Custom Touch for Do-It-Yourself Cabinets: A Built-in Spice Rack

When Barbara and I began working on our kitchen design, we started with the general and worked toward the specific. Naturally, design ideas from books and internet were the starting point for layout and efficiency. But then we got down to specifics, keeping in mind both my relative inexperience as a cabinet maker and the fact that I had a very small shop with only basic tools.

One of the specifics that evolved in our planning was a door-mounted spice rack. Our purpose was to keep the spices off the kitchen counter and still have them readily accessible.

Before building our straw-bale home, we lived in a stick and stucco “adobe look-alike” home with stock cabinets.  Barbara and I both enjoy cooking and got real tired of digging around in a big, corner-cabinet Lazy Susan for our spices.

So as we designed and built our cabinets, room was made for a easy-to-use spice rack. The selected cabinet was built with recessed shelving to accommodate the rack. The spice rack itself was built from scrap wood from the door construction, so total material costs were a couple dollars for scrap wood, a half-cup of Polyurethane, and a couple L-brackets.

We set our cabinet shelving back to allow for easy door closure with a rack that was 3″ deep. By fitting the rack inside the rails and stiles, we could use the inside of the door panel as the back of the cabinet, maximizing the space for spice jars.

Rack retaining slats were pieces of pine left-over from ripping the cabinet door stiles and rails. Ripping 3″ rails and 2″ stiles from a 1″x6″ select pine board leaves a very usable strip measuring about 3/4″ by 1/4″. I rarely throw any shop material away. I’m not sure whether I’m just frugal or have some pack rat genes somewhere, but I usually find use for scrap wood, even if it’s in the shop wood stove in the winter. Nothing goes to the landfill.

Sides for the rack were scrap pieces from the 3″ rails used in the doors and the shelves and bottom were scraps of the 1/4″ birch plywood used in the door panels.

When the sides had been ripped and cut to length, I routed seating grooves for the shelves using a 1/4″ straight router bit set for a 1/4″deep cut. The jig was simply a couple pieces of scrap wood the same width as the shelf side. With one piece screwed securely on top of the other at EXACTLY 90 degrees and both pieces secured to the workbench, I was ready to cut my shelf grooves.

I clamped my shelf stock securely to the scrap wood of the jig and extended my router channel into the throwaway jig piece. This prevented splitting when the router bit cleared the back of the piece. 

The shelf side was clamped to align the router bit with the desired shelf placement. It is important to make corresponding shelf channel cuts on exactly the same line. This can be done with careful individual cuts or putting both pieces side by side in the jig so the router cuts both pieces on the same pass.

Care must be taken to firmly secure both pieces if they are cut with the same pass as the interior board will drift if not independently clamped. Ask me how I know this can happen.

After the grooves were cut, the bottom piece was ripped to be the same width as the sides and then was cut to length to fit inside the door rails and stiles. A temporary top piece was attached to square and secure the rack as the shelves and rack retainers were installed. Then it was easy to slide the shelves into the grooves, attach them with small brads and glue, and install the rack retainers.We removed the temporary top to facilitate taller canisters before installation.

Sanding and a good coat of Polyurethane completed the construction. A couple small L-brackets secured the finished rack to the door. Then Barbara had a wonderful time sorting and installing spices.

As has been the case with all of our do-it-yourself projects, we enjoyed the doing and the results. Hopefully, you will find as much satisfaction in your projects.

Published on Jun 13, 2011

Grit Magazine

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