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Shop-Bus 07-18-2006 08:19 PM

My Mobile Shop/skoolie concept (intro and questions)
Greetings all,
I'm a (former) road warrior pro photographer/pro trucker/ driver manager (current occupation) / and woodworker (hobbyist, but fairly serious with a decent set of tools at hand) I used to live full time in a 27' 5th wheel RV, and have criss-crossed the US several times in my younger days.
I'm considering buying a skoolie to perform three tasks.
Phase or Task I: For awhile, from intial purchase until oh, about 6 months to a year after that, I'm going to gut it and re-floor it as a mobile woodworking shop. Mobile inasmuch as it will be on wheels and at least potentially 'able' to roll down the highway. I certainly don't plan on woodworking while rolling down the highway. I have a pretty good set of woodworking tools, which will ultimately help me in phase three.

Phase two will be to use the bus as an erstwhile moving van. I'm looking to move the wife and kids and mother in law to a warmer climate, once I locate a new 'home' to move to work wise.

I realize that a true ryder y'all haul might be cheaper, but If I do it right, I should be able to do the move with just one trip in the bus, plus perhaps one smaller ryder rental which the company would pay for. The car and pickup we have would become toads for the trip.

Phase II isn't critical, and in fact it may wind up that theShop Bus just moves itself to wherever we wind up, with the LOML driving it, while I pilot a Ryder with the household goods in it, and the econocruiser on a flatbed trailer. (Pickup will likley be on site by then as I expect I will move to the new job before the family can follow me).

Phase III if all goes well, is where I keep a minimum complement of tools on board (I'm a scrollsaw fan, and that plus just a minimal work table wouldn't take much space at all out of the floor plan for the 'finished' bus) and convert the bus into a 'getaway' rig, not a full on RV, but with enough ameneties to be somewhat comfortable camping and seeing the sights occasionally.

there's the Intro and the concept, now the questions:

I've seen several cutaway busses, where a section of the bus is chopped and the owners are left with a deck of sorts, shortening the enclosed floor space. What all is involved in keeping the structure of the bus intact when you do that? Are there any who have done something like that and posted a 'how to" on it? I looked (briefly) in the tutorials, but didnt' see any threads related to that job.

I'd love to have about a 6' to 8' long section of open space available to use as the floor of my shop. Think open air 'garage' on the tail of the bus. If I move the rear cap forward, obviously I'm going to lose some floorspace in the 'living' section of the rig. I'm not looking at the bus as a full timer rig, more of a 'roughing it' boondocker rig.

I remember a project from a magazine years ago, where they outfitted a VW microbus with drop down beds, essentially like a popup camper's bunks, has anyone incorporated something like that into their bus to conserve floorspace?

Thanks for looking, and any tips will be greatly appreciated. I'll be exploring more, and hopefully posting on my blog and in the galleries here as I build my bus/shop.

Speaking of my 'Blog, is my Bus conversion page. I originally wanted an intercity coach, but I've reconsidered and think a Skoolie is more my style.
I also have a 'Blog on which is dedicated to my current shop-less status.


lapeer20m 07-18-2006 09:23 PM

i dont' know if it's a concept you'd be interested in but i saw a nascar bus that had a rear space about 10 feet long or so, but this wasn't a flat bed, it reminded me more of a pick-up truck bed. Looks like they cut the roof off at the bottom of the windows so the sides of the bus were about 3 feet tall with no roof. Seems it would be easier to haul stuff in a bed like that than on a flat bed.

Shop-Bus 07-18-2006 09:28 PM

That does sound like a better idea, thanks! I'm thinking more of a 'flat place to use my tools' than a place to haul things. Maybe a platform which I can store while en route might be a better idea. If I had a deck welded up at the rear of the bus, on a beefy set of hinges, I could keep the full bus intact for weatherproof storage, and more room inside for people etc!

Great bus you have by the way, enjoyed your gallery!
THanks again!


the_experience03 07-18-2006 10:17 PM

I think through our general discussions we have deemed a slide out to be impractical for a skoolie, but when we were in Two Harbors, MN for a parade recently (Eveleth Clown Band Life Member :D ), I saw something that I though looked like it could be reasonable as a space savings.

