Fridge & Electrical Cabinet

Fridge & Electrical Cabinet

Photo of author

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.
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.







We really enjoyed working with the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Mini because it makes the job easy and provides 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″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.

The assembled frame
The Pocket Holes in action
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).


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!

See our post about Cross Nuts here
The cabinet is attached to the van with Cross Nuts
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


Update 2020

We initially installed self-closing drawer slides ( 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: 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.

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 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.
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!


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 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 ( worked fine, but the mechanism of one of them finally failed 4 years later. This time, we went with these soft-close drawer slides: 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



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!

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Thanks to all of you, we managed to negociate group discount on these. Strength in numbers!

24 thoughts on “Fridge & Electrical Cabinet”

  1. Do you have any second thoughts concerning the use of aluminum extrusion for a van build? Would you use it for a van build?

  2. Hi! Love the info, as always.

    Do y’all have any more pictures of your electrical system anywhere on the site? I’m following along with the wiring diagram but I think it would helpful to see how your system is laid out to get some inspiration on how to space out positive and negative bus bars, where to place breakers, etc.

  3. I’m considering putting/bolting my ‘electrical cabinet’ (without the cabinet) on blank space of wall.
    Just how much light do these components give off during the night?
    I have everything you folks have for a two BB lithium set-up. I don’t want to make a huge mistake by turning my van into a discotheque at night.

    • Haha it’s true there are some lights, ours are hidden in a cabinet so it’s fine.
      I think you could hide the light with tape, or anything really if you have to.

  4. Hello,

    Currently installing the batteries in our van – two Battleborn’s per the diagram we purchased. The diagram shows a cable length of 1ft to connect them in parallel, however in order to save space I want to place them length wise together – butt ends together. A 1 foot cable just doesn’t quite fit, and I looked online and saw Windy Nation also sells a 18inch battery cable in 2/0 AWG. Unlike other areas of the diagram, there is no “range” for these cables, just 12 inches.

    Looking at Battle Born’s site, it seems that 2/0 at 150 – 200 amps will suffice for up to 20ft I believe, but I just wanted to check in with you all as well and see if you agree in the safe-ness of upping the cable length to 18 inches – round trip of 3ft.

    Thank you in advance (:

      • Awesome thank you for the reply! Sort of related, but maybe not, I was looking at the wiring for the Sterling BB1260 and it shows only a + cable going from the device to the starter (van) battery and not a negative as well.

        I see posts on this where others have added/not added the – cable to the van starter battery. Is it not needed? Can I run a negative wire anyway? Was also considering using a MEGA fuse at the battery bus bar, we have a Promaster, in lieu of the circuit breaker. Still utilizing the circuit breaker between the house batteries/BB1260 to be able to shut it off when unneeded. Any thoughts there?

        Thank you in advance (:

  5. Hey Isabelle and Antoine,

    I recently discovered your website. I have to say that it’s loaded with information, that’s crazy. I have to say thank you 🙂

    By the way, I’ve noticed on this article that the link for the Karlby Countertop from Ikea is dead, you might want to update it 😉

    Oh and by the way, if you’re looking for writers or guest posts, let me know where I can reach out to you. I’ll be very happy to write for your website.

  6. Hello Isabelle and Antoine,

    I’m wondering how you got the temperature sensor located inside the refrigerator. Did yo run the wire through the door seal somewhere, or is there an entry hole located elsewhere?

    Thank you!


  7. I’m curious how you keep the fridge from sliding at all while the van is moving. Did you have to do any retrofitting to keep the fridge secure?

  8. Hi Antoine, I have not built a cabinet before and was considering trying to build one similar to yours. Was it difficult to get the drawer slides aligned properly? I have heard the tolerances are pretty tight. Thanks for all you do. Cheers, Tim

    • We had to stack up a few washers between the cabinet/slide in order to get the proper alignement… So yeah, it’s hard to get the perfect fit but you can cheat afterward 😉

      Good luck!

  9. Hello

    You mentioned in an earlier post that when you are connected to shore power your fridge is drawing off the converter/charger not the battery, how did you accomplish that exactly? I plan on purchasing your wiring diagram shortly but a quick glance looks like all 12v loads are always drawing off battery

    Also curious about the noise from the compressor, did you insulate the fridge portion of your cabinet? If not do you think it would be worth while? Keeping in mind you need it to breath.

    Thanks for such an awesome resource.

    • The shore power is in parallel with the battery; that’s the key. It means that any appliance demanding power will “receive” it from the shore power (when plugged in). The battery demand power as well (to get charged); it means current is going into the battery and the appliances simultaneously. If the battery is full, the current go straight from the shore power into the appliances.

  10. Hi A&I,

    We made drawers similar to yours, only using 1/2″ oak plywood, which is strong as steel and thick enuf for pocket holes to screw stuff together.

    For door catchers, we decided to go with the magnetic catches, using two double magnet catches at the back of each drawer (that’s four magnets/drawer). They work wonderfully, so far 0% non opening on the road, even with Rachel driving. I like the nice “click” as the self closing mechanism closes the drawer.



  11. Hi
    You mention shore power in many places, but where did you install a shore power plug? Or do you just use extension cords?
    thank you for all the awesome information.

    • We simply use an extension cord that we pass through the door (we just close the door on it). That solution is fine with us, as we almost never use shore power. And it’s nice to minimize the amount of outlet outside (we have zero). Keep it simple 🙂

  12. Thanks for these awesome descriptions. Did you need to secure the floor cabinets into the floor, or just to the van wall? Did you have any concerns regarding how well the cabinets would stay in place in the case of an accident?

    • Yeah we did add some screws into the floor (plywood). We did our best so it’s safely attached, but I honestly don’t know about accident; depends on the impact I guess.


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