Stealthy LP Album Storage

My client, Jason, and his wife are avid vinyl record collectors. Jason rips them to digital, eliminating the crackles and pops, while retaining the dynamic range that vinyl is known for. They have maybe a thousand records. And they need a nice place to store them. Plenty of room and storage space in this 6000 square foot century home, but the builders never envisioned the needs of an LP collector, or envisioned an LP at all for that matter.

The Scene

The starting point – a wall of cabinets built on site during the construction of the house in 1916. He asked me to simply remove the two doors, lower right, and add some storage shelves or drawers. I suggested that we keep the doors and build behind them, maintaining the the look of the original cabinetwork. He hadn’t thought of that as a possibility, but he liked it. Later I added storage behind those 5 drawers as well.

The craftsmanship of these cabinets is first rate. The casework is remarkably square and consistent. The joinery in the frame & panel doors is perfect. It all had to be custom fit to this space, so I’m thinking that the house had a cabinet shop set up downstairs, probably with a line shaft powering the saws and other machinery on pulleys. There was a enough custom work in that house to keep a large crew busy for months.

There were two different jobs, the “Two Doors Project”, building storage for the bottom/right area where those two doors are, and the “5 Drawers Project” building storage where the drawers are, next to the two doors.

I ended up converting those drawers as well. A very different challenge.

My Materials

When I first moved to the Cleveland area in 2016, I worked with a local contractor to build a large bathroom in this house. It involved removing some walls and I thought I would salvage the old 2x4s used to build those walls. They came in handy, as they were used as part of this project for the same owner.

These old 2x4s were rough sawn and full of sawed off nails. I had to dig them all out, then plane and joint the boards into square stock. You can see some of the smaller boards had already been planed.

The white lines on that one board are from the old plaster walls. The spaces in between were from thin strips of wood lath. You can see the small nail holes that fastened the wood lath to the 2×4 framing.

This old lumber was used to make the drawer fronts, and the face frame for the new drawers behind the two doors. The drawer boxes, for both the new drawers, and for the changes for the 5 drawers were made of soft maple with baltic birch drawer bottoms.

The “Two Doors” Build

There was room to make four drawers behind those two doors. Each drawer was roughly 19″ deep, so each one could contain 120-125 LPs with a mix of single and double albums, so that’s about 500 albums behind the doors.

First …well, second, after some very tedious measurements and design work, I made the face frame that would surround each of the four drawers.

I’ll talk about those two vertical slots later.

The Drawer Boxes

The drawers will have Blum undermount “BlueMotion” drawer glides. These are very high quality, soft-close, and German made. Because the drawers are about 12″ in the back, I made them by edge gluing two smaller boards. Since this is a class operation, of course the drawer fronts were dovetailed.

The Drawer Fronts

These are a frame & panel style, where a thick frame surrounds a thinner panel which is inset into grooves in the frame. Both the frames and the panels were made from the old wood. The panels also had to be glued up to be wide enough, since the boards were less than 4″ wide.

The frames took a little more work. I wanted them to look nice and also to be durable.

This part shows a bit of both concerns. Note the grain pattern in the wide face. The lines are all parallel and very close together. It is edge grain, rather than face grain. Edge grain dimensions change much less than face grain when humidity changes, so it is less prone to cracking. The narrow grain spacing means the tree grew slowly, and boards like this are exceptionally stable.

The other part, is the looking-good part. This part will be the top edge of the drawer front, the edge you pull to open the drawer. The curves look nice. Another thing that looks nice is the small, 1/8″ chamfer.

What you don’t really see in this picture is the other edge of this same board, the edge that touches the inside panel. It has an interesting profile to make it just a little fancy.

Putting It Together

All the parts are stained and lacquered. The drawer runners are installed. The cabinet has been built, and the drawers are all put together.

Note the panel that divides the drawers, front to back. This is so you can store just a few without them sliding down. The panels are removable. Remember those slots in the face frame? If you don’t need the panels, they can be stored in those slots. Also, if you select a few records, you can store them in the slots until you are ready to file them back in the drawers.

The Five Drawers Project

This was a simpler job, in a way. The idea is to keep the front looking just the way it always has. The difference will be that the top three drawers will become one big deep drawer, and the bottom two drawers will also become one deep drawer. Fortunately, the combined drawer depth is just right for vinyl LPs. The “simpler” part is that I don’t have to make drawer fronts, and that saves a lot of work, but the “in a way” part is that I have to be very careful getting the fit to be perfect so it still looks original.

The original drawers had these small metal rollers.

As before, the drawers will be on undermount runners, so the existing cabinet internals will have to be modified for that. Some of the internal drawer dividers had to be removed, but I nhad to keep the finished front edge to keep the assembly looking original.

Making The False Drawer Fronts

First I removed all the drawers and separated the drawer fronts from the drawer boxes. One drawer bottom had some, um, “folk art?” on the bottom. Using the drawer fronts and the front edges of the dividers, I made a large panel that would become the front of the new deep drawers.

I made a mockup of the existing cabinet frame so I could test fit things. In the background you can see two corbels, still in their plastic wrapping. I use those in the fireplace surround I describe in another blog post.

And here is the top set of three drawers, also fitted as one drawer front.

The Drawer Boxes

This is a little bit different deal from the Two Doors project. There will be three rows of albums, 19 inches deep in each set of drawers, and now we have a weight problem.

15 pounds of records. I think I have the calculations in my notes, but instead of rummaging around to find them, I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that I needed heavy duty runners for this. Fortunately, Blum makes a heavy duty undermount runner.

I built the drawer boxes with the shape of the other project in mind, but they had to be different. The front of the sides had to be high to hold the false multiple-drawer-front fascia in place.

This is the bottom of one of the drawers. Looking carefully, in the photo you will see two lines of screws running vertically across the bottom. These are holding the row dividers tight to the bottom, to help keep the bottom flat. Remember all those heavy albums? The edges of the bottom sit in grooves that run all around the perimeter, so this prevents a bow in the middle.

Finishing Up With The Finish

Now is the time where I show all my parts with nice shiny lacquer, and the required many-clamps photo of my glue up. So, for your viewing pleasure …

That’s me with my friend, Mike, in the background. He doesn’t have anything to do with this story.

Drawer Runners Aren’t Usually A Topic

They are usually just a mention. So, I’ll mention one thing. The two drawers together are actually a little too deep for the albums, so I raised the bottom of the drawer box up a couple of inches. Because of that, the drawer runners sit on ledgers a couple of inches from the bottom of the cabinet.

Seems like a waste of space, but we have to keep the false facade in order, and it’s better to raise the bottom rather than to make the user reach lower in the drawer box to get at the records.

And I’ll mention one more thing, something unexpected. It seems that for one of the runners, the Blum BlueMotion soft-close wasn’t working. I called to get the part replaced, but this was 2020, and Covid lockdown was still in force across the entire planet. That included the Gerrman factories where the Blum runners were made, meaning I couldn’t get a replacement. No one had them. I had to fix the thing myself.

The Finale

Making things in the shop is one thing, but often there is a significant installation phase, and this was one of those. It took four days to install both of these sets of drawers, but it was worth it. Came out beautifully!

There is now storage for one 1000 albums, but as you see, they still need more! What’s more, they can close the doors and drawers and the cabinets look just as they were built in 1916.

Client response:

“Wow, you overdelivered again!”

I’ll take it.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: