Way cool Lee Valley organizers: way too much?

aliris19June 30, 2011

I think those Lee Valley channels for lathe to create your own customized drawer dividers looks really brilliant: Lee Valley drawer divider channels: customize your own!.

However, on second thought, why not just nail your lathe straight into the box? I know at least one person has done that.

I'm not a carpenter though I've carpented some a bit in my past. Still, I can't quite make out whether it would be hard to secure 1/4" lathe by shooting in a nail at an angle or not. Would the channels be much easier? What about if the channels, which are 2.5" are too high? As they are "plated steel" I can't imagine they'd be very easy to cut. So that's what got me to thinking about just using the lathe directly.

Anyone have any insight? People who've done either, direct-install or channel-mediated drawer dividers? Carpenters? Lee Valley CS? There are lots of impressive pictures (e.g. bob_cville?) with and without the channels (can't remember who posted recently about dh's direct-install results. Beautiful!) ;)

Let me be more explicit about my questions:

1. Are the Lee Valley channels hard to use? One poster mentioned using a fancy squashing plier and that seems intimidating. I don't want to buy a new tool, I don't want to find it very hard to get the channels to grab wood. Did yours seat easily or require a 2-ton gorilla backup team?

2. Was just securing lathe directly to the drawer box as easy as fiddling with channels?

3. What would you do if the drawer box is less than the channel's 2.5"? Direct-insatll? Let the channels ride above the box (they'll still close, e.g.)?


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I used the Lee Valley channels and they were extremely easy to install. I went to somewhere like Michael's and bought the thin strips of hobby wood to use or maybe it was home depot - can't remember now. We've had ours in for years and love them.

I just remember tapping them in with a hammer - super easy. We have wood drawer boxes, obviously.

You just pop the wood pieces into the channels -easy peasy.

If the channel rose just a little above, it would probably be okay, but might be a safety issue if it was a lot higher - snagging, etc.

The hardest part for me was trying to figure out how big to make my compartments so that everything fit. I love them because you use every inch of space in the drawers and in a small kitchen that's awesome.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 8:15AM
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I already bought the wood strips at a hobby store, and I planned on buying the Lee Valley channels. I just didn't like their shipping prices! That's what stopped me - I figured that I would check and see if any other company made something similar, and I couldn't find anything else comparable. How many are you getting? I figured I'd get 10 packs - that would give me 50, I think.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:07AM
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Lee Valley has free shipping on orders of $40 or more right now...

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:58AM
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Lee Valley is a great company to deal with. Good people there. They invent a lot of what they sell themselves too so usually what they have is exclusive.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 10:10AM
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you could also make your own channels for the dividing wood slats with 2 strips of moulding. get really skinny moulding - it'll be easy to cut to length and then glue them next to each other on each side of the drawer - leaving just enough space between them to slide that slat of wood thru.

I was going to do that until I realized that I only have 3 pans and 2 cutting boards to need 'slots' for. I do plan to buy a cookie sheet once I get settled but that still won't be enough to require many of those slots. I decided to just pick up one of those vinyl coated metal dividers you can buy at W for 6-8.00. 1 of those will give me plenty of divided sections.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 10:44AM
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I wasn't sure at first if I'd want to make changes, so the Lee Valley was a good choice as I can move them if needed. I used the gripping clamps to press them in, only because I had them and it worked real slick, but there are lots of other ways to do it.

Most of mine are made to be removable - meaning I put sides on them that fit into the drawer so I can pull the whole unit out for cleaning - not just pull the wood out of the channels. But I really don't know if that was needed or not.

I have them in almost all of my drawers, and it sure is nice not having to dig for things (except when DH puts things in the wrong spot!).

Since DH and I built our own cabinets, I could have done just about anything I wanted for construction of dividers. I liked the Lee best for potential future changes, as I know I'm prone to moving things around. Except I think I spent enough time before hand to get stuff in the right spot to begin with, so I may never move them LOL!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 12:07PM
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Still, I can't quite make out whether it would be hard to secure 1/4" lathe by shooting in a nail at an angle or not.

If you are talking about nailing the divider panels in direct, it's hard, and the dividers tend to break loose where the nail is, unless you use standard 1xwhatever boards to make the dividers with.

If you are discussing nailing small moldings to the sides of the drawer to make channels and then sliding divider stuff into the channel - that's easier.

