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PostPosted: July 23rd, 2017, 6:51 am 
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Joined: October 12th, 2015, 5:54 am
Posts: 246
Location: Santa Cruz
Reportedly the only plywood pieces are the bulkheads between the stove/fridge and sink/bath, correct? I mean, besides in the sofa/dinette area.

It seems every unit is built slightly differently, but in mine, what you have listed above, plus the shower front, the overcab front, between the closet/fridge, the fridge floor, the closet's top and bottom, the bits in the tire locker (long gone), etc. Then of course the walls are lauan, and anywhere there's a shelf or cabinet bottom. Hope that's not an over-answer to your question, and maybe you're just wondering about structural stuff? But yeah there are several places with plywood. Then obviously there's the subfloor, and in my era, the ceiling is a plywood core.

I have a question about the various boards and composite panels there on the walls and ceiling. (The ones the overhead cabinets are screwed into, etc.)
Are they embedded in the body fiberglass?


The overhead cabinets screw to the ceiling and walls, as I'm sure you know. In my rig, the ceiling is a bonded sandwich comprised of the outer shell, a 3/4" plywood core, then another fiberglass layer about 1/8" thick, to which the hull liner is glued. So the upper part of the upper cabinets just screw into that with wood screws, which BTW can slowly back out and are worth checking (you've probably done this and I'm probably over-answering your question again). The walls are comprised of a lattice of solid wood strips which are, if memory serves, 2" wide depending on location (there are schematics for this stuff floating around somewhere). Those strips (studs?) are stapled to each other and then bonded to the Chinook shell with resin (and sometimes a bondo-ish stuff :? ). This type of lumber also surrounds the window openings vaguely similar to residential framing (very vaguely). To that wood matrix, the 1/8 lauan walls are stapled. The lower portion of the upper cabinets are screwed to those studs.

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PostPosted: July 23rd, 2017, 8:27 am 
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Joined: July 31st, 2014, 1:01 am
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Location: 1999 Concourse
I can speak to my era (early 1999).

First, materials:

The two main bulkheads (shower/kitchen divider and fridge/stove divider) are 1/2" plywood with 1/8" vinyled paneling attached for 5/8" total thickness. These are not (unfortunately) tabbed in to the fiberglass at all, nor are there any fiberglass tabs fastened to. Instead there is a strip of wood (plywood, IIRC) adhered to the wall with some polyester paste and a few strips of fiberglass, and the bulkhead is attached to that. I'm speaking of the fridge side but I'd imagine the sink side is similar. It seems to work but could be a bit better (with some actual tabbing).

The base platform for the refrigerator is 1/2" plywood. The doors for the club chair bases and the couch base are plywood (fabric covered). I think the tops of the club chair bases are thin plywood.

Basically every other flat panel in the land is MDF covered in a wood grain melamine type thing (seems thicker than the thin melamine shelf coverings you see at Home Depot, but not as thick as typical Formica).

The doors on mine were all actual oak, with a raised panel type construction. No weight skimping happening between the MDF and the doors. I weighed one of my overhead cabinets after removal and as I remember it it was between 80-100# (!!). Kind of amazing they stay up since they are held in place by a row of simple screws in tension into a fiberglass skin plus plywood (top), and into plywood gooped to the wall with polyester (side).

The floor on mine is either two layers of 3/4" plywood or two layers of 1" plywood (not sure yet). Anyway, it's thick.

Walls are basically the fiberglass outer shell, a smattering of "Arctic" foam (Tip: don't take it to the Arctic :lol: ), and then around the windows two layers of 1/2" plywood. There is also plywood reinforcing in certain other places where things are attached or etc.

The roof varies. Everywhere it consists of the outer fiberglass shell, and then an inner fiberglass liner (carpeted) (except the area where the refrigerator roof vent is; that's single skin fiberglass). It's a sandwich construction (common on boats) with the "filling" varying. Mostly plywood in the overcab, then Nidacore (plastic honeycomb) in the main areas with plywood strips where the cabinets, roof rail, etc. attach. Interestingly, my rig matches the published drawings (which I believe I put in the reference section) to a T except they say the roof core is Divinycell and mine is Nidacore (both common "plastic" core materials).

