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 you is that woodworking takes much longer than we expected to get satisfying results)
TOTAL COST : $150 USD approx.
- 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 on Amazon)
- ¼” overlay semi-wrap hinges (Buy on Amazon)
- Cross Nuts (See our post on Cross Nuts here)
- ¼-20 Flat head screws (Buy on Amazon)
- #4 x 1″ wood screws (Buy on Amazon)
- Titebond III exterior wood glue (Buy on Amazon)
- Low-E EZ-Cool (Buy on Amazon)
- 3M 90 Spray Adhesive (Buy on Amazon)
- Jigsaw & wood blades (Buy on Amazon)
- Drill & bits (Buy on Amazon)
- Clutch Style Bar Clamps (Buy on Amazon)
- 3-way “C” Clamps (Buy on Amazon)
- The ceiling must be locally completed. Check below and you will get it.
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…
Here we go:
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).
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.
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 Cross Nuts in existing holes. Check out our detailed Cross Nut Post for explanations/installation tips/size guide!
Each divider was “custom-fitted” for its 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.
The cabinet is “stand-alone”; it can be removed as a single unit. We therefore glued everything together because we believe that is the best way to achieve maximum strength while eliminating any squeaks.
Glue needs proper contact and proper curing time. This is achieved with proper tools (for once!). We used a few Clutch Style Bar Clamps similar to this one (Buy on Amazon), 3-way “C” Clamps similar to this one (Buy on Amazon), and some #4 wood screws.
After the dividers were assembled, we re-installed the cabinet to check the fit
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 torqueing the screws. This was a trial-and-error process…
Then, the frame was fabricated with 1.5″x¾” select pine (no knots) and glued to the cabinet
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: Buy on Amazon.
We wanted the doors to stay in the opened position, so we added 80 Newtons Gas Struts to each door similar to these: Buy on Amazon
To make a flat surface for the gas strut to attach, we had to add shims that we screwed and glued:
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.
We glued the EZ-Cool to the van walls with 3M 90 spray adhesive:
And here is the (almost) final result!
The electric harness is hidden under an “L” shaped trim that we fabricated:
The “L” shaped trim is screwed from the inside of the cabinet so the screws are not showing:
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 (Buy on Amazon) to help them stay closed. It works!
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 frame that was not glued to the cabinet. With the gas springs constantly applying UPWARD 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!