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AW Extras 4/17/14 - Simple Kitchen Upgrades


Simple Kitchen Upgrades

Three easy projects that add storage, convenience and smoother running drawers to your kitchen

By Mac Wentz

Drawers & Slides for Old Cabinets

If your old drawers are coming apart,here’s a way to build new boxes and save the drawer faces.Rabbeted corners and a bottom that slips into dadoes make for quick,simple,sturdy construction (Fig.A).

You can reuse the old slides,or you can upgrade to ball-bearing slides. Ball-bearing slides allow full extension and provide years of smooth,quiet service. These slides are more expensive (around $14 per set of 22-in. slides), but are worth it,especially for large or heavily loaded drawers.

If you upgrade the slides, your new box may need to be slightly different in width from the old. To determine the drawer width, carefully measure the width of the cabinet opening and subtract 1 in. to allow for the slides.The slides shown here require at least 1 in.of clearance (1/2 in.per side) and no more than 1-1/16 in. Since correcting a drawer that’s too narrow is a lot easier than correcting one that’s too wide, I allow 1-1/16 in.of clearance (see Oops!). If your cabinets have face frames, you’ll need mounting blocks inside the cabinet to provide surfaces that are flush with the inside of the face frame (Photos 2 and 3).

Begin by ripping plywood into strips for the drawer box front, back and sides, but don’t cut them to length just yet.Cut dadoes in the plywood strips by making overlapping passes with your tablesaw blade.You’re not going for a squeaky-tight fit here; the 1/4-in.plywood bottoms should slip easily into the dado.

Cut the strips to length for the drawer sides and rabbet the ends.Use the completed sides to determine the length of the front and back pieces. Cut the drawer bottoms from 1/4-in.plywood,undersizing them by about 1/16 in.

Assemble the drawer using glue at the corner joints (Photo 1).The bottom is held by dadoes, so there’s no need to glue it.

Fig. A: The simple, sturdy drawer

Click on any image to view a larger version.

1. Assemble and square the drawer box. For no-fuss squaring, try this:With clamps in place, nudge the drawer against a framing square and push a brad through the bottom near each corner. Unless your brad nailer shoots 3/8- in. brads, a brad pusher is the best tool for this. See Sources, page 41 to find a supplier.

2. Mark a “screw line” on a mounting block screwed to the inside of the cabinet.You’ll position the slide by driving screws through the line.The location of the line isn’t critical—the slides will work fine whether they’re mounted high, low or in the middle of the drawer side. But the line must be square to the cabinet front.

3. Mark screw lines on the drawer sides. First, measure from the face frame rail to the screw line on the mounting block.Then subtract 1/4 in. and measure from the bottom edge of the drawer box to determine the placement of the screw lines on the drawer.That way, the drawer will have 1/4-in. clearance above the rail.

4. Fasten the slides by driving screws into the screw lines.The slides pull apart for easy mounting. Begin by using only the vertical slots on the drawer member and the horizontal slots on the cabinet member.This lets you adjust the drawer’s fit before adding more screws.

5. Drive temporary screws through the existing hardware holes into the drawer box.Then pull out the drawer and attach the front with permanent screws from inside. A spacer positions the drawer front evenly.

Toe-Kick Drawers

I always looked at the toe space under the cabinets in my too-small kitchen and thought it would be a great place to add drawers. After some head scratching, I found a way to do it without having to install drawer slides in that dark, cramped space. I mounted the drawer and slides in a self-contained cradle that slips easily under the cabinet (Fig. B). Because the cabinet overhangs the toe-kick by 3 or 4 in., full-extension slides are a necessity for this project.Better yet, use “overtravel” slides that extend an extra inch (see Sources, below).

The toe-kick under the cabinets shown here was just a strip of 1/4-in.plywood backed by 5/8- in. particleboard (Photo 1).You might run into something different, like particleboard without any backing at all. In any case, opening up the space under the cabinet is usually fairly easy.

