Storage Drawers / Platform for my GMT800 Suburban - WIP

rayra

Expedition Leader



Been talking about it and doodling plans for over a year. I finally started turning money into sawdust a couple days ago. No major progress yet, have been pre-cutting a lot of parts and should have some major pieces built over the next few days / week.

My concept for the whole vehicle is sort of stealth. It's also a daily driver. So most of the improvements I've been making are out of sight or not really noticeable to the random person.
To that end my idea for the platform is to keep it as low as practicable, top it with matching / close auto interior carpet, so anybody peering thru the windows doesn't really see anything.

The platform itself is basically three modules. Two large drawers, roughly 20"W x 10"D x ~55" long. They'll run up to the step in the floor behind the 2nd row seats. The 3rd piece is a 'power module' which will be filled with all sorts of power adapters, inverters, some smallish sealed 12v batteries, solar charge controller, etc. Both ends of this portion will be filled with various power ports with the goal to be able to connect and power just about anything. USB 5v, 12v cig / power ports, Anderson power poles (defacto standard in HAM radio), 110VAC plugs, breakers and cutoffs and a voltmeter too.

At the Liftgate / hatch / drawer face end, I'll be facing things with a nice piece of finely figured hardwood. The power module face, the two drawers, and a pull out flat slide / table, all cut contiguously from the same board. Walnut, mahogany, cherry, haven't decided which yet. But it will be a rich darkish tone.

The top rear edge is going to be fitted with some milled edge trim, like a bullnose edge above the drawer faces and will cover the top edge of the carpeting. Painted a black satin, same as the paddle latches I've obtained for the drawers and tying in with all the black power fittings.

I'm planning to skeletonize the bottoms and sides of the drawer modules to save weight and just because I like messing with wood. The sides and bottoms are 1/2" sanded plywood. The top deck is a fine grade of pine plywood, 3/4", which looks a lot like birch plywood, but under $30 a sheet. One sheet for this project.

The 'Tool' drawer will have all the roadside emergency, recovery, maintenance, repair junk I haul around in a plastic footlocker now and which used to stuff behind and under my pickup bench seat. The drawer is about 5cu'. There will be a pull out table extension under the drawer, full length but hinged in the middle. It can serve as a table but can also be pulled out completed and turned into an easel to mount a map or radio frequency lists etc on (think CERT or Search & Rescue).
That module will also have a top hatch near the front / Liftgate end, so essential recovery gear can still be accessed if the liftgate or drawer can't be opened.

The second drawer will be roughly the same size, a bit deeper without a pullout under it. It will house radio antenna, 'bugout' bag and first aid kit, and is sized to just fit standard .50cal ammo cans. And will be set up as a rifle drawer for range trips. Some padded dividers and cushioning at the ends.

The power module is 28" long and reaches to just behind the 3rd row seating. Its entire top will hinge open for access and in case of an electrical fire. It will be semi-permanently installed, whereas the other two drawer modules will be removable when the 3rd row seating is desired.


eta

Some of the design scribbles




I've previously added a lot of butyl rubber window flashing and a purpose made sound deadening sheet rubber product to the cargo floor and rear sidewalls and wheel tubs, really killed most fo the road noise from the rear. Been detailed in other postings. I'll be continuing that forward as opportunity presents. I mention it now as it's made a difference in the floor height in this particular year rang eof vehicle. As it stands now I can use a 1/2" thick material as my base and a drawer will slide off of it and completely clear the factory cargo area trim and the latch hoops of the liftgate. Previously I'd have need a 3/4" base to accomplish this.




This was just a bit of figuring out clearances for the full hinged top deck of the power module. The third row seat back is canted rearward 8-10deg, so the module can't be built up against the back of the seat or the lid won't open.




My large rolling work table matches the height of my table saw, so it works nicely as a feed support and makes breaking down full sheets of material pretty easy. The other picture is working on the skeletonizing of a drawer module.




Stay tuned, lots of pics to come in the next couple weeks.
 
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rayra

Expedition Leader
Thanks! I'll try to make it worthwhile.


The first drawer module 'skeletonized'. The three sections of material remaining on the baseplate correspond to the existign seat brackets and tiedown anchors in the vehicle. I'll be using J-bolts in the front and standard bolts with fender washers at the cargo tie down locations. In this the 1/2" isn't optimum, 3/4 would be better, but I'm not concerned about it.
And the modules will also be attached to each other, when installed.




