Wood Drawer Organizers

Submitted by Ana White on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 23:11
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Building wood drawer dividers for existing drawers can be easy and easily customized for your drawers. With this simple plan, you can divide and conquer even the messiest of Junk Drawers.

Welcome, welcome, welcome to our dream home.

And thank you for your patience and understanding with the site as we've made this move.  I know that there have been many issues, and I'm sure there will still be some bugs that need to be worked out, and I appreciate so much that you are working with me on this, and share my vision for less browsing, more building. 
Please, shoot me an email if you have a site suggestion.  I can't promise to answer every email, or take every recommendation, but I do read and make decisions based on your feedback.  Thank you to those of you who have already submitted feedback.
I also appreciate everyone's patience with me as I focused my time toward building the site instead of building projects, and have not been able to post as often as usual. I cannot wait to get back to building and building more!
It isn't just my posts that have been neglected in this past month.  As I look around my home, swear the scale is broken (true story - I went over to the neighbors today to weigh myself because I was certain our scale was broken . . . and it's not) and try to figure out which room to start on first, it's not in dismay.  I actually feel oddly accomplished at the chaos.
Have you been here?  You've been up all day (and probably all night too), haven't sat for a second, you cooked, cleaned, paid bills, did laundry, cooked again, did the dishes yet again . . . and then your husband comes home and looks around the still messy house and says "Sooooo . . . what did you do today?"  
The most difficult part of being a homemaker for me has always been feeling like no matter what I do, how hard I work, I am not accomplishing anything.  And some kind person is going to comment that we are raising beautiful children, and what could be more accomplishing than that, and they are absolutely right.  But on a day to day basis, my biggest struggle has always been seeing that first, and seeing the room I just cleaned get destroyed in five minutes and being okay with picking it all up all over again.
But as I look around at our home in it's current state of disarray, it says to me, Ana, you do matter.  Because look what happens when you are not there to straighten up a bookcase that you think no one will ever notice, do an extra load of laundry, clean the tub.  That little bit of dusting here and there, though never enough, it does matter.  I am making a difference.  
So in an odd way, I find myself encouraged to start getting my home back into order.  And you just gotta start in the kitchen, and I decided to tackle my room of shame.  Rather, drawer of shame.
I still am trying to come to terms with the fact that this very drawer has been this horrible for several YEARS . . . and for about the cost of a cup of coffee, and for about the amount of time it takes to drink that cup of coffee, I could have had this . . .
Especially considering I spent $100 on plastic organizers for the matching drawer . . . and they just don't every stay in place quite right.  $2 and an hour.  Why didn't I do this years ago?
Do you have a junk drawer?  Take this morning and organize it with dividers, and I'm going to show you just how.
Custom to fit your Drawers


Shopping List

1 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long

Common Materials
2 inch screws
120 grit sandpaper
Cut List

Cut to fit your drawers

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

One thing I learned when designing and developing this website was that you have to think in columns. The junk drawer is no different. First we need to divide it into columns. So take a measurement of the inside depth or your drawers.

That is of course after you have done the most difficult part - clean the drawer out and then remove it from the cabinet.

Step 2

If you have an extra wide drawer like I do, you may wish to use two dividers. For a narrow drawer, just one divider down the center. First and foremost, consider what you will be storing inside the compartments. Bills? Envelopes? Letter sized paper? Pens and pencils? Take some time to consider as you plan your dividers. Lay the main dividers out as shown above.

Step 3

Then screw two smaller dividers to each of the long dividers as shown above. Do not make the compartments so small that you cannot reach inside the compartments easily.

Step 4

Finally, add the center dividers to divide up the center space and to keep the side dividers in place. Use 2" screws and glue.

