DIY storage unit for patrol completed

Submitted: Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:02
ThreadID: 21628 Views:12029 Replies:17 FollowUps:12
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Been awhile since I posted because all our spare time recently has been devoted to designing, sourcing materials and building a rear storage system for our GU. Completed it in nice time for our Easter which proved to be a good test run for our handy work. We're extremely happy with the end result and VERY happy with the ease at which we can now access all our gear. No more digging in boxes and crates. YIPPEE!!!

We recognised the need for a storage system quite some time ago and after first deciding to build our own, then deciding we didn't have the time, then researching commercially made units and not liking the price too much we finally bit the bullet and went down the DIY road.

The design of the unit was basically dictated by the size of fridge and the fact that neither of us are 6ft tall so we wanted the fridge to remain as low as possible. Hence putting the fridge on a slide on top of a twin drawer system was out and fridge on one side with stacked drawers on the other was in. Also, as we rarely need to use our recovery gear we decided that the premium storage space in the drawers would be used for food and other regularly accessed gear. Recovery gear, jump starter pack etc goes into the side compartments above the wheel arches where it is still easy to get to anyway.

The unit is constructed of aluminium square tubing connected together using various plastic joiners. Some of you may know this as the Qubelok system (thanks for the tip Truckster) although we actually used a rival product from Ulrich Aluminium. The advantages of this system are that it is extremely strong, lightweight and very easy to use. (I can vouch for just how strong the aluminium is since my hubby's best mate ended up using an offcut as an extension bar when trying to loosen plugs on the GU's driveline recently. He's a diesel mechanic with over 20 years experience and he reckons they were the hardest he'd ever come across. Anyway, the aluminium bar ended up dented and battered but stood up under the abuse - much to his amazement).

After working out the basic design we most of the had the aluminium cut to length by the supplier so all we had to do to complete the basic frame was to knock in the connectors. We then riveted to this plywood of varying thickness depending on the location. We spent a lot of time researching the options for heavy duty drawer runners but in the end after experimenting with weights etc decided that a simple solution of running the bottom edges of the drawers along 3mm aluminium angle lined with a gloss laminex would do the job. Also by now we had decided to go for 3 drawers rather than 2 very deep drawers so the carrying weight of each would be less. In fact we bought and had the laminex cut but never ended up using it as it just wasn't required. The two aluminium surfaces slide over each other very easily, especially once hit with a bit of dri-lube. With the drawers loaded up over Easter we were able to open and close them with no noticable effort. Even our 4 year old was easily able to access the drawers.

For a fridge slide we purchased a ready made slide and fitted that to a base board. Fitting is easy and simply involves doing up 4 bolts threaded into Tee-nuts fixed to the underside of the base board. The entire finished unit including drawers weighs about 25kg with the single heaviest component being the fridge slide which adds about another 20kg. For this reason we fit the fridge slide after the unit has been fitted in the vehicle. The storage unit is fastened into the vehicle using existing tie-down points and also leaves access to the child restraint points. Fitting and removal of the unit including fridge slide can be handled by one person (although its overall size makes it a little awkward for one person to lift) and takes about 20 minutes.

Because we have a full length cargo barrier and the overall length of the unit was dictated by the available space at the top of the fridge height we've ended up with an unused space between the barrier and the lower part of the unit. Our plan at some point in the future when we no longer need to use the child restraint points is to have a water tank custom built to fit into this space.

To finish off we made removable panels to cover the front and tops of the side compartments and covered the entire unit with outdoor carpet. Lockable latches were fitted to all drawers for extra security. There's not a lot of space left between the top of the unit and the ceiling but we managed to buy two shallow crates (one for footwear, another for kids toys etc) which ride on top against the barrier. We fitted a low barrier on either side of the unit to prevent them slipping sideways. In front of these there is just enough space left for the stroller which fits snuggly between the pillars.

