How to Build Your Own Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet & Learn Some Techniques Along The Way

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One completed drawer cabinet!

For me and my “organizationally-challenged” brothers and sisters, garages and workshops are zones of chaos, where storage deficiencies and surplus “stuff” become life partners. The more tools and toys we acquire, the more we need places to put them. Tools without homes are destined to either never be found again or to forever be in the way; there is no middle ground. Every surface teeters above the jaws of clutter. But today we pop a breath mint into those foul jaws by building a shop storage drawer cabinet into the bottom of a popular worktable. This dense storage solution tames the wild workbench and makes your tools feel right at home. Come along, we’ll walk you through the process.

Add Drawers For Efficient Use Of Your Valuable Space

Drawers are a great way to get a lot of bang for your storage buck.

Many workbenches have a large, open shelf somewhere near the bottom. If not, one can usually be added. But that space is often only good for larger (or taller) items. To get the most out of your volumetric space, consider adding shelves, drawers and/or cabinets. Shelves are easy. Drawers are just shelves that slide. And cabinets are just shelves with doors. Our drawered storage cabinet uses the latter two.

This project features a Rockler metal shop stand we recently reviewed. But we aren’t necessarily presenting a solution for that particular unit (To that end, you could just buy their drawer mounting kit and be done with it). Instead, it’s more about general techniques that you can adapt to suit your own storage needs. Because sometimes the hardest part is just figuring out how to begin.

Determine The Space Available For Your Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet

I began by cutting a shelf out of 3/4” melamine salvaged from a retired retail display.

I’m a cheap “frugal” woodworker who uses as much harvested material – and 70% off home center cull – as possible. The only thing purchased specifically for this project are the drawer pulls. And even those are a thrifty alternative, as you’ll see.

This is high-density PVC foam board from another discarded store display. It’s a tough plastic material that cuts like butter with regular wood blades.

There are many ways to go about building a drawer cabinet. But the first thing you need to do is measure the space you want to fill. In this case, I had to first create that space by adding a shelf. If you’re making a freestanding unit, decide how large you want it to be.

The PVC board has a nice, clean look than goes well with the table top.

The gray PVC board is just for cosmetics. Once in place, I backed it with 3/8” plywood left over from another project and screwed both to the metal frame. Speaking of the metal frame – before installing any of this I made sure all of the bolts were tight and had plenty of thread lock. Once the cabinet is built in, they won’t be easy to get to. If I was ever forced to re-tighten, I can drop the cabinet through the bottom. But it would a chore I’d rather not have to deal with.

Now I can build-in a storage cabinet that doesn’t look like it’s just sitting on a shelf.

Making Sides For The Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet

Cutting 3/4” dadoes to hold the drawer support rails. Sticking with the thrifty theme, this plywood was salvaged from old juice concentrate crates.

In the case of Rockler’s shop stand, the openings are smaller than the interior. To make better use of the available space, I built this cabinet as two smaller units and joined them together once in place. The completed cabinet will be a little too large to fit through the opening; this is an effective work-around.

Theses are the sides for my left drawer bank. The dadoes are 1/4” deep and spaced according to my desired drawer sizes. (The tops are to the right.)

With the bottom shelf in place, I measured the height of the opening and subtracted 3/4” (the thickness of the plywood I’m using) to account for a top panel. The resulting measurement is how tall my sides and backs need to be. To determine how wide the sides should be, I measured the depth of the opening (front to back) and subtracted twice the thickness of the wood (1-1/2”). This leaves room for backs and a face frame.

The left bank is set up for four drawers. The right one will have only two.

In The Pocket – Pocket Hole Drawer Cabinet Construction

Drilling pocket holes in the side panels.

The sides will be attached to the backs, top and bottom with pocket screws. This project is one of the things made while reviewing the Kreg Foreman pocket hole machine. While the Foreman made this step quicker and easier, any pocket hole jig will do the trick.

Pocket holes can be positioned close together in a corner like this.

I drilled four pocket holes along the top, back and bottom edges. The pieces are small enough, however, that I could have gotten away with fewer.

