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 .