Wooden road adventures: a carpenter and his Sprinter

The Sprinter is parked on an open field

Carpenter Yoav Elkayam turned his van into his dream-mobile – a studio on wheels. He uses it to build unique wooden utensils while traveling through Europe.

Nothing feels better than freedom

Before Yoav was the proud owner of a Mercedes-Benz, he had a tent that accompanied him on his European work and travel adventures. This wasn’t an itty-bitty tent; no, this was a big, portable tent that served as a roof over his head while he traveled around, worked, visited friends, and met other carpenters and travel lovers. Yoav recounts, “After a few weeks, I felt as if I had flipped a switch; I left all the worries and confinements of my old life behind.” The young British man called the tent his home for about a year, “but after a while it started to get uncomfortable”. He needed more space for his tools, a warmer bed during cold nights, and additional room to move around more freely. He felt it was time for a change, so he bought a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, a used model with little mileage, and turned it into a studio on wheels while housesitting somewhere in northern England.

A new life inside an old van

The sprinter once belonged to a moving company. Yoav then turned into a moving home with unique details and a built-in workspace. He used wood from freshly cut trees – something he also uses for his products. Kitchen, sofa, bed, dressers, workbench – all lovingly made by hand. But not just the interior was thought through carefully, also the exterior was done in a unique way. An old wooden door, a gift from a friend, was built-in and makes up the entrance of Yoav’s sensational home. He also added windows and replaced the roof with fiberglass. Another great addition: Yoav’s wood-burning stove; it keeps him warm during cold winter nights. And since he always has some leftover wood, he doesn’t need to spend extra money on combustible material. Yoav smiles and says, “This is the life I dreamed of – I don’t pay rent, I don’t have any bills, the world is my home, and I am my own boss.”

A peek into a Sprinter

Into the woods

Yoav earns his living by creating and selling wooden art work, which he makes inside his van. His goods then are shipped to various countries after they’ve been purchased via the internet. “I enjoy creating simple yet elegant utensils – plates, cups, pans. Through manual work, one gets a true understanding of the different types of wood – it is a very fulfilling job.” Yoav loves to take his van into the woods, or to clearings and lakes, when he searches for new inspiration. He enjoys the quiet peacefulness and nature’s comforting sounds. “It’s so clean and visually appealing – you can’t find a workspace with this sort of atmosphere any place else.” In addition to this, Yoav claims that eating food from wooden plates provides magical superpowers. Alrighty then – we’re just gonna trust him on that one.

I can’t imagine ever giving up this newly found freedom.

A man is sitting in the door of a Sprinter carving wooden tablespoons

A world of wood and horsepower

If you ask him why he chose a Sprinter, Yoav says, “Vans made by Mercedes-Benz are known to be extremely reliable, and every mechanic is familiar with these vehicles.” He traveled thousands of miles in his van without running into any problems; except for one time when he got stuck in a mud hole near a lake in Andalusia. Tourists from Germany, Israel, and France tried to pull the van out of the mud but had to give up. Eventually, a farmer passed by and successfully pulled Yoav’s van out with the help of an SUV. If you ask Yoav, this is one of those stories you only experience on the road. As a thank you, Yoav handed the farmer a freshly carved wooden spoon. Yoav will continue his European road adventures in his Sprinter, parked underneath the trees, to live his dream of working with wood. He adds, “I can’t imagine ever giving up this newly found freedom.”

Yoav’s latest products

Yoav shares his life on the road with his customers and followers on Instagram. There, he also showcases his latest projects. Yoav’s beautiful, handmade products can be purchased via his website yoavkafets.bigcartel.com. His spoons, just to give an example, are around 30 to 40 Pounds per piece. But great quality has its price.


Photos: Yoav Elkayam