How to Put Square Cabinets in a Round Bus




About: I am currently converting a 1988 40' Bluebird school bus into a motor-home / workshop that I plan to live, work and travel in. This is my second such project. This one will probably be my retirement home. S...

In an ongoing saga of my school bus conversion, my first choice for kitchen and over head cabinets was to make them. Older school buses have rounded roofs and stock cabinets are square. I figured I'd solve this problem right off by making the cabinets to fit.

Step 1: Why the Decision to Go Stock.

The roof in older school buses was round I'm told for better roll over protection in the event of an accident. While I'm glad to have this added protection in my conversion, I still needed overhead cabinets.

While perusing a Habitat for Humanity Restore in Gainesville, GA looking for an office chair I stumbled upon a boat load of cabinets. They were offering enough cabinets to do my entire kitchen for the price of one quality cabinet at any of the big box home improvement stores. Well, that set the wheels of thought into motion. Hence, the creation of this instructable.

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies.

Actually the supply list is quite short. What you will need:

  • Cabinets (of course)
  • Saw (you can do it all with a jig saw)
  • Measuring tape
  • Straight edge
  • Marker
  • Cardboard (or anything to make a template)

Step 3: Find the Shape of Your Roof Line

I just happen to have some scrap styrofoam handy. This made for an easy template as it was very easy to cut to shape. Use your roof line to find the shape you will need to cut your cabinets.

Step 4: Trace Your Roof Line Shape

After you find the shape you're looking for, start by tracing the shape on each end of your cabinet. Then connect the markings on each end by drawing straight lines from one end to match the markings on the opposite end.

Before you start cutting, make sure the shape you have is what you want to end up with. Remember the old carpenter's rule, "Measure twice, cut once!" If needed retest your template on the roof line of the bus. The cabinets will become useless once you begin cutting if they will not fit.

Step 5: Cross Your Fingers and Begin Cutting.

I used a jig saw to cut the curves. I used a circular saw to cut the straight lines. There were sections where the sides met the top and back where I used a multi-purpose tool to join the cuts in the unmatched joints. It can all be done with just a jig saw but will take a little more time and effort.

Step 6: Mount Your Cabinets.

Cut one cabinet and mount it before cutting the rest of your cabinets. This will tell you if you need to make any adjustments before you cut all your cabinets.

Once you are satisfied with the first cabinet, cut and mount the remaining cabinets.

Step 7: Side Notes.

I was concerned about weakening the cabinets by cutting off so much of them. This turned out not to be a problem in my particular case. Evidently, these were quality cabinets to start with. I was prepared to add strengthening boards to make sure I didn't compromise their durability. Cheaper cabinets may require added strengthening.

I mounted the cabinets from the top and the back for added safety. There is a wooden strip screwed to the metal ribs of the bus that the cabinets are screwed to from the top. This strip needs to be figured in when making the template. For best results, mark how deep your cabinets are from the wall and screw the strip up before making your template.

After the cabinets are cut and prior to mounting you can add 1/8" luan plywood over the open back for a finished look. The luan will easily follow the shape of the curve. I left mine open for the time being for the purpose of running my wiring behind the cabinets throughout the bus. I will, when I finish, close the opening from the inside making it accessible for the future if I need to run more wiring or do repairs.

So, if a bus conversion is in your future, grab those stock cabinets, save some money and show your inner, hidden creativeness.

By the way, I never did get that office chair. Drat, another trip to the Habitat store.



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    22 Discussions

    Ghost Wolf

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I was wondering how easy it is to live in a bus if you're 6 feet high. Also why not an RV? (I know it's a tiring question I'm sure you get a lot). Finally how much do you travel and cost of fuel?

    1 reply

    First of all, thanks for viewing my instructable.  I raised the floor about two inches to put in a heated floor (see heated floor).  My ceiling height after I raised the floor is about 73".  Since I'm only 5'10" that's not a problem for me.  Mine is a standard school bus for children.  Some school buses are made for high school aged children or adults and have a raised ceiling making them higher to begin with.  

    I chose a school bus rather than an RV because I wanted  a floor plan that is not common in an RV.  The rear 8' of the bus is a workshop.  My bus also has a rear door to enter or exit the shop area without having to go through the entire bus.  I installed a fold down murphy style bed to save space.  I also installed a walk-in style sit down whirlpool tub that I got for $500 on  I installed a chemical free, waterless Dry-Flush toilet so I don't need a black tank to have to empty.  I do have a gray tank for the shower/tub and kitchen and bathroom sinks.  These are things I knew I wouldn't find in a used RV.

    I'm still in the conversion process as I travel.  You can follow the build and my travels at

    Again, thanks for looking.



    Reply 4 years ago

    There's much more to see. Keep checking back. I'm posting things as time permits. Thanks for your comment.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I always wanted to do this. Convert one so it's like a mini apartment suited to my own tastes and live in it.

    How long is your bus anyway?!

    From the looks of the pic you took from the front looking back, it looks like it's 50-80 feet long!

    Or is it just the lens and angle you used to take the picture?

    1 reply

    This bus is only 40' long. My first bus was 35' long. I changed from a rear engine to a front engine. My first bus was a 35' pusher. I lost 4' of floor space to the rear engine and 3' of floor space to the cockpit and front door. Thus making a 35' bus only 28 linear feet of usable floor space. By moving to a 40' front engine I now have 37 linear feet of usable floor space. The cockpit , front door and engine share the same 3'. I gained 9 linear feet of floor space by buying a bus five feet longer. That equates to almost 67.5 square feet more floor space. That's valuable real estate in a small build.

    Keep checking back. I'm not nearly done yet. There's more to come.


    4 years ago

    Nice work...I converted a 1963 greyhound bus into a motor home. did the same thing...

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    I'm sure you enjoyed converting yours as much as I'm enjoying converting mine. Thanks for the comment.


    Wait, Wait! You converted a schoolbus and you give us an instructable on cabinets!!?? I think you could fill a book with instructables on something like this! That is incredible! Did you convert it because it was cheaper than buying an RV, or because you really wanted a schoolbus? Or something else entirely?

    3 replies

    Oh yeah, and by the way, I do have more things I have done to the bus that I just haven't gotten around to uploading yet. Stick around, there's much more to come. Wait until I get to the Jacuzzi!


    I mainly converted it because it was a life long dream. When I graduated high school I'd planned to retire at 40 and travel the world. Well, that didn't happen. But I kept the dream. I just turned 62 and am traveling the USA in my converted Bluebird bus that I so appropriately named, "EASY". You can follow me at


    4 years ago

    What provision is there along the top edge to allow for your ceiling material to attach?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    I stripped the bus down to the skin. I then ran 2" X 2" studs along all the metal ribs for attaching paneling and interior roofing. I ran a 1" X 1" strip along the ceiling attached to the wooden studs the length of the cabinets. The cabinets are screwed through the front top rail to this strip and also to a 2" X 4" stud running across the back the length of the cabinets.