Somewhere in the 2002 range I believe they switched over to foam-cored sandwich for the floor and the walls. This is typically stronger and lighter (although foam has to be bonded well or you can have de-bonding). That said, my Chinook seems as light or lighter than any later ones. Maybe they made up for any weight savings with accessories? Or, if the wet out was "generous," and there was more resin, maybe it's not all that much lighter (but big props to Chinook for always keeping abreast of newer/better ways to do things). Apparently it came about because they were looking for ways to lighten up the Destiny, which had very little clearance between empty weight and gross weight rating.

I have seen the exposed inside floor of a 2004, and it did have a fiberglass inner skin, so that supports the idea that they changed over.

**********

One area where my rig was weakish (although obviously it survived just fine) was in the attachment of the wall that is in between the closet and the refrigerator. No vertical wooden strip on the outer shell like on the bulkhead wall ahead of it. Instead just a few screws into a tiny wooden strip that mostly missed anyway. When I temporarily reinstalled that wall (due to cabinetmaker health issues), I beefed up the connections a bit. Ultimately, with a new wall, I think I'd put in a permanent "tab" for all of the bulkhead type walls (that one included) and then bolt to the tab. That way things are still removable, but much stronger. Albin sailboats are done that way. Not that I think anyone needs to take their walls apart and do this -- clearly Chinooks are trundling along just fine even after all these years -- but I just wouldn't put a new wall back in the exact same way, once I was doing it.

One note is that a little bit of fiberglass reinforcement on the inside can help to prevent the typical "diagonal crack" that you see radiating up and forward from the "northeast" corner of the outside refrigerator vent opening. A better tabbed in bulkhead would do the same.

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PostPosted: July 23rd, 2017, 6:42 pm 
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Joined: April 20th, 2015, 10:45 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
There is a lot of great info here, thank you all.

If I wanted to replace all the particle board face with real wood, would that be too invasive of a job and is it doable?

I assume I could remove all the old pieces carefully and have a cabinet guy make the same piece out of real wood, then reinstall.

I also don't care for my gray interior, I would also want to change the ceiling and wall upholstery to a light blue color. Would I have to rip out all the old ceiling and wall fabric? Or could I just put the new material on top of it.

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PostPosted: July 24th, 2017, 9:44 am 
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Joined: October 20th, 2015, 6:57 am
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Location: Northern NJ
First, thanks so much Scott and Blue for all the great info. I swear someone needs to collect this stuff in a book about Chinook mods.

As for replacing all the cabinets with wood... I would say this: if it were me and I wanted to do that, then I would also use the opportunity to redesign some things, like so many others have. For examples:

- Add two large drawers under the stovetop for clothing etc. Or modify the sink side and maybe put a single sink in the corner, leaving more room as a countertop.

- Perhaps redo the back closet with a drawer above it and one at the bottom.

- Maybe revamp the cab overhead space, with a book shelf on one side. Or remove the wall entirely and open up that space more. Or do half and half.

- Rebuild the sofa area to be more comfortable, perhaps shorten the dinette to give more aisle space.

- Change the overhead cabinets with maybe accordion doors, or go modern with cabinet doors that sit side by side.

And so forth.

As for putting cloth on top of cloth, well I've certainly done it, but it'd be better to strip the old.

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PostPosted: July 24th, 2017, 9:49 am 
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Joined: July 31st, 2014, 1:01 am
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Location: 1999 Concourse
vacuumbed wrote:

If I wanted to replace all the particle board face with real wood, would that be too invasive of a job and is it doable?


I guess everyone's definition of invasive is going to be different. It's not a huge job (like a 10-room house), but there is that hump of "gah, I'm removing a perfectly good interior" to get over. And sometimes trying to mince around not making any big scene is more work in the end than just doing it big time. But it all depends on the situation, time and tools available, your bent, etc.

