Custom Danby DAR440BL Conversion

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Inspired by HomeBrewTalk members. Thanks to all of those who have posted on this topic.

First step; find the refrigerator for the best price. Got mine on Amazon for $169 with free shipping.

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Next, remove and modify the door. The model that I bought had the interior door panel glued on. I carefully removed the seal and shelving and cut the panel flat. I then glued a piece of white paneling on to make it visually appealing. I've seen many other great ideas, such as a dry erase board.

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On to the tower I chose to drill a 3 inch hole to accommodate the custom shaft/false top hold down that I conjured up using standard plumbing PVC (I get into this later in the article). I found it easier to drill the hole from the inside as opposed to from the outside. To each his own, I guess. Just be careful not to drill through anything you are not supposed to.

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Now on to the access hole. I chose to drill a hole through the shelf at the bottom of the refrigerator to accommodate my temperature controller probe and electrical line for my tower cooling fan. Basically, it's an access hole for pretty much anything you need to run into the refrigerator from the outside. It could be made bigger or smaller to accommodate your needs. I used stand plumbing PVC.

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Time to fix the interior light switch. Because I modified the door, the light switch no longer has the ability to be turned on and off when the door is opened and closed. For now, a paperclip will solve that problem. I used pliers to bend the paperclip. I actually had to do it several times before getting it right.

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Next, the false top. I used 2 pieces of inch plywood. The first to raise the top above the door hinge (notice the notch for the hinge). The second as the base for everything to come.

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In the middle of the last step I created the custom shaft/false top hold down and mounted it in between the tower wood mount and false base.

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Time to cut the tiles. I cheated and rented a tile cutter from Home Depot. The tiles are glass.

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Stain and polyurethane. I chose MinWax Red Chestnut and semi-gloss polyurethane.

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Glue tiles to base. Use the right adhesive for the job. I used special adhesive for glass tiles.

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Grout tiles. The grout color I chose was Delorean Gray.

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Mount tower. I chose to purchase a dual tower and drip tray from our friend Brian at Birdman Brewing.

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Mount false top to refrigerator. This is were the custom shaft/hold down comes in.

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For all of the pictures, see the following link.

http://photos.johnborsch.com/FullScreenSlideShow.aspx?gallery=3642075&mt=Photo

I hope you like it.

John

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23 COMMENTS
Posted: 
April 2, 2013  •  09:14 PM
That is a great looking fridge conversion! I have a question though, how is the flase top held down? Glue?
Posted: 
April 2, 2013  •  10:52 PM
Good question scottiws. I created what I call a shaft/false top hold down from PVC plumbing supplies bought at HD. Basically it acts like a big screw. It is permanently mounted to the false top. The shaft goes through the top of the refrigerator and on the inside a washer made out of plexiglass and a nut pull the false top and refrigerator together making a nice tight fit.
Posted: 
April 3, 2013  •  06:47 AM
That set up is sick! I love the look of the glass with the grey grout contrasted with the chestnut red. Very classy. It seems like it would be a tight fit for 5 gal cornies with the hoses on top. How much room is there for loading the thing? (I guess the intelligent way to ask this question is what the internal dimensions are lol).
Posted: 
April 3, 2013  •  05:49 PM
From looking at the pictures in the link, it looks like it holds 2 cornys with the CO2 tank in the fridge as well.
Posted: 
April 3, 2013  •  10:19 PM
Hey Sparticusbrewer22, scottiws is correct. 2 cornys fit along with a 5 gal CO2 tank behind them. The tank goes on the back shelf. The front to back measurement is 10 3/4" (closer to 11"), left to right is 16 1/2". 17 1/2" if you cut the bottom shelf brackets off. I've seen others do this to accommodate 1/6 kegs. I can't validate that though, i do not have any.

I uploaded some pics for you (go to the last page to see the kegs). They can be found here:

http://photos.johnborsch.com/GalleryThumbnails.aspx?gallery=3642075
Posted: 
April 5, 2013  •  08:37 PM
I was delighted to see this post because CostCo has these for $149, cash and carry, and my only hesitation was how to modify the door so the interior would fit a 5-gallon food grade bucket (I brew 3-gallon batches). I will be using this for fermenting and will not be modifying the top or anything like that.

When you say the front-to-back measurement is 10.75", do you mean from the back of the door to the section where the compressor is? If so, do you have a measurement from the back of the door to the back of the fridge?
Posted: 
April 6, 2013  •  12:22 AM
Hey kgs, the 10.75" - 11" measurement is from the base of the compressor to the door. I will add a picture to my photo album for you. Kind of hard to explain with words. : )

Go to last page for front to back measurement pics.

