Finish Work

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Finish work refers to painting, adding trim, and generally cleaning up the unsightly edges of your van and is also what separates the pros from the amateurs. Even master carpenters rely on trim to clean up the inevitable rough edges of a build. If you look around your house, you will notice exposed seams and end grain has been covered up wherever possible. This is all due to finish work. Read on for my preferred tools, tips, and products.

Putty and paint make a carpenter what they ain’t.
— Carpenters everywhere

When building a house, the entire process is based on sequentially covering up difficult cuts. It’s the same in a van, however, you don’t get to rely on square corners and level surfaces which makes things a little tricky. More precision is needed at this stage in the build, and for all but the most experienced builders that requires more tools. I do almost of my finish work with these three tools:

Click on the photos for more product information.

Electric brad nailer.

Electric brad nailer.

Router

Router

$199, Miter saw

$199, Miter saw

I use an electric brad nailer because I don’t have space for an air compressor in my van. I also found my router at a yard sale but I would have bought the Makita router if I hadn’t got lucky. The Dewalt saw is a great entry level miter saw but if you have the funds there are many higher quality options. A miter saw isn’t required, but you really want a tool that can make clean 45 degree miter cuts. Here are a few alternatives to the above tools:

18 gauge brad nailer.

18 gauge brad nailer.

Compressor hose and accessories.

Compressor hose and accessories.

$115, air compressor

$115, air compressor

I would go this route if you have other uses for an air compressor; they are nice to have around (no more pumping up tires).

Higher quality miter saw.

Higher quality miter saw.

Cheap router bits

Cheap router bits

Quality router bits

Quality router bits

There’s a huge price range for router bits and you get what you pay for. If you’re just building one van, the cheap kit will work but cheap router bits dull quickly so don’t expect much longevity. Once bits dull they are more likely to bend or break and at 30,000 RPMs that creates a big safety concern so use extreme caution. The Bosch set will last most of your life but it’s not cheap.


The hands on part:

This is a hard area to give step by step instructions as it varies so much based on your unique build but essentially you want to cover all seams and end grain. Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Look around your house or your friends’ houses and see what the pros are doing. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

  • Buy finish-grade wood boards.

  • Avoid face nails or screws. If you must add a face nail, use a brad nailer and cover the nail head with sawdust and wood glue or paint.

  • A sawdust and wood glue mixture is a great way to fill holes, gaps and cover nail heads.

  • Wood colored putty or wood filler is another way to hide mistakes.

  • Joining two pieces of wood with 45 degree miter cuts leaves no end grain. Use wood glue and a brad nail or two.

  • Use a router to round sharp edges. I like to use a 1/4” roundover bit for my counter top and table. The roman ogee bit adds a great look to base boards and counter top trim.

  • Walk down the trim/molding isle of a hardware store and see what you like. They have some really cool options.

  • If you bought laminate flooring at Home Depot, pick up some matching 3/4" rounds to hide the seam along the edges of the the floor. Use 45-degree cuts in the corners and attach it with a brad nailer and glue. Alternatively, make your own base boards or paint your own 3/4” rounds.

  • Rope/cordelette can also be glued to hide corners, especially useful in areas that curve a lot.

  • Iron on edge branding or wood veneer is the perfect way to cover up plywood edges.

Wood grain ion on edge branding

Wood grain ion on edge branding

White edge branding.

White edge branding.

  • Painting all trim a different color from your cabinets makes things pop.

  • Spend the extra time where needed.

  • Silicone is great for waterproofing seams along the floor or around the sink.

  • Tie together curtains, upholstery and bedding for extra swag.

CONGRADULATIONS

Now it’s time for a road trip!

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