Come along with me on a journey; a journey of craftsmanship, cabinets, and canned goods. Observe as I detail the steps I took to build this new cabinet in our kitchen so that we could move all of our food out of the cramped pantry and into the light where it belongs (the light where it belongs).
It all started with a SketchUp drawing:
My wife and I designed this cabinet to take up an entire wall in our kitchen that had previously only been home to a smaller more decorative cabinet that was more suited for display:
A very nice cabinet to be sure, but it was not meeting our needs. The room directly behind the wall the cabinet is on is our pantry, although it also holds the water heater and furnace air handler, so it is awkward to get in and out of. Once the new cabinet is built, we’ll move all of the food into it and use the old pantry for storage that won’t need to be accessed so frequently.
I started by building the box for the drawers. Plywood and pocket holes, nothing unusual here.
The corner cabinets are triangular in order to match the layout of the kitchen; I made them separate from the drawer box so that I’d be able to carry it into the house myself.
The intersection between the corner cabinets and the center drawer box is a 135º angle, so I glued up these pieces for the face frame so it could all be one piece to avoid having seams in the finished piece where the different cabinet boxes meet.
This worked better than I expected it to:
Here you can see the full face frame before I painted it.
I used full extension ball-bearing slides for all the drawers. They’re installed on spacers so that they will clear the edges of the face frame.
Each drawer is just a box held together with lock rabbet joints and a piece of quarter-inch plywood fit into a groove in the bottom. I’m glad I bought a strap clamp for this, although I should have bought more of them so I could glue up more than one drawer at a time.
At this point, all of the drawer boxes are built and installed and are ready for their fronts.
I cut all of the rails and stiles for the drawer faces and cabinet doors at the same time (sixty-eight pieces). They are all 2 1/4″ wide. (Ripping these pieces from larger S3S boards I bought from a lumberyard allowed me to both get the custom size I wanted and saved me about 65% of what I would have paid to buy poplar 1x3s from a big box store.)
I used cope and stick joinery for all of the drawer faces and doors. Here they are all dry-fit before I cut the panels…
…and after being glued together with the panels, which are made of quarter-inch plywood.
I moved the three base cabinets into the house. By this point, I had also painted the insides of the corner cabinets and drilled holes for adjustable shelving. You can also see an outlet that I would later extend into the corner cabinet.
I painted the face frame and all of the drawers before installing them in the house. And it only took forever! I should have used melamine for the drawer boxes; it would have cut way down on painting time, and I would have gotten a better finish.
The base cabinet has an oak countertop to match our kitchen table, garbage cabinet, and shoe cabinet. I made this the usual way.
Time to install the lower cabinet doors!
Oops. It isn’t very useful to have a handle six inches from the ground. I used a very strong magnet and dragged it up to the top of the door.
The upper section of the cabinet is made up of four parts: two corner cabinets, a lower shelving unit, and an upper display cabinet.
The face frame for the upper section was constructed in the same manner as the lower cabinet frame.
After painting and drilling more adjustable shelving holes, I learned how important it is to leave yourself an inch or two of wiggle room. I had designed this cabinet to come within half an inch of the ceiling, but when I began installing it, I found that our ceiling is 3/4″ closer to the floor on one end of the room than it is on the end that I measured on.
Luckily, I was able to make some adjustments and just barely get everything to fit.
I had originally been painting everything in my 8′ x 8′ spray booth, but with so many drawers and shelves to spray, I masked off the front of my shop instead. I used semi-gloss paint and did all of the painting with an HVLP sprayer. By the time I finished this project, I was consistently getting a really nice smooth finish.
The corner cabinet shelves are amputated triangles.
Haha, look at all those triangles.
The very top section of the cabinet is meant to have glass-front doors so we can display some of our very fancy things. This necessitated a different door construction so that I could easily paint the door before inserting the glass. I went with mitered half lap joints, my first time trying them.
I installed the glass doors, and the cabinet was almost done. (There are a lot of 3/4 views of this cabinet because the kitchen light fixture prevents me from taking a full shot from the front.)
After a week-long wait for my moulding order to come in, I added 3 1/2″ baseboard moulding and a 3/4″ cove moulding around the top.
Show ’em what you got, cabinet!
4 comments on “I Built a Kitchen Cabinet to Replace Our Pantry”
My house has uneven ceilings too. I could imagine being in your shoes in that moment when it didn’t fit. How’d you adjust it?
I had accounted for the plywood being 3/4″ and it was really only 11/16″, so for the middle section, there were four horizontal pieces of plywood, so that gave me the missing 1/4″. For the end cabinet box, I unscrewed the top of it, cut half an inch off of each vertical board, and screwed the top back on.
Hey Finke, you did a great job I highly appreciate it and I also a get a great idea about making of kitchen cabinet storage. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
Dude, this is AWESOME! I Googled “Cramped Pantry” and your gorgeous work came up. This is totally a game changer for me. Thank you!