Introduction: Adding a Drawer to an IKEA Kitchen Island

About: I am currently an electrical engineering student with a passion for all forms of fabrication. And I am working as a finish carpenter.

This small IKEA counter represents pretty much the entirety of the counter space in my small apartment kitchen. It has served me well for over a year but I do lots of cooking and I really needed more storage space for kitchen utensils, etc. I have only ever used the metal rod on the original design (intended for IKEA's hooks) to hang a couple of things, so I decided to remove it and install a big, almost 3' long, drawer.

Authors note:

I have been avoiding making instructables that involve more expensive tools and machinery because I like to make instructables that are accessible to everyone regardless of how limited your budget, space, and or skill-set is. Having said than, the table saw really couldn't be avoided in this instructable. Any other methods would take exponentially longer, or be no cheaper. Although I have still tried to make everything as easy to understand as possible, even including a small glossary in the building step.

Also Please note, you have to click on the individual pictures to see all the notations! Enjoy!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

My workshop was starting to fill up with wood scraps so I really wanted to complete this whole project using materials I already had. I have explained what materials I had to use in my shop, as well as given my best suggestion if you need to buy your materials new.


3/4" birch plywood- the piece I used was about 20" x 36"

I used birch because I had it on hand and it matched the IKEA counter, but you wont actually see this piece at all unless the drawer is open (it makes up the front, back, and insides of the draw), so you could really use any plywood or solid wood.

1/2" plywood- I ended up needing a 14-3/4" x 33-3/4" piece

This is for the bottom of the drawer so this could really be any type of plywood but for cleaning purposes you will want it to be relatively smooth. 1/2" thick is a little over kill, 3/8" plywood would probably be ideal, but I already had the 1/2" on hand.

1/2" or 3/4" solid birch- 34-3/8" x 5-1/2"

This is the part of the drawer you will see all the time so this should be a fairly nice piece of wood. I also needed a few small scraps of 3/4" hardwood for the drawer slides- any hardwood will work.

Glue and a few screws are also required.


Table saw with a stacked dado blade (The dado set I used was very cheap and you can see the tear-out it caused in the pictures, but a little sanding and its hard to notice.) You could also use a router table with a straight cutting bit

Sacrificial fence for your table saw (this can be as simple as a scrap piece of wood clamped to your fence)

Cordless drill

Counter sink bit

Pocket hole jig (optional)

At least two 3' clamps OR a brad nailer (shoots really small nails)

I also used a router with a chamfer bit (which cuts a 45º angle on the edges to soften them) for the drawer front but this step is optional or could be done with a hand plane or sandpaper.

Step 2: Cut Your Pieces to Size

First, measure the space you have to fill as accurately as possible, also measure each dimension in several spots just in case your piece of furniture is not perfectly square. In my case my opening was 34-9/16" by 16", I could have made my drawer as tall as I wanted (and honestly I wish I made it about a 1/2" taller) but I settled on 4-1/2"


3/4" plywood

2) 4-1/2" x 15-1/2" for drawer sides, or more generally these pieces should be as tall as you want the drawer plus the thickness of your bottom by the depth you have avaliable for the drawer plus the thickness of your drawer face.

2) 4-1/2" x 33-3/4" for the front and back of the drawer, or the first dimension from the last part (4-1/2" for me) by the width of the space you have available minus the thickness of the plywood you are using, then rounding down for a little extra clearance.

2) 4-1/2" x 11-3/8" these are to fill in the space in between the legs on the side- your piece of furniture may not need these. (see installation step)

1/2" plywood

1) 14-3/4" x 33-3/4" for the drawer bottom- I didnt rely on the first measurements I made for this, I waited till I assembled the rest of the drawer then measured the opening I needed to fill.

1/2" solid birch

1) 5-1/2" x 34-3/8" for the drawer face- I did not want a handle on the drawer so I cut the face so that it would overhang the bottom of the drawer by an inch (5-1/2" instead of 4-1/2") which gives me a place to grab on to open the drawer.