My mom used the stuff sold for sliding bypass doors and it worked nicely.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 12:29PM
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We bought the Lee Valley divider channels to use in our CD drawers in a buffet cabinet in our DR (our furniture maker supplied the thin pieces of wood to use for the actual dividers). Killed me paying as much as we did for shipping, given that it was more than the cost for the item(s) itself. They worked out well though, so it was worth it to us in the end.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:45PM
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I used the Lee Valley dividers and I'm very happy with the results. Learned about 'em here, by the way.

They were very easy to deal with. I used a rubber mallet to tap them into the wood. Didn't take a whole lot of effort. I bought the wood strips at Lowe's.

I didn't want to hammer the dividers directly into the drawers because I didn't want permanent holes in the wood. So I made a frame for each drawer and attached the dividers to that frame. The entire set up in each drawer is fully removable without leaving any permanent signs of ever having existed in the drawer.

Here are pix:

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 3:06PM
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Free shipping!!! I love it! I am so glad I waited to buy these!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 3:28PM
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Those pictures were very helpful, lowspark. I was trying to determine how many I would need, and it looks like maybe you have about 40 pieces of wood in those pictures, excluding the frames you made. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Here is what my husband did in a drawer from our old cabinets. A channel is created by nailing a small piece of wood to the side of drawer on each side of where we wanted a divider. (This picture was taken after the old kitchen was demo'ed which is why the drawer isn't in a cabinet.)

For the new drawers, he avoided making holes in the drawer by putting wood slats on the two sides of the drawer. Slots were routed in the slats for the dividers to slip in.

It's a good thing he didn't make holes in the drawer because shortly later we were introduced to buying spices in bulk from Penzey's or Spice House. I store most of the spices in the freezer and use them to refill small bottles that sit upright in the drawer so we removed the dividers.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 5:05PM
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I bought the Lee Valley dividers and then never used them! I used clamps and Gorilla Glue to put my dividers together. I'd used regular wood glue first, but some of them popped out of place. So far so good with the Gorilla Glue'd pieces!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 6:16PM
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I used the Lee Valley channels, too, and would not hesitate to use them again. Like macybaby and lowspark, we edged our drawers with strips so we can remove the whole organizer. One of the biggest pluses of the lee valley channels (IMO) is being able to easily re-configure the organizer. We have done that a couple of times.

We bought 10 packs and put the dividers in 5 drawers (I think - at least 5 drawers). We had about 3.5 bags left.

DH made them and used one of the clamp things to squish the channels in. Any of the other methods mentioned would work fine, too, I think.

The complicated organizers took about an hour a drawer to make.

Cutting the channels would be hard, I think, but could probably be done. I would try to avoid this, but I'm not sure of the best solution for shorter drawers. If the drawer can still close with the channel sticking up above the drawer sides, I'd probably go that route. There are barbs on the back side of the channel to bite into the wood - you may need to squish those down?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 6:28PM
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My experience with toe-nailing through the end of a board into the side of another has been that inevitably the first board will move some while its being nailed making it hard to get the dividers exactly where you want. Additionally it seems likely to me that the dividers boards would crack at the nailing site and might even crack entirely in half. It also seems that getting the hammer (or the pneumatic pin nailer) into the space would be difficult at best.

Installing the Lee Valley channels is pretty easy. You can easily tap them in with a small hammer. I wdould just place something in the slot while hammering to avoid bending the sides of the channel. The only reason I used the funky vice-grip pliers is that: 1) already had them and 2) I could press the next channel into place on an already-installed board without needing to remove that board

My drawer boxes are made from random strips of different hardwoods, and on one drawer where the wodd was hickory (I think) the wood was too hard to press the channel in all of the way using the pliers, so I grabbed a hammer, tapped it a few times and done.

For the silverware section of one of my drawers I wanted shorter partitions to make reaching the silverware easier, so I used a tin-snips to first cut both sides of the channel at the desired length and then bent it slightly at that point and cut the back of the channel. As long as you don't cut it so short that you are removing the barbs on the back of the channel you should be fine.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 10:31AM
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Thank you everyone!

Bob, yours was the inspiration for me from past postings. Perfectly functional, seemingly perfectly easy except ... for that scary-looking tool. Thanks for explaining it was merely handy not obligatory. And the other concern was snipping the channel; sounds like that can be done too.


Baby, I'll do the same.

Spark: beautiful! Where'd you get the nifty knife holder?

Catmom: postage is very expensive in Canada! ... well, here too come to think of it. They were set to strike in Canada - was that resolved?

