DIwYatt: Building Pull Out Pantry Drawers

By | February 17, 2015

Melissa talked about the plan for the pantry, here. After sharing some pretty revealing photos of the mess we had been living with.

Pantry Food Mess 2

To build the pantry drawers, I first needed to come up for a design and plans. For starters, I worked out the plan for how I’d arrange my cuts to use only one sheet of plywood.

Building Pantry Drawers Plans

I watch a lot of woodworking shows on PBS on the weekends, and I that’s where I pick up  a lot of tips. If you are interested in getting into woodworking, PBS has a few good shows that explains a lot of concepts.

All drawers will need 4 sides and a bottom. A lot of cabinet makers will use a dovetail joint to attach the four sides together, but I don’t have the materials, skill, or time to make those joints. So instead, I went with a box joint. To do this, I needed to set up my table saw with a new throat plate. My first YouTube video is up now with the second half of making it.

So after I had my table saw set up, I needed to make a jig for cutting all of my box joints. I think I got this tip from an episode of Rough Cut with Tommy Mac on PBS one Saturday Morning. The jig consists of attaching a board to extend the crosscut fence, and a specifically placed key. Here it is.

Box Joint Jig

Here is the back view:

Box Joint Jig 2

In order to keep my plans simple, I decided to make the sides an even number of inches, 4 inches for the top two and 6 inches for the bottom one.

Building Pantry Drawers Joint Practice 2

This helped make designing the box joints simple and make them in 1/2 inch increments and 1/2 inch deep. You can see the test joint below, although since this test board wasn’t quite the right width, it didn’t work out perfectly.

Building Pantry Drawers Joint Practice

Here’s a closer look:


Finally, I settled on the right arrangement. Once my jig and dado blades were  set up, I was ready to start cutting my real joints.

Building Pantry Drawer Joints 2

I posted a couple of teaser photos to my Instagram, but here is the box joints cut without the bottom of the drawer and without being glued up.

Building Pantry Shelves

After getting the box joints finished, I was ready to start on the joint for the drawer bottoms. The most common way to accomplish this is which a rabbet joint. I used the same 1/2 dado blade set up to cut my rabbet. I wanted my rabbet to be half of the thickness of my sides (1/4 inch). The important thing about this is to pay attention to your front drawer side. You want to make sure the rabbet runs behind one of the fingers. This helps the overall appearance, I’ll point it out later. Here is the rabbet.

Woodworking Joint Reference 3

With the drawer bottom, you want to keep in mind to include the extra 1/4″ on each side for the rabbets. So if my drawer was 23 inches wide measured from the outside, the inside measurement would be 22 inches, because I used 1/2 inch material.  To account for my rabbets, I need to add 1/4 on each side to the inside measurement, so 22 inches + 1/4 inch + 1/4 inch = 22 and 1/2 inches wide for my drawer bottom.

Building Pantry Drawers Wood Bottoms

After getting my drawer bottom cut, I did a dry fit to see how everything was working. I noticed that my dado blades have a slight point on the edges creating a shape like below when cutting my box joints.

Dado Cut Out

You want it to look like this:

Dado Cut Out Square

So I made a sanding stick. Never heard of that? Me either until I started following Brian (http://instagram.com/bjmacwoodwork/) on Instagram. He uses adhesive backed sand paper attached to a scrap piece of wood. I didn’t have any adhesive backed sand paper, but I did have used belt sander belts. So I cut a strip and glued it to a scrap piece of wood with Titebond. This quickly helped square up my cuts.

Sanding Stick

Then I was ready to glue everything up. I used a paint brush to apply glue. Then, I had to clamp everything together. I didn’t have a great way to do that, so I researched a little online and found these Pony Band Clamps at Home Depot. They worked like a charm!

Finally, it was time to get everything dry-fitted together one last time before gluing.

Building Pantry Shelves 2

Band Clamp


I think they worked great. I only bought 2 of them, and used them both for each drawer.

Gluing Pantry Drawer Box Joints with clamps 4

This made the glue up take three days, one day for each drawer. But the value and ease of use was well worth it in my book. The clamps tighten like ratchet straps to get a very secure hold. And, they go all the way around the drawer so nothing slips out of place.

Gluing Pantry Drawer Box Joints with clamps 2

It came with brackets to put on the corners to help save the straps from glue and protect the corners.

Gluing Pantry Drawer Box Joints with clamps 3

After the glue was dry, I sanded all of the joints smooth with the palm sander. Be as thorough as you can in this step, because excess glue WILL show with any stain or seal coat. I know from experience…

Building Pantry Drawers Finished

I put on one coat of polyurethane to seal the drawers.

Pantry Drawers Poly Coat

Then, I sanded each one a little to give them a nice smooth finish.

Final Sanding of Pantry Drawers

Eventually, it was time to get them installed. But, that was a whole different challenge I’ll pick up on next time.

In the meantime, check out this sneak peek a the finished result:

Finished Pantry Drawers Installed

Ever wanted to build your own drawers? Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll try to help!

DIY Pantry Drawers Pin

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