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Discussion Starter #1
I’ve ordered a Transit and now the long wait begins. It’s a bit early to begin ordering the big fun stuff like fridges, lithium batteries, etc., So, I’ve switched my thinking to the tools I’m going to need for this job. I've never been hesitant to buy tools for a project when I'm saving tons of $$$ by doing the work myself and learning new skills as well. I then have the tools for the next project.

After reading many build threads the first tool I anticipate purchasing is a Kreg pocket hole jig for making cabinets and drawers. I haven’t built either before and think this would be a great help. I can’t decide on whether to buy the cheaper portable jig or the mid-size jig that mounts on a workbench. Any advice on this would be appreciated.

I’d also like to hear from those who have identified certain tools that were indispensable for their build.
 

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Buy the full size kreg (K5 or K4). If you are going to be using 1/2 ply with pocket holes you will also need to get the micro-jig insert to drill smaller pockets suitable for the smaller thickness.

Another tool I would recommend is the Astro rivnut or crossnut setter. The 1450 model usable for both crossnut/plusnuts and standard rivnuts .


I have that one and it makes setting the crossnuts infinitely easier than any of the other tools available
 

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If you intend to use pex tubing for your plumbing, you will need a crimping tool. Either Crimp Tool, or Cinch Clamp Tool depending if you choose the copper crimp rings or stainless steel clamps to fasten the connections. Both of these sets have a tubing cutter included.
 

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#1 tool to own is a GOOD drill-driver, like the Makita 18v set with a drill, driver, batteries and charger.
With polyurethane glue and a narrow crown air stapler, you won't need a pocket jig, and the joints will be stronger. So, a small compressor and the Harbor Freight narrow crown (1/4") stapler. Yes, there are more expensive ones, but after 15+ years my HF stapler is still functioning perfectly, as is the brad nailer. Air tools are pretty simple.
A set of corner jigs to make sure you're plumb and square before committing to stapling it together.
For more precision work like drawers, I recommend getting a piece of granite countertop material as a worktop. A scrap piece with broken edges is fine. The main feature is that it's about as flat a work surface as you'll ever find. It won't warp or bow like a wood work surface, even if left out in the rain. You can often get big scrap pieces from a marble/granite kitchen fabricator for free.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Good tips, and I appreciate the links. @orton I'm really impressed with the dovetail drawers and they also offer doors and matching drawer faces. @surly Bill I do have a compressor and some nail guns I bought when I was trimming out a couple of bedrooms. I hadn't considered putting the cabinets together with a crown stapler. Good tip on the granite as well.
 

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Also, thickness of wood comes in to play here. If you're using 3/4" plywood and attempting to make a curved cut then what I found on my jig saw was that the wood was too thick and my blade curved. A band saw fixed this problem. I only had a couple of cuts that required this so I just went over to a buddy's house.

-Mike
 

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Depends on how you are going to do the work but I like my rivnut tool. https://www.amazon.com/Astro-Pneumatic-Tool-1442-Setter/dp/B003TODXQW/ref=sr_1_4?crid=2G05NHOIPZLYJ&keywords=rivnut+tool&qid=1581647433&sprefix=ribnut,aps,196&sr=8-4

For wood work you'll need the basics; a decent circular saw, I used a hand held jig saw, a miter box or miter saw or some way to make straight and repeatable cuts if you are doing cabinets and shelves yourself.

-Mike
I do Japanese joinery. I have NEVER been able to make a straight, square cut with a miter box. Those things are useless, as are push-to-cut handsaws; Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke and have more control and power. I can cut a 2x4 in 3-5 strokes depending on how wet the wood is. A decent 10" sliding compound miter saw is very useful, but most precision cuts can be made with a tablesaw and a crosscut sled; if you just want to buy one saw.
 

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Good point. I used a decent (for my eye) miter box on my shelf builds and I think that they came out ok. I was looking at Japanese saws but made do with what I had on hand.

