Building a Sliding Door Cabinet for a Sprinter Van
In this post, we'll describe our process of building a cabinet in the sliding door of our Sprinter Van to house our 2 burner stove/ oven and plenty of storage. We also constructed an external drop-down table for outside cooking and a flip-up shelf to expand our counter space inside the van. We found that it was worth the effort to complicate this space in order to maximize the efficiency of our tiny kitchen. If you love cooking as much as we do, you might find it useful too!
Note: this post is about our first Sprinter Van, which we bought in May 2016, converted, lived/traveled in, and sold May 2018. If you are looking for info about our second Sprinter/current project, please check the dates of the post and make sure you're reading posts from 2018/2019. Cheers!
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The sliding door cabinet was one of the most challenging parts of our build, but also turned into of our favorite features of the van. We love maximizing our use of the space, and putting a cabinet with either the sink or a stove in the sliding door of your van is one of the best ways to efficiently use otherwise-wasted space in a van kitchen. We had seen a few options for sliding door cabinets and liked the one from Roaming Robos best, so we loosely based ours on theirs. It ended up being the most complicated of our cabinets for a few reasons. First is the shape. We wanted the whole cabinet to be (relatively easily) removable for when we want more room inside or need to transport something with an odd shape. Because the cabinet extends into the foot well of the door, there were some complicated angles we wanted to match up so it would sit nicely. But this also meant it doesn't stand on its own when removed from the van. We ended up making a separate little box out of leftover plywood for it to rest on when we take it out.
The second reason is the amount of hardware--we wanted this cabinet to do a lot. We wanted a fold-up shelf that would extend toward the passenger seat to add to our interior counter space and double as a desk/ table for that seat when swiveled. We wanted an exterior drop-down shelf for outside cooking. We also added a little spot to store our two-burner stove that we would use outside and a cubby for shoes below. And finally, we needed a way to mount our Campchef oven inside and protect the cabinet and our bed from the heat.
Luckily we had a ton of help from our friend Shane Parreco who was visiting from out of town. He has a lot of cabinetry experience and he spent a good portion of his vacation lending a hand and sharing his skills with us. Thanks Shane!
We used 3/4 inch Baltic birch plywood for the vertical pieces for added strength to hold the shelves, which are 1/2 inch Baltic birch. To start, we cut the side panels. the aft/bedside panel is taller than the forward one because we wanted the extra heat protection for our mattress.
We cut a dado in for each of the 3 shelves. The bottom shelf sits on the barnwood floor of the van and is inserted into a dado in the part of the cabinet that sticks down into the foot well. It extends underneath the wall of the cabinet so you can see the end grain. The next one up creates the cubby accessible from the outside of the van that holds the Campchef 2-burner stove that we use for outside cooking on the exterior shelf. The third shelf is for the oven to sit on. The next step was to cut an access hole in the aft side panel for our 1 gallon propane bottle to go through so we could store it in the back of the van under the bed but still have access to it through the front for easy on/off and refilling. We cut the hole with a jigsaw and used a router to smooth the edges.
Next we cut the face pieces and planned all the cuts to match the grain. there are 2 bottom doors, 2 horizontal strips, the drop-down shelf and one vertical strip on the outside and one horizontal strip on the inside. Once all the pieces were cut, we painted and oiled, then glued, clamped, and screwed it all together.
The Campchef oven recommends 12" of space on all sides, which was not feasible in the van. But we obviously wanted a good way to protect the cabinet and bed from the heat. Our friend Matt had some spare sheet metal lying around that he had taken from a demolition job, and we always love reclaiming materials, so we decided to use it. We cut it into panels for the inside of the cabinet and the top of the exterior drop-down shelf. We roughed it up with a sanding wheel and a grinder, and sealed it with the same beeswax and walnut oil blend we used for our counters. We decided to use angle and flat aluminum both to dress the corners, and to hold the panels on without having to face screw them in place. Matching all the inside and outside corners of the aluminum pieces was a little labor intensive. We used a miter saw to cut the angle and it was worth the extra time--we really like the way it turned out.
To mount the oven we took the screws out of the 4 rubber feet and purchased longer screws that would go from underneath the shelf it sits on all the way up through the oven feet. This way we were able to tighten it down enough that it doesn't move around; but it still has a little give in the rubber feet. We we also removed the side handles of the oven.
To mount the drop-down shelf we used a piano hinge along the bottom edge and steel cable connected to eye bolts to hold it in position when down (like a drawbridge).
For the lower cubby doors we used 110 degree inset hinges.
We used the extra piece of the reclaimed glulam Counter top material leftover from the kitchen counter to make the flip-up table on the side of the cabinet. We used heavy duty hinges that are 1" thick and routed a 3/4" deep channel for each of them in the 1.5" thick counter top so it would lay as flush as possible when folded down.
The wood is sealed with the same all-natural paints and sealants that we used for the rest of our kitchen cabinets and counters. See this post for more details.
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3/4" Baltic birch
1/2" Baltic birch
Reclaimed milled glulam counter material
Reclaimed sheet metal
Hex Head Bolts + Wingnuts