I had finally assembled this dovetailed, built-in shoe cabinet for my kids shoes, and it was time to consider the hardware. (This post is not about building the shoe cabinet, though I give a few construction details at the end. Hang with me, here.) Without thinking much about it, I drove out to the local Lowes and picked up eight drawer knobs for about $2 each. There were a nice antique brass color, which I thought would look nice up against the pine cabinet.
But before I got around to attaching them to the drawer fronts, my wife and I had one of our periodic sit-down-with-the-household-budget sessions, and it made me rethink my decision to buy the knobs. Why should I go out and buy something if I might be able to make my own version with materials I already have on hand?
Because–let’s face it–I’ve been shaping small pieces of wood to my liking for years now. I have saws, planes, and carving gouges. How hard could it be to fashion a few drawer pulls out of some scrap wood?
As it turns out, not hard at all. It was, in fact, one of the easiest parts of the whole project. I made a couple of prototypes out of a section of 2X4 and showed them to my wife. She critiqued the design and dimensions, and we settled on something we both thought would complement the cabinet.
I was surprised at how simple it was to make these things. When it came right down to it, four drawer pulls took me under an hour to fashion. (This post is not about how to make them, but the process was simple. I used a 1″ wide carving gouge to carve out the inside. Then I used a saw, handplane, and spokeshave to round over the ends and top edges. Making them all out of a single piece wood ensures they are perfectly matched. Dimensions are 1″ thick, 1 1/2″ tall, and 5″ wide.)
I was able to make each pull wide enough that only one is needed on each drawer.
I screwed them on from the back using wood screws.
Each one is perfectly fitted to the human hand.
So, to answer the question in the title, there are several good reasons to make your own drawer pulls.
- You can make them to match your work perfectly. Making them from offcuts from your project ensures flawless grain/color matching. Or you can use a contrasting wood of your choice. You could even laminate woods of several different colors for a psychedelic effect. (I briefly considered making these from a darker wood for contrast but then decided that the prominent grain pattern of the southern yellow pine needed no further contrasting elements.)
- You can make them whatever size and shape you want. Are your hands exceptionally large or small? Scale them to your own personal comfort. You can make them narrow or wide. You can round the corners or make them perfect squares. You can make circular pulls if you really want. The dimensions can be exactly suited to the piece you are building.
- They cost you little more than time to make, especially because you can nearly always make them from scrap wood you already have lying around. Unlike money, we all have exactly the same amount of time to spend, and we get a new supply of it every day as long as we live. Turning time into money which we then spend on things is often an inefficient process–better to spend your time directly on producing a thing and cut out the money altogether.
- Making your own pulls frees you from the limitations imposed on your work by mass-production and arbitrary fashion. You don’t have to design your work around the hardware that large corporations happen to have made available to you at the moment. You don’t have to embellish your custom-made work with mass-produced hardware that looks just like the hardware on ever other piece of furniture out there.
If you are enough of a woodworker to build something that needs handles and/or pulls, then you are enough of a woodworker to make your own.
(And if you’re just reading this in hopes of getting more construction details about the shoe cabinet, here are a couple more shots that shows how each drawer tips out. The carcase is made of 1X8s dovetailed at the corners. The drawers fronts are each made of glued-up 2X8s. Drawers are dovetailed, and there’s a solid bottom captured in a groove. The sides come only about 2/3 the way up the fronts, and the backs are just two rails dovetailed into the sides. The drawers rest on rails screwed into the inside of the carcase. The “hinge” at the bottom of each drawer is just a long finish nail, and there’s a cord that prevents the drawer from tipping too far out.)
So anyway, I’m taking the knobs I bought back to the store for a refund.
I may never buy drawer pulls again.