Science

Save space by building this simple cutting board rack inside any door

Easy access. (John Kennedy/)

You’re in your kitchen, preparing to make a delicious dinner. You pick up your favorite knife and go to grab a cutting board from the pile in your pantry. There are too many. It’s like a loose deck of cards. They clatter to the floor. A toe-crushing waterfall of wood and plastic. Everything turns black and white. You’re in the bad part of an infomercial. A child screams. You scream. Panic.

But there truly is a better way: Build a storage rack on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door. By turning this normally unused space into something functional, you’ll make your home a little more organized, and you’ll avoid being associated with someone who tries to slice a loaf of bread with a wooden doorstop. That’s company no one wants to keep.

Warning: DIY projects can be dangerous, even for the most experienced makers. Before proceeding with this or any other project on our site, ensure you have all necessary safety gear and know how to use it properly. At minimum, that may include safety glasses, a face mask, and/or ear protection. If you’re using power tools, you must know how to use them safely and correctly. If you do not, or are otherwise uncomfortable with anything described here, don’t attempt this project.

Stats

  • <b>Time:</b> 2-3 hours
  • <b>Material cost:</b> $0 to $30
  • <b>Difficulty:</b> moderate

Materials

  • Plywood
  • Plastic pipe
  • Screws
  • <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FGorilla-1-75-oz-Clear-Glue-4500100%2F301050930&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>Wood glue</a>

Tools

  • <a href=”https://amzn.to/30hIttF” target=_blank>Circular saw</a> (or table and <a href=”https://amzn.to/3gj5ime” target=_blank>miter saws</a>)
  • <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FStanley-25-ft-PowerLock-Tape-Measure-33-425D%2F100019154&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>Measuring tape</a>
  • <a href=”https://amzn.to/2PqETY1″ target=_blank>Drill driver</a>
  • <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FDEWALT-Titanium-Pilot-Point-Drill-Bit-Set-14-Piece-DW1354%2F202019930&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>Twist drill bit</a>
  • <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2F3M-Garnet-3-2-3-in-x-9-in-100-Grit-Medium-Grade-Sand-Paper-6-Sheets-Pack-19037-20-CC%2F202563277&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>Sandpaper</a>
  • <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FANVIL-2-in-Spring-Clamp-99691%2F302755764&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>Small spring clamps</a>
  • Pencil
  • Marker
  • (Optional) <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FRYOBI-SpeedLoad-5-Piece-Power-Groove-Countersink-Set-AR2008G%2F205193155&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>countersink drill bit</a> (or small <a href=”https://homedepot.sjv.io/c/403151/456723/8154?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.homedepot.com%2Fp%2FMilwaukee-High-Speed-Wood-Spade-Bit-Set-13-Piece-48-27-1520%2F305537862&subid1=popsci” target=_blank>spade bit</a>)
  • (Optional) masking tape
  • (Optional) <a href=”https://amzn.to/3fq7JCp” target=_blank>power sander</a>

Get your measurements

This build is moderately difficult not because of the technical skills involved, but because of the amount of planning, care, and attention to detail that’s required. It’s critical that everything fits properly and you don’t drive screws straight through your cabinet door.

1. Choose a cabinet door. Unless you’re an absolute giant, you’ll want to pick a bottom cabinet, as the cutting boards will slide into the rack from the top. You’ll also want to make sure there’s enough space behind the door for the rack itself. It’d be a disaster to finish everything and find out the door doesn’t close tightly.

2. Measure your cutting boards. The most important measurements here are the length and width of your largest board, the length of your smallest one, and the thickness of all your boards stacked together. Write those down or make a diagram so you don’t forget.

3. Measure the cabinet opening. This will be smaller than the door itself, so focus your efforts on getting the exact height and width. The reason is simple: if your rack is bigger than the opening, the door won’t close.

4. Measure the cabinet door. Grab the height and width of the door, and specifically note the location of the hinges and any other hardware by measuring the distance between them and the door’s outer edges. Draw them in your diagram if necessary. This will ensure you don’t plan to insert a screw directly into a hinge or knob. Then, measure the door’s thickness.