The angled end will be the forward end in the vehicle, its slope mimics the slope of the 3rd row footwell / cargo shelf dropoff in the vehicle. There will be a vertical bulkhead / partition about 4-5" back from this front, the front ends of the modules will be a sort of bread-box-sized storage area, with a hinged and carpeted lid. The drawers themselves will have a 49" long interior.


Too late tonight for more racket. My rolling table is also a router table. Tomorrow I'll hit all the edges of the cutouts with a 1/8" radius bit, and fire up my compressor and 18ga brad nailer. I'm going to glue and brad nail initially, then go back later and screw the top and bottom into the sides with #12 wood screws, 1-1/4" long. I already have all the 3/4" top deck pieces pre-cut, so assembly should be reasonably swift. I'll get all three modules built before moving to the drawers. I have to figure out some relief cuts in the drawer ends for the paddle latches. The drawer faces will be 3/4" thick hardwood over 3/4" plywood. The plywood will be 'trapped' / boxed in by the sides and bottom of the drawer, so the screws are in shear to the pulling forces on the drawer end. That way I won't yank the end off a full drawer. The hardwood facing will then be fastened from inside the drawer, like good kitchen cabinetry. No visible fasteners on the exterior (except those in the style of paddle latch I bought. And then I've got a beefy drawer end to support the locking latches / striker.

I am not intending to use any sort of metal / bearing drawer slides. The rear of the drawers will be full height, they'll lever against the underside of the top deck when the drawer is at rest, holding the drawer up at extension. The Tool drawer will slide on two 3/4x3/4 rails of a sort, so the sliding table moves under the drawer. The other drawer is going to ride on some thin pressboard glides initally. That may be replaced with teflon / nylon tape later. I'm still choosing between several improvised methods for a glide surface. Even considering melamine-coated 1/8" pressboard and graphite. Sp far a couple 1" wide strips of something affixed to the bottom of the drawer seem like the best option. I want low-budget low-drag. A thin strip of flat steel would work as well.
 

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Tazman

Adventurer
Very nice. It always amazes me to see the ingenuity and talents display by our members. I am thinking about what to build for my GMC 1500. Everything on the market weighs 500 lbs and doesn't best meet MY needs.

I look forward to watching your project unfold.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
Thanks.


I didn't get a lot done before it got too hot, pushing 100F out there. I'll get out there in the early evening when the heat breaks, I've got enough pieces cut to fab up the power module this evening.

Managed to glue and nail the side walls to the bottom of one module, then put the top deck on. This module's deck was pieced together from 2 'leftovers', not buying a whole sheet just to have a one-piece 20"x55" deck.




I was figuring out how to have a clean fitment on the 'breadbox' end, deciding to divide the angle where to hinged cover meets the top deck. I think both will be carpeted, this will give a smooth transition. I might use some small rare earth magnets inset in the wood edges (under the carpet) instead of a latch.




... but I forgot one of the fundamental rules of woodworking, 'Measure Twice, Cut Once'. I was lining up the fence on the tablesaw for the angled cut. I foolishly picked the wrong 7/8" mark. Oops. Came up a little short.




Fortunately I had another offcut laying around that would meet the need



Since I used two different pieces for the top deck, they've got slightly different curves / arches to them. I did a rough spline joint, not my best work and I set the toolbox on there bridging both pieces to bring the two pieces into better alignment as the glue sets. I'm adding fiddly angle cutting work with this design, but I think the end product will have a more 'factory' look to it when I'm done.


There will be a flat front strip added and then the lid will attach to it with a piano hinge and open at the top. This small storage place will be close behind the 2nd row seats. I'll likely have some convenience items in these spaces. Paper towels, handiwipes, lightweight windbreakers or those crappy rain ponchos.
 
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rayra

Expedition Leader
I took a stroll around on top of of the drawer module, not even a creak and I'm a big heavy man with size 13 feets.




Far as I got today. I might go out later and tidy the tool mess up and re-stage for tomorrow. I hope to finish the body of these two modules and build the third tomorrow. Then I'll probably mock up the drawer faces and both ends of the power module out of stained 3/4" ply, just to verify spacing and fitment etc. And I hope to mill the bullnose edging pieces I mentioned previously and probably chop some scrap into mockup pieces for the power module. I suppose I could just as readily do that in SketchUp, but I lean more towards hands-on 3D pieces I can readily shuffle around. And that way as I finalize element choices I can mount them and shuffle around the mockups to test fitment.



eta the ends of the power module box are also cut out. All the various power connections will be mounted in the hardwood face plates and protrude thru those cutouts. And the screws fastening the hardwood faceplates will go thru the corners of the plywood, from the inside.
 
