Shop Drawers Museum Style

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Project by JD13 posted 03-18-2016 02:21 AM 5072 views 34 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have a set of those rolling black wire shelves in my shop that held various “stuff” but decided it was time to properly organize it. So, I made the first of what I hope to be 3 sets of drawers to exactly fit the rack space. I wanted this set to be thinner to hold various tools like calipers, allen wrenches, stuff that normally goes in the thin drawers of a tool box (which you can see the red Craftsman metal one in one of the pics that these are replacing!). I made the carcass out of cheap 5/8” plywood from Home Depot – the B/C oak stuff – and the drawers out of 3/8” sides with 1/4” bottoms. The drawers are made museum-style – tons of flat drawers (also apothecary or index card drawers). I made simple dado sliders from the bottom of the drawers by gluing/nailing them to the drawer box bottoms and extending them out 3/8” or so on the sides. I have seen lots of shop drawers made this way and figured it was simple enough for small drawers like these. Otherwise, there is nothing special going on. I got some cheap index card pulls online and used knurled brass thumb nuts with matching brass screws as simple pulls (also cheap online). I wanted something different (and smaller) for pulls, so I liked this look (made it more like the museum ones). I spent the VAST majority of my time trying to figure out the finish. Since they were cheap, I could have just gone simple, but I wanted a finish like you would see on museum drawers which are typically made from real wood like cherry. I read and re-read my Flexnor and did web searches to see how others did it. I tried over 20 different finishes before finally settling on this one. I couldn’t get a good cherry-looking finish that I liked – too hard to get cheap plywood to look like anything but cheap plywood. I got this sort of warm-looking orange’ish oak finish that I’ve seen in pictures of Arts & Crafts houses and Shaker stuff filled with Oak, so I set this as my goal. With my limited experience, I got as close as I could using a coat of General Finishes Pecan, followed by General Finishes Black Cherry, then using GF orange dye stain mixed with their water-based Enduro-Var to give a final amber tint. And before I did all that, I filled the pores on all pieces by mixing Elmers Wood Filler with a little water to make it easier to spread (using just my hands, no tools). Sealing the wood made it look a LOT more even and less grainy. At least now I know what I like, so making the other 2 should go a lot faster. Oh, and I started with an Espresso stain, very dark – almost black – and sanded it all back off (not easy to do on plywood – not recommended!). Also, I don’t recommend 5/8” plywood. I picked it because 3/4” was really to bulky, but 1/2” seemed too light. What I didn’t consider is the dados on the carcass – if you go 3/8”, 1/2”, or 3/4” (nominal sizes, so really 11/32”, 15/32”, and 23/32”), you can buy matching Freud or Rockler router bits to match those sizes and make the dados in one pass. I had to setup a jig and make 2 passes because no one makes one for 5/8”. The last picture shows the drawers in their final resting place. I have since started labeling the drawers and filling them up!

-- JD from Elk Grove

23 comments so far

View Matt's profile


190 posts in 1865 days

#1 posted 03-18-2016 03:14 AM

Nice! Bet you’ve had yiur fill of drawers for a week or two!

-- I do this for fun.

View JCinVA's profile


164 posts in 1277 days

#2 posted 03-18-2016 04:42 AM

Very nice. I like the contrast between the black index pulls and the brass knobs. Two more of those is a lot of storage!
I noticed the top row of drawers differs in construction from the rest; any reason why?

View americancanuck's profile


438 posts in 3057 days

#3 posted 03-18-2016 09:26 AM

what a great job

-- Retired and lovin it

View MrFid's profile


890 posts in 2351 days

#4 posted 03-18-2016 11:47 AM

It’s a very handsome piece. I really like the look of the index pulls and the knobs. Where did you find them?

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 3118 days

#5 posted 03-18-2016 02:00 PM

Those are fantastic. I love that style of drawer but I never find the time to make any. Great work.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2454 days

#6 posted 03-18-2016 02:27 PM

Very nice piece. Good idea putting the extra knobs on the drawers. I have an old metal cabinet that has the index card pulls and some of the drawers are so heavy with nuts-n-bolts that the pulls have bent.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View PaulHWood's profile


456 posts in 2700 days

#7 posted 03-18-2016 03:47 PM

Nice Job, have built two similiar (not as nice)

Care to share source for your hardware

-- -Paul, South Carolina Structural Engineer by trade, Crappy Woodworker by choice

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3314 days

#8 posted 03-18-2016 04:44 PM

This drawer unit is beautiful. That is certainly a fine piece for a shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4665 days

#9 posted 03-18-2016 06:54 PM

Nice job of planning and layout to make a simple plywood set of drawers look so great!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View CB_Cohick's profile


493 posts in 1698 days

#10 posted 03-19-2016 02:34 AM

Excellent job! Thanks for sharing.

-- Chris - Would work, but I'm too busy reading about woodwork.

View JD13's profile


23 posts in 1838 days

#11 posted 03-19-2016 04:21 AM

To JCinVA: LOL, good eyes – the top drawers are larger because my math was off! I put dados every 2” from the bottom up and when I got to the top, I had an extra remainder. Oops.

HARDWARE: index card pulls: D. Lawless Hardware, 54c each (on amazon I think) (part #DL-C1300-AC). Brass pulls from Albany County Fasteners, knurled thumb nuts 54c each (1/4-20 thread), screws 46c each (1/4-20×7/8” long).

-- JD from Elk Grove

View JimDaddyO's profile


612 posts in 3526 days

#12 posted 03-19-2016 01:23 PM

Lovely cabinet. It ought to serve you well for many years.

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

View Ivan's profile


14758 posts in 3314 days

#13 posted 03-19-2016 01:57 PM

You realy put large effort to make this and get final look. Sure it deserves more than workshop place.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View gsimon's profile


1313 posts in 2560 days

#14 posted 03-19-2016 06:04 PM

these are great – i love this type of project

-- Greg Simon

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5967 posts in 2856 days

#15 posted 03-20-2016 02:16 AM


-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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