Some Useful Things
Working on a bus conversion usually starts off with a good hammer, chisel, set of wrenches, side grinder, and prybar. Later on you'll need different tools to build your future home, week end get-a-way, or favorite toy. I thought I'd show a few of the odds-n-ends I'm using in building my conversion. Your list may be similar to mine, but because we all build differently, some things will likely be different.
Because I'm using sheet material (aka plywood) without a subframe, there have been instances where I've used a super strong adhesive to bond two surfaces together. One instance of that is the window coverings I used inside my coach. I used 1/4" plywood, covered with laminate, to cover my windows inside. Being a transit conversion and not a 1 million dollar Vantare', I'm trying to keep cost down as much as possible. Instead of tearing everything out of the walls and replacing it, I try to use what's there already there and perhaps alter it a bit to suit my purposes. Such is the case with my windows. I bonded the backside of my plywood to my window frames with Sikaflex 252. This is an exceptionally strong adhesive, cured by moisture I am told. Because Sikaflex 252 is very thick I couldn't squeeze it out of the tube with an ordinary caulk gun. I had to get the electric model shown below.
Ordinarily I wouldn't have bought one of these. At first glance they seem to be quite an unnecessary item. But after trying it without one, I quickly found it was necessary. The electric gun was not required for the other varities of Sikaflex I've used.
Although these aren't tools, here are some angle brackets I used in areas that would be visible. These brackets are commonly used in commercial bathrooms stalls. They are stainless and offer a more attractive alternative to the more common framing brackets.
Here's an item that has been extremely useful. I'm not sure of the proper name for it, but it is extremely helpful for marking sheet panels like plywood and 4 X 8 sheets of laminate for cutting. You can find these any any of the big box stores.
Here's an item that I couldn't live without. It's homemade, simple (and cheap) to make, and probably the most used tool I have. It's a homemade "fence", constructed of 1/2" plywood. There are endless examples on Youtube for making these. If you don't have a $2,000 panel saw, this is the next best thing.
I used these C-clamps to clamp the ends of the fence to the board I'm cutting. This gives you a perfectly straight cut with your ordinary Skill saw.
As you've seen in my prior photos I frequently use laminate to cover my panels. Last weekend I laminated a common "slab door" from Home Depot to use for my bathroom door. I'll show you the steps (and the tools) I used to do that job. First off you need something to cut the laminate to a workable size for the door. An inexpensive laminate cutter is one way to do it. You can also use a table saw (more trouble unless you have a big table around the saw for the whole sheet to lay on) or a power sheet metal cutter, which resembles a drill with sissors on the end. I've always used this hand cutter because I don't do much at one time and it works just fine. You can find these at the big box stores as well. If you try to use ordinary sissors, you run the risk of splitting the laminate. The hand tool made for this is fairly inexpensive and does a fine job.
The other tool in the picture is a roller that is used to press the laminate against the wood. More often than not, I use a hand towel under the palm of my hand to do the same thing. It slides over the laminte easily and is quick.
I start with a couple of saw horses with a sheet of plywood laid on top. This makes a fine table to work on. I then lay the laminate on the table upside down so I can mark my cut without later having to clean the marker off the finished side. I then lay whatever I'm applying the laminate to (in this case a slab door) on top of the laminte. I usually allow a couple inches overage on each side/end of the door/panel and mark it with a permanent marker. Take the door off and set it aside. You now have the laminate on the table and it is marked where you want to cut it. This is much easier than trying to handle a full size sheet of laminate. I use the hand laminate cutter to make the cut along the line I marked and lay the unsed part of the laminate aside for later use.
At this point, we have the slab door and the laminate, both ready to have glue applied and get mated up. Using a good adhesive, you'll apply adhesive to both the door and the back side of your laminte. The adhesive you'll need is also called contact cemet and is available in both cans and preprepared spray cans. Since I only do small stuff I usually use the spray cans. It costs more, but the time it saves with cleanup is worth it to me. The convenience factor is great on the spray cans. Regardless of which one you use, be aware that there are different grades available. Since this is a vehicle that can get very warm inside (when parked and not being used), always look for a high-heat/high strength adhesive. All of them stick for a while, but the really goods ones will be there for many years without turning loose. Here's the one I've been using for the last 8 years or so.
I get this at my local shop that caters to the cabinet making crowd. I have not been able to find a suitable spray can adhesive at either Home Depot or Lowes. They carry a great brand (3M), but not the high strength model. Your store may be different. If I remember correctly, my local HD carries 3M "77". Although it's from a great company, I don't think it works well for my purposes. 3M does make one that is excellent for this, however, it is not carried locally in my store. I've used 3 or 4 different brands over time. One of the things I've noticed is that the really strong ones always have a shaker ball in them, much like spray can paint. I'm guessing it's because the adhesive is thicker and needs the ball to mix things up before spraying.
After you get the adhesive applied to both the door and the laminate, you will wait until the surface is tacky before joining the two. Because of the time it takes to apply the glue to both the door and the laminate with a spray can, I rarely have to wait at all. If you were using a roller to apply the glue, you would finish much faster and might have to wait for it to tack up. Be aware that contact cement/adhesive/glue is not like construction adhesive, silicone, or any of the tube adhesives. You do not get a "work time" where you can place the laminate on top of the door and move the laminate to the spot you want it to be. When you use contact adhesive and both pieces touch, it's sticks immediately. You can rarely move it. So it's important that you place it in the right position before you let them touch. To aid in this process, get some round dowel sticks to lay on top of your door. You can lay them right on top of the door even though it has the glue applied. They will not stick to the door because they do not have any glue on them. What they will do is let you position your laminate sheet to just the right position before removing the sticks. When you get the laminate lined up correctly, you can start pulling the sticks out. Start at one end, pulling each stick out in order and press down on the laminate so that it meets the door. If you don't do it in order, you may end up with a hump in the middle because the ends adhered first and there is no way for the middle to lay down.
After the laminate is stuck to the door, use a trim router (with a trim bit) to trim off the excess material around the door. Here is my door after I've finished it.
Trimming out this mortis was a bit tricky. The place where the door knob fits was done with the trim router, but the latch part was done by freehand with a dremel tool. A word of caution --- after you get through applying your laminte and trimming it with the router, be aware that "trimmed out" laminate leaves a very sharp edge. It can cut you badly. I take a bastard file and rake it down the lenght of the laminate (at a 45 degree angle to the edge) to remove the sharp corner. You don't have to file it, just one rake down it will take the edge off and solve the problem. Also, if you happen to get any glue on the finished side of the laminate, it removes easily with lacquor thinner.
I hope this was helpful to anybody that has considered doing laminate, but didn't know where to start. This is how I do mine. Some of you may have a far better way of doing it, so don't accept this as gospel by any means. It's a simpe way to do it, without a lot of expensive tools.