  • <b>Caution:</b> Double-, even triple-check the thickness of your cabinet door. If the exterior has some detail, it may not be an even thickness everywhere. This is important because if you drive a screw too far, it’ll come out the other side and ruin the door.
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Plan the layout

I did a lot of planning for this project.

I did a lot of planning for this project. (John Kennedy/)

Generally, I recommend sketching a plan by hand or with a computer program, but for this, I’d say it’s absolutely necessary.

5. Design the face of the rack. The limiting factor for the width of the rack will be the width of the cabinet opening. The height of the rack’s face, though, varies depending on the sizes of your boards. You’ll want it to be at least half as tall (plus 1 inch) as your longest board, and at least an inch or two shorter than your shortest one. This will ensure your biggest board won’t topple forward and it’ll still be easy to grab the smallest one.

  • <b>Note:</b> It’s probably obvious that if your largest cutting board is bigger than the cabinet opening, it’s not going to fit. What’s less obvious is that even if it’s around an inch narrower, it still probably won’t fit. The closest you can get to the edge with screws is about a quarter-inch, and the screws themselves are about a quarter-inch wide, shrinking the rack’s opening by about a half-inch on either side.

6. Figure out how much space there will be between the rack face and the door. I have five boards. Stacked together, they’re 1 ½ inches thick. I wanted a little extra space, so I planned to have the face of my rack sit 1 ¾ inches from the door.

  • <b>Caution:</b> If you stretch the distance between the door and the face of the rack too far, you may have trouble closing the door. If you’re going to need more than 2 inches to fit all your boards, you may want to consider installing a second rack in another cabinet.

7. Make sure you’re using the proper screws. Now that you’ve got all the dimensions in place, you can settle on a screw size. Add the plywood thickness to the space between the rack face and the door, plus half of the door’s thickness. This should ensure you don’t go all the way through the door.

  • <b>Example:</b> I used ¼-inch oak plywood, with a rack opening of 1 ¾ inches, and my cabinet door was ¾ inches thick (⅜ inches to halfway). I didn’t have screws 2 ⅜ inches long, so I chose 2 ½-inch screws and took a bit of a risk.

8. Plot the locations of the screws on the rack’s face. Unless you have some serious heavy-duty cutting boards, four screws should be enough to hold the rack in place. If you have a couple thick wooden ones or are worried about people slamming the door, use up to four more (one in the middle of each side and one or two more on the bottom, in that order). The first two bottom screws shouldn’t go into the corners of the rack’s face—put them closer to the center so they support the cutting boards. These should be within the width of your narrowest board (I put mine 3 ½ inches in from either side). The two at the top can go as close to the upper corners as you like, but anything closer than a quarter-inch risks splitting the wood.

  • <b>Note:</b> Before you continue, make sure none of your screws are going to go into a hinge or any other cabinet hardware.
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9. Plot the locations of the screws on the cabinet door. This will make it assembly easier.

Prepare the pieces

The face of my storage rack, cut, partially sanded, and with holes drilled (but not countersunk) for the screws.

The face of my storage rack, cut, partially sanded, and with holes drilled (but not countersunk) for the screws. (John Kennedy/)

10. Cut the plywood. Use a pencil to trace the dimensions of the face of your rack onto the plywood. Try to pick a spot that looks nice. For fewer cuts, work out of one corner of the sheet. Then, cut along the lines.

  • <b>Tip:</b> This step is easiest with a table saw, but doable if you’ve got a circular saw and a steady hand. If you’re looking for a good arm workout, use a hand saw, but doing so increases the chance that you cut a crooked line.
  • <b>Note:</b> I chose ¼-inch-thick sanded oak plywood for this, simply because it was the smallest piece I could get that also looked good. It’s your choice what you use.