-Mike
 

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Although I have all the saws and chisels, power tools are my guilty pleasure.
And I have a full woodshop at my disposal, because I'm the Technical director/Master builder at a theater company. That makes things a lot easier!
 

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I used a cordless jig saw more than any other tool in my build. Was very handy to have and not battle a cord.

One of the best peices of advice that I found on here—not sure who on the forum said it—was to fill a container with various hardware. After a half of dozen trips to a local hardware store to get bolts or washers and never seeming to buy enough, I finally went and filled up a coffee can with nuts and bolts and washers of various sizes, and put it in the van. It saved me so many trips to the hardware store and the storage shed, and probably money in the end by buying in bulk.

Oh yeah and a set of stepper drills. I used These a ton.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
If you intend to use pex tubing for your plumbing, you will need a crimping tool. Either Crimp Tool, or Cinch Clamp Tool depending if you choose the copper crimp rings or stainless steel clamps to fasten the connections. Both of these sets have a tubing cutter included.
I do plan to use pex tubing. Do you have a preference for the two types of crimping tools/rings or clamps that you suggested? I see that there is also a version by Sharkbite that just pushes in without an external clamp. I think that would make me nervous.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Oh yeah and a set of stepper drills. I used These a ton.
I have been curious about the stepped bits but haven't worked with metal enough to investigate them. Is the purpose to avoid drilling one or two pilot holes with smaller bits when you are drilling through metal? Are they accurate enough or do you have to clean up the hole with the correct single-size bit after?
 

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Step drills are perhaps THE best tool for putting small holes in thin grabby materials like metal and plastic. It is unlikely to grab and pull on break through, and if you're careful it will deburr the top side of the hole almost automatically. The magic in the design is that one step pilots the next, keeping everything running true and preventing chattering that usually occurs with misguided multiple bit "step drilling".

Number one metal drilling mistake is too many RPM and not enough pressure. That said, if drilling too deep will be potentially catastrophic then use a reliable depth stop. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can control this by hand.
 

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Going to have to call out the Makita Track Saw as a game-changer for anything cabinetry. I have a table saw as well but use the Makita half the time now. Pricey, but I can make plunge cuts, break down sheet goods, cut angles..... I wish I had bought this years ago for all my other projects.
 

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Going to have to call out the Makita Track Saw as a game-changer for anything cabinetry. I have a table saw as well but use the Makita half the time now. Pricey, but I can make plunge cuts, break down sheet goods, cut angles..... I wish I had bought this years ago for all my other projects.
On large plywood sheets I used an aluminum angle with C-clamps at each end as a guide. That worked very well. Had bought the HF clamp on guide but the angle method was easier to use.
 

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1. You'll be in and out of your van hundreds of times during the conversion so make a step to place outside the door. A pallet with a sheet of plywood on it works well.

2. Get a new fine tooth jig saw blade for cutting the hole for your vent. Use a step drill at the corners. Use our adapter. A box of nitrile gloves to keep adhesives off your hands is nice. Magnets wrapped in a cloth can be helpful in controlling and collecting metal chips and filings.

3. Get a good wire crimping tool and use Ancor marine grade double crimp terminals. Suggest soldering any wire to wire splices. Heat gun for shrink tube is essential. Cloth electrical tape is much nicer than traditional vinyl or PVC tapes. The cloth tapes can be saturated with CA glue which hardens it.

4. Use a decent quality hydraulic crimping tool for attaching lugs to battery cables. Be sure to use the right sized die. Cut open your first lug to make sure there is no airspace between the strands and the wires don't fall out. Welding cable has very thin strands which makes it more flexible and easier to crimp than typical battery cables.



5. Become familiar with 3M VHB tape and its many uses in van building.

I would be happy to discuss other best practices for a successful van build. It's what I do every day. Please call. Our "Hein's useful stuff for van builds" page has links to many supplies and components.

All the best,
Hein
DIYvan
541 490 5098
 
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