Hi Friends! How come that we are in the middle of the holiday season already? Before I knew it, Slav and I were on the airplane to SFO for Thanksgiving. And by the time we returned, every other house on our street was lit up with Christmas lights! I’ve never seen that many inflatable snowman and Santa before. In the mornings, our street looks like a massacre has happened in Santa’s village – nearly every house features an empty sac of Santa laying on the front lawn or hanging off the chimney.

We always decorate light, and this year is no exception. A tree in the living room, a wreath on the front door, and a few string lights here and there. It is hard to decorate for Christmas when the house still needs lot of work – the garage ceiling is still open and the attic needs new insulation. But Slav is simply too busy with his work, so big renovation to-dos have to wait.

Without his help, I turned my eyes on small projects that I can handle myself, such as building sawhorses. I have never done carpentry before, but I really enjoyed working with a drill and a saw. This week, I had my eyes on another fun wood project in the kitchen.

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Picture above is our kitchen sideboard. It looks newer than other kitchen cabinets, but features the same countertop materials. Despite being very bulky, it does not offer much storage, due to the lack of drawers and shelving:

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See the images above? The long drawer front in the middle was fake. It was attached to the framing and there was no drawer behind it, leaving only two narrow drawers on the sides. The bottom cabinet did not have any shelf in it either. All of our pots and pans were cramped in and on top of each other.

To create more storage in the sideboard, I came up with a simple plan of adding a sliding shelf two-third way up in the bottom cabinet, and converting the fake drawer front to a real drawer. The sliding shelf will host our frying pans and small pots, and the drawer can be used for utensils. Giving my limited experience, I picked the simplest drawer design and the most basic drawer slides. The goal was to maximize the function over look and to gain more woodworking experience during this project.

1. Giving the sideboard a new back

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The first step is to clear everything out and detach the sideboard from the wall. We always wanted to rotate it 90 degree, against the stair rail, and it seemed to be a good opportunity to do it. The problem is that this sideboard had no back. It was bolted to the wall with some screws. So we also need to put a back on it.

Slav caulked the seams when he replaced all the silicone in the kitchen. He did such a good job that it took me quite some struggle to cut off all the caulking.

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We moved all the appliance to the sideboard in our living room.

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I picked up some a sheet of 4’x8′, 1/2″ thick MDF and cut the back pieces with a circular saw. The reason I had to do two pieces instead of one, is that the top rail of the sideboard is a bit wider. We do not have any clamp or guide, so it was hard to do any precise cut than running a straight line.

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The back pieces were bolted on the back with 2 3/4″ screws. The sideboard was rotated and pushed against the stair rail, which freed tons of space.

2 Converting the fake drawer front to a real drawer

Next I took the fake drawer front off and took some measurements. The drawer front was connected to the frame with some scrape pieces. A few pry with the smallest pry bar we have took care of them. I was definitely more comfortable using the pry bar now. Small progress!

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Our cabinet is 24″ deep and the other two drawers have 22″ drawer slides. So I picked up these 22″ drawer slides for the new drawer. The frame opening behind the fake drawer front is 33″, which meant that I needed to make the drawer 22″ deep by 32″ wide, allowing 1″ for drawer slides on both sides.

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Having all the measurements on hand, I moved onto cutting the drawer bottom and four sides out of the MDF sheet. I wish I have picked the 3/4″ plywood instead – the MDF sheet created so much fine saw dust that it was impossible to keep the work area reasonably clean. MDF sheet is also too soft to offer enough resistance to my circular saw. Without any guide pieces, it was hard to keep lines straight.

I did wear some PPE to protect myself from breathing in the fine saw dust as much as possible. The earmuffs was also very helpful as my circular saw is old and loud.

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With the help from this instruction, I managed to put together this drawer:

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And installed it into the sideboard. The whole process went very smoothly and so is does the sliding drawer!

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As you can see, the original fake drawer front now became the real drawer front. We pressed it against the drawer when it was closed, then carefully opened the drawer and drilled from the back. It would have been a lot easier if we had doubled-sided tape or a small nailer. Now I started to understand why Slav keeps buying tools!

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Here is my first drawer, loaded. 🙂

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3. Adding a sliding shelf in the lower cabinet

As I showed you above, we have so many pots and pans in the lower cabinet that they stack on top of each other, making it difficult to take them in and out.

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So I decided to make a shelf about 2/3 way up from the bottom of the cabinet. I want to make it sliding out in between the two framing posts, so we can easily reach for any pots and pans. It will have very low sides around to prevent anything from falling out, kind of like a very shallow drawer.

I had just enough MDF left to make this sliding shelf. To make sure that I can get all pieces out of it, I planned everything on the MDF first:

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I love it when there is very little waste.

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With the experience from the previous drawer, I did a better job designing and assembling this one. The biggest different is that the previous drawer bottom was flanked among the four sides, so the drawer slides were attached to the bottom of the sides. I made this shelf differently, by putting the sides on top of the bottom piece, so both drawer slides support the bottom. I think this design can handle more weight. Truth to be told, I’ve opened and closed drawers so many times and never paid any attention on how they are constructed! It is amazing that how much and how quickly you learn from building things yourself!

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Another lessons I learned is that I should have put on the back piece the last. It would have made it a lot easier to put on additional vertical support for the drawer slides to attach. We had to add scrape pieces of 2″x4″s due to lack of access.

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The front filler piece was added to make sure that the shelf slides pass the doors, which sit inside of the frame. As a consequence, the shelf is 1″ narrower than the drawer above it.

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Here is the shelf when I finished installation:

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Sliding out smoothly:

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And supports a good amount of weight:

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4. The updated sideboard,

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Here is our updated sideboard with a lot more storage than before. Its new compartment and location made the kitchen a lot more functional and feeling more spacious. Needless to say that I was beaming with pride. This building experience taught me how to pick the right screw for cabinet work, made me feeling a lot more comfortable with circular saw and planer, and allowed me to design something for the first time. It is incredibly fun!