To determine the dimensions of the cradle, measure the depth and width of the space and subtract 1/16 in. from both to provide some adjustment room. If your floor covering is thicker than 1/4 in. (ceramic tile, for example) you may have to glue plywood scraps to the underside of the cradle to raise it and prevent the drawer from scraping against the floor when extended. Size the drawer to allow for slides and the cradle’s sides. For drawer construction and slide installation, above.

You’ll have to make drawer fronts and attach them to the boxes using the method shown in Photo 5. Don’t worry too much about an exact match of the finish with your existing cabinets. In that dark toe space,nobody will be able to tell. For hardware, consider handles instead of knobs so you can pull the drawers open with your toe.

Fig. B: Toe-kick drawer and cradle


1. Pry off the toekick and remove the backing by drilling a large hole near the center, cutting the backing in half and tearing it out.Then grab a flashlight and check for blocks, protruding screws or anything else that might interfere with the drawer.

2. Build a cradle, simply two sides and a bottom, to hold the drawer. Attach the cradle’s sides to the slides and drawer, then add the plywood bottom.

3. Slip the cradle under the cabinet. Then drive a pair of screws through each side and into the cabinet box as far back as you can reach.

Pull-Out Trash Drawer

Whoever decreed that the trash can goes under the sink got it wrong.With plumbing in the way,there’s no space for a good-size can. Plus who likes to bend over and reach into the cabinet?

Here’s a great alternative: In one cabinet,replace the shelves with a simple trash can holder mounted on drawer slides.By attaching the existing cabinet door to the front of the pull-out unit,you create a convenient trash drawer. Fig.C and the photos at right show how to build the unit.

Melamine board—particleboard with a tough plastic coating—is a good material for this project because it’s easy to clean.A 4x8 sheet costs about $25 at home centers.The melamine coating,however, tends to chip during cutting.This chipping is worst where the saw teeth exit the material. So with a jigsaw, for example, the face-up side of the sheet will chip.Plan ahead so the chipped edges are out of view.

You’ll also need iron-on edge banding ($6 at home centers) to cover the exposed edges (Photo 2). When cutting the platform to width, subtract 1/16-in. to allow for the width of the edge banding.

Use the same drawer slides you used for the drawers. Their 100-lb. capacity should be sufficient, unless you plan to fill the trash bin with gravel or sand!

If the back of your cabinet door is a flat surface, you can run strips of double-faced tape across the front, stick the door in place and fasten it with four small “L” brackets. The back of the door shown here has a recessed panel,so getting it positioned right was a trial-and-error process.Before removing the door,I cut blocks that fit between the door and the floor. Then I extended the unit, rested the door on the blocks, and attached two brackets.The resulting fit wasn’t quite perfect,so I moved the brackets slightly, checked again and added the remaining brackets.


(Note: Source information may have changed since the original publication date.)

The Best Things,, 800-884-1373, Crown Brad Pusher, #110XW, $19.95.

Woodworker’s Hardware,, 800-383-0130. These are the ball-bearing slides used for our projects. Be sure to measure your own cabinets before buying slides: 22" Full-Extension Slides for Cabinet Drawers and Trash Drawer, KV8400 B22, $13.46 ea.; 20" Overtravel Slides for Toe-Kick Drawers, KV8405 B20 ANO, $13.84; Titebond Melamine Glue, F4014, $5.96 per pt.; Preglued PVC Iron-On Edge Banding, White, ET901 1316 25, $6.05 for a 25' roll.

Fig. C: Pull-out trash drawer

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2003, Issue #102.

September 2003, Issue #102

Purchase this issue.

1. Cut out an opening for the trash bin after placing the bin upside down and tracing around the rim.To allow for the rim, cut about 1/2-in. inside the outline, then check the fit and enlarge the opening as needed.

2. Edge band the melamine and file away the excess edge banding. To avoid loosening the banding, cut only as you push the file forward, not as you pull back. If you do loosen the edge banding, just reapply with the iron.

3. Assemble the unit with screws and 3/4-in. x 3/4- in. cleats. Be sure to use coarse-threaded screws; fine threads won’t hold in particleboard. For extra strength, you can use glue that’s made especially for melamine’s slick surface (see Sources).

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