Design Ideas for Roll-Out Shelves

Cabinetmakers offer tips and methods for constructing pull-out shelving so that stored items don't fall off the edge. March 1, 2006

I am wondering what everyone uses as a rail, or sides, and a front and back to keep stuff from falling off of shelves? Do you build the shelves like a drawer? I have tried several different ways in the past, but I am looking for some new ideas.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor C:
I use wirework (see Hafele) or plywood sides/backs/fronts, just like a conventional drawer, only lower. I prefer the lowered front designs like the drawers you used to see in old-fashioned linen stores.

From contributor D:
I have the same problem with some shelves I'm doing now. Unless I come up with another idea, I'm going to trim all sides of my 3/4" shelf with 1 1/2" "rails". The 3/4" lip will hopefully be sufficient enough to keep things on the shelf when its pulled out. The rails will also give me a secure place to attach the slides.

From contributor F:
I make them as a dovetailed drawer box. 3" back, sides same height for 4 " at the rear and then taper down to 1" at the front.

From contributor M:
We do them similar to what Contributor F just said. Its time consuming compared to quicker and dirtier ways but they are nice and customers love them. We have on a few "budget" jobs ripped 4" pre-finished maple BHK down to 2", re-dadoed and just built it as a drawer box with a lock-shoulder joint and pre-finished bottoms.

From contributor T:
We have done the tapered sides in a recent job (double check your hinge clearance just to avoid any unforeseens) but normally just do them as a shallower drawer. Our standard drawer side is 4.5" and when making pullouts we just cut one regular length side then rip it down the middle to get both sides of a pullout. If not dovetailing, we dadoe-in the back and make rabbets on the front to overlap the sides which looks nicer than rabbeting the front into the side as with our standard box. Either way its just a shorter drawer box.

From contributor S:
I'm much too lazy to go through all the trouble of making a drawer for a shelf. I just cut a melamine shelf, attach euro or full extend slides to the side edges, and screw on 3mm x 1/1/2" solid plastic edgebanding to the front and back edges using the most attractive screws I can find. I also use zero clearance hinges so I don't have to furr in the shelf sliding hardware. That's way too much work as well.

From contributor W:
There are lot's of solutions for this. Nevertheless, the whole idea seems crazy to me. First of all the cost is unnecessarily high, because you're hanging drawers and doors. But much more than that, using these things always drives me nuts, and I am someone who cooks and cleans up. You often have to open 2 doors to roll out a drawer, so you have these doors flapping around when you're just trying to get something in or out of the drawer. If you then need to open another drawer, you often have to close the first drawers and doors. So much opening and closing and pushing and pulling to deal with a task.

I recognize that some people like the look of a door rather than three or four drawers, but I always say form follows function. The lower cost is just an added benefit. Plus I can make them look and work fantastic. If I am doing these despite my reservations, I would always add some kind of lip or wall on all sides. Stuff sliding off a finished wood or melamine shelf is yet another frustration.

From contributor S:
I agree with Contributor W that roll-out shelves are generally a complete waste of convenience for the customer and a waste of a lot of labor for the fabricator. I generally do all drawers in lower cabinets. But there's one place where roll-out shelves are hard to substitute out: pantry cabinets. My customers don't want to put pantry items into drawers, and they want pantry shelves to roll out if the cabinet is deeper than a foot or so.