Pantry Drawers in a Standard Cabinet

finished pantry drawerspantry before drawers
The pantry to the side of the fridge has five shelves on the lower half, five on the upper half. The shelves are 2 feet deep, which causes quite a bit of wasted space. The solution I came up with was to make four slide out pantry drawers for the lower four spots.

pantry drawer in SketchUp

Like usual, I created a Sketchup model to visualize the project and figure out how much wood I would need.

test drawer loaded with cans

The first thing I did was create a test drawer to make sure the dimensions were right and everything would work out. I made this out of some scrap wood and it fit like a glove on the first try! I also loaded it up with what I figured a max weight would be. The slides are meant to hold a max of 100 lbs which would be fine for this application.

cross cutting plywood

Used the trusty ol’ crosscut jig with my circular saw to rip the depth of the drawer bottoms. I used high quality 1/2″ birch plywood for the project.

SketchUp layout

Using the Sketchup model, I created a layout to determine the best use of wood for the components. I was able to arrange the pieces on a 4’x4′ sheet of plywood. This is one of the main reasons I use Sketchup to model even the simplest of projects.

wood laid out

Cut all four of the drawer pieces on the table saw and miter saw based off the plans.

cutting rabbet on router table

For added strength I used a rabbet joint on the drawer fronts. I created this using a 1/4″ straight bit in the router table.

front and side joined together with rabbet

Here’s what it looks like when attached to the side.

marking pieces for biscuits

I laid all of the pieces out and marked them for biscuits.

cutting biscuits

You can see a biscuit slot cut in the top sheet of plywood. The biscuits help greatly when aligning the drawer and add some strength.

edge banding plywood

Ugh, edge banding. I edge banded the tops of all the sides before attaching them. I picked up that green edge banding trimmer when I started this project and it cut the time in half, at least. It was meant for 3/4″ stock but I modified it to work with 1/2″ material and it worked like a charm!

attaching sides with biscuits, glue, and clamps

I stuck the biscuits in, added some glue, used brad nails in the nail gun along the back and sides, then clamped it together.

clamped up

The blue and silver clamps on the bottom and sides were another recent shop addition. They allow for clamping on the bottom while balancing the shelf on them and offer great uniform clamping pressure.

attaching side rail spacers in cabinet

I added some spacer blocks on the sides behind the slides for added strength. I just didn’t feel comfortable with the “rear mount” only drawer slides. The slides are meant to hold a lot of weight, but to me that seems like a lot of downward force on a few screws through plastic.

applying Polycrylic

Next I applied three coats of Polycrilic to each drawer, sanding with 220 between coats. I highly recommend this finish, it applies easily and looks great with low odor. Polycrilic is water based (vs. oil), so cleaning up is a breeze.

all four pantry drawers completed

All of the pantry drawers are now put together. You can see how the lower right drawer looks after one coat of poly.

drilling pilot holes for drawer slides

I love buying tools, as you may have noticed. I have always disliked attaching drawer slides. The screw heads are the exact same diameter as the holes they go in, so if the pilot hole is not absolutely centered, there is a bit of a lip on the screw sticking out, causing the drawer to hang up on the rollers. I finally purchased a self centering drill bit! The tip has a taper and rests in the hole and when you push down a spring pushes the drill bit in the center of the of hole.

pantry drawers installed

All four pantry drawers in place and looking good!

pantry drawers loaded up and extended

A ton of storage room was reclaimed with the addition of pantry drawers. In the past, the back half of the shelves were unused or filled with items that would never be found again. The best part about doing your own home improvement was that this only cost me $40 (in material..)!

Tools, accessories, and hardware used in this build

Here are the “project specific” items I used to build the pantry drawers:

I was skeptical about the router bit set with it being so cheap compared to other brands but I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality and results these have given me. The edge banding trimmer is not the one I have but that tool has honestly saved me hours. I used to use a razor blade and it was brutal. I purchased a cheap version from Menards and it is pretty poor quality, falls apart on me constantly.


Some other helpful accessories during this build:

The glue applicator set might seem like overkill but it has helped tremendously.


These are the power tools that make up the core of my shop, all used in this project as well. You can probably guess my brand of choice!


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