Build a Life-sized Plush VW Campervan

Introduction: Build a Life-sized Plush VW Campervan

About: My girlfriend and I run a company called Deville's Workshop in Toronto, Canada. We build weird props for film and television and love this website - such a great resource for inspiration and discussion!

Hey there alla ya Instructablers, here's a quick tutorial on how Tina and I built a big puffy VW campervan play set for the designer Mr. Luke ( I tried to take photos whenever I remembered to, but since a lot of it was holding up chunks of wood and figuring out measurements on the fly there's not really specific instructions anyway. If you wish to build something like this I can at least tell you what we did and what things we'd do differently if we did it again.

OK, as with all builds of this nature, they involve using tools and tools, by their very nature, are blood-thirsty monsters that feed on fingers and blood. So always use total care and caution when wielding power tools and don't chop off any of your body parts.

I drew a quick cartoon sketch of what I thought the production designer was looking for and then Tina sketched it out in SketchUp. We needed to build a bunch of benches and "flats" (walls made of 1x3s and lauan), plus risers and details inside the van. Here is a time lapse of the benches going together:

Step 1: Build the Bones

The first thing we did was build a bunch of 12" risers. The van skeleton was built on top of them. It is made out of 1x3s and lauan (some people call lauan virola - someone out there please comment and tell me what the difference is). (or I could google it myself. damn, I'm lazy).

Anyway, we drew a picture of the van and sketched it out on lauan, then made a 1x3 frame, stapled it on and routered it out.

The next step was to start carving really thick foam. This stuff is muy expensivo! We didn't realize that when we started. If I ever do this again I will layer up first with insulation foam and then use a thinner coat of furniture foam.

Tina built a door frame for the two doors using 2x3s and then added foam to everything. We used spray glue, fabric glue and contact cement for everything.

We also bought an upholstery gun. BEST BUY FOR THIS BUILD!!! It's basically an air-powered stapler but it is super awesome!!!

Step 2: Add Details

as the build went on we started making sexy details. The VW logo got changed to an "M". I made this by printing out a picture of an M in a circle and then spray gluing that on MDF. I cut it out with a jigsaw and spray painted it with Hammerite.

There is a funky lamp, that took a bloody long time, spray gluing red fun fur to plastic pieces of an IKEA lamp. It actually took a couple of days. The neck of the lamp was made with pool noodles and some dollar store furry scarves.

Tina upholstered all the benches. Again, a lot of work and patience involved. She just went to town with the stapler.

Step 3: And More Details....

The upholstery took a looooooong time. We actually thought it was going to be super quick. Boy, did we learn a few things. Every square inch of the build was covered in fabric and all of it required Tina's careful hand at stretching and stapling to keep wrinkles out. Our good friend Leeanne (yay Leebags!!!!) came over and ending up helping us with this monster for a few days. She is a superstar and the whole world should gravely bow down to her and say "YO".

Tina made eyelashes for the lights, which were some lamp lights we found in a scrap yard. I added some silver trim to the "M" logo.

Here are instructions for upholstering a bench from wikihow:

Making the Bench Base

1 Choose to either reupholster an existing bench or make a new one. If you are reupholstering an existing bench, you will need to unscrew the legs and reattach them later.

If you are reupholstering a bench, you will also need to remove staples at the back of the base with needle nosed pliers. Then, remove the fabric, batting and foam so that you can replace them. It is a good idea to replace them unless they are relatively new.

Keep your piece of fabric to use as a template for your fabric bench cover.

2 Measure an existing frame or decide how large you want your bench to be. If you are creating a bench from scratch, you can customize it to the space you want to fill. Measure the area in inches.

3 Purchase a piece of 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch plywood from a home improvement or lumber store. Ask the store to cut it to the exact size that you measured.

4 Buy thick foam core and in a size that is greater than or equal to the size of your piece of wood. Your foam core should be at least three inches (7.5cm) thick to assure comfort. Purchase one and a half times the size in upholstery or outdoor fabric.

Just as home improvement stores will cut plywood for little to no cost, large fabric stores can cut foam core to size.

Use an electric knife to cut foam core at home.

5 Clear a large workspace or table. It is easiest to upholster a bench if you are able to slide the fabric and batting along a smooth surface.

6 Drill holes into the corners for the legs. Practice attaching them before you start upholstering to ensure they work for your piece of furniture. You will need a drill and screws for this process.

