I have more posts coming about how I redid our home office, but I just finished this last piece of the puzzle and thought I’d share it right away. Our custom office desk has a lot of open shelving and tabletop space, but there are always those office supplies you want tucked away – pens, staplers, random junk, etc. And for that, of course you want a drawer.
So…how was I going to add a desk drawer when I didn’t have much of a base to the desk? The semi-obvious solution came to me as I was adding our keyboard trays. Why not build a box instead of a single board, then attach it to the keyboard tray hardware to make a drawer? Turns out, that was pretty easy and looks darn cool. Plus by building my own drawer, I was able to match the wood stain and shou sugi ban from the rest of the desk.
(As an advertising affiliate and Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. But it doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps me keep up my site!)
- Keyboard tray hardware
- Wood stain (or paint)
- Boards cut to size. I used 3/4 inch plywood because that’s what I had on hand.
Step 1: Adjust and attach the keyboard tray hardware. First, you want to adjust the height of the hardware to give yourself as much height as possible for the drawer.
As for where you’re putting your drawer, just make sure you don’t make it wider than your keyboard tray hardware can handle (mine had a max of I think 36 inches and a decent weight limit.) I had the braces of our desk to work around, so that determine how wide my drawer could be. For depth, hold the hardware in place and test how far the slides will extend your drawer. You don’t want to affix them so far back that you won’t have much drawer exposed when you open it.
I positioned mine with the front attachment a few inches back from the front edge of the desk. That also gave me enough room in the back that I could make a decently deep drawer. BE SURE your 2 pieces line up and are positioned at the same depths so your drawer will be square when you’re done attaching everything.
If you’ve got a tight space and can’t get a screwdriver or drill in the right position to attach the hardware (this was my problem because of the desk braces) I highly recommend this drill extension to get into hard-to-reach places. I’ve used it multiple times on different projects, and it certainly saved my bacon here.
Step 2: Measure for your drawer bottom. (I always measure as I go in case I screw up a step. You could plan out everything and decide your measurements from the beginning, but this is how I did it, just to be safe.) For drawer width, measure from the insides of each hardware piece to find how wide your drawer bottom should be. Mine was 19 inches.
For depth, I had another obstacle – the cover that hides our cords. That meant I couldn’t go all the way from the front of the desk to the back wall, so I gave myself a little wiggle room and measured from the front of the desk edge to where the cords come through the desk’s topside hole. Even if you don’t have an obstacle behind your drawer, be sure to leave a little extra room so you can attach a front piece on your drawer without it sticking our past your desktop edge. For my depth, I chose 16.5 inches.
Step 3: Cut your drawer bottom. Out in our freezing garage (Will winter ever end?!), I took my piece of plywood and measured out 19 x 16.5, making sure it was square! I used a straight level and marked my lines. Then I used our miter saw and cut the board. My edges were rough, so I quick sanded them down. But they don’t have to be perfect, since they’ll be covered by the side pieces and hidden by the hardware rails.
Step 4: Fit the bottom and measure for your back, sides, and front piece. To be sure I was on the right track, I took my board inside and tested that it fit. (And I warmed up my hands!) I adjusted the board into different positions until I liked how far it stuck out when open and how far it sat back once closed.
Again, be sure the board is even on both sides where your hardware will attach. You don’t want the front piece to stick out farther on one side than the other! I kept track of where I wanted my board by measuring how far the board extended past the hardware’s rails when I had it in place – 3.25 inches.
Once you’ve decided on the position of your bottom board, measure for the back part of your drawer. This was pretty easy at 19 inches (the width of my bottom board.) To see how tall it could be without scraping against the bottom of the desk, I measured from the bottom board to the underside of the desktop and subtracted a little to give myself room. I went with 3.25 inches, so I needed a back board of 19 x 3.25 inches.
