There's usually room for a built-in cutting board on base cabinets.

How to Build a Built-In Cutting Board

by Wade Shaddy

Everyone needs a cutting board. Built-in types are the most desirable. Just tug on the front, and it slides out ready to use. If you don't have one of these high-tech cutting boards, don't worry -- you can install one yourself. Most cabinets have a 3-inch-wide piece at the top. It's the perfect place for a built-in cutting board.

Remove the top drawer from any stack of drawers in your kitchen. Use a reciprocating saw to cut through two joints at the top of the drawer opening. There will likely be screws in the joints. The reciprocating saw will cut through them. Cut up as high as possible, without cutting into the countertop fascia.

Hit the piece between the cuts with a hammer if it doesn't fall out. It may have a nail in it. Insert a prybar under the cut piece, pry it out and remove it. Pull out or clip off any remaining nails flush with diagonal pliers.

Install a 3/4-inch dado blade on a table saw. Raise the blade to 1/2 inch in height. Adjust the fence to center the two pieces of 3/4-by-1 1/2-by-24-inch pine behind the blade one at a time. Cut a 1/2-inch-deep, 3/4-inch-wide channel down the center of each piece. These are the guides for the cutting board.

Measure the depth of the cabinet. Cut the guides 3/4 inch shorter than the measurement using a miter saw. Center the 3/4-by-1 1/2-by-3-inch pieces of pine flat on one end of the guides to form a "T" shape. Shoot four 1 1/4-inch pin nails through the 3-inch pieces to attach them to the ends of the guides.

Insert the guides into the cabinet drawer opening on the left and right where you cut the piece out. The channels on the guides should be facing each other, with the top of the "T" shape tight against the back of the cabinet on the inside. The inside of the channel should be flush with the side of the drawer opening on both sides. There will be a 1/2-inch lip of exposed pine on both sides when looking at the front of the opening.

Shoot two pin nails through the front of the cabinet, to penetrate into the ends of the guides. Shoot two pin nails through the top and bottom of the "T" shape in the back, to secure the guides in back.

Measure the distance between the guides, from left and right inside the channels. Subtract 1/8 inch. Use a table saw to cut a piece of maple medium density fibercore to the measurement parallel with the grain. Cut the piece of 3/4-by-3/4-by-30-inch maple to length on a miter saw using the same measurement. Measure the depth of the cabinet from the inside of the drawer opening to the back of the guide. Cut the fibercore perpendicular across the grain to the measurement.

Apply glue to one side of the 3/4-by-3/4-inch piece of maple. Place it flush on the front edge of the maple MDF board. Shoot four pin nails, evenly spaced, to secure the maple to the fibercore.

Sand the maple piece flush with the fibercore using 100-grit sandpaper. Round and smooth all the corners and edges. Fit the cutting board into the channels on both sides; the maple piece should be on the outside. Slide the cutting board into the cabinet. Insert the drawer; it slides underneath the maple piece, which also serves as the handle of the cutting board.

Items you will need

  • Reciprocating saw
  • Hammer
  • Prybar
  • Diagonal pliers
  • 3/4-inch dado blade
  • Table saw
  • 2 pieces pine, 3/4 by 1 1/2 by 24 inches
  • Miter saw
  • 2 pieces pine, 3/4 by 1 1/2 by 3 inches
  • Pin nailer
  • 1 1/4-inch pin nails
  • Maple medium density fibercore, 3/4 by 30 by 30 inches
  • Maple lumber, 3/4 by 3/4 by 30 inches
  • Wood glue
  • 100-grit sandpaper


  • Apply food-safe mineral oil to the cutting board at regular intervals to keep it supple.
  • Apply wax to the sides of the cutting board to ensure smooth travel in and out.


  • Wear eye protection when working with wood.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images