http://photos.johnborsch.com/GalleryThumbnails.aspx?gallery=3642075
Posted: 
April 6, 2013  •  03:49 PM
Got it. Thanks for your painstaking efforts to document the process! By the way, I'm embarrassed to ask this but what is the tool called that you used to cut away the stuff on the door? I see it in DSC_7444 . Would a hacksaw do?
Posted: 
April 6, 2013  •  08:23 PM
No need to be embarrassed. I used a Dremel Multi-Max. Awesome tool to have. I use it for many tasks around the house. I don't think a hacksaw is the right tool for this job. To hard to handle for this task. I think you would end up cutting things that you wouldn't want to. : ( If you end up buying one go the the corded model. The cordless charge just does last long enough. Don't get me wrong. I love cordless tools, just not this one.
Posted: 
April 7, 2013  •  01:49 AM
Thanks! That tool looks wonderful. I am going to ask around to see if I can borrow one since I think I might use it once every ten years. I agree on corded versus cordless tools in general. I really appreciate all the answers you've provided.
Posted: 
April 7, 2013  •  08:11 PM
Update: got my Danby today. Glad I waited to buy/borrow tools because without any modification, a 5-gallon food-grade bucket fits with clearance for the door and plenty of clearance for the airlock. A 5-gallon Better Bottle would even work if it had a silicon airlock. Two 3-gallon Better Bottle fermenters with silicon airlocks would work side-by-side, though with limited clearance between them. I even put back most of the door shelves, since I will probably use the fridge to chill other things. Thanks again -- the encouragement was the best part!
Posted: 
April 8, 2013  •  12:47 AM
You are very welcome kgs. I am glad it worked out for you. Thanks for the positive posts. Happy brewing!!!
Posted: 
April 9, 2013  •  02:09 PM
JMB - nice build! Can you give me any insight as to what Im in for if I need to relocate the light/thermo housing in order to have the twoer more forward? It appears that it would be just electrical wires and housing...?
Posted: 
April 9, 2013  •  10:34 PM
meegwell, i didn't have to mess with the housing at all. I drilled from the inside out. Others have worked from the outside in and temporarily disconnect the housing so they don't accidentally drill into it. I have seen pictures from these conversions. It doesn't look impossible. you would just have to be very careful not to cut the wires. what are you actually trying to achieve? Are you mounting a tower on top and want it in the middle or trying to position the refig under a counter? The reason I am asking is to get a better understanding so i can offer a suggestion.
Posted: 
April 10, 2013  •  06:43 PM
Thanks for the reply. The fridge will sit under a bar which extends out to about the midway point front to back...about twn inches. So, the tower needs to be at least ten inches from the back of the fridge, placing it on the front half, just past center. (Talking front to back of the top of the fridge.). This is basically right on top of the light/thermos unit on the ceiling of the box.

I dont mind cutting, extending and splicing electrical wires and duct tape the housing off to the side if need be...i am hoping there are no coolant lines that run into that center housing....my guess is no if its just the light and the thermostat. Does it look like the housing of that unit would come off with some tools and force?
Posted: 
April 10, 2013  •  11:05 PM
meegwell, the housing comes off with three screws. Check out this link that i found. http://www.kegkits.com/kegerator4.htm It has a picture with the screws removed. looks as if you could potentially move the tower forward a bit to where the light would be or carefully cut the top interior, move the wires and center the tower.
Posted: 
April 11, 2013  •  03:45 PM
Thanks again. It looks like with the wiring going to the front and the cooling element along the very front, this might be difficult. My plan B is to put it off center to the right in the back, facing toward the middle (a corner tap) - this would work since the box will sit at the inside corner of an L shaped bar. The tap would then be at the corner of the bar, cornered, so to say.
Posted: 
May 26, 2013  •  06:08 PM
have you had any troubles getting the beer to cold crash or serving temp (35-45F)? I find that my mini fridge cant handle the mass of a keg and co2 tank and it struggles to get below 50....a real drag. I will pick up this fridge if you havent had any cooling issues!
Posted: 
May 28, 2013  •  12:55 PM
RogueGoose85

No, I have not. I maintain 38 degrees; I have a Johnson Controls Digital Temperature controller. This gives me quite a bit of flexibility.

JMBTempest
Posted: 
December 8, 2013  •  02:14 AM
"In the middle of the last step I created the custom shaft/false top hold down and mounted it in between the tower wood mount and false base."

How did you cut the pieces for this step?
Posted: 
December 8, 2013  •  12:55 PM
Very carefully with my chop saw. I initially used a longer shaft in order to hold the assembly in the chop saw to cut the top off. I then cut the shaft to the appropriate length. Make the shaft like three feet long. I placed shims below and toward the back of the saw so that i could use the shaft to aline the top to the blade. Once positioned you will get a nice straight cut. The long shaft enables you to position and safely hold the assembly. I hope I explained this clearly. If not, let me know and I will try again. : ) Happy Brewing my friend.
Posted: 
January 8, 2014  •  04:06 PM
I am about to add a temp controller to my Danby 440 and I like the idea of your access hole. I am curious as to how you plug the dead space to prevent the temp escaping through the tube.
Posted: 
August 31, 2014  •  05:13 PM
Nice custom top. Good reminder that your not constrained to the real estate on the fridge top. The tile was a nice touch too.
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