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Desktop File Drawers



Back to school is fast approaching and the threat of massive amounts of school papers raining down on me is very real. I’m not just talking about the math worksheets or finished spelling tests, no, those are fine. The real threat lies in those important pages that get lost in the stream of random school paper chaos. The field trip permission slip, the flyer notifying you of Pajama Day Wednesday, and yes, the reading reward certificate, good for one free kids side dish at the most expensive restaurant in town.
These are the important papers that get swallowed up in that endless sea of 3rd grade crosswords and 5th grade science facts. But my fear is fading, I have hope...
Much like the magical way my boys always have clean underwear in their underwear drawers, school papers can find their way to a designated place, right?.. We shall see. I’m hoping these desktop file drawers will tempt me into a habit of organization. I designed it with three drawers because I have 3 boys- one drawer for each kid. (I try to keep it simple to avoid my own confusion. More drawers = distraction, and wait. What was I saying?…)
Anyway, this small drawer unit is where I will keep the papers I need to pay attention to. (At least, that’s the plan.)

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  1. Project Steps

    1. Step: 1

      Large 148febfb 933f 4a75 857c a666b34b1d1b

      First, I cut the long 1x 12” board in half, and set one half aside. (To be used for the top and sides of the overall box later on. Also, the true measurement of this board is 3/4” x 11”.) Next, I made the cuts for the three drawers. (See image for measurements)

    2. Step: 2

      Large af85548e 19bd 4a35 92c7 701663c0af10

      The side edges of the drawers are a half inch shorter on the bottom, than the front and back edge of the drawer. (pictured/assembled upside down.) This will accommodate the thin plywood that will be attached to the bottom of the drawer, and still leave a bottom lip along the front and back of the drawer. (The bottom lip hides the drawer guides that support the drawer underneath when it’s in place.) I used a square to help keep me square when I nailed the drawer frame together. Then, I nailed the plywood onto the bottom of the drawer.

    3. Step: 3

      Large c50dc6b9 c615 43a6 9b0d 9cec8d566649

      To allow the drawers to fully open, I used a jigsaw (hand saw works too) to cut out a notch from the lip on the back side of the drawer. This enabled the back of the drawer to clear the drawer guides.

    4. Step: 4

      Large 253e24a4 0b42 415a bbf6 be3291354f4c

      After the drawers were put together, I made cuts for the top and sides of the frame. The top and sides are 11” deep, and 15.5” long, with mitered edges at the top. I Also added a cross support at the bottom.

    5. Step: 5

      Large ababf82d 4aeb 42f0 aeaa 0fbb9e0c6d47

      Before I nailed it together, I laid the two side pieces side by side to measure and mark for the drawer guides. I used some small scraps of wood for the guides. Since the lip on the bottom of the drawers ended up being 1/4 of an inch, I took that into consideration when marking where I wanted the guides. (There are 4.5” between each guide.)

    6. Step: 6

      Large 630811a3 f4ec 4b37 99cc 276493f4c6e8

      Once I assembled the mitered edges with my Airstrike and attached the cross support on the bottom, I tried out the drawers in their places.

    7. Step: 7

      Large 26d3ff8f ca3d 4488 bf9f e89fa0a1d6c8

      Next came the sanding with my Corner Cat sander.

    8. Step: 8

      Large 9fad8ac6 1216 4dbd 99ea c2aef3b3d8d3

      I followed the sanding up with some Dark Walnut stain and attached the 15.5” x 15.5” plywood backing. (I stained the backing after I attached it.)

    9. Step: 9

      Large e39629e8 a52b 4013 89b6 9145932cd028

      I let the stain dry overnight, and installed the silver hardware the next morning. Now I’ve got a drawer for each child and a place for their important school documents. I almost feel like one of those moms who are with it most of the time. I aspire to be super organized. I have to try really hard though.

Comments (12)


  • Pauline, this is brilliant! Great step by step tutorial, thank you! :) Did you wax the bottom of the drawers and/or glides or wasn't that necessary? I can't wait to try this! ~ Christina
    By queenopearls_117536, on August 3, 2015

  • Am I missing something here? You do not say what you used for the frame and draw cuts, I assume you used the remaining piece of 1 x 12, because it is the only board listed in the materials; other then the 1/4" ply.
    By doctyryx3_82294, on August 3, 2015

  • @queenopearls_117536 Thank you. I didn't need to wax the bottom of the drawers, but it wouldn't hurt to do it if you wanted. :)
    By My Altered State, on August 3, 2015

  • @doctyryx3_82294 You are correct. The other half of the 1x12" board is used for the sides and top. (Step One) :)
    By My Altered State, on August 3, 2015

  • This is an adorable set of drawers. What material did you use for the actual drawer fronts and sides? It seems as tho' 1/2 of the 1x12 x8 was used for the sides and top of the box...and the other 1/2 used for the 3 drawer bottoms.
    By tinab158, on August 31, 2015

  • tinab158 Thank you and yes, that is correct. The lumber material for this project consists of a 1" x 12" x 8' board, and a 24 x 48" sheet of thin plywood. :)
    By My Altered State, on August 31, 2015