Step 5

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.
Finish Used
Because this drawer is going to hold eating utensils, I simple gave the wood a good sanding a a coat of mineral oil to seal it.
Help Improve This Plan

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Kate (not verified)

Wed, 04/20/2011 - 09:34

Last summer I built the drawer dividers similar to what you have but I used  1 5/8" x 3/8" slat wood that I bought in the molding aisle at the lumber store.  I couldn't use screws or nails on wood so thin so I just wood glued them all together.  First I laid out everything in the drawer and then cut the wood to divide everything, I have a picture, not sure how to upload it.   It has held together really well!   I agree that my $2 lumber investment has taken me much further towards an organized drawer then the expensive organizing bins that never quite fit the way you want.  So, in less than an hour you to can have an organized drawer!

Deborah (not verified)

Thu, 05/26/2011 - 17:04

I would like to shorten the depth of some drawers I have in my sewing desk. Any suggestions?

Tsu Dho Nimh

Thu, 05/26/2011 - 17:28

You want to shorten existing drawers?

If all you want is to prevent things from getting lost at the back of the drawer, fill the back of it with a cardboard box.

If you want to shorten the whole drawer, it's a bit trickier.

Drawers aren't all built the same, so this is general advice: Take the drawer apart, cut the bottom and sides shorter and re-assemble it. You might need to replace the drawer sliders with shorter ones.

In reply to by Deborah (not verified)


Thu, 05/26/2011 - 19:07

Drawers don't shorten that well. The joinery at the corner tends not to like being messed with, and you'll probably weaken the drawer. Still, if you're determined to try, and willing to risk building a new drawer, you might as well give it a shot.

If you want to get hard-core about building your own, grab this video: http://www.amazon.com/Dovetail-Drawer-Frank-Klausz/dp/1561587044

CraftyMama47 (not verified)

Thu, 12/27/2012 - 14:20

Since drawers don't shorten well, make an insert to raise the bottom. First decide how much you want the bottom of the drawer to come up i.e. 3 inches. Remove the drawer from its slide and measure the interior. Then build a platform to fit. Place it in the drawer. Once the platform is in the drawer, you can either leave it as it is or cover it. If you later decide that you want the drawer at its original size, just take out the platform :)

Guest (not verified)

Sat, 11/19/2011 - 09:05

Glad to have the encouragement to use wood instead of cardboard like most seem to recommend. I had a strip of pine lattice on hand, so I cut to width - tiny bit extra for safety, thinking I could file or sand down as needed - and friction seems to want to hold it just right. I only need horizontal separation in this drawer. Going to try for a few days before deciding whether I need anything else to hold it in place. I wanted a thin divider, which seems likely to split if I try to screw into the end, so if something more is needed, I think I'll either use a couple of interlocking dividers or double sided foam tape. Not as pretty as yours, but thin makes me happy.


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:56

I want to make some dividers for our kitchen silverware drawer. Its a mess and I want the kids to be able to just throw forks in one slot, spoons in another, etc. Larger than the plastic ones where they have to stack just so and still overflow (we have 5 kids, so with 7 of us we regularly use/wash/put away more than a standart 8 piece set)

I'm wondering what I can do to make sure its all foodsafe? If I use the staandard white pine boards from Lowes (have some in the garage) those are untreated (they told me) and then if I just use screws it should be good, right? is wood glue food safe?

Any finishing that would be foodsafe, or just sand well and vacuum/wipe well to remove sawdust?



Mon, 04/30/2012 - 18:53

Any finish that dries will be food safe. I've been warned though that the smell of any finish gets concentrated in closed drawers, and that you won't appreciate it. Most professional cabinet makers I've heard on the subject don't recommend any kind of finish in a drawer. That would presumably apply to the dividers as well.

Glue should be sufficient, possibly with finish nails to hold them in place if that makes you feel better. There's always the option of cutting dados to hold the dividers as well, but that might be overkill for what you're trying to achieve.


Tue, 05/01/2012 - 07:19

thanks Clay - I'm always up for an answer that allows me to skip the finishing step :)

I think finish nails would be easy enough...