Tuesday, May 29, 2018

DIY Storage Cabinet

Almost complete, just needs the splash board installed and then secured to the floor.
As we spent time in the van over the past year, I started envisioning our need for some kind of storage for our pots and pans, camp stove and water.  We wanted something more convenient than the plastic storage boxes kept under the bed, a huge pain to dig through in the dark or when its cold. My vision started as a sketch of a "chest of drawers" with a special slide out to keep our cooler on. Thanks to my visionary wife, Rajo, I saw we could pare it down to a single set of drawers, a slide out and a counter top.

After a second set of drawings I set about deciding how to build the thing. Initially I planned on using 3/4" plywood but I don't have a lot of woodworking tools or skill, nor do we have much room to work with/store large material. As an amateur welder, I decided to take on build the frame out of 1" square steel tubing and intended to construct the drawers with pocket hole screws. I sketched out a plan, took some measurement and called an order into the local steel yard.

After a bit of rummaging around the internet I found a place in San Diego that will build sized to fit drawer boxes with full length sliders, so I chose to go that route to save myself some time. In hindsight, I should have just used the pocket screw joinery as it took over a month to get the drawers back which put me into he middle of the worst time of year for working outside. I have since built the box that sits underneath the flip top counter, where we will store the stove/utensils and what not, and it is really easy to make nice boxes using the Kreg brand joinery tools. Also, it requires you have only a circular saw, straight edge and a drill to build functional drawer boxes. Regardless the drawers are nicely constructed, though some of the edge laminate has come off already. They cost ~$150 plus shipping, which included the slide rails and hardware. Not too bad, but if you are on a tight budget you may want to stick with DIY.

As the fabrication progressed I bought some 90 degree corner jigs to help assemble the frame squarely. They have come in useful for the frame and building boxes with the pocket screw kit

Covered sides
I finished the top with a nice stain and several coats of polyurethane to protect it from water damage. I installed a piano hinge and attached the rear part of the top to the frame using riv nuts. The water tap is a Whale brand Mark IV hand pump. I really didn't want to have to mess with too much plumbing and the van's motto is KISS (keep it simple stupid), so a hand pump seemed to best solution. The Whale came highly recommended by other van builders so I spent the money. The tubing runs out the back of the hidden box under the table top and will eventually go into a secondary cabinet I will build out of melamine to store the water container and the 1 Gal propane that fuels our Mr Buddy heater.

In order to give myself a place to attach the side cabinet, and the future potential of adding a flip up auxiliary counter extension, I used a 1/2"ply, stained and urethaned to cover the side of the kitchen console. I used 4MM corrugated plastic, the kind they make signs out of, for the front side of the cabinet since it will essentially be unused and the material is very lightweight.

The cooler slide in action