Updated: Jul 26
When we custom-built our empty Promaster cargo van into an RV, we ended up using Ikea kitchen cabinets to save time. Plus we had used them to remodel a kitchen in a house we owned in New Jersey several years ago. We knew we loved Ikea's design and functionality. We were concerned about the weight of the cabinets but our time constraint for building made the final decision. We’ve been super happy with them ever since. Especially the time we lost a drawer as it flung across the van on a sharp turn before we had the cabinet locks installed. The locks should have been a priority but we worked with what we had at the time. Side note, the lady at Ikea was so excited to hear about our van build that she gave me a replacement drawer front for free. (We had voided the warranty by installing them in a non-traditional setting.) Another reason I’m excited about using Ikea cabinets, we can change the look of the kitchen by replacing the fronts whenever we feel like it, the units are all modular and interchangeable!
After a short time of driving around with tie-down straps damaging the fronts, we knew we had to make our cabinet locks very soon. We had gone to a tiny home festival and found our answer! A now good friend, Yvan Lacroix from LacroixCruiser, showed us how he did his. It was perfect! Exactly what we wanted, simple, clean, and efficient without changing the modern look of the cabinets. (I’m so glad we hadn’t fully completed our build before going to some tiny home events. We got so many ideas!) Recently, our friends Nat and Don from NatnDonintheWild, contacted me to show them how we made ours as an option for their van build. (I love how we share ideas in this community.) I figured, while I was at it for them, I might as well make it an easy step-by-step for anyone else that might need it.
Disclaimer: These are just the pieces and tools we used. Measurements and methods can be adjusted and improved upon as needed for your situation. This is a good starting point to get your creative minds moving.
This was a great, simple afternoon project. The whole project took about 2 to 3 hours. You could be faster now that you have instructions. We were making it up as we went along.
First the supplies we used:
30” Length of 3/4" Square Wood Dowel (Length may vary slightly depending on your cabinets and layout.)
#8-32 x 1-1/2” Plain Hanger Bolts (2 pieces, one for each end of dowel)
3” x 3” T-Zinc Plated Plate (1 piece at the bottom of the cabinet for one end of the dowel peg/hanger bolt)
Paint/stain/etc for your desired finish
1/4" Drill Bit for Hole in Counter
90 degree right angle drill adapter (can also use the screwdriver adapter)
Step 1: Cut the length of the dowel. Ours was just under 30” (average cabinet height) to allow for the dowel to move up into the top hole then down into the bottom T-plate. (We used a square dowel to sit flat and securely against the cabinets as well as covering the edges of both sides. We have 3 cabinets so we used two dowel locks, one for each “seam”.)
Step 2: Top Under-the-Counter Hole: Measure and drill the hanger bolt hole for the underside of the counter. As you can see from the photo, we traced and marked the square dowel position on the underside of the counter. Lay the square dowel flush against the cabinets and trace the position. Make sure the dowel is centered between the cabinet seam so the dowel is evenly securing each cabinet on each side. Once the square is traced, use the corners to draw an X and find the center. (As you can see, we did not center our hole very well. LOL We adjusted for that later in the instructions.)
Create the hole notch under the counter. Use a drill bit bigger than the hanger bolt to allow the bolt to slide in and out easily. We used a little painter's tape wrapped around the drill bit to mark the appropriate depth to drill. You don’t want to drill completely through the top of your counter!
Step 3: Dowel Construction: On each end of the square dowel. Mark an X to find the center. Predrill a hole for the hanger bolt with a suitable drill bit for the large thread end with the point. The hanger bolt does not have a screw bit end so, we secured the flat head small thread end into the clamps of the power drill after removing the drill bit. With the dowel secured, slowly screw in the hanger bolt.
At the top end of the dowel, the hanger bolt going into the counter will be left longer than the bottom end to allow for the upward then downward movement to lock. The top bolt end always goes in before the bottom end to lock.
We put our hanger bolts lengths at 7/8” length at the top end and 3/8” length at the bottom end. This was adjusted for smooth function for our setup after we drilled the counter hole and attached the T-plate. You may have slightly different measurements.
Step 4: Attaching the bottom T-plate: Place and hold the dowel in position with the top bolt slid into the counter notch. Center and align the dowel along the cabinet seam. Position the T-plate with the bottom dowel bolt slid into the farthest hole of the T-cross. The 3 hole top cross of the plate should follow the bottom edge under the cabinet with the T-cross towards you. As you can see from the picture, only one hole is visible past the cabinet doors. Mark the screw holes under the cabinet. Remove all the pieces and set them aside. Pre-drill screw holes if possible. We used a 90-degree right-angle drill adapter for this and the screws. If you do not have one, you may be able to screw directly into the cabinet with a short screwdriver.
Note: We were concerned about hitting our feet on the T-plate sticking out from the cabinet. So far after having them for about a year, we have not had one painful incident. The only problem was when I was washing the floors by hand and was not careful cleaning under the cabinets. Just a scratch on a finger!
Step 5: Test and Finish: We had to do minor adjustments when trying the final fitting.
1 – We rotated the dowel and marked which side would always be against the cabinets and which dowel would be the left or right side placement. We tested the function of each position and found which one fits best in each position.
2 - The T-plate hole: The hole had to be filed a little bigger because of slight shifting when we screwed in the plate as well as the bolt being very close to the same size as the hole. We tested the bolt’s ease of sliding in and out until we were satisfied.
3 – Hanger bolt lengths. We adjusted the top and bottom lengths to be longer or shorter depending on how the dowel lift into place as well as securing it into the counter. You do not want the top hangar bolt to be too short and not securely hold the dowel and cabinet doors in place. You also do not want it too long so you can not lift and position the dowel in place.
When testing and positioning are complete, paint and/or finish for your desired look. Enjoy knowing your cabinets are securely locked while rolling along on your adventures!
We absolutely love ours! We even built a special spot about our top kitchen cabinet to store them when we are parked. They are kept neatly out of the way and easy to get to when we want to get up and go.
We would love to see how your’s turned out. Post a picture and tag us!
(Photo Note: The locks are stored above the upper cabinet)
Do you like our backsplash? You can order it here from Amazon. (This link is an affiliate link. If you click and purchase, we will earn a commission.)