3/4" hardwood (any kind)

2) 1/4" by 15" for the drawer slides

Step 3: Build the Drawer

Set up your dado blade:

For the joint that holds this drawer together the dado set up needs to be very precise. The blade width and height should be exactly half the thickness of the plywood you are using. In my case I needed the dado to be 11/32" wide (because the plywood is not a true 3/4" thick) and I needed to set my blade height to make a 11/32" deep cut. I used scarps and made several test cuts before I got this exactly right.

Cut the joints:

For the drawer front and back your sacrificial fence should be directly butted up against the blade. I felt comfortable making this cut without using my miter guide, but you should use it if you are uncomfortable. With the outside of the front and back boards face down on the table of your saw cut dados in each end.

For the sides your fence should be again exactly half the thickness of your plywood away from the blade (in my case 11/32"). With the inside of your side pieces face down cut dados on both ends of the pieces.

Cut a rabbit for the bottom:

Raise your blade so its height is the same as the thickness of the piece you are using for your bottom (1/2" for me), then again butt your sacrificial fence against the blade. Hold the pieces upright with the inside faces held against the fence (and the bottom edge of the pieces on the table) and cut rabbits in the front backs and side.

Cut the channel for the drawer rail:

Change your dado stack so that it is just slightly wider than the piece of hardwood you are using for the rail. I changed my dado stack to be 13/16" wide, then set the blade height just over 1/4". I then cut dados in the drawer slides 1-1/2" down from the top of the drawer, on the outside face of the plywood piece.


Glue the front, back and sides together making sure that is is very square. Use clamps or brad nails to hold everything together while the glue dries. Then measure from the far edges of the rabbits, and cut the bottom to match this final measurement. Then glue in the bottom- you can add some brads to keep it all together while the glue dries, but I just used some weights to keep pressure on it until the glue dried.

At this point you should also add a chamfer to the drawer face if you wish and predrill and countersink three holes in each rail. You should also sand everything and apply any finish if you want.

Glossary if you need it-
Sacrificial fence: A piece of wood to protect your table saw fence in situations in which the blade needs to be very close to, or touching the fence.
Dado stack: A set of blades for the table saw that can be combined in different ways to cut different width slots.
Dado: A slot cut into the surface of a board.
Rabbit: Just like a dado but on the edge of a board so it only has 2 sides instead of 3.
Drawer rail/slide: a piece of hardwood that fits loosely in a dado, which acts as a track for the drawer to slide on.

Step 4: Installation


I had to cut the metal rod included on the front of the original IKEA piece so that I could slide it out of the way to install the drawer. I left one side of it long so I would have enough to relocate this rod to the side of the island later!

I then installed a couple of filler pieces of wood on the sides of the island. This step is optional, but it gaves me an extra place to attach the rails and hides the side of the drawer from view. I used pocket holes to attach these pieces, but you could use nails or something else. (See the second, third, and fourth picture on this step)

Install the rails:

I used three 3/4" screws on each rail. I carefully measured and attached the rails 1-5/8" down from the underside of the counter top. This gives me 1/8" of clearance between the top of the drawer and the underside of the counter top. (See fourth picture)

Test fit the drawer:

At this point you can put in your drawer- you may need to do some sanding to get the fit just right. Once it is set rub some bees wax or something similar on the rails and in the dado to make the drawer slide smoothly. This makes a big difference!

Attach the drawer face:

In this video, Diresta has a great tip for installing drawer faces, which is to hot glue on the face so that you can get the gap around each side just right. Then when the glue sets you can use a few screws to attach it from the inside of the drawer.

Add a stop (so the drawer doesn't fall out!):

I decided to use a little piece of scrap to act as a stop so that the drawer will not slide all the way out. I just used a screw to attach it but that has already come loose so I will be changing it to a nut and bolt.

That is it, you are all done! Now just fill your draw and enjoy!

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