The quickest route to a relaxing weekend?

Straight down the Pacific Highway, of course. After a busy few weeks at work, Paul and I had been craving a quiet, relaxing time over the five-day Easter break. So I think we were both a little surprised to find ourselves not heading to the coast, but ensconced in a crowd of other frazzled couples being herded along the pathway at Ikea. A pathway from which there is no escape. No early exit strategy. Everywhere you look people are frantically searching for a little pink card that says ‘Move directly to marketplace. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.’

Anyway, the plan was to look for a wooden work surface for the campervan kitchen. This was an about turn really; we’d always been keen to avoid the traditional pine look that you see in so many pictures of converted campervans, and were planning to use a pale laminate for the kitchen surfaces instead. But Paul loves working with wood, and was concerned that the interior was starting to look too white and sterile. I am inclined to think once we introduce the red cupboard doors and stripy seat cushions it’ll be hard to see any white, but I do quite like the idea of a solid wooden surface. Like one huge chopping board. So we’re hitching a brief ride on the pine-look bandwagon and have bought an Ikea Lagan worktop. It was almost 2.5 metres long, weighed over 30kg, and only just squeezed in the car (barely leaving room for my Ikea purchase: a single fluorescent dishwashing brush, which was looking a bit forlorn at the bottom of my huge yellow bag).

Paul’s cut two pieces of wood to fit each side of the kitchen and has given it about five coats of timber oil. He chose a Danish wood oil in the hope it would get along nicely with its Swedish wooden companion.

Wood before being oiled

In other news, Paul’s been doing some finishing touches on the cupboards and has boxed in the wheel arch at the back of the main kitchen cabinet, using the same laminated wood he used for the walls.

He’s also completely secured the toilet to the floor, which I am relieved about because I find it quite a comfy place to perch while Paul’s working, and as our driveway is on a slope, I was always in slight danger of sailing off down the van. Fixing the toilet was quite tricky, we couldn’t get long enough screws to drill far enough into the floor, and the limited space in the base of the toilet made it awkward to get the drill in to screw down. So Paul went underneath the van and used long bolts to drill up through the base of the van and through the floor, and secured the bolts with nuts in the base of the toilet.

Finally, the prize for this week’s most interesting photo surely goes to:

This is the steel box that Paul has resized for the gas bottle, so it will snugly fit our 2kg gas bottle rather than the 9kg one it was intended for. A bit of hacking and a lot of sticking has saved us sending the original box all the way back to NSW.

Earlier this week we had a bumper delivery from Caravans Plus which included a stove, kitchen sink and roof fan, so Paul’s going to tackle some of those this weekend.

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Another day, another trip to Bunnings

This morning, like most Sunday mornings this year, started with a trip to Bunnings. Indeed, Paul even leapt out of bed saying, ‘Got to get up, got to get to Bunnings’, with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for those days when you’re hoping to find an overflowing stocking at the end of your bed.

For people reading this blog overseas, Bunnings Warehouse is a chain of massive DIY stores. They have a sausage sizzle at the entrance and a cheery lady in an apron who welcomes you in. Paul visits at least twice every weekend. And not just because he doesn’t get fed at home (he doesn’t always have a sausage) but because he usually gets sidetracked and forgets something, so has to go back.

Although I probably don’t approach a trip to Bunnings with quite the same vigour, I still tag along every couple of weeks. Last time I spent the time wandering the length of the aisles trying to work out how many products they must stock. A serendipitous visit to their website later revealed the answer – it’s over 45,000. So there you go – it’s very big, and if you’re into DIY, it sells absolutely everything you could want. I am not into DIY, and still usually end up with an armful of treasures I didn’t realise I needed.  The trouble is, Bunnings uses the same technique as Ikea and places all the intriguing and bargainous bits at the end of the aisles. You know this is a cunning marketing trick. You know that you don’t really need another miniature torch for your handbag or any more self-cleaning eco mops, but somehow, they find their way into your basket.

Anyway, there was a point to this post, which is that so far, we have bought almost everything we’ve needed for the campervan from Bunnings. Along with three torches, this has included:

All the cabinets

Laminate flooring and insulation

Bathroom sink

Waste water and fresh water tanks

Panels for bathroom walls (sold as pantry doors)

3,000 jigsaw blades

Initially we thought we’d have to get most bits from independent suppliers and caravan stockists, but they’ve been much cheaper and more readily available from Bunnings. We’ll still have to buy the specific electrical parts from a camping store, as well as things like the water heater, but if anyone is approaching a similar project, try a DIY store first before spending a fortune at other places.

Having spent the morning extolling the virtues of Bunnings, I think I will email them now in case they would like to sponsor my site.

Thetford cassette toilet C200, swivel, flush tank, rear entry

This is the (slightly disconcerting) description of our campervan toilet.  I have been assured, though, that the rear is actually the best place for an entry point, and just refers to how you access the waste tank. Phew. And the swivel aspect means we can position the toilet with the rear facing towards the back door (for optimum cassette removal), but swivel the seat round so we don’t have to sit facing the wall.

As the photos below probably do a better job of explaining.

The toilet is freestanding at the moment, but will be secured to the wall that separates the bathroom from the kitchen.

And we have got the crème de la crème of campervan basins! It is twice the size of the basins in our house, and plenty big enough to have a personal wash twice a day. (Sorry, these Gavin & Stacey references just keep rolling off my tongue – anyone would think I was obsessed.)

Paul bought the bathroom cabinet and basin from Bunnings, and just had to saw 10cm off the bottom of the cupboard, and cut around the wheel arch and a couple of other protruding objects. I say ‘just’ – this was in 35 degree heat yesterday. The cabinet still needs to be bolted onto the floor, but we need to fit the waste-water tank underneath the basin first.

The next job is to fit the dividing walls, so we can start fixing things into place. Having tried out almost every conceivable colour for the walls, I think they’re going to be white.

In need of a(nother) day off

I’ve decided that maintaining a blog is actually a great way to chivvy you along with whatever project you’re blogging about, just so you have something to post. Unfortunately, no amount of chivvying is going to increase the likelihood that any of our suppliers will open beyond the hours of 10-4 Mon-Fri so we can actually visit them. Paul raced back from work yesterday to see a cabinet maker who could potentially supply all the wood we need for the campervan, only to find he had already closed grrr. And as we have barely worked a full week since early December due to various public holidays and natural disasters, a day off is not looking very likely. At this rate I’m going to have to start on the gingham curtains so I have something to blog about. Is gingham surfer chic?

Online ordering is overrated

This morning we drove to a few suppliers of all things campervan whose warehouses are scattered around Brisbane. They pretty much stocked everything we’ll need throughout the project from solar-powered ceiling fans and whistling tin kettles to the more essential batteries, switches and sockets. There was so much choice we ended up leaving with nothing, but at least we know the range they have available now, and can use their catalogue to make a full list for each stage of the build.  And having seen some of the prices ($850 for a toilet, $1200 for a pint-sized fridge and $3000 for an awning!) there may be many stages all quite far apart unless we can negotiate some sort of bulk discount. They even charged $2 for their catalogue!

The warehouses are mostly in industrial parks a fair distance away, so it was great when one of the guys there said we could order online (despite being perfect mail order businesses, some of these places don’t even have a website). ‘Of course, the prices aren’t displayed online though’, he continued. Ah. That might make ordering a bit tricky then. Apparently, this is just a different version of online ordering, where you decide what you want from the website, and then go to the shop to place an order. I’m not sure it’s going to catch on.