3 or 4 drawers per cabinet stack?

aliris19January 31, 2011

I thought I'd sort of worked everything out in my kitchen until I went around to cabinet makers and kitchen stores. Seems the actual depths of drawers is less than I'd figured, even though I had understood this was to be an issue.

So does everyone basically put 3 drawers and not 4 in a stack or has someone figured out how to ream enough space from their drawers to stack up 4 usefully?

Because I'm hearing almost everyone tell me I should scale back to 3. And I certainly don't want drawers that are too shallow. But OTOH if there's some secret to maximizing drawer depth I'd sure like to hear it!

This cabinet-stuff is the hardest kind of decisions to date! How on earth does anyone do this??????


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Do you know what you are planning to store in these drawers? My cabs are old and maybe there is more room in them than new ones. I can see that a 4-drawer base can be useful depending on what you're putting in there.

I suggest you do a kitchen inventory of everything you want to store in the kitchen. Then organize those items into the zones where they will be used. Those items can determine what kind/size of cab/drawer you need. It's a process, but a very important one.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 2:25AM
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This all depends on what you want to store in them and what kind of cabinets (framed v. frameless) you have, I think.

We have three different sets of internal depths:
- a four-drawer (frameless) that's 4/6/6/6
- a three-drawer (frameless) that's 4/10/10
- a three-drawer (framed) that's 5/9/9 (was supposed to have shallower top drawers...long story! But as it turns out, they're just the right size for storing spices standing, so I think that's what's going in there)

The two sets of deep drawers are for cookware/storage and bakeware, respectively. Top drawers of each hold related utensils. The shallow drawers in the four-drawer bank are important, though---that's where wraps, potholders, wine corkscrews, dish towels, etc. all live. Putting those in a deep drawer is frustrating---I know, since that's where they were in the old kitchen! We also had a four-drawer framed cabinet that I really like because I could put bakeware into it in a single layer. Cabinetmaker and DH talked me out of replicating it exactly, so we switched it to a three-drawer setup instead---still not sure this was wise. I liked having the single layer!

I'd map out where you're storing what first to see whether or not having four-drawer banks makes sense. You might have a layout with enough top shallow drawers to compensate for only having deep lower drawers. Hope that's helpful...

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 2:25AM
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Artemis and I wrote at the same time, but said almost the same thing!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 2:28AM
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Check out the "Planning for Storage" topic in the "Read Me" thread. While it doesn't say "store xxx in yyy", it does explain how to plan where things go that might help you in deciding what configuration to use for your storage needs.

In our case, I knew I wanted shallow drawers for silverware, plastic bags/wraps, linens, pot holders, utensils (prepping/cooking/baking/serving).

I ended up w/one 4-drawer stack and the rest 3-drawers (except where the MW and WD are).

The lone 4-drawer stack is on the peninsula b/w the kitchen and DR and across from the refrigerator. It holds:

(1) Silverware (for eating at DR & peninsula)
(2) Plastic bags & wraps, wax paper (for storing leftovers, making lunches, etc...all near the refrigerator and near MW (wax paper))
(3) Extension cords & related items
(4) Bread (for making lunches so near refrigerator & "Lunch Making Center" and now near "Snack Center")

Linens are in the top shallow drawer b/w the refrigerator and sink

Prep & Cooking Utensils under cooktop so they can be used from the cooktop as well as on either side.

Pot holders b/w wall ovens and cooktop


    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 2:50AM
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I did post a whole slew of elevations with my attempt at figuring out depths. I'll put a link to them below (if I can find em!). I'd relish any opinions as to whether I've planned these depths sensibly or reasonably. I didn't hear anything about that the first time around posting and I'm not sure whether that's because it's a boring question, my plans are inscrutable, I asked too many questions in a single thread or the stars weren't aligned properly. Alternatively the plans might have been perfect, but I doubt that highly! Again, I'd be thrilled if anyone had anything to comment on about that level of detail in my plans. But in the meantime, presuming my plans for 4 drawers seemed OK to you-all, I was confused about the disconnect between that presumption and the feedback I was getting from the professionals.

