Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! #12: Where I'm at!

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Blog entry by BethMartin posted 06-08-2009 07:38 AM 1388 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: Just a little quick update with no pics Part 12 of Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! series Part 13: Next unit! »

Got some stuff done today, so now I need to get some pics up!

This is the back of the top part of my shelving unit, before I put the back on.

And this is with the back on. I painted it first, then attached it. It’s just cheapy pine tongue and groove. It’s really hard to photograph the color but I think this pic is close. I’ve left the wall side stile off until I can fit it once it’s up there. I finally relented and bought a pocket screw jig and will attach it with pocket screws. Now my face frames are a mixture of glue, biscuits and pocket screws.

Since I got the top part of my shelving unit mostly done, so we recruited a bunch of my husbands friends to heft it into place. This picture is after I got all the holes cut for all the electronics outlets. There is also going to be an adjustable shelf in the middle right, but I haven’t gotten that in there yet. The side panels are not put on yet, I will wait on those until I figure out what I’m going to do about the fireplace mantel and hearth. The TV is above the fire place. The black cord you see is the HDMI cable which is obviously way too long. :) Also missing is the molding around the top of the drawers, and the baseboard and top molding. I’ll do those all at once when I do the other set of shelves.

You might be able to see that I trimmed out the insides of the windows. They look pretty nice so far. I wanted to wait until I got this unit in until I did the rest.

While I was waiting for my blue paint to dry, I ended up making the drawers. At first, I thought I was going to do dovetails, because my dad had given me his old dovetail jig. Then I realized that I actually like the look of box joints better. Then I figured out I couldn’t really do those because my adjustable dado blade wont leave a flat bottom in the cut. Then I found a cool video explaining lock rabbets:

That looked pretty easy, I thought, and so I started cutting up this 1/2” maple ply that I’d gotten for no particular reason.

Okay, it turns out that lock rabbet joints aren’t really conducive to plywood. because pieces tend to break off. Or maybe my plywood wasn’t that great? It wasn’t cabinet grade, just a step below. But I kept chugging along, and most of the trouble spots are out of sight, so the drawers actually came out pretty nice for my first drawers. I sanded about half of the drawers down so far and glued one up together. Here is my highly specialized drawer clamping apparatus:

I need to get more rope so that I can do more than one at a time!

Okay, here’s my question about drawers. So the drawers fit really well, however I did make one mistake where the bottom got put 3/16” too low, which raises the drawer box 3/16”. Now I have about 1/4” clearance left between the top of the drawer and the cabinet. Do you see any issues with that? I’m imagining that if the drawer get stuffed full someday and something gets caught as I pull the drawer out, I won’t have too much finagling room to get the drawer unstuck.

-- Beth

14 comments so far

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3320 days

#1 posted 06-08-2009 07:51 AM

Wow Beth…looks great so far…I look forward to seeing the completed project !!

-- Don S.E. OK

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3355 days

#2 posted 06-08-2009 01:28 PM

Coming along nicely Beth…..good job.

View lew's profile


12052 posts in 3749 days

#3 posted 06-08-2009 02:45 PM

Great Work, Beth!

As for the drawer, maybe you could trim the sides and back down a little, leaving the front full size. When the drawer is closed- no one would see the sides/back are slightly shorter and you would have a little more room to work to un-stick the drawer.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Matt's profile


181 posts in 3366 days

#4 posted 06-08-2009 03:42 PM

Great work. I agree with Splinterman. Coming along very nicely!

-- Matt - My Websites - - Hand Tools :: - Small Shops

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3372 days

#5 posted 06-08-2009 04:49 PM

Thanks all!
Lew, the drawer still needs to get it’s front attached, so I’m able to trim the whole drawer box if I want to. I’m just wondering if I should bother trimming it or not worry about it. :)

I’m pretty sure I’m being totally paranoid. Because once I get the front on, which will likely be inset and have no clearance anyway, that there’s really no point in making the rest of the drawer shorter.

-- Beth

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3426 days

#6 posted 06-08-2009 05:12 PM

Nice unit Beth.
I see the window in one picture…what did you decide about that project!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3372 days

#7 posted 06-08-2009 05:30 PM

Ellen, I put the windows on hold until this unit went in. Because originally I was going to frame it all out in wood that was the same width as the spaces between the windows, but it almost looks like the frame is too wide that way. And it brings it awfully close to the shelving unit. So I need to play with the design some more before I do anything. :)

But at least I got the insides of the windows done, which I think was the harder part – as the windows are so wonky, not square, and often a half inch deeper in one corner than the other. There was a LOT of cutting involved to make the pieces sit tightly together, and I had to make sure that the tops were at the same level all the way across. It was a PITA!

