Fridge & Electrical System Cabinet


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 (
  • multiple drawers for kitchen items
  • rustic look. wood.
  • blue. blue color, somewhere.



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…)



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  • 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!




Buy it on Amazon



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





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.

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.


The assembled frame



The Pocket Holes in action



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).




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!


See our post about Plusnut here



The cabinet is attached to the van with Plusnut



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.


Ready to assemble




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.


Get them delivered to your door by Amazon!



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)!



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.

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 Blue Color

Here is what we did to stain the frames. The idea is to get a nice color, but let the wood grain shine through:

  • Sand the wood using 220 grit (or so) sandpaper (
  • Prepare the stain per manufacturer directions, except diluting the stain with a bit of water will help to make the wood grain more visible. Apply with a foam brush (
  • Let dry and sand; more sanding = more wood grain. You can play around with this.
  • Apply a second layer of stain using a foam brush. Keep a cloth handy during the application of that layer: use it to remove excessive stain.
  • Let dry and sand.
  • Apply 2 layers of varnish per manufacturer directions (let dry between layers).
  • Sand a little to get a nice & smooth finish.

Color and Varnish:


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!


To be installed later…






1- 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


2- The self-closing drawers worked fine… until we loaded them with stuff. Then, if taking a sharp turn, drawers would sometimes open. We therefore added door catchers ( to help them stay closed. It works 98% of the times!

Door Catchers Amazon

Door catchers. Buy from Amazon.








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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, sold our house, quit our jobs and hit the road full-time to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!



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  1. Comment by Wes Greenwood

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


    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.

  3. Comment by Gavin McClurg

    Gavin McClurg Reply August 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Hey Antoine,

    I thought you described this somewhere in the build journal, but I can’t find it. What is the application process for the four SamaN products? I’m going with a different color so I don’t copy you guys exactly, but I dig that look!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 21, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Hi Gavin,
      I don’t think it’s described anywhere, so here it is (we also added it above in the page)!
      Sand the wood using 220 grit (or so) sandpaper.
      Prepare the stain per manufacturer directions, except diluting the stain with a bit of water will help to make the wood grain more visible. Apply with a foam brush.
      Let dry and sand; more sanding = more wood grain. You can play around with this.
      Apply a second layer of stain using a foam brush. Keep a cloth handy during the application of that layer: use it to remove excessive stain.
      Let dry and sand.
      Apply 2 layers of varnish per manufacturer directions (let dry between layers).
      Sand a little to get a nice & smooth finish.

      And thanks for using our Amazon Links! UPS will have to charter a van just for your stuff 😛
      Have a good one,

  4. Comment by Aaron

    Aaron Reply September 26, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    After a few weeks with the fridge are you loving it? I think you have us convinced that that fridge is the way to go. Looked at a TruckFridge like a friend has in his Westie but the handle broke and he has to keep it closed with a bungie, which is a bit of a turn-off to me. Is it quiet at night? Is the power draw what you calculated? Would you insulate it a little more if you had the chance? Hope Montana is treating you okay. Sorry winter came to the mountains so soon. We are still riding here but all the epic trails are covered in snow now.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 26, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      No complains about the fridge! Power draw is as expected; we can hear the compressor, but since the van is finished we don’t really hear it at night. We insulated with 1.5″ foam all around, I think it’s enough! Plus we added the floor vent, so we did the best that we could!
      The only drawback I see is that they are a little bit harder to get (built on demand); so if it ever fails in a few years, will we be able to get one with the exact same dimensions? (so we don’t have to re-do our cabinet). Going with a more “mainstream” brand would mitigate this risk…

      Nice weather is back! We rode Beardance Trail yesterday, then today we got in Helena and plan on riding here all week. We have a super nice free campsite near cemetery island, so life’s good!!

      We’ll let you know when we stop by Bozeman!

  5. Comment by Philip

    Philip Reply October 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Are those self closing drawer slides working well with the mountain driving? They don’t come open during sharp turns or on bumpy fire roads? Thanks for the awesome resources!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 2, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Yeah, after we loaded them, they were opening sometimes. Then we added door catchers ( and that did the trick!
      In fact, we added these catchers on all cupboard doors, drawers & overhead storage doors. It works for us!

  6. Comment by Brock

    Brock Reply March 18, 2018 at 2:52 am

    Hey guys, have a quick question about the fridge. Is it noisy from food and/or drink clanking around while on bumpy roads? Compared to the cooler style fridges it would seem it would be louder because it doesn’t have the weight of everything stacked on itself.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply March 18, 2018 at 10:45 am

      If it’s totally empty you can hear the shelves clanking; if there is stuff inside, there is no noise.


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