Why Use a Plinth Drawer?
I like to reclaim wasted space around the home wherever possible. One such space that is all too often wasted (and 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. This article covers the following topics.
Tools You'll Need
- 1-inch hole drill cutter
- Tape measure
- Belt sander
Time, Cost, and Materials
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
Let's walk through the process of constructing a custom plinth drawer step by step. Every situation is different, but the steps provided here can serve as a general guide for anyone's individual process.
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.
Therefore, I constructed a box made to measure to fit the plastic cutlery drawer. I used bits of scrap wood in my workshop to make the box, 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 from sliding from side to side, and reinforced in the front with two sides pieces and a bottom batten in the middle. See the photo below.
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 a bottom) with four sides; and optionally add dividers made from thin plywood to create your own bespoke cutlery box.
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 achieved 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
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.
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.
I used the old MDF plinth as a template to mark and cut the new pinewood plinth to the 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.
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 jigsaw 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 perfectly 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 holes in the corners as the blade is designed to cut into and through the wood. See the photo here, and demo video further down.
Video: 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.
After I cut the opening for the drawer in the new plinth, so as not to have any Sharpe edges, I sanded all the edges to round them off to a slight bevel and smooth finish.
As the piece of wood I cut out of the plinth with the sonicrafter would form the drawer front, I needed to create a hole in it to make a drawer pull, which would act as a handle.
So, using a hole drill cutter, I cut a 1-inch hole in the centre of the cut out section to create the pull hole for the drawer; and then clamped the drawer in place so that I could screw and glue the front of the drawer to it.
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.
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.
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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Arthur Russ
Arthur Russ (author) from England on January 02, 2019:
Thanks Dale. I agree ‘in small homes every inch of space that can be used should be used’. I recently made a sewing machine cabinet on wheels, and was able to even squeeze a small drawer in underneath the base of the cabinet between the wheels; the drawer (just over 2 inches high) being about 1 foot wide and 18 inches long (just a nice height for storing cotton reels.
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on January 01, 2019:
Cool hub. Like this because, as I live on a boat, every inch of space that can be used gets used. Always looking for new and creative ways to fit more in. Thanks.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 16, 2017:
Thanks for all your feedback and comments; which as always is greatly appreciated.
tomasokalno on February 20, 2014:
This is amazing! Ty for idea :)
Marianne Gardner from Pacific NW, USA on February 19, 2014:
Great idea for unused space. Congratulations on LOTD!
DebMartin on February 19, 2014:
Amazingly thorough. And a great idea. I'll have to pass the work on to someone more handy though. I love ideas for recovering unused space. Nice!
kimbesa from USA on February 19, 2014:
It's a great idea to turn that space into useable storage. Cannot have too much, in any kitchen!
haroon-hani on February 19, 2014:
Miratex on February 19, 2014:
Very practical. Nice!
LSJ-88 on February 18, 2014:
Very cool! I'm going to put my husband to work. :)
anonymous on February 18, 2014:
Great idea and presentation. Congratulations on getting LotD!
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on February 18, 2014:
What a great idea for unused space! I love it. Congrats on Lens of the Day. Excellent how-to!
Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on February 18, 2014:
Creative project, and a great lens. Nicely done!
johnsja on February 18, 2014:
Fantastic use of space. You've got me thinking about other areas in my home where I could apply this idea. I'm sure there are quite a few.
Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on February 18, 2014:
I had my cabinets built all the way to the ceiling, which gives me extra space, and also have turning shelves in the corner cabinet. I love your idea and thanks for the instructions. I can always use extra storage. I think this would be a good place to hide things also. Who would think to look there? Congratulations on a well deserved LotD!
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on February 18, 2014:
I just had to come back and congratulate you. You have some excellent lenses to share and this one is a definite winner. Very inspiring! Thank you and Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!!!
azizcalgary on February 18, 2014:
very interesting work, thanks for the wide explanation
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on February 18, 2014:
You are so clever and creative! Great how-to!
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on February 18, 2014:
I love to see creative use of space. Congrats on your vision and project success.
BostonIrish LM on February 18, 2014:
I love that. Now I just have to talk the hubby into doing it!
Donna Cook on February 18, 2014:
Never knew what a plink was! Great lens.
Angela F from Seattle, WA on February 18, 2014:
M. Victor Kilgore on February 18, 2014:
Wish I had the tools and patience
trevorjb1406 on February 18, 2014:
Nice lens and a good idea, I wish I had the patience to make drawers!
evawrites1 on February 18, 2014:
This is incredibly useful!
Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on February 18, 2014:
I just checked out my cabinets and there really is not enough space to use there, however in the past I have lived where there definitely was. This is a great tip for those with limited space and where the carpentry left as high sill. Great LOTD and very useful for those that can do it!
Tanya Jones from Texas USA on February 18, 2014:
I live in an apt so can't use this idea here. I'm filing it away for future use though. Great lens.
tonyleather on February 18, 2014:
Thanks for this useful advice!
chrisilouwho on February 18, 2014:
I also have an oversized cutlery drawer that I bought on sale not realizing it wouldn't fit in my drawers at home! I'm going to dig it out of the garage sale box and see if I can't make my own drawer with your instructions. Thank you for the idea! (And congrats on the LOTD recognition, well deserved!)
writerkath on February 18, 2014:
Great job on this! Congratulation on a terrific LotD!
Delia on February 18, 2014:
Congratulations on LOTD! I showed my hubby this, he said, dream on! I'm with you I don't like wasted space and I'm always visualizing doing something about it....OK it's just a vision...thanks for sharing!
seth godin on February 18, 2014:
Beautifully done! Thanks for sharing.
burntchestnut on February 18, 2014:
Great idea! I love ideas that will use wasted space.
IanTease on February 18, 2014:
Brilliant idea. This will be a great project to do whilst the nights are still dark
Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on February 18, 2014:
A very creative use of the space, Well done, I would have never thought of using that space. Wonderful step-by-step. Thanks, Congratulations on LOTD!!
Fay Favored from USA on February 17, 2014:
This is certainly making good use of space. I think it's a great idea and will share it indeed. Congratulations on LotD.
VspaBotanicals on February 17, 2014:
I'm really enjoying this!
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on February 14, 2014:
Brilliant tutorial. Your work is inspiring and professional. Thank you for sharing this super DIY.