How to make a kitchen Plinth drawer
I like to reclaim wasted space around the home wherever possible; and one such space that is all too often wasted, which could have practical use, is the space under the kitchen units. In our case we have two distinct spaces under our kitchen units; one of which is already used to house a plinth radiator, and the other which was vacant unused space.
A plinth radiator is a great space saver; you can get electric ones but ours works off the central heating just like any other radiator, except it is fitted with a fan and fits under the kitchen unit, with a vent fitted to the front of the plinth for warm air to be blown out by the fan heating the kitchen from the floor up e.g. warm air rises. Using this type of radiator does away with the need for a conventional radiator in the kitchen, which would otherwise take up valuable wall space. In fact the space where a conventional radiator would go is where we have put a kitchen unit, under which the plinth radiator is housed.
The other space, under the sink unit on the opposite side of the kitchen, unutilised, I visualised as an ideal space for fitting the plinth drawer. Although my plinth drawer is designed specifically to fit a cutlery drawer I bought years ago, with minor modifications to my design, anyone could use it as a basic guide to design and make their own plinth drawer to fit under their own kitchen units.
This article is a how-to of my project on making a bespoke plinth drawer to fit the oversized cutlery drawer, and fitting it under the kitchen sink unit.
- 1 inch hole drill cutter
- Tape measure
- Belt sander
Time required: 2 days
- 1/4 (3mm) plywood
- 3/4 (18mm) or 1/2 inch (12mm) pine
- 3/4 inch or 1/2 inch square timber
- Wood glue
- wood screws
- Varnish, wood stain or paint to match finish of kitchen cupboards
1. I could have just made a conventional drawer and fitted it under the plinth; but as it happens I picked up an oversized cutlery drawer years ago, at a bargain price, and hung onto it with the idea that someday I would utilise it in the kitchen. Excepting that with the cutlery drawer being oversized, about 18 inches square by about three inches depth, it is far too big to fit into most conventional kitchen drawers. However for a bespoke plinth drawer, the cutlery drawer is ideal.
2. Therefore I constructed a box made to measure to fit the plastic cutlery drawer. To make the box I used bits of scrap wood in my workshop, old bits of 18mm (3/4 inch) pine timber from an old bookcase, some wooden drawer runners from an old cabinet and a spare piece of 3mm (1/8 inch) plywood. Three sides of the box are to the depth of the plastic cutlery box, bulked out on two sides with a couple of bits of timber to prevent the cutlery box sliding from side to side, and reinforced in the front with two sides pieces and a bottom batten in the middle; as shown in the photo.
3. Before proceeding, try the box for size and fit, and make any minor adjustments as necessary. The purpose of the open front is that this would shortly be fitted with a drawer face matching the new plinth into which a pull hole would be created so the drawer can be easily pulled in and out. If you do not have a plastic cutlery box to fit you could make a conventional box (with bottom) with four sides; and optionally add dividers made from thin plywood to create your own bespoke cutlery box.
4. Having made the base to slip the plastic cutlery box into the next task is to measure the height of your plinth and make a drawer runner of the same height. Obviously you cannot have a plinth drawer at floor level, it needs to be raised a little to give some clearance. This is simply achieve by making the drawer to sit on the runners with the bottom of your kitchen unit acting as the top support so the drawer snuggly fits between the base of your kitchen unit and the drawer runners. Using this design (as shown in the photo) making the raised drawer runners is simple enough; Just two sides and a back cut to the same height as your plinth, and wooden runners screwed and glued to the two sides at the correct height so that when the drawer is sitting on the runners there is just a couple of millimetres clearance from the top; to allow the drawer to run smoothly without jamming
5. As before, test the drawer on the runners to ensure there is a small gap of just a millimetre or two so the drawer is going to be held horizontal by the base of the kitchen unit when pulled out with the small gap providing some clearance to reduce the risk of the drawer being too tight a fit and sticking.
