Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: DIY Built (Page 2 of 4)

Adding Hidden Storage to the Office

Howdy, friends and family! I cannot believe we are entering March already! February was a busy month for us. We are both meeting deadlines at work, while trying to ski once a week before the winter ends. On top of everything, we managed to make steady progresses on Slav’s office. After the structure work was done (including reversing the closet, moving the doorway (12), and patching the floor), we entered a new stage of work: the finishes. As many of you DIYers know, this stage can feel really slow and never ending. There are sooo many small details to consider! Drywall, paint, trims, baseboards, doors and windows treatment. The room may look 80% of its new version, but 50% of the work is still ahead of us.

Last week we installed new lighting and new window treatment (the same blinds we used in the living room); and this week, we started patching drywall.





Drywall work is nothing glorious, so I am not going to bore you with the details. Long story short, it’s messy. What kept us going is the believe that we will eventually come out of it with beautiful walls. But I need more pick-me-up than that. So…

I built drawers, again!

The Design

The drawers I am building this time are baseboard drawers. I first saw this idea from Ana White‘s tiny house kitchen build, and have been wanting to incorporate it into our house since. When we tried to choose baseboards for our library bookcases, a light bulb went off – why not build some baseboard drawers? Our IKEA Billy bookcases are sitting on a 2″x4″ wooden base, putting the bottom shelves almost 7″ above the floor, which is a decent height for drawers. These little caves are prefect hidden storage for Slav’s bazillions of cables and small computer parts.


I built drawers only once before, and it was such a positive learning experience for me. Since then, I have read about many alternative ways of building drawers and really would like to improve my skills. I knew the principles, I learned from my mistakes, and I am more confidence this time going into the build.

The only decision I had a hard time to make was the material. Normally, drawers are build with either real wood, plywood, or MDF boards. MDF is the cheapest option, but in our case the MDF drawers need to be covered with wood veneer to match the bookcase. Real wood and plywood can be stained to match, but getting the color and wood grain right might be a struggle. One night, we talked, talked, and talked our options, until Slav came up with the perfect solution – why not buy another bookcase, and use the material to build the drawers?


We grabbed another Billy in brown veneer and I tried to cut one piece on the table saw. The material cuts really well without chipping. Now I could get to work!


I made an interesting discovery about IKEA Billy this time – the five bookcases we got last time on IKEA’s big sale has almost all the boards veneered on both sides. But the new IKEA Billy does not. The sides that are not showing after assembly are all plain. I guess it saves a few cents for IKEA.

We did not really consider building baseboard drawers when we built the wood base. Fortunately, the 2″x4″ are all parallel and precise enough to support the drawers. We did chip off a bit wood here and there for the drawer front to fit, but it was not too bad.


The 2″x4″ wood base is around 9″ deep and ~29″ wide, so the drawers would be all 8 1/2″ in depth and ~28″ in width (the drawer slides take up to 1″). I laid out the plan on a piece of paper.


The Prototype

To get my hands warm, I decided to build a prototype first. This time around, I set a work station in the garage for efficiency and it helped a lot. I used a sheet of plywood to create a large work surface, and surrounded myself with circular saw, miter saw, table saw, brad nailer + compressor, and all the material and hardware needed. This set up made the work much more streamlined and pleasant. A vanilla scented candle added feminine touch and softness to the ice cold garage.


This is how the drawers were assembled: I used the toe kick pieces to create the two sides, then sliced the shelves to make the drawer faces. The left over stripes from the shelves were used as the front side of the drawers, I do not have enough material to create the back, so I cut some plywood off the my temporary table to make the back pieces.


The drawer was made 1″ narrower than the opening to accommodate the drawer slides. I decided to try these 8″ full extension drawer slides and they worked great.


The bottom of the drawers were made from 5mm plywood (leftover from covering our garage walls). Brad nails held it in place.


Now is time for the test! I mounted the other side of the slides onto the 2″x4″s, and it worked pretty smoothly. You can see how it works in this video.


Mass Production

With the prototype working well, I spent the next a couple hours making all five drawers. I test fit all of them before installing the drawer slides.


