The overhead storage cabinet of our Ford Transit DIY camper van conversion is full of exciting features!

  • Removable (to gain access to the van wall)
  • The doors are gas-spring actuated
  • Partially blue

 

Honorable Guest Appearance throughout that job :

  • Double-Curvature-Everything. (NOTHING is flat in this area: the wall, the ceiling, etc. We wasted a lot of time dealing with this)

 

 

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: ~40 hours (This is approximate. Time has become a vague concept at this point. What we can tell is, woodworking takes much longer than we expected to get satisfying results)

 

TOTAL COST : 150$ USD approx

 

DISCLOSURE:

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Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.

 

MATERIAL:

  • Baltic Birch, 3/8″ thick (Bought from our local shop)
  • Laminated Pine Shelving (for doors) (Bought from Home-Depot)
  • 1″ x 2″ Select Pine (no knots) (Bought from Home-Depot)
  • 80 Newtons Gas Struts, 1 per door (Buy from Amazon)
  • ¼” overlay semi-wrap hinges  (Buy from Amazon)
  • Plusnuts (See our post on Plusnut here)
  • ¼-20 Flat head screws (Buy from Amazon)
  • #4 x 1″ wood screws (Buy from Amazon)
  • Titebond III exterior wood glue (Buy from Amazon)
  • Low-E EZ-Cool (Buy from Amazon)
  • 3M 90 Spray Adhesive (Buy from Amazon)

 

TOOLS:

  • Jigsaw & wood blades (Buy from Amazon)
  • Drill & bits (Buy from Amazon)
  • Clutch Style Bar Clamps (Buy from Amazon)
  • 3-way “C” Clamps (Buy from Amazon)

 

PRE-REQUISITE:

  • The ceiling must be locally completed. Check below you will get it.

 

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.

 

 

First of all, we modeled and located the overhead storage cabinet. A sketch on a tissue would work too…
3D Model Overhead Storage

Interactive 3D Model here

 

Here we go:

Overhead-Storage-Cabinet-Camper-Van-Conversion-(annotated)

 

First, we removed the foam pieces out of the way. They will be trimmed and covered with tissue later. We used vise-grip and raw power to remove the pins (they were not damaged in the process and we were able to reuse them)

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-6-ps

 

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-10-ps

 

We then fitted and bolted the back-panel of the cabinet. Remember, the ceiling is not flat and therefore cannot be used to level the cabinet. We used the “line” in the van wall just below for that.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (2)

 

We did this to locate the attachment points of the cabinet. We did not want to drill holes in the van, so the cabinet is attached with Plusnut in existing holes. Check out our detailed Plusnut Post for explanations/installation tips/size guide!

plusnut-simulation

Check out our detailed Plusnut Post for more info!

 

Each divider was “custom-fitted” for it’s own location (to match the ceiling curvature). We left a gap between the ceiling and the divider for the top-panel AND to ensure there is no rubbing (squeaks!). The pattern of the dividers was prepared with cardboard and then transferred to Baltic birch plywood.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (6)

 

The cabinet is “stand-alone”; it can be removed as a single unit. We therefore glued everything together, because we believe this is the best way to achieve maximum strength while eliminating any squeaks.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (12)

We used Titebond III exterior wood glue. Buy from Amazon

 

Glue needs proper contact with proper curing time. This is achieved with proper tools (for once!). We used a few Clutch Style Bar Clamps similar to this one (http://amzn.to/2h9JKMP), 3-way “C” Clamps similar to this one (http://amzn.to/2ifkbHR) and some #4 wood screws.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (23)

Hold still

 

After the dividers were assembled, we re-installed the cabinet to check the fit

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (8)

 

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (20)

 

Did we mention nothing is flat here? The back-panel of the cabinet is not properly sitting on the van wall, so we had to add shims of different thickness to ensure that the cabinet does not deform when we are torquing the screws. This was a trial-and-error process…

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (17)

Working on the shims

 

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (18)

Using manly tools for gluing the shims to the back-panel of the cabinet. There is no shim on the nearest part of the cabinet because the wall is flat there.

 

Then, the frame was fabricated with 1.5″x¾” select pine (no knot) and glued to the cabinet

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (24)

 

We then added the top-panels (made from 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood) and the doors (made from ¾” laminated pine). The doors are hinged with ¼” overlay semi-wrap hinges similar to these: http://amzn.to/2ih1PpI.

 

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (25)

 

We wanted the doors to stay in opened position, so we added 80 Newtons Gas Struts to each door similar to these: http://amzn.to/2ih2jMy

Van Convsersion Overhead cabinet gas spring

Gas Spring actuated door

 

 

To make a flat surface for the gas strut to attach, we had to add shims that we screwed & glued:

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (26)

 

Before installing the overhead storage cabinet forever, we added some Low-E EZ-Cool. This is to break the thermal bridge between the van metal wall & the cabinet. The Low-E EZ-Cool is a closed cell-foam sandwiched in between reflective material.

Overhead-Storage-Cabinet-Camper-Van-Conversion-(15-annotated)

Buy EZ-Cool on Amazon

We glued the EZ-Cool to the van walls with 3M 90 spray adhesive:

http://amzn.to/2ilsKUw

3M 90 Spray Adhesive (Buy from Amazon)

 

And here is the (almost) final result!

