How-to: Make Custom Drawer Fronts for RATIONELL drawers

Materials: 15″ RATIONELL Fully-extending drawer, 1×6 pine boards

Description: I needed to make new drawers for our kitchen cabinets, as the old ones were far too short, didn’t have drawer slides, and, well, sucked. I have been a fan of the self-damping fully-extending drawers at IKEA, but needed the fronts to match our current kitchen look, so I decided to make my own fronts to go on the pre-made RATIONELL drawers.

This hack coincided with replacing the kitchen counter, so I was able to easily access the space where I was attaching my drawer supports while the counter was removed. YMMV.

First I created the actual drawer fronts. I cut an 18″ long piece of the pine 1×6 and eased the edges with a round-over bit in a router table, then rabbited the back so it would fit into the drawer opening with a little lip all the way around. They look exactly like the doors below them (in my opinion).

I installed the drawers in my cabinets. My cabs don’t have sides all the way up, so I had to improvise some cleats into which I could screw the drawer slides. I made sure that the cleats were at least 1.75″ tall to allow me access to all the screw holes if I needed them (a 2×4 or 2×2 was about perfect) and at least 13″ long to get both the front and back sets of holes in the drawer slides. Feel free to use as high or low quality wood here as you like, but I would say to get better than common stud grade wood so you can be sure the wood is nice and hard to hold the screws well. If it feels squishy at the store, put it back!

I assembled the RATIONELL drawers and placed them in their slides. These were centered in the openings and the wood cleats placed around them. I then placed a drawer front in the opening to get the right depth back from the front and screwed in the cleats with 2.5″ wood screws. It is important to hold the drawer front into the opening and the drawer right up against it, because that will make sure your drawer gets the full extension it deserves and begins self-closing at the proper distance from the cabinet; it also helps keep the drawer square to the opening.

Marking the locations of the holes in the rails, I removed the drawers and drilled a 3/16″ hole (5mm hole if you have a metric bit, or an 11/64″ bit if you want a really tight fit) to accept the stock IKEA screws in the correct locations. Keep in mind that it is impossible to get a screw into any of the bottom holes in the front set except the very front one, so use the upper row if you can. As you can see in my picture, I couldn’t because the wood wasn’t tall enough. After the dampers were installed, the drawers worked perfectly. On to the fronts.

I clicked the drawer front attachment bracket into the drawer and took some measurements from the sides of my opening. The holes in these front brackets are 1.25″ apart exactly (center to center). In my case, I drilled the bottom holes 1.5″ in from the sides and 3.125″ down from the top, with the upper hole about 1.875″ down from the top. This was a little different for each drawer, so measure each one individually if you are doing this at home. Important note: the adjustment screws are set to a neutral centered position at the factory, but make sure that they are still that way when you start to measure so you can tweak your fronts a little bit if you have to.

After transferring my measurements to the drawer fronts and drilling more 3/16″ holes, I attached the brackets to the front and clicked them on to check the fit. Some fine tuning was necessary in some cases, but mostly I feel I measured pretty well. I numbered the drawer fronts so I could be sure that they would be reinstalled in the drawer they were measured into after painting. I don’t have any pictures of the painted product with handles, because you know how slowly kitchen projects can go 🙂

There’s no reason you can’t use this for a differently sized drawer, or even one of the 5 piece RATIONELL cabinet-height drawer sets.

~ Andrej, Lansing, MI