Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Building A Pantry Cabinet: Sometimes Homemade Is Just Right

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: woodworking, building, homes, farms,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.After three partial weekends of work, I finally finished building a pantry cabinet in the mudroom project that began about 15 months ago. Building a pantry cabinet is probably like chopping liver for lots of woodworkers out there, but it was a first for me -- and I know I broke a few cardinal rules of fine woodworking while building our pantry cabinet, but in this case homemade is just right. To update you on the mudroom project, the addition is completely finished inside and outside with the exception of re-fitting the siding on the original house where the mudroom's gabled roof attaches. The floors are done, the hot water heater is nestled in its final spot in the corner between the washer and dryer. The coat/coverall hooks are in place and now the 6-ft by 5-ft pantry cabinet is all but finished. My Partner In Culinary Crime is putting the final finishing touches on the pantry cabinet today and she says she can't wait to fill it with the goods -- and then get started on the KITCHEN RENNOVATION -- Yikes!

Building a pantry cabinet: construction is almost done. 

Building the pantry cabinet was easier than I figured it would be because my Partner In Culinary Crime (PICC) is a talented artist and handed me a 3-dimensional drawing, complete with pictures and arrows and measurements and suggested materials. A not so quick trip to the local home-improvement store caused us to change some of the materials. Have you seen the price of oak these days?!??! So knotty pine it is. Have you seen the price of knotty pine these days?!??!  Criminy, back when I was building wooden boats lumber wasn't so expensive, but that was 20 years ago. Basically I chose some #2 1 by 3 material for the frame and door faces, #3 material for the shelves and top and a lovely #1 clear board for the “backsplash” as my PICC calls it.

Building a pantry cabinet: construction details.  

Since I don’t have a biscuit cutter or a doweling jig, I made the unilateral decision to use 1.75-inch and 1.25-inch drywall screws and some glue to hold things together. Please don’t hate me for that, I like screws and they work great if you drill pilot holes and use a bit that makes it possible to countersink the head. A little wood dope and the holes are barely visible – this is a farm house after all. I did splurge for some 3/16-inch thick pine tongue-and-groove bead board for the panels. I used a power miter saw to cut pieces to length and a table saw to rip and cut rebates. My trusty, 20 something year old Milwaukee corded hole shooter doubled as a boring tool and a driver. The Jacobs chuck got a heck of a workout with all the bit changes. I love that tool.

 Building a pantry cabinet: door panel detail. 

Since my PICC wanted the top panels of the door to "breathe" we stapled black aluminum screening to the frames. We had "discussion" over the see-through nature of the screen and the expense to value of the perforated aluminum we'd seen at the local home improvement store. She asked me to reconsider the aluminum and I said "heck no" as I headed to the truck to drive 20 miles back to town to pick the aluminum panels up. Wow, do those door panels look awesome. And the smile they bring to our faces is well worth the expense.

Building a pantry cabinet: sanding the pieces.  

Since my PICC is a total detail person, she agreed to handle the sanding -- I tried to micromanage now and then but only to get a little attention by way of rolling eyes. I have to admit, this definitely wasn't her first day.

Building a pantry cabinet: applying the finish.  

Thankfully my PICC is a total detail person and wouldn't let me near the stain. I didn't bother trying to micromanage since I was otherwise occupied with a science experiment in the adjacent laundry room.

I'm really thrilled with how the cabinet turned out. I'll install the pull knobs this week and then start contemplating the kitchen. Stay tuned.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

hank will_2
1/21/2011 8:39:43 AM

Hey Windeater -- I don't have any blueprints for this project and since I built it in place, some of the initial dimensions required a little tweakage (the 100 plus year old concrete slab subfloor slopes 2 inches in 7 feet, for example. But I would be happy to send you some measurements and more detailed photos of the doors and side panels if you send me an email hwill at grit dot com. Thanks for the kind words, Colleen. I'm tickled about the perforated aluminum too and there is enough left over to make a matching cover for the cat's litter box and some other fun projects. I have a nice slab of black walnut that will be the booting up bench -- legs will be shaped from branches I cut from a snag left after we dozed some trees down to fix a pond dam. Winter is really good for these kinds of projects.

1/21/2011 8:20:48 AM

Beautiful cabinet...any way to get those plans???

colleen vanderlinden
1/21/2011 7:43:00 AM

I LOVE the cabinet -- and good on you for going with the perforated aluminum panels -- they look great! Now if only we had a mudroom to put something like that in. Someday :-)

hank will_2
1/18/2011 12:49:07 PM

Hey thanks, Cindy. It's so much more fun to laugh than to worry about who is right. Would be less strife in the world if someone or some organization didn't always have to be right. Kelly, thanks for your kind and encouraging words too. We often gird ourselves to try stuff by saying "it's just 105 year old farmhouse." It makes us relaxed enough to just go for it and most of the time the project makes us happy.

cindy murphy
1/18/2011 11:36:09 AM

Beautiful, Hank! I want one - it's something to go on Hubs' honey-do list for sure. I have to laugh at your comment to KC, 'Especially when it's about aesthetics meeting my cheapness' - substitute your cheapness for Hubs', and we have the same laughable discussions here too.

hank will_2
1/18/2011 9:01:59 AM

I wonder why I am Hank Will 2 in this thing ... Hey all - Thanks for the kind and encouraging words. Dave, this cabinet is "built in" so it is a little quirky too, but that's how I like it. My world doesn't fit neatly into a box with perfectly square corners and completely plumb walls. :) KC, I love the discussions -- they always make me laugh. Especially when it's about aesthetics meeting my cheapness -- Or as Frank Zappa would have called it, cheepniss, but that's a monster of a different kind. And thanks for the your contageous enthusiasm, SweetMissDaisy.

kelly mulholland
1/18/2011 8:16:31 AM

That is one beautiful cabinet! Really nice and so perfect for a farm pantry.

k.c. compton
1/17/2011 8:29:06 PM

Very, very cool. I'm glad that your "discussion" led to a good place. :=} You two are such a great team. Very inspiring!

nebraska dave
1/17/2011 6:29:54 PM

@Will, a totally awesome project that fits right in with farm house furniture. It really turned out great. I like the look of it too. I'll be needing some lumber for my storage area before too long. I'm just about finished with the wiring and will start on the insulation this week. I have some basement ceiling issues to deal with but I believe that I have it figured out. There are a lot of pipes and such that hang below the ceiling rafters. I'm not going to be able to cover it all with drywall and that's ok. It is after all just a storage area place. We had another 40 something degree day with promises of single digits for the rest of the week. This weather has really been something this Winter. I'm not complaining mind you with only 62 days left until Spring. I'll have to start thinking about outside projects for the summer pretty soon. I have a couple in mind. Have a great kitchen remodeling day.

1/17/2011 12:31:11 PM

FABULOUS!!! Wow! I want one for my very own! :)