Pop-Rivets and HDPE

The Coachmen Crossfit/Beyond comes from the factory with about a foot of empty space behind the drivers seat. On our first trip, we simply piled random stuff in that space. That didn’t work too well, so I built a small cabinet with flip-down panels that I hoped would make that space more usable. The cabinet didn’t work very well. Getting stuff in and out was a pain. We needed another plan for that space.

For round two, I decided to fabricate a triple-decker pullout cabinet. The cabinet is fabricated from aluminum, HDPE, and pop-rivets. The choice of aluminum and HDPE (High-density polyethylene) was because I figured that with only 7 to 10 inches of usable space, the width taken up by typical wooden panels and framing would make the cabinet too narrow to be useful. I also wanted to practice working with HDPE – in case someday I decide to outfit a van from scratch. 😎

To support the cabinet and keep it from wandering around the camper, I used 100lb self-closing drawer slides fastened to 2″ aluminum angle, which in turn is screwed to the camper floor. The self-closing drawer slides seem to keep the cabinet from opening while driving, even when whacking turkeys.

The entire cabinet pulls out into the isle – there is no space wasted by an external frame. It’s sort of like the pullout pantry found in other campers, but shaped to maximize the odd-shaped space.

My original idea was to use part of the cabinet interior as a wastebasket by attaching a trash bag inside the front partition of the cabinet. That ended up being sort of clumsy – it was hard to stuff garbage into the wastebasket partition. I tried to solve that by cutting a big hole in the front panel. Getting the trash bag out was a pain no matter what. Instead I found a hanging wastebasket for the outside of the cabinet & will try to use the front partition for recyclables.

The combination of HDPE, aluminum and rivets turned out to be easy to work with. The 1/8″ HDPE can be scored and broke or cut with a tin snips. The 1/16″ aluminum can be cut with a tin snips or if you have a carbide blade, the same type of cutoff saw that you use for wood. I could easily build out a campervan with this combination.

White HDPE and aluminum pop-rivets don’t look nice next to the natural maple cabinetry. If this concept works, I’ll consider making a maple face for the cabinet. Or maybe just dab some white paint on the rivets.

We’re getting ready to head out on another road trip, & should have a good idea if this one is a keeper or not.






4 responses to “Pop-Rivets and HDPE”

  1. Ed and Joan

    Dude, that thing is insane. Good job.

  2. Ole bin login

    Do you have to allow for hdpe to expand with rivet holes? I dont find info on how much it expands contracts with hot n cold but let me know how that works!

    Leaving texas sat am! Ten days NM the ten days NE Az, over to kingman drop the trailer and take two weeks or more in thousand oaks before back to kingman. Dinosaur looks to break the budget for improved camping so maybe i have to go rogue with my 39 footer in dee forests! Still hoping to scratch off robinson on my way home!


    1. I think that HDPE will expand and contract more than the aluminum. It’s only .100 (7/32) thick, so I think the sheets will buckle before the rivets loosen.

      Maybe some BLM land around Dinosaur? Otherwise there are lots of forest service campgrounds around Flaming Gorge. Not sure if they are OK for a 39′ camper though. Might be tight.

  3. Gerry

    Nice solution and very nice work. Thanks for the idea, Mike.

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