Alumni Spotlight: Eli Roxby

Yestermorrow alumni Eli Roxby shares the story of how his experience in the Cabinets and Built-Ins course made his #vanlife adventure dreams come true.

“Let’s buy a van, convert it to a camper, and come back here this summer,” Alice said to me as we climbed up Mt. Crested Butte in a ski lift on a sunny day in March of 2017.

That summer, we both had flexible schedules for the first time and were excited for an adventure. We found an old FedEx van on Craigslist and started our conversion with the goal to drive back out to Colorado to mountain bike, hike and see friends.

We didn’t get very far that summer, but it was enough for a road trip with a place for our bikes, a fan, and a queen size bed. We left Connecticut in July for the remainder of the summer and took notes of things we needed and wanted in our van.

After we got back to Connecticut, we started drawing up plans for our actual dream van, which involved cabinets with a fridge, a sink, and lots more storage to keep things from sliding around while we raced around curvy mountain pass roads.

I recently started to work as a carpenter for a general contractor. I have always had an interest in making a cabinet and now finally the time came where I couldn’t just go get one from Home Depot (okay, I could have, but I didn’t want to).

I went searching on Yestermorrow’s website and saw the “Cabinets and Built-ins” class in January.  Perfect!

The class with Paul Derkson at Yestermorrow was exactly what I was looking for: hands-on cabinet-building with the ability to continually barrage a knowledgeable and patient teacher.

During this week-long class, we worked together as a team to build kitchen cabinets for a client.

During this process, we learned big picture design and aesthetics as well the actual fabrication and glue up of the cabinets. Tricks with the table saw, the router table and glue ups proved to be so valuable over the next months when I would have to try to cabinets without the help of a teacher and a great group of fellow students.

Even though the cabinets we were making for the kitchen were not the same as my van cabinets, the foundational knowledge of how they are assembled and built was very helpful. By the end of the week, fellow classmates were giving me ideas and helping me think about design challenges - for example, locking the drawers so they don’t fly open while underway.

At night after class, I found myself drawing my van cabinet ideas on the drafting tables, which was my first experience in drafting without using a computer.  I was lucky to have a project that I was planning to start right after the class, and the momentum of the class really helped me get moving toward my goals.

This past summer, Alice and I drove out to Colorado in early June and again spent a few weeks hiking, biking and seeing friends. After one brief breakdown, we made our way to Yosemite, San Francisco, through northern California and up the Oregon coast to Portland. After Portland it was time to make our way back home by way of northern Idaho, Glacier National Park and of course, what road trip would be incomplete with a stop to Mt. Rushmore?

Seven weeks, 21 states, 8,900 miles, and one tow truck (thanks to a weak radiator hose) later, I’m proud to say we had zero cabinet failures on the trip. I can’t say enough good things about the program and staff and creative atmosphere at Yestermorrow and I’m looking forward to taking another class soon.