It was an exciting day! We finally were ready to start building the kids’ bunk room in the back of the bus. Making a space for our four kids feels extra special - they are extra special. We had all been looking forward to working on this room that will be their place for sleep, games, learning, and plenty of shenanigans, I’m sure.
The first step in building the room was enclosing the rear, curved area above the engine bay/bench. Last year, we built in a 5K BTU window A/C into this space that exhausts out the rear of the bus. The rear wall will not only start the room, but it will also finish off that A/C project by closing off the intake as well.
Similar to the issues we had when we built cabinets in the front of the bus, we had compound curves to deal with and no real point of reference for what is exactly vertical or straight anywhere. We love all the curves on these vintage buses, but they sure do complicate the building process.
In order to make a template of the curves, we did our best to pick a vertical and horizontal reference point. Then, we took measurements from those reference points to the edges of the walls every inch.
We then transferred those numbers to a sheet of ¼” plywood, connected the dots, and used the jigsaw to cut it out. Thankfully, this method worked pretty well, and our first attempt was pretty close. We had to sand a couple of tight spots and then it fit great.
We traced our ¼” template onto our final ¾” piece of wood. Because the walls curve so much, that additional thickness meant we had a lot of back-cutting and sanding to get the edge to sit flat against those angles and curves.
Once we had a good fit on the wall, it was time to build the built-in bookshelves we were going to inset into the wall. These bookshelves serve two purposes. First and most obvious, these will be great for book storage for our family of readers. We also plan to have a white noise machine and some 120V outlets in these shelves. The second purpose of the shelves is to create an access place for the rear of the A/C. These bookshelf niches will be removable so that if and when we ever need to remove the A/C, we can simply pull the niches out and then unscrew the mounting brackets and pull the air conditioner out.
Because the rear of the bus is so curved, we created these bookshelf boxes with two different depths: a shallow cubby on top and a deeper cubby on the bottom. We cut all of the pieces, drilled out all the pocket holes, painted all of it, and finally screwed them all together. Last, we made frames for the fronts.
To secure the wall, we used a combination of 2x4 blocks and ¾” blocks screwed into the back of the wall and then into the floor/shelf area above the engine bay and the metal framework on the ceiling in the rear.
To secure the bookshelf niches, we supported them underneath with 2x4s screwed into the floor/shelf above the engine bay and then screwed through the bottom of the bookshelf into those 2x4s. If we ever need to remove the A/C or get to the wiring for the outlets back there, all we will have to do is unscrew a couple of screws and the whole niche will just pull right out.
It felt so good to have this first project done in the kids’ room. The ceiling, walls, and bunk beds all depend on that being done. Every time we cover up more of the “ugly, naked” parts of the bus, it feels like an accomplishment. Covering up that open back area really made the room look like a blank slate to get started with.
Next up: Kids’ room walls and ceiling
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