Fridge & Electrical Cabinet

Last Updated: July 15, 2022

Fridge & Electrical Cabinet

Van-Conversion-Build-Cabinet-Fridge-Electrical-(Heading)

The driver’s side kitchen cabinet of our Ford Transit DIY camper van conversion is the home of our 12V Novakool R5810 fridge and home of our electrical system. When we initially brainstormed 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.
fridge-electrical-system-cabinet
Temporary plywood countertop & protective sheet on the fridge
Faroutride Kitchen 2
Final result. We did it!

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 a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc), we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait


 

MATERIAL:

TOOLS:

PRE-REQUISITE

CO-REQUISITE




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

kreg-pocket-hole-mini-jig

kreg-pocket-hole-jig-mini
Buy it on Amazon
kreg-screw-chart-large
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.
ford-transit-camper-van-fridge-electricity-cabinet
Interactive 3D model here
The Structure

We used 2″x 3″ studs that we joined together using Titebond III Wood Glue & the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Mini. The glue provides extra strength and ensures 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
camper-conversion-fridge-electrical-kitchen-cabinet-4
Custom blue color! A mix of Olive, Azur & Whitewash Saman water-based stain. 2 coats of water based flat varnish were then 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 Cross Nuts (see our specific post here to learn everything about them). Using Cross Nuts, you can avoid drilling holes into the van!

Crossnut-Heading
See our post about Cross Nuts here
cabinet-plusnut
The cabinet is attached to the van with Cross Nuts
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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


Update 2020

We initially installed self-closing drawer slides (amzn.to/3jLrRlr) that worked fine, but the mechanism of one of them finally failed 4 years later. This time, we went with these soft-close drawer slides: amzn.to/2F3gC8L. Soft-close slides pull the drawer in to the closed position, just like the self-close, but they do it nicely and slowly. As a result, the drawers don’t slam into the cabinet. Nice! And as a bonus, they hold the drawers in closed position better. We went with a reputable brand, Knape & Vogt; they cost more than generic Amazon products, but we know we get a quality product that will last.

Soft-Close Drawer Slide, Knape & Vogt
Soft-Close Drawer Slide, Knape & Vogt. Buy on Amazon.

self-closing-slides-installed
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 types of wood will react very differently. We also diluted the solution with water to get different tint. We applied 2 coats. This step really is the result of trial-and-error!
  4. Protect the wood with Saman water based flat varnish.
camper-van-cabinet-1
The result

Prior to artificially aging the wood, we made some cutouts, using a jigsaw, to act as drawer handles:

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 (Buy from Amazon).
  • 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 (Buy from Amazon).
  • 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 finished 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…

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 with 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 (Buy from Amazon) to help them stay closed. It works 98% of the time!

Door Catchers Amazon
Door catchers. Buy from Amazon.

3- We initially installed self-closing drawer slides (amzn.to/3jLrRlr) worked fine, but the mechanism of one of them finally failed 4 years later. This time, we went with these soft-close drawer slides: amzn.to/2F3gC8L. Soft-close slides pull the drawer in to the closed position just like the self-close, but they do it nicely and slowly. As a result, the drawers don’t slam into the cabinet. Nice! And as a bonus, they hold the drawers in closed position better. We went with a reputable brand, Knape & Vogt; they cost more than generic Amazon products, but we know we get a quality product that will last.

Soft-Close Drawer Slide, Knape & Vogt
Soft-Close Drawer Slide, Knape & Vogt. Buy on Amazon.

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About-Us-Narrow

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017, we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers, and moved into our self-built campervan. Every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams, and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!