Driving through the neighborhood, I saw a few "for sale" signs in a neighbor's front yard. I stopped to talk with him and, being a retired general contractor, he had accumulated some old tools, some of which had been rendered unusable by sitting in the rain, but also building materials. Among them, was a pile of pine shelves from an old bookstore that had closed. I ended up buying the planks to make kitchen drawers out of them.
In many houses, a "pantry" is a tall cabinet with deep shelves, and getting stuff from the back of the shelf requires emptying it first.
Thanks to the wood I bought on that day, I converted the shelves to drawers.
Planks of wood
Drawer slides (Promark are fantastic value - a 10-pack will be enough for two pantries)
Spray-on polyurethane finish
Table saw (combination blade & dado blade)
Router table with a round-over bit
Laser engraver (optional)
Step 1: Demolition and Paint
Empty the pantry
Remove all shelves
Remove the door
Wash and paint the walls
Step 2: Measure the Pantry and Design the Drawers
Measure the dimensions of the pantry do determine:
* The number of drawers
* The depth of the drawers (1 1/2" - 2" less than the depth of the pantry to allow for the door thickness).
* The width of drawers (1" less than the width of the pantry). Note that the drawer front is wider than the rest of the drawer (see picture). Because the sliders get mounted on drywall and drywall is smothered with mud (a.k.a. drywall compound) during installation, the opening of the pantry may be a little narrower at the edge. My drawers were a little too wide and I cannot open fully some of them without scraping off paint. If a drawer is a little too narrow (let's say 1/4"), the slide can be shimmed with 1/8" plywood on both sides, providing for a smooth operation.
The design is very straightforward. Because the wood was so cheap, I used it everywhere - on fronts, backs, sides and bottoms.All joints are butt joints with (in some cases without) biscuits. Biscuits add extra rigidity, but out of 10 drawers, none have failed during the year I built them.
As the planks were 9 1/4" wide, I decided to mane sides trapezoidal - 3" in the front, 6" in the back. This allowed me to cut both sides from a single plank using a diagonal cut on a table saw. Also, the front (3") and back (6") were cut from a single board.
Step 3: Prepare the Wood
Rough-cut the boards.
Cut away parts with too many nails or staples; pull any remaining fasteners
Run boards through a thickness planer on both sides until they look "like new"
Trace a contour of a drawer side on a piece of particle board and cut it with a jigsaw to make a jig for the drawer sides.
Using this jig between your board and the table saw fence, cut the sides of the drawers.
Step 4: Engrave the Fronts
If you gave access to a laser engraver, you can engrave the fronts.
We chose to keep the names of the bookstore sections to preserve the history of these boards.
Step 5: Cut the Drawer Perimeter
Cut backs, fronts, sides and bottoms to dimension. Choose the fronts carefully - select straight-grain boards of similar color and pattern.
Using a round-over bit on a router table, round the top edges of front, back and sides.
Step 6: Make the Drawer Bottom
Using a dado blade, cut a groove on the front and the sides of the drawers the groove should be as wide as half the thickness of the boards and offset from the bottom edge by the same distance (plus an extra 1/16 "). Therefore, then the bottom is installed in the groove, it will be almost flush (just slightly shy) with the bottom of the drawer.
Select boards for each drawer's bottom.
Re-adjusting the blade, cut a rabbet on three sides of one board (front and sides) and on two sides for the rest of the boards.
Using a biscuit-joiner, dry-fit the boards and assemble the drawer. Note that the bottom should be protruding 1/4"-1/2" past the side boards towards the back.The back board will be standing on top of the bottom.
Mark and prepare biscuits to attach sides to backs and fronts.
Step 7: Assembly and Glue
Using woodworking clamps, glue and biscuits, assemble fronts, backs and sides, paying attention to square and the groove alignment on three sides. Slide the board planks in one by one with glue on the front and in-between boards. Do not glue to the sides or in the back.
While the glue is drying, it is a good time to fill any nail holes with wood filler.
Step 8: Finishing and Installation
In a well-ventilated place, spray 3 coats of clear polyurethane following directions on the can.
Take the slides apart. One side attaches to the wall and the other to the drawer. Slide the drawers in.
If your door was a sliding bi-fold door, you cannot re-install it as-is because sliding door never quite clear the gap that would allow drawers to open.
Instead, hang the door on barn hinges as shown in the picture and add a magnet latch for the door to stay closed.
This is a reasonably big project, but with the right tools, you should be able to carry it out. Take the time to measure , dry-fit and double-check, but the result is worth it!