Category Archives: Fermentation Chamber

Refrigerator Conversion Part 3 – Disassembly

All right, got your fridge, supplies, tools and some time?  Let’s take something apart!!  This project took me down memory lane to a summer in college, where I worked for my then future Father-in-Law preparing refrigerators at an appliance store for delivery.  It was second shift and I didn’t like that I missed out on some fun with my friends, but looking back on it, it probably kept me out of trouble.
If you missed the first post, start here: Part 1: Introduction

Difficulty: level_4

This project requires a few inexpensive special tools, but will most likely take an entire weekend, lots of improvisation, some thorough cleaning and the cost of the fridge takes it to level 4.

Posts for this Project:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Clean up
Part 3: Disassembly (This Post)
Part 4: Door modification
Part 5: Shelf building
Part 6: Finishing up and other observations

Disassembly

If there is one thing I like just as much as building stuff, it’s taking things apart.  This is where you’ll need a good assortment of drill bits.  All refrigerators have different types of fasteners.  Again, it should be obvious, but your warranty will most certainly be voided after this project is completed.

Measurement of door gap

For the merging of the freezer and refrigerator compartment doors, you could either take the step of making the brackets before you take the fridge completely apart, or measure the gap between the two doors before you take them off.  Since I was shooting from the hip, I made the brackets first to make sure everything would line up.  In hindsight, with careful measurement, you can take everything apart and then build the door.  You’ll just need this measurement first to space the doors properly when joining them later.

Measuring door gap

This picture shows me measuring the door with a pair of calipers, but a tape measure would suffice.  See next picture.

freeplay in doors

As you can see here, there is considerable gap in the hinges of the door.  I measured 0.168″ (over 1/8″).  So that is all the accuracy you need in your measurement.

Door hinge removal

You’ll start with the top hinge for the freezer door.  There will most likely be a decorative cover over the top hinge that may just be clipped on or held on with a screw.

top hinge cover

hinge cover removed

Remove the screws holding the hinge to the refrigerator.  The magnetic seals on the door may hold the door in place, but be prepared for it to fall.

center hinge - with doors

On some refrigerators, the center hinge may be intelligently designed and allow you to remove it next.  My fridge was not one of these, so I had to remove the bottom hinge next.

holding door with foot

Due to my awesome dexterity, I was able to hold the refrigerator door with one foot, while I removed the screws and hinge from the bottom of the door.

bottom hinge

Now to the center hinge.

center hinge

With both doors removed, I was able to get to the screws holding the hinge to the refrigerator.  Some refrigerators may have hex head screws that you can get to from the side with a wrench or they may have slotted holes that allow you to swing it out of place.

A little bit of luck

The next part of the process is where I completely lucked out.  I was prepared to get out a death wheel / rotary tool / whatever you want to call it to remove the divider between the refrigerator and freezer compartments.  As it turns out, it was a matter of some screws and disconnecting a wiring harness.

WarningSign

If your fridge divider is molded into the cabinet, proceed with caution.  There could be refrigerant lines running through this section, which when cut, will render your refrigerator completely useless.  I found out the hard way on a previous refrigerator that there can even be refrigerant lines in the sides.  I was attempting to install a latch on a door and got a surprise stream of refrigerant blowing out of the freshly drilled hole.  Anyway, let’s move on…

divider cover

Remove all remaining screws from the front fascia, and gently remove.  There was a connector for some reason in this fascia.  I’m not sure what is was for, but instead of ripping it out, I disconnected it and removed the panel.

freezer bottom panel

This is what face me next.  Just a piece of molded styrofoam.  I was really expecting to see something more daunting.  Instead I found bits of cat food.

hinge support removal

I then proceeded to remove the backup plates for the hinges.  The left side plate pivoted right out without much effort.  We’ll get to the right side in a bit.

removal of insulation

I just popped the styrofoam in half to remove it, which exposed the final metal panel and a wiring harness.

broken screw heads

So I got the right side backing plate removed.  It was not coming out easily and I found out why.  Somewhere along this refrigerator’s lifetime, someone broke the heads off the screws.

damage from support removal

I had to use a pry bar to bend the plastic liner and metal skin enough to pull the backing plate out.

metal divider

Do be observant of where the wiring plugs into before you pull the metal panel out.

control panel

Mine went to the main control panel inside the fridge.  I thought I had pictures, but I just had to pull the knob out and there was a screw on the left side of the panel.  After removing those, the panel just came right off.

connector for door wiring harness

You can see the wiring harness connector removed in this picture.

metal panel divider removed

Since I wasn’t going to put this fridge back together ever again, I just bent the panel to remove it.

light and switch wiring harness

I did however, choose to remove the wiring harness from the panel and hold onto it just in case.  I had an idea that I might possibly want to use this harness to somehow use it for a heating lamp at some point in the future.

Everything removed….

all one cabinet

Well except for that pesky backing plate that I already showed as removed.

Just Because

refrigerator guts

I was curious, so I just had to see what was behind the panel.  Well here is what was behind it.  I went ahead and cleaned what I could a little more to give me peace of mind.