Roxie was interested.


Instead of measuring, I used a block and a piece of 5mm plywood to prop the  drawer slides up when mounting them onto the drawers. When I needed to mount the other side of the drawer slides to the wood base, I used the same block and two layers of 5mm plywood, creating 5mm clearance at the bottom of the drawers.


All mounted and slide smoothly!


Attaching the Drawer Face

Next, I moved onto attaching the drawer faces.  These are made from the shelves from the extra bookcase and cut just a hair higher than the bottom shelves.


I attached the drawer faces to the front side of the drawers with double-sided tape. This woodworking tape got lots of good reviews so I decided to give it a try. It is strong enough to hold the faces in place when I fired the nailer, but I was able to take the faces off fairly easily to adjust their positions.


This is what the drawers looks like when they are fully installed. The gap in between the bookcase will soon be covered from the floor to ceiling.


I adore these baseboard drawers. They hold lots of small electronics and still slide smoothly. I hope they will help Slav to get more organized!


Update Our To-Dos

After completing the baseboard drawers, we are moving onto the last step for the library built-ins – trimming between and around the bookcases. Hopefully by this time next week, I can show you a finished built-in wall. Here is our current office to-do list:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall and trim around the new opening
4. Hang doors
5. Install new lighting and window treatment in the office
6. Build baseboard drawers for the bookcases
7. Trim out the bookcases (in progress)
8. Build Slav’s desk

Soft Grey


Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are relaxed, rested, well-fed, and enjoying a great time with your families! We are having a white Christmas here with quite a few inches of snowfall the night before Christmas Eve. I am so grateful to be living with real winter again!

As usual, Slav and I are working normal hours through holidays. Slav always has deadlines right after the New Years, so we take time off in January instead between Christmas and New Years. But I still want to do something fun for Christmas. It is a long weekend this year and it is really nice to stay home for three day straight without any obligations.

I still got our bedroom on my mind since last weekend’s small update, and honestly, I’ve been itching for some woodworking since the last build. So I decided to build a padded headboard for our king size bed, in order to bring some softness into our bedroom.

The design

When we got our storage bed a few months back, we decided to pass the matching storage headboard and DIY something softer instead. We had a padded and tufted headboard in the past, and we liked the warmth and support it gave. It was an easy decision to replicate it. Thick padding and soft fabric offer comfort, and keeping it mono-colored and simply tufted with buttons maintain the minimalism look in the bedroom.

First I drew the plan in Sketchup:


The plan includes a pair of sideboards with integrated lighting and nightstands. The light blue rectangle represents a window, which is 57″ off the floor. Our king bed is over 20″ tall with the mattress (represented by the box in front the headboard). I designed the headboard to be long and narrow (32″ x 78″) to accommodate the short distance between the mattress and the window.


This is the view from the back, without the sideboards. You can see the window on the top, the headboard right below, and existing bed frame at the bottom. The headboard will be hanging directly on the wall. You can also see the cut dimension of the 2″ x 4″s framing the headboard from this view.

The frame


I cut 2″ x 4″s to size using a miter saw, and dry fit them together. The middle bracing was made from 2″ x 4″ scraps and for attaching the pegboard pieces later.

To join the 2″ x 4″s together, I decided to give pocket hole joint a try. I’ve purchased the Kreg Jig a while ago but had not used it before this project. I was a bit intimated, which is silly – because the instruction was very straightforward and easy to follow.


I practiced on some scrap wood first:


The first pocket hole I made was terrible. It was not smooth and did not even go through the bottom. But the next few got better.


Twenty minutes and lots of saw dust later, I connected my first pocket hole joint! The frame quickly came together after.


The next step was to cover the frame with a flat surface for the foam pad to attach to. DIYers use different materials – plywood, MDF, pegboard, or old headboards the,selves. I assume a few strip of wood would be OK too, especially if you are not going for the tufted look. I decided to use pegboard because we have some leftovers from our garage organization, and more importantly, it makes the tufting part easier.


