Project Spotlight: Fresh Off the Grid Van

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Meet Michael van Vliet and Megan McDuffie of Fresh Off The Grid , a food blog for campers that shows people how to enjoy great food in the great outdoors. They spent four months at the Cave converting a van into a mobile living/workspace to take on the road. Read about their project and learn about how they prepped, found inspiration and got help on their project at DIYcave.

How did you find out about DIYcave?
We’ve dreamt about building out our own camper van for the past five years. But when we were finally able to buy one, we were living in a 2nd-floor apartment. Not the ideal location to start a DIY van conversion. We started looking around for alternatives. We came across the DIYcave while searching the internet for a community workshop. It was pretty much exactly what we were looking for.

Tell us about the project you did at DIYcave?
We started with an empty Ford Transit cargo van, and over a four-month period, we converted it into a mobile apartment/studio.

What was your inspiration for the project?
We wanted our van to be both a home-away-from-home as well as a work studio. It’s straightforward for camper vans to feel like dark caves, but we wanted ours to feel light, bright, and airy.

How did you prepare for the project?
We spent about six months planning out the build before we even joined the DIYcave. We had to research every component and map out every system that we wanted to include. Space and weight were a major concern, so we did a lot of detailed measurements during our design process. The size and location of our cabinets were determined by what we needed to fit inside them. We were building our jig-saw puzzle, and everything had to fit together perfectly.

What are some of the skills you learned at DIYcave?
We walked into the DIYcave with little to no practical skills. After a while, we became reasonably proficient at basic woodworking and primary metalworking. A lot of the skills we developed felt very van specific at the time, but we can see how broadly applicable they are now.

What were the easy and hard parts of your project?
Nothing was easy about building this van… The most challenging part of building the van was dealing with all the non-straight lines. While the vehicle might look like a square box from the outside, on the inside, it’s a mess of non-linear, non-parallel, double curvature lines.

Favorite project you witnessed (besides yours) while hanging out at DIYcave?
We’ve got to give a huge shout out to Patrick, who is building an amazing tiny house all by himself. He didn’t know much about building a tiny home before diving into the project, but he’s committed to figuring it out and making it happen. We got to admire his tenacity and dedication. He is also continually revising his design based around components he can find second-hand. So there’s a lot of creativity in his build.

What advice would you give someone who wants to join DIYcave and start a project?
Talk to people! There’s a wealth of knowledge among the stewards and other members. We found a lot of great solutions for components of our build from bouncing ideas off of people at the Cave. Also, for large projects like a van or tiny house, come up with a reasonable timeline and then double it. Everything took us longer than we thought!. We thought we’d be done with our project in 2 months – it took at us 4.

Have a project you’d like to work on? Interested in becoming a member of our makerspace? Learn more and stop by for a tour.

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