On a regular tow behind camper...probably in the 20 foot range....they had a fold out bed on the front similar to a popup camper. I think that this idea COULD work well in a bus. I thought about doing it to mine, actually, but I think I have reasonable accomadations for 5-6 people for the time being.

What I would do if I were going to do it....I would start by popping out 2...3..maybe even 4 windows as they're really easy to do. I would then frame up the opening with a nice header and some thick studs going down the sides and cut out the factory studs between the windows. Care would have to be taken to get everything sufficiently tied together. Then a similarly framed panel that just slips inside this opening could be welded up and hinged on the bottom to fold out. Two (or more) legs at a 45* angle into the bus similar to a popup camper could secure it when it was out. Any canvas shop could stitch you up something for that relatively easily. You could even have a bow sewn into it and hinged at the bottom so when you folded it out it would keep the canvas up. Maybe I need to draw a picture of what I'm thinking of......or maybe I just need to do it. I certainly think that would help you with your space issues. Have you considered simply adding a rear deck as well? You could make that fold up for times you wanted a more "compact" bus.

Shop-Bus 07-19-2006 04:57 PM

Yes I've thought of just that 'style' of fold out bunk. I bet that the 'tent' portion of it could be picked up at one of the RV parts outlets in elkhart. That way I (you too) could have more 'features' inside with 'elbow room' as needed for sleeping.

I have indeed thought of a deck, in fact that is a strong option, a Deck with an awning over it would be just about ideal for what I'm thinking on doing. The tail of the bus could be 'storage' for when we're in transit, and then when parked, put up the deck, roll out the awning and get more room on the deck for the tools as needed. Sounds like a plan to me! Thanks for the tip!

Ryan Grimm 07-30-2006 02:30 PM

I'm planning on using a bus in the future for living space when on-site installing timber frames; the last eight feet would be a workshop, with additional tools/stuff being stowed underneath.
Obviously I'd need a loooong transit style to allow the queen bed, shower/toilet and galley to have space as well.

Ideally, there will be a handicapped door on the rear side of the bus, so if I need to rip something long on the tablesaw, then I angle the saw...the wood goes in the rear door, and out the side door. And the handicap lift allows raising the tools into the shop, and lifting/lowering largish chunks of wood that get special detailing in the shop.
An alternate would be to cut and hinge the sides of the bus in the back; that way I could fold them down, and have more floor space, and the 'walls' would be canvas for weather protection.

This way I can live on-site, keep the per-diem and motel expense compensations for myself, keep the 'commute' to a minimum, avoid camping fees, and maybe pick up a few extra bucks by being 'security' on the jobsite while I'm there.
I'd be pulling my F150 w/cap as a toad.

Shop-Bus 07-31-2006 08:02 PM

That sounds about like what I'd like to do. I especially like the lift equipped concept. Makes sense to me,to have the lift do the work vs muscling the tools in and out of the 'shop' I've thought about another option, which you might consider. Chop the rear 10', and then put a used box from a cube van on the rails.

Ryan Grimm 08-01-2006 02:10 PM

I'm thinking of keeping it as 'stealthy' as possible, so problems with locals and etc. are kept to a mimimun...and if it's an obvious shop, then somebody in authority with a long nose might want to know why I don't have a commercial plate on my vehicle.

Plus IF folks don't know it's full of tools, it's less likely to be broken into IMHO.

Shop-Bus 08-01-2006 07:23 PM

heck, turn the tables on them. If you got the cube van thing going, you could just say 'it's a garage, see the tools?' (nice twist on many woodworking shops, no?)

Ryan Grimm 08-21-2006 10:36 AM

Fine Homebuilding magazine did articles years ago where guys showcased their portable shop setups. One was essentially a dual-axle trailer with a center support frame or post that supported the roof and fold-up walls, with the tools located around it.
This way if all the tool tops are the same height, the router table acts as outfeed for the tablesaw, etc.

Another setup was a 53 foot semi-trailer, the side walls folded down to be floors, with canvas walls to enclose in bad weather. On-board heat, AC and power generation rounded out the setup.

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