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rayra

Expedition Leader
Got out this morning before it got hot and picked up some more materials for the build. I've shown such a picture before but I want to underscore just how much room is in a Suburban. This is with all the seats in, but folded down. Couple 4'x8' sheets of plywood with about 1-1/2" to spare between the rear hatch and the back of the front seats, which are all the way back in their tracks.



And it's 49" between the cargo trim panels, same as the distance between wheel well tubs in a full size pickup bed. It's a cargo dimension that's come down thru the wagon days and throughout automotive history. It's the cargo dimension on a standard long bed pickup. And at least thru this generation of Suburban, they've been designed with this 4'x8' capacity, with at least a 36" height clearance at the rear opening.


I'd updated my cutting plan last night, so I got right to work breaking down these sheets, trying to beat the high 90s temps anticipated today. The 2nd pic is for woodworking nerds. That sliver is the remnant from the width of a full sheet. I cut a 20"W strip for a module bottom, a 19-1/8" strip for a drawer bottom, and an 8-1/4" wide strip for the side of a module. Plus 3x kerf (the width of the saw blade), I'm left with a 1/8" wide strip of waste. Suh-weet




I also laid out my cuts with an eye to maximizing the sizes of my leftovers / offcuts, since I do so many woodworking projects I always try to minimize material waste and keep the leftovers as large as possible for later usefulness. So I laid out all the pieces that needed to be ~55"L and first lopped off the remaining 41" of the sheet, before slicing up the 55" portion. Breaking down things from largest to smallest also makes handling the material much easier as you go. Instead of trying to maneuver a whole sheet to cut 8-1/4" off its edge and having the scrap diced up into smaller pieces.
So now I've got a 41"x48" and a 46"x25" piece(s) left over. And all my major panels are cut and labeled, waiting to be trimmed, skeletonized, assembled. And I can shut my garage door as the temps go over 90.




On to the drilling, jigsawing, gluing, nailing, edge, sanding and drawer sizing.


eta

the other thing I do on these sorts of projects is try to do things as batch processes, for increased efficiency. Pile up the parts that are going to be hole-sawed. Then jigsawed, or run thru the router table. Get everything marked up and stacked up and then just buzz thru it all. The upside is faster production, the downside is stupid mistakes get multiplied. You improve as you go. Hopefully.

I recently built a couple of adirondack-style chairs for a neighbor. I've done them often enough I made a set of templates out of 1/8" pressboard, which makes chopping things up pretty swift and again with minimal waste / expense.

 
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rayra

Expedition Leader
Speaking of batch processes, here's some pics of skeltonizing the second drawer module base and sides. I use a hole saw to make the radiused corners. I always seem to have trouble using a jigsaw so I do so as little as possible. I use a scratch awl to make a starter hole, then a 1/8" drill bit to make a pilot hole, then the hole saw. Then I saw about half way thru the material, flip it over and go from the other side, this almost eliminates any tearouts. Ease up on the drill / saw pressure as you complete the cut, to maintain control and not bind the bit and wind up with a sprained wrist from the drill bucking.




Here's the 2nd drawer module assembled, with the hatch in the lid. I'm going to use either auto upholstery or indoor/outdoor carpet to surface the platform / modules. The large gaps are the edges of the tool drawer access hatch. Had ot leave enough room for a double thickness of carpet. I'm going to lap the carpet 1" down the sides and wrap it under the front ends and hatch edges. And the drawer face end is covered by the bullnose trim (which you'll see tomorrow).




Here's the three modules together, as they'll sit in the vehicle. What you'd see from the front seat, looking back.




The hatches sprung open




This gap was supposed to line up. It did when I initially cut things. But I changed things a couple times on the fly and it's like this for a reason. But I'll be damned if I can remember what that reason is, right now. I'll figure it out.




I cut the wood for the bullnose end trim but left the routing for tomorrow, that's a noisy business. I also chopped up some 4"x6" beam scrap into a mockup for the small sealed batteries I'm considering.

Tomorrow I clean up the edges on the modules, get things nice and square, finish the 'breadbox' front ends, and put the drawers together. Right now I'm working with one of my paddle latches and taking measurements and diagramming the cutouts I have to make in both the inner drawer end and the hardwood face, so the paddle latch embeds in both layers.
 
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fiddypal

Adventurer
Awesome build and great notes and pics. Thanks for sharing, keep it coming! Can't wait to see the final product.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
Thanks again. Happy to share it, maybe it will spawn other ideas for other folks and encourage some to build their own.


On to the fiddly drawer finishing and some mockup work.