We had very few problems with the construction but realised along the way that we hadn't quite allowed enough space between the top of the LHS barn door and fully extended fridge for the lid to clear the door frame. Those with a GU will know that the LHS barn door doesn't open out a full 90 degrees but there is a bit of slack in the hinges so this problem is resolved by giving the door a bit of hip when opening the fridge to enable the lid to clear the door. We decided if this proved to be a problem we'd buy a set of those aftermarket hinges that enable the door to open wider. However over Easter we realised this was actually a blessing because when parked on a uphill slope the lid has a tendency to fall closed and the door frame actually holds it up. (This is clearer in the pics).

Anyway, I've uploaded some pics here for those that are interested.

:o) Melissa
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Reply By: V8Diesel - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:38

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:38
Nice, nice , nice!!!!

Top job there, looks very professional indeed.
AnswerID: 104324

Reply By: Member - Geoff & Karen - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:45

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:45
So Neat Melissa,
Have you got your order book ready?
AnswerID: 104328

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:56

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:56
Orders - please no!!! Building one unit was enough but having enjoyed the benefits of it over Easter, gee I wish we'd done it years ago.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361747

Reply By: Member - Wim (Qld) - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:47

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 14:47
Member - Melissa

Very resourceful.
Nice job.

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AnswerID: 104329

Reply By: Member - big bo (NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:12

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:12
Where did you buy the aluminium from?. What a great job.
AnswerID: 104332

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:30

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:30
Big Bo,

We're in WA but we bought the aluminium through a hydroponics place who were distributors. Look here for Ullrich Metal branches or here for Capral Aluminium branches. Both companies call it the Qubelok system. If you can't find a branch near you do as I did and ring the state head office who should be able to put you onto a distributor in your area. Good luck.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361749

Reply By: Member - Banjo (SA) - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:13

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:13
A great job Melissa - looks wonderful to me - reckon if I tried really hard I could do the same (with about 3 goes at it ) .....but......when I got to applying the carpet at the end, nothing would fit anymore and I'd realise that I forgot to allow for that.... sigh.....that's me. I agree re the ally tubing and joiners - currently using that on my skeleton version of a rear carry-all - its great stuff to work with ! Thanks for the comprehensive post and pictures !
AnswerID: 104333

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:32

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:32
Yeah we made a point of buying the carpet up front so we could allow for it. The Qubelok is great stuff. It was so easy to use and get everything square that our minds started picturing all sorts of potental applications for it around the home/shed etc.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361750

Reply By: Glenn (VIC) - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:17

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 15:17
Hi Melissa,

A fantastic job indeed...well done...and thanks for the great description and pics.


AnswerID: 104334

Reply By: Big Kidz (Andrew & Jen) - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 16:20

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 16:20
Now Jen has already emailed me at work to say she is feeling very jealous!!! Does look really nice and makes me think I should ........ put some carpet on my milk crates ........Gee Melissa .....wait till you see them...

Hahahaha - you've raised the standards you know!!

AnswerID: 104339

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 17:39

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 17:39
Hi Andrew,

Looks like you might have to put your trip back another few weeks! As for carpeting the milk crates, carpet can hide a multitude of sins but I think Jen would see through your rouse.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361755

Reply By: big fella - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 17:16

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 17:16
hi melissa nice job indeed two questions how did you attach the carpet and roughly how much did the whole set up cost

regards chef
AnswerID: 104349

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 18:06

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 18:06
Hi Chef,

Yes I should have included the cost in my original post...The job cost approximately $800 including $220 for the fridge slide. Haven't actually sat down and itemised all the receipts but approx. breakdown was Quebelok aluminium and connectors $150, aluminium angle $40, plywood $100, carpet $60, drawer locks & handles $55, glue $40, fasteners including assorted rivets, screws, nuts & bolts etc $50, laminex which we didn't end up using $25 and the remaining $60 spent on miscellaneous hardware such as drill bits, cutting blades for stanley knife, jigsaw etc.