I screwed one piece of leftover pegboard onto the frame and used jigsaw to trim the excess off. The cut was not very straight – I still need to get better at using jigsaw or circular saw without a guide. Fortunately the edges will be covered by padding and fabric later.

I next attached the other piece of headboard.


This is what the headboard frame looked like finished:


The Material

Up to this point I was confident on what I am doing. But the upholstery, not so much. I had very little experience with sewing and fabric in general, and the experience I had was all failure. Thanks for the internet, I was able to find a few really good tutorials. I got my materials based on recommendations in this tutorial, and followed similar steps in this tutorial for a similar modern look. If you are interested in more of a traditional look, this one demonstrated really well how to do diamond tuft and offers many good tricks.

The material I used for the project includes a king-size mattress pad ($60), a large but light-weight quilt batting ($20), a bottle of adhesive spray ($17), and of course, a piece of suede fabric ($60). For the tufted look, I also got button cover kit ($10), craft needles ($5), and waxed nylon cord ($4). As you can see, this headboard did not come out cheaper than a pre-made one, and it is partially due to the size of the frame and how thick I want it to be. I chose king size pad and large batting to get two layers of coverage of both (see the 2nd picture below), but twin-size pad and smaller batting should be sufficient for a slimmer headboard with a much cheaper price tag. I also bought everything from JoAnn, which is more expensive than Amazon or Ebay. So if you could wait a few days for everything to arrive, you can probably save $20 more getting everything online.


The Upholstery

I laid the headboard down in the living room with the pegboard side up and dry fit everything first. You can see that the king size mattress pad gives us two layers of full coverage.


I then sprayed the pegboard generously with the adhesive and glued both layers on. Because I used pegboard, I laid down some protective plastic underneath so my rug will not get sticky.


I did one layer at a time and trimmed the excess with a scissor after each layer. This adhesive is the “re-positioning” type which allows me to adjust for a long time, which is nice. The adhesive spray is not necessary if you are only doing one layer and the foam you use is bigger than the headboard itself. I can only find 76″ foam for my 78″ headboard so I had to glue a portion down, stretch a little, then glue another portion, and do this with two layers. The adhesive spray definitely made this process a lot easier for me.


The next step is the batting. I laid it on the bed, put the headboard on it with the foam (and pegboard) side down, then stapled it around. I tugged it pretty tight to make sure that the batting pressed the foam tightly against the pegboard.


It looked pretty neat at this point and I was gaining a bit confidence.



The Tufted Look

The most intimidating part of this whole project might have been choosing the fabric. I do not know fabric at all. After spending an hour unrolling and rolling up fabric samples, I brought my choice to the cutting center, feeling anxious. I told the woman working at the cutting counter my plan for the fabric and she said “this is a gorgeous piece for upholstering headboard with” and I was so relieved! I think the color also worked out OK with our bedding.



The next step was pretty straight forward: lay the fabric underneath the headboard and staple around. I took caution to make sure the corners were tight and neatly tucked.



The Buttons!


A simple headboard could have stopped right here. But since we decided to add buttons for a gentle tufted look, I laid out all 14 buttons and marked their locations.


Making buttons was a bit tough on fingers, especially with such heavy fabric. But it got done.


Slav helped me to put all the buttons on using long craft needles and waxed cord. It was a two people four hands job so we did not take any photos. Please visit the tutorials I linked above if you are interested.

The Finish

We decided to use this Hangman heavy-duty mirror hanger for easy adjustment /removal of the headboard. It can take 300 pound weight which is plenty enough for our headboard. It also comes with a built-in level which makes hanging it very easy.


This product is pretty much a french cleat. The other part was screwed onto the headboard frame:


And here it is!


Our soft headboard:


The light grey plays well with the grey curtain and blue painting.


We hung it on Christmas eve and it was such a treat for Christmas!

Adding Sliding Drawers to Our Kitchen Cabinet

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.


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:



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


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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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


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!


Here is my first drawer, loaded. 🙂


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.


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:


I love it when there is very little waste.


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!


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.


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.


Here is the shelf when I finished installation:


Sliding out smoothly:


And supports a good amount of weight:


4. The updated sideboard,


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!



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