Knife storage is a must for every kitchen, but how to do so is also very subjective. Some people love to use a countertop knife block. Some people like to mount them on a magnet strip. I am one of those people who like to have a knife organizer that is hidden away inside a drawer or a pullout. This is why I decided to build a knife organizer pullout combined with a cutting board storage space.
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As you can see, I have converted this spice pullout drawer into the perfect place to store my knives and cutting boards. I have two of these spice drawers (one on each side of the cooktop), but I was really only using one for my spices.
The other one was not being used for anything other than to hold a few extra spice containers. I knew that I was going to do something to make this a usable space, and a knife organizer seemed like just the thing for me.
Just as a reminder, these are the drawers that I have been working on in my kitchen. If you have been following my blog, then you know that my specialty is building cabinets and furniture.
The above image is my recent kitchen design. After finalizing this space, I decided to go back and convert several of the drawers and cabinets. The top drawer on the left is now a utensil storage drawer.
The drawer beneath the cooktop contains my plate and dish organizer. I am gradually customizing the interior for all of my drawers and cabinets, and the results are being shared here with you.
Materials Needed for this Project
- 1/4″ planks* cut to 12″ in length x the width of the drawer opening. (amount will vary)
- 1/4″ square dowel rods cut to 12″ lengths.
- 5/8″ square dowel cut at 12″ lengths.
- Food grade wood glue such as Titebond*
- Mineral oil* or some other cutting board appropriate finish.
Which Wood to Use
You can use just about any species of wood that you like for this project. In these instructions, I am using a combination of popular and pine, poplar for the planks, and pine dowel rods for the dividers.
These two wood species are easy to acquire and are cheaper than most. However, I have also made blocks and knife organizers from oak, maple, and walnut. These provide a stronger and nicer quality. I recommend using one of these is you have access to a table saw and can rip it down for the square dowels.
If you need more information on choosing a wood species, I recommend that you read my guide for cutting boards and butcher blocks. It covers everything about materials used in conjunction with knives.
Tools Needed for this Project
You will notice in this project that I also used my nail gun. That was purely for the purpose of creating a DIY video in real-time and is not necessary. However, if you want to use a nail gun you can utilize either a brad nailer or a pin nailer.
You will need to buy 1/2″ pneumatic nails or pins for this project and those are not easy to find in the big box stores. The smallest size that they tend to carry is 5/8” which is too long.
I ended up ordering my nails through Amazon. If you prefer to use the 5/8″ nails, you will need to adjust the thickness of the wood planks or the dowels. My recommendation is to just use the clamps and wait between drying.
Instructions for Building the Knife Organizer
- Cut all the planks and dowels to precisely 12″ in length. The more precise you are with this, the less amount of sanding that will need to be done later.
- Measure the width of the drawer opening or, if your drawer has the top wooden braces, measure the space between the top braces. Cut planks to width. For example, my planks were 4″ x 12″.
- Beginning with the knife block, we will make the opening for the scissors. I have 2 sets of knives, so I have made 2 openings. If you do not want two openings, you will need to double the dowels on the outer edges to close up the spacing.
- Apply the glue to one side of a 5/8″ dowel section. A thin amount is all that is needed. Too much glue will result in a lot of overflow when the dowel is attached to the plank.
- Line the glue side of the dowel up with the edge of the plank, and clamp it in place.
- Allow this to dry for at least one hour before proceeding, or if using the nail gun, place approximately 4 nails along the length of the dowel from the plank side. Tip: do not place any nails closer than 1″ to the top or bottom edge. This will keep the dowels from splitting.
- Clean away any glue that is squeezed out the side. You do not want to leave excess glue on the interior. It will get in the way of the utensils.
- Repeat the above steps for the other edge of the plank and the center to create spaces for two sets of scissors. When you have finished, it should look like the image above.
- Next, apply glue to the exposed side of the 3 dowels. Again, make sure that you do not apply too much glue. A very thin, even amount is best.
- Attach a plank on top of the dowels, so that the dowels are sandwiched between the two planks. Again, wait for the glue to set up before continuing or tack in place with the nail gun. Remember to use at least 4 evenly spaced nails, no closer than 1″ to the top or bottom edge.
You should now have something that looks like this image. Notice that I am keeping all of the rough ends together. This will make it easier to sand smooth later.
At this point, we will switch to using the 1/4″ dowels. They will be used for the remainder of the project to create the knife openings.
- Continue by attaching a 1/4″ dowel section to each edge of the knife block.
- Begin creating the openings for your knives. If you’re not sure how far apart to place the dowels, you can use your knives to determine the layout. However, for most large knives, one dowel placed in the center will most likely work.
- For steak knives, you should be able to fit at least 3 in each section. Try to leave plenty of wiggle room for each knife. This way, the block will work if you ever decide to use a different set.
- For a cleaver, just use the outer dowels and leave the entire section open. Continue sandwiching the dowels in between the planks in this fashion until you have space for all of your knives.
- After the knife block dries, you can tun it through a table saw or miter saw to square up the ends if needed.
- Finally, sand all the sides smooth. Remove all the dust from the inside of the knife block by using canned air and/or a pipe cleaner.
- Apply the finish to the block. Use a clean set of pipe cleaners to get the finish down into the inside of the knife block. Allow it to dry. Reapply as needed.
Instructions for Adding the Cutting Board Storage
- Using two of the 12” planks, attach them at a right angle. One plank forms the bottom of the container and the second one serves as the front. Using another 12” plank, attach at a right angle to form the rear portion of the container.
- Using a square, test for square and mark 3″ from the bottom. Repeat on the other side. This mark will be where the sides will line up.
- Attach another plank to the side of the organizer, lining the bottom edge up with the mark made in the previous step. Repeat for the center divider and the other side of the organizer. When finished, the cutting board organizer will look like this image. You can choose to omit the center divider if you like. I added it because I like to keep my plastic boards separate from my wooden boards.
- To sturdy up the top and provide support, I cut one of the 4″ planks in half so that I had two planks that measured 2″ x 12″. I used just one of these pieces to provide support at the top of the cutting board organizer. I left the other side open for easier access.
- Sand smooth, and apply the finish.
- At this point, you can nail the knife block and the cutting board organizer together if you like, or you may keep them separate. I chose to attach them.
- One thing that I added, after placing my knife block/cutting board organizer on the shelf in the drawer, is two corner brackets. This keeps the organizer in place.
Tip: make sure that your knife block and organizer can both fit and still allow for easy removal of the cutting boards. In my drawer, I could not go much farther back on the drawer shelf, because the granite protrudes out right above these spice drawers.
To have built all the way to the back of the drawer would have made it difficult to get the larger cutting boards out of the organizer. This is why I chose to leave the space at the rear of the drawer, and use the corner brackets as a stop).
I was able to still keep one extra shelf at the bottom. So, I can keep my extra spices here as well as the knives and cutting boards.
And a view of all three drawers that I have completed so far. I am obsessed with drawer storage and organizers. You can see the dish drawer organizer and the utensil drawer that I did in this image.
For more kitchen cabinet ideas, I also recommend checking out my post on converting base cabinets into pullouts and how to easily organize those junk drawers.
I hope that you like this latest DIY. If you do, please share it with others through one of the many social media outlets available.
This post was originally published in 2015 but has been updated to reflect changes in website design and SEO best practices.