Drawer runners: We bought plastic drawer runner replacement kits for 12 drawers from Lowes. We bought them in the biggest size so that we could make wooden runners. We ripped a 2 by 4 in half and then ripped the dimensions to 1-1/16” by 1-5/8” by 16-3/4”.
Using the dado blade, we put ¼” grooves into each piece to create a t-shaped runner. After cutting each wood runner, we slid the plastic drawer runner piece over it to make sure it was a smooth fit. We screwed our plastic pieces onto the backs of all of our drawers and then installed our wood runners into our dresser frame.
To install the runners, we re-trimmed each piece to fit exactly in the desired position. After marking the center of the drawer space, we put glue on the front and back end, centered the piece and used a nail gun to attach the front end. Then I moved to the back to hold up the runner, while my wife put in the drawer and leveled it. We adjusted the back of the runner so that the front of the drawer was flush against the frame. When we thought the drawer looked level and flush, I nailed in the back piece. As we went, we left each drawer in place to make sure the faces were parallel. We also labelled each drawer to ensure it could be matched back to its custom fit spot.
Installing dresser top and trim: To start installing the dresser tops, we first routed our tops with the same bit we used for the drawers. Next we removed all of the drawers from the dresser and set the top onto the frame. For our design, the top overhangs the frame 1.5” on the front and sides and ¾” on the back. We marked the top when we had it in place, removed it, and put glue on the joints. Then we clamped the top down and screwed it into place using the existing pocket holes we made using the kreg jig earlier.
We didn’t buy any trim for this project, so we made our own with some old wood laying around. We routed one edge with a fancy looking bit, then ripped it so we got a 1-1/4” wide long strip. We made four long strips, used the miter saw to cut 45 degree angles for the corners, and nailed them under the top overhang.
Then I cut out ¼” backing and nailed it into the back of the dresser. With that, I was structurally finished!
Drawer handles: My wife and I picked up some great simple hardware from a surplus store for $0.10 each! We drilled the holes for them before we painted and could hardly wait to see them on our dressers.
In order to drill the holes in a centered and repeatable way, I made a little jig to do the job. As you can see in the photo, all I had to do in each drawer was line up the side pieces with the sides of the drawer and clamp it in place, then I could drill the holes in the same place on every drawer. We also countersunk the back of the drawer face so the bolts would sit flush.
Bookshelves: The bookshelves were much easier to build than the dressers. Since our total bed platform width was 58”, we decided to make two 29” wide bookshelves. That way, we can slide one out of the way to get into the long-term storage, and they are easier to transport. We decided we wanted them to be 15” deep, which would make the whole assembly long enough for a queen size mattress. We didn’t mind that the full size mattress we have would leave a ledge on the top of the bookshelves.
Board sizes – We cut out two sets of the following, from ¾” plywood:
Top = 28.75”x15” (1)
Shelves = 27.75” x 15” (2)
And a 28.75×28.75 piece of ¼ plywood for backing.
We chose our shelf height based on some big tin cans that we were going to use for storage on the bottom shelf, but you could make the shelf at any level. We found the dado blade to be very useful, because we just cut ¾” wide grooves ¼” deep at the bottom and at the shelf height. That made the assembly very easy.
We assembled the shelf dry (without glue) face down on the workbench, then glued and screwed the top onto the sides (remembering the countersunk pilot hole to avoid splitting). Then we did the same for the bottom shelf.
We found that our middle shelf was so snug in its groove that we just put in some screws instead of forcing it out to use glue.
Then we nailed the backing onto the back of the shelf and were finished!
Putty, sanding, painting: Building the dressers and shelves was the most fun part, but sanding and painting was what made them look so good. Since we used plywood, we had a lot of holes and imperfections to putty, especially around the routed areas. After letting the putty set, we sanded everywhere carefully. How much you sand is up to you, and at some point you have to declare it enough and get on with the project.
We found an old white paint to use as a primer, then did two coats of a “Cathedral Gray” Behr paint, because we might have to move apartments a few times in the next four years. We figured that a nice gray would go with any paint color.
Assembly: We were very excited when we put all the pieces together and everything worked like we had planned. The night before we moved we cut out the 1-1/4” support cross pieces and some slats to hold up the mattress, and it only took 3 minutes to assemble everything and set the mattress on top. We are very pleased with the amount of storage this allows in our closet-less apartment. As you can see, all of our camping gear fits between the dressers with room to spare!
For those of you who have limited tools, time, or budget, an alternative way to accomplish a similar set up would be to only build shelves. What I would do is buy any old dresser that you can find and refinish it to whatever color you would want (there are plenty of refinishing tutorials out there), and then build shelves for the other side of the bed and the foot of the bed. That way, you would only need to build shelves, but you would get a dresser on one side and accomplish the same look.
Thanks to JMYilla for this great project!