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Thickness for cabinets

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Forum topic by thezenvan posted 10-19-2017 01:21 PM 941 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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thezenvan

2 posts in 417 days


10-19-2017 01:21 PM

Topic tags/keywords: campervan conversion birch cabinets plywood

I don’t have any experience with woodworking but I’m in the process of converting a Nissan NV2500 High Roof van into a campervan and I want to work on adding a kitchenette, cabinets, a closet and a bed frame.

I searched online about the proper plywood (I’m using Birch Plywood) thickness for making cabinets and I saw suggestions to use 1/2” and 3/4”, I was planning on bolting all the structures to the steel frame of the van using rivnuts (possibly plusnuts) and bolts so none of them will have to support their own weight.

My question is do I need to use such a thick plywood or can I get away with 1/4” since it’ll be bolted to the frame?

Thanks


14 replies so far

View gargey's profile

gargey

1013 posts in 972 days


#1 posted 10-19-2017 01:30 PM

You’re gonna make this thing non-road-worthy in 2 seconds flat with all that weight if you build 3/4” plywood cabinets.

It’ll tip over when you turn.

You should use thin sheet metal or 1/8” plywood maybe.

View alittleoff's profile

alittleoff

541 posts in 1473 days


#2 posted 10-19-2017 02:21 PM

I’d use 1/2 in. Or 15/16 whatever size your store sells for the cabinets. 1/4 in is a little thin.
Gerald

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01ntrain

259 posts in 1267 days


#3 posted 10-19-2017 02:51 PM

It’s not gonna tip over when you turn. LOL

1/2” Birch Plywood will be fine for what you’re doing.

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Rich

3869 posts in 786 days


#4 posted 10-19-2017 02:56 PM


It ll tip over when you turn.

- gargey

LMAO. Good one. No, it won’t tip over unless you build the cabinets on stilts over the roof of the van.

Look into foam core products. You can get foam core plywood that’s structurally sound, works much like regular plywood and weighs a fraction as much.

If that’s too costly, you can build panels yourself with 1/2” strips of plywood for a frame and sandwich that between two 1/8” plywood sheets. Glue small squares of 1/2” plywood as needed in the core of the panel as needed for stiffness.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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PPK

1197 posts in 1006 days


#5 posted 10-19-2017 03:23 PM

It’s a 3/4 ton van… I wouldn’t be too worried about the weight of the cabinets. 1/2” birch (if its veneer core) is pretty light, I’d use that. Just stay away from the MDF core, that stuff is much heavier. But in my experience, 1/2” is most often plycore, so you should be good :)

-- Pete

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Rich

3869 posts in 786 days


#6 posted 10-19-2017 03:53 PM

Even though the van can handle the weight, I still think doing some things to reduce the weight like I mentioned in my previous post makes sense. If it’s going to be used as a camper, fuel economy and performance on steep grades — both acceleration and braking — should be taken into account.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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thezenvan

2 posts in 417 days


#7 posted 10-19-2017 08:33 PM

Thank you for the responses.


Look into foam core products. You can get foam core plywood that s structurally sound, works much like regular plywood and weighs a fraction as much.

I looked into the foam core and it’s currently outside of my budget so I’ll stick to the plywood.


If that’s too costly, you can build panels yourself with 1/2” strips of plywood for a frame and sandwich that between two 1/8” plywood sheets. Glue small squares of 1/2” plywood as needed in the core of the panel as needed for stiffness.

The seems to be a good way to balance out the cost and weight, thank you.

One more question, I looked into Birch but would something like Aromatic Cedar be preferable as it seems lighter?

Thanks

View Underdog's profile

Underdog

1223 posts in 2232 days


#8 posted 10-19-2017 08:54 PM

Folks make stuff out of thin plywood on boats all the time.
The key is to bend it a bit to put a bit of stress in it then glass or epoxy it.
Or you could use even thinner stuff with torsion box design parameters.

But that might be overthinking it.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View DS's profile

DS

3030 posts in 2617 days


#9 posted 10-19-2017 08:58 PM

As others have mentioned, weight is going to be a large factor in what you do.

With proper joinery methods, even 3/8” VC plywood can be fairly structural. (1/8” ply backs dadoed into 3/8” ends for example)

If you go less than that, a system of cleats and frames is usually implemented.

While foam core is lighter, a basic veneer core plywood will still be fairly light.
3/4” thick doors are often simple frames with 1/8” front panel only.

You can’t think of these cabinets like ordinary cabinets anymore.

There is RV-style hardware that secures drawers and doors while the vehicle is moving, etc.
It is an entirely different critter than your kitchen cabinets at home.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

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Rich

3869 posts in 786 days


#10 posted 10-19-2017 09:53 PM


One more question, I looked into Birch but would something like Aromatic Cedar be preferable as it seems lighter?

Thanks

- thezenvan

I can’t tell you much about weight advantages of cedar, but unless you’re planning to live in the van it does seem that some of it would help keep things from getting musty when it’s closed up waiting for your next trip. Even just blocks scattered around in cabinets.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View sawdustdad's profile

sawdustdad

366 posts in 1082 days


#11 posted 10-19-2017 11:45 PM

I think 1/2 inch birch ply for the structural parts, 1/4 for backs and drawer bottoms, and I’d go with 1/2 inch solid wood frame doors with 1/4 inch panels. Exposed sides should be 1/2 inch, enclosed sides (between cabinets) can be 1/4 inch.

The mention of boats should recognize we use marine ply, no voids, exterior glue. A van may have moisture inside from time to time due to condensation, so you are looking for a long term deal, consider some moisture resistant materials. I would be a shame if 5 years from now, after a wet camping trip, some of the panels begin to delaminate.

-- Murphy's Carpentry Corollary #3: Half of all boards cut to a specific length will be too short.

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canadianchips

2613 posts in 3194 days


#12 posted 10-20-2017 01:52 AM

If you look at older campers. They used a framework of solid wood then covered it with thin veneer panel. Light and strong. 3/4” is overkill.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View retfr8flyr's profile

retfr8flyr

386 posts in 1866 days


#13 posted 10-20-2017 02:03 AM

Cypress is fairly light and would work well for the frames and panel doors. I would use it for those pieces and then use 1/4 inch ply for the rest.

-- Earl

View tool_junkie's profile

tool_junkie

326 posts in 2726 days


#14 posted 10-20-2017 04:28 AM


If that s too costly, you can build panels yourself with 1/2” strips of plywood for a frame and sandwich that between two 1/8” plywood sheets. Glue small squares of 1/2” plywood as needed in the core of the panel as needed for stiffness.

- Rich

I really like this suggestion. It is a bit time consuming, but will definitely save you some weight.

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