Now it’s time to make it look good. Now that the electrical wiring is done, we can add the visually attractive wood panels.

We start with this. All blank walls.

My first step after adding insulation is to make templates with large foam panels. The foam is more workable than cardboard, and it conveniently comes in the same size as the wood panels which is 4ft by 8ft. This has been great for seeing how things will fit.

I start by using a box cutting knife to shave the foam off little by little till it fits just right.

Below I am preparing one of the templates. You can see how I am holding my template against the wall to see how well it is fitting.

Below you can see how I lay out a piece of 1/2 inch template foam against a well to start the template process.

After I prepare the templates, I then take the foam and lay it against the wood panels. Now I can trace the outline onto the wood, and then cit it with the jigsaw.

For cutting the panels I picked up a 40 dollar black and decker jigsaw. Definitely worth getting the new jigsaw. It has been the most critical tool of the whole project.

Now for the blades, you must choose wisely. Using the standard blade that comes with the jigsaw will ruin the sensitive paneling. You will want to pick a blade that is designed for wood, and promises a clean cut. This is why I picked up a 4 pack of Bosch “clean cut for wood” blades. They have the right amount of teeth per inch, and the right amount amount of angle on each tooth to ensure clean cuts of the thin wood.

Jig Saw, 4.5V

Below you can see a panel which was just mounted on the wall. the cuts for both the gasoline intake and the wheel well are completed.

Now the image below shows part of the roof mounting. First I slid the roof panel into place and held in up with some wire so it would not fall while i worked. I also had to trim down the roof panel so that it would end at the last rib. It went from 8X4 to 7X4. This is because 8 feet is not long enough to cover the length of the roof, and I had to leave room for the add on piece to get mounted to a rib.

One key aspect to the image below is the cardboard template which is held to the roof. This cardboard template maps holes which are in the roof ribs. When I was going to mount the roof panel, I noted that the roof ribs were not exactly solid. They had holes in multiple places. For this reason I could not risk that when it came time to add roof mounting screws, that I would land in one of these holes and have a useless screw which would not grab on.  So the cardboard has alignment markers which I drew. They allow the template to line up exactly with the rib. This means that once I cover the rib with the wood panel, the location of the holes in the ribs are no longer a mystery, and I can be sure that my screws will grab solid metal. (note that the only place I added screws to the roof one on the low hanging metal ribs. This is the only place where screws can be added to the roof without passing them through to the actual outer roof, which would not be good.)

Below I mark the holes in one of the ribs by poking through the reflectix. Now I know where all the holes are. Since this concern came up after I added the roof reflectix, I looked at one of my earlier pictures to spot the holes, and then I pocked them through.

Below I am using a ruler, and placing the cardboard next to the holes I marked. This is how i transferred the holes onto the cardboard template.

Below we can see where i finally have the roof in place, and I then tape the template in place. Note the template is perfectly aligned with the rib, so the cardboard provides an accurate depiction of where the holes are so I can avoid them when I add the sheet metal screws.

In the image below we can see a few developments. you can see that I paneled the metal cage, which now looks much better in natural wood. I cut each piece of the paneling to precisely fit the metal cage, and then adhered it with 3M 90 spray adhesive. I considered screwing in those panels like the rest, but the spray adhesive is so strong, that that is not required.

But the image below also shows a critical need at this point int he project… we need a way to cover the gaping hole full of wires that separates the wood panels of the roof and walls.

Below is the adhesive I used to adhere the panels to the cage:


3M 17.6 oz. High-Strength 90 Spray Adhesive

Now below we can see a critical milestone in the wood paneling. A major challenge was figuring out what to do with the gap between the wood panels of the roof and walls. What I did is cut long pieces of wood that perfectly fit the space, and then mounted them to the edges, with long screws straight into the top and bottom wood. That is holding strong, and looks really good compared to the crown molding and other proposed solutions. These long pieces of wood panel also served as the mounting place for the lights.

Below is a first prototype of the gap filler panel which was cut out of standard wood. This prototype was a stepping stone to the final product.

Below is an image of the gap filling panels in place, with the lights mounted on them.

Below is the first image I took after adding the first two joining panels which joined the top and side walls:

Below is another shot which shows a closeup on one of the joining panels with lights mounted. It is so much cleaner at this point:

In addition to the walls and roof, the doors of the van also received carefully cut out panels to complete the decorative effect. This was done with a combination of foam and paper templates. Carefully designated areas of the door were carefully selected to be paneled.

Below you can see the door paneling added to the side doors. The rear doors are also paneled in the lower section.

Below you can see the two side doors from the inside with completed paneling:

Then some nautical decorations were added to the inside of the doors: