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Hey folks: it seems to be that time of the month again (no, not THAT): it’s build challenge day!

organize build challenge

You’ve seen me participate in these before (such as here and here… and oh yeah, here too) and probably have noticed a few other bloggers participating with the hashtag #OrganizeBuildChallenge on social media this morning. Doing one of these challenges is usually tough, but also a lot of fun — mainly because it always gets my butt in gear to complete something on my to-do list, but I have to constantly reassure myself that I’ve got the skills to put my project up next to the amazing showcase of DIY talent. As for my project? I went back into the kitchen for this one:

diy silverware drawer organizer

As I’ve gone through the process of remodeling the kitchen, I am now at the phase where I get to start putting everything back into place and making sure it works and flows for my needs. Part of that involves upgrading kitchenware, such as swapping out my mismatched plates, glasses with beer logos on them (way. too. many!), and bent silverware in favor of their “grown up” counterparts. Slowly, I’ve been editing each collection of “stuff” and donating things as I go — nixing the items I bought in one of those 50-piece sets where everything is cheap and melts or rusts in the dishwasher in favor of the items that cost a little more and make me feel like I’m a little better off than a bachelor’s first apartment after college — basically, what adulting is supposed to look like now that I’m in my 30s.

This drawer, along with the many other cabinets and drawer spaces throughout the kitchen, needed some refocus and tidying up. As I combed through the old set, I wanted to  find a convenient way to feature my recent purchase of an entire set of matching silverware. It may not seem like that big of a milestone until you’ve seen the hodgepodge of crap I was using before!

old silverware

I guess it’s one of those things that you just don’t notice on a daily basis, but keep in the back of your mind that it’s time to make the upgrade. I found this set during a Black Friday sale, and I love the simplicity of the design and the extra weight these have compared to my old set(s). There was just one little issue that bugged me: there were more types/sizes of silverware in this set than my old ones, and I ran out of spots for each one in the existing silverware organizer that I’ve been using.

old drawer organizer

It wasn’t a bad organizer by any means; it was clean and perfectly nice to look at, but also too small for the drawer. So, since this month’s theme was to organize something, now seemed like as good of a time as any to make a custom organizer and fully utilize the space inside the drawer:

silverware drawer organizer

Making a custom silverware drawer organizer is actually pretty easy: you just have to make sure you get the cuts precisely right, and have a few extra clamps on hand. If you want to make something similar, you’ll need (FYI, some o’ these are affiliate links):

  • craft wood of your choice (I went with 1/2″ for the frame and larger dividing pieces and 3/8″ thickness for the dividers between each type of cutlery)
  • wood glue
  • clamps (24″ or longer is a good choice)
  • nail gun & finishing nails (optional: you can still build the frame without this as long as you have extra clamps, but it will likely take a little longer since the finishing nails secure things while the glue dries)
  • something to line the table you’re working on (I used leftover wrapping paper)

And the usual suspects:

silverware drawer organizer wood

To get started, I first lined the drawer with some drawer liner material I picked up at IKEA (already an improvement, since it looks bright and clean). I also removed the drawer from its placement in the kitchen so that I could take precise measurements without the stove getting in the way (the drawer doesn’t slide all the way out, so I’m looking into extending these as well with new sliders if possible).

kitchen drawer

To protect my work surface (the dining room table), I rolled out some leftover wrapping paper that had conveniently not found its way back into storage yet after the holidays. The first task would be to create the frame for the cutlery holder. While I could have just cut the divider pieces and then tried to glue those together by itself, the frame keeps things square and sturdy.

silverware drawer organizer frame

I was playing around with ideas for a while, but settled on dividing the silverware by its five major groupings (butter knives, small and large spoons, small and large forks), with a space at the back for lesser-used items (serving spoons and forks) and a longer channel on the left for miscellaneous items (can opener, etc.).

silverware drawer organizer dry fit

I doubt sharing measurements for this project is at all helpful because this was a custom fit to the specific drawer, but I figured that it made better utilization of the available wood to cut the longest pieces first and then cut the shorter ones (or as Ana White might say, look to create columns first before dividing it up more; you’ll have fewer cuts). For those that are wondering, the cuts for the dividers between each type of flatware were 10″, which is probably a good standard for most sets. I also wanted the dividers between the cutlery to be slightly narrower, so I used 1/2″x3″ for the frame and middle dividers and 3/8″x3″ for the ones between the spoons/forks/knives (there are multiple options for species of wood in the craft wood section of your local home improvement store; I went with pine because even though it’s a softer wood, it’s cheaper and was the only one my store had with a 3/8″ width option).

silverware drawer organizer measure

I first glued and nailed the outer frame to make sure it fit into the drawer before gluing any other pieces. Once the outer frame was done and dry, I then cut the rest of the pieces and dry fit them before any gluing took place (this is a good time to sand each piece as well; sanding once it’s all together makes it much harder to reach the corners). At first, I thought I’d measure the width of my existing cutlery organizer and use this as a guide for creating each flatware channel, but it wound up being close enough in width to the wood I was using, so I just put scrap pieces in between each divider to use as a temporary spacer until the glue dried.

silverware drawer organizer spacing

Once you’re happy with the placement of each piece, start gluing. You’ll need clamps to help hold everything together until dry enough to move, which should take less than half an hour or so.

silverware drawer organizer clamps

After the glue is fully cured, it’s time to protect it. I’ve seen some DIY tutorials that show the piece being painted once finished, but I wouldn’t really recommend this; your cutlery will bang and scrape along these dividers over time, and chipped paint isn’t really a seasoning I prefer on my quesadillas. Instead, I went with the same food safe option as I did with my butcher block counters: a mix of beeswax and mineral oil. As a bonus, the treatment really brings out the color in the wood grain!

silverware drawer organizer empty

Then, it’s just a matter of adding things in where they belong.

silverware drawer organizer

There you have it! For about $10 in wood, that’s one drawer down, several more yet left to organize. And don’t forget to check out the other DIY projects in this series with several of my blogging pals:

organize challenge

What’s your latest DIY organization project? There’s always room on my to-do list for another!

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17 Comments

  1. I love this. I have 3 cutlery drawers (lots of inherited baking & serving utensils which has come in handy). I have very basic builder grade cabinets so the drawers are not spacious. I cut and used craft wood and screwed the dividers right into the drawers. Left me feeling like I have a designer kitchen! Lol Definitely a project worth doing!

  2. What a beautiful upgrade, Sarah! I would have never thought to make this! Now you have my mind going crazy on all sorts of rustic options… swoon!

  3. I think we have (had?) the same silverware organizer. Bed Bath and Beyond? It works well for our silverware set but I’m definitely doing this to divide up the random kitchen tools drawer. Stuff slides all over the place and becomes a giant jumble of grar.

    If you still have beer glasses left, I’ll take some off your hands, haha! My husband always runs out before the dishwasher is full and I hate hand-washing them. I think I’m pretty local to you..

    1. They’re the kind that have logos on them from various breweries… but if you want them, they’re yours if there’s a drop off point! Shoot me an email, sarah at uglyducklinghouse dot com.

  4. Sarah great minds think alike! Drawer dividers for the win for both of us and your silverware is looking beautiful. Great DIY solution.

  5. You are such a smart, talented, hard-working person! I love your blog! I’m in the middle of semi-heavy remodeling and this “fluffier” stuff helps keep me inspired, haha. I love this idea, so much easier than I thought it would be… definitely going to have to try this for myself with my vanity drawer. :) Thanks for the idea and instructions!! Your silverware drawer looks so nice and polished now. :)

  6. Great project!
    Years ago I had a silverware tray that had a smaller tray that moved back and forth across the top of the larger tray. I had it for a very long time and finally one move it just disintegrated and I haven’t been able to find another since.
    Not sure I can explain the rest very clearly. See how each of the piles of utensils doesn’t go to the top of the dividers? The forks and maybe the spoons are the closest to the top. To me, this space could be utilized. The smaller tray could be 1/2 or 3/4 size across; otherwise it would be built the same as the larger tray. The smaller version would have to have a bottom of some kind: maybe balsa or even foam core and then covered with felt?
    I’m going to try to think and write at the same time so this may not work very well. :-)
    My first thought would be that the dividers would have to be shallower in order for the tray to move across but that wouldn’t be necessary if the depth of the drawers would take the extra height of an extra tray. The extra tray wouldn’t have to be the same height as the bottom tray.
    The silverware tray I had originally wasn’t as wide as the drawer itself which for me was perfect. I had things that were larger and therefore taller (can opener, whisk, large spoons, etc.) that I rested along the side.
    Hope this is clear.
    Cathy