11. Cut the plastic pipe. You don’t want your cutting boards dropping onto the sharp threads of the screws, so it’s important you sheathe at least the bottom fasteners in something smooth and tough. Find your planned distance between the cabinet door and the face of your rack, and use a marker to note that measurement on the pipe. Then, cut along the line. Repeat this step for as many screws as you plan to cover.

  • <b>Tip:</b> You’ll want this cut to be exact, so either run the saw along the far side of the line (leaving the line on the piece of pipe you’re planning to use) or add the width of your saw blade to the initial measurement (usually 1/16 of an inch).
  • <b>Tip:</b> If you really want to make sure you stay on the line, wrap a piece of masking tape around the pipe and use that as a guide to keep your saw on target.
  • <b>Caution:</b> A miter saw offers the best balance between ease and potential danger for this task. It’ll be easy to line up and cut the proper measurement, but there’s always a chance the small piece of pipe kicks away from the blade. Using a circular saw with the pipe clamped down will usually result in the sliced-off piece shooting straight down, but it will be harder to maintain a straight line. Again, if you want an arm workout, grab a hand saw.
  • <b>Note:</b> I chose ¾-inch PVC pipe because it was the shortest, narrowest length I could get. But pretty much any hard cylinder that fits over your screws will work.

Wrapping tape around your pipe can be a good saw guide.

Wrapping tape around your pipe can be a good saw guide. (John Kennedy/)

12. Drill holes for the screws. Transfer the screw locations from your diagram onto the plywood. Then, using a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the diameter of your screws, drill through the plywood. This will ensure the screws pass smoothly through the wood and don’t damage it when you put the rack together.

  • <b>Note:</b> If you want the heads of the screws to sit flush against the outside of the rack, use a countersink bit. If you don’t have one, you can use a spade bit to carefully hollow out a space for their heads.
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13. Sand the face of the rack. Using at least 100-grit sandpaper, sand all sides of the plywood smooth. The edges are most important, as you won’t want to cut your hands or get any splinters when handling the cutting boards. You should also round the corners.

  • <b>Caution:</b> If you’re sanding by hand, wear gloves and don’t go too fast. Plywood is notoriously splintery, and it’s easy for a sharp piece of wood to pop up, puncture the paper, and go straight into your soft flesh.

Assemble the rack

It’ll be easiest to remove the cabinet door and install the rack on a solid surface, but you can install it in situ (I did). If you take it off, lay something soft, like a towel, over your work surface before putting the door on it, to prevent scratching. This is also where you can seriously damage the outside of your cabinet door, so take extra care with each step.

14. Put glue in the holes on the face of the rack. There won’t be any screw threads holding the face on, so you’ll need glue. Follow the directions for whatever glue you’re using.

15. Fasten the top screws. Using one of the pieces of pipe as a spacer, screw the top screws through the holes in the face of the rack and into the door. Go slowly and be extremely careful how far you go into the door. You do not want to go through the other side.

  • <b>Tip:</b> To avoid going too deep into the cabinet door, measure your ideal depth from the tip of each screw, back toward the head. Then, wrap tape around the screw at that mark. That way you’ll have a visual cue to stop when the tape meets the door. Simply remove the tape when you’re done.

If you cut and measured exactly as planned, the plastic pipe will keep the face of the rack the proper distance from the door.

If you cut and measured exactly as planned, the plastic pipe will keep the face of the rack the proper distance from the door. (John Kennedy/)

16. Fasten the bottom screws. Once the top screws are in place, put both pieces of pipe under the pre-drilled holes for the bottom screws. Then, put the screws through the holes, through the pipe, and into the door. Again, go slowly and be careful.

  • <b>Note:</b> You won’t be able to use the tape trick here because the screws will be inside the pipes, but if you measured and cut the pipes correctly, it shouldn’t matter.

17. Clamp the top screws in place. Unless you added pipe to the top screws, they will likely be loose where they go through the plywood. Wipe up any visible glue and use some small clamps to keep the screw heads flush with the face of the plywood until the glue dries.

18. Finish the project. Once the glue is dry, remove the clamps and clean up any glue that remains.

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