-- Beth

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3335 days

#8 posted 06-08-2009 05:38 PM

very nice beth !
are the drawers full sided or are you using slides ?
your project is looking very nice .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View kerflesss's profile


182 posts in 3362 days

#9 posted 06-08-2009 05:49 PM

Looks good to me Beth!! I really like your drawer clamps. I use ratcheting cargo straps from my truck in a pinch so I get double duty from them. Looking froward to seeing it finished.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3707 days

#10 posted 06-08-2009 06:49 PM

Beth, sorry if I missed a few chapters as I was out of town(without a computer) for a few weeks but have now reviewed all and have come to the conclusion that you have a lot more experience than we may have been lead to believe.(?) Anyway, To stick my 2 cents in on several questions past and present. I like your modified window plan the best. I always prefer getting the most natural light possible and split levels always lack in this dept. Clamps ,whatever works is the right clamp. If I read this correctly the one drawer is 3/16 of an inch closer to the top than the others which are 7/16 from the top. Don’t see this as being much of a problem keeping in mind that you probably will not fill any of them much above the the edge of the drawer, unlike my dresser drawers which I am always cramming full of my collection of old, holey, stained, should have been thrown out, t-shirts. Consider that drawer your own personal mark that only you and all the lumberjocks in the world know about. I won’t tell you how great a job you’re doing or how good it looks since everyone else has and which you already know just by looking at it because I don’t want to be redundant.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3372 days

#11 posted 06-08-2009 08:31 PM

Patron~ I have fancy bottom mount slides, I got a screamin’ deal on some slightly used ones off of ebay. Woot! I put my first drawer in and it fits nicely.

Kerflesss~ I was so worried that I was going to be hurting for clamps when I put these drawers together, I’ve got a few small clamps and six pipe clamps. Then I remembered that people used straps, grabbed some old rope and voila! It works just fine! :)

Rtb~ I was slacking in posting for a while, so you didn’t miss much. The drawer issue is with all the big drawers, so they’re all sitting a little too high, not just one drawer. It’s not an issue that it’ll be visible because it’s going to have a front attached. I was just getting myself worked up because all the drawers in my house seem to have like 1” or more clearance for the drawer boxes. But I’m realizing that they may be like that because the manufacturer didn’t make them deeper to save money rather than a functionality thing. So I’ve decided not to worry about it. :)

And thank you for the nice comments. To be honest, I look at this thing and I think wow this is pretty good for a noob and I’m so pleased with how it’s turning out and I can’t believe that I’ve made it. But really, I do have a little bit of experience with tools and stuff, just not making cabinets. I am a scientist, though, so I naturally over-research things and I think that helps. Google helps too. :) I don’t know if I’d been able to pull this off myself if we didn’t have the resources on the internet like we do today. (Like Lumberjocks.) The shared experience on the web is so wonderful. This unit has its flaws, but hopefully I’m the only one who’ll know where they are. ;)

-- Beth

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3372 days

#12 posted 06-08-2009 09:08 PM

Oh, I wanted to add…

I just hooked up all the electronics, and I’m so glad that I was generous about the shelf sizes. I made the top shelves 18” deep and that works out just perfect to make it easy to hook things up and tuck the cords behind everything. I ordered a shorter HDMI cable though – there’s no “tucking” of that monster. It’s about 5’ too long – lol!

-- Beth

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18266 posts in 3670 days

#13 posted 06-09-2009 11:08 AM

Beth, your drawer clamp looks like the “clamps” my wife uses for everything :-)) No matter what happens, she fixes it with yarn, or braided yarn or crochetted yarn. Sort of like a farmer would use baling wire :-))

Looks like yiu are on a roll now! Thanks for postiing the lock dado video. That looks like a good production joint.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3335 days

#14 posted 07-20-2009 02:14 PM

thanks beth ,
you are right about drawer sides in comercial applications ,
save wood , save money .
with the undermount slides ,
the drawer dosn’t need to tilt to get it out ,
so there is no top height problems .
with side mount self closing slides the drawer needs at least 1/2’ clearance over head ,
as you have to tilt it down at the end to get it in and out .
we lumberjock squerels (?) never overload our drawers ,
so its never a problem !-)

just build another dresser !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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