Fridge & Electrical Cabinet


Fridge & Electrical 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


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, 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 Cross Nut (see our specific post here to learn everything about them). Using Cross Nut, it is not required to drill holes into the van!

See our post about Cross Nut here


The cabinet is attached to the van with Cross Nut


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 (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 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 (Buy from Amazon) 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 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and 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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32 thoughts on “Fridge & Electrical Cabinet”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.



  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. Hi Guys!

    I can’t find your dimensions, but thinking that your counters are asymmetric, maybe depths 22″ driver side and maybe 18″ passenger side? Doesn’t matter for us, but just wondering. Each controlled by the depth of the stove and refrig, respectively I assume?

    The tandem will be on the passenger side and it will extend into the cabinet area that side. (Open a door, get some chain salad, thank you.) So the sink goes at the front end of the passenger side counter. And the stove top and refrig on the other side. Hoping I can use the unused part of the van step (behind the counter) for grey water.

    I think we’ll have managed the height of the tandem so the bed is at the same height as the counter (35.5″), but still might haf to bow my head a little sitting on the bed, depending on the thickness of the mattress (remember, we have mid-height. The engineering of the bed support to have NO support directly above the tandem seats seems easy, mainly using a wall underneath the bed on the interior side of the tandem slider to cantilever the bed supports and use knees from the passenger side.

    We’ll keep you updated.

    Don (and Rachel, the other half of the “we’ll”)

  7. Hey Antoine,

    I just ordered my 2 100 watt solar panels and want to get my electrical figured out. My current question is regarding picking a location for my electrical cabinet, which will hold my monstrous 200 amp hour AGM battery, the solar controller, fuse box, etc. The front of the solar panels will be centered on the roof, on each side of the roof fan, behind the driver and passenger seats. It seems like having the e cabinet near the start battery is good, so that the cables between the start and house batteries are short. But, it would be great to have that big old heavy battery at the back of the van, near a rear wheel for better traction on snow and ice. Any advice?

    Also, those covered factory holes in the roof seem like they would be great to route the cables from the panel down inside the van. There’s some holes located in convenient places for this part of the project it seems. The holes look like they would accommodate a Right angle cable gland, so that I wouldn’t have to drill another hole in the roof. What do you think?

    Merci beaucoup mon ami!

    • Seeing how my rear suspension “squat” (before adding the Air Lift), there’s plenty of weight in the rear. Having some weight in the front too would not hurt.

      I have not looked into those hole, so I don’t know about that. Maybe someone on the forum would know (


  8. Hi Antoine

    What did your research come up with in regards to using a DC vs a AC/DC fridge? Would it not be better to pay the extra $$ for the AC/DC versions and save wear on your house battery if shore power is available? Also, with regards to ventilation – do you think leaving air space around the fridge, and providing cabinet ventilation could alleviate the need for a floor vent? Merci!

    • We pretty much never use shore power, so we didn’t consider it. But when we’re plugged to shore power, our 12V fridge draw power from the charger/converter not from the battery, so we’re not wearing the house battery.

      A floor vent is not mandatory; the idea is that it works as an air intake (for the van) AND for fridge ventilation simultaneously. If you already have other source of air intake, you can skip the floor vent under the fridge. Just check your fridge installation manual to make sure you provide enough ventilation through the cabinet.

  9. What are the dimensions of this cabinet system? And I’m asking the same question for your other base cabinets as well.

    Thank for your assistance.

    • Hi Korina,

      I could go on and detailed all the dimensions, but it wouldn’t work unless you have the same exact fridge, sink, oven, etc… I didn’t provide all the dimensions because I expected people to do some customization. What dimensions exactly are you looking for?

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

    • 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!

  13. 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!

    • 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,

  14. 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…

    • 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.

  15. 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!

    • 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!


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