How do I Build Removable Cupboard Shelves?

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How do I Build Removable Cupboard Shelves?
Drilling a hole in wood for shelving pegs. (drill machine closeup image by .shock from

Cupboards are another name for cabinets, with the exception that a cupboard can also refer to an open-faced cabinet. Standard-grade cupboards may have one or two shelves, while others have no movable shelves. This limits the function of the cupboards, but you can increase the shelving and make it adjustable, even when the cupboards are already installed.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Scrap plywood
  • Table saw
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • Pencil
  • Drill press
  • 9/32-inch bit
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch bit
  • Stop collar
  • Wood clamps
  • 1/4-inch wood pegs
  • Sand paper

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  1. 1

    Remove the contents and shelves from the cupboard. Measure the interior side wall of the cupboard and subtract 1/4-inch from the height and the width. Cut scrap plywood to this measurement using a table saw.

  2. 2

    Place the scrap plywood vertically on your work table. Mark 1 inch in from each side with a pencil. Draw a vertical line from top to bottom at each mark. Measure down the side of the plywood and mark every 2 inches. Draw a horizontal line across each mark from left to right. Where the lines cross make a dot with a marker. You should have two evenly spaced rows of dots. Label the top of the board with "top" and an arrow pointing up to indicate the top.

  3. 3

    Drill through each dot using a drill press with a 9/32-inch bit. This scrap plywood becomes a jig so that your shelf peg holes will align. Measure the depth of the wood used on the sides of your cupboards. Add the thickness of the plywood to one-half the thickness of the cupboard side wood.

  4. 4

    Insert a 1/4-inch bit into a standard hand-held drill. Attach a stop collar at the measurement of the thickness of the plywood and half the thickness of the cupboard wood. This will keep you from drilling through the cupboard.

  5. 5

    Place the jig inside the cupboard, using your "top" label to ensure the correct end points upward. Position the jig flat against the top of the cupboard and flat against the back wall of the cupboard. Clamp the jig in place with wood clamps. Drill through the jig at each hole, holding your drill level and at right angles to the jig. Reverse your jig when drilling the opposite side so that your "top" label and arrow are facing the side wood of the cabinet. Clamp and drill.

  6. 6

    Insert 1/4-inch wood pegs into the holes at the height of the shelf. Measure the inside dimensions (less 1/8 inch in each direction) of the cupboard to cut additional shelves if you are adding shelves. Sand and finish to match your existing shelves.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider drilling holes for adjustable shelves in all your cabinets at the same time. This way you can use the same jig and the holes will be available for additional shelving even if you don't install new shelves immediately. Save the jig to use on other shelving projects.

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