Locating holes for adding wall panels

There are lots of holes in the metal van walls that you can use for mounting your wall panels. It’s not always easy to accurately find those holes and mark them on the panel. But, like most things, there’s a tool for that.

The tool is called a hole finder or strap duplicator. Scott, another Sprinter owner who is also a pilot and aviation mechanic, let me know about this marvelous invention. It’s used in the aircraft construction industry, but it doesn’t seem to have made its way into the Sprinter conversion space yet.

You slide the panel in between the two arms/straps of the tool, then you offer up the panel to the wall. Move the tool around until the stud in the arm on the back of the panel slots into the hole, and then the bushing on the front arm tells you exactly where to drill your panel hole. Genius!

Air Capital hole finder kit
Air Capital hole finder kit (image from Amazon)

This is the Air Capital 5-piece hole finder kit, sold on Amazon. The stud in the end of the strap fits into the existing hole, then the bushing lets you drill straight into the panel mounted over the top of it. The straps are 6″ long, and the bushings/studs are sized for 3/32″ to 1/4″ holes.

If you need a longer reach, Amazon also sells the Aircraft Tool Supply 18″ strap duplicator. The linked one has a #21 (4mm) hole, but there are lots to choose from. Aircraft Tool Supply also make one with an inverted stud so that you can mark holes when the tool is entering from the back of the wall rather than the front.

Aircraft Tool Supply 12 strap duplicator
Aircraft Tool Supply 18″ strap duplicator (image from Amazon)

I wish we’d known about this tool when we built our walls. For the few places where we needed to mark holes, we used some dowel pins or, if the Rivnut was already installed, we used a bolt with its head cut off, with the end filed to a point.

That was good enough to leave a mark on the panel so that we could subsequently drill the hole. But this tool saves you a step by letting you drill the hole in situ, and probably with a greater degree of accuracy.

Credit: x-ray specs picture from Amazon.

4 Replies to “Locating holes for adding wall panels”

  1. Did you lay panel over your foil insulation then drill self tap screws into the Vans thin sheet metal? So no space between insulation and panels?

    1. Matt, most of our panels are held on by the L-track at the top and bottom of the panels rather than by self tap screws. But where we added the bed rails and the ceiling single-point L-track mounts we had to make sure we hit the rivnuts that we’d installed behind the panels.

      You’re right that there’s no gap between the foam filled foil insulation (Low-E) and the panels. There is a gap in most places between the Low-E and the Thinsulate inside the wall cavities. That gap is important for the Low-E to actually have a good insulating effect.

      1. So if we look at say companies like OSV and RBC, how do you think they mount their panels? It looks like from their pictures that they use self tap fasteners all along their panels. Although I do not see what is actually behind their panels. I could be wrong… Thoughts?

        1. Matt, I know that OSV used to use furring strips mounted to the wall, then attach their panels to those. I don’t know what they do nowadays. Could well be self-tap. I don’t like self-tapping screws. There are issues with corrosion, use of dissimilar metals, the inability to re-use the same hole easily, and no depth of thread to “bite”.

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