Therefore I was wanting to try to resolve this disconnect: maybe people aren't really using 4 drawers out there in practice? That is, I'm not wondering whether you *can* do 4 drawers, but whether you should. And I guess I hear you saying that it's fine. Only the KDs I've spoken with seem very sure that it's not a good idea and have basically planned in 3 drawers instead. I'm not sure their cabinet lines even allow those 4 drawers. Alternatively the cabinets they happen to have, have a large loss of space behind the drawer fronts. I've even been told that the interior space would be the same with 3 and 4 drawers so I might as well go with 3. That completely confuses me!

Do I just need to be talking with different cabinet salespeople???

I would much prefer frameless to framed as I believe the amount of space for storage is lesser for framed cabinets. But I can't even be sure of that; I can't tell whether that's in part a function of the manufacturer and not the box-type.

There are just too many variables!

Here is a link that might be useful: elevations

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 3:24AM
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I would consider 1 4-drawer stack in your kitchen to hold things like dish towels, pot holders, wraps and bags. I do not have one in my new kitchen adn am struggling to figure out where to keep these things!

I don't understand how the drawer sizes would be the same in 3 and 4 drawer stacks. I'm not a cabinet expert, but it makes no sense to me!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 6:35AM
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Makes no sense to me either ... only I presume what it means is the manufacturer has a standard drawer insert, it sets down below the top of the drawer face, and if you want a larger drawer face, by just a couple inches that is, you get the same drawer insert. So what differs between, say, a 6" and an 8" drawer is the amount of free space above the drawer insert to the top of the drawer. So say you had a 6" drawer, you might get a 3" drawer inside of that with 2" clearance to the top of the drawer when it was pushed in; with a 8" drawer you'd get 4" clearance atop the same 3" box.

I so didn't like the sound of that that I didn't even question further. I don't know if this is specific to the particular line of cabinetry the designer was talking about; he mentioned it was the same thing in his high-end Italian line and Kraftmade as well.

Which leads to another question (sorry; I should probably put these in separate threads): shouldn't a pull-out drawer be as deep as its drawer front, or nearly so? Is this a key distinction between custom and stock cabinets? Do the stock, then, have one-size-fits-many drawer fronts whereas the custom made would be sized to match the drawer front precisely?

If I'm right about this, does anyone out there find it irksome to have a drawer box that's not really as high as its drawer front?


    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 6:49AM
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I think this answer depends on whether you have framed or frameless cabinets. When I was looking for cabinets, I happened on a kitchen store that had a brand that offers both framed and frameless cabinets (DeWils). Careful measuring and comparing showed me that I gained about the equivalent of a normal shallow drawer in each drawer stack by going with frameless cabinets, not to mention the increase in width. This convinced me that I had to get frameless cabinets for my smallish kitchen. My two narrowest drawer stacks are 4-drawers, both with 3 shallow depth drawers and one deeper on the bottom. My 18 inch wide stack in my prep area and close to my range has cutlery, then spatulas, slotted spoons, wooden spoons, rubber scraper spatulas, then knives, scissors, measuring spoons, and my bread drawer is in the bottom. My other 4-drawer (27 inch wide, in my secondary prep area) has random prep and gadgets, then foils, wraps, baggies, etc, then linens, and mixing bowls on the bottom. These stacks are approx 6.5/6.5/6.5/10.5 drawer fronts, with outside box depths of 4/4/4/8 and usable space (from the bottom of the drawer box and including the free space) 4/4.5/4.5/8.75. These are all approximate. Notice that the top drawer loses a bit of usable space, I suppose because of the cabinet box?

My remaining drawer stacks are 3-drawer (42 inch and 48 inch wide).

My drawer boxes are not as deep as my drawer fronts, and I think that this is typical, though I'm not sure. It doesn't bother me at all. Things can still stick up above the drawer box. I don't think it's a stock vs. custom issue, but I don't really know. Here's a pic with 2 drawers open.

If it were me, I would choose one drawer depth configuration for your 3 drawers and one for your 4 drawers, and then keep them all the same. Otherwise, the horizontal lines in your kitchen are too busy. I think if you look at photos of kitchens, you will see that almost all of them are this way, although there are exceptions. I know that this does not maximize space useage, but to me, the small difference in drawer depths is not worth the busy look. I also would not put more than 2 different depths in one stack, which I think is also pretty standard.

Finally, I've posted a link from a fellow GWer about framed vs frameless drawers. The drawers make the most difference in space between framed and frameless because with framed, there is a horizontal frame between each drawer.

Here is a link that might be useful: framed vs frameless drawer info

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 9:59AM
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Here are the dimensions of mine...

