Monday, February 16, 2015

Van Overhead Console

I'm building a new overhead console for the '93 B250 conversion van I've recently acquired:


After driving it around a while I decided that it doesn't have enough storage up front, and there isn't a good place to mount my FT-8800 amateur radio transceiver. A good way to fix that is a new overhead center console. Fortunately, all the interior trim is oak, so it's easy to match the existing style.

The roof of the van is 3/16 OSB, or something similar, in two pieces with a gap running down the center. The gap is covered by a third piece which is attached to the ceiling and holds everything up.


 To that center piece I've attached some LED lighting, to brighten up the interior:


One of the problems with this is that the center strip is visible if the rear view mirror is angled upward a bit. This means that in the normal viewing position the night-mode reflection is pointed up at the LEDs, producing a ghostly reflection. The sight-line from the mirror to the rear windows is about four inches below the original center console, which means that if the new one comes down just less than 4 inches I won't be able to see it, but it will block the view of those LEDs.

This is the original upper center console. It's just a 3/4" oak plate.


The first step is to mock up the shape of the new console so I can drop it as low as possible without interfering with the rear view mirror sight-line. Cardboard and packing tape:


That gives me an approximate template. A little sketching and measuring provides the details.

For construction I used a 4'x8"x1/2" oak board. The angled cuts for the side pieces were interested. I don't have a sled for the table saw that will make those safely, so I just carefully cut them with the bandsaw, clamped the planks together and ran it across the jointer a couple of times to clean it up.

For the trapezoidal bits that extend up into the recessed area above the front seats I reused the existing trim pieces.


I ran the old finish pieces through the jointer to take off the old finish and glued them on.


Unfortunately I made a construction mistake and built the whole thing a half inch too narrow. Rather than rebuild it I just ran it through the table saw and glued in a carefully sized piece. Then, after much swearing and fine tuning with the Dremel, it went right in.


At the rear one of the storage pockets is visible. There are two, one on each side. They don't match exactly, but you can only see one at a time anyway, so no problem. At the front is a red LED that shines down on the center console. Just in front of the storage pocket is space for the body of the FT-8800 radio. The face of the radio (removable with remote mount) will go on the side near the front, and the handset will be stored inside behind the radio face. I'll have to make a door of some sort for access to the handset. For that I'm thinking I'll just cut a hole in the bottom plate at the front and stick some magnets in there to hold it on.

The bottom plate is screwed on and can be removed without removing the entire console, which is screwed to the ceiling panels. This is so that I can mount the console on the ceiling and then connect the various power and antenna cables that attach to the parts inside, and then put the cover plate on.
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