Ark Update

by | Nov 21, 2010

Joseph Herrin (11-21-2010)

Progress continues on the conversion of the 1972 Carpenter School Bus into a motorhome. I have not taken a day off from working on it in a couple weeks.

Most recently I have been working on installing appliances in the kitchen. I had salvaged a Dometic refrigerator from the wrecked Coachmen RV that Mike and Donna Mitchell graciously made available to me for any parts I could use. The refrigerator was a big ticket item. Dometic is a Swedish company, and they cater to the RV world. They offer refrigerators that run on 110 Volt AC electrical power, or on propane. (Some smaller ones also will run on 12 Volt DC electric.) To those not familiar with RV refrigeration, producing ice cold air by burning propane may seem to be a crazy idea, but it actually works very well.

Dometic – Model DM2852

These appliances do not use your typical refrigerant, but are ammonia based. Fortunately, I did not need to know all the physics of this device to hook it up, but I did have to make some choices. I had already hooked the Dometic refrigerator to electric power. It required both a 110 volt AC and a 12 volt DC connection. It works very well on electric power. Finding the installation manual online I discovered that if I was to run it on propane I would have to build an airtight box around it and vent it to the outside of the bus. Burning propane in an enclosed space produces carbon monoxide, which can lead to difficulty in remaining alive. The human body requires a higher concentration of oxygen, and a lower ratio of carbon, for respiratory efficiency. There is a great parable in this. If you have not read about it yet, you can view it in the article “Gospel Chemistry.”

Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of running the refrigerator on propane, I chose not to do so. I will run it on electric only. This simplified installation significantly. All I had to do was install some runners under the refrigerator so it was not sitting directly on the carpet, and then anchor it in place. I also needed to replace the decorative door panels, as the freezer panel was missing, and the refrigerator panel was damaged. I already had white paneling, so cutting and installing new door panels was a simple task.

Refrigerator Anchored at Top

One of the main concerns in an RV is to keep things in their place when driving. I had some braces that had been used to hold up the overhead shelves when the bus was a school bus. I found that they fit perfectly atop the refrigerator, allowing me to anchor it to the ceiling as well as screwing it solidly to the floor.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it previously, but I almost made a big mistake some weeks back. I had the refrigerator stored under a shed to provide me with working room in the bus. I was working away, putting up the bathroom framing and building beds when the thought occurred to me that the refrigerator might not fit through the front door. I measured it, and sure enough it was two inches too wide. This meant that I had to bring it in the back door before I had my walls in place. I had to remove one wall brace, which was a simple matter of removing two screws. Randy Simmons then helped me to carry the refrigerator through the back door of the bus. We had to carry it through one of the beds holding it horizontal, to get it to the kitchen area. There was just enough room to get the refrigerator through the bed. Below is a picture of the path we had to carry the refrigerator through.

The 2×2 in front center was removed and the fridge then carried through the bed. One thing is certain now, the refrigerator is here to stay. It cannot get out either the front or back exits now. If it ever quits working it will make a wonderful storage cabinet.

Following is a side view of the newly installed refrigerator. I also cut a side panel to dress it out, as it had only foam insulation on the sides.

Fridge Anchored in Place

Once I had the refrigerator in place I could build the cabinet for mounting the oven/stove combo unit. I also salvaged this from the RV in Tennessee. It is a Magic Chef unit, and matches well with my black and white color scheme.

Oven/Stove with Frame to Support It

The frame is solidly anchored both to the steel floor of the bus, and the steel side wall. All this talk of anchors and arks sounds like I might be going sailing somewhere. Similar to life on a boat, everything that is not supposed to move must be solidly secured.

After building the frame I began to panel it. I also added a plywood counter with some laminate to dress up the top.

Oven Enclosure Taking Shape

There is a goodly amount of storage space under the oven that I can use for pots and pans, and whatever else I can stash there. I had salvaged a number of cabinet doors from the Coachmen RV, and I found that they fit wonderfully. All I had to do was paint them (they were wood grain finish), relocate one of the handles as it was not aligned with the other one, and they worked out fine. The hinges have springs in them, which keeps the doors from flying open by when driving around corners.

Under Oven Storage

I needed to dress up the edges of the cabinet with some moulding, and drill a hole in the floor to run the gas line from the propane tank, and I was finished. Mounting the propane tank is a task for a future date. There is a window directly behind the stove. It will be used for ventilation when cooking.

The Finished Cabinet and Oven

So, now I have my major kitchen appliances installed, and I am on to my next task in preparing the ark. Here is one last picture of appliance row. In stair step fashion you can see the stove, the refrigerator and the microwave.

Appliance Row

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

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Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063


  1. Anonymous

    This is amazing at how fast it is coming along. Things are fitting so well. Everything looks as though it was custom made for the Ark.

    Where are you planning on storing food, etc.?



  2. Joseph Herrin

    Dear JMD,

    Thank you for the kind comments. Regarding food storage, I have a number of places for storage in the bus. Living in a small space cupboards are often made from unusual places.

    The bench seats at the dinette both lift up to reveal storage underneath. There will also be a sink with storage underneath it. This is one of my next projects.

    There is storage over the beds, and in the space between the bedroom and bathroom where I will keep large storage bins.

    I am also considering building cabinets along one wall opposite of where the stove and refrigerator are located.


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