Personally, I would either do something minimally cosmetic to the existing cabinets, or just have them out and re-do. I had the same inclination as you (is there a way I can just work with them?), but in the end it was just easier to re-do things. But then too, there were things I didn't like. For example, the extreme rake of the upper cabinet fronts. So that argued for replacing them. I tried a bunch of different angles, from straight (like the Premier) to the existing sharp angle. Ended up with something in between as my favorite. So I was able to make that change. I also went with larger doors (because I changed the construction I was able to do that). I didn't go for super light (because it's just harder to deal with things like mounting hinges in super thin/light cabinetry), but even without trying the new cabinets are lighter (you can't not lighten up when you remove the MDF). I also did things like move the 110 outlets (don't use them much, but when I do I was sick of cords draping everywhere), and, while I had things apart, I could easily run new wiring, check out the old, etc.

Not that I'm saying everyone should do it that way -- and it does look horrifying when suddenly it's an empty box with wires dangling and etc -- but on the other hand sometimes half doing it is harder. Again, just depends on various factors. I don't think there's one right answer.

vacuumbed wrote:
I assume I could remove all the old pieces carefully and have a cabinet guy make the same piece out of real wood, then reinstall.


You could. But it's hard for me to imagine you not wanting to make some changes once you're doing all that. But see above.

vacuumbed wrote:
I also don't care for my gray interior, I would also want to change the ceiling and wall upholstery to a light blue color. Would I have to rip out all the old ceiling and wall fabric? Or could I just put the new material on top of it.


You must be speaking of your 1990 then? Because I think they had the colored wall fabric on the overhead (ceiling) as well (vs. my era has whitish carpet on the overhead, and colored fabric on the walls).

I can't imagine any real success with putting new fabric on top of old. Issues I imagine are lack of adhesion, extra weight separating the original fabric from the foam backing, additional thickness causing issues with window trim rings, etc. etc.

Funny thing is I'd love a grey interior! Well, not on the overhead, but on the walls. So here is what I can tell you about circa 1999:

1) It's relatively easy to remove the "pillars" that are on each side of the cab/coach interface. On my rig these are molded fiberglass with the foam backed headliner (wall fabric) glued to them. Once they are out of the rig it's not too hard to peel off the fabric and then remove the glue residue.

2) Once those are out you can remove the front panel (but yours might be different - maybe older ones had a wooden panel there?). On my era it's another molded fiberglass piece covered in the foam backed headliner fabric.

I hemmed and hawed on how to re-do these and decided to use the same fabric but grey. The pillars especially have compound curves and most fabrics won't stretch enough. In fact, even the really stretchy original type fabric I used had a real learning curve on the most compound parts. So I did mine to about 90% good on the first try, but learned a few things so removed that (while it was fresh/easy) and cleaned them up again. At that point I was out of fabric and now I can't decide whether to get the same fabric again (now I think I could do a better job with the experience) or do something totally different like paint them. I'll probably do the fabric again. I'm not really into fabric walls, but on the other hand don't want an echo chamber or something that nicks every time I hit it.

On the upper center panel (entertainment area), I took the opportunity to change a few things. I was no longer using the original solar controller, so I fiberglassed that hole flush. And I also don't have a VCR, and decided to not have the coach stereo mounted as it was, so I opened that side square to match the other side (where the TV was). So essentially it will be three cupboard doors opening to the overcab storage. Of course while that's happening I just put up some curtains and now I'm kind of spoiled by the one huge giant opening. So convenient! :mrgreen:

On the overhead: Do you have just the flat top layer without the extra "wedding cake" tier? If so, lucky you! So easy to mount solar. Anyway, one thing to consider if you don't want to go crazy removing fabric and glue on the overhead (oh my aching neck and arms just writing that), you could consider overlaying it with a rigid sheet of something. White fiberglass, white hardboard, something else creative.... (kdarling has a tin ceiling). That could be screwed into the overhead fiberglass liner, then mount things back on top of it (lights, fan garnish, etc.). Obviously check your rig before proceeding. Some grey might peek out here and there where a plain panel won't go, but it could cover a lot of it.

