Picture of Pantry Cabinet
The second photo above shows a classic California cooler. This is a kitchen cabinet which is ventilated to the outside to allow cool air to act as a poor man's refrigerator. They fell into disuse with the invention of the refrigerator, but a few years ago, I cleaned mine up and put it back into service.  They actually do an amazing job at keeping fruits and vegetables fresh.

It doesn't show very well in the photo, but the shelves of the cooler are mostly open screen, to allow for cool air to circulate through the cabinet.

I can't put an exact age on my cooler, but it probably dates back to the 30's when my house was built.  Other than the hinges and latches, there are no metal parts or modern cabinet-making components.  The shelves are supported across wooden battens which fit into notches cut into vertical rails at each corner.  More on this below.

The goal of this project is to produce a pantry cabinet to go alongside the cooler and blend in with the style.

The new cabinet attaches directly to the side of the existing cooler, so was designed without a right side.  If you're building a cabinet to go in the corner of your pantry, you can use this design unchanged.  If it's going to be free-standing, then you can add the other side easily enough.

The design was done in Sketchup.  The Sketchup model is attached.

The work was done partly in my garage, and partly I made it at Techshop.

Cad models

I've included the cad model for the 8-foot cabinet shown here.  I chose an 8-foot by 4-foot cabinet because plywood comes in 4x8 sheets and this way the numbers came out even.  Feel free to fire up Sketchup and modify the dimensions of the cabinet to suit your own needs.  You can actually increase the height by about three inches and still be able to make the cabinet back out of a single sheet of plywood.  (The cabinet shown here is actually closer to 8'8.)
this is fantastic! I'm a poor woman, who would love a poor mans fridge! thanks for posting!!
ChapDad2 years ago
Beautiful cabinet, beautiful attachments, and beautiful Instructable. Love the idea of a California Cooler, too. Might include one of those if I ever get round to remodelling the kitchen.
I looked into California Coolers - what a cool idea, and a great post. Thanks for the share.