The sides are mirror images of each other. In cases where you want to also attach a face frame with pocket screws, drill pocket holes along the front edge as well.

Drawer Supports – We Could All Use A Little Support

Seating the support rails into the dadoes. Make the drawer supports from 3/4” hardwood. Price out good quality drawer slides and you’ll know why I went with fixed wooden support rails.

Make sure the pairs of drawer supports are the same height by cutting dadoes for all of the top ones first. Then reset your fence, reference off of the same edge of your workpiece and cut the next ones. And so on until all the dadoes are cut.

The few inches at the back of the drawers don’t need the support, so I used up some scrap that happened to be several inches short.

I grabbed a piece of 3/4” pine from the scrap pile, but only because I had a brain fart. It will work, but a harder wood (such as hard maple or oak) would be a better, more durable choice. Rip the board into 3/4” square rods and glue them into the dadoes. Align them flush with – or slightly set back from – the front edge.

If you prefer shelves to drawers, skip the support rails and glue your shelves directly into the dadoes.

Baby Got Back – Making And Attaching The Back Panels

This is a test fit to make sure I could get both assemblies into the stand. The sides were screwed to the backs without glue.

If this was a normal cabinet, the back would just be one big piece. But since it’s being built in halves that have to be placed individually, each has its own back. The backs are the same height as the sides. To determine their length, I measured the width of the stand opening, added 3/4” (the thickness of the plywood), then divided the sum in half.

Carefully handle the sub-assemblies as you fit them into place; the joinery is still weak at this time. Slide the first one all the way back and to one side; then insert the other.

Be sure to drill two or three pocket holes along the top and bottom inside edges of the back panels. I noticed during the test fit that I’d forgotten these holes. But that’s exactly why you do a test fit before gluing things together.

Shop storage drawer cabinet
Once both assemblies are in place and centered, half of each outside edge is hidden behind the metal legs.
Space up top
You can see there is enough room above for a top panel.

After you’ve verified the fit, mark the parts where they meet. That way you know which goes where so that the screw holes line up during final assembly.

Mark to know which goes where.
A simple numbering system helps you mate the right parts together during final assembly.

Remove all of the screws, apply a bead of glue and screw the backs and sides together again. Double check that all of the pocket holes (and drawer support rails) are facing inward, accessible from within the cavity.

Glue for a solid joint.
Run a bead of glue then screw the panels together again.

Top O’ The Cabinet To Ya, Laddies! – DIY Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet

You might be tempted to omit the top panel since this cabinet is going into an already enclosed space. Don’t. Its purpose is to keep the sides stiff and prevent them from ever splaying outward and dropping its drawers (however appealing that may sound). Place the sub-assemblies side by side, measure the overall top dimensions and cut a panel to fit.

Top O' The Cabinet To Ya, Laddies!
The top is one single panel. If you’re making this as a stand-alone unit, cut two of them: one for the top and one for the bottom.

Once the parts are inserted into the metal shop stand, there will be no way for me to hold the top in place while I get the first few screws started. To solve this issue, I set the two sub-assemblies on the floor – side by side – and the top was set in place.

Next, I attached the top to ONLY ONE of the sub-assemblies using three pocket screws (one in each side and one in the rear) and then pulled the screws back out. Now I have three perfectly positioned holes for screws to grab onto.

Top sitting in place.
This is how the top will fit into place.

Installing The Carcass Into The Metal Shop Stand

The top goes in first.
I started by inserting the top. Its orientation is such that the three screw holes I just made will align with their corresponding pocket holes.

The next step is to get everything into the shop stand. The top panel goes in first and is lifted to rest on top of the sub-assemblies as they are inserted.

Inserting the right sub-assembly.
The top was lifted as I slid in the first sub-assembly.
This is what we have so far.
This is what we have so far.

Next, join the two sub-assemblies as one then attach the top, starting with the three screw positions we established earlier.

Joining the halves as one.
I aligned the halves to each other, then clamped and screwed them together.

Center the unit side to side and seat it all the way to the rear. Then screw it down to the base.