Attaching Foam and Batting

1 Buy a large roll of batting from a craft store. You will need two and a half times the amount of batting as you need foam core.

2 Cut a piece of batting in the exact size of the foam core and plywood base.

3 Set your wood base on top of the worktable. Then, get ready to layer your foam and batting.

4 Glue the foam to the wood base using foam glue. Make sure to apply an even, thin layer atop the wood base. Let it sit according to package directions.

5 Glue the batting to the top of the foam with a layer of foam glue. Apply an even layer, and then wait for it to dry.

6 Pick your wood base, foam and batting off the table. Lay and center a large piece of batting on the table. It will need to wrap around the base and foam to create the upholstered look.

7 Lay the wood base facing down on top of the sheet of batting. Center it on the table so that you will have more than enough batting on every side to wrap around the back of the base.

8 Choose a mechanical staple gun, an air compressor staple gun or an electric staple gun to affix the batting and fabric. Plug in the staple gun, as needed, and refill it with staples.[2]

9 Starting at the center of one side, fold the batting around the bench and onto the back of the base, pulling fairly hard to create tension. Affix the batting to the base with staples within the first inch and a half of the edge of the base.

10 Staple every inch. Work from the center of each side out toward the corner Use a hammer to knock loose staples into the wood.

11 Create round corners by pulling the batting around the center of the corner and affixing it right at the corner. Create square corners by folding one side of the batting in toward the other side of the corner. Then, pull the batting up on the second side and affix it with several staples to the base.

12 Continue stapling until the entire edge of the batting is wrapped around the foam core and secured.

13 Cut the excess batting from the bottom of the base. Make sure not to cut below the staple line.

Covering the Bench

1 Lift the bench up again. Place your material upside down on the table. Center it.

2 Replace the bench base face down on top of the upholstery material. Center it as well.

3 Wrap the fabric around one end of the bench and secure it with the staple gun. Pull it taught before you staple it.

4 Continue around the perimeter of the bench. Fold the corners in either by creating two darts on each side or by doing a square fold. Staple at least every inch, with more staples in the corners.

5 Cut excess fabric outside of the staple line. Use fabric scissors to ensure a straight, even cut.

6 Consider placing a bottom cover on the bottom of the bench to protect the upholstery. Cut a piece of fabric that is one inch smaller than your wood base on all sides. Choose interfacing, cotton or synthetic fabric.[3]

7 Staple the bottom cover over the raw upholstery edges every inch or two.

8Reattach the legs or base.

Things You'll Need

Cut wood/plywood

Thick foam

Electric knife


Foam glue


Staple gun


Upholstery/outdoor fabric

Fabric scissors

Step 4: And Play!

And that's it! We just kept going and adding details until they needed it for the photo shoot we were making it for. Sadly, builds like these don't get a long shelf life and this poor guy was in a dumpster bin the day after the shoot (no one has space to store such a big thing :(

It was a lot of fun to build and a lot of work too! Please let me know if you have any questions or want to know more about the build.

Cheers! DAZU

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    6 Discussions


    5 years ago

    This is amazing, and I don't even have kids! I'm impressed with the thought & work you put into it. That said, I can't believe that you put in all that time, money & effort and it was thrown out the next day?! Did any kids actually get to play in it? Could you not donate it to a preschool, kindergarten, or hospital for sick children, or was it too fragile and only built to look at?


    Reply 5 years ago

    hey Floatchick, tis the sad life of a prop builder, watching something you spent so much time on get turfed so soon. but there's a couple of reasons it happens. the client owns the prop and so, without a major overhaul in the design, they wouldn't want their piece used on different shows. also, no one has storage space. i actually thought this one was going to quietly spend the next few years on the wall of a daycare center but i heard the company had to fly back to the States and didn't have time to source a place to give it away to.


    Reply 5 years ago

    'Tis very sad, indeed. I would never make it in that field. It would be too disheartening. Thanks for your reply! ?


    5 years ago

    That is amazing! As an upholsterer, this looks like an awesome project to undertake. Do you have an upholstery background?


    Reply 5 years ago

    hey gold, nope, never touched the stuff before this job. it was actually my partner Tina, she is one of the most talented people i've ever seen and just picks things up quickly. she did 99% of the upholstery and she designed the build. me, i'm really just good for slapping wood together and also i'm awfully handsome, so she keeps me around