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.
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
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

3. Mark screw
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

Pull-Out Trash

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 4×8 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
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).