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Working from Home in a second hand Caravan.

By David Somers. ©1/11/14

The caravan in the picture on the right is a Four Berth Swift Challenger 530SE circa 1995 that is the subject of this Planette which is in orbit around the Starette “Working From Home”. This caravan is spotless white in colour apart from the Maroon go faster stripe. Sometimes the super intelligent digital camera, tries to compensate for whiteness by adding green pixels. The reader can mistake this effect and imagine it to be caused by green algae!

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The Caravan in question

Problem – I Need space for Home Office, “This kitchen table isn’t big enough for both of us”, or words to that effect! “Well if you had let me buy a small coach, I would now have somewhere to work.”

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Layout of the inside of the caravan

One answer is a used caravan.

  1. They are less expensive than a garden chalet or a portable cabin. And cheaper to move if you move.
  2. They can be converted with the minimum of effort and expense.
  3. They are already fitted with 12volt and 240volt electricity.
  4. They have Gas for heating and cooking.
  5. A fridge.
  6. Plenty of storage space.
  7. Windows with blinds and fly nets.

The modifications I made to this caravan to create the layout in the picture above are:

  • Remove the berth on the front left.
  • Remove folding table and warm air duct from the front.
  • Remove curtains and cushions.
  • Remove folding berth from rear right side.
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Worktop for cutting etc

Make two worktops for the right hand side using 6mm plywood sheet to fit on the frame made from 25mm X 75mm secured with dowels and glue. To brighten up this work top, used for cutting, laminating etc, I painted the patterns of the wood grain because they resemble the contour lines on a map to create an aerial view of a landscape.

Worktop for Computer Screen etc

Worktop for Computer Screen etc

The worktop at the front right is used for computers and accompanying paraphernalia. As you face the computer screen, I decided to paint the view from a boat to the beach. When painting a scene it is important to make features taller than they are because you will be viewing this picture at an angle and not from directly in front. This will make your view look right rather than making the features too short and broad. There is ample space below the worktop for a couple of computers, files etc.

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Desk top for reading and writing

The space at the left front is ideal for a reading and writing worktop. This is because of the excellent double aspect source of natural daylight. I decided to paint an Aide Memoir picture, so that I am reminded of what I am working towards as well as the reasoning behind my approach. This picture will be on the front page of Planette Earth website, the symbols at the top represent the slogan “Planette Earth and you. The Power to Flower.” A fuller interpretation is given on the page:  Timescape and DES.

Using Desk furniture instead of a shelf

Using Desk furniture instead of a shelf

Sometimes you think you need a shelf, but what works well in this situation is some desk furniture. Here a shelf would be awkward to fix as there is not a lot of wall to fix a shelf to!!

A small table to stand on worktop

A small table to stand on worktop

A small table will do, this creates a self-supporting platform so that the Ioniser sits on top of the DVD recorder, thereby ensuring suitable ventilation for the computer and Freeview tuner. Such a table is easily made using simple components.

The wrinkles in the black sticky paper on the top of the table are a useful reminder about the word sticky.

Sticky does not mean sticky to anything, sticky means sticky to non-greasy, non-porous smooth surfaces like plastic. However sticky Aluminium tape is stickier than normal sticky and had I been more clued in, I would have covered the top of the table with sticky Aluminium tape first, avoiding a not so sticky situation later!!!

A leg for worktop table, using old Denture tablet tube

A leg for worktop table, using old Denture tablet tube

 On the left of the picture is a leg of the table, next to it is a denture cleaning tablet tube. Denture tubes are circa 150mm creating a useful amount of space under the table. The leg has a tap washer attached with a small screw so that leg will not slide so easily on the worktop surface. The tube is covered with sticky backed black paper to match the DVD recorder, Ioniser, tuner and computer.

Behind and next to the window is a 75mm X 50mm hole in the worktop. This is so that if you need to plug in an electrical appliance, you can pass a three pin plug easily down to the sockets below and not have wires cluttering up the work surface. This piece of information is not part of making the table!!

