Monday, November 19, 2012

Spice Rack

 PDQ 32s factory equipped with Dometic dorm-style refrigerators are also equipped with a completely useless drawer to the right of the fridge. The openings are too small for medium adult hands to fully enter, severely limiting the size of objects that can be stored. Even spice bottles are too big, except for the smallest sizes. The drawer was deep--18 inches but only pulling out 8 inches--so any thing that did enter would slide to that back and never be seen again;  remember, the openings won't admit a hand or wrist so you can't reach the back, even with a fork held by fingertip. The whole business is built of 1/2-inch thick lumber, reducing the 7 1/2-inch cut-out in the fiberglass to a mere 2 1/2-inch inside shelf width. Just pitiful. Down low, below the drawer, is a cubby hole that is handy enough for small items, in our case disposable table wear; I wanted to keep that, but I didn't want more cubby holes.

Though I could have scratch-built a replacement, matching the wood would be a challenge and I liked the outside look and fit. Instead, I took a few measurements and reasoned that it could be gutted, fitted with an improved drawer that would make a very usable spice rack, and that I could accomplish this in an evening.

The entire cabinet assembly is easily unscrewed and taken home, so that all work can be done in the shop. That helps. The drawer facing pops off easily with a few carefully applied hammer blows and a little wiggling with a wood chisel. Likewise, the stops in the back (to preventing the drawer from coming all the way out when pulled) popped right off. Both were easily cleaned of glue residue with a chisel.

I removed both sides of the drawer, leaving the top, bottom, front, and back untouched, with careful plunge cuts with a circular saw and some trimming with a saber saw. The sides are still attached to the shelves with a few spots of glue, but were pried out with very little effort. Likewise, without side support, the internal shelves were easily removed and discarded. The new plan called for only an upper and lower rather than the original overcrowded 3 shelf arrangement.

The new shelf is not centered; spice bottles come in 2 basic heights, so I made room accordingly.

Dig the sawdust reflected in the flash (click to enlarge)
I did not replace the original sides. The original drawer had ~ 5/8-inch clearance on each side, so I simply screwed new 1/4-inch birch ply sides to the outside, increasing the internal width of the shelf by 1-inch to 3 1/2 inches This is critical, as it makes the difference between a single row of bottles and a double row. I made the fiddles on the shelf a bit over 1/2 the height of the bottles to insure they cannot jump out in wild conditions, though they will simply end up in the large locker under the fridge if they do. With the larger cut-outs my hands fit easily. The corners of the cut-outs were made with hole saw and press (no center bit) and connected with a circular saw and saber saw and trimmed with a hand grinder. All of the screws are countersunk to avoid catching.

The original drawer did not pull out as far as it could; measurement showed that it could pull about 2 1/2 inches further without interference, so I repositioned the stops. This was easily done by extending the new sides back an additional 2 1/2" + 3/4" = 3 1/4" beyond the back of the drawer and attaching 3/4-inch cleats. Free additional opening space and less is lost in the depths.

Easy...ish and built from scraps. $4.65 for screws. I could have built it with hidden fasteners, but I liked the idea of being able to open it and change it, if I like. About 4 hours, but 3 of those were spend measuring an figuring. I could do a second in an hour. Isn't that typical?

More space, more function, no change in weight, and my wife is appreciative. I find the last of these most rewarding.

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