    P.S. I think it was you that gave a brief “lecture” on double spacing after a period (full stop). I’ve been a touch typist for over 50 years – no computers back then. We got rapped on our knuckles with a ruler if we looked at our fingers while we typed. To this day if I look down when I’m typing my fingers stop. I’ve been double-spacing after the period (full stop) all that time and my fingers don’t know any better. I did try to stop but that didn’t work out so well. My fingers wouldn’t work. Yes, I could set up a “rule” that would make the change automatically but to me it just doesn’t look right.
    This is kinda, sorta, maybe tongue-in-cheek but I gotta tell ya it’s hard breaking old habits. But if you come up with anything else that is no longer really acceptable I would be glad to hear about it.
    Now having said all of this crap and you aren’t the person who gave the brief “lecture” then I apologize. Hope I haven’t offended you? :D
    CM

    1. Hard to offend, Cathy! But I think perhaps I WAS the person who said it… I worked with a guy who, every time I double-spaced (I too had the same habit), would lecture me on single spacing. The whole thing goes back to readability and I eventually got better at single spacing (all my old posts usually have double, and I will periodically go back and fix a few here and there when time permits). The original double spacing had a purpose on typewriters, but thanks to modern letter spacing and uniformity, it’s no longer necessary, so the habit went out of style… with the main reason being that when you double space on a computer screen, it creates these voids (visually) everywhere they exist… and for graphic designer types like the guy I worked with, drives them absolutely mad! It was easier just to learn to do it the “right” way than listen to the griping again.

      As for the drawer, you’re 100% right… there would have been enough vertical space to possibly allow for a shallow sliding drawer on top. I actually thought of this during the build, but believe it or not, I really wanted to have deeper dividers! That older flatware organizer was shallower, and the spoons in particular kept getting stacked too tall, so the top ones would come loose and slide all over the place because the dividers were too shallow, so I wound up solving the issue this time around with something deeper. But now that I’ve gotten rid of the excess silverware I no longer need, it pretty much would have resolved itself. I have several other drawers I still need to organize, so I’ll keep this idea in mind for those and see if they could use the extra vertical space. Great suggestion!

  7. great project, i can see how this would be applicable to many different spots in the house! underwear/socks, tool drawer, etc. thanks for the tutorial!

  8. Can someone please tell me where I can find the wood for something like this? i’m DYING to make one but cannot find anywhere that carries wood like this (And I’m in Phoenix). hobby lobby waS a bust. Home Depot isn’t going to have anything this small.

    help!

    1. Actually, I got my supplies at Lowe’s! Home Depot carries similar widths. In my local Lowe’s, there were the longer lumber pieces (1x and 2x’s) and below were smaller bins with narrower lumber bits in oak, poplar, and pine. I’ve been to Phoenix and there should be a similar stock, but if you can’t find it, ask a clerk to bring you to the correct aisle.

  9. My husband made something identical to this for my camper, and all the silverware just slid underneath the dividers. (Mostly the knives). Needless to say, he is going to put a back to the tray!

  10. Look so nice! Just $10 and you make the drawer orderly and so elegant. I think I can try this tutorial.

  11. Hi there.
    I was just wondering how you cut the wood nicely and made sure it was really precise so it would all for together.

    Regards
    Sara

    1. Hi Sara, most of my answers for how I get things to fit are trial and error! When working on anything that needs a precise fit, it’s best to cut it slightly longer than you know you’ll need, then take a small sliver of the material at a time (I do this with my miter saw) until it fits snugly. That’s how I do it, anyway. It takes a few tries to get it right, but it’s better than cutting it too short. Hope that helps!