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I know there are plenty of DIYers out there who have been waiting to make a multi-drawer unit or pigeon hole cabinet. This 15-drawer cabinet was recently completed for a client and although it looks difficult, the hardest part is making up all the drawers.

The multi-drawer pigeon hole cabinet was designed by Shabby Chic for a client who wanted to add to a large entrance hall. What makes this unit so unique is the colour. Although this cabinet is larger than the norm, which is usually a 3 x 4 arrangement, you can easily modify the dimensions to make a smaller unit. - See more at: http://www.home-dzine.co.za/diy/diy-multi-drawer-...

A 2 of 384 x 2174 16mm MDF - horizontal drawer supports
B 4 of 384 x 984 16mm MDF - vertical drawer supports
C 2 of 384 x 1083 16mm MDF - sides
D 1 of 400 x 2238 16mm MDF - top
E 1 of 384 x 2174 16mm MDF - bottom
F1 2 of 100 x 384 16mm MDF - base sides
1 1000 2250 3mm white Masonite - backing board
180- and 240-grit sanding pads
Pack 4 x 30mm smooth shank screws
Pack 4 x 40mm smooth shank screws
Wood filler
Panel pins
Drill/Driver + assorted bits
Countersink bit
Jigsaw and clean cut blade
Orbital sander
2 trestles or workbenches
Tape measure, steel rule and pencil
Calculator - if you're blonde like me!

Why no wood glue? It isn't always necessary to use wood glue, especially when using smooth shank screws. These screws are designed to pull the boards together tightly.

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Step 1:

The first step in this project is to cut and assemble the frame for the drawers.
This is one of those projects where you start in the middle and work your way towards the outside. In this way it's easy to attach the frame for the drawers to the sides, top and bottom for a sturdy arrange-ment. Use a steel rule (or tape measure) and pencil to mark the horizontal and vertical sections as follows:

A. Horizontal uprights
1. Draw a line horizontally down the centre at 192mm, so that you have two half sections, each 192mm wide. 2. Working from one end, measure and mark at 422, 438, 860, 876, 1298, 1314, 1736, 1752mm from the edge to the centre mark.

Step 2:

B. Vertical uprights
1. On the 4 vertical uprights, draw a centre line at 192mm.
2. Measure and mark at 317, 333, 650 and 666mm from the outside edge to the centre line.
3. Now you need to cut out the marked strips on both the horizontal and vertical sections.
4. Place the board on two trestles to support at either side and leave the cutting area exposed. - Use a clean-cut jigsaw blade. - Cut on the inside of the pencil mark.

Step 3:

5. Sand the cut edges with 180-grit sandpaper to smooth. To slot the sections together, lay the horizontal supports on a flat surface - you may need someone to hold the boards in an upright position for you. Place the vertical supports so that the cut sections line up accurately. -

Step 4:

Have a rubber mallet handy to tap down any stubborn sections. You want the front edges to line up perfectly flush.

Step 5:

6. On the edge of all horizontal and vertical sections, measure and mark 50mm in from the top and bottom edge and drill a centred 3mm pilot hole. These will be used for attaching the top, bottom and side sections.

Step 6:

C. Sides
1. On both sides measure and mark as follows: - From the top edge at 325m 658 and 991mm. - From the front and back edge at 50mm in. - Along the top and bottom edge at 50mm in.

2. Drill 3mm pilot holes at all marks.

3. Countersink pilot holes on the outside of both side panels - the side that will be visible.

4. Place the sides accurately against the edge of the centre dividers, lining up the top edge, and join together using 4 x 40mm screws.

For accurate placement, drive the screw through the board so that only the tip of the screw shows through the other side. Use this to mark up with the pilot holes in the edges of the centre drawer divider section.

Step 7:

D. Top
1. Measure and mark at 24, 462, 900, 1338, 1776 and 2214.

2. Drill 3mm pilot holes and countersink.

3. Attach the top to the side and centre frame sections. Remember to use the tip of the screw to line up accurately with the pre-drilled pilot holes.

Step 8:

E. Bottom
1. Measure and mark the base at 430, 868, 1306 and 1744mm. Drill 3mm pilot holes and countersink.

2. Along the front edge measure and mark at 50, 568.5, 1087, 1605,5 and 2124mm and drill 3mm pilot holes.

3. Attach the base to the bottom of the centre divider, lining up the tip of the screw with the pre-drilled pilot holes.

4. Drive screws through the side into the edge of the base.

F. Bottom apron
Line up the bottom sides (F1) before drilling 3mm pilot holes. Countersink and attach with 4 x 30mm screws.

Fill all holes with wood filler and allow to dry Use panel pins and a hammer to attach the backing board.

