Vanagon/Westfalia Fridge Upgrade – Building the Cabinet

This is part 2 of the fridge upgrade; you can read part 1 here.

With the cabinet out, it was time to take the whole thing apart and move the central divider over the 1″ that would allow clearance for the new fridge.  The whole thing is held together with wood glue and staples, so taking it apart is pretty straightforward.

The cabinet removed

The bottom piece is easiest to remove, I started there, taking a rubber mallet and gently pounding the base away from the cabinet.

staple detail

staple detail

Cabinet with no bottom

Next came the front and middle section.

removed the front cover

There was no way I was getting through this without fucking up somewhere, and the first one came when I took the front panel off – along with a chunk of top panel.  Oops.

The wood I took off

Gluing the piece back on

Thank you, wood glue!

Since the whole point was to re-position the central divider, there was no need to separate the sides from the top and I left them attached.  It made some things down the road slightly more awkward than it would otherwise have been, but all in all it made the whole job simpler.

With the panels removed, it was time to remove staples with needle-nose pliers.


All the work up to now involved removing things, but it was finally time to start making some changes and putting everything back together.  The central divider needed to be moved over about an inch, so I measured the width of the fridge, marked the top and bottom panels, and then set the fridge and panel in to make sure that everything lined up before cutting.  Everything seemed okay, so it was time to make the cut, and this meant that I got to use one of my favorite tools ever made: a router.

Test cut

Test cut and router

Lining up the cut

Making sure that the panel fits

Happy that everything lined up and that the new fridge would fit, it was time to glue the panels back together and nail them in.

ready to be put back in

Because the middle partition had moved, a couple more adjustments were needed.  The front panel was now too wide, the supports for the upper drawer were too long, and the shelves were too long as well.  I could either cut one side of the front panel down or try to split the difference.  I decided to cut the fridge side of the panel down because both shelves and the drawer have channels in the back for the sink’s drain line and keeping their alignment would save a lot of hassle.  There is just enough room for the latch on the door if I shaved the panel down, so in the end that was the best way to go.  Plus, I got to use my router again (wheee!).

Needs a router

The latch for the cabinet. I clipped a bit off the end to make it fit.

Needs a router

Needs a router

post router

Ready for a fridge

With all of the panels back in place it was time for a test with the fridge.  It fit like a glove with no gap at all!

Testing the new fridge

Well, almost.  Remember when I measured the fridge?  Well, I measured the middle of the fridge, which turns out not to be the widest part.  Right behind the door the fridge is slightly wider and with the tight fit I had cut, I could not for the life of me squeeze the rest of the fridge in.  I got this far:

The squeeze

It was that close.  Since I only needed to worry about a couple of inches on one side, I pulled the fridge and took a rotary sander to the to the middle panel.

Last ditch sanding

It worked like a charm!  Now I had a fridge that fit and looked wonderful!

Like a glove

The wood beneath the fridge is for a drawer as well as support for the fridge.  The fit is so tight that I don’t need to worry about screwing the fridge in; so long as it has support from underneath to prevent slipping from vibrations while driving.

With this set, it was time to clean the van and put everything back, which will be covered in part 3.



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