Welcome to the seventh entry in July’s Medium Mod Contest. One Medium Mod will be published in every Email Alert in July. At the end of the month, we’ll hold a reader vote to determine July’s winner. Click here for information about the 2022 Mod Contest, including how to enter.
James Thomas, Belen, New Mexico
Gimme Me Some (Storage) Space!
2020 Northern Lite EX LE
It is amazing how much space in a camper is wasted through engineering – or maybe over-engineering – at the factory. Our Northern Lite had several such areas when it was purchased. Oh well, their waste will be our gain, and perhaps yours too!
We have added shelving in places to better utilize some spaces (ewe, that’s a rhyme). We even added a countertop extension but, we just couldn’t seem to find an inexpensive way to gain pantry space short of knocking holes in the wall or installing a slide-out.
A neighbor, who happens to do cabinet making as a hobby, looked at our space with me and made some suggestions. With plenty of home pandemic time on our hands, some awesome cabinet-making professional tools, my neighbor’s skills, and some very nice cherry wood provided by my neighbor, we were able to more than quadruple our pantry space. Woohoo!
I ordered some full extension (100-pound rated) drawer sliders over the Christmas holidays. After those arrived and the holidays were behind us, my neighbor invited me and our camper to his home cabinet shop up the street from us.
Our idea was to remove the existing camper pantry, which used top/bottom slide-out metal baskets, and we filled the area with more and larger storage baskets. The total existing storage space was 5.57-cubic feet. Our goal was to utilize approximately five inches of wasted space on either side of the existing pantry baskets while adding three additional shelves/baskets.
We demolished the old pantry and started the rebuild by widening the cabinet opening to the maximum width of the space. The height was kept the same.
Then we built seven adjustable shelves. The cabinet door was reused with a wider area added. The shelves were all created using cherry wood. A piece of luan/oak paneling widened the cabinet door.
I messed up the shelf adjustment holes when the template slipped while drilling. If this were the only screw up I’d be doing good but it wasn’t. Oh well, live and learn right?
After fixing mis-drilled holes we did the final sanding of all wood parts. On to staining. Oh goody!
Trying to match the Northern Lite Sapele wood color was a huge challenge. All of the experimental samples I stained (four kinds of wood and four different colors) failed to look anything like the samples on the finished cabinet. Great! Back to the sampling again.
The final color was achieved by first using Red Chestnut Min-Wax. The following day, a coat of Dark Walnut Min-Wax stain over the first coat achieved a very close color balance. Short soaking time for the Dark Walnut. Three coats of satin polyurethane finished the wood surfaces. Pay no attention to my runs.
The assembly of the project entailed making the top and bottom shelves stationary by joining them to the inside of the door. The door handle was re-positioned horizontally.
A wood block with stainless fender washers was added with a push pin to secure the shelves for travel.
Above: The pin is pushed in locking the pull-out pantry into place
If I use five shelves as pictured (below), we now have just over 16 cubic feet of storage. If the extra two shelves are added, the seven shelves provide 22.4 cubic feet of pantry storage. That’s huge, boys and girlz!
Disclaimer: No humans were harmed in the making of this cabinet, all fingers and toes are accounted for.
Did I tell you how much I hate winter? Well, we have barely used this mod so far but, considering all the pantry storage we have gained, fitting groceries now has many options once it warms up around here.
Accuride drawer/cabinet sliders CabinetParts.com
Half-inch cherry wood board, stock on hand provided by my neighbor (on hand)
220 and 400-grit sandpaper, wood glue and finish nails (on hand)
Cabinet door-pull (on hand)
3-inch pin with pull-ring and two stainless fender washers (Lowe’s)
Approx. 8 ounces of Min-Wax Red Chestnut and 8 ounces of Min-Wax Dark Walnut stains, plus 16 ounces of satin polyurethane (Lowe’s)
It took me approximately 21 hours over a 2.5-week span. Thank goodness the shop was heated! It cost me $100 for use of professional cabinet-making tools and $50 for finishing materials. The price of my neighbor’s cherry wood, his skills, and his patience in teaching me to use his professional equipment was priceless.
In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is hard! Many professional sharp and pointy cabinet-making tools were utilized along with a lot of skill, some luck, and two people with different ideas to fix my screw-ups. I think it’s a nice compliment to the Northern Lite cabinetry.
Disclaimer: The modifications above are submitted by Truck Camper Magazine readers. It is your responsibility to make sure that any do-it-yourself modification project you undertake is safe, effective, and legal for your situation.
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