You can see here that a refrigerator is really just a freezer that bleeds cool air to the refrigerator cabinet.

Up next…

Door modification

Posts for this Project:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Clean up
Part 3: Disassembly (This post)
Part 4: Door modification
Part 5: Shelf building
Part 6: Finishing up and other observations

Like this post?

Consider sharing on your favorite social hangout or making a small donation to help me purchase something to make another post.

Refrigerator Conversion Part 2 – Clean Up

Besides beer, one thing most brewers have in common is their dislike of time spent cleaning.  In order to get started, you’ll need to clean your fridge.  If you found a fridge in good shape, you may have less work.  I on the other hand found a fridge on Craigslist that was in a garage where the dude smoked.  Yea, so this fridge smelled of smoke. Two weeks later, it’s subsided considerably.

If you missed the first post, start here: Part 1: Introduction

Difficulty: level_4

This project requires a few inexpensive special tools, but will most likely take an entire weekend, lots of improvisation, some thorough cleaning and the cost of the fridge takes it to level 4.

Posts for this Project:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Clean up (This Post)
Part 3: Disassembly
Part 4: Door modification
Part 5: Shelf building
Part 6: Finishing up and other observations

Clean up time

Yes, I’m a father of two girls and I’m man enough to admit that I like the Disney movie Enchanted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-Ra7nwZRN4

You’ll probably find it easier to clean if you remove the shelves, icemaker, drawers, etc.

icemaker removal

The icemaker will have two sheet metal screws that may have a hex head, philips or flat head slot in the top.  Use the nut setter for this.

fridge shelving

 

Shelving removed

Dirty Seals

I mixed up a bleach/water solution at a 1:10 ratio in a spray bottle to clean out the crevices in the disgustingly dirty seals.

I also realized during the cleanup that the biscuit/almond colored fridge I bought was actually white!  Nice…

A vinegar/water solution is also pretty handy at removing most residue from the fridge and also seems to do a good job at removing odors.

Ready for Disassembly

After it was all cleaned up, I went ahead and put the shelves back in, because I didn’t want to leave them laying around the garage.  I also put a few bowls of baking soda in there to let it run for a few days to get rid of any odors (unexpected delay).  I also cranked the dials all the way to make sure it would get cold enough.

Up next…

Disassembly

Posts for this Project:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Clean up (this post)
Part 3: Disassembly
Part 4: Door modification
Part 5: Shelf building
Part 6: Finishing up and other observations

Like this post?

Consider sharing on your favorite social hangout or making a small donation to help me purchase something to make another post.

Refrigerator Conversion to Kegerator / Lagerator / Fermentation Cabinet

You know you’re a homebrewer when you have more refrigerators than people living in your house.  As of the time of this post, we have a combination of 8 refrigerators and freezers of different sizes to go along with 5 human habitants.

Difficulty: level_1

This project requires a few inexpensive special tools, but will most likely take an entire weekend, lots of improvisation, some thorough cleaning and the cost of the fridge takes it to level 4.

Cost:

It all depends on what materials, tools and fridge cost is, but I would peg the average cost of this project at about $200 (including a second hand fridge).  I scored a fridge on Craigslist for $100.  The value for the fridge size I got is typically between $100-150.

Disclaimer / Caution:

If you are using a new-ish refrigerator, just keep in mind that we’ll be permanently be modifying it, so if there is any existing warranty, it will most certainly be voided by this project.

Posts for this Project:

Part 1: Introduction (This post)
Part 2: Clean up
Part 3: Disassembly
Part 4: Door modification
Part 5: Shelf building
Part 6: Finishing up and other observations

Introduction to this project:

Lagerator
Lagerator with 7 fermentation buckets

This will be my 5th conversion of a refrigeration appliance into a fermentation support device.  I started with my keezer, then converted two dorm fridges, followed by Lagerator III.  The last one was taken over by my wife for her cake decorating business Tiffany Takes the Cake.  Since I didn’t want to share the cake fridge with my fermenting lagers due to the potential of the cakes absorbing the sulfer odor of fermentation and the fact that I needed to manage the fermentation of seven 5-gallon batches of lager for our Strausstoberfest party, the need arose for yet another…

My initial pipe dream goal was to pull the guts from a cheap fridge and then fit them into a custom built cabinet meant to house many fermentation buckets, corny’s and anything you want to keep cool.

Time and the fact that I realized I could do it another way, convinced me to just find an ideal fridge on Craigslist and tear out the divider between the freezer and the fridge.  I also modified the doors to be one large full length door.

As this project sits currently, I can fit seven standard fermentation buckets in there at the same time, or the bottom shelf area is tall enough for a full size keg, corny’s and my large-ish 20# CO2 bottle with the regulator attached.

In this multi-part post, I’ll show you how my build went.

I also have not yet advanced the project to my ultimate goal of two separate temperature zones and some sort of BrewPi/remotely monitored and controlled setup.  For now, it’s just a single chamber with one of my homebuilt Arduino based temperature controllers.