  • Great set of drawers, I love them! I do have a question though, and I hope it's not too late to get an answer. You show making a notch on the bottom, rear corners of the drawers: so they will clear the track. However you don't mention or show the size of the finished notch, only the very start of it. Can you tell me the size of the finished notch needed to clear the track? I came to RYOBI for another one of your projects, now this project has moved to the top of my list.
    By Happily, on September 2, 2015

  • Happily, Thank you so much! The size of the notch is relative to the size of the tiny scrap strips you use for the drawer guides. It just needs to be flush with the plywood underside of the drawer so it slides smoothly, and wide enough to clear the guides (or rails). It's easy to eyeball it once you have it in front of you, and it only takes a second to notch them out. :)
    By My Altered State, on September 2, 2015

  • do you have downloadable plans
    By billtrivett, on August 11, 2016

  • I would also like downloadable plans please!!
    By altima04, on June 11, 2017

  • I love it! Where did you find the cute hardware?
    By cnoher0, on December 18, 2017

  • Weird cannot access this project 
    By Grasshopper6, on May 31, 2018

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Desktop File Drawers

by My Altered State
Jul 24, 2015
Medium 63c98848 e46c 427b 9b48 30cd5f48b125

Back to school is fast approaching and the threat of massive amounts of school papers raining down on me is very real. I’m not just talking about the math worksheets or finished spelling tests, no, those are fine. The real threat lies in those important pages that get lost in the stream of random school paper chaos. The field trip permission slip, the flyer notifying you of Pajama Day Wednesday, and yes, the reading reward certificate, good for one free kids side dish at the most expensive restaurant in town. These are the important papers that get swallowed up in that endless sea of 3rd grade crosswords and 5th grade science facts. But my fear is fading, I have hope... Much like the magical way my boys always have clean underwear in their underwear drawers, school papers can find their way to a designated place, right?.. We shall see. I’m hoping these desktop file drawers will tempt me into a habit of organization. I designed it with three drawers because I have 3 boys- one drawer for each kid. (I try to keep it simple to avoid my own confusion. More drawers = distraction, and wait. What was I saying?…) Anyway, this small drawer unit is where I will keep the papers I need to pay attention to. (At least, that’s the plan.)

Project Steps

  1. Step: 1
    Huge 148febfb 933f 4a75 857c a666b34b1d1b

    First, I cut the long 1x 12” board in half, and set one half aside. (To be used for the top and sides of the overall box later on. Also, the true measurement of this board is 3/4” x 11”.) Next, I made the cuts for the three drawers. (See image for measurements)

  2. Step: 2
    Huge af85548e 19bd 4a35 92c7 701663c0af10

    The side edges of the drawers are a half inch shorter on the bottom, than the front and back edge of the drawer. (pictured/assembled upside down.) This will accommodate the thin plywood that will be attached to the bottom of the drawer, and still leave a bottom lip along the front and back of the drawer. (The bottom lip hides the drawer guides that support the drawer underneath when it’s in place.) I used a square to help keep me square when I nailed the drawer frame together. Then, I nailed the plywood onto the bottom of the drawer.

  3. Step: 3
    Huge c50dc6b9 c615 43a6 9b0d 9cec8d566649

    To allow the drawers to fully open, I used a jigsaw (hand saw works too) to cut out a notch from the lip on the back side of the drawer. This enabled the back of the drawer to clear the drawer guides.

  4. Step: 4
    Huge 253e24a4 0b42 415a bbf6 be3291354f4c

    After the drawers were put together, I made cuts for the top and sides of the frame. The top and sides are 11” deep, and 15.5” long, with mitered edges at the top. I Also added a cross support at the bottom.

  5. Step: 5
    Huge ababf82d 4aeb 42f0 aeaa 0fbb9e0c6d47

    Before I nailed it together, I laid the two side pieces side by side to measure and mark for the drawer guides. I used some small scraps of wood for the guides. Since the lip on the bottom of the drawers ended up being 1/4 of an inch, I took that into consideration when marking where I wanted the guides. (There are 4.5” between each guide.)

  6. Step: 6
    Huge 630811a3 f4ec 4b37 99cc 276493f4c6e8

    Once I assembled the mitered edges with my Airstrike and attached the cross support on the bottom, I tried out the drawers in their places.

  7. Step: 7
    Huge 26d3ff8f ca3d 4488 bf9f e89fa0a1d6c8

    Next came the sanding with my Corner Cat sander.

  8. Step: 8
    Huge 9fad8ac6 1216 4dbd 99ea c2aef3b3d8d3

    I followed the sanding up with some Dark Walnut stain and attached the 15.5” x 15.5” plywood backing. (I stained the backing after I attached it.)

  9. Step: 9
    Huge e39629e8 a52b 4013 89b6 9145932cd028

    I let the stain dry overnight, and installed the silver hardware the next morning. Now I’ve got a drawer for each child and a place for their important school documents. I almost feel like one of those moms who are with it most of the time. I aspire to be super organized. I have to try really hard though.