HOW I BUILT A CUS­TOM BUS

Outdoor Life - - IN THE SHOP - —Sam So­holt

I gut­ted and re­mod­eled a school bus with the in­ten­tion of liv­ing out of it for a year as I hunted and fished public land. I didn’t have any pre­vi­ous build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, so the learn­ing curve was steep.

But with a good set of tools and a can’tquit at­ti­tude, it went as well as I could’ve hoped. When­ever I hit a snag, I’d sit on the deck with a beer and study Youtube tu­to­ri­als un­til I fig­ured it out.

I bought this 24-year-old bus off Craigslist for $3,500. Then I spent five months plan­ning the build, ex­plor­ing Google, Youtube, and Pin­ter­est for ideas and ad­vice.

Then I got to work. Af­ter re­mov­ing the seats, I painted the ceil­ing, in­stalled floor­ing, and started work on the walls. Next I built the fur­ni­ture: two sets of bunk beds, a queen bed, kitchen cab­i­nets, and a couch.

Once the frame­work was com­pleted, the te­dious part be­gan. The di­men­sions of the in­te­rior re­quired more cuts and saw­ing than I imag­ined. Luck­ily, I had ac­cess to some­one’s large stack of left­over, mis­matched tongue­and-groove pine, and I was able to use it to cover much of the in­te­rior. I scav­enged tin from be­hind my brother’s hunt­ing store to cover other big ar­eas. My fore­arms are still sore from us­ing tin snips to match the curve of

the ceil­ing. If there’s one bit of ad­vice I can give to any­one pur­su­ing a sim­i­lar project, it’s this: Calculate how many two-by-fours you think you will need— then dou­ble it.

Af­ter one month of work, I was twothirds fin­ished. Last July, my friends and I spent three days in a 90-de­gree metal shed paint­ing the bus, cov­er­ing the iconic yel­low ex­te­rior with a vin­tagein­spired green and white.

The rest of July found me fin­ish­ing the pine and tin work, and in­stalling elec­tric­ity. Sim­plic­ity was my goal, so I used a power con­verter that charges two deep-cy­cle bat­ter­ies in a 3,500watt in­verter, which in turn pow­ers three ex­ten­sion cords for light­ing and charg­ing elec­tron­ics. I have the op­tion to con­vert to so­lar if I want to down the road.

Fi­nally, I built the frame­work for the 10-by-20-foot en­closed awning ad­ja­cent to the bus, and had some­one sew the fab­ric, which puts the whole setup at about 400 square feet. When it’s all set up and the wood stove is crack­ling, the bus makes for a se­ri­ously homey base camp.

Above, the al­most-fin­ished in­te­rior; at left, the au­thor (third from right) with bud­dies on an elk hunt this past fall; above left, the bus in var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion.

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