Leg fixing made from a cork, large washer,nut and bolt

Leg fixing made from a cork, large washer,nut and bolt

The next picture shows the fixing for the leg to the table. A small bolt is fixed to the table top, which was made of 9mm plywood, thick enough to allow the head of the bolt to be recessed so that it is flush with the top of the table. A nut secures the bolt to the table top.

Fortunately a wine cork is slightly smaller than the internal diameter of the tube. Drill a hole through the centre of the cork, place the cork over the bolt add a half penny washer and the final nut. Wind some insulating tape around the cork to create an exact fit for the tube.

The clever bit is to then tighten the nut which will expand the diameter of the cork so that when you push the leg on to the tube you have created a snug fit so that when lifting the table, the legs don’t fall off!!

This comfortable chair is the passenger seat from an Audi A8

This comfortable chair is the passenger seat from an Audi A8

One of the most important things when working in an office is a comfortable chair. An office in a caravan has potential thanks to the 12 Volt supply to consider using an electric car seat, which also needs to be comfortable.

So paying a whopping £50.00 plus an exorbitant £10.00 VAT (Voluntary Altruistic Tithe) to the Bankers welfare fund, otherwise known as the HM Treasury. I bought a passenger seat (Passenger seats have less wear.) from an Audi A8 and attached it to the base of an executive chair i.e. casters and height adjustment. This was free as my neighbour was taking it to the dump.

Electric car seats make it easier to put your feet up!!

Electric car seats make it easier to put your feet up!!

The main things to remember about car seats are that they are heavy, so the car seat and you could weight over twenty stone without really trying. Modern car seats may have unexploded Air Bags so it is important to only attach the 12 Volt supply to the socket that provides power to the motors. Ask about this when buying the car seat.

Serious two finger typing requires an extra table top for the keyboard

Serious two finger typing requires an extra table top for the keyboard

The table that has the keyboard and mouse on it, is a folding table that came with the caravan. You can see it stores easily under the reading and writing desk when not in use in this picture.

Having been using the car seat for two years, The seat works well but if I made another one I would build a better base with larger casters so that it is easier to move, and a different mechanism to alter the height of the seat and space for a battery so that I could use it without being plugged into the 12 volt supply.

Filing cabinet space next to wheel arch

Filing cabinet space next to wheel arch

Files can be stored either side of the internal wheel arch in what used to be under the bottom bunk berth.

Files rest on the plastic moulding that was used to support a sleeping caravaner

Files rest on the plastic moulding that was used to support a sleeping caravaner

The slats and plastic moulding from the berth removed from front left of the caravan can be reused to make the runners for the files to rest on.

A cover for the files is also a floor to store

A cover for the files is also a floor to store

A 9mm plywood cover can be then serve as the base on which to store other things in plastic containers.

Stored plastic container and worktop leg.

Stored plastic container and worktop leg.

The legs that are used to support the worktops are made for ease of fitting and dismantling.

There are two lengths for the legs. The short ones rest on the berth frame close to the wall of the caravan. The long legs rest on the floor.

The frame of the worktop rests on top of the legs so traditional joints are not used.

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Adjustable Leg fixing bolted to worktop frame and featuring coloured lollipop sticks for leveling worktop

A piece of 9mm plywood with a slot cut in it is glued and doweled to the leg so that the slot is above the top of the leg.

The leg is attached by pushing a bolt through from the outside of the frame, through the slot and a plywood washer, securing the leg with a wing nut.

In order to make the worktop level.

First level the caravan using the kitchen top as a guide. The worktop levelness can be adjusted by placing Shim between the top of the leg and the bottom of the work top frame. I used coloured Lollipop sticks cut to size!! The wing nuts can then be tightened.

I used the inside front leg bolt for lateral stability by passing it through the berth partition.

Costs.

The Caravan was:                                       £2995.00

Extras like Denver Boot etc circa:               £400.00

Materials for conversion Including Chair: £250.00

Total:                                                             £3655.00

 

Verdict: Definitely not a Grand Design. It is what it is, cost effective and works well.