Converting Storage Cabinet Shelves to Drawers

April 2006

When we attended the Mid-Atlantic Region Rally in Sept., 2005, at Outdoor World Gettysburg Farm Campground in Dover, PA, one of our objectives was to pick up ideas to modify our Aliner to make it work better for us. One of the nice changes we saw was a beautiful conversion of shelves to drawers in the storage unit in Brad & Hannah Baile’s camper. We steal ideas shamelessly and determined to do the same. I hope Brad takes this article as a compliment to his fine work.

Finished Drawer Conversion Project

First step, of course, was to remove the shelves from the storage unit, right down to the vinyl flooring. The idea was to strip out all but the structural elements of the cabinet. Next step was to square up the cabinet walls. (When installing this stuff camper builders, including Columbia Northwest, Inc., aren’t too fussy about keeping things square when they screw them into campers.) However, drawers are fussy so I checked the cabinet for square and refastened the cabinet baseto square up the frame. I measured the width and height of the cabinet opening and constructed three drawer boxes of 1/2 in. thick poplar and used the plywood from the old shelves as drawer bottoms. Each box was about 7 in. deep,22 in. long (to fill the depth of the cabinet) and 1 in. narrower than the width of the door opening to allow for the drawer slides. I cut the old door in thirds to serve as drawer fronts and milled a small flat on the left side of each drawer against which the drawer locks would bear. I then fastened the new fronts to the boxes and installed drawer pulls. I chose full-extension, ball-bearing drawer slides to get maximum access to my hard earned drawer space and fastened the hardware to the drawer sides.

Drawer Box with Front and Hardware Installed

Next step was to provide a structure inside the cabinet to which I could fasten the other half of the drawer slides. This involved constructing ladder style frames from nominal 1 x 3 lumber and installing them inside the cabinet. They were fastened to the existing cleats where possible and new cleats where none were available. I also installed a 1 x 3 backer to the cabinet wall to the left of the drawers to reinforce the area where the drawer locks would be installed. The ladder structures were carefully shimmed to align with the cabinet opening and remain square within the cabinet. Drawer hardware was then installed on the ladder structures.

Cabinet Interior With Ladder Frames and Drawer Slides Installed

Moment of truth … the drawers were slid into the unit … perfect fit! (Lucky me!)

Drawers Installed and Open

One of Brad’s innovations was the use of window locks to prevent the drawers from sliding open when underway. I did the same.

Drawer Lock Detail