Daisy, Adrienne, everyone I've forgotten (scrolling up and down is such a nuisance): thanks!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 11:38AM
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I would just place something in the slot while hammering to avoid bending the sides of the channel

You know, I worried about that too. That's why I used a rubber mallet instead of a hammer to pound them into the wood strips. Worked great and I didn't have any bending at all.

The knife block came from Sur la Table, I think. If not, it was from Bed Bath & Beyond. It's been a few years.

A few things I didn't mention above:

I used a jig saw to cut the strips of wood to size. Then I sanded and stained them so that they would look "finished" in the drawer.

Also, I actually had used some plastic dividers from the Container Store previous to these which were not very good. But they were also fully customizable. It helped me to live with the configuration for a while to see what worked best for me so that by the time I did do it with the Lee Valley dividers, I knew exactly how I wanted the dividers set up.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 2:06PM
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I used the Lee Valley sliders. I lined them up and marked with a pencil and then tapped them into place with a finish hammer. I did nail one larger divider from side to side in my silverware drawer so that the silver was at the front of the drawer and there was a large space at the back. This side to side divider I made out of a piece of 1x stock that we had around. I wanted 1x here so it would be nice and rigid and would hold the Lee Valley sliders and their wood counterparts in place without bowing and letting them fall out. It was easy to brad nail the 1x piece into place permanently but anything more narrow would be a crap shoot. I'd think you'd be likely to blow the brad out the side of the slat. Here's how mine look...

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 11:23PM
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Very nice, thank you.

A question for those of you who constructed a sleeve of wood around the perimeter of the box for the Lee Valley channels to attach to -- is that sleeve made of the same 1/4" lathe material? How did you make it come together, just glue it at the ends?


I'm not as handy as many of you. OTOH, I'm evidently handier than my KD. She told me she would "strongly not advise" me to use these: too difficult, etc. I was really pretty shocked to hear it; looks pretty darned simple to me. I really appreciate all the helpful hints, bracing the slots, heavy middle divider perhaps, laying things out and living with them for a while in advance, etc. But fundamentally, this just doesn't seem like it's going to be all that difficult!

Thanks for any thoughts about how to construct a sufficiently sturdy edging.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 1:08AM
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lowspark--OT, but can you tell me what your counters are? They're lovely. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 8:51AM
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Right now Lee Valley is offering free shipping through July 11. I found this link because I am planning on ordering the drawer dividers. FWIW, I order frequently from that company, and everything is of excellent quality.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 9:51AM
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I ordered the dividers tonight. Again, if you made a box to set inside your drawer box, would you please tell me how you accomplished this? Many thanks!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 5:02AM
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Can someone please explain the whole box inside a box construction? Did you make it or did your cabinet guy. Does this have a bottom or only the sides?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 11:15PM
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bumpity bump.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 12:06AM
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We just went through this whole project.

I bought the LV things and told Dh what to do.

He did the first drawer (a 36" wide drawer) with the LV things.

He actually decided they were too much extra effort and used finishing nails on the others.

So he build a frame all along the outsides with 3" x 1/4" (or 3.5") wood. Then we decided what things we wanted where and built dividers. The whole frame lifts up and can be removed for easy cleaning (which I think is a total PITA if you used only the LV things right against the drawer walls ...).

I just discovered by camera battery flat out dead (yeah, don't leave it plugged into the computer) and will take pics tomorrow for you. Bump this if I miss it. I'm on the west coast and often things are on page 2 without me seeing them after the east coast folks get busy in the early hours.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 12:25AM
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I am working on mine right now. I almost bought those organizers, but for some reason I just decided to try using the finish nailer. It worked perfectly. I only used small pieces where needed to hold everything in place. I did not nail these to the drawers themselves. These are completely removable as a whole unit. It may not look as tidy, but it works for me.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 8:35AM
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lowspark--OT, but can you tell me what your counters are? They're lovely. Thanks!
Sorry I'm just now answering this! But thank you!! They are Paradiso granite. I love them!

A question for those of you who constructed a sleeve of wood around the perimeter of the box for the Lee Valley channels to attach to -- is that sleeve made of the same 1/4" lathe material? How did you make it come together, just glue it at the ends?

It doesn't need to be held together. Everything just slips into the drawer and interconnects and fits. It's just a frame made from the wood strips. The LV brackets are pounded into those strips just the same as they are pounded into the divider strips in the middle of the drawer.

As long as you measure and cut everything to fit, you don't need glue or any other kind of attachment.

Did you make it or did your cabinet guy. Does this have a bottom or only the sides?
I made it all. And I'm generally NOT handy. No bottom, just sides.