For the sides, I subtracted the width of my back piece and measured all the way to the very front of the bottom board. You’ll attach your front piece to the bottom board AND these 2 side pieces, so you want them to go all the way to the front so there’s no gap. My sides needed to be 15.75 inches (the total 16.5 inch sides of my bottom board minus the 0.75 wide back board). Keeping them at the same height as my back board, I went with 3.25 inches.
Side note: You could cut the side corners at 45 degree angles to make a more perfect box, but no one will see the back corners, so I figured why bother?
For the front piece, this is obviously going to be your most decorative part and what’s most seen. I added 1/2 inch to each side and about 1 inch to the bottom to make sure everything would be covered, and having extra on the bottom also gives a nice lip to pull the drawer out since I didn’t want hardware. For the top, I knew I’d just lift or raise the board to get it level, using that “about 1 inch” as wiggle room.
Step 5: Cut the back, sides, and front piece. Using my measurements, I used the same leftover plywood and marked for my cuts. Again I used our miter saw, and this part went pretty quickly.
Step 6: Stain the wood. You could also paint it or leave it natural or whatever you like. I wanted the drawer to tie in with the rest of our desk, so I used the same very cool charred wood accelerator stain that gives wood a charred, aged look and feel. The back board won’t be very visible, but be sure to stain both sides of your side boards for the inside and outside of the drawer (I left the top parts of the side pieces natural to torch them once assembled, but more on that later.) I also stained the top AND underside of my bottom board since the top would be visible with the drawer open and the bottom side might be seen since it would be a hanging drawer. The stain dries very quickly, so that was helpful.
Step 7: Attach the drawer back and sides to the bottom board. Once dry (according to the directions of whatever you’re using) take all your pieces and put them together. I started with the back piece to be sure it would fit under the desk. You can use screws or glue, but I don’t have the patience and used my nail gun. Holding the back board in place ON TOP of the bottom board, I nailed through the bottom board into the back board.
I did a quick test to make sure it fit without scraping the bottom of the desk, and all was good!
Then I nailed the side pieces in place in the same way. Everything lined up, and it held great! (Note: Since all the weight and structural integrity is dependent on the bottom board, the back and side boards are really just there to keep your stuff in the drawer. They don’t have to be extremely well-secured.)
Step 8: Attach the drawer bottom to the hardware. BEFORE attaching the front piece, put the almost-assembled drawer box on the tray hardware. Maneuver your drawer box until it’s where you wanted it originally (mine needed to stick out past the slide rails that 3.25 inches from earlier). Again, make sure it’s even on both sides. Then with my drawer where I thought I wanted it, I made sure the drawer was “closed” or pushed back all the way, and then I held my front piece in place. I’d guessed pretty close to how far the drawer would extend with the front piece on, and it didn’t extend beyond the desktop!
Before anything got jostled, I went under the drawer and attached it to the hardware. I’d lost the original screws that came with the keyboard tray hardware, but spare screws worked just fine.
With the almost-finished drawer now attached, I did a quick test and pulled it out and pushed it back in a few times. Everything worked smoothly.
Step 9: Attach the final front piece! I got down at eye-level with the desktop to see the space between the top of the front piece and the bottom of the desktop. I used that to decide what was level, leaving a bit of a gap so the wood didn’t touch. Then I made sure the board was even on either side (the 1/2 inch extra on each side that I’d planned). Holding the front board in place, I used my nail gun and secured the board into the bottom of the drawer and into either side piece. Again, you could use glue and clamp it in place, but my nail holes don’t show anyway because of my aged/charred again look. If you use a different stain or paint, you at least will want to putty the holes and paint over them.
The very last thing I did was use my kitchen torch to burn the top side boards. It adds a cool effect that further matches the rest of the desktop. (To see how shou sugi ban torching generally works, see this post where I did it to picture frames.)
And that’s it! Now our office has a drawer hanging under our open desk. No more clutter on the desk! …Or at least, less clutter. Let’s not kid ourselves. 😜