Overhead Storage Cabinet

Overhead Storage Cabinet

Updated:

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.

 


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Portrait


 

 

MATERIAL:

 

TOOLS:

 

PRE-REQUISITE:

  • The ceiling must be locally completed. Check below and you will get it.

 

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.

 

 

First of all, we modeled and located the overhead storage cabinet. A sketch on a tissue would work too…
3D Model Overhead Storage
Interactive 3D Model here

 

Here we go:

Overhead-Storage-Cabinet-Camper-Van-Conversion-(annotated)

 

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).

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-6-ps

 

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-10-ps





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.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (2)

 

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!

plusnut-simulation
Check out our detailed Cross Nut Post for more info!

 

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.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (6)

 

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.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (12)
We used Titebond III exterior wood glue. Buy on Amazon




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.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (23)
Hold still

 

After the dividers were assembled, we re-installed the cabinet to check the fit

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (8)

 

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (20)

 

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…

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (17)
Working on the shims

 

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (18)
Using manly tools for gluing the shims to the back-panel of the cabinet. There is no shim on the nearest part of the cabinet because the wall is flat there.

 

Then, the frame was fabricated with 1.5″x¾” select pine (no knots) and glued to the cabinet

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (24)

 

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.

 

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (25)

 

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

Van Convsersion Overhead cabinet gas spring
Gas Spring actuated door

 

 

To make a flat surface for the gas strut to attach, we had to add shims that we screwed and glued:

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (26)

 

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.

Overhead-Storage-Cabinet-Camper-Van-Conversion-(15-annotated)
Buy EZ-Cool on Amazon

We glued the EZ-Cool to the van walls with 3M 90 spray adhesive:

https://www.amazon.com/3M-86235-Clear-Hi-Strength-Adhesive/dp/B01MDP96WQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?rps=1&ie=UTF8&qid=1484177603&sr=8-4&keywords=3m+90+spray+adhesive&refinements=p_85:2470955011&linkCode=ll1&tag=faroutride-20&linkId=d3ed696cdf30fb7e98f1d5d1b2c2d47e&language=en_US
3M 90 Spray Adhesive (Buy on Amazon)

 

And here is the (almost) final result!

Overhead-Storage-Cabinet-Camper-Van-Conversion-(gap-harness)

 

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:Overhead Electric Harness Trim

 

 

 

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!

Door Catchers Amazon
Door catchers. Buy on Amazon.

 

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!

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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!

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13 thoughts on “Overhead Storage Cabinet”

  1. Did you just do butt joints for the wood glue or did you use any fasteners for internal construction?

    Also for mounting points did you just mount to the side wall. Can you show any mounts to the ceiling?

    What do you estimate is the loading capacity of the storage is? What do you store in there?

    Reply
  2. Hello,
    You mentioned that you removed those two styrofoam pieces in the ceiling corners at the front of the cargo area just behind the seats, and said that you trimmed them and put them back later. Do you have any pics of them after reinstallation? Are they even necessary, could they be reminded entirely; or, if not, how much did you trim off? I can’t get an answer from Ford service departments, so if you have advice that would be great. Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  3. One of the problems with those nice comfy seats it that when they are reversed there’s nothing to grab on to pull yourself up (unlike when they are forward).

    So, one thing we added to the drivers end of the cabinet is a grab handle.

    You know that black grab handle that you use to pull your self up on when you get in the side door? You can buy those on eBay for $10 or $15. I mounted one horizontally on the end of the cabinet.
    Now, when I have coffee in one hand I can slowly get up under control!!

    Since we had two of them (the grab handles), I put the other on the back cabinet, to aid in getting into and out of our bed, which is almost as high as yours!

    Reply
  4. After researching some types of cabinet latches, I decided to buy Magnetic Cabinet Locks to protect my cabinet on each trip. It is flexible to install anywhere you want and keep all of the things stay in the cabinet when we encountered rock road.

    Reply
  5. I am confused when having many types of cabinet latches in today’s market. I don’t know between Magnetic Cabinet Locks and Adhesive Mounted Cabinet Locks what is better. Do you have any recommendations about each one for me?

    Reply
  6. Hi Guys:

    Okay, I have looked at this for months, and I have a Q, below.

    We have built along similar lines. Changes: 1/2″ oak plywood, mounted mainly using the factory Ford M8-1.25 nuts (but adding some cross nuts at the ends) and initially pocket holed everything together. Will take it apart for gluing and staining and varnishing next month, as we didnt want the smell en maiden trip. Similar dims to yours (14.5″H X 11.5″D), but only 16″ over the driver side counter cuz of our lower roof. Turns out, that’s what our cabinets are over the counters at home, so fine!! At the moment thinking no doors because of the lower roof, but those can be added later if we decide to. BTW, without glue held together for 6000 miles, but I am still going to add the glue as I think some evil squeaks were heard as we bounced over the CA Sierra!! Only other change is 1X3 pine along the bottom front edge for retention of chaos like objects, 1X2 everywhere else like yours. The pocket holes are on the back of the 1X2s, not on the edges, so you can’t see them (or tighten them again!!).

    But the Q: I can not figure out the purpose for the 1/8″ plywood top panels. We see, in our case, the cedar t&g, and it seems a fine and beautiful “top panel”. Why did you add that and would you do it again?

    Cheers, Don

    Reply
      • Liked your 2 year aniversary article.

        Okay, I am confused. in the picture under “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, and that is one of your preconditions. We used the “line” in the van wall just below for that.” with Isabell it looks like the t&g is done above the cabinet. I can’t believe you would take it off. Plus, it is one of your PRE-REQUISITEs: The ceiling must be locally completed. Check below you will get it.

        But I didn’t add the 1/8″, so it really doesn’t matter.

        For the bed storage area, because we sleep transverse, we duplicated that unit in the back, so our feet slip beneath the storage area. Works great. And as you know, when Isabell’s clothes (never yours) roll out after a sharp turn, they don’t make any noise!!

        Reply

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