On recommendation from the hardware we initially used a carpet glue to attach carpet on main part of the unit. This worked OK on the plywood but was slow drying and wouldn't stick to the aluminium. Instead we turned to Selley's Kwikgrip (Quickgrip?) in the brown can which worked a treat on all surfaces and was relatively fast drying. We spread it on using a 2 inch wide putty blade. A tip I picked up on this forum and will pass on is to use an unlined carpet as it is more flexible and molds around corners etc very well.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361756

Reply By: Member - Graham B (NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 22:16

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 22:16

Great job, it really looks good. Just like the store bought units that cost the earth!

I'm thinking of doing something similar for my Prado, also using the Qubelok system.

Quick question if I may. You say you used different thickness plywood. What did you actually end up using? (I'm assuming something like 12mm on floors and 3mm on side walls or something like that?)

Also, did you source the aluminium angle from your Qubelok supplier as well or just harware store?

AnswerID: 104382

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 23:11

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 23:11
Hi Graham,

Now I know it wasn't all that long ago but you are testing my memory...but here goes. On sides and back of main unit and drawers we used 3mm ply. Drawer fronts 9mm ply because you don't want any "give" in them when tugging on the handles. On top of main unit and base of drawers 6mm ply. Note that the drawer bottoms are supported by an extra aluminium crossmember halfway along. Also check out pic of main frame during construction and note the central horizontal supports across both the length and width of the unit. Thus the 6mm ply on was adequately supported against sagging. The fridge slide base board is 12mm ply. Top panels on side compartments 9mm ply and 6mm on front panels (because this is what we had left).

The aluminium angle is 25mm x 3mm which we sourced from a local aluminium/alloy workshop after a bit of ringing around. They had a bit on the shelf which they were happy to cut to length and sell us. They would have ordered some in for us anyway. Found that the hardwares (including Bunnings) only stock 1 or 2 mm stuff which we felt was too light for the application.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361793

Reply By: warthog - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 22:27

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 22:27
Not only did you save money over a manufactured unit , you have the satisfaction of having created something that makes better use of the available space, is thus more functional and also looks better, yourselves. Excellent job you've given many of us ideas and ambitions I reckon. Don't think Blackwidow etc will be liking you much though. Thanks for the post.
AnswerID: 104385

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 22:53

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 22:53
Thanks warthog. Yeah we really wanted to build a complete storage system that maximised the available space and suited our specific needs. Much more than a couple of drawers and a fridge slide that most manufacturers provide.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361791

Reply By: Member - Bradley- Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 23:41

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 at 23:41
beautiful job, makes me jealous :-) My little jill will get a set up soon, might borrow some tips ;-).

For those in melb, there is a trim suppliers in melb who supply auto trimmers / boat builders etc with all their fabric / vinyl / carpet etc. and awesome spray glues, they are in Leo St Fawkner, opposite the cemetary. I got a heap of unbacked marine carpet there a while ago for an excellent price, and they had a huge range to match my car.
AnswerID: 104399

Reply By: Member - Michael- Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 at 12:28

Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 at 12:28
Fantastic job.
Got me giving more thought to modifying my existing commercial draw set, SWMBO has been on about it for a while. When she sees what you have done I'll cop a bit more.
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AnswerID: 104440

Reply By: Member - Hugh (WA) - Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 at 14:58

Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 at 14:58
Hi Melissa,

I really like what you've done. Very resourceful and imaginative. I like the way that you have made storage on the sides of the main drawer unit and allowed for front panels to be removal, thereby allowing access to jack, etc. The future concept of custom water tank to use space behind unit seems excellent too.

I know you've posted previously about your overhead console, however I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about the 3-way unit at front (from what I can see it gives volts, temp, etc). Interested in where you got it from, price, etc.

