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Shelf Life


Most of us could use more kitchen storage space. The two most common ways to accomplish this are to add an island or peninsula or enlarge the kitchen.

Both are effective, though they require the extra space and a healthy savings account.

A more efficient approach is to upgrade existing cabinetry to make better use of space. One cure is to build full-extension, glide-out shelves for base cabinets.

Why? Most base cabinets are used for storing pots, pans, mixing bowls and other bulky items. Because the 24-inch-deep cabinets are just big, empty boxes, a lot of space gets wasted. Plus, glide-out shelves keep items organized and provide easy access without having to bend over.

The cost for lumber, hardware and finishing supplies to build two shelves for a 30-inch-wide cabinet is about $100. That's a lot less than manufacturers' prices of $75 to $115 per shelf as add-on accessories for 24- to 36-inch-wide cabinets.

The Hardware

Each shelf is mounted to a pair of 22-inch-long Accuride Series 3832 full-extension drawer slides (about $17 per pair, [562] 903-0200). The load rating of these smooth-rolling, ball-bearing slides is 100 pounds, the minimum capacity for heavy kitchen loads. They come in black, white and zinc.

"Full-extension" means the entire shelf slides out of the cabinet. You can substitute standard drawer slides (just $7 per pair), but then only three-quarters of the shelf will be accessible.

Slides are fastened to the inside walls of a cabinet or to stationary brackets screwed in place. Neither offers a practical way to adjust shelves up or down for storing tall or short items. To gain flexibility and simplify the installation process, mount each slide to a pair of shelf standards ($6 for four 24-inch-long, brass-finish standards) with Accuride's Shelf Standard Brackets ($10 for a set of four; one set is needed for each shelf). The brackets bolt onto the slides and snap into the slots in the standards. This system can be installed in both face-frame and frameless cabinets. (The hardware listed is widely available or call [800] 279-4441.)

Building the Shelves

Each shelf measures 22 inches deep by 25 1/2 inches wide, and is built of poplar with birch-plywood bottom. To build both drawers, you'll need two 8-feet-long poplar 1x4s ($1 per linear foot) and a half sheet of 1/2-inch birch plywood ($19).

Most factory-built glide-out shelves have 1/4-inch-thick plywood or hardboard bottoms. Beef them up with 1/2-inch plywood bottoms set in grooves cut into the shelf sides, fronts and backs. Mill the 3/8-inch-deep grooves with a router or use a table saw with a dado blade.

Before cutting any lumber, determine the width of the glide-out shelves. Measure the inside of the cabinet, then subtract 3 1/2 inches for the space taken up by each standard and bracket (1 1/4 inches) and each slide ( 1/2 inches). Cut two 1x4s to that dimension to serve as the front and back of each shelf. Then cut two other pieces 21 1/4 inches long for the shelf sides.

The sides fit into 3/8-inch-deep rabbets, which will be routed later into the front and back to create a 22-inch-deep shelf.

After cutting the 1x4s to size, rout a 3/8-inch-deep by 1/2-inch-wide groove into each one. Fasten an edge-guide attachment to the router base. Adjust the guide to cut the groove 1/2 inch from the bottom edge of the board.

Then start routing, moving into the board from left to right with the guide tightly pressed against the edge of the board.

Next, clamp the front and back pieces together and adjust the guide for a 3/4-inch-wide cut. Move the router from left to right across the ends of the boards to cut a 3 3/8-inch-deep by 3/4-inch-wide rabbet.

Once all the joints are milled, spread glue onto the shelf-front rabbets and attach the shelf sides with 4d (1 1/2-inch) finishing nails. Squeeze a little glue into the groove in the shelf front, slide in the bottom and nail on the rear of the shelf.

Let the glue dry for four hours, then smooth all surfaces with a finishing sander and 120-grit sandpaper. Wipe off all dust and coat the shelf with sanding sealer.

After an hour, lightly hand-sand the shelf with 180-grit sandpaper and apply a second coat of sealer. Sanding sealer protects the wood and makes cleanup easy. You can use polyurethane, but the sealer is cheaper (about $6 per quart compared with $8 to $10) and dries faster, so you can easily apply two or three coats in a half day.

The Assembly

Install the standards on the inside of the cabinet. Use a level to make sure they're perfectly vertical, then secure them with 5/8-inch screws. Position the front standards 2 1/2 inches from the inside edge of the face frame; on a frameless cabinet measure from the front edge of the cabinet. Install the rear set 17 1/16 inch from the first set, measuring from the center of one to the center of the other.

Bolt two metal shelf-standard brackets to each drawer slide, making sure they're 17 1/16 inch from center to center. To mount the slides, snap the clips into the slots in the standards. Detach the sliding rail from each slide by depressing its release lever, and fasten a rail to each side of the shelves with screws.

To install each shelf, align its sliding rails with the slides inside the cabinet and push it all the way in. The rails will automatically lock into place.

Reprinted from the pages of Today's Homeowner Magazine. (800) 456-6369.

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