 1/2″ boards. The curved portion was a bit tricky and ended up cutting it slightly wider than needed. From there simply sanded it to the exact curve needed. The bottom had to be notched to get around the door hardware. Set the top shelf aside and focused on building up the first layer. I knew how high I could go on the sides so basically took the 1/2″ boards and walled up the edges next to the existing cabinet sides (left side, back, right side up to door opening). For stability added a short piece on the door side. Next up was the slide out that would hold The Beast. Drew out exactly what was needed to hold my rig plus additional space for the foam protection. Cut that out of 1/2″ and then things definitely started getting trickier. Used the 1/4″ board to build up side walls and then the front. Got a refresher on cutting bevels to get the front sides to come together flush. Used the standard process used in the Coffin Project (link here). Cut the interior angle out on paper and fold it in two. That provides the edge angle you need on both sides.
The extra space in the cabinet was perfect to add an accessory container. No need for a bottom or top, just created a box out of the 1/2″ to fit the remaining space. This would also give added support to the second tier. Was a bit concerned about the stress that would be applied to the front of the shelf as I grabbed and pulled it out. The sides were thinner and didn’t allow a lot of space for the brads to strengthen it beyond the bottom edge. More Halloween prop skills come into play – designed up some edge supports, printed them out and glued them on the top edge. Note, you may have noticed a slot on the back right side, there was an outlet inside that required some spacing for the cords that were plugged in there (mainly the TV antennae).
Did some final size testing to make sure the plans were still holding true. Also did a test fit int the cabinet and a quick pat on the back – so far so good. Next up was building the second tier for Linda’s gear. Grabbed the second base cut out earlier, test fit it on top of the first layer and then took it inside to lay it all out. Now here is where I admit I got rushed and took a shortcut that was later corrected. Time was running tight (think this was getting down to the night before we had to leave). There was not enough time to put a front on this second shelf. The hope was the foam alone would keep it contained. When that failed, had to find an alternative.
This larger shelf had to pull out pretty easily to be useful and thus had to once again push it to the right as far as possible and have it come straight out until it could be tilted outward. That meant there would be an additional accessory shelf on this level too. Got that piece built with a bottom to prevent it from falling through to the first level. Took it all inside and put a foam bottom on everything and used thick pick foam to make individual compartments for the equipment. This took some trial and error to get everything accommodated before officially doing the plucking.
You can see the failed design of the second shelf in the shot below. The tape didn’t hold it together and broke containment due to front not having any real sides.
Raided Linda’s fabric drawer and found some elastic strips. Drilled a few holes in the sides of the upper shelf and strung the elastic around the front of the shelf. Not what I had envisioned by any means, but everything was staying in place when it was all put together. You may have noticed already, the 2nd shelf accessory box on the top edges was a bit loose and needed some additional printed supports as well. Unlike The Beast box, these corners were all 90 degrees and easy to crank out. The weird angles on the other box were a nightmare to get printed right.
Here you can see how The Beast box slides out from under the second shelf. The half wall on the right side allowed the box to be shifted right and away from the door making for easy access.
And now the left side with the stacked accessory boxes. Those ended up coming in real handy as it allowed me to store all our chargers (laptops, toothbrush, razor, phones etc.) in one place out of the way.
Which leaves us with the right side. You can really see the cutout for the outlet in this shot. I did pick up an extension cord with a flat end to reduce the profile. That end fits directly into the cutout area allowing for the bottom shelf to slide in and out without issue.
Mock assembly looked good – time to try it out in the RV.
Slid everything back in the cabinet for the trip to Texas. Worked out great except having to look at how unfinished the top shelf looked for an entire month. Made a commitment to address that before heading to the Alabama Gulf Shores a few months later. Decided the top shelf front could be solved with the 1/2″ boards as the spacing was not as tight with my rig. The thicker sides also allowed me to brad them in from underneath. Yep, went ahead and designed and printed top supports like the bottom shelf.
Redid the pick foam to fit in the new area and plucked out the required spaces to hold Linda’s rig and had space to add our backup body. Now everything was locked in and looked a whole lot better. Noticed I missed painting a few exposed edges – will take care of that before our next trip.
Okay, here is version two of Project Nikon Cozy loaded up and installed in the cabinet. Now our rigs can ride in complete comfort to our photography destinations. There was an additional benefit beyond the safety of our equipment and that was related to security. Having our cameras laying out felt like a risk when we were away from the RV. Now they are hidden from view giving now clue to the very expensive toys inside.
Another project in the books (minus the final paint touchups). The trip to Alabama was great and like before, everything was safe and sound. Better yet, my OCD was kept in check with a better finished product. Not bad for someone that doesn’t work a lot in the wood medium, it just wasn’t going to look that nice if I pulled out the PVC ha!
Hope you enjoyed another project – surprisingly, one that didn’t involve a Halloween prop.