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How to make pull-out drawers for your pantry

We have a regular customer who requested help with her pantry. This pantry would be difficult to manage for anyone, but the pair that lives in this house has one person in a wheelchair and the other has a rod in her spine and can’t bend. Imagine trying to find anything in this:

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Well, this is what we turned it into.  Clearly much more manageable for this pair.

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Here’s a how-to in case you want to re-do your unorganized, hard-to-find-anything pantry.  Keep in mind that each pantry size is different, so I’ll give you our measurements, but you will have to adjust to fit your own pantry.

Tools used: 

Sander

Router

Table Saw

Nail gun & air compressor

Drill

Materials used: 

Plywood

Wood filler

Drawer pull-outs

Nails

Wood glue

This was Charlie’s first time making one of these, so he did it slowly, trying things out as he went along.  It’s a good thing he did, because we did run into a few hiccups.

The first thing Charlie did was measure the pantry and plan the layout.  The owner decided they wanted pull-out baskets at the very bottom of the pantry so that they could store potatoes/onions, etc. in there.  This meant that we only needed to make 6 pull-out drawers and then just install the baskets at the end.  This pantry was 24 inches deep and 14 inches on each side of the middle bar.  Accordingly, we bought 24 inch drawer pulls.  Here’s the pic of what we bought so you can find something similar:

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Charlie then went about making his first drawer.  Since this was his first go at this, he wanted to fully make and install one to make sure it would work correctly, before making the other 5.

First, he used a table saw to cut the plywood down to size.  He decided to make the drawer walls 4 inches tall so he started by cutting 4 inch strips out of the plywood.  He then went through with his router and cut a notch in each of them that the bottom of the drawers could rest in like this:

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Here’s the pile of 4 inch strips with the cutout for the bottom carved into them:

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He then went around each 4 inch strip and rounded what would be the tops of the drawers with his router so that they looked like this:DSC_0352

 

This is the picture of the router bit he used to round the tops:

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Next, he assembled the first drawer so that he could install it and see how it worked and fit in the pantry.  He placed the four sides together and then used wood glue and the nail gun to put them together.  He used the original shelves from the old pantry and cut them to make the drawer bottom.  Waste not, want not, right?  He constructed the drawers by nailing/glueing the two sides to the back of the drawer.  Then he slid the bottom in to the slots, and nailed/glued the front on.  Here’s pics of the first drawer:

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Now, to install it.  And this is where it got tricky.  Originally, he screwed the 24 inch drawer pulls into the back of the cabinet and the front supports into the front wood beams like this:

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The good news was it worked!  It pulled out and everything!  Success!

DSC_0372 Well, almost….  Unfortunately, turns out this pantry wasn’t exactly square.  Can you see the problem?  The drawer pull stuck out 1/4 inch or so from the front.  The middle support was fine, but with this issue, the pantry door wouldn’t close all the way.  So back to the drawing board.  This is why Charlie wanted to make sure to try one before building/installing them all.  DSC_0377

This was his solution: he took the 24 inch drawer pulls back to the home improvement store and exchanged them for 22 inch drawer pulls which was fine for us since our drawers are 21 inches long anyway.  He then used heavy duty glue to glue strips to the back of the pantry like this: DSC_0396

And it worked!  The drawer pull was evenly flush with the front, drawer pulled out, and the pantry door closed.  You can also see in the above pick that he attached the front of the drawer pulls flush before attaching the backs to the wood strip.  He installed all the drawer pulls at this point.

Next, he needed to actually put together the other 5 drawers and make them look nice.  Below you can see what the plywood drawers look like pre wood filler, stain, and lacquer.  The edges are rough, you can see the nails.  Functional, but not attractive.

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So Charlie built the other 5 drawers the same as the first and then went to work making them pretty.  Wood filler is a carpenter’s best friend.  Cover over all the imperfections, wait for it to dry, then sand it off.

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Next, find a stain that matches your pantry color.  Stain all the drawers, let it dry.  Then cover them all with with a clear lacquer and let dry again.

Here’s what the finished drawer front looks like.  Much more polished: DSC_0452 DSC_0455Lastly, he screwed all of the drawers onto the already installed drawer pulls.  This just took a drill, a helping hand to support the drawers as he drilled and screwed, and a level.  Actually, he used two drills, one with a drill bit that drilled a hole for the screw and another with the phillips head drill bit.  This way he could switch back and forth between drills without having to continually switch out the drill bits back and forth.

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And that’s that!  Pull out drawers done.  A very hard-to-manage, unorganized, overstuffed pantry turned manageable.

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