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 10:18AM
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Fori is not pleased

I have both.

My cabinets are um...my drawer stacks are vertically frameless. I didn't want to give up the space for frames in the drawers, but overall my cabinets are framed.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 10:45AM
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aliris, frameless gives more volume. In 2009 and 2010 it was studied and commented on. Many people commented on this.

2/ aliris, a drawer front does not need to hang down below the drawer floor.
... It often does that, for esthetic or cosmetic reasons (hide something or uniform-ize something). If it "hangs down", it overlaps into the space that the drawer below would have been able to use productively, so any overlap can be deemed a space waster.
... And the reason why I'm writing this out, is that I have read comments you have made about the drawer fronts being overdimensioned and causing space to be un-available-ized. (how's that for modern speak?). But it's not as unavailable as unavailablonium, it can be made available for productive use. If you do as I did, you screw the drawer front onto the drawer yourself, so you control how much space you get and how much you lose by having some overhang that may be necessary for esthetic and cosmetic reasons. I bought Ikea drawers and ikea drawer fronts (actually, 15" by 30" DOORS, which I turned sideways) and I handled the drilling and screwing al by myself. It's a 3-D exercise in real life unobtainium, i mean obtaining volumetric unavailablium.

Hope this helps.

Inside my 15"high mega drawers, I have interior drawers. Some are 3"h, some are 4.5"h.

By the way, I removed the bottom plate of the cabinet box from Ikea. In my install it's a bank of drawers, which only needs side wall to hold the slides. (a door-fronted cube that would need a floor). This gave me a lot more space. Another day, there's more to tell, about other things, like how I put the feet under the sides. ETc.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:16AM
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When I wrote
"... Inside my 15"high mega drawers, I have interior drawers. Some are 3"h, some are 4.5"h. ...."
it was to tell you how to get FOUR or more drawers in a stack, without causing the inevitable problem(s) that result from having four drawer fronts. Four fronts means you have set for all time the heights inside each drawer. My solution, using internal drawers, lets me reposition them at will. I unscrew two screws on each side and put them higher or lower, whenever I want.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:41AM
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I didn't read through this thread but will boldly contribute anyhow. Please forgive me if I am irrelevant or just repeating info here.

This is my set-up

2 drawer stacks 36"--housing pots, bowls, colanders, food processors, trays, etc
2 drawer stacks 18"--dishtowels, aprons, mitts, small appliances like hand mixer and stick blender

3 drawer stacks 30"--small drawers: flatware/servingware, napkins/placemats
large drawers--plates, glasses, tablecloths

4 drawer stacks 15"--spices, measuring cups, measuring spoons, all utensils, cookie cutters, tiny bowls, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: how i organized

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:50AM
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Pudgybaby -- that is really helpful, seeing the pictures and having those precise measurements of all three dimensions, drawer fronts, box depth and inside (useable) depth. Thank you very much!

And it's also very interesting what you say about the busy-ness of differing drawer-heights. I hadn't considered that. Nor about having more than 2 drawer heights per stack. I'll have to look through the photo gallery I guess; I just hadn't even noticed any of that!

And that link is just wonderful too. I know that frameless is more efficient of space, but I hadn't actually seen it laid out so nicely. When you mention this in cabinet stores people just nod at you indulgently and make you feel like an idiot for caring; at least that's my feeling. But why on earth would you want to be spending thousands and thousands of dollars on framing any space at all into oblivion? It's just so wasteful!

Buehl -- thank you too for your specifics. Omega is the framed line I am thinking about as well as Merit. I really appreciate those specifics!

Wow, davidrol -- you may be more imaginative than I can handle; certainly at this time of the morning after an all-nighter. I'm pretty sure what you're suggesting is unattainablized for me. I've just got too much on my plate to be figuring this stuff out. It's the sad truth! Were I older, or younger, I think I'd be right there with you, but at this stage of the game, I just can't do it, I don't think...though your second explanation came out a little better! I get it now. I was beginning to come around to the wisdom of some of those drawers-within-drawers and I see you've taken it to the nth degree. Sounds neat.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 12:03PM
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Using David's idea gives you a mix b/w using roll out tray shelves (ROTS) and drawers...part drawers/part ROTS. If you just need to access the contents in the drawer, you have the advantages of the drawer. If you need to access the contents in the "insert ROTS", you have the disadvantages of ROTS.