Room for the face frame.
Note the space between the front of the wood and the metal stand. That’s where the face frame will go.

Face It – You’re Being Framed!

Test fitting the face frame.
The bottom and top rails were inserted one end first, then pivoted around to get the other in place.

A face frame isn’t always needed, but it is a nice way to dress up the front of a cabinet and hide plywood edges. Back to the scrap bin, I plucked some more pine and cut my face frame parts.

Doing it in "stile".
The vertical pieces (the “stiles”) were cut long enough to span the gap between the top and bottom rails.
Painted black.
After sanding the face frame parts, I painted them black.

The top, bottom and sides were all cut long and wide enough to cover the plywood edges and tuck behind the metal shop stand members, for a clean, gap-free appearance. The bottom piece merely encloses the bottom edge of the cabinet and hides plywood only at the ends.

Nailed in the face.
Finally, I brad nailed the parts to the cabinet.
Unsightly edges.
Before: The plywood and dadoed-in drawer supports are slightly less than beautiful.
Saving face.
After: The face frame covers the plywood and hides the dadoes without interfering with drawer operation.

Drawer Monger – Fighting The War Against Clutter

Drawer parts -Shop storage drawer cabinet
Parts for some of the drawers.

We’ve reached my favorite part of the project. Partly because this is where everything really starts to come together. And partly because there’s some easy fodder for witty puns. A little while ago we showed off a cool new way to make drawers using the Miter Fold Dado Set Plus. But we realize most of our readers don’t have one of those hefty blue beauties lying around the shop. So this time we’re going with a more traditional method.

Pocket holes.
Pocket holes have been drilled into the outside faces of the drawer fronts and backs. They’re far enough from the bottom edge to clear the rabbets we’ll cut for the drawer bottoms. The sides do not get drilled.

You’ll need four pieces for each drawer frame. The sides (the longer pieces) were cut to match the depth of the cabinet opening, measured from front to back (in this case, 22” long).

Rabbeting for the bottom.
On each drawer piece, cut a rabbet along the bottom edge of the inside face (for the fronts and backs, that’s the face that does not have pocket holes). I’m using 1/4” plywood for the drawer bottoms, so the rabbet extends 1/4” from the edge. The dado stack is raised 1/2” above the table, giving me enough surface to attach the bottom.

The length of the fronts and backs were determined by measuring the width of the drawer opening and subtracting twice the thickness of the drawer material (the plywood is 3/4” thick, so subtract 1-1/2”). Then subtract another 1/16” or so to give a little side clearance so the drawer can slide freely.

The overall dimensions of my drawers are approximately 22” x 14-5/8”. Yours, of course, should be sized to fit your particular project; or at least your thighs and glutes.

Drawer frame.
Dry assemble a drawer (screws only, no glue) and verify that it fits properly into the cabinet. When all looks good, pull it apart, apply glue and reassemble.

Finally, the width (or height, depending on your perspective) of the pieces is determined by the distance between a drawer support rail and the one above or below it (minus a small 1/8” gap). My drawers get taller as you go down the cabinet.

This Is A No Sagging Zone – Pull Up Those Drawers!

Where the bottom goes.
Close-up of an assembled drawer frame, ready to receive the bottom panel.

To give these drawers a good shot at never sagging, we could either buy them a belt or use plywood for the bottoms. I opted for the latter.

Bottoms up!
Bottoms up! I cut, sanded and installed 1/4” plywood bottom panels on all of the drawers.
Nailed in the bottom.
The bottoms are glued and brad nailed in place. Glue keeps everything together. The brads eliminate the need for clamping while the glue dries and should not be considered sufficient on their own.
Shop storage drawer cabinet.
And here are the six drawers! You can organize a lot of clutter with six drawers.

It’s All A Front – Behind Closed Drawers

Drawer fronts.
Figuring out the height of the drawer fronts is simply a matter of measuring from the bottom of one drawer to the bottom of the one above it, then subtracting 3/32” – 1/8” so the fronts don’t rub against each other.

