Simple Kitchen Upgrades

Cabinetmaking Projects

Maybe you don’t need a new kitchen; maybe you just need some more storage space. This section contains 10 kitchen upgrades that add storage and convenience to your existing kitchen. You’ll find ways to store your many pots, pans, utensils, small appliances, cleaning supplies, and food. There’s a mini pantry for your canned goods, a pull-out trash or recycling drawer, add-on shelves for cleaning supplies, and a very handy appliance garage. Who doesn’t need another garage? If you travel with your cakes and casseroles, the portable food safe will easily protect them along the way and help you to deliver them in style. For a simple, fun kitchen project that also makes a handy gift, check out the wooden salad tongs. If you want to learn some tricks about designing a built-in cabinet, then take a closer look at the handsome sycamore cabinet. Or if you need some additional seating for your kitchen, the kitchen stool project is a great choice. The kitchen stool is designed so you don’t need a lathe to make the legs, just some creative router work. A router is also used to give the seat’s comfortable shape.

Simple Kitchen Upgrades

3 Easy Projects thatn add storage and convenience

1. Drawers and 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.

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, $15 or more per set of slides, but 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 to allow for the slides. The slides shown here require of clearance. Since correcting a drawer that’s too narrow is a lot easier than correcting one that’s too wide. 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.

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 table saw 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 plywood undersizing them.

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

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 brads, a brad pusher is the best tool for this.

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.

Mark screw lines on the drawer sides. First, measure from the face frame rail to the screw line on the mounting block. Then subtract and measure from the bottom edge of the drawer box to determine the placement of the screw lines on the drawer.

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.

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.

Made entirely from birch plywood, the drawer is held together by rabbeted glue joints. The bottom is supported by dadoes.

2. 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. Because the cabinet overhangs the toe-kick full-extension slides are a necessity for this project. Better yet, use “overtravel” slides that extend an extra inch.

The toe-kick under the cabinets shown here was just a strip of plywood backed by particleboard. 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 from both to provide some adjustment room. 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; You’ll have to make drawer fronts and attach them to the boxes. 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.

Pry off the toe-kick 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.

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.

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.

A drawer mounted in a cradle forms a self-contained unit that slips under a base cabinet.


The manufacturer of these slides says that the drawer box must be narrower than the drawer opening. They’re not kidding. I learned the hard way that a drawer that falls outside this range won’t slide smoothly no matter how much grease or brute force you apply.

With such a small margin for error, occasional mistakes are inevitable. And I’ve found that it’s better to err on the too-narrow side of that margin. If a drawer turns out a tad too wide, you have to sand down the sides or route a super-shallow dado to recess the slide. Both are a pain. But if the drawer comes out a hair too narrow, a few layers of tape applied to the back of the drawer member is all that’s needed. So I’m now in the habit of making drawers narrower than the opening. Most of the time they glide perfectly. And when they don’t, I just grab the masking tape for a quick, easy fix.

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 and inexpensive. 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 to cover the exposed edges.  When cutting the platform to width, subtract to allow for the width of the edge banding.

Drawer slides rated  loads are fine for most drawers. But since this drawer will get more use than most, 120-lb. slides are a good idea.

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.

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.

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.

Assemble the unit with screws and 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.

Made from melamine-coated particleboard, this trash drawer is simple enough to build

Here’s a better solution for trash than under the sink, a large waist-high drawer.

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