Fridge & Electrical System Cabinet

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The driver’s side kitchen cabinet of our Ford Transit DIY camper van conversion is the home of our 12V Novakook R5810 fridge and home of our electrical system. When we initially brainstorm about the van interior layout, we knew we wanted

  • plenty of countertop surface
  • a large refrigerator (more.beer.)
  • multiple drawers for kitchen items
  • rustic look. wood.
  • blue. blue color, somewhere.

 

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Temporary plywood countertop & protective sheet on the fridge

 

 

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 40 hours (this is very approximate, as we lost track of time…)

 

TOTAL COST : Approximatly 250$ USD. (we did not measure the amount of glue, stain and various hardware…)

 

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click and commit to buy one of the product linked, we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not. Buying through our affiliate links is a great way to say thanks if we were of any help in your van conversion! Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.

 

MATERIAL:

 

TOOLS:

 

PRE-REQUISITE

 

CO-REQUISITE

  • Electrical System Installation (wait for it!)
  • Fridge Installation (wait for it!)

 

 

We really enjoyed working with the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Mini, as it makes the job easy and provide strong joints without fancy tools!

kreg-pocket-hole-mini-jig

 

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Buy it on Amazon

 

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Choose the correct screw length. Click on image to enlarge.

 

 

 

Disclaimer

We’re not woodworkers. We’re not well equipped in tools. So this is not a “How-To”.  This is just how we did it with our limited knowledge & limited access to appropriate tools. There are probably standards, but we’re probably not following them . That being said, we’re very satisfied with the final result and we are proud of what we accomplished!

 

 

First of all, we optimized the dimensions of the kitchen cabinet for the fridge, the electrical system components, the bedroom & the living room. The 3D model layout was very handy for this task.
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Interactive 3D model here

 

The Structure

We used 2″x3″ stud that we joined together using Titebond III Wood Glue & Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Mini. The glue provides extra strength and ensure that there will be no squeaks (squeaks are EVIL). As long as the cuts are straight, the resulting joint will be strong & square.

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The assembled frame

 

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The Pocket Holes in action

 

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Custom blue color! A mix of Olive, Azur & Whitewash Saman water-based stain. Then, 2 coats of water based flat varnish were applied.

 

The image below is from the future. It shows the 3/8″ thick baltic birch panels attached with corner braces (Buy on Amazon) to the frame. The panels are finished with Watco Danish Oil light walnut (Buy on Amazon).

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The structure of the cabinet is attached to the van mainly by Plusnut (see our specific post here to learn everything about them). Using Plusnut, it is not required to drill holes into the van!

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See our post about Plusnut here

 

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The cabinet is attached to the van with Plusnut

 

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The cabinet with the fridge & some electrical components installed

The Drawers

The three drawers are made from 3/8″ thick baltic birch. We used 1″ long #4 screws & Titebond III Wood Glue to hold everything together.

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Ready to assemble

 

screws

 

The slides are self-closing: in the last 1.5″ or so, a spring will pull the drawer in the closed position. When driving, the drawers do not move or slam. Neat! They work great and give a quality feel to the drawers.

self-closing-slides

Get them delivered to your door by Amazon!

 

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Another picture from the future, this time showing the slides installed into the cabinet

 

The Door

Nothing fancy here. Just a few wood planks screwed together and hinges (Buy from Amazon)!

camper-van-cabinet-3

 

The Finish (Artificially aged wood)

We wanted a rustic look finish; here is what we did to artificially age the 1″x6″x5′ Red Cedar Fence we bought from Home-Depot:

  1. Add steel wool in a jar and fill it with white vinegar.
  2. Let the magic happen for about a week.
  3. Stain the wood with the solution. Different type of wood will react very differently. We also diluted the solution with water to get different taint. We applied 2 coats. This step really is the result of trial-and-error!
  4. Protect the wood with Saman water based flat varnish.
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The result

 

Prior to artificially age the wood, we made some cutout, using a jigsaw, to act as drawer handle:

cabinet drawer

 

The wood planks were fixed using black #8 X 1-1/4-Inch Square Drive Flooring Screw (Buy from Amazon).

 

The Countertop

We bought a Karlby Ikea countertop, but we are waiting to install it later when we’re almost finish with the conversion. The plywood countertop we have now is perfect to work on during the conversion… we will update this post when it is installed!

karlby-countertop


To be installed later…

 

 

 

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT…

We denied the fact that the fridge requires proper ventilation in order to be efficient. We can definitely feel the heat behind the fridge just by placing our hand. Alright then, let’s make things right and add ventilation! We added a hole in the floor for that purpose; it is fully detailed in the following article:

Fridge Floor Vent

 

 

NEXT STEPS:

 

 

WANT MORE?

Check out our Build Journal, or learn everything about The Van.

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and we’re seeking for the ride of our life. We bought a Ford Transit van, converted it to a campervan and we are now selling our house to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!

 

 

CHEERS!

 

 

4 comments

  1. Comment by Wes Greenwood

    Wes Greenwood Reply March 27, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Hey!

    Question for ya.

    What would your opinion be on going with a smaller residential refrigerator and putting the money saved toward a better inverter and more battery storage?

    I am shocked at how much these refrigerators cost!

    Just something I am considering and would love your input!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply March 27, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      I haven’t done the math, but I don’t think i would go that route. We splurged on a super-efficient Novakool 12V sealed compressor (Danfoss) fridge and it will draw almost 40A per day in summer. That’s quite a lot of power, so i can’t imagine how a small 120V refrigerator fed by an inverter would draw… it would be interesting to make the analysis though.
      Something to keep in mind: can a small 120V fridge handle the “vibration” and not being level? I haven’t checked either.

      We learned that going the “cheaper” way is really unsatisfactory after the job is done. This is our ultimate and only built, that we will keep a LONG time, so we’re better do it up to our expectations. But again, it’s a personal thing; you might have different needs.

      Let us know what’s your decision!

  2. Comment by Andrew

    Andrew Reply May 24, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Atoine – how did you anchor your massive big fat heavy battery to the van floor? 🙂 I’m worried about 120lbs of battery flying around in a short stop of crash scenario…

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      It’s “enclose” into plywood “casing”, which is screwed to the cabinet floor. Will it prevent it from flying around in a roll-over? Who knows!
      But in case of a frontal, it would have to go through the cabinet walls & trough the fridge; i think we’re good!

      See the picture just before “The Drawers” section.

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