Introduction: Cabinet Drawers

Picture of Cabinet Drawers

We have a storage issue at our home. The bathroom cabinets were a mess. We decided to add pull out drawers.

At first I tried to find someone one to do it for me, but that went no where. I did some investigation, and figured if I built them for both bathrooms it would pretty much zero out the cost of a table saw versus trying to hire someone to do it. Of course I added a really nice router into the project, but I got some nice new tools, so still a win for me.

I built this project around December 2015 (1 1/2 years ago). They are still working out and holding up good. Unfortunately I didn't take as many pictures during the construction process as I should have. It was the most involved construction I had taken on at that point, and I got too involved in figuring out how to make each step work.

Step 1: Tools and Parts

Parts

  • 1/2" furniture grade birch plywood
  • 1/4" plywood or hardboard
  • 1" Pocket hole screws
  • Drawer slides
  • Face frame slide kit
  • Glue (optional)

Tools

  • Table saw (or Circular Saw)
  • Router or Dado stack
  • Kreg Pocket Hole jig
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Right angle adapter for drill (optional)
  • Circle cutting tool (optional. You could just use pre-made drawer pulls, if you have the clearance)
    • I used a Dremel Rotary Tool and Circle Cutter attachment
  • Clamps
  • Steel rule
  • Sand paper
  • Level
  • Tape Measure

I used a table saw. You could use a circular saw, but in my opinion/experience the table saw is easier and more accurate (that justification got my wife to approve the purchase of a $400 table saw).

Step 2: Figure Out the Measurements

Picture of Figure Out the Measurements

You'll need to figure out the width and height of each cabinet opening. You'll also need to figure out the overall depth versus the available sizes of drawer slides. The slides I bought only open 3/4 of installed depth. I made the drawer box longer, knowing the back would not be as accessible. Full length slides would make the back easily accessible as well, but come at a higher per unit cost; and require a different installation method that wasn't suitable for my application.

The drawer slides installation instructions will list the required mounting spacing. You'll need to account for that and deduct it from the size of the cabinet opening width, for the size drawer box you make for it. The drawer slides I bought require a 1/2" per side. The available height between the drawers needs to be accounted for as well (the drawer slides you pick will dictate was it required)

The front, back, and sides will be cut from the 1/2" plywood. For the left and right side panels of the drawer box, you will need to deduct a 1/2" from the intended length, to account for joining the sides of the box together.

The bottom will be cut from the 1/4" plywood. You'll need to cut the 1/4" plywood as 1/2" smaller in width and depth to account for the dado groove it will slide into.

I'm sure you've heard it before, but measure twice. The drawer box, and the drawer slides themselves aren't going to be very lenient. Even an 1/8" mistake can cause some problems.

Step 3: Cut the Drawer Sides and Bottom

Picture of Cut the Drawer Sides and Bottom

The front, back, and sides will be cut from the 1/2" plywood.

The bottom will be cut from the 1/4" plywood. You'll need to cut the 1/4" plywood as 1/2" smaller in width and depth to account for the dado groove it will slide into.

I found it helpful to cut the pieces for a single box first, to validate (or adjust) my measurements and cuts appropriately. It didn't take long to figure out having to add an 1/8" to the table saws guide to account for the thickness of the blade/cut.

Step 4: Cut a Half Circle Handle (optional)

Picture of Cut a Half Circle Handle (optional)

You need a convenient way to open the drawer. We planned to leave the cabinet doors in place, not giving us much clearance to install drawer/cabinet pulls. As an alternative, I cut half circles into the top of each front box panel. I wound up doing 3 1/2" half circles. I decided to use the Dremel rotary tool and the circle cutter attachment. Cause it was a half circle (and not a full circle) I needed to build a simple jig out of a scrap of wood to facilitate this cut. I botched the first one (cause the clamp was in the way). All the subsequent half circles came out great. Just make sure to sand them afterwards.

Step 5: Cut a Dado Groove

Picture of Cut a Dado Groove

I used a router, though you can buy a dado stack for the table saw. I bought the router instead.

I built a simple jig to guide the router and cut the dado groove 1/4" from the bottom of each drawer box side. It worked out much better than measuring and clamping a guide for every single piece that needed a dado groove. The jig saved time and improved the repeat accuracy of my cuts.

Note: Your 1/4" plywood might not actually be 1/4" thick. You can check it with a caliper, and than get the appropriate size router bit.

Step 6: Drill the Pocket Holes

Picture of Drill the Pocket Holes

For the joinery, I opted for pocket holes. You'll be drilling the pocket holes on the left/right side pieces. The left/right side pieces will nestle in between the front/back pieces (which is why we deducted the width of two boards from the cut dimension for the left/right side pieces).

Follow the directions for your pocket hole jig. For each left/right piece, you'll want to make two holes where it will connect to the front piece, and another two where it will connect to the back piece.

My jig recommends 3/4" pocket screws for the 1/2" plywood, but they are hard to find. I opted for 1" pocket hole screws, and slightly adjusted the jigs drill bit stop.

Step 7: Assemble the Drawer Boxes

Picture of Assemble the Drawer Boxes

Once the pocket holes are drilled, you can attached the four sides (left/right/front/back) together. Utilize a corner clamp if you have one (I don't), to make sure the pieces are joined evenly at 90 degree angles. I utilize the table saw and guide to create a 90 degree edge to line the pieces up against while attaching the screws.

You're supposed to apply glue during the assembly. I did on some of them, skipped it on others (I was still experimenting with the fit). I attached 3 sides together, with the pocket screws. I than slid (and carefully hammered) the 1/4" plywood bottom into the dado groove. At this point you install the final side of the box.

This is a good time to lightly sand along the side and edges of the drawer box.

Step 8: Install the Drawer Slides

Picture of Install the Drawer Slides

You'll need to install part of the slides onto each drawer box.

The other part of the slide you'll need to carefully line up and install inside the cabinet. This step sucks. I'm not saying the instructions are wrong, it's just a huge pain getting these things level and straight. If they aren't lined up really well, the drawer doesn't slide well, and may even fall off of the track half way in or out of the cabinet.

There are some jigs available that will help you line the drawer slides, but it didn't seem like a worth while investment for my purposes.

The back of our cabinet had 1/4" plywood I could drill/screw into. The section under the sink had the dry wall exposed. I think I preferred that section, as the drywall mollies seemed more secure. No issues with either at this point (and its been over one year since I installed these drawers).

A right angle drill adapter is pretty helpful when drilling the pilot holes for the drawer slide face mount into the cabinet.

Step 9: Slide the Drawers Into Place

Picture of Slide the Drawers Into Place

As soon as I started sliding these into place, my wife started filling them up :)

We did not stain or seal the new drawers. It's been 1 1/2 years and we haven't had a problem. I still think I should have, both to protect the surfaces (especially the bottom of the drawer) and to make them look nicer.

Comments

kylegilbert (author)2017-09-23

I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while. Great work!

ScottK29 (author)2017-09-23

Love this idea

seamster (author)2017-09-13

This is such a good idea. Great solution and great execution too. Nice work!

LoganB22 (author)2017-07-20

I so needed to see this, awesome job. Have the parts not the tools. Well done.

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