Overhead-Storage-Cabinet-Camper-Van-Conversion-(gap-harness)

 

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT…

The spring-actuated doors worked well… until we loaded the storage with stuff. Then, if taking a sharp turn, doors would sometimes open (because of the stuff pressing against the doors). We therefore added door catchers (http://amzn.to/2xU2Te8) to help them stay closed. It works!

Door Catchers Amazon

Door catchers. Buy from Amazon.

 

November 2017 Update:

We recently noticed that the overhead cabinet latches didn’t align with the doors anymore..!? We found a design flaw: the top frame (in blue) was left “floating”; it’s the only section of the frames that was not glued to the cabinet. With the gas springs constantly applying UP force to it, the wood was slowly bending. No worries, we designed the van so everything can be taken off pretty easily: an hour later the cabinet was fixed AND we had clean laundry, yay!

 

 

 

 

WANT MORE?

Check out our Build Journal, learn everything about The Van, join us for The Ride, or if you’re new to this start by reading The Prologue.

 

 

STAY IN TOUCH!

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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, sold our house 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!

 

 

CHEERS!

 

 

9 comments

  1. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply May 3, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I love the style of your interior. Did you ever do a writeup on installation of your ceiling and wall panels? Is it tongue and groove or sheet paneling? How is the ceiling attached? And are the led lights attached to the ceiling or to some structure above it? What do you think about the weight of the material you used for walls and ceiling? Is it heavy?

    Thanks for documenting all of this.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks!
      We’re not completely done with our walls, so the writeup has to wait… Yes, we used tongue and groove screwed to plywood “frames”; the plywood frames are attached into the van with plusnut. The LEDs are attached to the tongue-and-groove panel; we just cut a hole and the light holds very neatly in it. Here are the light we used: http://amzn.to/2p7mIH3. The tongue and groove are just 5/16″ thick and it’s pine wood, so weight is reasonable i think.

      Here is a pic of the frame and the paneling with the LED hole:panel

      Meanwhile, here is a draft i think might help:

      Frames

      The wood paneling is not attached directly to the van; it’s attached to frames that we first installed. We put frames every 2 feet or so, depending on what was possible. As usual, we did not use metal screws; we used Plusnut to attach the frames to the van walls. Not familiar with Plusnut? That’s fine, we made an article about them here!

      *pic and link to plusnut

      The frames are made from Baltic Birch Plywood; it is a high-quality plywood. For the same thickness as regular plywood, there are more layers and the material characteristics are more uniform.

      It was super important for us to maximize the living area, therefore we did not want to “overdesign” the frames. It made the fabrication of the frames & the installation of the paneling much more time consuming, but we’re very glad we did it.

      The frames are generally 4” wide. We used ½” thickness plywood for the ceiling, 3/8” thickness plywood for almost-flat surfaces of the walls and ¼” thickness* plywood where we wanted the paneling to conform to the van curvatures.

      *Time for a disclaimer! ¼” Baltic birch plywood is THIN! Will it withstand the test of time? We think so, but if you choose the do the same, do it at your own risks! ¼” “regular” plywood is probably not strong enough (it will probably crack at screw locations). If you’re using the van as a cargo or if you plan on attaching heavy stuff to the wall, ¼” is probably not strong enough.

  2. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply May 30, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Hi Antoine, for some reason I don’t get email when you reply to a comment I left, so I just remembered to check now. Thank you for the response. It’s very helpful. Glad to hear that you’re getting ready to take off and travel!

  3. Comment by Matthew Mendonza

    Matthew Mendonza Reply July 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    What is the distance between your upper cabinet and the countertop? Did you go with the standard 18 inches of a normal house counter? Or something different?

    Love the build (and all the plusnuts)

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 17, 2017 at 7:31 am

      Hey Matthew!
      We weren’t aware of the 18 inches standard, so we went as follows:
      Countertop Height = 36″ (standard)
      Upper Cabinet Height (from ceiling to bottom of the cabinet): 15″
      Remaining height between the countertop and the upper cabinet: 25″

      Cheers!

  4. Comment by Brian J

    Brian J Reply October 22, 2017 at 12:29 am

    Hey guys! Loving the build and updates! Getting ready to mount doors on our cabinets…. do you think a stronger gas strut would keep the doors closed, or is a latch an inevitability?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 22, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      I think a stronger gas strut will have the opposite effect and door might open more… there are so much vibrations + things in the cabinet are moving (and pushing on doors). A latch is mandatory!

      • Comment by Brian J

        Brian J Reply November 10, 2017 at 12:43 am

        I’m building doors for similar overhead cabinets. Planning on copying your setup of hinge/strut/catches (though, like the electrical system, wish it took fewer components… but I can’t find anything that does all three jobs). 80N seems high for a door face less than 15N- in your experience would a 30N strut (such as https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016UOFEPK/ref=s9_dcacsd_dcoop_bw_c_x_4_w) be easier to close and put less stress on everything, or are you happy with 80N?

        BTW- Bought Sterling charger and a battery monitor yesterday and looking forward to install!

        Thanks again for all the help. Your site has been an inspiration! We owe you many dank IPAs once we get on the road!

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply November 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

          Hi Brian,

          We’re happy with the strut; I remember using a table or a calculator back when I chose the strut and 80N made sense for the size/thickness of our doors. Maybe 50N would be fine, but 30N seems a bit on the low side… can’t find the table/calculator right now, but it’s there somewhere on the internet!!

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