On the walls: The fabric on mine runs under the upper cabinets, window clamp rings, etc. so that's something to consider. It peels off fairly easily but the paneling underneath is just luaun, so kind of open-grainy to just paint. I have considered leaving it, filling and painting the luaun, using wall liner (paintable wallpaper, more common in UK etc. but available here), completely taking them out, insulating better and cutting new panels. Jury is still out. I suppose given all the givens my first choice at the moment is to remove the window trim rings, etc. and then use wall liner and paint a light color. I'm not much for fabric walls though. But if you like them, they do have some advantages.

You can probably see why I said that it's almost easiest just to take it all out and do it. Walls are exposed, etc. But.... that all depends on your situation, skills, timing, budget, general inclination, etc. Sometimes it's better to just go along bit by bit, even if it's harder in a way.

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PostPosted: July 25th, 2017, 4:09 am 
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My opinions don't always align with others but....I've been a carpenter most of my working life, worked in a cabinet shop early in my career, and have built both acoustic and electric guitars. I doubt I would ever choose solid wood to make the cabinet carcasses out of. The doors are a whole different story. The extreme heat, temperature, and humidity changes are brutal on solid woods. I own close to 30 guitars with most of them being solid wood and work very hard to keep their environment near the recommended 47% relative humidity. (Try that in an RV :lol: ) Basic construction grade plywood might be considered "real wood" is unsuitable for RV cabinet making IMO. As someone eluded to, marine grade plywood and Baltic Birch is a whole different conversation. I use Baltic Birch in guitar making for neck blocks and the jigs used in making guitars because of its stability. Good stuff and very expensive. There have been many advancements in the different types of plywoods, laminates, particle boards, MDF, MDO, high pressure laminates, etc. All have their place. The RV environment is much different than a home and my approach to cabinet making would differ for both in terms of materials and methods.

The laminates used in guitar making on cheaper guitars allow for stability and cost reduction at the expense of tone. That said I am much more likely to take one of my laminate guitars camping in an RV than an all solid wood guitar.

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PostPosted: July 25th, 2017, 4:19 am 
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Location: Northern NJ
Man I love hearing from people with experience. Thanks, Steve.

Still, all the fake wood cheapens the look to me.

So... what do you think about gluing a thin wood veneer over the Melamine faces?

Kev

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PostPosted: July 25th, 2017, 6:31 am 
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Joined: May 21st, 2015, 7:00 pm
Posts: 218
Location: Indiana
Alternative for "wood" cabinets:
While I prefer the look of the oak woodwork in the Chinook, I did come across a fellow who had replaced his class B (don't remember the model) overhead wood cabinets with salvaged commercial airline overhead bins. It was actually pretty cool... very functional, well constructed, light weight...but not cheap. The material was a composite of some sort, maybe a fiberglass/plastic. His galley and storage areas were also retrofitted with salvaged units from a jumbo jet. While not my cup of tea, it did have a clean, contemporary, "Ikea" look about it. Definitely not your usual interior remodel.

"Please move your seats to the upright position..." ;)

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PostPosted: July 25th, 2017, 10:16 am 
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Location: Santa Cruz
SMan wrote:
I've been a carpenter most of my working life, worked in a cabinet shop early in my career, and have built both acoustic and electric guitars.


I've loitered in the shops of a few guitar makers, and it's humbling to watch you guys work. The quality and precision required for the craft is pretty amazing. A true art. And the finishes, oh man. I'd like to see your stuff!

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PostPosted: July 25th, 2017, 3:35 pm 
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Scott wrote:
SMan wrote:
I've been a carpenter most of my working life, worked in a cabinet shop early in my career, and have built both acoustic and electric guitars.


I've loitered in the shops of a few guitar makers, and it's humbling to watch you guys work. The quality and precision required for the craft is pretty amazing. A true art. And the finishes, oh man. I'd like to see your stuff!


Thanks Scott. I just build for a hobby but did attend school in Oregon (Charles Fox's American School of Lutherie) to learn. Most of my stuff is on photobucket (and now un-viewable) but at some point I'll figure out a hosting alternative and post a few pics.

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