Extra Rear Storage In The Airstream Interstate - Part Two

The first shelf is complete and has really helped reduce the clutter in my “garage” space. Now I need another project!

Backstory: my wife creates thread crochet miniature works of art as a full-time obsession and part-time business. www.etsy.com/threadloops. It keeps her off the streets and fills her need for a creative outlet. It also fills a sizable percentage of storage space. After seeing my new cargo shelf, she gave me the thumbs up to make one for her materials and supplies.

The sofa in the back stays in the down position so making the bed each night is quick. During the day when we are parked, a Tempurpedic memory foam topper gets folded in half and covered with a colorful blanket. The craft bins get shuffled around to make room for me to sit in the second side chair. Our dog Winston has to dodge and weave to find a place to lay down.

It became my mission to figure out how best to install a second shelf that would allow easy access to her pattern books and supplies. Like the lower shelf, it needed to be removable and sturdy. No drilled holes would be ideal but, as I sat down to design it, I concluded this was not possible. Here's the result:

Now for the details: For this project the bed wing extensions had to be removed; we never use them anyway. The weight is supported by the same magazine sized storage areas that I used to support the first shelf, but not on the same little ledge that sticks out. I found that this small ledge was not strong enough for lots of weight on rough roads so I had to make a modification. I drilled two holes and used 1/4x2" bolts, fender washers and nylon locking nuts to add strength. The second shelf mounts to the top portion of the magazine storage box with aluminum angle sections.

This means all the weight of both shelves and their cargo are resting on these factory installed magazine boxes which are screwed to the wall, not sitting flat on the floor. It’s one thing to hold up maybe 40lbs at each end, it’s quite another feat to bear the load while the van gets bounced and jolted to death over rough roads and pavement seams. To reduce the stress on those magazine boxes when we are driving, our strategy is to relocate the items from the top shelf onto the rear seating surfaces, then put them back on the shelf when we are done traveling for the day.

Like the first shelf, I stiffened the shelf by attaching a spine underneath using a 4-foot length of aluminum T-Channel.

The underside showing the T-Channel spine.

This construction is fairly straight forward. Again, I used a 12” wide shelf and glued in place the vinyl runner material I found at Lowes. The runner is 60” long and does not quite cover the full length of this shelf so I chose black for a shelf color and I think it looks great. The shelf is 65" long so it will span just far enough to rest on the top of the magazine box. If it were any longer it would be difficult or impossible to maneuver into place and be removable. It’s already a two person job to delicately angle it into position without gouging the wall fabric. Due to the way the interior is shaped in the very rear corners, you cannot use 12” wide boards for the vertical support pieces. Plus, the platform it sits on is not 12” deep so I used a couple of short 10” wide shelves (all from HDepot) and cut them to 13” long. These are offset a bit to sit fully on the support area.

I abhor the look of standard shelf brackets and braces so I collected an assortment of angle aluminum pieces from McMaster-Carr and cut the lengths I needed with a hack saw. I knew that only using one brace along the inside corner would not be sturdy enough. I needed to add one for the outside corner at the shelf ends that would reach down past the horizontal shelf so I could get screws into the vertical support board. MMC had just the thing; one inch tall on one side and 1+½ inches tall on the other, but I had to go with 1/8” thick material to get it. No worries about flexing!

What I did not comprehend is how some of these beefier angle aluminum pieces have a fillet along their inside corner for strength which means you cannot butt two boards up together and have them fill that inside angle. This created a gap between the bracket and the vertical side pieces, so I used ¾” long screws and inserted washers as spacers. In the end it’s all invisible so no harm, no foul.

The top shelf is easily accessible from inside and yet low enough that we can see out and enjoy the breeze.

The motorized rear screen can be lowered past these shelves to whatever height I need for privacy of people and belongings. I anticipate leaving the rear screen at half mast for easy access into my “garage” space from outside. Before the next bug season I’ll work on filling the small gap that exists between the shelf and the screen. Maybe this will be weather stripping attached to the inside surface of the metal bar that holds the bottom of the screen. That way it is out of sight and out of the way when the screen is up.

This 1.5" thick portfolio pouch slips down and out of sight.

As an added bonus, when this upper shelf is in place there is a gap at each end that is wide enough to store something of your choice. For now, I’m using that area to keep important papers.

© 2019 by WinstonsAdventures

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