The drawer bodies are complete. But they aren’t very attractive at this point. That’s where drawer fronts come in. I considered making fronts from the same PVC board that was used to dress up the other three sides of the shop stand. But 3/8” plywood feels like a better, more durable way to go. So I grabbed some scrap long enough to cover the left and right banks and cut it to width.

Sizing the drawer fronts.
I started from the top and worked my way down. Here, I’m using a 3/32” spacer to maintain an even gap between drawers. Then I marked a cut line where the bottom of the drawer landed on the plywood.

After you cut all of the drawer fronts, label the backs so you know which goes where (and which end is up, if you want to highlight “flowing grain”). Then sand both sides and all edges, knocking down any hard corners in the process.

Don’t Get Hosed By High Pull Prices!

Hose bib wheel handles.
Ahh, there we go… Hose bib wheel handles as pulls! After all, who doesn’t have a sillcock in their drawers?

My first thought was to buy some inexpensive drawer pulls. Then I shopped the home center and was reminded of a painful reality I’d apparently wiped from memory: drawer pulls are insanely over-priced. There are no “inexpensive” drawer pulls. Even the cheapest ones were $4 a piece. My other options were to find a cheaper alternative or make my own.

Caught in a standoff.
I cut some plastic standoffs to approx. 3/8” and used them to space the “pulls” away from the drawer fronts when I screwed them in place.

Backing slowly away from the drawer pull display, I proceeded to meander through the home center in search of alternatives fitting of workshop decor. Then I saw it: hose bib replacement handles. And they were only $1.60 each!

Drilling the center.
Measure corner to corner to find the center point. Then drill a hole large enough for the threads of your screw to pass through.

You Be Frontin’ – Attaching The Drawer Faces

Drawer faces.
The drawer fronts were painted gray. Most of the back side was left unpainted for a stronger glue bond.

By now, you may be getting a bustle in your britches. But keep your pants on, we’re almost done with the drawers. And soon, the entire shop storage drawer cabinet.

Positioning the drawer face.

After finishing the drawer fronts, align them to their corresponding drawer and use a pencil to mark their exact position. Then glue and clamp, pin, or screw them in place.

Mark the position.
Trace the drawer position onto the drawer front.
Attaching the fronts.
I glued and pin nailed the faces to the drawer bodies.
Pulls in place.
Finally, use coarse thread screws to attach the pulls.
Lubricating with wax.
If the drawers don’t glide as smoothly as you’d like, try waxing the support rails.

One More Member To Face – Building The Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet

More face frame parts.
Next I made this black horizontal rail underneath the right-hand bottom drawer.

The last thing to do is address that open space on the lower right. That means first adding one more piece to the cabinet’s face frame, below the bottom drawer.

Drilling pocket holes.
I fired up the Kreg Foreman again to drill pocket holes at each end (both on the same edge).

To be honest, I would rather have made the door swing open to the right. But I didn’t have any hinges on hand that would extend it out far enough to clear the metal stand. I also didn’t want to miter the side of the door (though that may have been an acceptable solution) or build out the face frame. Instead, I hinged it at the bottom. I don’t anticipate putting any weight on it, so I’m OK with that.

Face frame rail.
After painting, this part will be screwed to the rest of the face frame, with the pocket holes facing downward.

I Choose Door #1 – Monty Hall Has No Problem With That

We’re making a “frame and panel” style door. First, determine how large you want the door to be then cut wood for the frame. Leave the parts a little long at first.

Cutting a 45° angle.
I’m using a shop-built mitering sled to cut corners that mate at perfect 90° angles. One side of the fence is used for the first cut.
The other side.
The other side cuts the mating miter.
Door frame parts.
The four frame parts cut to their final length.

A Channel For The Panel – Frame And Panel Door For The Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet

High density PVC foam board.
I used more of the PVC foam board for the door panel.

After mitering the frame, cut a panel that’s 1/2” larger than the opening in the frame (in both directions). That way, the frame can secure the panel by about 1/4” all the way around.

Cutting a dado for the door panel.
Use push sticks and a featherboard during this operation.

Next, dado the inside edge of the four frame parts. Start shallow and sneak up to the final depth. The panel should gently “float” inside of the frame, not be held tightly.

