It all started with a drawer. It was a dusty, shabby-looking affair with chipped paint and out-of-date plastic handles, but it was still a very sturdy wooden drawer. It was lying in a sea of jumbled articles which had been spread out on the grass for a church yard sale. Since it did not seem to belong to a nearby article of furniture, it attracted little attention from the bargain hunters. Most seemed to regard it only as an object to navigate around so as to avoid tripping. But I was excited! I had several project ideas for old wooden drawers, and I was only sorry that the one I found did not seem to have any kin. When I inquired about it, the lady said, “Oh, somebody brought some things by the other day using the drawer as a box. I meant to throw it away. You can have it if you like.” I most definitely “liked” and after paying for my other purchases, I took my completely free drawer home!
Since there was only one drawer of a fairly large size (32x16x8”), I planned to turn it into a rustic coffee table for the family room. By installing hinges on the top of the table in piano-bench style, I could use the inside of the drawer for storage. I needed some lumber to make the top, reinforce the bottom, and form the legs. My husband had salvaged several old 4x4s that I determined would make very sturdy legs, and he even offered to bevel them for me to make them look nicer. That left the lumber needed for the top and bottom. For this, I turned to a business that makes large wooden storage buildings. There is a great deal of leftover scrap lumber that the owner generally has to pay to have hauled off. Though I offered to pay him, he graciously allowed my son and me to take some of his large scrap pieces of ¼” plywood for free!
In addition to my husband, my son was also a great help to me on this project. Though I had the idea in my head, I needed their help with much of the lifting and sawing, so it is their hands that you will see in many of these photos. The first thing that my son did was to remove an extra half-inch of wood from the top portion of the drawer back. I assume that this functioned as a stop when it was serving as a drawer; now it was exactly the right width and length to serve as the front support for my table top. The photos show the part that was removed and its new location at the inside front of the drawer (I took the photo after it was painted). This provided a place for the front edge of the lid to rest.
The next step involved removing the handles and the track or guide from the bottom of the drawer. My drawer did not have any hardware along the sides although there were holes to indicate that there might have been some at one point. My son then cut pieces of wood to reinforce the bottom and the back of the drawer. The bottom board was cut to slip up into the ¼” of space under the existing bottom of the drawer where it was nailed into place with finishing nails. Reinforcing the back was more difficult since the nails I had on hand were too long for the width of the wood. We ended up gluing the center portion and using nails along the sides.
Because we were working with very thin wood, we actually cut two pieces of wood to form the lid for our table. We cut the bottom piece to be the same width as the drawer front, with the result that it extended beyond the actual drawer by about ¾” on either side and when sitting directly on the front support flush against the back of the drawer front, it extended out past the back of the drawer by an inch. This piece was topped by another board (cut to personal preference) which became the actual top of the table. The two boards were necessary to compensate for the extra ¼” of space between the top edge of the drawer front and the top edges of the sides of the drawer, and to provide a solid surface to support the screws for the hinges. I neglected to take a picture of this before it was painted, but the photo shows what I am trying to describe. In order to make the two boards into a solid unit, we placed them on the top of the drawer, positioned them the way we wanted them to appear, traced where the bottom board needed to fit on the top board, and then glued them together with wood glue.
At this point, we needed to fill in all the holes and gaps left in the drawer and post wood. If we had had any wood putty on hand, I would have used that, but since we were out, I used another (cheaper!) option. Using the sawdust left over from all the cutting, we mixed it with enough wood glue to form a putty which we pushed into all the crevices, holes, and large knots. After this had dried, we sanded all the pieces with a sander to blend the patched areas in with the wood.
Now I had to make some purchases. I had not had to pay for any of the materials we had used so far. They were either given to me, were salvaged, or were things we already had on hand (like the wood glue and sand paper). Now I bought some hinges, a new set of drawer pulls, four wooden ball feet, and a quart of paint. The pulls were purely decorative, but when you see the final product, I think you will agree that they were worth it! There is really no way to calculate how much this project will cost for each individual who desires to do it since it depends very heavily on the available supplies. My drawer and wood were free, but I had to pay for paint and hardware. Another person may have to buy the wood, but have the paint and hardware on hand. In all, I spent twenty-six dollars on materials purchased especially for this project.
Back home with my purchases, my son marked the center point on the bottom of the leg pieces my husband had made (these were six-inch-long sections of the 4×4), drilled pilot holes, and screwed the balls onto the legs. The legs were attached to the drawer by screwing three 2 ½” wood screws down through the corners of the drawer into each leg.
Next came the painting. Not difficult, but time consuming. I used three coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry overnight before applying the next. Finally, I was ready to put everything together. I was going to attach the hardware myself, but by this time, my son was as excited to see the final product as I was and offered to do it for me! He carefully measured where to put the new decorative pulls and attached both them and the hinges. Our table was complete!
Because this drawer was so large and deep, I now have a very nice storage unit, perfect for keeping throws, games, photo albums, or even sheets and blankets for a sofa bed. It is sturdy enough to withstand pets and children and is in a style that will not be destroyed by scratches and dents. This is not fine furniture. It is furniture with family history, full of memories and the potential for making many more!
When I saw this drawer at the yard sale, I was drawn to it because I had a plan in mind requiring a drawer. In other words, I chose the drawer for the qualities that it possessed which were necessary to fulfill my plan. Likewise, when my existence was only a thought in the mind of God, He had a plan for my life. He says in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and ordained thee…”. Later, in Jeremiah 29:11 He states, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” But fortunately, unlike my choice to use this drawer, God did not choose to work on me because of any talent or quality of character that I possess. Instead, He has chosen to work His plan on a vessel that truly was worthy only of destruction that He might display the greatness of His love, grace, and power! What a comfort to my soul to know that the God of the universe knows me at my very worst, but thinks of me peaceably and is working in my life toward an expected end!