Introduction: $10 Custom Drawer Dividers

About: Teacher. Home builder. Father. Student. I teach construction skills and small engine mechanics at CTE in Essex Junction, VT. I have completely rebuilt my home and enjoy making the space more efficient. I love…

Are you tired of your kitchen drawer looking like a scrap heap? Does it bother you spending more time digging for the right utensil than it does to make dinner? If you have access to a couple of saws, you can have custom drawer dividers in an afternoon of work.

Step 1: Requirements

What you will need:
Lumber- you can get a nice piece of Poplar from a lumber yard for a few dollars.
Wood Glue- I prefer TiteBond Wood Glue, it holds better than the wood grain itself.
1 or 1 1/4" brad nails
Drill with a 1/16" drill bit
Table Saw
Chop saw
Clamps- Not necessary, but helpful.
Square- I like to use a combination square but a speed square would work just fine.
Tape Measure

Step 2: Get Rid of the Mess

Step 3: Come Up With a Plan

The first thing you need to do is empty your drawer and then play with some configurations. What can go where? What size sections will you need? How can you maximize your space to fit everything you need to? Play with it for a while, think outside the box, and devise a way that will get you the space you need. Move your utensils around, combine like objects or like sized objects. Remember, it's custom, so do whatever works the best.

Above is what I came up with for our drawer after playing around for a while. Notice how I was not concerned about uniformity. Things fit just right so that there is not wasted space. As is was, we still had to decide to get rid of a couple of things (which wasn't a bad thing).

Step 4: Cut Pieces to Length

Once you have played with a layout and feel good with it, go ahead and cut your pieces. If you are starting with the 1/2" x 6" boards, use the table saw to rip your boards in half. You may have to adjust the width to feel right in your drawer. Use the chop saw to make accurate cuts. Don't be afraid to cut it a little long and then trim it a touch if you have to. You want to make sure that they are not short and are the exact measurement you are looking for. Remember to account for any overlapping when cutting pieces to length. 

Step 5: Mark Your Pieces

Once you have a plan, it is time to do the careful measuring to make it work. For this design I interlocked any pieces I could to add strength to the joints. It also eliminates the need for a bunch of little pieces. With your tape measure, or even your combination square, mark where you will need to make cut-outs and where you will be attaching pieces together. Once you have the marks, use your square to make clean straight lines to follow.

Step 6: Cutting Notches

With your pieces marked for layout, it is time to notch the necessary ones. For the notching you will be taking out the top half of one board and the bottom half of the board it is going to connect with. You can even do this with the boards that butt into one another, although I forgot to do that on some and cut them too short (you will need to cut them the extra length necessary to overlap). 

I used a table saw to make my notches. I screwed a board onto my miter gauge to help run the board through the saw for cross-cutting. This is an easy way to cut partially through a board, at the same height, multiple times. This can also be done with a chop saw but I have found that it is not as accurate or as easy to do.

Step 7: Assembly

With your notches cut, it is time to assemble. Test your pieces to make sure that they go together. You make need to open up a notch just a hair to get them to fit. You do want to make sure that they are tight, so I recommend cutting them small at first and going back to the saw a couple of times until they are just right. Measure twice and cut once? Not it this case. Measure as much as you need and cut a few times to get it right. Just don't cut it too much.

Put a nice amount of glue on all seams, making sure to cover all the surfaces to be glued. You will have spill out and that is great. Wipe off the excess. You want to make sure that the glue is making a solid bond. As I mentioned earlier, Titebond will bond stronger than some wood grain itself, so let it do its thing. 

You might need to hammer your pieces gently together (do not bang them), this means they are just right. You can also use your clamps and squeeze them together. Use your square to make sure that they have come together nice and square, and then leave the clamp on them for a half hour or so. When all the pieces are clamped, it is time to go play with your kids for a while.

I did mine in a couple of stages because I didn't have a lot of clamps, I wasn't rushed, and I had to just glue and nail a couple of the pieces that I didn't notch. I would recommend notching all of them.

Once all the joints have dried and set you'll want to sand the top edges a little. I used 120 grit with an orbital sander to make sure the joints were all nice and smooth. Then you'll want to hit the corners a little with some sandpaper in your hand (don't use the sander for this). You don't need much but with a little bit of 100-150 grit sandpaper, rub all the top corner edges. This will ensure that they are not sharp, splintery, or uncomfortable to the touch when you grab for a utensil. It really doesn't take much.

Step 8: Fit in Drawer

Because my custom design had a few pieces that had loose ends, I had to mark my drawer where they were going to go. Then I turned the drawer over, placed my dividers upside down on the bottom of the drawer, and traced the dividers. This allowed me to see where I could nail the bottom of the drawer to the dividers to add extra support for it all. 

With the drawer all marked, place the dividers in the drawer and nail it to the sides and bottom. I did not glue this part in case I ever wanted to take them out. The 1" brad nails are enough to hold the dividers but are small enough that it won't be hard to take them out if it turns out the design needs to change. 

NOTE: If you want to urethane the dividers before putting them in, it would be a good idea. I put two coats on mine following the instructions on the can. It is not absolutely necessary but I think they'll hold up nicely and certainly clean better when you need to wipe your drawer out.

Step 9: Enjoy the Hard Work

It is time to put everything back into your drawer and see how awesome it is. I still giggle a little every time I open the drawer (they are still new for me too). Remember to get rid of those few things that don't fit back in. They don't fit because you don't need them anymore. If you really do need them, put them somewhere else. Or maybe, you had enough room. Our drawer was too full to begin with, but we didn't have to get rid of more than five things. 

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