Use an orbital sander and 120-grit sanding pads to ensure all edges are flush. Use 240-grit sanding pads to polish cut edges and prepare for painting.

Step 9:

Having made the pigeon hole dresser or multi-drawer unit, here are the instructions for making the drawers for this unit.

30 of 315 417 12mm SupaWood * drawer front/back
30 of 315 360 12mm SupaWood * drawer sides
15 of 360 393 12mm SupaWood * drawer base
15 knobs or handles with screws
180- and 240-grit sanding pads
Wood filler
Wood primer 2 foam rollers
Your choice of acrylic paint
Small paintbrush
1000-grit wet/dry sandpaper
Drill/Driver + assorted bits
Countersink bit
Orbital sander
Tape measure and pencil

Place the drawer base on a flat, level surface. Align the sides and drill 3mm pilot holes; countersink and use two 3.5 x 30mm screws to attach the sides to the base.

2. Align the front and back. Drill 3mm pilot holes; countersink and use two 3.5 x 30mm screws to attach to the base and sides as shown left.

Fill the holes at the front with wood filler; allow to dry before sanding smooth.

4. Wrap masking tape around the edges of the drawer front and apply Plascon wood primer with a foam roller.
Don't paint the sides and base of the drawer as this will cause the drawers to stick once in place, and make them difficult to open and close. Allow sufficient time for the wood primer to dry.

Prime and paint the cabinet and drawers
You also need to apply wood primer to the frame on your drawer cabinet. It only needs one coat of primer applied to the framework and not to the inside drawer compartments.

For a professional finish, once dry, sand the primer and first coat with 1000-grit sandpaper before applying the next coat.

Apply two to three coats of your choice of paint colour. You can use any acrylic/latex paint for this project. A satin or sheen paint is best, as this allows for easy cleaning. Remember to allow sufficient drying time between each coat.

Work diagonally from corner to corner to mark the centre point and drill a hole for mounting the knob.

Note: Home-Dzine or Janice Anderssen does not accept any liability of responsibility for errors or omissions.

Find more details on this project here: http://www.home-dzine.co.za/diy/diy-multi-drawer-u...

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    13 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent project!

    I have been looking at this one for a while as a starting off point to building an entertainment center for my man cave. I learned alot from the instructable & while I was putting things down on paper, an important question came to mind.

    How much does this thing weigh?

    My quick internet research has suggested that each full sheet of MDF weights around 90lbs and for this project I would need approximately 2.5 sheets. That's one beefy piece of furniture!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It does weigh quite a bit, but it's not so bad to move if all the drawers are removed.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for posting this, that is a beautiful cabinet!

    How did you get the nice square ends on the slots for the horizontal and vertical uprights? A chisel?

    6 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I do use a lot of antique wax on furniture that I make, and I'm sure that would help with any sticking issues.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    No chisels used! The horizontal and vertical uprights are slotted together as per the instructions.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    "How did you get the nice square ends on the slots for the horizontal and vertical uprights? A chisel?"

    "No chisels used! The horizontal and vertical uprights are slotted together as per the instructions."

    No chisels used does not answer the question. Again how did you get the nice square ends on the slots?

    Great project.

    You are not using drawer slide hardware, why not?
    Will the drawers last?
    A much cheaper method but I wonder about the quality without hardware.



    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    When I cut the slots, I move back up the cut and then cut a diagonal - which leaves a small triangle. I remove this with the jigsaw blade.

    I didn't want drawer runners. The project is designed to be Shabby Chic and drawer runners would spoil the feel. Assemble the drawers as explained and they will last a long time.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the clarification.
    You definitely have more skills than me because I've never been able make as nice a cut with a jigsaw. I was hoping there was trick to it :-).


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks dezine, great looking project.

    Most dressers do not use runners and work fine when new but after years they tend to bind, or at least one of the drawers will bind. Some say to use wax but that has to be maintained year after year.

    I definitely love the look of your project, Thank You again!!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Most dressers do not have runners like ralphxyz said.

    The dressers I've had since I was 10, are solid wood, the drawers have larger dimensions than these & now over 30 yrs old don't have runners & no issues with sticking. There are runners on the dovetail cut drawers on my 6 yr old $1500 solid wood dresser. I Love it!

    Since these are smaller drawers I didn't think sticking would be a problem.

    I thought any sticking was due to either excessive weight put in the drawers, the wood expanding because humidity, manufacturing of the product & drawers not aligned correctly, mishandling or not taking proper care of it or could it be any of the above?

    Would wax work on untreated or primed, painted MDF? That is what I use my on solid wood furniture occasionally.