Regards, Hugh
AnswerID: 104476

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 15:30

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 15:30

The 3-way unit you refer to came from Jaycar Electronics. For product details click on the link then put in product code XC0116 in the keyword search. I think we paid about $40. Did you notice the dial/switch beside our unit in the console? We have wired the voltmeter through this 3-way switch and connected it to all three batteries (being main, aux and trailer) so that we can monitor them all. Note that these batteries run in parallel so when the ignition is on we get the same reading for all batteries so we only get accurate reading when ignition is off. But it suits us as our main purpose for buying this gadget was for the inside/outside thermometer.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 362014

Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 at 22:38

Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 at 22:38
Hi Melissa,

Very nice. Top job. Just one comment. Be careful with the drawer slides being aluminium on aluminium. The slightest bit of dust or sand will start an irreversible abrasion process. With more drilube even the rough ally may still slide well enough but time will tell.

Many bearing suppliers or industrial process machine makers can supply thin sheet nylon material which when cut into strips and countersunk screwed or riveted on slides even better than some of the bearing slides. You should only need it on one surface.

AnswerID: 104607

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 11:39

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 11:39
Thanks for your comments Dave. We considered the abrasive wear and tear factor you mentioned but since we intend only to have the storage unit in the car when on trips which equates to 4-6 weeks a year we figure that it would be many years before this became a problem. Also, we still have the laminex strips so if need be we can stick these on. When researching the commercially made units we came across one that uses teflon (or perhaps teflon-like material) as a slide and seemed very effective. I tried but was unable to find a source for this material and of course the maker of the drawers I referred to wasn't giving anything away ;-). I'd be interested to know for future reference if you have a link.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361990

Reply By: duncs - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 10:50

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 10:50

You guys are good at this aren't you!!!

Now for the big questions.

Did you draw it first or make it up as you went along?

Do you have copies of the drawings, or even just the dimensions of the unit, and what do I have to do to get a look at them?

I have been looking for a suitable system for years and have made some VERY crude units myself. Yours does look good and you seem to have considered many of the things I want. None of the commercial units come close and as you say the cost of them seems hard to justify.

Once again well done.
AnswerID: 104649

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 13:37

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 13:37
Hi Duncs,

Twice now I have started quite a detailed reply to your questions but lost it to cyberspace (mine, not EO fault) so this time I'll keep it brief.

We had pages and pages of detailed plans but stupidly (now with hindsight as I didn't realise there'd be so much interest) I threw them out when the job was done. I can however give you some dimensions if you like.

However, we're in Mandurah WA and your quite welcome to come and have a look at the unit and bring your tape measure etc. Not sure where you are so don't know if this is feasible or not.

Whichever, you can email me at flatdog1atbigponddotnetdotau and I'll organise something for you.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 362004

Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 11:44

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 11:44
I may have missed it, but it looks heavy.. any idea on weight...
AnswerID: 104657

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 12:17

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 12:17
Truckster, it's in my original post. Unit itself weighs about 25kg plus fridge slide about 20kg. We've used tee-nuts to enable fitment of the fridge slide after the main unit is fitted into the vehicle, so without the slide either myself or Greg are able to lift and fit the unit singlehandedly. However, because of its size and flat surfaces of the outside which don't provide any ready handholds, lifting in and out is better tackled by the two of us.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 361996

Reply By: Member - Andrew O - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 13:18

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 13:18
Hi Melissa,
Great job - just for a finishing touch, and to save yourself becoming a contortionist, you can buy a bracket for the small door of a GU, which will allow it to open slightly beyond 90degrees. I think they are made by Wizard, and I bought it at the 4WD warehouse for about $35 - pretty easy to install too.
AnswerID: 104664

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 13:43

Friday, Apr 01, 2005 at 13:43
Thanks Andrew, I didn't realise they were so cheap. You get used to everything to do with 4WD's being much more. After the Easter trial run we can't decide whether the door thing is a problem or an asset but your advice re price and installation is appreciated.

:o) Melissa
FollowupID: 362005

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