Airstream Dinette and Bathroom

In mid-December we received a massive amount of snow. That, combined with the holidays (celebrated on our own, pandemic style) slowed me down for a few weeks. I mostly did planning until after New Years before getting back into building things.

Once I got back into the swing of things though, I began working on the drawers for the beds. This meant constructing the box and a front. The drawer boxes are 1/2 inch maple plywood and the fronts are 1×3 maple boards. All are given a finish (drawers 1 coat shellac, 1 coat finish…drawer fronts get the typical 2 coats shellac and 3 coats finish.) I picked up a simple shaker router bit kit and an inexpensive router table to make the drawer fronts. I did a little practice on some scrap pieces and once I was comfortable built out the six drawers.

Hanging the drawers in the cabinets was actually the hardest part of this – because of how I constructed everything, I needed to use the special “face frame” mounting hardware kit, which has a plastic receptacle for the drawer slide in the back. Getting that lined up and adjust correctly was a bear, but I did get everything installed and working. When completed I installed a 1/4 plywood base for the mattress and put some drawer pulls on.

Next up was work on the bathroom. The vanity cabinet was very simple – because I needed lots of access space, I chose to build a sliding door frame. Everything under here is mechanical and because of the hot water heater we are just going to leave it as a mechanical space. I picked up some aluminum sliding door track as well and after some trial and error attaching it to the wall, eventually got everything installed and ready for the countertop. In the last picture you can also see where I put a reinforcement in for the bathroom shower wall – as 1/4 ply, it was flexible, so I attached a finished 1×3 maple to the side and face-screwed it using aluminum screws which really tightened it up.

While I was working on these, I also took a little time to finish a minor refurbishment of the ceiling vent wants. I did not want to go through the hassle (or expense) of adding fancy-pants Fantastic Vents, so I picked up some large-sized 12V extra-quiet electronic cooling fans and tried them out. Eventually I landed on the large 200mm x 200mm size which is quiet and moves a lot of air. They hook directly to the trailer’s existing 12V system and are mounted to the crossmember with a pair of zip ties and I glued small rubber pieces (from a rubber washer) to the contact points to act as a vibration isolator. In the end, they work great and make very little noise.

The most time consuming of these projects was the dinette. It had a lot of different things working together that would each be problematic if they didn’t work out. First, the dinette has to be sized comfortably – proper seat cushion height and depth, proper table height, etc. The dinette converts into what amounts to an oversized queen bed as well. You need cushions that can cover the table when it is lowered, so you have to also plan the dimensions of your cushions relative to the tabletop so that they can fit across and fill the space to create the bed. If not, you have to carry (and store) the cushions for that purpose. Instead, we designed it so the seat backs are used for this purpose when the dinette is in “bed mode.”

In addition to cushion measurements, the table dimensions had to be considered before construction as well. We ultimately decided on a 40″ square table, which is more than adequate for 4+ people to sit around as needed. I ended up pre-building the pieces in the basement where I had enough room to lay them out and test the sizes I wanted until we were satisfied with the results.

Once installed, I had to dial in the plywood tops. In this case I used 1/2 maple veneer plywood. It weighs more than the 1/4 inch, but I had bigger spans that it needed to cross and wanted to preserve storage space access beneath the seats. I found the fastest way to get the plywood fitted was to bring the piece down, chop the corner and then dial it in with small cutting adjustments. You can see my progression in the pictures.

One of the other things that I really wanted to incorporate into our design was radius corners for the cabinetry. This will make the finished cabinets look really nice and has the added bonus of eliminating a corner to hit yourself on. Building them took some thought – I created a radius template on paper, transferred it to a thin hardboard and then attached that to cutout pine “blanks” and used the router with a template bit to create the piece. Then I used 1×2 stock as stringers between the pair of curved templates, covered it with flexible plywood and then put maple veneer on the finished product. It was a fair bit of extra work, but I’m really happy with the results and feel it was worth the effort.

Next up is construction of the refrigerator cabinet as well as kitchen and storage cabinets and installing a bunch of electronics! We also placed orders for lots of things for the next steps – mattresses for the back, foam for the front seats, fabric for curtains, fabric for seating, etc.

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