The Control Cabinet


This is the converter we ended up having to purchase last month (the used one I had bought online a couple of years ago, failed to work). All of our electricity is ran through the converter, both the 110 and the 12v.  This means that the converter has both fuses and breakers in it. We will be hooking the generator and solar panels up to this little baby, once we get them. I wanted the converter near the front of the bus, so that we could have it close to where we will eventually have our generator (under the bus and about 6 feet back from here) and where our solar power will be set up (right above this area, behind the front AC unit). I also wanted to be able to have a cabinet with easy access to our power source, with some emergency items in an area near the front door  (for roadside emergencies, etc.). In the cupboard above the converter seemed like the perfect place for these. And that is how the Control Cabinet came to be.

Rich, our friend who ran the electricity a month or so ago, asked me how I wanted to set up the cabinet. While he was here, I began boxing in the converter and he was sweet enough to put the piece of plywood up for the switches, while I was gone one afternoon. I knew how I wanted this cabinet to function, but didn’t know exactly how it would look. This part of the conversion was quite a PITB, as you will soon see….

I began by using the free piece of beautiful knotty alder beadboard I had gotten from a fellow who was selling remnants of wood online. The piece was only 6 ft tall by 18in wide, so I used a piece on either side of the dinettes and attached it. I then cut a piece of plywood to rest on top of the converter, which also created the bottom of the cupboard.

I cut some beautiful pieces of wood paneling to go on the back of each of these dinettes.

They turned out pretty well…don’t you think? The streetside back isn’t actually complete in this picture, but it has the same wood as the curbside back.

I began staining (with polyurethane).

As much as I love the way raw wood looks, I have learned to appreciate the fact that stain/sealer brings out the beauty of the grain in just about any wood there is….so lovely.

I built up the frame and was moving along quite nicely….

Found a nice piece of paneling for the right side and measured to figure out where the switches and outlet would need to come through. Then I drilled holes and cut the openings with my jigsaw.

I really struggled to get the outlets through the openings and tried to pull the converter out to see if I could get behind the outlets (to loosen up the wires and adjust the screws that pull up the little levers which hold each outlet in place). That was when I realized that I had made a great mistake…..I hadn’t realized that the converter would only adjust out a little way (around an inch). Not only would I not be able to reach behind the outlets and switches to adjust them, but also whomever needed to work on the electricity in our bus in the future, wouldn’t be able to access behind the converter at all. I called Rich, who told me exactly what I had already confirmed, the converter wouldn’t come out very far. The funny part of it all? When planning for the face that would go over the middle of the cabinet, I actually had it in my mind that I would need to cut 2 holes, one for the converter and one for the door to the cupboard on top. Doh! haha

As much as I hate undoing hard work, I knew that it would come back to bite me in the rear, if I left it as is. I tried to keep the frame in tact, as much as possible. Then I removed the bottom of the cupboard and cut a hole in it.

I sanded around the edges of both the opening and the piece I had cut (as it would now serve as a door for access to the backside of the converter, when I was done). I cut a few pieces of some wood paneling and attached each piece around the edge of the opening, on the back (or underside, as it would be, once I put this bottom back in).

I reassembled the top frame and put a piece of 1/2″ plywood on the top, but realized I had cut it too short.

No problem, Ethan is an expert at creating templates!

In no time at all, he had whipped up a template that looked better than any I could have made and we cut out a lovely piece of 1/2 paneling for the top of the cabinet. I also cut out the left side of the face and attached it, making sure I had a hole for the switch that goes to the front porch light.

I also made sure that the cord to the little squid that acts as a triple dc plug made it through the top of the cabinet.

Then I cut the front panel, making sure it would fit (in the shape of a horseshoe) over the converter. I cut another piece to go underneath this piece and even attached the door (still needing to be stained). And did you notice the cute little phone charging box that I picked up from the thrift store for $2? I know it looks kind of ragged right now, but just you wait! 😉

I sanded the corners down until they were all nice and rounded. This was an interesting way of melding the 3 pieces together. I am sure there is a more eloquent way of doing this part, but this worked for me….for today.

After I finished sanding the edges, I filled in the holes with wood filler.

I also stained the door (along with a few others I had somehow missed in my big week of sanding, staining, and satisfying my creativity).

It was turning out better than I was anticipating earlier that day. I know what you are thinking, my woodworking skills are seriously lacking and this cabinet is probably not very impressive to anyone but myself and some of my kids. You are right! Considering the fact that I have a limited amount of tools and my experience includes working in a cabinet shop for a week, reading books, and watching youtube videos, I think my work is…..passable. 😉

I used polyurethane on the rest of the cabinet and attached the phone charger hub (see what a little bit of contact cement can do to make it look all spiffy?) to the top of the cabinet. Then I pulled the squid inside of the phone hub and VOILA.!

Here is what ended up in the roadside-emergency cupboard: 3 triangles (for putting on the side of the road, should we have an emergency pull-off), a tow cable (the same one we used when I accidentally backed the bus off of a hill in Missouri), a first aid kit (notice it still reads Bus 19, both the triangles and first aid kit came with the bus), and a large maglight.

And here is what is inside of our cute little phone hub, the amazing squid….for charging phones, mp3 players, and laptops while we are in motion. Isn’t it cute?

And this is where my keys will probably reside, when we are at home….in the bus (with a lot less keys on the ring, I hope). So nice to finally have another cabinet complete….what a busy month I have had!  Can’t wait to show you what I have been up to this past week…..I will be sure to publish my next post, on the Tea & Spice Cupboard, soon. You are going to love it! I know I do. 🙂

Pura Vida!


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