Tools Required (or to make the job easier):

I would recommend that any serious DIY’er has every single one of the tools recommended for this project.  They are some of my most used tools.

  • hacksaw
  • set of assorted drill bits
  • miter saw
  • circular saw
  • handheld jig saw
  • hand drill

Less common, but equally important and useful tools:

A set of assorted screw, torx, hex, socket and screwdriver bits (all refrigerators are different).  The set shown above is the exact set i have and it’s served me well (cars, refrigerators, toys, electronics, etc…)

Tools - Tin snips

Tin Snips

If you don’t have a pair already, go ahead and get a set of three.  I was being cheap and only got one, but they some in sets of three that are optimized for cutting on different sides of material (left, right and center).  They are extremely useful.  In this project you’ll use them to cut the FRP board and the aluminum.  They are made for cutting sheet metal, but I end up finding many uses for them.

Tools - small prybar

Tack puller

I actually got this many years ago during a summer job prepping refrigerators for delivery.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a use for this little tool.  This is a must in any handymans arsonal.

  • Pulling small nails out where a hammer would be cumbersome
  • Pulls staples out of the floor when converting from carpet to laminate or tile
  • Getting stubborn rivets out of holes
  • Pulling plugs out of holes
  • Trim pieces on cars
  • The list goes on…..

Tools - File set

File set

Again another worthwhile purchase that you’ll use over and over.  In this project they are used to clean up the cuts in the aluminum angle.

 

Tools - magnetic tray

 Magnetic Bowl

Also called “dog dishes” or “dog bowls”.  For some reason, I hadn’t ever seen these until I worked in racing.  I’ve got several in different shapes and sizes.  They are durable metal bowls with a strong padded magnet on the bottom.  The magnet serves two purposes.  One, to keep steel fasteners contained in the bowl.  Two, to serve as an attachment method to metal work surfaces.  I get lots of use out of mine.  If Ralphie’s Dad had one of these when changing the tire in A Christmas Story, he never would have gotten in trouble for saying “Ohhhhhh, Fuuuuddddggge!”  These have saved me many times from chasing screws all over the garage and under shelves.

 

1/4" nut setter

Nut Setter

I can’t even remember where I obtained this, but they come in different sizes and have a magnet in the tip to hold on to screws.  Why they insist on calling them “nut” setters is beyond me.  This will be used to drive sheet metal screws into the fridge and most likely will be the hex size for most fasteners in the fridge.

Supplies Needed:

  • 2×4 lumber to create support for shelves
  • Drywall screws (lots of them)
  • Plywood of your preference (I happened to have 1/2″ sitting around in just the size I needed)
  • Stain or some kind of waterproof sealant for the wood

duct tape : MacGyver :: 2×4’s and drywall screws : Me

Supplies - FRP Board

FRP Board (approx $25 for a 4’x8′ sheet)

If you can find plain plastic sheet, fine.  I just chose this because it seemed ideal for this project.  It’s easy to clean up and the textured surface has less resistance when sliding my fermenting buckets around in the fridge.  It’s just fiberglass and resin, so it won’t mold or mildew.  This will be used to replace the inner surface of the doors as well as the covering for the shelf.

aluminum angle

Aluminum Angle

You don’t have to get the exact size I purchased, but this happened to work out perfectly for my doors.  I used this to connect the freezer door to the refrigerator door and make one giant door.

Supplies - Sheet metal screws

Sheet Metal Screws

These will be used to secure the aluminum angle to the doors to make a one piece door.

Supplies - Shelving

Wire Shelving

I used this on the previous lagering fridge (now used for cakes).  It’s lasted over a year with no signs of rust.  They are painted or have a thin rubberized coating, so they shoudn’t rust unless you scratch the covering off or possibly on the ends where you cut it.  The piece I used was actually the other half of the full span shelving I used to make said prior lagering fridge.

 

Supplies - Acetone

Acetone

You should have this around your garage anyway.  It’s great to remove sharpie from glass or metal.  It is a prime (if not sole) component of nail polish remover.  It’s not lung or skin friendly, so make sure you wear gloves.  In this project, you’ll use it to remove your sharpie markings from the FRP board where you cut.  But be forewarned, acetone has a tendency to melt many kinds of plastic, so move quickly.

Nitrile Gloves

I use these all the time.  The link in the title is to the ones I purchase all the time from Harbor Freight.  They are a good value and are fairly durable.  I prefer the blue gloves, simply because when you do get grease and dirt on your gloves, you can tell and know not to touch anything clean.  Use these in this project when cleaning the fridge as well as when you are using the acetone.  I also prefer nitrile over latex, because with the latex gloves you are left with hands smelling like balloons.  Plus some people have or develop latex allergies.

Up next…

Cleaning

Posts for this Project:

Part 1: Introduction (This post)
Part 2: Clean up
Part 3: Disassembly
Part 4: Door modification
Part 5: Shelf building
Part 6: Finishing up and other observations

Like this post?

Consider sharing on your favorite social hangout or making a small donation to help me purchase something to make another post.