Panel and frame door construction.

Proper depth.
Increase the depth a little at a time until the panel spans just shy of the inside corners, like this.
Test fit.
Be sure to test fit the entire frame after each pass over the table saw.

Close The Door! – Were You Raised In A Barn?

We’re almost ready to slam the door on this project. There’s just a few more little details to tend to. Some may not be thrilled with my color choice for the door frame; it does make the door stand out in a strong way. But I like bold color in my shop. And I have a ton of paint samples that I need to get some use out of before father time renders them useless.

Quick & Thick wood glue.
Glue the frame together with your favorite wood glue. I used Titebond Quick & Thick because it doesn’t drip everywhere, it tacks up quickly and works exceptionally well on end grain.

When assembling the door, only glue the wooden frame. The panel should remain loose. Captured, but free. And now, after all this work, you deserve a break.

Frame glue-up.
Clamp everything together with a strap clamp and have yourself a refreshing cold beverage.

Alright, breaks over! Up and at ’em! The finish line is literally right there! Install a door handle/pull (I used a plastic one I’ve had laying around for about 15 years) then attach your hinges.

But Wait, There’s A Catch!

A magnetic catch, that is. Rather than round up a purpose-built door catch, I made my own with a 7/16” neodymium magnet. Use a brad point bit to drill a hole matching the diameter of your magnet (drill deep enough that the magnet seats ever so slightly below the surface).

Neodymium magnet.
Drill a hole to seat the magnet in the face frame.

I’ve used this sort of magnetic catch in a lot of magic prop builds and have found them to work rather well. Secure the magnet into the hole with original Gorilla Glue. The glue will foam as it dries, so you have to tend to it for about 10 – 15 minutes.

DIY Magnetic catch.
To locate the other half of your makeshift catch, stick a short flat head screw to the center of the magnet.

Swab away any foam that seeps out around the edges and press the magnet flush with the surface as needed. This foaming polyurethane glue will occupy a little of your time, but believe me, it works extremely well for this. Once it dries, the magnet is NOT coming out.

Leaving an impression.
Close the door on the point of the screw and press to leave an indention. Now you know where to position the other side of the catch.
The other half or the catch.
A couple washers and a screw complete the magnetic catch. If you need more holding power, put a magnet on this side as well (but make sure it’s installed in the correct orientation!).

With a door like this, it’s often desirable to add a support chain to keep it from over-extending when in the fully opened position. But this door is light enough that a chain doesn’t seem necessary. I started to attach one, but felt like it might just be in the way. If I ever change my mind, I can add it later.

Keep It In Your Drawers (Your Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet)

Open up and say "ahhhhh".
Here she is, in all her glory. Now it’s time to fill ‘er up!

This drawer cabinet was built into a 24” x 36” metal shop stand, but it’s easily customizable to fit your own space and needs. You can change any of the dimensions, change the number/spacing of drawers, add a bottom to make it a freestanding unit, add casters to make it mobile or install shelves instead of drawers. Use some or all of the ideas and make it your own.

Shop storage drawer cabinet
It was a lot of work, but worth every bit of the effort.

Whatever you do, that chaotic pile of tools, hardware and assorted bric-a-brac isn’t going to organize itself. And even if you don’t “organize” any of it, so to speak, you can at least get it out of sight. That’s worth something, right? That hidden mess; it can be our little secret.

Photo of author

About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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4 thoughts on “How to Build Your Own Shop Storage Drawer Cabinet & Learn Some Techniques Along The Way”

  1. Thanks, once I get my shed up, and tools moved in, you’ve provided me with the inspiration (and advice on what&not to do) on fitting it out. So I hope you don’t mind my downloading this page for reference. Thanks again.
    PS I’ve not subscribed bcos I use my pc so infrequently that I always have about 2-3dayswoth of emails to go thru’ b4 getting a chance to look at the stuff I want to look at. Grrrr.

    • Hey Rob, I’m glad we could provide you with a little inspiration! I know firsthand that many times the inspiration can be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Thanks for reading and giving your feedback.


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