Furniture building is something that’s new to us. Sure, we’ve assembled kit sets and repaired things, but that’s not quite the same as building something from scratch. Our first attempt was a double dog crate, using a plan we bought from Etsy, and although we made a few modifications to it, we were ultimately following explicit instructions.

Not this time.

For months now, I’ve been talking about wanting to build food storage for both our dogs and our cats. My motivation was almost entirely selfish—with two dogs and three cats, and a monthly shop, their combined food purchases were taking up almost an entire shelf in my pantry. Not to mention the treats, the toys, the flea and worm treatment I buy in bulk every six months… somehow I felt like pet accoutrements covered the entire house.

Enter my plan: pet food storage, with their food bowls integrated into them, and one or more drawers for everything else to be stored in. It was a great plan. Unfortunately, despite seeing lots of almost-what-I-wants on Pinterest, it didn’t seem to exist anywhere. Not to buy outright, and not as DIY plans for us to build our own. I tried sketching out what I could see in my head, but that’s not something I’m great at—I’ve always struggled with getting something I visualise out on paper. So I tried to explain it. Badly. Many, many times. I even bought two plastic food containers in the right size to hold their food, just so we had something to base our measurements around. Still, every time I tried to explain it, I failed.

Finally, and probably sick of my whining as much as anything, Josh said, “Well, why don’t we just start knocking something together with the spare wood we’ve got in the garage and see how far we get?”

I’ll admit, I was suspicious. Like I said, we haven’t really built furniture from scratch before, but at this point I was willing to do nearly anything to get that kitchen space back, so into the garage we went. We had a bunch of spare wood left over from making two dog crates, not to mention all the other random bits of wood we’ve accumulated from various projects, and it turned out we had enough to do a lot more than start.

Josh cutting framing down on the mitre saw
Josh cutting some framing down on the mitre saw. I can’t use this saw—my hands are too small to operate it!

We slapped the frame together in an evening, and I still had most of a pail of furniture stain from Natural Paint Company (we used Manuka for the top of our second dog crate, so Manuka is what we decided to go with for the pet food storage as well!). I love their products—I’m pretty sensitive to smell, but their paint doesn’t give me headaches for days like most paint seems to. Plus, they’re local, so my paint always arrives super quickly.

I decided staining as we went was probably easier than trying to get into all the nooks and crannies later, so once it got too late in the evening to use the power tools anymore, I started to add the colour:

A basic box frame with internal framing for a drawer, unstained.
Unstained—even the wood on its own was really nice!
A basic box frame with internal framing for a drawer, stained.
It was even nicer once it got a bit of Manuka on it, though.

It was about at this point we realised neither of us had ever made a drawer before, aside from assembling a couple of kit set ones in our craft room. Commence a bit of frantic Googling while we figured out the best way forward. The next day, after a trip to Bunnings for some drawer runners, we started putting one together.

A stained drawer, with some MDF in the background, also stained
In the back, you can see the piece of MDF that was destined to become the drawer floor.

After we had the drawer, our next job was to figure out the tilt-out mechanism for the food storage. We debated building a full box, but in the end we decided it would be easier to get the plastic bin that was going to keep the food in it in and out (for cleaning etc.) if we just made an L-shaped platform. We framed this up first:

The frame of the cat food storer, with a drawer in the top and a plastic bin visible through the framing
I decided not to stain the front of the drawer or tilt-out framing, as we were going to add face plates to both of these sections. As a bonus, it stripped some staining time as I didn’t have to come back to stain a previously covered part—I just lay the feeder on its front to begin with!

After this, it was time to add somewhere for the cat bowls to go. Originally I’d intended to have the cat bowls be a drawer that we could in and out as needed, but we’d screwed up our math a tiny bit earlier in the process when we were first knocking the frame together (remember that whole “no plan” thing?) and had decided rather than pulling it apart again, we’d just build the whole structure onto a fixed platform. We really dove into the “measure twice cut once” thing after that, don’t worry! Doing it this way did raise the whole structure a bit, though, which will definitely help our backs when we have to actually use this every day!

We pulled out the cat bowls and laid them out on the floor to figure out how deep the platform would need to be, then cut and affixed our longer framing:

The frame of the cat food storer, with a drawer in the top and a plastic bin visible through the framing and extra framing sticking out the front
I tripped over this at least three times. I’m totally safe to have in a workshop.


Once these were in place, we just cut bits to fit in the front and back, and attached those too. (So. Many. Pocket holes.) Then it was time for the serious math to begin…

A long piece of plywood with three circles drawn onto it, almost overlapping.
Would you believe we did this without a compass?

Josh only told me after he had already cut the circles out that he’d never actually used the jigsaw attachment before this job. Probably for the best that he only told me after he’d confidently breezed through the job, to be honest. The circles did take a bit of tidying up before the bowls would politely fit into the spaces we’d made for them.

The cat feeder with bowls in the front. The bowl holder is unstained.
For plywood, that bowl holder didn’t look half bad.
The cat feeder with bowls in the front. The bowl holder is unstained.
Pretty sure I’m a staining pro by this point.

Believe it or not, it was only at this stage that we ran out of wood that was just kicking around the garage and had to leave the house and make an actual purchase. Bunnings had a pine panel that was almost exactly the right size—I think we trimmed something like 4 centimetres off the side of it. Annoyingly, this is the one stage I forgot to take a photo of! But we just cut and placed a panel on the front of the tilt-out mechanism, and another on the front of the drawer. Once those were on, we added handles and slapped a piece of ply on the back (more to stop the cats figuring out how to access their food than anything!) and then it was staining time once more. I gave the new front panels a coat, let them dry, and then went around with a second coat just in the visible areas—the interior will be just fine with a single coat!

Then it was time for the most important test of all.

The stained and complete cat feeder. It's closed, and three cats are happily eating out of the full bowls of food.
We over-filled these bowls for staging purposes. It did not impress them when all that extra food went away again after photos were complete!
The stained and complete cat feeder. The tilt-out mechanism is open, showing the inside bucket full of cat biscuits, and three cats are happily eating out of the full bowls of food.
It probably wasn’t a great idea to show them how it opens, in retrospect.
The stained and complete cat feeder. The drawer is open, showing a collection of cat treats, toys, and flea/worm treatments, and two cats are happily eating out of the full bowls of food.
Poe had decided he was sick of having his photo taken by this point.

And voilà! A cat feeder, hopefully with most of the mistakes already out of the way before we start on the dog version. That’s going to have more drawers (so many toys!), so it won’t be quite the same, but we’ve created a really good starting point for ourselves to base it off. Stay tuned for the results of that one…


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