You do have more flexibility with the hybrid, but you still have the "fixed" overall depth you have with drawers with the added loss of height space b/c of the ROTS bottom and, possibly, glides (if the insert has bottom-mount). If side-mount for the insert, you lose width but you only lose height from the ROTS bottom...but you may still lose width even if you remove the ROTS unless you also remove the side mounted glides.

If you really need that much flexibility, you might consider ROTS instead of drawers + ROTS in those cabinets that need that flexibility....you won't lose as much space as the hybrid.

Now that I think about it...if your cabinets have stiles b/w the drawers, you will have more overall space w/ROTS b/c there are no stiles w/ROTS.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Oops! I meant to say...

If you really need that much flexibility, you might consider ROTS instead of drawers in those cabinets that need that flexibility....you won't lose as much space as the hybrid.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 1:13PM
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I am also trying to decide on base cabinet configurations. Specifically, for my dishes, should I get a 3 drawer or 4 drawer cab? My plates won't all stack in the upper drawers of a 4 drawer as they would be too shallow, and I don't want to store them in the bottom drawer, so I would have to make 2 stacks, or use 2 smaller drawers for all the dishes. Should I get a 3 drawer and try to fit them all in 1 drawer? How do you store your dishes in drawers?

I'm considering 1 ROT cab, for pots and pans and taller items - is that the best choice for taller items? Or do deep drawers provide the same type storage?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:34AM
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See this four-drawer stack to the right of the stove? See how the top drawer is only tall enough to hold rolls of aluminum foil? All three of the top drawers in that stack are that short, the bottom one is the only in which to anything taller than about 3". There were five wide, shallow drawers elsewhere in the kitchen for servingware/flatware/gadets/manuals/junk drawers, so the shallower drawers in the 4-stack weren't needed for things like that.

Anyway, that was our reasoning to be vastly inclined toward three-drawer stacks.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:49AM
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Thanks drbeanie2000. A couple weeks ago I read a post from someone who regretted not having enough smaller drawers so that was stuck in my mind. Clearly putting dishes in drawers that small won't work! For the dishes cabs, I'll go 3!

Any thoughts on my one ROT idea for tall pots and pans? Or would deep drawers be adequate? I've tried to make lists of my stuff, and measure the height of tallest items...what a chore, I have notes everywhere. Need to go through my notes and papers today!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 12:00PM
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I am in the early stages of a remodel, but I think the layout is finalized. In my existing cheap builder) kitchen, I have one 4-drawers stack, but each drawer is small, with lots of stile between drawers. In the new kitchen, I have one 4-stack, with a narrow drawer on top, and each drawer below being a bit deeper. This is the way my cabinet-maker drew them out; I didn't really think about it, except I know that the drawers will hold potholders, measuring cups, wraps and bags, and towels.

In my 3-drawer stacks, I specified the height of the bottom drawer to accommodate the things I want to put there, so drawers 2 and 3 will not be the same height (top drawers will be the same height all the way around the kitchen). My second 3-drawers stack will match the first.

Mominator, making a list of what goes where should help you make that decision. In addition to the space, think about how often you use those tall pots, and whether the extra step to get to a ROT would be a hassle. Maybe if you don't use them much, they could go on a top shelf of an upper cabinet?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 12:33PM
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Hi Annkh, it sounds like we are at a similar place in our remodels, I have just finalized the layout in the last few days...I think it's the last revision! I need to finish up these cabinet choices asap, because everything else is rolling along, and my cabinet decisions are slowing us down!

Regarding the ROT, good point about useage of taller items...most items would fit in a large drawer, and if tallest pot doesn't fit, yes I could store elsewhere. It might be worth it to chance the drawers. I have a 4' wide place to put either a ROT or drawer cabs for pots and pans.