6. Before fitting the drawer you need to modify the plinth to provide an opening for the drawer to fit into. You also need to take the plinth out so that you can fit the drawer runner in place behind it. You could reuse the same plinth, although mine was only MDF I decided to remove it completely and replace it with a solid piece of pine wood. The pine I used was a 3/4 inch floorboard, cut to size, and finished with two coats of oak effect yacht varnish to closely match the oak doors of the sink unit. Also, as the original plinth was pinned in by some shelving at one end I used a Sonicrafter saw to make a neat cut at the end of the units.
7. I used the old MDF plinth as a template to mark and cut the new pinewood plinth to same size as the original so that when refitted it would be a perfect fit. In fact I made it just a millimetre wider than the original so it would be a tight fit, making it easy to hold firmly in place with a couple of screws until the glue set.
8. Deciding where the drawer front would go e.g. fairly central to the kitchen unit and avoiding the legs supporting the unit, I placed the back of the boxed drawer runner onto the top edge of the new plinth to use it as a template to make out where to cut the opening for the drawer front. I used the back end rather than the front of the boxed drawer runner for the obvious reason that is the width you want from back to front, whereas until the front end is fixed to the plinth it has some give so may not be accurate as a template.
As I wanted to use the section I was cutting out of the plinth as the drawer front I used my sonicrafter which provides an accurate, straight, thin and neat cut. I could have used a drill and a jig saw to cut the drawer front opening in the conventional way of drill a hole wider than the width of the jig saw blade in the two corners and then used the jig saw to cut the three straight edges. However, as I wanted to use the piece I was cutting out as the drawer front this would have left gaps in the two corners where the holes were drilled. Also, unless you use a guide it is difficult to cut a perfect straight line with a jig saw and the jig saw blade has a tendency to bend when cutting through thick wood so that the cut slants through the thickness of the wood. Whereas a sonicrafter is easy to cut straight lines with, and it cuts straight, through the wood; with no need to drill hole in the corners as the blade is designed to cut into and through the wood. See the photo here, and demo video further down.
Demo for using the Sonicrafter
Having used the Sonicrafter in two steps of this guide for making a plinth drawer, here is a demonstration video, which I made for another project, on how easy and effective the Sonicrafter is to use.
9. Having cut the drawer opening in the new plinth I sanded around the edges of the section cut out to round them off and smooth them. Then, using a hole drill cutter, I cut a 1 inch hole in the centre of the cut out section to create a pull hole for the drawer. Once the new drawer front was ready I clamped, screwed and glued it to the front of the drawer.
10. I then turned my attention to fitting the drawer runner to the new plinth, and fitting the new plinth, also known as a kickboard, to the cupboard base. Using pieces of scrap wood as corner blocks I screwed and glued the drawer runner to the back of the plinth; obviously fixing the outside of the drawer runners to the inside of the plinth so that the screws would be hidden from view. As the kitchen sink butts up against the dishwasher, rather than letting the new plinth end there I decided to make a small corner piece. Not only will this add stability to the new plinth, making it easier to fit but visually it will look better when fitted. As I did with the drawer runner I quickly added the corner piece using a simple block of scrap wood, glue and screws from the inside of the corner where they cannot be seen once the new plinth is fitted.
11. Before the glue sets, to allow movement for final adjustments, I pushed the drawer runner under the kitchen sink unit and pushed the attached plinth into place, securing it with a couple of discrete screws or nails from the top of the cupboard base. At this point you will want to test the drawer, just in case the plinth has not gone in perfectly square, and if it has not, as the glue is still setting you have a chance to lightly tap one side or the other with a hammer to square it up. Once the glue is set it will be permanent.
12. Then fully test the drawer before use, just in case the fit is too tight which may require a bit of sanding as appropriate, or a belt sander on the sides or base if you need to trim just a fraction of an inch from any of the surfaces. Once complete and ready for use, the trick in successful operation is to stand in front of the drawer and bend slightly to pull the drawer straight out. If you try to pull the drawer up or to one side as you try to pull it out (which seems natural for some people) then you create friction which makes the drawer difficult to pull out e.g. it is just a question of getting the knack of pulling it straight.
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