So, what I did was put all my utensils in the drawer as I wanted them to be laid out. Then I measured everything and drew myself a picture. Measure the inside perimiter of the drawer. Measure how long each divider should be. Then I diagram this on paper, noting the length of each divider and the location of each bracket on the diagram.

Note when measuring: keep in mind that the bracket itself has some thickness. So if you are going to nail a bracket into one strip of wood and the opposite strip, and slip the third strip into those brackets, if the strips of wood are say, 5" apart, your connecting strip is not going to be 5". It'll be something more like 5-7/8". I don't remember exactly. So do an experiment with your first cut before doing all the permanent cuts. Measure, cut, then see how far apart the border strips are compared to how long the connecting strip is. That'll tell you how much shorter to make the strips than the actual width.

Then I count up what to cut. Make a list: 2 14", 2 12", 6 5.5", etc. Like that. Then I cut. Then I sand. Then I lay all the strips in the drawer just to make sure they were cut right. It's sort of a manual process: hold this strip here and this strip there and make sure the third strip fits where it's supposed to. It's a confirmation I cut everything right before going on to the next step. Then I stain & lacqueur. Staining and lacqueuring is extra and optional but I wanted to give it all a finished look.

Then I go back to my diagram and see where each bracket needs to be on each piece of wood and measure and mark the wood with pencil. Then I pound in each bracket using a rubber mallet.

Then I begin placing each strip of wood in the drawer. Start with the frame which, if you measured and cut correctly, will slip right into the drawer, meeting at the corners. Then the strips which connect to the frame go in by just slipping them into the divider channels. Then the strips that go into those strips, etc. Till all the strips of wood are in, all the brackets are occupied.

So for me, the process takes a couple of hours of work on the first day to measure, cut and sand. Then I lay out all the strips and do the staining and lacqueuring which spans over 4 days as I do side one, let it dry, then do the flip side each for stain and lacqueur. Once everything is dry on the fifth day, I put it together inside the drawer as described above.

Like I said, I'm not generally handy. This was somewhat labor intensive by MY standards but not really hard. The hardest part was measuring and remeasuring to make sure everything was cut right. I used a jigsaw to cut the wood strips because they are thin and don't need a heavy duty saw.

I did them over time. For each drawer, I set aside a day of a weekend for the main work then did the wet stuff over the week and installed on the following weekend. Took me about two months before all the drawers were done since I didn't do them all at the same time or even on consecutive weekends.

I will say that I'm thrilled with the results and it was worth the effort!

The whole frame lifts up and can be removed for easy cleaning
Yes, and if at some point in the future, I decide to reconfigure it, the drawer itself is intact with no holes or damage. That was important to me so the frame was a requirement. I was not going to pound a bunch of holes into these drawers I'd just gotten through shelling out thousands of dollars for! LOL

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 9:55AM
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Thank you, everyone, for reviving this thread! I have my wood, just haven't had time to do any of this work (away).

So, I've just one question still ... I'm just having trouble envisioning why this works but I guess it would. There's no glue or nails on the perimeter pieces? They're just cut to fit and you stick the LV dingymabobs into them? Or finish-nail them? I guess if the edge pieces are snug enough, they won't move about so the dividers won't move about either. But it makes me nervous; feels like it wouldn't be secure unless you somehow -- glue or otherwise -- secure the outer edge pieces.

What am I missing?

They all look really terrific, btw. I'm really looking forward to getting to that stage. Still working on drips and drabs though, so these are details for the future yet. sigh. The drawers, some of them at least, work remarkably well with no dividers at all.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 12:12PM
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I guess if the edge pieces are snug enough, they won't move about so the dividers won't move about either.

Yes, exactly. The way my frames work, I cut the side pieces to be the exact inner length of the drawer. The front & back pieces are cut to be the exact inner width of the drawer minus the thickness of the side pieces. So they are both fitting in snugly before I add any other pieces.

I've shown one of my pictures larger below so you can see what I'm talking about. The lower left and right corners show this the best.

In addition, once you've added in all the brackets and the dividers, that just makes it even more snug. IOW, once you have it all put together inside the walls of the drawer, there's really no where for it to go. It can't move around, it's in there tight.

Now, if it were to try to stand alone, outside the drawer, I don't know that it would. It's not necessarily a well structured piece. But the walls of the drawer are holding it all together so it's confined and can't come apart.

And trust me, it doesn't.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 1:56PM
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