Here's a peek at how the smaller Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries I am considering would fit in the 'Power Module' box. There would be a row of several there. I think there'll be room for a shelf above them with the solar charge controller and a 110VAC inverter.




Here's a fit test on the other drawer module. About a 1/2" of clearance over the handle of a standard 50cal ammo can. That's what's setting my minimum height for the whole project. Which is 9-1/2" overall, not counting the final carpet on top.




Working on fitting my paddle latches, which requires some relief cutting of both the inner drawer face 3/4" ply and the outer 3/4" hardwood. Different cutouts.



I'm using scrap 3/4" plywood to stand in for the final hardwood. And I grabbed the wrong stain, 'English Gunstock' is too orange for what I want. Maybe I'll do the others in different shades and see what looks better in the vehicle. But anyway, you get the idea.
You can also see the 'bullnose' edge piece. It has a 1/2" radius curve on all the top edges and a 1/8" radius on the bottom edges. This piece stands proud of the hardwood drawer face by 1/8" and up from teh top deck by about 3/8". Not counting a little relief / undercut so it fits over the edge of the carpet. It's there as a sacrificial trim piece, to take the abuse of loading and unloading and protect the drawer face tops and the carpet edges. I was going to mill them from some MDF 'brick moulding', which has the right sort of startign thickness, but forgot it the last trip to the hardware store. So these too are a mockup, using some leftover 2x4 bits.





One last bit, that pictured drawer slides really easy, empty. I sized it to be about 1/16" shy of the interior width and a little bit more than 1/8" shy in height. I'm going to load it up later and see how it fares with full drawer bottom on box bottom contact. I didn't even put the 'good' side of the drawer bottom down. Right now I can move it quite easily. I am building in room to add some runners of 1/8" pressboard on the bottom of the drawer, like skids. I think that will work well enough. And if it doesn't there's room to remove it and replace it with nylon / teflon / PTFE plastic strips. Or something else.
 
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DaveNay

Adventurer
The big gap in the top is to allow the carpet to wrap around the edges of both pieces?

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
 

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rayra

Expedition Leader
The big gap in the top is to allow the carpet to wrap around the edges of both pieces?

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
Yes. When I wrap the fixed decks and the hinged hatch, it will be a snug fit.

Kicker is I can't find any dark gray / charcoal carpeting at any of the big box hardware stores. Nothing but a medium gray. The only thing close is a sort of large outdoor carpet / mat, very flimsy and thin.

Here's Lowes' darkest sample piece compared to the very thin carpet I mentioned. My big German Shepherd would tear that thin crap up in a hurry




Here's that same sample piece in the bright parking lot, laying on my Sub's carpet.




Cringing to think what matching auto upholstery carpet will cost.


--

Got the 'breadbox' hatches pieces cut out and the front ends of the modules closed off. Can't find the piano hinge I thought I had laying around.




Here's another poor pic of the Power Module battery idea, with (5) 10.5Ah SLA scooter batteries (mockups)




And I got the 2nd drawer glued and nailed, it's setting now.

I had to make some design changes on the fly as I made different decisions. The hatch seemed a simple idea. But my design has the drawers fitting snugly against the top deck to hold them up when they are open. But with the hatch being full width, it's not there to trap the drawer. A more 'boat-like' inseet hatch might have been better. As it was I already have the hatch and hinges in. And that's another thing, the hinges also protrude into the drawer side space, so I had to adjust for that too.
Compounding it all this is the same drawer that will have a slide-out table under the drawer. I'll post some detail photos of how I made all that work, tomorrow.

Tomorrow I finish the 2nd drawer fronts and paddle latch and then I'll give all the edges a 1/8" routing and sand the corners round and throw a coat of satin black paint on much of it.

Then maybe Thursday I'll start fitting them in the vehicle. making penetrations to bolt them down to the vehicle hardware. Temps are supposed to be back up to 100F by the weekend, so maybe not. There's other things I can do on the project, in the cooler garage. Fitting the striker plates for the paddle latches, working on mockups and parts layout in the Power Module. Prepping various 12" toolbags for re-packing all my roadside emergency / recovery / tools into the new drawer.
If I think about it long enough I might just change the the hatch design. Dunno. Part of my projects is needing to finish them quickly before I lose interest and wander off, or start making too many revisions in the middle of everything. Better to press on with an 'almost right' design, than get bogged down.
 
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fiddypal

Adventurer
FYI - I have a large shep myself and I use the cheapo indoor/outdoor sky grey carpet from home depot. Has held up fine so far with about a year of use on it, only issue has been hair but any carpet is going to be a pain to get hair out of.
 
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