Fridge & Electrical Cabinet

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 Novakook 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.

camper-conversion-fridge-electrical-kitchen-cabinet-3
The assembled frame

 

camper-conversion-fridge-electrical-kitchen-cabinet-6
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).

img_20160820_132949

 




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

 

camper-conversion-fridge-electrical-kitchen-cabinet-12
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.

img_20161112_155220
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


NICE TO MEET YOU.

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. 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!

17 thoughts on “Fridge & Electrical Cabinet”

Heads up! As of Fall 2021, we are currently visiting our families back home and we might not be able to answer all comments due to time constrain. Thanks for understanding and see you on the road! -Isabelle and Antoine

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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!

    -Sam

    Reply
  3. 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?

    Reply
  4. 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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  6. 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.

    Cheers,

    Don

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  8. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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