To both you and drbeannie2000 - I just calculated that my FiestaWare dishes to go in 1 large drawer are a whopping 68 lbs. IDK if my drawers will be capable of that weight, and IDK if I actually want them all in one drawer - that just seems like a lot of weight to put in one drawer. They are all different colors and even on the upper cabinet shelf when I wanted to use certain colors I had to lift a heft of plates to get what I wanted. It might actually work better for me to have 4 drawers, then I can put my fav dishes in one drawer, and less fav - or 'summer colors' - in the next drawer. Seasonally switch them around, most used in top drawer. I'm putting an island in my remodel and that's where the dishes cabs will be - I will have 2 - 24" W drawer cabs for dishes (FW in one, and a set of pottery dishes in the other.) I think, after all, that 4 drawers might work better for me with these heavy dishes, and the bottom/largest drawer will hold the serving bowls and platters to these dishes. Does anyone see a downside to that?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 1:06PM
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Drbeannie2000, this has been confusing. I didn't realize your small drawer is smaller than what I have now, and I've been trying to calculate useable space based on what I was told for the dimensions of the new drawers.
I am coming from 3 drawer cabs. Now I understand how much my top drawer will shrink if I go to 4 drawers! So I miscalculated the useable interior height, bleh! It looks like it would be as you posted - enough room for a box of foil! I could only stack 2 cereal bowls, so NO to 4 drawers for dishes (whose dumb idea was that?!)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 1:33PM
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Drbeanie is showing inset cabs. You'll have more room than that if your cabs are frameless construction. If your kitchen is small, it pays to have a cabinetmaker make your cabs as you have less leeway than a big kitchen. Everything has to fit like a puzzle.

I have 2 4-drawer stacks and one 3 drawer stack. I measured everything and customized the sizes, and very few things were taller than 5". I wasn't going to devote an entire drawer to the one or two things that weren't! Tall things are in the cabinet over my fridge.

My two 4-drawer stack interior measurements and contents:

3 1/4" : silverware, knives, gadgets

4 1/4 : Tupperware, wraps, baking dishes, stacked custard cups, colanders

4 1/4 : saucepans up to 2 qt., oblong and round glass baking dishes, stacked pie plates, 2 qt. casserole dish

6 1/4 : saucepans up to 4 qt. (lids flipped over), frying pans, mixing bowl set, lasagna pans

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Oh, absolutely about the inset cabs - one of the main reasons we didn't want inset cabs. It was a pain to have to measure every single thing we possess and try to figure out which drawers needed to be what heights and widths. Totally worth it in the end, though! Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Thanks Mayflower for pointing that out. I am looking at frameless cabs with full overlay. In answer to my question about measurements of the drawers, my KD wrote this: 'Openings in the drawer bases are as follows: 3-Drawer base: top drawer is 4 1/2", middle and bottom are 10 1/8". 4-Drawer base: top three drawers are all 4 1/2" each and bottom is 9 3/4". From that information, I've been trying to decipher what exactly is the useable interior space, because I'm not sure what she measured...? DH doesn't think those are dimensions of the useable interior space...which is of course the information I need to make decisions.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:21PM
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Mominator, my cabinet maker told me that my drawers will be rated for 100 pounds, but I'm not sure I'd push that.

I like your idea of splitting your plates into 2 drawers to alleviate your color issue. My MIL had Fiestaware in several colors.

My plates are going into upper cabinets, but I do have a couple of special plates that I dig for in the stack.

My DH is 6'4" - he would hate bending down for plates! And my bottom drawer space is very limited - I'll have the 4-stack mentioned above, and 2 sets of 3: one 24" wide, the other 31" wide. I'm grateful that my custom guy can make cabinets in fractions of inches for me, to make use of every available inch of my small kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:26PM
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Mominator, the drawer face is 9 3/4" on my bottom drawer too. The other three drawers are 6 3/4. I think standard is 6,6,6,12, but I stole some inches from the bottom drawer to make the others functional for pots and pans and Tupperware.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:42PM
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I'm sorry, it didn't read all the threads here, so I hope I'm not repeating someone else.
I believe the reason your cabinet maker is telling you the depth of a 3-drawer vs. 4-drawer bank is the same is perhaps he/she is using stock drawers and just adjusting the size of the faces. In my current house, I have a set of three drawers and a set of 4. In the 3-drawer bank the actual DRAWER height of each is the same, but the faces are different sizes.
The bottom drawer face is 15", but the actual drawer depth is only 6". How stupid. Maybe this is how your cabinet maker is doing his drawers too.
In my new house, I have a 5-drawer bank for cutlery and all the small utensils. The drawers are only 6" but I think they'll work--small items are easily seen, instead of being stacked one on top of the other.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 1:48AM
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Also, this is an old thread. But good to pop back up to the top so new people can see it that had not seen it before !

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 8:09AM
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